Married to the Empire

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Joy Comes in the Morning

That picture above pretty well sums up my days lately. With a sick cat, laundry seems to be my life now. And if you look closely, you'll see a stuffed rabbit in the washer. Calvin nailed a treasured childhood toy that my aunt handmade for me. Thankfully, Bunny survived the washing machine, which I figured to be my only real option in cleaning her up after an attack of the Cat Who Wants to Potty on Soft Things.

And nothing is sacred. I discovered last night that he nailed the undersuit to Steven's stormtrooper armor. I had to wash it twice to get the smell out, it was that bad. Steven was less than pleased when I told him about it.

Yesterday I just felt beaten down. This cat's illness is costing us more than just vet bills. Just this week I've had to purchase a waterproof mattress pad for the bed in the guest room, as well as a new memory-foam pillow for Steven. I was in a hurry the other night because we were going to visit one of our youth group kiddos in the hospital, and I accidentally forgot to close the bedroom door. Calvin found Steven's pillow...

I haven't been sleeping well lately. I guess it's just the stress and worry of it all. But last night I slept hard for the first time in a few days, and I realized (again) the truth of this verse:

Psalm 30:5
For his anger lasts only a moment,
but his favor lasts a lifetime;
weeping may remain for a night,
but rejoicing comes in the morning.

It's amazing how a good night's sleep can change perspective. I was beaten down yesterday and frustrated with the whole situation, but today, I'm in a much better mood. (Of course, it helps that we made it through the night without any new surprises from the cat.) And as I'm seeking patience with a cat who can't help being sick, I'm reminded of the great patience God has for me. I need to be a reflection of Him in dealing with life's unpleasantries, rather than grumbling and feeling irritated. And that joy in the morning? Yet another reminder to enjoy the gifts I have here and now. Calvin won't be here forever, obviously. I need to appreciate his presence in my life right now, in spite of the extra work and expense he causes lately.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Church Garage Sale

One of the small groups at our church came up with the idea of having a church-wide garage sale. People were very generous in giving their old stuff. A desperate email requesting help last Friday to get things prepared for Saturday went out. Now that I'm done with tutoring for another year, I had the time to go help.

Oh my. When I say the folks at our small church were generous, I wasn't kidding.

That is a photo of just ONE of the rooms that needed to be sorted and organized. I worked on that one with a couple of other women, and I'm proud to say that we made it walkable and organized in about 2 hours. Too bad I didn't think to take an after photo.

Our sale was pretty successful once we went through and started lowering prices. Overall we raised $1200, which is going into a building fund.

Steven and I even came away with a few goodies. I need a new magazine rack, and this wooden one was a mere $2.

I happened to notice this bottle of Nature's Miracle. Seeing as Calvin's mess-making used up all of our own Nature's Miracle last week, I was thrilled to snatch this up. It's only about 1/3 full, but for 25 cents, I'm happy to have it! (I usually pay $10 for a bottle at Petmart.)

Steven found a brand-new sprinkler timer. He was very excited to get that for $1.

The funny thing is, after the garage sale, we went to get Steven's hair cut. There's a Tuesday Morning in the same shopping strip as his barber, so that's where I went to amuse myself while he got his hair cut. He joined me when he was done. We both commented when we left that all those prices seemed so high after spending the morning with nice things being sold for almost nothing!

If I can get myself up early enough on weekends, I just might find this garage sale stuff addictive.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Calvin's Test Results

I heard back from the vet this morning. Calvin's calcium is abnormally high, but his parathyroid is in the low-normal range, so it's not a parathyroid issue. The vet said we're looking at probable neoplasia (tumor) and likely cancer.

I was given the name and number of a diagnostic specialist in Dallas, but after talking it over with Steven, we're not going that route. We won't treat cancer, if that is what it is, and he's not in any shape to undergo surgery if he has a tumor that needs to be removed.

So, whatever days he has left with us, we'll let him live them peacefully at home without further medical intervention for this new issue. We will continue with his current regimen of pills and hydration, but we're leaving it at that.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Never Say Never

Back before Calvin was sick, Steven and I swore we'd never do saline IVs, aka "kitty dialysis", on him. We watched our friends do that, and it seemed like it was just a way to prolong kitty's life for the humans. We didn't want to do that.

Yet here we are. Calvin needs it, and we caved. The vet said on Monday that cats with kidney disease often get to the point where they're peeing out more water than they're taking in, so they get severely dehydrated.

We talked it over. We know how lousy it feels to be dehydrated, and we decided we just couldn't let our boy suffer through that when we can do something about it. It's for his comfort. If he were so sick that he needed to just be given back to God, we wouldn't bother. But he still runs around the house, meows his complaints about the service around here, bullies his baby brother. He even chased a rabbit when it foolishly entered our backyard when the cats were out there!

He's not at death's door just yet.

So this morning we headed to the vet's office so that Steven could learn how to give Calvin his IV.

Never say never.

(And if you're wondering about his lab results from Monday, we're still waiting to hear the verdict. I'll update when we know something.)

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Calvin's Latest Trip to the Vet

We need prayer.

Calvin was obviously not feeling well on Sunday, and I discovered that he'd been using parts of the guest room as an extra litterbox. *sigh* I took him to the vet first thing Monday morning.

He received an IV for dehydration, we're doubling his daily antibiotic because he has yet another bladder infection, and his calcium is high, but his phosphorus is not. That last bit really means nothing to me, but I was told that high calcium with normal phosphorus can indicate a parathyroid problem.

Or cancer.

Calvin's blood has been sent off to an independent lab to determine what's going on. And now we wait.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Rainy Day in the Garden

I'm a low-maintenance gardener, which means I hate gardening, so I buy plants I can stick in the ground, then mostly forget about. The irises and roses just bloom on their own, which is nice. I went out last night after it had been raining all weekend and took a few photos in the garden.

Is that last one not the cutest thing? I have a strong zoom on my camera, but he still let me get pretty close to take a photo. He even came back this morning to munch on my grass some more.

And finally, this makes me very happy:

We planted the rosebushes probably 10 or 11 years ago, and that particular bush never bloomed until 2 years ago. Even then, it was just one measly rose at a time. I've now counted 17 buds on it! Can't wait to see it finally blossom as it was meant to! There's probably some great life lesson on patience or something to be found in this...

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Visiting the Asian Market

Steven wanted Chinese food the other night, but I didn't want to pay the $30 or $40 it would cost to eat at our favorite Chinese restaurant. And we do not do fast-food Chinese. Ick. So, we got cheap Mexican food instead, and I took a trip to the Asian grocer the next day.

I tried to take a picture of the fish market at the back of the store, which always fascinates me, but my battery was totally dead. Tons of bins just filled with whole fish, their dead eyes looking sadly at me. And big tanks swimming with live fish, which strikes me as cruel because not only are they crammed in there together with little room to move, but they're right next to all those bins of dead fish. They can see their fate. That part makes me want to cry, but that's partly because I should be a vegetarian, but I'm not. This sight pretty much destroys my fantasy that my meat is born on the styrofoam tray at the store and was never actually alive. I don't like the reminder that my food once lived. It doesn't help that the fish at the back makes the whole store smell like a dirty pet shop.

I'm really selling you on this place, aren't I?

Sad fish and bad smells aside, I really like this place, especially as they now label their produce with English and not just Chinese characters that I can't read. It's a great place to buy fresh foods you can't usually find at regular grocery stores, all at reasonable prices.

The bok choy and shiitakes I bought were fresh, but prepackaged by the store. I came home with a lot more than I could use. I cleaned it all and chopped it up, then looked online for how to freeze them. (Go here and here if you're curious.) I took a picture of the mushrooms (other camera at home with a working battery!) before I packaged them up for freezing.

I made a nice stir-fry with bok choy, shiitake mushrooms, mung bean sprouts, snow peas, baby corn, and Japanese eggplant.

Steven, who wants meat with every meal, took a look and said, "What's that? Sausage?" He was pointing at the chunks of eggplant. I said, "Uh, yeah." Ha! No. I told him honestly what it was, but we were calling it Japanese sausage after that. I cook everything in peanut oil, which smells heavenly. I stirred a spicy black bean paste into the veggies after they cooked down. Yum! Served it all over rice noodles. Quick, easy, and healthy. (Well, quick if you don't have to clean and chop a ton of bok choy, then blanch it. And then clean, chop, and cook a bunch of mushrooms. Then package it all up for the freezer. But otherwise quick.)

I buy frozen mango whenever I happen to be near Central Market, which isn't often. I'm now out of frozen mango. But the Asian store had boxes of mangoes for $5.99. I figured for that price, I can cut and freeze my own mangoes.

Doogie was very happy about the box of mangoes because it was originally covered in a criss-cross of packing tape to keep the mangoes in. This cat won't touch commercial cat treats, but he's quite the connoisseur of tape. Packing tape is his favorite, so I had to cut that all off quickly after I discovered him eating it. Have I ever mentioned that he's not my smart cat? His cuteness and sweet disposition make up for it, thankfully.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Laundry Room Clean-up

My oldest niece was here from London last week. I was so busy having a great time with her that I didn't take a single picture. I could have kicked myself over that. Oops. They come home in December for 6 months, so I'll be sure to get plenty of pictures of her and her sisters then.

But hey, I did take a picture of this:

I know; it's so not the same. But it still made me happy. I finally got around to cleaning out the shelf in my laundry room closet. I don't think I'd touched parts of it since we moved in. I found a box of cat toys that I'm pretty sure pre-date Doogie--and he's 11 now. I also discovered 4 boxes of chandelier bulbs. Guess I just kept buying them, then they'd get buried in there. Oh, and those extension cords we could never find? Yeah. Found 'em.

I had grand visions of Martha Stewart-esque organization. Pretty glass jars lined up with cleaning supplies. But reality hit. Glass jars are expensive; plastic bins aren't. Besides, the plastic tubs fit the space better.

But I did give them Martha Stewart labels.

Monday, April 12, 2010

My Latest Martha Obsession

If you've been around this blog for any length of time, you know I'm a big fan of Martha Stewart. I'm crazy about her magazine, books, craft items, especially her glitter! So lately I've been scouring Ebay for old copies of Living from the 1990s. Most sellers want ridiculous amounts of money for a single issue, but some sellers have entire lots of magazines to get rid of, and they're not asking much.

I went on a bit of a buying binge a few weeks ago.

The nice thing is that I ended up with some December issues I've been lacking. I always love Martha's Christmas ideas, so I now have every December issue going back to 1995. I still have a few earlier issues to find, but there's no rush.

My earliest issues date back to 1992. Those are fascinating to go through for a lot of reasons. Everything was very informative and high brow. And I get such a kick out of some of the ads inside. Not a single business lists a website, which just seems so foreign to me these days. As for later issues, websites pop up in the ads, but the cameras advertised still use film, the computers are beige and boxy, and the online auction site to check out isn't Ebay, but rather something called BoxLot. I looked it up. It no longer exists.

It's interesting to see the evolution of the magazine over the years. It went from a thin, informative magazine to a thick magazine with a rather pretentious tone and recipes that I can't even comprehend trying because the ingredients are so exotic and expensive. But after Martha's stint in jail, the magazine took a new turn, and it's one I'm a lot more comfortable with. The air of pretention is gone. The crafts are actually doable. The recipes are no longer for the wealthy, but they're now more in keeping with the average woman's budget and interests. I actually try recipes from her magazine these days, which I never did in the past.

I'm having a blast going through these magazines. However, I think I'm going to need some more magazine holders. I have 15 cardboard magazine holders from IKEA devoted just to Martha Stewart Living. My collection is outgrowing them...

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Collage Cards

These are my latest crafty pursuit. The shapes making up the flowers are all from paper punches. The stems and leaves are all cut freehand. They come together fast, and I love how they look! Kind of quirky, but fun.

I was irritated with how the word gratitude came out on the first card. I used black embossing powder, but some white powder had gotten mixed in (accidentally), which gave it a mottled look. I was mad at first, but then I decided I kind of like it. Happy accident, I suppose.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

A Cat's Life

Our boys had an exciting Saturday morning. With spring here, they've been itching to get outside, so I threw open the back door on Saturday morning and let them race out into the yard. After attempting to watch Calvin, our resident escape artist, while reading the newspaper (completely unsuccessfully), it finally occurred to me to grab the camera to capture some of their joy.



Nope! Just completely blissed out from rolling around in the dirt and grass.


The oh-so-rare perfect pose:

But then...

What can I say? They hadn't had a bath--a real bath--in a year! They should be grateful, as we've never gone that long between baths before.

They did forgive us. Eventually.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Post-Lenten Thoughts

Now that Easter is over, I've decided to share that I participated in Lent for the first time ever. I'm Southern Baptist, and we Baptists have always focused on the joy of the resurrection. We love Jesus and enjoy the stories and lessons of his life and ministry, but we don't tend to give a lot of time to the suffering of Jesus because we like to focus on the happier stuff.

I love my church. I've loved all the churches I've been a member of, but I crave a little more at times. I've been looking at liturgy more and more, and through my personal study of prayer, I'm even discovering that there is something to be said for liturgical prayer, which I'd always scoffed at before as a lazy way to pray. (Reading Mudhouse Sabbath has really helped to change my opinion of that, as well as some liturgical prayers my cousin gave me for use during Lent. There's a certain beauty and depth in some of those prayers, and they're often things I wouldn't have thought to pray for in my self-absorption.)

So, this year, I decided to give up something for Lent and try to learn more about this practice. I gave up candy, which probably sounds silly to most adults, but I like candy a lot. It's a little pick-me-up on some days--a sugar rush I enjoy far more than cookies or cake or other sweets. So believe me, this was a sacrifice for me.

It wasn't a difficult sacrifice, at first. But as the days went by, I craved it. It didn't help that when I started tutoring, the teacher I work with left a giant bag of candy in my room as treats for my students. When that tired slump hit about 6th period because I'd been up since the crack of dawn and sitting under fluorescent lights all day, it became difficult not to indulge in a piece or two. But I endured. Again, it probably sounds silly, but Baptists aren't big on fasting of any kind. I wasn't brought up to do it. Not one of my churches has ever made fasting a practice. So, giving something up really wasn't an easy or natural thing for me to do.

But despite the candy fast, I'm not sure I really did Lent right. My cousin picked up a copy of the book The Via Crucis for me, which is great to use as a devotional during Lent. Unfortunately, because I didn't get it until a couple of weeks into Lent, I didn't use it as faithfully as I'd intended. I'm not very good at playing catch-up with stuff when I'm just in it on my own. What I did read, I enjoyed and pondered. Shawn Small presented details leading up to the crucifixion in ways I hadn't thought of before. So, I did find that useful, but in my own laziness, I didn't use it to its full advantage. In other words, I didn't make it through the entire book. But there's always next year.

Lent is meant to be a season of repentance. I did work on that, although haphazardly. At the very least, I gave it more thought than I typically do, and I prayed more consistently than I have in the past.

Faith is a journey, and sometimes it's not an easy one. I can't say that I struggled terribly through this, but I do believe I've grown. I've been far more mindful of the need to pray and ask forgiveness. I was more focused on ways I need to change and things I need to learn. I have a deeper appreciation for the sacrifice Jesus made for all mankind. I don't particularly like focusing on the ugly truth of the crucifixion, but it made Easter Sunday that much sweeter. When we gloss over the brutality of what Jesus experienced in order to redeem us, we fail to realize just how great the gift of salvation really is. As we sang our opening song in church on Easter Sunday, I found myself uncharacteristically choking up on the chorus:

My Redeemer lives
My Redeemer lives
My Redeemer lives
My Redeemer lives

Indeed he does.