Random thoughts from an animal-loving French prof / mom of three on things she finds beautiful, funny, sad, or strange.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Why are they always orange?

To be fair, it's not that they are all orange. After all, the spirit animal of this blog is a black cat, named for my handsome man in a tux, Lucky, and Clawdette is our second calico after Calliope. But there seems to be a disproportionate amount of orange, and it always comes when we least expect it.

First, there was Claude. A colleague found this little ball of fur wandering on campus, and had a feeling we'd take him in. She was right. We meant to find him a home, but, well, we already had. He was the first house cat my daughters ever had (longtime residents Lucky and Calliope mostly ignored our decision to add human children to the household). We were heartbroken when only a couple of years later, we lost Claude to feline leukemia.

Then there was Norbert, the subject of Everything I need to know, I learned from an orange cat and Sometimes, the cat is orange Another colleague found him scaling a brick wall outside her home. You couldn't miss him if you tried, and honestly, why would you try? He was larger than life, and for a while, larger than was strictly healthy. He and my second daughter were inseparable- the only thing he never did for her was learn to walk on a leash. Though he lived with cancer longer than anyone could have reasonably expected, he finally succumbed and our hearts broke again.

After that, we had a tacit pact to keep the resident cat population at two, and we held it there for a while. Then we started to see the strays around town and I found myself saying, "ok, God, if you send us another cat, I think we're ready. Just please don't let it be orange."

Not long after, I heard yowling outside. When I went to investigate, out from under the porch came an affectionate, starving, thirsty cat. And... he was orange. I told God I did not think this was very funny and that it might be nice if just once in a while She would let us bargain. The response was a prompting to give the cat some food and water. So I did (in my experience, when it comes to God and cats, you don't mess around). He ate, drank, found a comfy patio chair, and went to sleep.

When I told my daughter, she burst into tears. I told her I had to save him, but was afraid of hurting her heart. If she wanted me to foster him then find another home, I would. Before long, however, she came outside and said, "let's see this orange cat."

His name, she says, is Vesbo.

From left to right, top to bottom: Claude at Christmas, young Norbert, Vesbo (also known as Beau)                                                  

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

The psychology of shoulders

I've never woken up well from anesthesia. Not when I was a teenager having my knee scoped. Not when I was having that same knee reconstructed whilst in grad school. And not when I had a tendon in my right shoulder repaired. So when, on the afternoon of June 23, I woke to the vague sensation that my left arm had been strapped to my body, followed by the far less vague sensation of nausea, I did what any sensible person would. I went back to sleep.

Who knows how much time passed before I woke again. This time the evidence was clear. I was still nauseous, and my arm was most definitely strapped to my body. The nurse, who needed me awake to send me home, caught my eye. I decided to ask the obvious question.

"You had a rotator cuff repair, honey." 

Far too out of sorts to object to being called "honey" (for once...), I asked to see my doctor. I had come in for a simple tendon release, the kind of procedure that barely makes a blip on the radar. The surgeon, however, confirmed the nurse's statement. My rotator cuff had been completely torn.

After a week spent deliriously cycling through Percocet, broken sleep, and pain, the staples were removed and I started physical therapy.

And with it, unexpectedly, the very near loss of my mind. 

It wasn't just the pain, though there was plenty of that. It wasn't just the blinding frustration of feeling clumsy and useless. It wasn't just the realization that there was no way I could safely travel to New York one more time before school. And it wasn't even the pile of work accumulating as I sat helplessly by, my shoulder encased in ice.

It was that single, insidious, two-word question: "what if?" As in, what if it never gets better?

To make matters worse, I found myself robbed of my failsafe coping mechanisms. Writing? A leftie with her left arm in a sling can't exactly enjoy the soothing flow of ink on paper. Music? I'm a pianist, and while I've seen people perform marvels one-handed, I'm not one of them. And running? Completely off limits. 

This may sound melodramatic, but if demons are real, this is what they tell you: "your life as you know it is over." And because your demon-silencing mechanisms are out of order, you start to listen. It gets very, very dark, and no matter what you do, the "what-if" demons won't shut their foul little mouths. Before I knew it, I was down on myself for feeling down, proof if ever there was that mental states are not something people can necessarily control!

Thankfully, the mantra we try to teach my mentally ill son is true: "this too shall pass." I'm on a long road- rotator cuffs don't heal overnight, and wounded souls have an unpredictable timetable all their own- but my life once again feels like it is...literally...in my hands.