Saturday, October 28, 2006

Sick? Tired? Just Lazy?

Greetings from my nest of covers, books, remote controls and snacks!

This was a very busy week. My parents came up here on Thursday night to go with me to this hoop-de-la awards ceremony thingy in the city. (Confession: Ever since I couldn't find my way off the stage after winning a prize in the 7th grade science fair,*** I am EXTREMELY wary of accepting awards in public.) They spent the night here before driving to visit my sister in Boston, so I had the futon and TV all set up for them in the office.

***The stairs were one level below the stage! I got my medal, and I couldn't see the way off or down! It was awful! AWFUL! Luckily my dad was sitting on stage with the other teacher/presenters and subtly pointed to the stairs while I turned 80 shades of red, including "jalapeno.")

Yesterday, I just felt achy and tired, like my head was full of cotton and my eyelids were made of sandpaper. I shot my assignments, tried to suck it up and finally asked to go home a little early. I crashed on the still made-up futon with my laptop, transmitted the photos from home, and decided to indulge in a little R & R until I felt better.

That was nearly 24 hours, three TV movies, two whoopie pies, and one tragic college football game ago. I don't feel SICK sick- no fever, no cough, no stuffy nose, just a sore throat, itchy ears (in that congested eustation tube kind of way) and an absolute lack of desire to get off my ass. I've tried napping and a hot invigorating shower. Now I'm moving onto pastina soup, which is what Italian grandmothers make for children when they are sick.

The pets are being incredibly cuddly, even Fred, who recently peed in a pair of Joel's shoes after a particularly dramatic escape'n'capture episode in the hallway. (The siren call of the downstairs neighbor's bike was too much to bear; it is indeed a seductive whore.) But the landlords haven't turned on the heat yet, so I'm not sure the cuddling is motivated by love for the lady WHO SCOOPS YOUR POOP DAILY, you warmth-mooching cat.

I'm also pages away from the end of Rosalind Wiseman's "Queen Bee Moms and Kingpin Dads," a follow-up to her tour de force "Queen Bees and Wanna-Bes," which inspired the movie "Mean Girls." She explores the way that adults regress to junior high politics when it comes to "protecting," "advocating," and "providing every opportunity for" their children. I was inspired to buy it after an emotionally-charged encounter with a grade school Muffia boss who was so fixated on getting her child in front of the camera that she pulled her sobbing daughter from a class activity she didn't want to miss for a fake photo-op. I can not and WILL NOT stage anything, ever, anywhere. People in my field lose their jobs over things like that, and attempts to explain that only invited more drama, mockery, and SCREAMING, (and not from the third-graders in the room.) Long story short, and fifteen minutes of dysfunctional dynamic judo later, the Muffia boss ended up hugging me. Twice. Yeah.

Interestingly enough, the same Queen Bee Moms/Kingpin Dads/Entitled Parent/Wannabe/Sidekick/Popular Girl Crying in the Bathroom at the Jr High Dance power hierarchy has really reared its ugly head in the blogosphere during this little vacation-at-home of mine. It's fascinating but also tragic, because some (say, FOUR) bloggers genuinely have a reason to feel violated. Cyber-bullying, indeed. I think Ms. Wiseman might have fodder for her third book...

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Very Quickly...

More later, (and more about things that aren't my dog, because HOW many entries have been only about her now?) but Bella's x-rays and ultrasounds were yesterday and they came back completely clear. We don't know exactly why her vision problems started, but we do know it isn't any kind of cancer or anything life-threatening. Pretty much just checkups, eye drops and steroid pills (to try to reattach the retineas) hidden in cheese from here on out. I feel like a thousand pounds have been lifted off my shoulders.

Bella's eyes continue to look clearer everyday, which means that the new kind of eye drops are at least helping the uveaitis (fancy schmancy word for outer and inner eye irritation) if not the retinal detachment, which always seems to be improving. This is excellent, as Fred would have been a terrible seeing-eye cat. He is so, so dumb. He'd probably would have lead her into an open manhole or something.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Ultrasounds, X-rays and Art

We ruled out hypertension, diabetes, and a few other things at the vet's office this morning. The drops seem to be working, and the vet actually thought her retinas were starting to reattach. Woo hoo! Which is good, but still mystifiying. The source of the troubles could still be one or two types of cancer, so we have chest x-rays and an abdominal ultrasound for Bella ahead of us, then probably oral steroids. I feel like I see a light at the end of the DOOM! tunnel, though.

However, I wanted to ask my commenters for an opinion on something before I do it. I am thinking about holding an art sale to raise money for Bella. I know. I have mixed feelings about it, since it feels like "cyberbegging" and there are so many worthy causes with a global reach that do extremely significant work out there. Here's what I'm thinking.

Joel and I MIGHT put together a webpage of all of our favorite nature, landscapes, personal vision fine art photography. (You can see a lot of our work from Yosemite, as well as my lighthouse photos, in the Picture Book section below. That's the kind of stuff I mean) Then we would charge fair price for it, which we only do now in a select number of venues. All of the money will go toward the cost of Bella's return to health (over $1,000 and still rapidly climbing), and a portion of it (say 5%? 10%?) will also go to the Humane Society at New Rochelle, which I continually describe here as the Best Animal Shelter Ever.

Also, if I've taken photos of you and /or your family members, pets, new babies, outings, wedding, trip to NH, etc., and you've been kicking around the idea of getting a framed, matted print for someone as a Christmas/Hanukkah present, here would be your chance to do that, help my sweet mutt, and do a little something extra for homeless animals.

Does this sound totally tacky to you guys? What do you think? Would you prefer to be left off a mass email that I MIGHT send out with this?

Bella is snoring right now. Loudly. :)


Bella's bloodwork came back clear of most of the scariest causes of her eye issues- no liver disease, kidney failure, Lyme disease, leukemia, or funky fungal infections, etc. We still might need to do x-rays or ultrasounds for tumors or lymphoma, and it could still be hypertension. The eyedrops (the right kind, this time) seemed to help the inflamation this week. We're going back to the vet first thing in the morning for a re-check and to learn about the next step. Fingers, paws and claws are all crossed here and where you are, I know. Thanks for all the love and support for the monkey this week. Another pupdate soon...

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Two Dog Related Things

1. Got a voicemail from the vet saying some of Bella's initial bloodwork came back with "nothing alarming apparent" on it. I got the message after the practice was closed, so I need to wait until morning for more details. She also said more results will be in on Wednesday, so we need to keep "everything the same" and "stay the course" for now. I assume this means the cultures for the funky fungal infections are still, um, culturing? But "initial bloodwork" probably showed things like white blood cell counts. If they aren't alarming, then leukemia and immune system diseases are probably not the source of the badness.

2. This is freaking hilarious. I'm not a Marmaduke fan, persay, but Joe Mathlete cracked me UP.

Monday, October 16, 2006

This cheers me up, too.

Tonight Joel and I went to a friend's birthday party, and Melanie my 4-year-old friend was there. She loves the camera, and as soon as I pulled it out she ran over shouting, "I wanna do a pose! I wanna do a pose!"

She elected to do a pouty, hip jutting out, supermodel pose while her mom watched warily.

I took the above picture, and then I said, "Okay, now show me your best "First Woman President of the United States" pose. What would that look like?" She didn't even hesitate and did this immediately.

Rios for President, 2048.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Bad News

Okay, so... The potentially devastating news is that Bella is sick. She might be very, very sick.

I mentioned before in a general, whiny way that she had an eye infection. I noticed her right eye was red and irritated over Labor Day weekend. I took the first appointment I could get the Tuesday morning after the holiday. There was a problem with another dog that kept us in the waiting room an extra 45 minutes, and I was going to be late to work.

The doctor saw us in a hurried way (at my request, because I really had to get to a story in another county), checked for abrasions, ruled out conjunctivitis, told us he wanted to see her again in a few days and gave us some expensive antibiotic drops. Bella and Fred had their yearly checkup a few days later, so we went back. This time we had the other vet in the practice, who gave them their shots, checked out the eye pretty closely, but declared them both in perfect health. The eye didn't improve, so a week later I called the vet's office. The doctor who saw us for the yearly checkup prescribed stronger antibiotic drops and mentioned we may want to see a specialist if it didn't get better, but "this will clear it right up."

And it didn't. Her eye started to get a little glazed and foggy looking, which I mistook at first for a possible sign of healing, since it wasn't so red anymore. The fogginess started spreading, so I decided, fuck it and booked an appointment with a veterinary opthomalogist.

We had our appointment on Friday. Bella's retinas are detaching in both eyes. As the doctor was examining her and shining special lights into her eyes, I could see something was really wrong. It's happening very, very quickly, and she's already experiencing noticable vision loss.  In the last five days, she's lost about 50% vision in her right eye.

You might remember when I posted the photo above about a year ago. The difference is really striking when I look at them side by side.


Deep breath... The worse part is that it's very likely only the tip of the iceberg. Sudden retinal detachment in relatively young dogs is caused by a variety of issues, some of which are quite serious, including hypertension, cancer, kidney disease or a serious, systemic fungal infection. The very first step is to conduct a variety of complicated diagnostic tests, starting with a full blood workup, which we did Friday. 
The vet gave me some information, and I've been doing a lot of research. It's all Internet based, but I'm trying to dismiss the really crazy stuff out of hand (Cure your dog with flax seed dog treats! Read Scout's Brave Tale of Woe and Painful Demise!) The most common kind of cancer associated with this kind of vision issue is lymphoma. Other symptoms would probably include palpable tumors, rapid weight loss, lethargy, etc., which are not presenting in Bella right now. 
The scary fungal infections are lethal, but she's not vomiting or having diarrhea. The infections are contagious across species, and Fred is fine. They share food and water bowls; he would not be fine, and Joel and I would probably have "cold-like symptoms." Also, the fungal infections are frequently misdiagnosed as lung cancer, because they cause shortness of breathe and cause shadowly white spots on the lungs in x-rays. Bella had her yearly checkup after the eye infection started, and her lungs were completely good and clear. All the other stuff- leukemia, kidney disease, etc- come with more symptoms (coughing, lesions) and things Bella doesn't have. 
Which leaves hypertension, aka high blood pressure, which I'm betting on, actually. She's 6 (45 or so in people years). She's about 5 pounds heavier than she should be, which means more when you only weigh 40 lbs. One of the symptoms of hypertension is a change in behavior, which would explain why Bella manifested some anxiety issues over the summer. In that case, she would take blood pressure meds, and as the blood thins and fluid drains from behind the eyes, the retinas usually reattach. I know this because I have a newly minted degree from Google Veterinary College.
Anyway. Step #1 is getting the proper diagnosis. Bella is outwardly fine except for the vision loss, which is only noticable to me when we play ball and I purposefully throw to her bad side. She is doing her Happy Butt Dance, bringing me toys (she put her ball in my camera bag) and behaving like her energetic self, except during my crying jags (daily total: 4), when she lays her head on my leg and tries to get on the couch to lick my face. 

Friday's appointment and lab work cost $700. There may be diagnostic x-rays and ultrasounds ahead, then expensive treatment, and maybe surgery. This is what credit cards are for. Bella is priceless. I've always believed that the only reason I would ever put her to sleep would be because her health was so poor that it would be unfair to keep her alive for my pleasure. I also imagined that decision would be at least nine years away.

And it very well could be nine years away. With the exception of the time she ate the metal end of a tube of cookie dough and spent the night at the fascist emergency vet in Florida, we've always been the dog-owner team who get to hop off the table with a clean bill of health, and that includes our yearly checkup two weeks ago.

However, between the car disasters (did I mention I spent $1100 repairing the oxygen sensor and more in the Nannymobile just days before it was totaled?) and vet bills, I am hemorrhaging money. I know it will be okay. I know my parents won't let me fall. I know, should we have to help Bella get to the proverbial "Rainbow Bridge," it certainly won't be for economic reasons. Joel is kicking in $$$, which is nice since he's technically "only my boyfriend" and Bella is still "my" dog.

I'm trying to stay positive. We'll get the blood test results by the end of the week. We go back to the vet specialist on Friday. I gave Bella a bath this weekend, and we went for lots of long walks. She climbed into the flannel sheets and did her ghost dog routine while Fred tried to step on her through the covers.

Joel and I did some serious "fall cleaning," which is calming to me, even though I screamed "I hate you!" at the stubborn shelf in the (now sparkling, thank you) fridge. We found this lobster hat in a drawer, which Joel kept putting on and casually walking into whichever room I was cleaning to cheer me up.

Then Fred got a hold of it and lovingly rubbed his face on it for a few hours this afternoon.

"I love the feel of your cloth antennae on my whiskers. Me-OW!"

I love our eccentric little family. I can't imagine my life without my girl.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Could Be Worse

So lately I've been feeling kind of... cursed by stupid bad luck. Part of the reason this blog is called "Idiosyncratic Life" is because a lot of weird things happen to me that sort of aren't anybody's fault or necessarily preventable. It's been especially bad lately. I got some potentially devastating news yesterday, which I will write about soon.

However, whatever it is about me that attracts the weird badness, this woman has it way, way worse.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Neglecting the Blog...

There are a bunch of things I've been meaning to write about, including Breast Cancer Awareness Month commercialism and Ramadan, though the two topics are mutually exclusive and the entries are completely different. I've also been meaning to post links to my latest multimedia projects, which of course I haven't done yet. Here's a teaser: most of my latest projects are about strong, interesting women who have overcome challenges to achieve great things and/or win awards and/or educate people about peaceful, mainstream Islam in our post 9/11 world. I took a lot of pictures of one of the women with her horse and her seeing-eye dog. Shocker!

Strong Women! Ordinary non-terrorist American Muslims committed to outreach and social change! Seeing-eye dogs! Horses! There's a pattern here!

The thing is, I love doing those kind of assignments, so my editors throw them my way. And we need to see more kickass, differently abled woman in the media. We need to see pro-active, peace-making, non-burqa wearing Islamic woman in the media, and we need to hear them discussing their activism while their husbands wash the dishes. So I'm glad I get to put those things out there. Actually, you know what? Zena is so cool, I AM going to link to project that features her here. You have to watch the "At Mosque" Section first, but then her family comes up and you can see for yourself what I'm babbling about. I'll update the sidebar links tomorrow, so you can "meet" Jody and Alison. Also, a young man is the third son in his family to join the navy, preschoolers go apple-picking, and I cover the first swim meet of the year. Woo!

I WAS working on a slideshow about Osie Ro'Donnell (strong woman!) opening a children's center (achieving things!) in a low-income community (social change!), but then she didn't show because The View decided to do a double taping. Then my laptop ate the login code for the audio program, and a plane flew into a building on the Upper East Side. There were like, 5 staffers geographically closer to the city at the time, but I was on call in the event of the Apocalypse. So no Rosie, and no slideshow.

Oh, but the thing I wanted to say about Ramadan was this. Because of this work that I love, I get to spend time with the ordinary non-terrorist American Muslims (different family in a different county; do you see the repeating themes?) during their standard, nightly Ramadan prayers. Not everyone gets that kind of opportunity, so I'll tell you what it's like.

Because this is Stepford, the homes I'm in are large, oh-so-tastefully decorated McMansions with finished basements. Several families get together at night to pray and break their fasts and recite parts of the Koran. I start by hanging out in the basement with two college-aged sisters who are home from SUNY schools for the weekend because of the holiday. his particular basement has a full kitchen adjacent to it, even though there's one upstairs, like Nanny's house. Another sister comes down stairs with a pitcher of water and stacks of plastic cups, (because everyone will be THIRSTY and drink as soon as they can break their fasts) along with a message from their mom to change out of their college logo hoodies and pajama pants because "guests are coming."

People file in. There's a lot of hugging- left, right, left again- particularly among the men. This is my usual crowd of contacts, the same people who do henna at school fairs and organize interfaith dinners. I am greeted enthusiastically with the same "As-Salaam-Alaikum" (peace be with you)/Alaikum-salaam (and "also with you"- I KNOW! Like the Catholics!) as everyone else, and one of the men rubs sandalwood on my wrists as he makes rounds to everyone in the room. Being included in both customs gives me a warm fuzzy feeling. The college-aged sisters are back in trendy, flowy outfits and there's a lot of breathless catching up with an old friend who just took Metro-North from NYU. One of them is waiting for a guy to call, "OMG, he texted me, but it's not the same!"

A guy from the mosque begins the tri-tonal call to prayer over a portable karaoke mic, a cue for one of the dads to tell his 10-year-old son: "Stop playing foosball and help me with the prayer mats." A lot of people are late, but they all know to use the side entrance directly into the TV room, like at Gwen's house. I can hear the signature beeps and shutdown songs as Verizon, Cingular and T-Mobile cell phones are turned off just outside the door before latecomers enter and take off their shoes.

As usual, the women's side is having more fun. After the first prayer, there's a short break. Some people keep praying individually through it, but the hostess of the house jumps up and stirs something on the stove in the basement kitchenette that smells like cinnamon. The girl waiting for The Call from the Guy (OMG!) silently checks her cell phone for a message during the break. Her sister raises an eyebrow. In response, she shakes her head with an exaggerated "sad face." Their friend whispers something about accidentally eating a Twix bar ten hours ago and they try not to crack up.

Good stuff.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Photos from the Weekend

You can see the slideshow Shannon's birthday weekend and aquarium trip here.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Ta da!

(Thank you, Cindy, for the graphic!)

I have officially brought my 2006 Suzuki Aero (Color: Racy Red) home from the dealership. It has 68 miles on it. It smells brand spanking new. I really- I mean, REALLY- don't want anything to happen to this car.

It. Is. Perfect.

Thank you, Mom and Dad. A payment check is in the mail. :)

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

WOO! Ta-tas!

The other night I was looking for my black bra because I was putting on my favorite black sweater (love the lovely autumn weather), and I couldn't find it in my dresser. I knew it was probably in one of the three baskets of clean laundry in the living room, waiting to be folded.

It was nighttime, the curtains were open in the window that overlooks the street. I know it's quite easy to see in when it's dark outside and the lights are on, but I thought, you know, this will only take a second. I barely rummaged through part of one basket, just a few seconds of looking, when I heard someone call out- clear as a bell- "WOO! Ta-tas!" from the street outside. I dove behind the wall- MOR.TI.FIED.- and made Joel find the bra while he laughed uncontrollably.