Physician, Organize Thyself

April 30th, 2007

Last night I got word from Sarah-Architect that she was organizing her closet. Naturally, I donned my Organizer-Superhero cape and flew over there. Seven hours later, we had …

- three bags of garbage
- a box and a large bag of stuff for Goodwill
- two additional large bags for Jeremy Sr. to look through and consider parting with
- a box of things to be donated to my vet’s office (towels)
- two hopeful bags for Buffalo Exchange
- some potential phones for donating
- one very organized, dusted, cleaned closet

This was amazingly fun work. I love a good organization project. Labels, containers, color-coding = yum. I can remember as a little girl visiting my grandparents’ house and being “allowed” to organize a drawer for my grandmother (just one at a time). I would take out everything and put it back in neatly. In the process, forgotten belongings—photos, letters, bargains found in discount stores and stashed for later use—were found, and unwanted treasures were mine for the taking. Every drawer held moments of discovery, memory, and story telling (the story so often beginning, “Oh, that was a BARGAIN!”). Best of all was the feeling of accomplishment once the drawer had been pared down and tidied. It was useful in a new way. I’m thankful that my grandma didn’t find this too weird a characteristic in a grandchild, because I enjoyed it immensely (thanks, Gram!).

But the enjoyment is only one of three sides of my organizational bent. The second side is my anxiety, which I have pretty well under control these days, but which is soothed by cleaning and reorganizing things. I’m not neurotic for things to constantly BE organized, but I do find comfort in emptying something—anything, a closet, a drawer, a ROOM—and setting it up anew in a more efficient way. I even love to move furniture around into new configurations, and I like to make something messy into something clean. I worked one summer as a maid for a cleaning service, and it was the perfect summer job in many ways.

The third aspect of this is my tendency to make giant messes. I drag things out, pile them up, USE them. Part of having a system to my belongings is knowing what “stuff” I actually own, and wanting to make use of it. Waste not this box of colored pencils, this plastic container of nails and screws.

I forgot a fourth aspect: What Stevel calls “high turnover.” I do like to shop, and shopping introduces new items into the household. Places must be found for them. Space must be made, items they can replace, gotten rid of.

So, there are my impressively labeled storage boxes of computer accessories, and my color-ordered, hanging shirts. My binders with labeled tabs for teaching materials, notes from grad school, homeowners association papers. My lovely photo albums, my neatly stacked towels—one stack for beach towels, one for bath towels, one for cat-bathing towels—and the decorative red boxes labeled and organized to contain Stevel’s impressive collection of video games from boyhood on. But there are these un-glamorous sides to my organization as well. It’s just not as beneficial as it may seem on the surface to live with an Organizer Superhero such as myself. Often—so very often—Stevel comes home to find a room completely torn apart. The place is a disaster, with my insistence that it’s “temporary” indicating they may be this way for days. There are items in the doorway (his pet peeve), shopping bags of new things in view. His belongings are everywhere, destined, he knows, for new locations where he will have trouble finding them for a while without my help. And in many cases, I’m anxious—committed to continuing without stopping to spend time with him or do anything else. In a word, obsessed. Often, there’s something major due very soon, and the project seems like pure procrastination. He’s become very understanding (resigned?) about this aspect of my personality, and I appreciate him for it.

I have to wonder what it would be like if I didn’t have such a “thing” for organizing. If instead I had a thing for just putting things away where they belong all the time, rather than having this constant thought that the messier I make things, the more interesting they will be to straighten out once the mess gets, not “too big,” but big ENOUGH. To be worth it. Why keep my students’ hand-ins in order during and after class, when if I just shove paper after paper into my bag, I can go home and luxuriate all by myself in the making of piles? Why hang up that skirt, when, by Friday, I can have a jumble of clothing on the chair to delve into? Oh, God. Help.

This Morning I Opened the Fridge …

April 27th, 2007

… and inside were (a) a container of pureed cat food, and (b) a thawing rat.

No wonder we eat out so much.

The Computers that He Loves Like They Were His Own Organs

April 25th, 2007

Tonight I was a bit cranky, and my little laptop was giving me trouble. I had to curse it a few times, because the track-pad wouldn’t work. Stevel was in the room, so he came over to try and make peace between the two of us—his wife, who he loves okay, and one of the house Macs, which he loves PASSIONATELY MAKE OUT WITH ME COME ON [SLURP] OH!

Of course, he was able to make the track-pad work just fine FOR HIM. Back and forth we went, and every time I tried to use it, nothin’. Every time HE used it, magic. This is called, Computers are Insane, Creepy Robots that Are Actually Alive and Hate Me.

Then he said, “Go clean off your hands.”

“I just got out of the bath-tub,” I shot back, “My hands could not BE more clean.”

“I mean, wash the stuff off of them.”

Here, I fumed, because the “stuff” to which he refers is, I contend, something a computer should be able to function despite. It’s called Lotion, and some people NEED it, because not everyone has naturally tender baby-skin all over themselves. I have already been discriminated against for my dry skin—which, mind you, is dry from all of the cleaning and slaving I do [moves back of hand dramatically to forehead]—by the guy at the Genius Bar at the Apple Store, who I spoke to when the letters on the keyboard of this same laptop started fading off. Am I wrong to think THAT SHOULDN’T HAPPEN??? No. And that is why they gave me a new keyboard, but not without first suggesting haughtily that I stop using Lotion. Sure, and when my hands fall off, I’m coming to the Genius Bar to shake my stumps at you, Mr. Genius! How about this instead: Since Lotion is a GENTLE thing, a HELPFUL thing, which is not CAUSTIC ACID, can we use some kind of paint that doesn’t make the replacement keyboard on my laptop already look like the old one, LIKE THIS? Get on it, “Geniuses.”

Meanwhile, my mouse is acting funky. When this happens, Stevel fixes it with a technically skilled technique called Rubbing It All Over the Place Real Fast.

But the point of this story was to tell you that before he went upstairs for the evening to continue training hard at Guitar Hero, Stevel said, “Are you going to yell at me anymore?”

I was confused. “What? When did I yell?”

“Earlier, with the computer thing.”

“But when did I yell at YOU?”

“Earlier, with the computer thing.”

“I was yelling at the computer.”

“I know …”

And this is why we have established Trust Funds for each of our Macs, so when they mature, they can afford to go to college and have happy lives. And it is why we carry photos of them in our wallets.

For Spring: Purple is “In”

April 25th, 2007

Mia is feeling much, much better. We were devastated to find out she has lymphoma in her liver, but at the same time, knowing allowed us to treat her for symptoms. Seeing her feeling better is such a relief. And as long as we’ve got her for, we’re going to enjoy her as much as possible.

Some of the signs that she’s feeling better:


She went on prednisone, and within a few days, she was in much better shape. Her weakness gone, she immediately got to work on the (red) bandage she had been wearing (no more cone). For our overnight in Vegas, we checked her into Dr. Jones’ hospital, where she is quite a popular celebrity among the staff these days. While there, she was given a new, green bandage. Several days later, however, she had deposited shredded pieces of green bandage all over No. 6 and managed to puncture her feeding tube somehow with tiny holes. So ANOTHER trip to the vet later, she is now in purple, with accessorizing white medical tape plugging the feeding-tube holes and sticking it all to her fur FOREVER. Do you think she is deterred, though? Um, no.


She has been joining Linus in the prime sunny spots that appear as the day unfolds around the house. No fear. For his part, Linus has gotten over his obsession with smelling Mia’s face since her feeding tube showed up (this made for many tense moments, as Mia’s “Linus sense” is BROKEN, and she doesn’t know of his presense until he is actually in the PROCESS of smelling her face). He certainly defends his sunny spot claims with evil stares, but is thankfully made too docile and gelatinous by the sun to make a move. Mia knows this, and now she is feeling well enough to act on that knowledge again.


At one time submissive to all medical treatments here at home, she now tries to wiggle out of feedings and medicatings. The VERY IMPORTANT blue pill that cannot be crushed and squirted down the tube, the craw-jamming of which she once had no energy to fight, she now hides in some secret mouth-pocket until I think she has swallowed it, and then deposits it on the linoleum in front of me. Meanwhile, she has several times wiggled away from me during my pre-feeding set-up. I’m not sure why, since she starts purring ravenously the second the hypodermic smoothie hits her stomach. Maybe she just wants it to be on her terms.


Twice today she tried to escape No. 6, heading west toward Venice Beach. Luckily, her runaway episodes took her only as far as No. 4 before I caught on. But silly me for thinking a FEEDING TUBE and ELABORATE BANDAGING might prevent her jumping a six-foot fence.


She is eating not just a little more than she used to but THREE TIMES as much, and that’s on her own … add to that the hypodermic smoothies, and it’s clear why she’s gained a pound already. And why my litter-box-scooping duty has become a full-time job.

So as hard as it still is to know our time with her is going to be shorter than we thought, for now—for right now—she is doing better and FEELING so very much better, and that’s what we’re both focused on.

Friday Morning

April 20th, 2007

It is raining in Los Angeles. We got some dining chairs, ones with backs. Now if somone will just buy our set of Pottery Barn Antique Honey Tibetan Stools on Craigslist. Linus was hungry this morning. He let us know this by trying to scalp me. Stevel took care of it. Stevel has been playing a lot of Guitar Hero II. He’s a mad Guitar Hero genius, but he’s very hard on himself when he misses a note. I’m not sure how many more times I can listen to “Sweet Child O’ Mine.” Not that I don’t deserve it, what with my own habit of putting a song on single-song repeat all day. Still. I just finished making up the final exam my creative writing students will take in two weeks. It’s an exam meant to hold them accountable for doing all of their reading homework. There isn’t much of the poetry on it this time, only a couple of questions. I wrote that because Stevel is always reminding me that my students can find my blog pretty easily, and for once, I’d like to reward the idustriousness of any of them industrious enough to Google their instructor. Study the stories, the articles and chapters and handouts. Know the difference between simile and metaphor. And if you haven’t read any of the stuff, read it, damn you.


April 17th, 2007

Sunday we drove up to Las Vegas to see The Beatles “Love” Cirque du Soleil with Sarah-Architect and Jeremy Sr. Since Sr. was already in town for NAB, it was me, Stevel, and Sarah-Architect in the Golfie for the drive. All the way up to Vegas, Sarah-Architect and I shared our enthusiasm for the adventure (Steve contributed his ambivalence). Sarah-Architect had been to Vegas only once, and with family, so she was looking forward to an overnight of DEBAUCHERY. She had received a sign in the form of an unexpected $100 refund from her car insurance company and insisted repeatedly that we each put a quarter into the first slot machine we saw.

At the first slot machine, Stevel put in his dollar and won $37.50. WOOHOO! The first slot machine Sarah-Architect saw turned out to be broken.

I soon ditched my friends to shower and briefly enjoy our room in the MGM Grand West Wing. I just love this hotel, and a Sunday night stay is a great deal. Anyway, when I met up with Stevel and Sarah-Architect an hour later, they had had a couple of drinks; this exaggerated for them their senses of winning (Stevel had hit the slots-jackpot a few more times) and losing (Sarah-Architect was not “feeling the mojo”). We moved on to a DELICIOUS dinner at fin and then met up with Sr. for the show, which I cannot insist enough that you, dear reader, make an effort to get to Vegas to see. It was better than I could have imagined, and I could watch it again and again and again. Whether you love the Beatles, don’t care about the Beatles, love Vegas, loathe Vegas, whatever … you—whatever your age and entertainment bent—must see it!

On with our story …

After the show, we caffeinated and played some more slots. I won and lost and won and lost and came out ten bucks behind. Stevel slotted his way to low-roller happiness. Sarah-Architect lost almost half of her little refund.

In the morning, we breakfasted, said goodbyes to Sr., and hit the road in the Golfie. This time it was the four of us: Me, Stevel, Sarah-Architect, and Sarah-Architect’s streak of horrid luck:

12:30 p.m. We depart Vegas proper

12:45 p.m. We arrive at the outlet mall outside Vegas, where we spend nearly 30 minutes trying to figure out how to get from the parking lots to the stores we want to visit. In the stores, we find nothing—NOTHING!—to purchase. This is called An Omen.

1:45 p.m. The “Low Gas” light comes on, and the Golfie shrills its “LOW GAS!” indicator bell. Although we are passing the last of the exits on I-15 as we enter the desert, I pay it no mind. It’s 30 miles to Baker, and I know full well the Golfie can go up to 53 miles after the Low Gas indicator sounds.

1:45-2 p.m. It is strangley quiet inside the car.

2:00 p.m. Sarah-Architect says politely, “I don’t understand why we’re not getting gas.” This is called Foreshadowing. I say, “Are you both having anxiety about that? Is that why you’re so quiet? Because we are in great shape, no worries. I’ve got this.” This is called Hubris.

2:05 p.m. We encounter stopped traffic on I-15.

2:30 p.m. The backup continues. We are moving at an average speed of two miles an hour. There are no real exits until Baker. I have no idea how far “Low Gas” will take us in stop-and-idle traffic. Sarah-Architect has to pee bad enough that we are formulating plans for things she can pee in inside the car, there being no cover along the roadside in the desert.

3:30 p.m. We finally pass the former scene of an accident, which has been almost completely cleared from the road.

3:35 p.m. There is an exit with a ramshackle gas station, nothing else. Gas is $4.50 a gallon. This is called You Deserve It, Kristan. We buy 20 bucks worth. Sarah-Architect pees. I’m sure it’s not easy for her; she doesn’t use dirty potties. Or touch public doorknobs.

3:36-45 p.m. Sarah-Architect sanitizes her hands in the back seat with “Wet Ones.”

4 p.m. We arrive in Baker. We gas up affordably. Things are looking up. But speaking of looking up, we are sitting eating our greasy fried A&W burgers in a ramshackle fast-food joint with a gathering of toothless desert people when Sarah-Architect says she feels like something’s dripping on her. Milliseconds later, a gallon of brown water gushes from the ceiling an inch behind us. I jump up so fast I incur a serious bruise on my leg. We stand, stunned, looking at the brown pools on and around our seats. But we are so road-weary, we eventually just move to another table. Sarah-Architect throws away the top bun of her burger, in case it has been contaminated, and we finish eating. This is called Survival in the Desert. It is also called Acceptance that Luck is Beating the Crap Out of You Today.

4:25 p.m. We depart the A&W. I take a right onto the only road in Baker. I am watching for signs for which way I will need to go in order to get on I-15 SOUTH. But it turns out this road simply ENDS BY MERGING ONTO I-15 NORTH. We are headed back toward Vegas. This is called BITE ME, I-15 WITH YOUR LACKING DESERT EXITS!!!!

4:50 p.m. We pass Baker, again, now heading South.

5:20 p.m. We again encounter stopped traffic. Again, in the desert. Why does traffic want to stop in the desert? WHY!

5:20-6:05 p.m. We roll along at 4 miles an hour.

6:30 p.m. We finally encounter the outskirts of L.A. At least now the traffic issues HAVE A REASON.

7:30 p.m. We arrive in Santa Monica. A trip that should have taken a mere five hours has taken seven, not to mention its toll on our spirits, and the years it’s clipped off of the ends of our lives. We vow never to drive to Vegas again. This is called Crying on the Inside.

The Thing That Can Make Rush Hour Actually Blow

April 13th, 2007

High winds in L.A. meant for some treacherous driving yesterday. Things I saw fly by me as I drove:

[1] a big purple rope
[2] a plastic grocery bag
[3] a curly black hair extension
[4] numerous pieces of palm bark, up to about six feet in length
[5] dirt—insane clouds of it

Disturbing things I saw drivers do:

[1] hit the brakes every time the wind blew against our cars, as if the same wind blowing sticks out of trees might threaten to carry away her 5,000-pound minivan, and as if braking might stop this from happening

[2] encounter a traffic signal that isn’t working due to the power outages, and act like idiots who have never seen a driver’s test, let alone been given any common sense whatsoever—listen, folks, you treat it like a four-way stop; you DO NOT just barrel forward and hope no one collides with you, SOMEONE WILL COLLIDE WITH YOU, and then guess what, you will have created, before my very eyes, a situation that further compounds the backed-up traffic causing me to spend an hour getting three miles, and what kind of accident witness do you think I’m going to be when your insurance company calls me

[3] become apparently annoyed by the long line of traffic waiting to go through the intersection and decide, while chatting on a cell phone, to avoid it NOT by taking a detour but by—get this—USING THE ONCOMING TRAFFIC LANE, the very lane in which I am COMING TOWARD HER AT 40 MILES AN HOUR HOLY CRAP! YOU ARE NOT AN AMBULANCE, and you should at the very least be LOOKING WHERE YOU ARE GOING AND NOT AT YOUR CELL PHONE AS YOU DO THIS LOBOTOMY-CONFIRMING MANEUVER!!!

[4] stop in the middle of moving traffic to crane his neck and look out all of the windows, apparently for a twister

[5] roll down her window in stopped traffic and toss out FOUR Q-TIPS (I’m not sure this has anything to do with the wind, but it’s CERTAINLY CRASS, CALIFORNIA PLATE 5XZR746!)

It was a trying drive. I’m always amazed at how ill-equipped to think on their feet (wheels?) drivers can be. Some drivers will sit in stopped traffic, creeping along to squeeze by an accident, when parallel detours aplenty are available to them. Some (and I saw this just last weekend) will DRIVE THROUGH the scene of an accident that clearly happened moments ago—as in people are lying on the pavement, and no ambulances have arrived—thereby adding danger to the situation, rolling their tires over broken glass, and choosing to do all of this rather that go one block out of their way.

Thankfully I am not JUST going to rant. I HAVE A SOLUTION. If you find that you are one of these drivers who, confronted with the unexpected situation, the situation that is outside-routine for you (e.g. high winds, accident scene, RAIN), cannot function like a thinking being, don’t worry. All you need to do is find the nearest Starbucks, park your car, and remain there until the situation has passed. In the familiar womb of Starbucks, you can safely use your cell phone (you’re smiling, I know you are), drink a lulling, brainwashing beverage (mmm, right?), and you can even, in the privacy of the Starbucks washroom, clean your ears and then deposit your Q-Tips hygienically in the trash. And think of all of the added safety—mine, yours, that of those poor people lying on the pavement—you’re providing with this service. It’s going to be easy. I’ve even written this little poem to help you:

When driving gets icky,
and you want to say, “Boo,”
when traffic gets sticky,
and you’re not sure what to do,
just sniff the air
north, south, east, and west,
and travel one more block
to a place you can rest.
Park out front;
if you’re towed, no big deal.
You shouldn’t be driving, anyway,
because you’re an idiot.

Right Now

April 11th, 2007

Mia is sitting behind me on my desk-chair. It’s just about time for another hypodermic smoothie.

Stevel’s computer is making a vibrating noise that’s driving me toward madness.

It’s very windy. My neighbor’s giant wind-chimes are alerting all of us to this fact.

I am off my feed, having two days ago reheated leftover crab-fried-rice from Thai Dishes restaurant and since finding all thought of food that isn’t plain noodles or pasta is horrifyingly nausea-inducing.

I have a lot to do. I’m not going to do any of it until tomorrow. I feel like I have the flu-aches.

Sarah-Architect needs a good local hair stylist, and we are IM-ing about it. She has a wedding to go to in two weeks, and we just discovered that our wonderful stylist, Adena Miller, has left Kenneth George Salon. The meanies at Kenneth George won’t tell us where she went. MEAN HAIR BITCHES!

Sarah-Novelist is recommending her guy, Stev, who only takes referrals. That is SO L.A. OF YOU, Sarah-Novelist!

Do you know what’s eeerie? Thai Dishes and Kenneth George Salon are in the SAME BUILDING! That building has bad ju-ju.

Obnoxious or Ingenious? You Decide.

April 10th, 2007

Today I ended up idling at a red light behind a shiny black Escalade pickup thing like this one. Imagine my surprise to look up and see that in the back was a grocery cart … imagine my compounded surprise to realize the cart was FULL OF GROCERIES! In their bags! As in, these people went to Ralph’s, shopped, bought groceries, rolled their purchased groceries out to the parking lot, and then lifted the full cart into the back of their car to take it home.

Sad Mia News

April 9th, 2007

The results of Mia’s biopsy came back: Small-cell, low-grade lymphoma, possibly isolated to the liver, possibly also spread to the intestines. Cancer. After consulting with the vet and doing some research, we decided not to go on to a veterinary oncologist (for chemo). In cats, chemo is not a cure for cancer, and the amount of time it would be likely to extend her life IF she were to be one of the percentage of cats for whom it works, is not worth how much it would infringe on her quality of life. Instead, we’re starting her on some cortisone, which is likely to give her a little longer and also to make her feel stronger and have more appetite. Meanwhile, she is not in pain of any kind—the vet assures me that she isn’t in pain in her liver, and since she has no idea what all the fuss is about, she’s experiencing none of the heartbreak Stevel and I are going through. In fact, she’s here with me as I type this, doing her usual, high-volume purr and sporting the feeding tube like it’s the latest fashion in catwear. We’re going to enjoy her for as many days or weeks or months as she ends up having left, and we’re going to make her as happy as we possibly can. What else can we do?

My little Mia. This is very sad.

Life Without the Mouth-hole

April 5th, 2007

Mia has returned to No. 6. She looks like this. I have to feed her by squirting pureed cat food into her feeding tube six times a day. She seems OK with it. It gives her horrid gas. This, we are not so OK with. We want to comfort her, but she smells like the Port-a-Pot behind a backwoods boonies Southern gas station (don’t ask me how I know this; just trust). But as she purrs, farts, hisses at Linus, and screams at me for no reason, I am reassured by her constant sounds: She’s here, and she’s herself.

Her biobsy results won’t be in for another couple of days, but the two vets who did the biopsy both say the liver looked to them to be one with fatty liver disease. Regarding that part that says “can occur because of nutritional, metabolic or toxic injury to the liver,” I am convinced this is the toxic variety. Fatty liver disease can be treated, and “generally, the damage to the liver is reversible, and the condition rarely recurs.” But Mia is not out of the woods yet:

“Even with intensive care, approximately 35% of cats with hepatic lipidosis die from the disease. Cats who do recover generally do so in 3-6 weeks, however, some may need continued nutritional support for months.”

So we will pump her full of gas-inducing puree, take her in for a weight check next week, and the week after, the vets will run another blood panel. Meanwhile, I’m relieved that she’s home, and the vets assure me that while she may have some minor discomfort with the feeding tube and incision from the biopsy, she’s not in any pain. I take her intense and uninterrupted purring as confirmation of this.

Meanwhile, Linus is certainly curious about this little cat who smells like the vets’ and has this plastic tube sticking out of her. I can’t help thinking of the Simpson’s episode in which Homer hides out in a nursing home and complains to the nurse about his roommate’s “amenities”:

Nurse: Another bag of potato chips, Mr. Talmidge? [Homer's fake name in the nursing home]

Homer: Also I think I’m getting a bed sore. What do you have to do to get turned round here [she begins turning him]. Hey, what’s Lucky joined up to?

Nurse: It’s a machine that breathes for him.

Homer: And here I am using my own lungs like a sucker. And how come everyone has a bed pan and I have to walk all the way other there!

Nurse: Over there? [The toilet is right next to him.]

The Mia-nator

April 3rd, 2007

Mia goes in for a liver biopsy tomorrow. This most recent blood test shows still-elevated levels. Even though Mia seems just fine and is eating great, we need to figure out what’s causing her liver to be out of whack. This is going to mean more shaving of her nether-regions. Poor little bare-naked nether-kitty!