Thursday, November 20, 2014

Tales of the Pink Bathroom


I want to thank all of my loyal friends, readers, and lurkers (triple bonus points to lurkers) for your wonderful support about my new home, Briarpatch. As you can imagine, it's been an exciting/overwhelming experience to be back in my grandparents' home after all this time. Last weekend, over 20 Blondersons filed through and looked in every nook and cranny, which was very fun yet also a WHOA I NEVER HAVE VISITORS WHAT'S HAPPENING?! kind of experience. Luckily, I didn't have to feed them. Or let them sit anywhere because there's no furniture.

*crickets*

It's not as simple as moving out of Farmhouse Villa and moving into Briarpatch because the old house needs some work. The people who lived there before me smoked. I'm not going to knock them for it because I smoke, too. But methinks they might smoke a little more than me. There were at least two of them, and I just have myself, so that makes sense. Anyway, the point here is that the walls are a bit stained. Ma washed some of them with an ammonia/water mix, but it didn't cut it. So I'm painting! Well, Pa is painting while I'm sitting over here at Farmhouse Villa knocking out the end stages of my massive work project. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: My parents are fantastic. Love you, Nerds!!!

There are many rooms and many projects, and I find there's very little time for me to truly help. I can't move very much because of my bum back. I can't treat formerly-wallpapered walls because I have no idea what TSP is or why it's needed. (Ask Pa.) I've already cleaned cupboards and done laundry and my very first load of dishes in THE DISHWASHER (!) and scraped old contact paper from the kitchen cupboards, but I'm really quite useless. Seriously, I am. And my father enjoys working on the house because it was his childhood home, and he wants to make me happy. And my mother loves a good cleaning project because that's always been her way of helping me. So even though I have had enormous Guilt Days while I'm sitting here working, I know they're working on Briarpatch because they care. I'm very, very lucky.

*feels loved*

The one room that I'm going to try to tackle on my own? The master bath, otherwise known as Grandma's Pink Bathroom. This bathroom is attached to my new bedroom, and it has some silliness involved. First of all, there are white and pink tiles on the wall, what appears to be window shutters as cabinets, and GREEN CARPET. Seriously? My grandparents must have had a wicked obsession with green. The walls behind the wallpaper in the kitchen are green, the whole living room is green, the bedroom carpet is green, and the dishes I have from them are green. So much green.

The green carpet is coming from the bedroom into the bathroom. WHY, GRANDMA, WHY??? I suppose it was warm? I dunno:


The pink and white tiles are comforting to me because I remember them from my childhood:


They even have glitter in them:


But then the record screeches to a halt. There's a border. NOT A BORDER!!!! Does anyone remember the baby animal border from my bedroom here at Farmhouse Villa? That thing never did come off, so we painted over it. You can't see a line anywhere on the wall because the border is stuck on there that good. Same issue in the new house. This puppy isn't coming off:


And imagine my disappointment when I realized the bathtub really was as small as I remembered it. We tall people never get to enjoy baths:


I didn't take a picture of it, but if I stand up in that shower, the shower head comes right up to my chin. Good times. And the toilet? There was a lot of blue toilet cleaner in the water, so Ma flushed it. It was like a slow-motion car crash. I yelled, "MA, NEVER FLUSH A TOILET IN A RENTAL WITHOUT A PLUNGER!!!!" Too late. The water climbed and climbed and climbed, and the blue water came precariously close to the lip -- just a mere foot from all that green carpet. Luckily, we dodged a bullet. But I promptly taped the lid closed with painters tape and told Pa: "I need a new toilet." I have already lived with a bad toilet -- The Black Toilet. I'm NOT doing it again. I have no problem forking over the cash for a new throne. 

Oh, the life of a renter. I've been renting since I was 17, people. That's TWENTY years of renting. I'm taking control and buying myself a normal loo.

[Before anyone suggests that I have my new Landfather, who is my Uncle and Godfather, too, pay for these things, I'll shut that down. Uncle has taken care of this house on his own for 17 years. It's my turn now. Trust me, it's a great deal.]

So right at this time, my parents are buying most of the supplies I need, and I'll be paying them back. This means I have to be very picky about my purchases and projects. Even though I've been watching HGTV and DIY, I have been able to control mahself and be realistic about my financial situation. Sadly, most of the run-down parts of Briarpatch are staying as-is. The old lady is getting a face lift mostly from paint, window panels, the ripping out of MONSTER FARMIE bushes, and bizarre, nothing-matches decor from Yours Truly. I'm actually pretty excited about the challenge. How can I spruce up this room without spending more than $20 at the thrift shop? Things like that.

At the beginning, I was a sad sap. I cried because I missed my grandparents. I moaned at the amount of work. I recoiled at the stained carpets and GREENness of everything. I wallowed that my favorite doorknob to the back porch (which everyone else calls the front porch) was missing, so now I have to use pliers to get in there. I was nervous about all of the packing and the retraining of meows and the telling of my Landfather and kind neighbors and rental agency that I was bailing. And Real Life work is so busy! All of it was just too much. I was a total Funbuster.

But then Pa and I went to Home Depot together.

We were there for paint. Pa was in the beginning stages of a cold, so he wasn't feeling well. I was overwhelmed by the sheer size and amount of sh*t in the store. I avoid big box stores whenever I can, of course. We were there for Kilz and paint for the guest room, the kitchen, and the dollhouse room. The end. But you know how Home Depot goes. You always find MORE THINGS. So while we were wandering around waiting for our paint, I discovered something magical: peek-and-stick tiles. YES!

As an experiment, I'd already yanked up a little piece of all of the carpet in the house just to see the hardwood and convince my father to pull up the carpet. Um, no. That's a lot of carpet. It's also a LOT of hardwood. After watching HGTV for a few weeks and seeing what restoring hardwoods really means (work $$$$ work $$$$ work $$$$$), I gave up. The carpet stays! (Even in the Green Monster!)

The bedroom has hardwood under the green carpet, but the bathroom has old, gross white tiles. Nasty tiles. Not tiles you'd want to walk on after you just showered. I had already reluctantly given in and told Pa I'd leave the bathroom carpet alone. But then I was in there again, and I noticed how nasty the carpet was between the bathtub and the toilet, where water has no doubt been spilled over and over again. I decided I was going to rip out that bathroom carpet and put down tile if it killed me!

So when I saw the peel-and-stick in a nice white/grey faux marble that will match the other tiles in the bathroom, I eyeballed Pa. "Should I do it?!" He shrugged. It was up to me. (I love Pa, but he's sooooo not good at decorating advice. Engineering/construction advice? Hells, yes!! Paint colors? Tile colors? No.) I was alone in my decision. After weeks of stressing about money for projects, I threw caution to the wind and grabbed my $30 box of tiles. I plopped them in the cart and did a little dance.

Me: "Do you think I'm crazy?"

Pa: "No. It's just good to see you excited about something."

And that's when I realized I needed a MASSIVE attitude adjustment. I felt like a total a$$hat. I'd been moaning and worrying and crying and stressing and freaking all this time, and Pa was trying so hard to make me happy. How was I repaying him? Stressing and freaking and letting my anxiety disorder and depression take a hold of my neck and drag me down in the pit. NO MORE!

THIS IS A FANTASTIC THING THAT IS HAPPENING FOR 8,000 REASONS!!! IT'S A LOT OF WORK, BUT IT WILL PASS, AND THEN I'LL BE SOOOOOOOO HAPPPPPPPYYYYYY!!!!!

I honestly thought Pa was thinking I was dumb to get to the tiles because he had this funny look on his face. It turns out he was just sick. He was also probably really tired from HELPING his annoying, stressed-out daughter. But it also turns out he was surprised to see me do a little happy dance in regards to the Pink Bathroom.

That's just sad, people. I'm supposed to be MORE GRATEFUL and HAPPY. But you know me -- I hate change. I keep working on it, but I'm just not any good at it. But once I get used to an idea, I'm all in. As of right now, I'm 110% in with Briarpatch, Green Monster and all.  I totally am. It just took me a while to get there. Poor Pa. I'm sorry, Pa. I'll make it up to you with home-cooked meals when you're done painting the kitchen. I promise there will be no poison in them.

So back to my fancy tiles. I'm taking control of the Pink Bathroom and not letting Ma or Pa get their helpful, dirty hands in there. Well, I do need Pa to help me with the shower extender thing and the new shower head (I'm raising the shower head by 6 inches thanks to one of these), but then I'm doing it all myself. Well, except the lifting of the toilets. OK, fine. I'm doing like two small projects by myself in here, and Pa is doing the rest.

First, I need to rip out the carpet. I've asked Pa to do the cutting because I don't do very well with box cutters, and I am TERRIBLE at cutting straight lines. I'll need a nice, straight line on the edge of the bedroom carpet so I can install a threshold later. Then I'll tear out the carpet!!!!!! And put down these beauties:


As you can see, they look very nice against the pale grey walls:


Then I'll magically find the perfect shower curtain and bath mat to bring new life to the room. And the best thing of all? Right before that herd of Blondersons rolled through last weekend, I went around the house to turn on all of the lights and open all of the doors. While I was turning on the lights in the basement, I spotted something pink. I found a few pieces of the pink and white tile from the bathroom. Upon further investigation, I discovered A WHOLE BOX OF THE TILE. You know what that means? One boring, winter day when I'm snowed in and twitchy, I'm going to cover up all of that ugly bathroom border with brand new pink and white tiles. OK, fine. Pa is totally going to have to help me. I'm pretty sure installing tile takes more than tile and duct tape. But at some point, it WILL happen.

*does happy dance*
*thanks Universe for wonderful parents*
*daydreams about how beautiful the Pink Bathroom will be*

Monday, November 10, 2014

Storytime with Blondie


Once upon a time, there was a little redheaded girl who lived in the country in Iowa with her parents and her older sister, Dorothy. They lived on a country road that was filled with their family members. Grandma and Grandpa were right next door, Auntie, Uncle, Chicago Cousin, and Eagle were across the street. Great Aunt and Uncle Blonderson were down at the end of the road. And so this little girl's childhood was filled with farmland, family, and beautiful Iowa sunsets.

The little girl grew up and eventually went to college in Iowa City. When she was 19, her grandfather was killed in a car accident, and her grandmother died three weeks later from a combination of Alzheimer's and grief. The girl had always been emotional, nostalgic, and ridiculously attached to her grandparents. She wanted to move home after college and live in their house. "No," her father told her. "You want to go explore the world. Grandpa wouldn't want you to move back here. Go, and be free."

So the girl spread her wings and flew away. She lived in Portland and Chicago and made a life for herself away from her small town and family. But after 13 years of city jobs and career life and love gained and lost, she found herself seeking the simple life again. The quiet, Iowa sunsets called to her.

She moved back to Farmsville and immediately wanted to move into her grandparents' house all over again. Uncle owned the house, so surely they could work something out? But there were renters there -- long time renters. Good renters. And so the girl found her own little Farmhouse Villa and settled in. Seven years went by.

One night, the girl went to eat dinner at her parents' house. Her father looked into her eyes and said, "The Universe has blessed you." And then the girl's jaw dropped open as her father shared the news. "You're moving into Grandma and Grandpa's house." The renters were moving. The house was available. The rent was a really good deal. The girl FLIPPED OUT WITH HAPPY!!!!!!

But as the news sunk in and a little time passed, shock and excitement quickly turned to fear. What if something's wrong with the house? Her grandparents had been dead for so long, and no one in the family had been inside. What if the foundation is crumbling? What if there is mold somewhere? The girl's anxiety disorder and depression turned on her. Surely something so good can't happen to me. Only Stupid Things happen to me. I won't believe it until I see it. My glass will stay half empty.

So the girl went on with her life and worked and watched television and did not pack a single box for fear of jinxing herself. A month and a half went by. The girl's anxiety and impatience grew. She started to severely annoy her sweet parents with fears, worries, and elaborate fictions. But every so often, she allowed herself to dream. I could have a garage. I could have a washer/dryer AND a dishwasher. I could have THREE bedrooms -- a whole room just for miniaturing. I could be next door to my family and bathed in my grandparents' love again. 

One day, the girl got a call. Her father had the keys! It was time to go look! The girl flew out of Farmhouse Villa and sped across town. She cautiously walked in the door. Despite looking in every nook and cranny, she couldn't find her grandparents. Her heart was broken. But she did find new things -- potential spaces for her own life. A new life. A better life. And so, just like her grandfather had done all of those decades ago, she stretched out on the living room carpet and heaved a huge sigh of relief.

I'm finally home.


And down in the not-crumbling basement, where the younger version of the girl had always been afraid to go, was a special gift left from the previous renter. He and his wife had moved into a small apartment in the neighboring city, and he didn't have room for many of his old belongings. So he had left one there for the girl, knowing she would enjoy it. She did:


The Universe had blessed her.  

It was meant to be.

It would hurt too much to keep calling the house "Grandma and Grandpa's." It would leave a door open for fresh grief. It was best to hold the memories of what once was in her heart but to make the house hers now -- with her decor, hobbies, and lifestyle. As she looked down the road that once again held five Blonderson families, she thought of how similar the area was to a large bunny warren. Hmmmm.... Interesting. Gazing at the overgrown bushes that hadn't been trimmed in at least a decade, the name flashed through her mind: Briarpatch.  

Yes, it shall be Briarpatch. Because even when my father yanks these bushes out with a giant piece of farm equipment next spring, we bunnies shall remain:


I wonder if I can get all the way moved in by Christmas? We'll see...

And so the girl, who was now a woman, had finally found her way full circle. And it felt wonderful.

The End

The Beginning

Saturday, November 08, 2014

The New Girl: Meet Pippa


Yesterday, my father and I went to do some errands together, and I brought along my little critter carrier thinking maybe just maybe I could force con ask him to go with me to get a new mouse for Agatha and Alice.  For about a week now, I've heard Alice squeaking loudly at night and gone over to discover that Agatha is over-grooming Alice. Like grooming for an hour long squeakfest. Poor Alice has little bald spots now on her neck and back. It's not horrible, and no one is bleeding, but I can see this going downhill fast. As I've learned on the Fun Mouse Forum, female mice do best in trios. Duos can throw off the hierarchy. There should be an Alpha (Agatha), a Beta (Alice), and a Peacekeeper. Sadly, Peacekeeper was Charlotte, and she died. So now the duo is confused.

I didn't want to get a new mouse when I was freshly mourning Charlotte, but then I realized that I was being selfish. Left to their own devices, one of them will eventually die, and then the other one would die of loneliness. I'm not ready to stop being a mousie momma just yet, so it was time to get serious about bringing a new girl into the fold. Sadly, she has to be quarantined for her safety and the safety of the other girls for three weeks. You can read all about mousie quarantine here. So the poor thing will be all alone for a while until I get to integrate my wee meecer family. Let's hope time flies.

I went to the Petsmart where I got the first girls and found a new trio. Babies!!! They seemed SO tiny compared to my first girls. The first one I noticed was Pippa because I was secretly hoping I could find one with some ginger coloring. I did NOT want a pink-eyed-white because that would remind me too much of Charlotte. Luck was on my side. The trio was young, active, healthy-looking (to me), and adorable. I watched them for quite a while.

I was pleasantly surprised to see that Pippa was quite independent compared to the other two. The first one was the largest -- white with black spots and long hair. She was SO cute that it was hard to pass on her. The second girl looked like a baby version of Alice -- white body with a brown rump. She was the smallest of them all and looked like she must have been the runt of the litter since she was so tiny. In all likelihood, these girls aren't related, so perhaps she was just from a younger group. Of COURSE I wanted to take all three, but then I still would have had the duo problem at home. I felt OK about just taking Pippa because the other two were huddled in the corner together, and she was running on the wheel with a piece of food in her mouth, much like a dog with a bone. SOLD.

So I got her:


I bought her the hide at the store, but she'd obviously never seen a ceramic hide before and had no clue what to do with it. She was in one of those plastic igloos with her sisters, but I like ceramic better, so I went with a hamster dust bath kind. When I brought the original girls home, they all huddled in the corner of this same carrier rattling their tales, squinting, and FREAKING OUT. Pippa? She stared curiously at Pa and me when I lifted her up to our eyesight level. I did get one tail rattle, but that's OK. Who can blame her? The poor thing just got ripped away from the only life she'd known. I also got a random thumbs-up from a dude at the stoplight who looked in our car and saw me holding her up by my face. No one can resist an adorable mousie:


I was STUNNED when I got her home, and she climbed up into my palm. The other girls RAN and FREAKED OUT and JUMPED and were PSYCHOS that first day. Pippa calmly sat in my hand:


She climbed around on my arms for a while, and then I put her in her new home. I put some bedding in the hide, and she finally went in there, but that was the last time:


I watched her all night, and all girlfriend wanted to do was run on the wheel. I should have gotten her a Flying Saucer because my cats are incredibly attracted to the thumping sound this wheel makes (and how it turns), but it was too late for that. I took out this ladder because she didn't seem interested, and the wheel started turning in the tank. Every half hour or so, it turns all the way around and starts bumping on the glass. No fun. I put my paperweights on top of it because the Petsmart was out of tank clips, but I'll get some soon. Pippa's tank is in a no-cat zone, but I was too nervous about there not being clips or the giant metal slab I have on Alice and Agatha's tank, so I put the whole shebang in the bathroom and shut the door tight last night. Gretchen was upset to be foiled this way. No doubt, she thought she could get to the new mousie while Momma was snoozing. NOPE:


Poor little Pippa needs the older girls to teach her how to nest in a hide. She runs on the wheel, brings her food back to the wheel, and sleeps on the wheel. This afternoon, I finally found her sleeping somewhere else -- the corner. Her little body is SO CUTE. Can she stay this tiny forever?


Here are the quarter shots to estimate age. I put this old laundry bag on my lap and let her run around near the quarter. I don't have to scoop her at all. She doesn't love my hands per se, but she's not entirely afraid of them, either:


Today is Day 2 of pregnancy watch. Only 21 more days to go. I highly doubt she's preggo, but you never know. Right now she just has a cute, little baby belly:


I love her:


So gentle:


Itty bitty toes:


She even likes to snuggle in my elbow crook. I'm sure it has something to do with the incredibly fluffy/soft hoodie I'm wearing today, but I'll take it:


And then it was back to THE WHEEL OF JOY:


I originally named her Pippi to keep up with the tradition of author/fictional character names, but I kept calling her Pippa instead, and it stuck. I think it suits her:


Such a sweet girl. Hang in there for three weeks, sweetie. Then let's hope the big girls like you!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Memory Ghosts


Throughout the year, I've been deep cleaning Farmhouse Villa. It's been fun and refreshing to give the old girl a face lift, but it's also been stirring up some trouble. I keep finding artifacts of my Old Lives. Some of them make me smile, but the majority of them send me into a nostalgic, melancholy mood. I miss that. I miss her. I miss him. I miss I miss I miss...

I'm doing much better at Living in the Present than I ever have before, but relics of a lifetime of memories are hard to combat. I'm not a hoarder, but I am a collector. I save scraps of paper, tickets, letters, love notes, and postcards. I tuck these things into the normal places -- drawers, closets, and boxes. But I also have a habit of sneaking them into books or my bathroom mirror/door thing or inside of a jar I once painted at a paint-your-own-pottery place for an old college roommate's bachelorette party. Then, when I set aside some time to clean and be productive, I find myself swallowed whole by a longing for the past.

It's a Catch-22. If I don't clean out these things, I can ignore them and pretend they aren't there and forget them completely. If I do clean out these things, I risk finding a bunch of hidden bombs that will crack open my crusty, black heart.

Life is full of hurts. We can't avoid them. And our long train of memories will inevitably be filled with a mixture of happy times and sad times -- some of which are false or recreated in some way. I think life is best explained by a quote from my favorite movie, Apollo 13. Life is very similar to trying to dock space equipment:

"That's three hours of boredom followed by seven seconds of sheer terror."

Except multiply that times a billion. Then you have the average human life. We spend a lot of time doing nothing, and then the special/horrifying times happen and get firmly wedged in our memory files.

As a random experiment, if you give yourself an age range, say 10–15 or 15–20 years of age, I bet you can suddenly recall at least two or three moments that are seared into your brain like cattle brands that are either wonderful or horrifying or both. Why can't we remember random, boring things instead -- like all of that time we spend combing our hair after the shower or something really harmless like putting peanut butter on toast? Life would be so much easier.

I've been making really good progress on the cleaning, but I've also been sneak-attacked by the bombs. It's not been good. And lovely fall, when my Depression begs for attention the most, isn't making this easier. I've found myself throwing away things that once meant the world to me without any emotion at all, but I've also found myself surfing youtube late at night to find music to accompany that pinch or ache in my heart. Oh yes, that tune says it all. Let's listen to it again. Really loudly. SNAP OUT OF IT! PET A CAT! GO TO BED!

I don't want to become so jaded by life that I stop collecting little scraps of paper because they might hurt later. I don't want to completely sanitize my home so that every reminder of a former life is gone. I don't want to stop being me -- a collector of memories and stories. It's part of what makes my own world interesting. After years of beating myself up, I'm finally starting to really like myself. I don't want to see my little doodads and treasures as a completely negative thing. There has to be some kind of healthy medium.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: I'll work on it.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

UTI Cat Food Solution HOORAY!!


NOTE: I have no affiliation with Purina Pro Plan. They didn't send me anything for free, and they're not paying me. I'm just simply SUPER HAPPY about their food, and I want to share it with my readers. WHOOT!

About six months after I moved back home to Farmsville, Webster started peeing in funny places. I had him treated for a UTI and went about my business. But the peeing continued. I still miss that puffy coat. King was on special food for his gut problems, so it wasn't a quick fix with just switching to UTI food for Webbie. It was a conflict that lasted a long time, and there was a lot of suffering involved for both myself and Webster.

Shortly after Kingie died, and I got Gretchen, it got really bad. By now, I'd decided that it was my wonky well water, which leaves mineral deposits on every surface it touches. I don't even want to know what my own kidneys look like. (I now only drink bottled water.) I finally gave in and bought the vet-only UTI food for cats. Since then, Webster has had zero bladder infections, PRAISE THE UNIVERSE. However, my pocketbook has taken a massive hit. I was able to find over-the-counter "gentle food" for King's raging IBS problem, but UTI food has been impossible to find EXCEPT through a vet. And boy do vets charge a LOT of money for that stuff.

*groans*

Luckily, Purina has finally gotten into the UTI game. I was SO thrilled to see their wet/dry food options for meows with bladder issues. The problem? I couldn't be sure that it would really work, and I did NOT want the peeing in funny places to start all over again.

When I wanted to try a new food for King's bowels, I researched my options and found Natural Balance Limited Ingredients Duck and Green Pea Formula in both wet and dry options. I printed off the ingredients list for both types of foods and took them to my vet. I was in Chicago at the time, and the vet was VERY cool. She agreed that the ingredients were virtually the same as the ridiculously expensive prescription food, and she said I should go for it. So for years after that, I was able to get the special food for my cats at one of the pet chains. Easy as pie.

Talking about King so much makes me want to see him again. Here's a classic "King begs for food" photo:


Fast forward to now. My childhood vet recently retired, so there's a new vet in Farmsville. I printed out the ingredients lists for both what she sells and for Purina Pro Plan Focus Urinary Tract Health Formula and took them to her. She agreed to look at the list and Webster's history and get back to me. Shortly after my visit, I got a message from her saying that she didn't feel the Purina food was the right choice for Webster, given his history. I was very disappointed. The cost of prescription cat food costs more now than my human food for myself does. Something had to change.

Then one day, I ran in to the retired vet from my childhood. We had a little chat about the Purina Pro Plan food. He said that the vet-only food really is the best choice for the overall health of the animal. You have to weigh the cost of the special food against the cost of the vet bills you'll end up with if you don't feed them the right food to treat their issues. These were REALLY good points. Treating Webster's bladder infections has been very costly. However, he also said that Purina is a reputable, long-established pet food company, and that he personally didn't feel they would risk tarnishing that good reputation by putting out bad food for UTIs. Another good point.

The best thing he said? ---------> "It doesn't hurt to try."

So I took my giant bag of vet-only dry food and mixed it with a bag of Purina Pro Plan Focus Urinary Tract Health Formula dry food. I fed this dry mixture to the cats for two weeks and waited for Webster to pee somewhere.

Nope.

SUCCESS!!!!!

Next up was seeing how they felt about the wet food. I fully subscribe to feeding my cats both wet and dry food. It's yummy, and Webster gets extra moisture from the wet food for his bladder. Both Webster and Gretchen always eat their vet wet food, but they're mostly ambivalent about it. But the new Purina wet food? HOLY COW. The cats have gone NUTS for it. Like seriously bonkers happy.

King used to ALWAYS beg for food. Webster and Gretchen don't beg. They eat when they eat. But now? Webster talks to me for food. He rarely talks. Gretchen's Maine Coon chitters, trills, and meows are regular parts of my days, but Webster is generally quiet except for his jet-engine-loud purring. But the new wet food? OH MOMMA, IT'S HEAVENLY:

Image c/o Purina Pro Plan

I've never seen Webster so excited to eat. It's incredible. And now that we've gone through a whole case of it (they only eat half a can of it each day), and there has been NO Peeing in Funny Places, I'm extremely excited to say WE HAVE A WINNER. And now, I will officially stop breaking the bank with cat food.

SERIOUSLY I MEAN THIS FROM THE BOTTOM OF MY CRUSTY, BLACK HEART, PURINA. THANK YOU FOR MAKING THIS FOOD!!!!!!

  • Cost of one dry food bag of vet-only UTI food = $70
  • Cost of one dry food bag of Purina UTI food = $35

The deal is even better for the wet food. I'm not going to go bankrupt due to Webster's wonk bladder anymore!!!!! The lessons learned here?

  1. Do your own research.
  2. Consult more than one professional vet.
  3. It's OK to simply try.
  4. You can end up cutting your food costs in half. (actually over half for me regarding the wet food)

And now I have two kitties who lurve their food more than ever!

Webbie:


Gretchen:


----------------------------------------

NOTE: Webster's random scratching allergy problem began well before my food experiment, so I'm confident that it has nothing to do with the food. As an update to that problem, the steroid treatment is over, and he's scratching again, so we'll be going back to the vet soon. His old vet has opened a new clinic in a neighboring town, so he's very excited to go see his old buddy again. I'll keep you posted.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Preparing for the Elbonado


There are two fields of thought about the Ebola cases that have been showing up in the United States:

1. EVERYONE PANIC! WE'RE ALL GONNA DIE OF EBOLA!!!
2. We have nothing to worry about. You're all being insane. Go get a flu shot.

I fall smack in the middle. While I do NOT worry that Farmsville is going to be overrun by Ebola patients tomorrow, I DO live right across the river from the Nebraska Medical Center, which is one of ONLY FOUR hospitals in the country that are fully prepared and trained to deal with Ebola patients. The rest of the hospitals are working to prepare now, but in all reality, four hospitals = It. Facts are facts. I fully trust NMC because I've been there multiple times for health-related issues, and their care is exceptional. For reals. They're even offering free online Ebola courses for others in the medical community and the general public, which is awesome. But even NMC has admitted that they can only handle so many Ebola patients. At most, they can handle 10 patients at a time. What happens when there are 11? It's something to think about.

I'm not worried about Ebola ravaging us all on its own. I'm worried about Stupid People. Everywhere I look, I find Stupid People -- sometimes including myself. So I therefore believe it's the Stupid People who are going to spread it everywhere. I won't go in to the Stupid Actions of some Smart People who have shown up in, say, New York, and gone bowling when they're already showing the first symptom of Ebola, which is fatigue. That horse has already been beaten. But beyond the Smart People Doing Stupid Things, we also have Just Plain Stupid People Who Do Dumb Sh*t All the Time. They WILL sneeze on you. And sneezing counts as "body fluids." We also know that Ebola can live on its own on a surface for two hours. No one has to bleed or take a poo on me. They just have to sneeze and touch the ATM that I touch next. Again, this isn't fear-mongering. It's just facts. You can read it right here from the CDC.

I've taken some flack from people when I've brought up Ebola prep because they think I'm overreacting. I think they are under-reacting. It's one thing to build a bomb shelter in my back yard and stash it with 50 years worth of canned goods, but it's a whole other thing to blindly pretend like Ebola isn't happening or scary or real. One person who repeatedly called me crazy, who shall remain unnamed, (totally my sister) compared Ebola to HIV and said HIV is worse. I replied, "No. Ebola turns your insides to mush. HIV doesn't do that." Then I decided to do a little research to make sure I wasn't lying or going Dr. Blonderson without being able to back up my facts. My sister and I both totally LOVE debating each other about things and being the Right One, so I needed to quickly ensure I wasn't full of it. According to AIDs.gov, you can live with HIV for up to 10 years without getting full-blown AIDS. Ebola takes anywhere between 2 and 21 days to go full-blown with the average range for symptoms showing being 8 to 10 days, per the CDC. Also, Ebola is killing 70% of people right now. Quickly. So that's much faster than living with HIV/AIDS for quite some time, maybe even an entire old-age lifetime. It's scary stuff. (To be fair, my sister did concede that Ebola is hella scary and awful and that she just kinda didn't want to think about it right at that moment because it was super late on like a Wednesday and she was watching good TV, which is fine. LOVE YOU, SIS BIG.)

Then, because my parents owned the book, and I wanted to educate myself, I started reading The Hot Zone by Richard Preston. He said, "HIV is a . . . Level 2 agent." As we know, Ebola is a Level 4 agent. He also said, ". . . from the moment Ebola enters your bloodstream, the war is already lost; you are most certainly doomed. You can't fight off Ebola the way you fight off a cold. Ebola does in ten days what it takes AIDS ten years to accomplish." So why are Americans winning the fight against Ebola? How come they're falsely advertising that you can survive and walk out of a hospital as happy as a clam and be able to walk and talk easily and even hug the president in a VERY short period of time?

I learned the answers to these questions the other night. I watched a NOVA documentary on PBS called "Surviving Ebola." It turns out that the people in the U.S. have been receiving an experimental drug to treat Ebola. However, there are VERY FEW of these drugs available. This is because they create the drug using tobacco plants, and it takes time to grow the plants/drugs. It's not a drug you can mix up in large batches quickly with machines and chemicals. It takes live plants, which need time to grow. It takes trained workers to do this correctly. The people in the U.S. are living BECAUSE of this drug. Period. But again, I ask: What happens when it runs out?

Now that I've gone and gotten all CRAZY EBOLA on you, I'll transition into the Tornado Problem. Anyone who watches the news has seen the devastation a tornado can cause. Throughout my life, I've been very naive about tornadoes. Because one has never smacked directly on Farmsville or anywhere else that I've lived, I've grown tolerant and meh about them. I was jolted back into reality in 2008 when a tornado hit a Boy Scout camp in Iowa. Ever since then, I've been taking tornadoes more seriously. Instead of feeling the excitement of the sky turning green, I get tense.

After the Boy Scout incident, our local news people began warning us about storms with new ranges of intensity. For example, they predicted a "life-threatening event" one year. Because of that severe warning, I went and hung out at my parents' house with both of my cats. Nothing bad happened, and that's fine. I'd much rather be safe than sorry. My parents have half of an earth home. The downstairs is built into the ground. So if I ever get another "life-threatening event" warning, I'm going straight there again. But what's waiting for me when I get there? I realized my my parents and I had never really talked about tornado supplies. Even my skeptical sister has a Tornado Box in her basement! And her husband Beloved lived through a tornado that killed his Corolla! The tables had turned. Time to make a list . . .

I'm a super bad prepper. I have ZERO supplies in my own house for emergencies. Well, I have candles and flashlights, but that's only because the power seems to go out all the time in storms -- and when people hit electrical poles on my road, which sadly happens a lot. I decided, in light of the Ebola scare, to go ahead and create an Elbonado Kit. Ebola + Tornado. Catchy name, eh? Makes it less serious/scary. Pa keeps saying Ebola-nado, but I like the way Elbonado rolls off the tongue. I warned my parents that I was going to get some supplies and that I'd be expecting Ma to help me store/organize them in her basement. She said she already had some medical supplies and water down there, but I didn't trust her. She's been known to have expired cold medicine that's a decade old in her cupboards. (Love you, Ma! You're the best Ma ever!!!) But seriously, I use Ma's stash purely as an example to HELP OTHERS.

Last night, I went to check out what they had. I'd ordered some supplies and wanted to add them to the stash. You can see above that they have a NOAA hand-crank radio. I also have one of these at home that they bought me a few years back. THANK YOU. We all also have weather radios tuned to our area. I have a tendency to turn mine off so it doesn't wake me up all night, but I really need to stop doing that.

Anyway, the folks were "mostly" prepared. I was quite happy to see this Coleman lamp. Very good. Missing = extra batteries for it. I'll have Pa throw a package of batteries into the kit soon:


I ordered this 36-hour Survival Candle. It's a little misleading because if you light all three wicks, it only goes for 12 hours. The key is to alternate wicks to get 36 hours out of it. It even came with its own matches. Very nice. I also ordered some waterproof matches, but they aren't here yet:


When creating a survival kit, you have to include things that are specific to your particular disaster scenarios. Because we live in a tornado-prone area, I ordered these whistles. If a really bad storm is coming, I'll force my parents to put them on. Then when they go flying down the road and land in a cornfield, they can blow their whistles to be heard by the rescuers. These ones come without the little balls inside, which apparently makes them easier to use in the rain:


Speaking of rain, I forgot to get the easy-peasy disposable raincoats. *adds to list* We all have well-water, but if something messed up the wells, we would need to be able to clean some water. April, who often goes camping, suggested these water-purification pills:


There are 8 bazillion blankets at my folks' house, but I wanted to get mylar blankets just in case. They came in a 10-pack, so I was able to divide them up for our family's glove boxes in our cars. Now we don't need to worry about carrying large blankets in our trunks anymore. Iowa also means snowstorms. I killed two birds with one stone here:


April also recommended this type of emergency food rations. I seriously don't think I'll ever need to eat these, but it's nice to know something's available just in case:


I'm very pleased by the creation/expiration dates:


Next, I moved on to testing Ma's First Aid Supplies. I was VERY proud of her for having them around in the first place -- in a designated spot. I was also VERY proud that they were NOT from the 80s. However, some of them had gone bad. You think that bandages can't "expire," right? Wrong. I tested one of these bandages out, and the sticky tape would NOT come off of the edges. They expired in the early 2000s, but you wouldn't notice anything was wrong until you went to use one of them. The discoloration was a sign, but the inability to separate from the tape was the nail in the coffin. Into the trash:


Same with these moist burn pads that expired back in 2009. The cooling gel wasn't very cooling:


I have no idea about this stretch gauze. Can gauze "expire"? I've done a little Internet research and learned that it's not so much the gauze that expires, but the packaging can expire and cause it to break down and not be sterile anymore. This puppy didn't have an expiration date on it, so I decided to keep it (although I will be purchasing more):


There were two other boxes of bandages. I took out one of each and tested them on my hand for a few hours. Both stuck well, so I'll be keeping them even though they're old. The butterfly packaging is VERY yellow, but they still stuck:


I was tempted to consolidate everything into Ziploc baggies, but then I would lose all of the expiration date info. For now, I left these things alone. This basket was full when I started, but I tossed 90% of what was inside. POOR MA:


To round out the kit, I made a list of the supplies I felt my family would need the most from the Red Cross First Aid list. Due to the Ebola part of Elbonado, I'm also going to buy a few bottles of Nyquil, a few packages of Alka Seltzer Plus, a few bottles of Tylenol/Advil, and a HUGE thing of hand sanitizer because the goal is to NOT HAVE TO GO TO THE PHARMACY if people start getting Ebola around here. I'd like to get sick and treat myself at home if I get a cold or a flu. Or, I suppose, Ebola.

One of the worst things about tornadoes is that they can last a long time. Well, the tornado itself doesn't last very long, but the storms do. Hours and hours of sitting in my parents' back hallway has taught me to always bring a book. But just for fun, I tossed in some logic puzzle books I had:


And some pencils:


Ma has some face masks around due to allergies for when she's gardening or doing heavy dusting. I put some of those in the stash:


And my #1 Let's Tease Blondie About Elbonado person -- my sister? She gave me this newsprint-fashioned myAir mask and package of replacement filters as a present. Gee, thanks. Ahem. (Whatevs. It's seriously a totally useful thing thing to have.) I brought this back home so I have at least one Ebola-related item in my own house:


Now the only thing we need is a large, plastic tub to waterproof the supplies labeled: IN CASE OF ELBONADO. We need to replace items in it every 5 years or so to make sure we keep up on the expiration dates. And even though Ma has gallons and gallons of well water saved in the house, it's recommended by the CDC that you switch out your water supply every six months.

There. I feel better. I feel like I have a little more control, and that's all I wanted. If the Elbonado strikes, there's really nothing I can do about it, but I can ensure that my family is prepared in the best possible way. Not like that silly plastic and duct tape thing Bush tried to get me to do all those years ago when I was living in Chicago. Yeah, like that would have helped.

*rolls eyes*

And yes, I got the 4-strain flu shot on Friday.

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How about you? What is your -nado? Find your disaster here from the Red Cross. Enjoy!