Category: family

Letting go

Yesterday at work I broke my $1000 pen.

The backstory:

Two years ago when Jasmine was sick, we made multiple visits to the emergency vet.  These usually involved an overnight stay and a scary bill.  Each time I signed, I kept the pen.  It was my own small rebellion against her illness.

Over time I accumulated a collection of cheap plastic pens in an assortment of colors with the vet clinic’s phone number on them.  They came to be known around the house as my $1000 pens.

Most have disappeared into the depths of desk drawers, but the light blue one became special.  It complemented my uniform nicely, and it became my spare pen for work.  It has spent most of the past year in my shirt pocket or my day bag.  Yesterday I broke it.

My instinctive reaction was sadness.  This was Jazzy’s pen.

I quickly realized I was looking at things the wrong way.  These pens are a symbol of the darkest time in her too-short life.  Keeping them around doesn’t preserve her memory.  It preserves the memory of her tragic illness and death.  While I want to remember and cherish her, these are not the memories I need.

I disassembled the pen tonight.  I salvaged the spring to use as a strain reliever on my phone charging cord.  She always was good at relieving my stress.  As I find the others, I will do the same with them.  I may have spent the cost of a good used car acquiring them, but it is time to let them go.

Situational Awareness

For a while now I have been endeavoring to teach Kiddo situational awareness.  This is largely centered around parking lots and traffic, things like “Don’t put yourself between a moving vehicle and a stationary object,” and “don’t walk behind any car which could back up.”  It will eventually extend to the things any young woman needs to know when walking alone at night.

Today we had a slightly different opportunity to emphasize awareness:

  • If you are driving on a snowy interstate highway with two clear lanes and two slushy ones, which lane should you use?
  • If you chose wrongly and roll your SUV over, you should remember to put it in park and stop the engine before you climb out.
  • And finally, if there are no serious injuries and someone has already called 911, this is not a safe place to be in your personal Volkswagen.

The first two points were graphically demonstrated.  I explained the third as we drove away from the now-smoking SUV and its embarrassed owner.

Breaking Film

For some reason I’ve been procrastinating about this week’s roll of film. I just wasn’t finding the motivation to develop it.  Yesterday Jake took a spin with Caffenol; today Beth and I were home alone with time to kill and an empty kitchen. A little home chemistry seemed in order.


The ingredients are simple: cheap instant coffee, Vitamin C powder, and washing soda. Although they took a bit of work to get, my supplies of soda and C should last for years. The scale is a simple digital kitchen one ($20) which also has postal uses. The thermometer and timer are cheap kitchen items. The only specialized equipment is the developing tank.

I loaded the film in the tank. Beth measured, mixed, and developed under my supervision. All of the ingredients are non-toxic and can be dumped down the sink after use. We did use a standard photographic fixer, which should be saved for re-use and not released to the environment. We used the Delta-STD recipe, halved to make 500cc of deveoper.


In less than half an hour from start to finish, we had images. The negatives are a bit thin, and I’m having a dust issue. I blame that on loading the reel with one hand in a cast.  I’m happy though. We may need to perfect this technique.

Chai Lai


Breaking News

If you read my post about Tuesday, you need to see the addendum.

14 - 1

Yes, it’s broken. They call it a Snuff Box Fracture. I am out of action for at least six weeks.

So now I’m watching it snow and catching up on Dexter on Netflix. Blogging may slow for a bit.


Godspeed, sweet kitty

Twenty two years ago a small grey cat was born in Rhode Island. Her owners didn't want her; a neighborhood tom had snuck over the fence and done unspeakable things to their prize-winning Himalayan. They gave her to a college girl, who quickly discovered she was not ready for kittenhood. Overwhelmed, she threatened to put her outside to fend for herself.

My then-future wife has never been able to abide the suffering of any animal. She rescued the kitten from almost certain death, taking it in at the risk of angering her landlord. Shelby won my heart simply by being a grey tiger kitten; I won hers by ignoring her. Curiosity may not really kill cats, but it sure drives them nuts. (The landlord was won over with money. Not really a cat person I guess.)

I would love to say Shelby was a special cat. In our hearts she certainly was and remains. In reality she was probably pretty average. An amazing thing happened, though. She had an incredible ability to win people's hearts. Soon my parents adopted a cat, then my sister. Over the intervening years we have had 8 more cats, my sister 4, and my parents 5. All have been rescued in some form or other. Dad has even adopted his own small thriving feral colony.

Shelby was our matriarch. She left us in 2006 after a long yet too short life. The torch was passed to Muffy, my parents' first.

Muffy came to the family from the Merrimack River Feline Rescue Society in December of 1998. She was a stray and a street tough. The shelter guessed she was 3 years old; the vet estimated closer to 5. It took a long time for her to accept affection, but eventually she became the tiger-striped head of her own five-cat colony. She ruled with an iron paw, earning the nickname Tuffy Muffy.

Fifteen years have come and gone, and Muffy has been the Energizer kitty. She has weathered health scares; she's slowed and mellowed with age; recently she's spent most of her time in a warm spot in the kitchen.

And I've watched her age, lately with a heavy heart. We knew this day was coming. This afternoon I scritched her one last time and got to wish her a safe journey. Tomorrow she goes over the Rainbow Bridge.

Farewell, Muff. It's always too soon, yet it's time. Shel, Chang, Jas, Rockey, and Millie will be waiting to greet you.

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We promise to ease their suffering, and they give undying devotion in return. We feed them, shelter them, care for their health, and when the time comes we provide a merciful end.

It’s never as easy as it looks on paper.

When we lost Chang, I penned an eloquent and emotional post.

When Jasmine received her diagnosis, I cried out in pain.

We swore that she wouldn’t suffer. We would do all that was medically reasonable and enjoy the time we had left together, however short. The pills have been annoying, but she held up well. We still had fun together. Sunbeams, catnip mice, and moths have made the passing months wonderful.

Until this weekend. We watched her fail inexorably. We cuddled and comforted. I don’t have another eloquent post in me right now. We promised not to let her suffer.

Too short. She should've had another decade. She's the youngest of our colony and should have seen Beth graduate. The universe has cheated her and us, but we promise not to let them suffer. Rest easy, baby girl. There's no need to fight it anymore.


Jasmine left us peacefully around 11:00 this morning. Our hearts are heavy. . .


It’s not supposed to be this way.  

I stand in the long glass hallway of Big City Trauma Center, back to the windows as a throng of humanity streams past.  

We knew her life might be shortened when we adopted.  Shortened however isn’t supposed to mean short. It’s not supposed to be this way.  

I hide behind my sunglasses and choke down my emotions as I send an email to order a tiny urn. I should call, but I can’t talk about it now.  It’s not supposed to be this way.  

My city is full of world class hospitals.  If your family member is small and furry, that’s OK too.  We have a kitty ICU, kitty cardiologists, and even kitty thoracic surgery if you want to go that far.   It’s still not supposed to be this way.  

We have a diagnosis, and the doctors are talking in terms of weeks.   It’s. Not. Supposed. To. Be. This. Way.  

We will make her as comfortable as we can and cherish our remaining time together.  I cannot imagine waking up without her little furry body nestled against my hip, or falling asleep without her sweet crossed eyes staring over my book.  We were supposed to have much longer. She deserves much longer. It’s not supposed to be this way.

I gather myself together, rein in my emotions, and head back to work, safe behind my dark lenses for now.  As long as that damn harpist doesn’t show up I’ll be fine.


It hasn’t been a great week. We ran all the usual EMS annoyances, from truck swaps through ignorant hospital staff to late calls. I’m still adjusting to my new schedule, and my family is having a harder time than I. They’ve all managed to contract the flu.

Yesterday we were reminded that sometimes Evil truly walks the earth, this time in the form of one young man in a small town a mere 180 miles from here. A small town very like this one. . .

Add in early orthodonture and the intricate ballet that is Christmas with three different sets of grandparents, and you can see that I wasn’t spreading much holiday cheer this morning.

And what happened, then? Well, in Whoville they say – that the Grinch’s small heart grew three sizes that day.

Thank you, Random Jeep Lady. It was a simple gesture, and I surely can afford my own drive-thru order. Your random act reminded me that there are still Good and Nice in the world and came at a time when I really needed it.

Pay it forward, folks. You never know.


It’s a good evening. It was almost warm today. The porch has been restored to its 3-season glory. Gone are the stacked bags & boxes for recycling and the random collection of stuff on its way to somewhere else. A light rain patters in the downspouts, and I have my feet up in my favorite rocker.

The family is doing some sort of terrarium project in the kitchen. It sounds like it involves panning for gold, as I listen to rocks clattering in pans and bowls. The dog has decided to kill a bone directly under my chair. How can a small dog make such a big noise? My neighbor has started his shop vac/leaf blower/pool filter or whatever it is, which he will run every evening from now until October, and the Rod & Gun club has decided the weather is perfect for some spring shooting on the marsh. I’m sure I’ll hear the commuter rail rumbling across the marsh soon as well.

I don’t care. The porch is back, which means spring is here and summer not far behind. I think this calls for a beer.


Editor’s note: I wrote this back on 5/5, but somehow it seems to have gotten stuck in the Draft queue.