Saturday, April 14, 2007

It's Simple. It's Not Easy, But It's Simple.

When I returned to Florida from NW Louisiana in 1991, I was shellshocked and desperately ill. I'd just lost my profession, my career, everything I'd worked so hard for, going to college when I was 25 and graduating in only two years with my high-grade degree.

I junked my car for $100 and couldn't replace it; it had died. My fiance almost did, and might as well have; it turned out he was living a phony life, he wasn't who he said he was. I accidentally discovered this by going through his personal papers while boxing up his possessions to return to his mother, since the doctors told me he wouldn't survive. That entire summer of 1991, just before my return here, was packed full of horrors and losses on a terrible scale.

Finally, in August, I'd come back on a Florida visit to help care for my grandmother, dying from lung cancer. She passed away a few days after I got here. I noticed that my allergies, which had become absolutely debilitating in NW Louisiana, were sort of tolerable here. My doc said it wouldn't last more than 6 months to 2 years, and then they might ratchet up even worse. I was already supposed to be dead from them, so *far worse* didn't sound good.

I told him I really needed to get out of there, and that even a small amount of healthier time would be worth it.

It was.

It lasted 8 months. When it was over, the resurgence of the constant semi-anaphylactic condition I lived in was extraordinary. It was dramatic and scary, horribly sickening, and I dealt with it when I was completely alone, without financial resources, and too sick to simply care for my two cats and my orchids, much less a person who was seriously ill.

I went through a sort of hurricane-prep whirl of activity and then shut myself inside in the most controlled-air environment I could achieve on my limited means. Back inside my bubble I went, and sealed the door.

And then I physically collapsed.

I still wonder at myself, at how I was even able to do what I did to prepare. I can only surmise that it's like when a 100 pound mother gets a surge of adrenalin and lifts up the car that just rolled onto her child.

Massive doses of steroids are part of what saved my life; and of course, also part of what sickened me so. The complex biochemistry of the allergic attacks, coupled with my autoimmune rheumatoid arthritis, undiagnosed hypothryroid, handfuls of steroids and other meds, and the lingering PTSD from that bloody, deadly summer in Louisiana had me half crazy.

I slept around 18 hours per day. Often I couldn't speak. My mind was intact but like many in a serious allergic state, I had trouble making the thoughts come out of my mouth in words. And that was when I even had a voice: I have dysphonia, vocal cord dysfunction, and often lost my voice entirely for days or weeks at a time.

So I slept, and I thought.

I'd lost everything. My health, my career, my fiance, almost all of my possessions. My health insurance. There was no telling if I'd get any better, or by how much. Me, suffused with restless wanderlust, who'd moved 35 times in a 10 year period - I was now a permanent shut-in.

The overall physical pain wasn't as bad then as now. But the overwhelming sense of sickness was even worse than today. Dizziness too; one of my few ventures out of my apartment had me falling, backwards, down the stairs. My heart was doing strange things. No matter how short I cut my nails, the bouts of itching left me bloody from head to toe, especially when I slept.

I got bronchitis, badly, and I was already allergic to several antibiotics. My allergist/internist would listen to my lungs and shake his head, and he said:

--The infection has settled around your old pneumonia scars. Both lungs. It hasn't clotted yet, it's not pneumonia yet, but it's only a hairsbreadth away. Better get ready.

Oh, I was sick. Fevers and chills, and that stabbing pain in the lungs. Rattling wheezing gasping coughing choking nauseating breath.

I was so tired.

I was so very tired, and my soul was sick and I was heartbroken and devastated and I slept and thought and slept and thought and I didn't seem able to figure out a reason to live.

It was more than just, --What meaningful future could I possibly have?

It was this: --Who needed me to stay alive?

There was no one who couldn't easily do without me.

My family, especially back then, was not particularly close in the way many are about health needs at least. They helped me financially, for which I'll always be grateful, but they completely failed to understand or take much interest in what was happening to me. The now brain-damaged shell of a human that I'd briefly thought I would marry was no longer stalking me; that was good; but certainly any hope of a relationship there would have been a sickness of its own. My friends, including many fine people I'd left behind in Louisiana, were all scattered far and wide; none were in South Florida. My wonderful grandmother Jean, who'd lived two blocks away from my new Florida apartment, was dead.

I knew that I was so sick that dying would be easy. Relatively painless, even, considering how I already felt. I was so close to double pneumonia, the bronchitis wasn't responding much to the antibiotics, and I was reeling from the medications and the relentless battering of biochemicals released from a constant state of near-anaphylactic shock.

I didn't need to commit suicide, you see. All I had to do was give up. Call it over, throw in the towel, go to sleep again and just...stay that way. It tempted me, it pulled at me the way frigid cold calls out to a lost wanderer to just lie down, it's not cold, really it feels warm if you lie down in the snow, go to sleep, go to sleep...

The two beings who saved my life were not humans. They were my two cats.

I'd thought about them. Of course. But I knew my family would, at least, find them a home with people who loved them and were good to them.

The difference was this: No matter how good those new people might be, they wouldn't be the same. They wouldn't love my cats the same way I did. The cats would always remember me and wonder, as animals do, why I went away and didn't come back for them.

They might be perfectly happy after a time, but it would not be the same. I loved them in my own way, I slept with them and held hands and sang them songs and played with them, and they knew how much I loved them. We were so extremely bonded, people would joke about them being my familiars.

Trivial? Silly? Childish?


It was enough. It was enough to make me decide to live, to keep on going. To fight again.

So I did.

And I won.

And my life is incredibly different now. Even the optimist that I am - and I certainly am - I couldn't have hoped for it to turn around as much as it did. To just be able to buy a house, when you're permanently disabled and living on the tiny income from Social Security? But I'd met Walter - a miracle, how in the world does a shut-in meet anyone, much less the husband I couldn't find in 20 years of searching? And it took both our incomes to buy the house. I actually mattered financially to our little family of two humans and two cats.

I say all this to you now because of a comment left by Snog Dot on my *not pneumonia* post. He said:

I just don't know how you keep going.



Because of people like you.

You kept going while the love of your life, who you'd finally found after looking for such a long time, slowly died, and you cared for her and loved her every minute. You keep going today, being a great dad for your kids, while your heart must be torn in two and your soul exhausted.

My blog sis Livey not only survived a violent, vicious childhood, but cancer and a list of maladies that goes side-by-side with mine. Her progress through the mental and physical damage she sustained is just breathtaking, it's like watching the sun make rainbows toward the end of the storm.

pepektheassassin survived cancer too. That's what her book, Chrysalis, is about. Her husband, the only man she ever said *I love you* to, has seven stents in his heart. Seven. She was there for him, as he was for her, and they both made it through. Yet the grace and beauty and pure fun of her writing makes me forget her hardships all the time.

Walrilla recently lost his foot to infection. And the other leg's infected too, has been for a year. I know he's had a lot to grapple with, but my God, it's hard to see it. He's strong and brave and cheerful and sweet and fierce looking as always, and he works through the bad patches with a quiet will. He's so excited about the upcoming blogmeet I bet it's curling his goatee.

Jean lost her husband to suicide. There's often an element of spite in a suicide, where they want to inflict as much emotional agony on the survivor as they can. I don't know the circumstances surrounding this one, but I do know it hurt her badly. Yet she won't give up hope. She wraps us up in her poetry and prose and I hope, one day, to see her glass art too.

Nancy has spinal stenosis and more, and after surgery to correct it, now they tell her there's nothing more they can do. That's not easy to hear. She can't be a teacher any more, and that woman was born to be a teacher, it's in her from head to toe. Lord, just look at her garden. It's lovely. I have to sit down to garden, to weed and such. She has to LIE down. And so she does, and loves her time out there.

Desert Cat, my brilliant and beloved blogdad, has had troubles of his own. Many of them arise from being born with what looks like a mild, but undiagnosed and therefore not treated and not understood, case of Asperger's. Couple that with his powerful brain and the viciousness of children, and of adults who sometimes call genius stupidity - as they did with his father too - and you've got a childhood that's terribly painful. It affects a person forever. And here he is today, successful and achieving, and loving his God with a rare and striking purity, one that brought him back around to forgiving and loving his fellow humans.

Pretty Lady, Granny J, Cindi, Sassy Sistah, John McCann, KessKennis, Little Miss Attila, Kirsten Namskau, Bane, LL, Catfish, Mickysolo, Misty, oh the list goes on and on, I have to stop.

These are just a few of the ones who instantly spring to my mind, Snog Dot. Just a few.

I don't mean we never react badly to our hardships. We don't suffer by choice, and I bet most or all of us have shared these: depression, anger, fear, despair, denial, greed, anxiety, tears, self-pity, guilt, selfishness, unreasonableness, spitefulness. And that little thing called self-medicating. We are human and we're going to feel those human feelings and do those human things. It's not that we're immune to the less admirable side of life. The thing is, we go on, we come back up. We go to work on it and we make it through.

I think of the people I visit in the blogosphere and every single one I love the best has had some real trouble in their lives. I don't go along with the *comparative suffering* school of thought; any suffering is hard on people. None of these I mentioned, their experiences that I know about - meaning there's often far worse I don't know about - none of these are small. None are *minor.* All of them have experienced not just one isolated trouble, but a stream of it.

They didn't just make it through. They went way beyond. They are bloggers now and their writing and photos, their art - yes, of course it's art - shines with the beauty of the strength in their souls, the love of life that they kept intact throughout. They reach across the 'net, hands reaching out to me, hearts open, full of prayers and good thoughts and patient listening and kindness and comments. That's who I want to be like.

It still shocks me that people ever read my blog. It can't be easy sometimes. There are some difficult things here, hard to look at, hard to read. I love my life, but I need this blogtherapy too and here's where I let it out, the awful goes side by side with the flower pix.

Not long ago, there was an act - here in this tiny corner of the 'sphere - of such huge, such awesome gracefulness, that I still can't quite get my mind around it. When I almost lost my leg from walking too much, because my Medicare HMO wouldn't replace their defective scooter, these bloggers not only looked at the ugly photos of that leg, they got together in a whirlwind and raised so much money so fast that I could go and buy one of my own. My very own, that no one can ever take away from me again.

They were brave, too. They knew I would not want to allow this, and were ready to buy one on the sly and drop it on my doorstep so I couldn't say, *No.* If I hadn't been so close to losing my leg, or my life, from that infection, I would certainly have refused. Instead...they gave me back a great measure of safety, an incredible increase in my ability to get out and about, together with a gentle lesson in the art of accepting help. That's very hard for me to do and I need to learn how.

So much for cyber constructs. There are humans behind these constructs, every one, and these ones are beautiful humans indeed.

And I have my Walter now. That miracle of meeting him has lasted for 14 years, more miracles keeping us together and keeping us both alive. I watch him, too, who's had his share of hardships and tragic losses, and is more patient and calm today than he's ever been in his life.

Instead - you see - instead of the other way around.

So. Easy answer, Jack. My worst is long over. How do I keep on going now? Simple.

Because of you.


GUYK said...

Sometimes a person just needs something to hold on to in order to keep on going..and for you it was your cats. I am also one of those who has had to grasp to keep going and when I put a hand out my sweetthing took it and helped me through a rough time recovering from alcohol..and we are ever closer because of it.

The will to live is not always enough but the love we have within us for others and the love others have for us can be enough to hang on.

Thank you for a wonderful survival story. You are an inspiration and the epitome of what we can do when we have a reason to do it.

Jean said...

There are tears streaming down my face. Can't tell you how much I needed to read your words.
Thank you, k... my friend.

Anonymous said...

I don't think you have any idea how inspirational *you* are, K. I tend to think, too, that if not your cats then you would have found some other reason to live. It's obvious from this and past posts that you're not a quitter, no matter what.
The Net is just a tool, and if we look for beauty it is out there, as is the crap. You've found what you needed to live, in the real world and here, and live well despite your circumstances.

Livey said...

Dammit you made me cry! I prefer to think you had to live so you could be my angel! Love ya!

Nancy said...

K my dear, you are a remarkable woman.

pepektheassassin said...


btw, I am doing a reading Wednesday night (would you believe Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett Browning?) and I am using your comment on My Last Duchess, if that's okay by you...It was the most insightful and lucid of them all! I hope you don't mind because I already have the handouts printed up....:D

pepektheassassin said...

Oh, and something I forgot to say: You should/could write a book! You could call it KEEPING US BOTH ALIVE!


Walrilla said...

k, you are such a wonderful woman. It's obvious why you held on. Because we needed you! Oh, yeah, Walter needed you, too. B-)

Thanks for thinking of me, but I don't feel worthy of being included with those other great people. They went through things much worse than I have. Things which they had no control over, that were completely out of their hands. That takes great will and strength of character, traits that you and they show every day.

Me? I did it to myself. I knew I had diabetes. I knew what to eat and what not to. I made the decisions that have led me to where I am today. Obviously, they weren't good decisions, but they were mine.

If you want to see strength in adversity, look to them, and yourself.

I not only look to you all, I look up to, and aspire to be like, you all.

Cindi said...

k, I am reaching out to you and giving you a big cyber you feel it? I, too have tears in my eyes after reading this post. Not sad tears though. You know I have met so many patients through the years at the hospital, people who knew they didn't have long to live...some of those people told me that they were actually thankful for their illness because through it they discovered the true meaning of living and didn't take the days they had left for granted. After I survived meningo-encephalitis, I discovered what they meant. I remember when I was first able to return to work after four months, I hugged so many of my co-workers. They probably thought I was a nut but I was so damn happy to be alive. I had always told my family I loved them but after you almost lose your life it was even more important to reach out and not just show by actions but tell them I love them every chance I get. It really is that simple.
I get discouraged sometimes with my current problems with diabetes and neuropathy but I have to keep plugging away! You said it shocks you that people read your blog. No shock to me at all! You are such an inspiration and a true blessing to me.
Thank you.

LL said...

K, you are the most positive person I've ever read. You really ARE a tough broad and you inspire me. *hug*

kdzu said...

K, I found you thru Livey.
Thank you. You put my puny problems into such a perspective. Makes me give thanks of the 'there but for the Grace of God go I' variety.
Bless you.

k said...

You see? Look at those comments. You all just proved my point. I'm not blind. I love you people for good reason.

guyk, way back when I first read your profile, it really struck me. I instantly knew the person behind the persona had been through some hell. The reason my Louisiana finance, Alan, almost died was because he had his third alcoholic bleedout from esophageal varices. The first bleed, as you probably know, is often fatal. He lost about 5 pints of blood and his liver had around 10% of its function left. The details of all that happened are the stuff that nightmares and horror movies are made of.

But one of the bloggers I listed, an old friend from far back, is a recovering alcoholic. 23 years now, if I remember right; his AA anniversary is the day after my birthday. He overcame his own hardships with great strength and courage, and went on to become a wonderful success at what he wanted most to do: write. He's so talented, one of the funniest people I've ever heard, the funniest I ever personally knew, and a great friend to me over the years. We met at the post office, working together unloading the semitrucks and collecting mail from the big blue mailboxes on the corner. Of the three of you, we lost one, but recovered two. Two valuable souls.

Ah, Jean. My grandmother's name and my own middle name. Friend is one of the most precious and rare blessings we ever have. Both of us have been greatly buoyed up and comforted by the real people in virtual land, some of it at almost exactly the same time. I feel like we got picked up in the same rescue basket and hauled off together by the helicopter.

And both of us still shaking our heads in wonder over the whole thing. Cause this isn't supposed to happen in blogland, right? These's just virtual peoples here, not real ones...

Morris, among those I think of as my Scooter Heroes, you were the only one who contributed funds that I hadn't already *met*. That says a great deal about you. And I'm not sure I would have found some other reason, if not for the cats; that's how far gone I was at that time. Now? I have a whole armful of reasons. I have my man and a whole support network again and it makes all the difference in the world.

I agree with you, 100%, about finding the good where one looks. I read other blogs too of course, besides the ones I mentioned; some are written by people who also have difficult histories; but many of them are now filled with vitriol. I can draw no strength from them. Worse, I think their meanspiritedness actually weakens us. Seeing and connecting with the positive, in whatever medium, is a choice. Like the way some people take a religion and accept only the hate or the personal powers or the violence in it, and others embrace the love, compassion, gentleness, and true humility. Every religion I've ever studied can give both. It's not necessarily the religion itself, but the choice, how people accept which set of tenets, that bodes good or ill. You yourself look to the good and you think for yourself. That tells me a lot about the character of your person and your faith.

Livey, love! Yup. What pure joy to think I can be anyone's hero, especially when they're one of MY heroes! You always crack me up with that, and I've given up trying to make you understand otherwise.

I remember once when a foolish punk said something *withering* about my mushiness, thinking I'd just curl up and die from the force of his Courageous Brilliant Scorn!!!, and I said, --Hey. Mutual Admiration Societies are GOOD for us.-- Then I watched him to see how long it took before he got it, that I not only didn't give a rat's behind what he thought or said about me, he was never one I'd feel any kind of admiration for. Ever. I just sat there, like forever, before the light of understanding dawned in his idiot eyes. heh!

But you see, Nancy, that's how I think about you. You didn't know me during the period I was adjusting to that *won't get better* news. I watched you through at least part of yours. You've dealt with it so very well, far better than I did. There's a big difference between losing the ability to work, and also losing a profession we were born to do. They both hurt, of course; but if we're one of those lucky enough to actually find a niche that was custom made for us, it's like tearing out a piece of our heart to lose it. You've done so well.

And if you hadn't told us what they were doing about your diabetes in the hospital, when you were in for your PE, I probably would have died from the shock - or from glucose overload! - when I went in a couple weeks ago. You took not one ounce of bull from them, and your example kept me safe.

miss assassin, are you kidding? I'm THRILLED! The Brownings no less! Such very fine company to be in, all around. You don't ever have to ask first. Which I hope you already figured out, and that's why you printed up the flyers. Ummm...was it the comment where I asked you about your email addy? :D

I bet most of us want to write a book. My fave bloggers are all real writers, every last one of them. Me, I'm too lazy-I-mean-tired to sit down and write a whole book. So I like to think maybe someday I'll pull together a bunch of old posts and emails and do a book up that way. I'm reading Ruth Stout's *No-Work Garden* book and taking my attitude from her.

Walrilla, I put you in there for good reason, and I'm not taking you out. I will never yield to you on this point. Many of us at least contributed to the risk of what happened to us. How's this?: Heart disease. Alcoholism. Bad relationships when we should have known better.

Me? I stuck my head in that compost bin without my mask. I knew better and I did it anyway. I walked too much on my bad foot last October, and I knew better. The mycobacterial infection in my right arm, been there 3 years now, that crippled up my pinkie finger and my elbow and may do me in? Chances are extremely high I picked that up gardening too. And I knew better 3 years ago, just like today.

That doesn't mean we don't qualify, somehow, to be in that group of people who have made it through. Any more than we get *disqualified* if we cry sometimes. Sure we will. Doesn't mean we won't stop and dry our eyes and go on.

Or you could look at it this way. Think about that pic of your family in Hell: Here's a late-teens stepson trying his level best to look like Mr. Surly Adolescent. Here's your little girl, in high moralistic dander, Not Happy To Be In Hell. And there's your wife, perfectly calm and peaceful and smiling about it all.

Despite all those efforts at childhood angst, the sweetness of the family love in that pic just poured forth. That's probably why you liked it enough to email it to me. It's one of the most beautiful family photos I've ever seen.

Now: If you were focusing on others more than on your health, that means you could have lost not only your foot but your life.

Where would that leave that beautiful family? They love you and they need you to stick around. I bet they don't give a damn whatsoever that you're one foot light now. They're just thrilled to pieces you're still there.

You got a wake-up call. Now your BP is under control and there's a big improvement in your diabetes. Because you're taking it seriously today, the chances of you continuing to survive are much greater.

I don't know about your personal religious beliefs, but there's a striking sense here of God or the fates or what have you, pulling some strings on you. You got a wake-up call because you needed one. I said before and I will again: I bet the primary reason you weren't paying as much attention to your own health as you should, was because you were paying so much attention to others. Especially your daughter. My evidence? You were in the middle of a trip out of town taking her to a specialist when your foot got infected beyond control.

You did nothing wrong at all. Surely any parent on such a critical mission would find it a little difficult to keep everyone's concerns in careful balance.

And perhaps that string got pulled so hard on you, Walrilla, because without paying such a high price as losing your foot, you wouldn't be able to move beyond your guilt. For whatever you contributed to it, you paid a huge price.

See, I mentioned guilt in the post for a reason, too. For now it probably helps you in some way. Later on, it won't. I hope when that time comes you'll be tuned in enough to recognize it, and let the self-blame go when it's no longer needed.

Cindi, cyber hugs right back atcha. Your bout with meningo-encephalitis, and now with the diabetes and neuropathy, is exactly why you went on that list. I could always tell you understood from your own experience what it means to feel like we're on *gravy time.* It's not that the current health issues never get under our skin. It's just that it all comes back to knowing how great it is to be alive, no matter what. In a strange way that's been a great blessing to us, just like those hospital patients you talked about.

I think of how, twenty years ago, I would have been embarrassed to hug all my co-workers when I finally got back to work. That *k* is such a distant memory I have to kind of work at it. Now? I get all mushy about all these people I'm talking about here, and it didn't even occur to me to be embarrassed. Lots of people think I'm nuts. I don't mind one bit. They're probably right.

And if so? The way I figure it - I'm better off. ;-)

LL, you and I are far more alike than it might look at first glance. Tough? In some ways. Maybe a core of steel, surrounded by mashed potatoes? We've both spent time trying to build self-esteem that wasn't allowed to grow in health when we were kids. Loving and nurturing, and yet trying to figure out how to be that way and still stay safe from the *bad guys* that would take advantage of it - without just keeping everyone at arm's length, going all porcupine on folks when we feel the threat, and unsure if the feeling's legitimate or not.

I have absolutely no doubt there have been far more difficulties in your life than I've caught wind of from your blog. In your shoes I might have murdered my mama, and that would be no good at all. You made it through. And even with that pisspoor example of mothering, you are a wonderful mother to your own kids. You made it through when your daughter got so sick, and again when you finally realized that - among other things - some basic incompatibility with your husband meant you could never be happy if you continued the marriage. And now you deal with the guilt from feeling selfish by splitting up the *Mom and Dad* because you wanted a chance to be happy.

I promise you: You have an absolute right to search for happiness in love and in life. There was zero selfishness in your divorce. All parents must take care of themselves in order to care for their kids - including showing them that happiness is a legitimate pursuit.

kdzu! You've been through difficulties of your own, too. Ain't none of it puny. What I've gleaned about some of yours from your blog are not puny in anyone's eyes. And here you are, still kicking and still thinking for yourself.

I love to watch you being Grandpa. It takes a steady endurance to stay together with your spouse for the 30-odd years you have, and now you can look on the next generation that follows your steadiness. And - I'm just guessing here - I bet *steady* is not a word you'd usually apply to yourself. If you don't? You should.

All y'all are just mushing me out all over again. {{{jeez!}}}

prettylady said...


Walrilla said...

Yes, ma'am.(hangs head and shuffles away, properly chastised)



mitzibel said...

Thank your cats for me.

Granny J said...

k, I'm absolutely in AWE. Too bad in our world the word survivor has been so thoroughly cheapened because you are the real thing, a truly remarkable, wonderful, gutsy S*U*R*V*I*V*O*R!
We are all made larger just through knowing you.

And, yes, many thanks to those cats!

Jean said...

Walrilla... bwahahahaha!

Dazd said...

Here by way of Walrilla.

Your post here is correct on every level, and there's many of them.

Thank you.

sue said...

Came by way of Livey.
You are amazing. I loved you immediately because of the cats - I'm a "critter" person and always will be. I hope it's okay, but I'm putting you on my blogroll and look forward to reading your archives and finding out more about you. You truly seem to be an inspiration to those around you.

Desert Cat said...

Ma'am you are the most sunny person I know.

In the face of all that, it transformed you. Or perhaps you were always this way.

Judge Well Ye Wolves said...

k- nothing like a woman who doesn't give up. It is humbling, and uplifting, to know that you are sharing this with us. Humbling in that there are always those who have triumphed over things one knows one would crumble at. Uplifting in that one can celebrate your accomplishments, honor them and try to emulate them- and maybe move a couple of one's own problems from the crumble-under category to fighting-it category.

k said...

Pretty Lady, thank you. A Wow from PL is a compliment indeed.

Walrilla, you are such a cutie! That pic of you is the best I've ever seen. It makes me think a man can trade a foot for a nice bump up in handsomeness. Can that be?

I did notice your goatee had NOT curled. However, that could be because the blogmeet was still far down the road when that picture was taken.

mitzibel, welcome! I thanked my cats every day for the rest of their lives. About half or more of my docs were horrified that a superallergic would live with 2 cats. I couldn't seem to make them understand: they saved my life. They saved me from the greatest danger of all. And if you're universally allergic, exposure to individual items is NOT the biggest issue. You concentrate on the ones that are off the charts. I've tested positive on over 5000 substances, including all foods. Does that mean I should stop eating?

April, the mother cat, lived until she was 19 1/2. She died in my arms as I drove a straight truck over the George Washington Bridge in New York. She was very old and pretty weak, but she'd been traveling with Walter and I, and had a great time. In her last two weeks she had more fun than in the last two years of her life.

Her son, my Babycat, passed away last July 5. He died in bed with me, snuggled up next to my side. I know his last couple hours of life were at least somewhat hard on him, but I also know if I'd taken him to be put down, it would have been worse. He loved to go to sleep next to me, holding hands with me. He was 22 when he died.

I loved those cats so much. They were both very, very sweet. And after time, they fell in love with Walter too, and he with them. To all their mutual surprise.

Granny J, I'm mostly just stubborn. I want to stick around and so I sure will. I love your stories about your mother - I bet we'd all get along like a house afire. She reminds me of you and of my grandmother Helen, both. I bet she's pretty stubborn too.

And see what she does? She makes sure to have FUN. As do you.

I suspect there's an interesting reason why you're *walking Prescott,* and I suspect it has a lot to do with survival, too. And with not just surviving, but having fun at it.

Jean, I just LOVE me some Walrilla! Ain't he something else? I'm already wishing I didn't have to miss the blogmeet and it hasn't even taken place yet. I want to hear some SERIOUS good reports of bad behavior, there.

dazd, welcome! And thank you so much for the nomination and the link. I'm very curious to hear what it was that you were thinking about, and I hope you'll post on it soon. I'll keep stopping by your place to see. No pressure, though, of course. ;-)

For some reason, while I love reading memes and blog award items on other people's blogs, the spirit doesn't move me to put them in here. Don't know why. But I do feel the blessing, and I mean it when I say, Thanks.

sue, welcome to you too! Any critter person is allllll right with me. Any time. You'll see lots and lots of critter stuff here. And, uh, just as an advance warning, they run the gamut from the cats and such down to insects and even more humble, sort of, aw heck, slimy things. Slugs and snails. You know. I've learned it's courteous to give advance warning for certain bug and slime type posts, so if those things are not on your Fave Critter list, check the title first.

I read about your deer incident and boy you have my sympathy. I've only had near misses, just pure luck, and now live where we don't have many deer to worry about. Even if you as a driver or passenger escape injury, still, that hurts inside, and hurts your car too. Especially when it's new! argh!

And thank you for blogrolling me! One day I hope to master such blog mysteries. Until then, the reason you're not on mine is because no one is - I don't have one yet. Please, excuse me.

DC! When I was an angry and pathologically shy child and young adult, I always wished for a nice nickname. I only

In my teens I finally started to get nice ones. Even though in many ways it was too late, still, it was most pleasant.

One of the nicer ones that people have hung on me over the years has been, *Sunshine.* I usually explain that this is because I have a round face and chipmunk cheeks with a big grin. Looks like a goofy happy face. But with a cleft chin.

I think under the anger was a cheerful, happy, contented person who wanted to be left in peace so she could be cheerful, happy, and contented. It took a while though.

JWYW - Welcome to you, too. You do me more honor that merited, I think. You see, sometimes we think we'd crumble if we don't yet know. Often, though, when life gets worse, we get better at holding up. The *lesser* problems - and I don't mean they were insignificant - but I've known person after person who had trouble with those *lesser* ones, and did just fine when far worse came their way.

I'm very glad to see you entering the 'sphere, you. Welcome to our big little world. I don't know why you decided to blog, but I believe you're in the right place.