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I don't care how old you are, saying good-bye to a pet is never easy. You may cry less as an adult. You may have an easier time coping with the news from the vet. You may even be able to euthanize your furry companion with a clear conscience, knowing it's for the best. But no matter how much you've matured, no matter how cynical you've become, you'll still hurt like hell when you it hits you: today is the day they will die.

Last week my parents made the tough decision to put our family cat to sleep. She'd been slowly losing weight, hiding in odd places, wandering around disoriented. At first, they weren't too worried. She seemed a little off, but then again, she's always been a little off. You see, Kitty (sometimes "Todd" or "Toddis"; sometimes "Geek" or just plain "Kitty") was born with a disorder called cerebellar hypoplasia. In the beginning -- well. That's where I should start this, really. The beginning.

The Beginning

I distinctly remember going to pick her out that weekend. It was January of 1999, the off-season for kittens, and close to my 17th birthday. The vet had advised us to wait until summer, when free kittens would be showing up everywhere, but I was young and impatient. After Christmas I scoured the newspaper every day. Nothing. Nothing. More nothing. And then that morning there it was, right there at the end of the classifieds, the first "free kittens" ad of the year. As we drove to the address that day my mom and I discussed potential names with each other, testing out each one in that sort of high-pitched, childish, "here kitty-kitty!" voice people use. I don't remember any of them now except for one, Sadie, which was always a contender but just never stuck.

It was cold that day, unpleasant. All the trees were dead and the sky above us was the dull, gritty white of an old dishrag hung up to dry. When we finally got inside the apartment, the kittens were running around in the owner's kitchen, crazed and inquisitive and pouncing from the floor to the counter and back again. I didn't see Kitty at first. The runt of her litter, she was sitting quietly by the fridge, a dandelion puff of pale grey. I knew she was mine the moment I set eyes on her.

No one knew anything was wrong with her for at least a month. I do recall the owner trying to steer me away from her, saying she was very small and might not be healthy. Kitty seemed fine at home, though. She would sit with you and purr and stumble around on her baby feet. It wasn't until she got a little older that we started noticing weird quirks. Her head wobbled a lot, especially when she focused on things. She swayed like a drunk when she walked, and fell over trying to scratch her ear. It was cute, but troublesome. On our next visit to the vet, we brought up the behavior with the doctor. Some blood work may have been done, but really I think she just looked at her and knew.

The Middle

As Kitty grew, she became more stable on her feet. Her head stopped shaking so much. Eventually we came to think of her as a normal cat, although every new person who visited remarked on her condition. Yes, we would say, she's a bit weird. But there were great things about her too. She couldn't steal food off the counter because she wasn't coordinated enough to jump that high. Her cry was a tiny, creaky little meow -- or nothing at all. She got along fine with the dog. Heck, she even took baths like a trooper:

She went through a stage of biting, but that passed (the vet called it "the terrible twos," just like in children). And while she liked to sleep by your feet, she didn't become much of a lap cat until she grew older. By that point I had moved out, but I heard stories from my family about how much she had mellowed in her old age. My sister grew especially close to her and would send me photos every now and then. One of Kitty on my mom's paperwork; one of Kitty in the sun. She was funny to watch, and there were little things she did that amused us all. She had a habit of going wild at night, tearing up the stairs with an uncharacteristically loud "mwrooooow!" And during Christmas we would often find her under the tree, drinking up all the water.

The End

Last week was tough for us all. My dad finally took Kitty in one morning after they noticed she was refusing to eat or drink. I suppose they took things seriously there because it didn't take long for the vet to call the house, rattling off a laundry list of problems to my mom: tiny kidneys, low weight, a heart murmur, diabetes. She said normally they'd start an IV, but they couldn't flood Kitty with liquids because it might stop her heart. They could try and put her on some medicine, which might help for a while, but ... My mom got off the phone knowing she had to share the burden of the vet's recommendation with everyone else. She called me at work, she woke up sister from a nap. We were all in agreement with the vet; we didn't let Kitty suffer very long. A few hours later, she was gently put to sleep and euthanized.

A few days later, we received a package in the mail. Inside was a note from the vet and a clay heart imprinted with Kitty's paw print and a few jewels. At the top of the heart, someone had carved the name Sadie. Funny how after all these years, she ended up with the only name that never stuck. I guess that's ok, though. She'll always just be Kitty to us.

Jun. 25th, 2011

Hard to believe law school starts in a few months. It's funny how these things just sort of fall into place. Right now I'm trying very hard not to over-prepare for the first semester. I know, you wouldn't think one could over-prepare, but I've since been informed that you can, so ... not doing that. I've checked out a couple of books from the library, and read a few articles online, and spoken to folks who are currently in (or who've been through) the law school gauntlet. I still need to sit down with Jason, an old friend who just graduated from the exact same program I'm about to start. And I'd like to brush up on how the whole American legal system works. But overall? I'm keeping things light. No studying, no stressing, no reviewing the Louisiana bar exam. All that will come later.

In more exciting news, last night I found out that Hugh got his big promotion at work. We were standing in the kitchen warming up leftovers when he turned and said, "Oh yeah, uhm ... I got the job." I spent the next few hours tugging on his sleeve and telling him he was awesome. I'm so happy for the guy. I really, really am. He'll have benefits and vacation time and all those other lovely things that come with being an actual university employee. And on top of all that, along with doing more professional development-type things? He might be going back to school. I was thrilled (nerd alert: I love school). Anyway, I told him I'd quiz him on art history if he'd quiz me on law. I'm not sure if he's planning on getting a whole 'nother degree, but it can't hurt. Hell, if the university is paying for it ...

I'm looking forward to these next few years. I know they'll be tough, and I know life won't be 100% better now, even with both of us having decent salaries. Still, it's nice feeling like we're finally adults. For the longest time we've been two kids playing house, scrounging around for cash and work, trying to figure out how to survive. If the universe can just give us a bit of breathing room, I think we'll be ok. Who knows, we might even be better than that.
Last week, I was in the midst of writing a post about how I don't have much to post about (I know, right?), when all of a sudden ...


Well, ok. I didn't physically open it. And I wasn't actually writing the post at the time. It was sitting in my inbox that Friday half-finished, more a string of ideas than anything solid or post-worthy. But still, the sentiment was there. The topic of the past few weeks has been, without fail, Life = No New Developments. Not that I was in a particularly bad mood. It was Friday, after all, and Hugh and I were at Whole Foods happily planning out dinner for the night. No one likes a jackass standing next to them yapping on their cell, so when my phone rang in the middle of the prepared foods section, I let it go to voicemail and kept shopping. It wasn't until later that I remembered to check the phone log. One missed call from Mom. Hm. I was browsing the frozen yogurt at that point and not a soul was around. It seemed OK to ring her back. She answered almost immediately.

"Hey baby, we got a letter from law school, do you want me to open it?" Actually, this sounded more like, "Heybabywegotaletterfromlawschooldoyouwantmetoopenit?!" She was really excited.

"Uhm ... what does it look look?" I asked.

"Not a huge envelope, should I open? What do you think? Do you want me to wait?"

I laughed. "Go ahead," I said, "it's probably too soon for the acceptance letter." Strangely enough, I had chatted with my boss that very afternoon about law school. He said it'd taken him until mid-June or July to receive his letter, and it was barely a week into May. I felt pretty confident that this wasn't The letter.

There was a small pause. Then my mom's voice went slightly wavy.

"... Uh-oh."

I looked at my reflection in the freezer glass and had a small moment of panic. If I didn't get into law school, I was going to have a lot of sad faces staring back at me at work on Monday. Not to mention that this was something I was looking forward to quite a bit -- for the challenge, for the increase in pay down the line, for the simple joy of going back to school. More than that, even, for the chance to one day move out of this crummy little town and better myself and hell, maybe even practice law abroad. Not getting in wasn't going to kill me, but it was going to drag me back down to reality really, really fast.

"What 'uh-oh'?" I said. "What's it say?"

"Well ... It's your acceptance letter! They said--" she began, then after that all I could hear was my dad woo-hooing in the background. "Your father took it from me," she apologized. "But hey, you got in! .... er, sorry I opened it."

We chatted a bit more after that about the particulars, when I would start and how my company was going to help me pay for it and where I would get my books, etc. We were just finishing up the conversation when Hugh came meandering around the corner with his cart.

"What's up?" he asked.

"Oh, just my mom. I, uh, got into law school?"

Hugh smiled faintly and threw an arm around my shoulder.

"Cool," he said. "I knew you would. Ready to check out?"

And that was that.

Apr. 6th, 2011

A little over a month ago, many of us were setting our clocks an hour ahead for daylight savings time. Usually I don't gripe about this too much. There are unfortunate side-effects, like losing an hour of sleep; yet regardless, it needs to be done. No use complaining, right?

This year is different. Our new bedroom has two windows facing east, which means it's suddenly getting very bright very early. This is all well and good (or at least tolerable) on the weekends, when pulling the covers over my head and going back to sleep is an option. Not so on weekdays. Monday through Friday the light creeps into the room around 6 am, travels unnoticed across the bed, and like an obnoxious three-year-old pokes me right in the eye: BANG! WAKE UP, LADY. (This is what the light would say if it had a voice.) No one sleeps through a poke in the eye. No one. So I inevitably wake up when this happens. I blink. I rub at my face. I yawn, stare at the ceiling, and think, "Ok, so it's not dark in here anymore. Not even a little bit. Not even remotely. And well, I guess . . . I guess that's alright. I guess I can handle that."

At which point The Bird starts chirping.

Now, I'm not sure this is the same bird every morning (it is). It could very well be a different one each day (nope). Stranger things have happened (yeah, right). But I swear to god, this bird is my sworn enemy. It may as well have murdered my entire family and everyone I've ever loved and then made a little bird suit out of their skin. THIS IS HOW MUCH I HATE IT. And it sucks, because this little bird is so happy to be singing. Its tone is giddily, over-the-moon, I-just-won-the-lottery ecstatic. I almost feel bad for getting upset. Almost. Then I remember I have thirty minutes left before I have to get out of bed, and this bird is stealing these precious minutes from me, and I hate it all over again, only a gazillion times more.

There are probably solutions to the sun problem. Hugh would chime in and say, "Put the duvetyne back on the windows!" (No. Full stop.) Honestly, though? I think I could deal with the light if it wasn't for the bird. And what are my options for getting rid of that? Pea-shooter? Crafty cat? Nails on every square inch of every tree outside the building? I guess I'll have to deal with it until the time changes again. That could make for a very long spring. But hey, if that's my biggest problem this year, I'll take it. Just don't be surprised if the next time you see me, I'm wearing a chain of feathers around my neck.
One month from today is the final deadline for sending everything in for law school. One month! Right now I'm just waiting on LSAC to bundle all my documents up and ship them out. Hopefully that'll happen soon. It's weird to think that by mid-August, I will (hopefully) be a student again, writing papers, attending lectures, waking up at 2 am to panic about a presentation that's due the following morning. After I got my last graduate degree, I promised myself that I was done with school. Done, done, done, unless it was going back for a PhD in English lit, which is always gonna be on the table. Yet here I am, about to return, and not at all for that. This is a good thing, though. If I can just make it through the next four years, this will be a very good thing.

Other good things? Well, let's see. I got a small raise at work, which was nice. The weather has been stupidly perfect the past few days -- also nice. I'm back on schedule at the gym, doing more weight work to build some muscles. I got a decent chunk of change back from the IRS. I found an awesome present for Hugh for his birthday later this month. Nice, nice, nice.

I'm trying to focus on the good, as some other things in life have been kind of crap recently. I have faith that these things will swing around, and disappear entirely, and thus make life way less stressful. I think they will. I wasn't so sure yesterday, but I am today. Sometimes that's all it takes, just letting something sit for twenty-four hours so it can shift from a huge, glaring, ugly, unfixable !!PROBLEM!! to a manageable little bump in the road. I'm trying not to be dramatic about life these days. I never used to be, and then for a while it was like everyone around me was anxious about everything, and that rubbed off onto me. I hate that feeling. I don't like making every little hiccup in life into a giant hair-pulling Greek tragedy. I know people who do that and they are really unhappy and really unpleasant to be around.

Speaking of unpleasant things (and boy-oh-boy, rambling a lot here), I just finished reading trade twelve of The Walking Dead last night. I think I blazed through the first eleven trades in about four days, maybe less. I was hooked on the tv show last year, so I'm surprised it took me this long to get around to the comic. It's super good -- super good and incredibly depressing, but I couldn't put it down. I have no idea how they're going to film a lot of it. Some very bad stuff goes on in that world. I'm looking forward to season two, though. And heartily recommending it to anyone who thinks they can handle the read.
Earlier this week, some of Hugh's family came by the apartment to hang out for a bit. At one point we were all sitting around making small talk when his brother asked if we threw a lot of parties. "We really only have one friend who comes over on a regular basis," Hugh said, "and he's not the party type."

I didn't think much of it then, but we really are pretty anti-social. Sure, we hang out with small groups of friends or plan trips with them or go with them to the occasional wedding. We . . . I don't know, we Do Things. Yet for the most part? We're content to spend time solely with one another. My closest friends moved far away from me post-college, or had babies and started their married lives. Several stay in touch via Facebook. One comes to visit at least once a year, which is fabulous. One is going through a divorce, but we have marathon phone conversations on a semi-regular basis.

I suppose that's life. People start doing their own thing or move away or decide they don't like you anymore. That's fair. But how does one go about cultivating new friendships? Is there a trick to this? I spend a good 40+ hours at work each week, and have plenty of co-worker friends. They're great, truly, but they're not people I want to hang out with outside the office. It was simple finding like-minded friends in college. We were all the same age, studying the same things. And it's easy now to just go home to Hugh and be ok in my anti-socialness. Every now and then, though, it'd be nice to go out shopping with a girlfriend. I do miss that.

Feb. 23rd, 2011

Big news!!

Last Tuesday my boss pulled me aside, sat me down, and let me know -- drum roll, please -- that my company is going to pay for law school! About time you let me know!! I thought. (I didn't say that, of course. That would've been all kinds of rude.) I guess I looked pretty relieved, because he kindly proceeded to apologize for the delay in the decision-making process. Apparently it had happened a few weeks ago when he was promoted. Suddenly he was on the same level as the other higher-up who was originally helping me out, and at that point there was some confusion as to who was in charge of my fate. But he eventually took it over, and he and the other higher-up went together to speak to the Very Important Boss of Everything Legal, and everyone is now 100% supportive and happy for me. He also said that while there are no strings attached, they would love for me to come on board as an attorney once I've finished school. W-O-W.

I spent the rest of the day on cloud nine, calling up family members and texting friends and telling co-workers. I need to take a step back now and actually finish up my application and all that, but . . . gah. So. Much. Closer. To. Actually. Going. It's surreal, like my whole life just took an abrupt u-turn. A good u-turn, but holycrap. One day I was pulling files and the next I was a legal secretary and now it's (fingers crossed) off to law school. That's kind of major. It's certainly not where I thought I'd end up a year ago. And yet . . . I have to admit, I'm looking forward to it quite a lot, even knowing it's going to be tough as hell. Even knowing I'll probably want to quit at least a hundred times before I'm done. Even knowing there will be nights where Hugh has to talk me out of burning all my books.

I've been very loyal to this company, sticking it out as a contract employee for years before being hired on full-time. I've worked really hard to be great at my job, and impress the right people, and produce outstanding work. I suppose this is just payback on their part. It feels like more than I deserve. But that makes it good incentive to keep on track.
Weekends for us are usually pretty routine. We roll out of bed around 10:00, brew a giant pot of coffee, and spend the morning playing video games or reading or blogging. By 2:00 we're splitting up to hit the thrift stores (Hugh) and gym (me); later it's dinner, a movie. Midnight rolls around and more often than not I'm asleep in Hugh's lap or dozing off against his shoulder. Weekend after weekend after weekend, this is what we do. Every now and then, though, on rare occasions, we decide that yes, we do have social bones in our bodies, and we plan something different. Case in point? Last Saturday, when we woke up at a decent hour, hopped into our friend Mike's car, and headed down to New Orleans for the 2011 Comic Con.

This was my second convention ever, and way more nerdy than my first (and that was an American Library Association convention, so chew on that for a while). The big draw for this one was Buffy, which I guess sort of passed over me as a cultural phenomenon, 'cause meh. Back in college I used to catch bits of it on tv around 5 am, when it was that or infomercials and I'd already seen the infomercials. Just not my thing, I guess. Also the boyfriend absolutely loathes all things Joss Wheadon, so that hasn't helped sway me. In any case, there were a handful of major Buffy actors scheduled for appearances/signing, including James Marsters (whose table I wandered past), Nicholas Brendon, Julie Benz, Clare Kramer, James Leary, and Kelly Donovan. Aside from the actors, there were lots of booths and people in funny get-ups and boxes and boxes of cheap comic books. Nothing really struck my eye, but I had fun taking in all the bizarre costumes.

Afterwards we drove around the city for a while, killing time in and out of the Warehouse District and down Magazine Street, ultimately ending up at our favorite sushi place for dinner. Actually, I say "ended up," but I think Hugh would've gutted our friend Mike if he wanted to eat elsewhere. We seriously cannot go to New Orleans without eating here. I think they put something in the crunchy -- speaking of, WOW. You will not have better crunchy anywhere. Period. And the smoked salmon sashimi ain't bad either. Plus -- plus!! -- right next door?! Amazing little ice cream parlor called Creole Creamery. I had a scoop of Steen's Molasses Oatmeal Cookie on top of a scoop of what was supposed to be Butterscotch Toffee, but what turned out to be Sarsaparilla.

I wouldn't want to go to New Orleans every weekend. The drive feels much longer than it actually is, and hotels are too expensive to be a real option. Plus we quickly run out of things to do there, having no interest in French Quarter nonsense and no pocketbooks for shopping. It's not a bad place, though, in the grand scheme of things. A nice break from our routine. And a pleasant reminder that as bad as Baton Rouge gets, we'll always have a place to escape to.
Slow end to the work week. I can think of few things worse than sitting here with nothing to occupy my time, only me and the clock ticking down the minutes to five p.m. As a general rule I like to keep busy at the office, even if it's printing out correspondence or creating folders or responding to emails. I should be happy, I suppose. February here will be incredibly hectic. Lots of things coming due, plus we have meetings with our inventors to discuss the next business quarter, which inevitably leads to lots of harried running around for me -- getting our docket in order, printing out information and preparing the database, firing up the computer in the conference room, arriving early to set out the coffee cake and fruit (not at all required, of course, but it's nice to play hostess sometimes). Aside from that, there are a smattering of birthdays in February, Valentine's Day weekend with the boyfriend, a showing of King Lear at the local university, a dentist appointment, etc. Nothing major in and of itself, just lots of little things.

It's too bad I forgot to bring The Children's Book with me today, I could've worked on that while I wait for quitting time. I haven't made much progress there yet. I had a lovely and unexpected hour-and-a-half-long phone conversation with my friend Rachel this week that made me pine for more reading time. We worked at the bookstore together back in college and used to chat authors and literature fairly often. It makes me sad that she lives all the way up in Rhode Island now. I really do miss her company. Hugh is an excellent companion, and my dearest friend, but he's more a comic books and video games sort of guy. Trying to lure him into bed early to read with me never seems to work out, sadly. If I weren't thinking so seriously about going back to school, I might hunt down a book group here in town. I suspect most of my reading post-enrollment will be legal. Not a bad thing, per se. And perhaps I will meet a reading buddy in class.

Speaking of friends moving away, it's weird to think that if I get into the law program, I'll be stuck here in town for at least another four years. That's a concession I'll have to make, I guess. I feel less of an itch to move Right Now And Damn The Consequences, like I once did, but it's definitely still there. In fact, I was driving home yesterday thinking how wonderful it'd be to be able to leave this place. Right now that's not even an option for us. Sometimes it feels like we're trapped. For the first time in a long time, though, I feel like we're both making progress in our jobs and working towards that goal. We've talked about cities like Seattle or Portland, places clean and intellectual and full of quirky charm, with huge amounts of natural beauty. I could even see Europe working for us if I studied international law . . .

But I'm getting way ahead of myself. One day at a time. One good day at a time. That's all we can do, really. And then just go from there.
I think I forgot to mention here that I finally received my LSAT scores in the mail. They weren't wonderful, but they weren't terrible either. For taking the test practically cold, I didn't do half bad. I think if I'd studied a bit, I would've scored at least ten to fifteen points higher, which would've given me a lot of decent program options. Not that it matters, really. There's only one place here in town with a night program, and I did well enough this first time around to qualify for it. Now it's just securing recommendations, writing my letter of intent, and applying to the school. I also need to receive a definitive answer on reimbursement, but I'm going forward as if I already have the OK. If that doesn't work out, surely there are other options available that aren't taking out more school loans. I'm still paying back the one I took out for my first master's degree . . .

So there's one resolution out of the way. The deciding-to-apply part, I mean. I still have other associated obligations, and I need to actually get accepted, but I think I've at least come to the conclusion that more school isn't such a bad option, especially if it's mostly paid for by my employer. Other resolutions are pending. I renewed my membership at the gym, but I've been pretty bad about going there on a regular basis. Some of that has been the weather (too cold to do anything late at night!) and some of it has been me (stomach flu this past weekend, alas). To start the week off right, I'm headed there tonight for some cardio and weight-lifting. Hopefully I can get back on a regular schedule again.

Not much else to report. I'm happy to be posting more frequently, even if everything I've posted so far has been incredibly mundane. I could lie and say the juicy stuff is going into my paper journal, but the truth is I haven't even touched the paper journal in months. Life has been relatively calm, a nice respite from some years past. I feel like I'm moving forward, setting goals, pushing myself a little. That's not to say I'm not struggling. I don't have everything figured out, not by a long shot. I still have days where I come home to the apartment and wonder how I'm ever going to afford to keep it. I still daydream about writing and living overseas again. I'm not even close to being the person I want to be, in terms of the grand scheme of things. I'm ok with that, though. I'm ok. And for me, that's real progress.