Monday, February 25, 2013

The Psychology of Snow

So... I was just starting to write a post about how I'm longing for spring. They were forecasting 4 inches of snow and it just felt depressing to me.

But then... the forecast started to go up. Soon they were saying 6 inches, then 8, then 10. Curiously, as the predictions went up, my longing for spring started to fade a bit. Suddenly I wasn't bemoaning having to "deal with" 4 inches of snow... I was reveling in the possibility of being snowed in!

We ended up with about a foot of snow, and as I was outside this morning getting some much needed exercise by shoveling the driveway, I was amazed at how much I was enjoying the whole event.

Hmmm... is it just me, or does this seem a tad bit paradoxical? A little bit of snow is a major PITA (pain in the arse) but a huge storm is great fun!

Perhaps it's a question of expectations. I mean, if it snows just a little bit, I figure that we're all expected to just go about our normal business with a small added inconvenience. On the other hand, if there's a major blizzard all bets are off! Nobody expects you to go anywhere, or do anything meaningful... you're just allowed to kick back, relax and enjoy the weather.

Now, I don't think of myself as a person who is unduly influenced by the expectations that others might hold of me... and it's not like my "regular schedule" is terribly taxing. I don't have to drive to a job, or get kids to school, or do any of the myriad of other things that could be complicated by winter weather.

Furthermore, since I work at home on the computer, unless there's a power outage, there's nothing stopping me from working even if there were 3 feet of snow on the ground! So why the big difference in my reaction to a little vs a lot of snow?

Maybe it has to do with my own expectations of myself. If I sit back and do nothing just because that's what I feel like doing, some part of me still thinks I'm being lazy.

But if the news is saying "stay home and relax" and I feel like "everybody else" is taking it easy because of the weather, then I somehow give myself permission to do what I wanted to do anyway.

I suppose it could be leftover emotions from childhood... SNOW DAY!!! It's amazing how deep those things are embedded.

Well anyhow, the snow was great fun, and I'm actually starting to enjoy this winter a bit, rather than just cursing it.

So I'm curious... does anybody else out there experience this crazy snow paradox?

Friday, February 22, 2013

What a Difference a Day Makes

Ok. I'm feeling much, much better today. Thank you all so, soooo much for your kind and supportive comments. It really helps to know that I'm not the only person out there who suffers from the occasional case of overwhelm.

It's rather amazing to me how just a little bit of time and attitude adjustment (and sleep) can make all the difference in the world.

It also helped that the stars finally aligned and I was able to refill Sputnik's prescriptions at a new pharmacy. I had been trying to refill it for weeks through my veterinarian, and it was just a nightmare.

I'd call every day and they wouldn't have it in stock, and had "no idea" when it would arrive. So they'd give me a few doses to tide us over, but it meant driving across town every other day or so and dealing with their obnoxious staff.

So finally I called the vet directly and got him to call in the prescription to another pharmacy. Get this, they had it ready in 24 hours and charged me $28 for the same meds that cost $194 through the vet's office! Holy Moly!

I've been very happy with the vet himself, but the staff and the systems over there seriously have me thinking about looking for a new one.

But, at least the issue is resolved for the moment. Plus, some new herbal remedies that I ordered for Sputty over 2 weeks ago FINALLY arrived this morning.

I've had him on a liquid version for a few weeks now, but he hates having things squirted in his mouth, so this will make our lives much, MUCH easier. I'll write another post about these new herbs in a week or so and give you the whole run down.

I dunno... perhaps this isn't very "minimalist" of me, but my stress level just goes sky high when I'm afraid of running out of something crucial like medicine for my kitty.

Maybe that's evidence of some hoarding tendencies on my part, but the minute I realized that we have all the medicine and supplements we need for the next month or so, I felt like I was finally able to take a deep breath and relax.

And as if that wasn't enough to make me feel better, CatMan came over and spent the evening with me yesterday. Seeing him always raises my spirits in and of itself, but this time he also brought me a birthday surprise!

Of course, the fact that my birthday isn't for another few weeks ensured that I was good and surprised! CatMan totally cracks me up - he gets so excited about giving me presents, that he can't wait for whatever the occasion is. So I'm getting used to getting Christmas presents in November etc.

At any rate, I'm excited to announce that I'm composing this post from my brand new Windows 8 tablet! I've gotta admit, I feel a bit like I've gone from a model T to a spaceship, since I've never even had a laptop before.

Seriously... if it weren't for CatMan, I don't think I'd own more technology than a land line telephone!

I couldn't help but think of the very first present he ever got me 20 years ago when we first met. It was a used 286 desktop computer complete with 40MB hard drive and a monitor that displayed bright green letters on a black screen.

At the time CatMan was running a sort of informal computer exchange out of his basement.

This was in the early 90's when having your own computer was still a bit of a novelty, but since he built his first computer in the 70's by wiring together a few computer chips with an electric typewriter keyboard and a TV screen (not kidding) he was a tad bit ahead of the curve in this department.

Anyhow, as the neighborhood computer geek, he maintained a collection of parts, and would assemble them into working machines which he would give away to anyone who he thought might put it to good use.

The only rules were that when you upgraded you had to donate the old computer back into the collective, or pass it along to someone else. I still smile when I think of all the good "pay it forward" karma that he generated.

At any rate, the happy has returned to chez Cat, and I'm having all sorts of fun figuring out my new toy. The truth is, it's really nice to be able to access the internets from anywhere in the house... I'm feeling much less tethered, and really, REALLY lucky to have the world's most wonderful sweetie.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013


Do you ever feel like life is all just too much?

I've gotta say that things here at chez Cat have felt a tad bit overwhelming lately. I'm sure it's partly because my cat is sick, and things have gone crazy in the land of making a living, and I've been fighting a cold for several weeks now, and my parents have needed lots of help with their various 21st century electronic devices, and I've been battling with my telephone/internet company because the service keeps crashing.  

It's not like I'm facing anything terribly awful... Sputnik is actually doing quite well all things considered, and even though visits to my websites are down over 50%, I'm still earning enough money to live on, and my cold has just about cleared up so I can finally breathe again, and I finally have internet and phone service again, and even though it can be a pain when my parents use me as the computer support hotline, they have been incredibly generous with me lately. 

So really... everything is OK - I just can't seem to shake the feeling that I'm just barely keeping it all together.

Like I'm just about to explode.

Like there's some sort of overwhelming darkness that's just about ready to swallow me up.

Dealing with the day to day stuff like feeding myself and taking out the garbage, just feels like it's about to push me over the edge.

And things that normally feel comforting, like Princess' need to be in my lap 24/7 are starting to feel like they are sucking every last bit of life force out of me. 

Seriously, there's a part of me that just wants to scream "EVERYBODY JUST LEAVE ME ALONE!!!!'

I'm sure it doesn't help that I haven't had a good night's sleep in weeks. I really feel like I could do a face plant at a moment's notice.

Anyhow... I don't really have a point with this post - I just felt the need to look at some cute kitty pictures and whine about the world infringing on my space.

I guess I just have to keep repeating to myself: This too shall pass

So tell me, what are your coping strategies when the world starts to feel like it's too much to handle? At the moment I could use all the advice I can get!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Hopeful Premonitions and Natural Remedies

Back in early January, a group of my musician friends put on a benefit concert for one in our ranks who was recently diagnosed with stage 3 ovarian cancer. I was torn about attending, because the concert was happening the day after Sputnik had his little Tramadol freak out, and I was nervous and concerned about leaving him alone. But I really wanted to see my sick friend and offer my support.

Then a little voice in my head piped in and told me that I should go to the concert, because maybe I would learn something there that could help Sputty. Somehow my brain was conjuring up images of being introduced to some veterinary research fellow who had devised a cutting edge laser treatment for cats with bladder tumors or something.

No sooner did I have the thought than I dismissed it as being utterly and totally ridiculous. I mean, I was going to hang out with a bunch of western swing musicians for heaven's sake... it was much more likely that I'd meet someone doing cutting edge research on Bob Wills or yodeling, than feline urinary tract disorders!

And besides, my friend was battling for her life here - this night was about her... nobody was gonna want to hear sob stories about my cat and his bladder tumor. So I decided that I'd go to the concert and try to refrain from dragging the whole world through my sick kitty tale of woe.

So CatMan and I went to the show. We got there a few minutes late, as is typical for us, and were very surprised to be greeted at the door by a very old friend who we hadn't seen in years. We weren't expecting to see her there since we know her in a totally different context. Turns out that she's now working as a therapist with an ovarian cancer support group, and was there handing out informational brochures.

Since the concert had already started, and the auditorium was pretty much full, we just stood outside and chatted with our friend. I admit that I was only paying half attention to the conversation because I was distracted by the adorable little 7 year old on stage doing an amazing rendition of this old Fats Waller chestnut.

But between bars of musical prodigy-ness, I caught a few phrases like "new research," "nutritional support,"  "keeping down inflammation" and "turmeric." Then I heard my friend say "One woman I work with still has all her tumors, but the curcumin has shrunk them down to where they're so small that they're almost not detectable."

Wait... what? Shrinking tumors? Curcumin? Suddenly my attention was snapped back into the conversation as I heard CatMan say "Gee, I wonder if it works on cats..."

OK, cue the Twilight Zone theme song....

Now, my brain is a tad bit too logical to put much stock in things like premonitions and miracle cures, but you've gotta admit, it's a bit of an odd coincidence.... me having a thought that I might get some information to help Sputnik in the most unlikely of places, and then actually getting such information, when I wasn't really even paying attention.

Anyhow, I did some research, and it turns out that curcumin is a natural compound that comes from the spice turmeric, which is the ingredient that gives curry its bright yellow color.

There is some promising research showing its effectiveness as a cox 2 inhibitor (reducing inflammation in the same way that non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen do) but without the cox 1 inhibition which cause so many of the side effects of NSAIDs.  It's also metabolized through the liver rather than the kidneys, which makes it a much better option for cats, who can't tolerate most NSAIDs.

This is all very interesting news, because one of the primary treatments for dogs with bladder tumors is an NSAID called piroxicam, but it can't be used in cats because their kidneys can't tolerate it. Furthermore, while curcumin generally isn't absorbed well in either dogs or humans, because of the way it's metabolized in their livers, cats' livers work differently and allow at least some of the curcumin to pass through without metabolizing out the effectiveness.

And... as if that isn't enough, curcumin has also been shown to promote apoptosis, or the process of programmed cell death which seems to be turned off in both benign and malignant tumors, causing them to keep growing instead of dying off. In other words, curcumin tells tumor cells to die.

So I called my vet to see what he thought, and he did a bit of research and responded with a resounding "yes, try it!"

Soooo... Sputnik has been on a curcumin supplement for about a month now. We started him on a very small dose to be sure he was gonna tolerate it OK, and have worked up to a dose of 150mg/day. I've also been giving him an Omega3 fish oil supplement which is supposed to both help the absorption of the curcumin and is an anti-inflammatory in its own right.

At this point it's a bit hard to say if it's having much effect or not. If it actually is encouraging tumor cell die-off, then you'd expect him to be shedding more tumor cells, which would probably increase the irritation in his bladder, at least temporarily, and cause more frequent urination. So there hasn't been a marked change in his frequency of urination, but his symptoms certainly aren't getting any worse, which is a victory in and of itself.

One thing I have noticed is that the arthritis limp he's had in his left shoulder for over a year now has almost completely disappeared, which would seem to be evidence that he's getting at least some anti-inflammatory response.

So while I'm not yet ready to proclaim it a miracle cure...

I am feeling encouraged.

So how about you? What do you think about natural remedies? And do you think this was all pure coincidence, or do you believe in things like premonitions?