Thursday I met the Neurologist. MRI was fine, but he wanted me to take a drug that might make me suicidal!...As if I wasn’t already! I filled the prescription, but figured now wasn’t the time to try taking it.
I borrowed an air mattress from my friend, Erich. The idea was to put the mattress next to the fireplace. Maybe we could keep warm that way? I went to the warming center, as I had done each day prior. I was getting into a routine, making sure we had water for flushing, finding a way to keep sort of clean, getting the cats fed. We had to stop feeding the raw food. The meat was spoiling, even though I filled the fridge with bags of ice. I was able to find a pet food store that was open, so we were okay there. The latest rumors had the power going back on in two more days. We just had to push through.
©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. A cozy, bouncy bed by the fire.
It was a tough day. We HAD to clean ALL the food out of the refrigerator and freezer and take it to a special location to get rid of it. Sam and I hated throwing out good food. We decided to throw out certain things, but others we decided to toss over the deck, into the woods. At least the wild animals would get something to eat.
©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Goodbye food.
I stood on the deck, a deep frown etched across my face, I tossed 10 POUNDS of raw ground meat out into the woods. As Sam and I discarded more food, we both grew more and more upset. Goodbye to the meatloaf leftovers that were going to be used for a second dinner. Goodbye to the big turkey breast we were going to roast and use for a few meals. Goodbye to all that cat food—and all the wonderful frozen goodies we got from Trader Joe’s the day before the storm. We filled up Sam’s car with bags of discarded, spoiling food. What was left; a few bottles of very old champagne I refused to throw away and a container of lemonade. The inside of the fridge looked like someone got murdered inside it. The cat food meat had dripped blood all over the shelves and dripped into the drawers. It was going to be a big chore to get it cleaned ONCE the POWER WAS RESTORED!
©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Loaded up with spoiled food. Off to the dump.
There was more news about the power restoration. CL&P’s response to the storm damage was slow because they FAILED TO PAY the many utility crews that came up to fix the damage after Hurricane Irene hit! No WONDER repairs were going so slowly! They had to find other utility crews to help out and many were from much further away. Also, the out-of-state crews couldn’t do a THING unless someone from CL&P signed off on what they were going to do, first. They were protecting their ass-big time. I heard of one crew just sitting around for FIVE HOURS while they waited for the CL&P staff to show up—the whole time that crew was getting paid for not working!
©2011 Robin A.F. Olson.
Then, more bad news. The news reported that restoration might take until WEDNESDAY, a full TEN DAYS after the storm. At that point I was so worn down I didn’t care. The snow was just about gone. Tree crews were opening up roads. Downtown Newtown had power. Then some districts got power. Everywhere I went people were asking each other if they had power yet. You could tell the “haves” from the “have-nots” by the gleam in their eye and their not-so-train-wrecked-hair. Our road wasn’t even open yet, so I figured it was going to be Wednesday before we were restored.
By Thursday night we were flat out exhausted from constantly having to drive somewhere to get warm, to get water, to get a meal, to charge a phone, to get something to burn in the fireplace. Anne and her family got dinner early, forgetting we were coming over. It was a blessing in disguise because we just wanted to eat and go to bed.
Although we don’t normally go out for dinner, let alone to an expensive restaurant, I told Sam I was desperate to break our miserable routine of eating lousy chinese food and pizza and have something great for dinner. Juice boxes weren’t cutting it any more. We found a place and served delicious seafood. Although we looked like a homeless couple that hit the lottery, as we sipped Pellegrino in the amber-lit room, we were content. I was surprised at how doing something “normal” helped condition my frayed nerves. Sam and I were getting along all right. We went home and inflated the air mattress. The cats loved it. I warned Sam not to leave it unattended. I knew the cats would pee on it. I couldn’t sleep on the mattress. It was really bouncy and I can’t sleep if the room is brightly lit-like by a FIRE. I opted to drag my butt to bed. Sam got the mattress by the fire. I was numb to the routine of sleeping alone in my hat, gloves and layers, so it was fine with me.
©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Scallops, risotto and broccoli rabe.
Friday morning. Day seven. We got the cats fed. Sam and I were quiet around each other. I was trying to be calm, not freak out over the way the house was getting dirty and that the rugs needed vacuuming. I looked over at the air mattress and noticed a huge dark spot on the down comforter. Pee. I told Sam to put that mattress away and now it’s been soiled. I tried to hold my tongue, because I usually never say; “I told you so!” But I was worn down so I blurted it out, then added now we'd have to buy a NEW air mattress for Erich! Great! I was so angry. I was not paying for this error! I’d priced air mattresses before we found one to borrow and they were well into the hundreds of dollars! Just what we needed—more headaches.
We drove to the Library since they were open again and had wifi, too. I went online and curtly told Sam I found a replacement mattress and all he had to do was order it. Thankfully it was the exact same one that was ruined and it cost under $100. One problem solved, but the problem of our inability to get along, remained.
I really wanted to write my blog, but I just couldn’t concentrate. It was too awkward to write on my iPad, so I took out pen and paper and scribbled some thoughts down as best I could. I was so wiped out. I really needed to do laundry and get clean again. The local laundromat was going to open soon, so that was great news. My dear friend, Connie called me and she had power restored. She lives a mile from my house, but every time she has power, we lose it and vice versa, so we must be on a different grid. She said we could shower at her house and watch TV. I was happy to imagine I could be clean soon. For someone who watches as much TV as I do, that was something I wasn’t missing.
©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. I love you guys from Ameren, Missouri!
It was another sunny day. I was so grateful for that. The sun felt good on my face. Sam and I packed up to go to Connie’s house. We decided to check to see if our road was open yet. To our surprise we saw three utility trucks from Ameren, a power company based in MISSOURI! I should have asked them when they were going to be done, but I was so shocked and happy to see them that I just smiled and waved as we passed by. I figured we wouldn’t get power for another day, which was well ahead of the Wednesday deadline, yet I’d been so disappointed with everything else that I didn’t want to get my hopes up.
We got to Connie’s and visited with her kitties, a few of them were cats I rescued from the south. It was good to see them again, but weird to be there without Connie around.
©2011 Robin A.F. Olson.
We took showers and were getting the wifi working when my phone rang. It was my neighbor, Dawn. She said she wasn’t home, but that a neighbor called her and said the POWER HAD BEEN RESTORED!
What? You’re kidding?!!
Sam and I stopped what we were doing and got packed up and out of Connie’s house in a flash. I was bouncing in my seat in the car. Sam couldn’t drive fast enough. It was still light out so it was tough to see if any electric lights were on. We’d been crushed days before because we drove home and saw lights on in the homes just a few doors down from ours, but our lights were still out.
As Sam pulled down the driveway, I saw lights on in the house!
As I opened the front door, I felt WARM kiss of heat on my cheeks. The heat was ON! The cats were milling around excitedly. They knew something was going on, too.
©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Crews picking up tree debris down the road from our house.
We turned off unneeded lights, turned up the heat, then got straight to work cleaning. We each chose chores to do. Sam started on cleaning the fridge. I said I’d join him after I did a few other things. I scrubbed the toilets, started doing a ton of laundry, vacuumed, took down all the candles and cleaned up the fallen bits of wax. I closed the doors to the fireplace, making certain to close the flue. We got the dishwasher started. I put away all the paper plates and cups and warmed up some food for the cats. I was so very happy to be cleaning! Yes me, happy, CLEANING!
It took a few HOURS to scrub down the fridge. Sam and I worked together. While we were cleaning, Sam said he could fix a few things. He asked if I wanted him to take the ice maker out of the inside of the freezer. I never had it hooked up to the water line because I didn’t want to hear the device running all night. It just took up space. I had no idea you could remove it! Sam removed a few screws and the unit popped right out. Without it we added a lot of freezer space. Once we cleaned the inside, we pulled the fridge away from the wall. I vacuumed it out, then mopped the floor. We wiped down the outside of the fridge and restacked cans of cat food on the top of it.
Sam stood with the door open to the refrigerator compartment. Even though the thing was old, it looked like it has a new lease on life. Sam was clearly admiring his work. He remarked he didn’t want to put anything back inside it again. I agreed that I never wanted to overload it again as we had before. I wanted to use what we bought and not buy so much we don’t know or use what we have. We went back to Trader Joe’s and did a modest amount of shopping. We got some milk and butter and juice and eggs. Even with all that the fridge still looked empty. That’s fine by me. We don’t need so much.
©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Pretty!
The cable was out for another two days. It came back on just in time for the good Sunday night shows on HBO and Showtime. Our wireless wifi was working, but I had no interest in turning on my computer—gone was my addiction to checking Facebook every 10 seconds. I dragged my feet. I didn't want to be hooked on technology's teat any more.
I was shell shocked and still very tired. I had liked the quiet evenings, just reading by the fire. I liked something about not having all these electronic devices to cling to. If we’d had heat and running water it would have been a vacation of sorts, well, I guess as about close to a vacation as I’m going to get any time soon.
The power’s been on for ten days now. I’m not wearing a hat inside my house, just a sweater over my clothes. The cats just ate some newly prepared raw food for dinner. I had a cup of very fine tea this morning. Sam and I are not getting along very well and my engagement ring is back in its’ box, this time stored in Sam’s underwear drawer. I don’t even know if he realizes it’s there. I didn’t know what to do with it, but I thought we better table the idea of ever getting married. It seems the power went out of our relationship and I don’t know when it will be restored.
It’s difficult to write about my relationship going sour. I try not to color it by my own perspective. I know I’m not easy to live with and have a bad temper. I think I should be a crazy cat lady and not live with other humans. Maybe I’m a feral human? Maybe I was driven to it by the stress I’ve been under for the past few years? I can’t say for sure, but when the power went out, it felt like a final straw. I can’t live the way I lived before. I don’t know what’s next. I was glad to have a break from having to worry about paying the mortgage even though it meant I was freezing cold and dirty and subsisting on fruit cups.
©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Spencer caught a mild cold, but is doing well today.
I'll never forget that awful week without power thanks to Winter Storm Alfred and CL&Ps flaccid response to repairing the power outage and foolish power grid that has our power lines be ABOVE ground (ridiculous!-the lines in my neighborhood are buried).
I hope, in time, I’ll figure out ways to be better prepared for the next storm; including the one that twists inside my heart. It makes me sad that Sam and I sweat the small stuff and it gets to us as it does. I wish we knew how to laugh in the face of adversity or at least hold each other through the worst of it—but even the mighty oak falls if the winds are just right.
The next morning I woke up, covered in cats. I didn’t sleep well. It was difficult to move under the covers with all the extra clothes I was wearing. I kept getting caught up in the sheets. The cats pinned my legs down. Some time during the night I had yanked off my hat, desperate to be more comfortable. My head got so cold I had the bedding up over my head. I had weird dreams when I did sleep. Though I would have been woken up by the power coming back on, I still hoped that maybe I slept through it and it was already working. No. It was too quiet.
I couldn’t see my breath, but it was very cold in the bedroom. I looked at the thermometer on Sam’s battery powered clock. It read 48°F. I realized I needed to pee. I didn’t want to get out from under the covers. “This is why they had bed pans back in the day,” I thought to myself.
©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Blitz and the DOOD investigating a bucket of snow I was trying to melt in the sun so I could use the water for flushing, later.
I normally don’t write (too much) about sitting on a toilet, but I have to include the detail that sitting down on the toilet was like sitting on an iceberg. I shivered as I peed and I thought about trying not to do anything else into the toilet. Then I started to wonder how I was going to get along. I’m not a camper. My idea of “roughing it” is staying in a hotel with no room service. After I peed, I wanted to wash my hands, but I couldn’t. I didn’t have baby wipes, but I did have bleach wipes so I reluctantly used one of those. I could feel all the moisture in my skin start to evaporate from the chemicals, but my hands were clean.
But what about the rest of my body, how was I going to clean that?
I got some paper towels and thankfully we had bottled water. I washed myself with the cold water in the cold house…oh it was terrible. I certainly was inspired to get dressed, and quickly. I left my hair in an ever increasingly awful looking braid. At least it got my hair out of the way. I kept my cat hat on while I changed into fresh clothes. I was glad I’d done laundry recently, but knew I’d have to wear a few things for a few days in a row to make the most of what I had. No. Undies are always clean! That is not a compromise I’m going to make.
Getting something to eat was also going to be a problem. I couldn’t heat anything and I did not want to even OPEN the refrigerator, as keeping the contents cold was vital. I feed my cats a raw meat diet and there was hundreds of dollars of meat in the fridge that was starting to spoil. If I was going to open that door, I had to plan what I was going to grab beforehand to minimize the air loss. I got some juice, some butter to add to some bread and the raw food. I would have to serve it cold, but it was still good. The poor foster kittens would have to eat cold canned food. I usually warm it in the microwave. Yes, they’re spoiled I suppose, but eating COLD food in a COLD room just seemed like another slight in an otherwise lousy existence.
I had some juice and bread and butter. Even though I probably could have sorted out something better to eat I was in this sort of trance, maybe I was shell-shocked from what was going on? I found that I was just subsisting, alive but not living. It bothered me that the power going out would effect me so badly.
I kept thinking about what I was going to do. Everything seemed to take a lot longer to do-even simple things like keeping things clean. I couldn’t use any dishes because they couldn’t be cleaned and the dishwasher was full of dirty dishes. We’d have to feed the cats on paper plates and it would be a good idea if we had a supply of paper plates, plastic utensils and more paper towels and paper cups so we wouldn’t have to wash anything. I started devising a plan of action. It made me feel a bit better.
Sam and I weren’t talking. No surprise. He did, however run his car up and down the driveway a few times, which packed the snow down enough so I could probably get out. The roads were getting plowed, but there were reports that many roads were blocked by downed trees. The outage report on CL&Ps web site was still showing Newtown was 99% out. Why wasn’t anything improving? Surely if we didn’t have power, someone did, but our neighbors in Monroe, Bethel and Brookfield were just as bad off.
I put together a list. I tried to think of things that didn’t need to be warmed that we could eat. I could have just gotten things for myself, but I didn’t want to make the situation worse. I’d make sure I had enough for Sam.
Sam left home to take shelter at a client’s office where he was going to work for the day. They had light and heat and all that good stuff. It was about 20 miles away. I got to suck it up at home.
©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Proceed with caution!
I left shortly after he did and was just able to get out of the driveway. My first stop was to try to get gas. There was nothing in town that was open. I knew there was a little known gas station in a nearby town, so I decided to try that first, but getting there was going to be difficult. I couldn’t even get down my street. It was blocked by fallen trees and downed wires. Thankfully we have a second road that gets us out of our neighborhood. I shudder to think what would have become of us if we hadn’t been able to get out at all.
A large sycamore was leaning over the road that was the alternate way to get out of the neighborhood; looking like it was going to crash onto the next car that drove under it. It was just a matter of time before we were trapped in the neighborhood.
The state road near my home was open, but as I drove along it looked like a war zone. The carcasses of dead trees, recently cut up and partly shoved off the road and onto the shoulder, were everywhere. Some trees leaned on the power poles or onto the wires. There were no signs warning drivers. Clearly there wasn’t time to mark every dangerous area. I had to go very slowly and be ready to stop the car at any second to drive around debris or turn around and try taking another road to get to my destination. I tried to remember if it was safe to drive over a downed power line if there was power in the line. Rubber tires? Was that safe? Better not take a chance.
I felt such dread. All those lovely trees broken and bent, the shock of white jagged splintered limbs everywhere I looked. I told myself that if the Lone Oak was gone that it would be too much to bear. In Newtown, we lay claim to the second largest oak tree in the state. It’s about 19 feet in diameter and has marvelous twisted, gnarled branches; a perfect “Halloween” shaped tree. It’s on Lone Oak Road, so aptly named. I drove past the street and looked for the tree. To my relief, it was still there, but a much smaller tree next to it had fallen over. I felt bad about the small tree, but also gained flicker of hope, seeing that grand tree still standing.
I had to drive under power lines and fallen trees, but I got to the gas station. There were a line of cars waiting but I didn’t have to wait too long, maybe 15 minutes or so. They were out of the grade of gas I wanted, but they had gas so I filled up. As I left I saw a line stretching out down the road. I must have just gotten there in time. I felt a bit like a warrior. I was able to provide something for myself.
I was fairly sure the grocery store nearby was open, too. Turns out it was. I assumed the shelves would be bare, but I wasn’t going to buy anything to cook, anyway. I was just hoping for some baby wipes and things like applesauce and paper towels. I knew they had 7-day burning shrine candles and I wanted to load up on those, too.
What really shocked me was how EMPTY the store was-not of products but of people! Where were the people? There were plenty of items and I had no problem filling up my cart with what I needed. I didn’t take every last one of something, but I did take enough so we had at least enough for the next few days. I was sure the power would be back on soon, right?
It was so nice, so normal to walk around the store. The lights were bright. The happy-buy-something-music was playing on the loudspeakers. I was WARM. It was like nothing bad had happened. We were all going to be fine as long as I didn’t leave the store. Maybe I could sleep in the produce section if I brought my own sleeping bag?
I was STARVING. Where could I get some nice WARM food?
I decided to go on a little expedition; suss out what was open and what was closed. I drove no further than a mile and the power was out and the traffic backed up because the traffic lights were out. The place I wanted to have breakfast at was closed. I know this sounds like I’m a big baby and I guess I am, but I really like to have an egg for breakfast every morning. It’s just a thing I do for myself. I change it up every day-add different ingredients; make it fun. I needed my egg sandwich. Boohoo! I couldn’t stop thinking about what I’d lost and when I could get it back again.
©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. If I saw the person driving this van I might have smacked him/her. Yeah, this is our power company-not at work.
I drove further and found a shopping center that was open. They had a..dare I say..McDonald’s. It’s a place I usually avoid like the plague. I would almost rather not eat than eat there, but these were tough times. Nothing else was open in the area. Fortunately, I had cash because that’s all they were taking. The place was packed. I couldn’t get breakfast. It was too late. I didn’t know when I was going to eat again so I got two hamburgers and wolfed them down sitting in my car. The restaurant was warm, but it was crowded and seemed dirty. Eating in my car wasn’t much better, but at least I was away from all those people. It was a dreadful experience. I really wanted a hot cup of tea, but had no idea where to even get one. No. Don’t suggest McDonald’s. That is not tea, even if they have it.
I had heard our town was opening a “warming center” where we could get wifi and to, no surprise, get warm, so I decided to head over there after I went home and unloaded the groceries. By the time I got home I had a terrible stomach ache from the crummy hamburgers. The last thing I needed was to have the runs when I can’t flush the toilet. Nice, right? What could I do? I did what I had to do, then walked to the kitchen, lifted the 40 pound water jug and poured some water into a bucket. I poured the water into the toilet and tried to flush. It didn’t do a great job, but it made using it again tolerable. All the lifting made me cramp up again. I’d have to go easy on the water or I’d be out soon…but it was too late for that and within a few minutes I used up all the flushing water.
The town also opened up a place to get more water (thank GOD), since most of us are on well water and with no power, the pumps don’t work) so I drove over to the fire department. I brought them a box of donuts as a thank you that were not very well received. I don’t know why the fireman was short with me. He took the box and walked off saying a curt; “thanks.” I was just trying to be friendly.
©2011 Robin A.F. Olson.
A few minutes later I saw him eating a donut as I began filling up my used water cooler bottles. The guy finished eating and came back over to help me lift the filled containers into my car. He was probably having a bad day, too. He said something about being up for 2 days straight due to all the calls they were getting. I felt bad for him.
I was very proud of myself for rigging up a way to keep the water from spilling all over the inside of my car after I filled up the containers. I used a cut up gallon ziplock bag and some big rubber bands. It worked out all right. See? I can take care of things. I’m driving to get water to flush the toilet! The amount of water I have teeter-tottering on the floor behind the front seats will let me flush TWO TIMES. That’s it. What a pain in the neck. How am I going to have time to get anything “normal” done?
I got to the warming center. The second I walked in the door of our new Town Hall I finally felt like all the taxes I pay went to something worthwhile. The building was large, well lit, clean. They let us use a chamber room for doing computing stuff. It was warm, so warm my face turned bright red. I guess I looked like a drunk, but I was warm and the wifi worked well. My stomach was still acting up, but this time I got to use the bathroom at the Town Hall. It was SO NICE, so CLEAN. Just to flush the toilet and WASH MY HANDS in water…WARM WATER was pure delight. In that moment I was revived, but the feeling wasn’t long lasting, especially after I took at look at my reflection in the mirror. I looked ghastly. My skin is already pale, but I was blue. My hair was a mess from wearing my cat-head-shaped hat. I had rings under my eyes. My layered frenzy of clothes made me look like I was homeless.
©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Council Chambers/Warming Room.
Because I’m a graphic designer, I have a big workstation instead of a laptop. ALL my projects, my blog posts, my photos are on that computer. There was NO WAY I could access any of the data, unless I lugged a 50 pound machine to the Town Hall. I don’t HAVE a laptop, but I do have an iPad. It wasn’t easy, but I got some of my email to work and went online to find out what was going on. Our First Selectman, Pat Llyodra came into the room to see how everyone was doing. Hoa Nguyen, a reporter from the Newtown Patch, brought us some pizza! She did it “just because.” Another lady came in with homemade cookies. It wasn’t a big deal to them, but it was a big deal to us.
Thankfully, the sun was out and because my house is “passive solar,” it faces due south in the winter. The large windows at the front of the house allow the sun to warm the place up. At least I didn’t feel guilty leaving the cats alone during part of the day. They’d be somewhat comfortable, but those same windows would let all the heat out when the sun went down. Now that I had baked myself to a crisp at the “broiling” center, I decided to go home and try to get something, anything done.
I cleaned a chunk of my office, which is in terrible disarray. It’s a small room that competes as where I run both my design business and my non-profit cat rescue from. There’s not enough space for file folders, computer do-dads, samples and books, so things get piled up. I only see the top of my desk bi-annually. I managed to find my Cheshire Cat tote bag which I thought I lost two years ago. I found more places the cats peed and got it cleaned up. I threw out a lot of stuff and organized other things. Maybe if I could keep this up I could get a lot of cleaning done? Then I realized I could only do so much without having water or light.
The sun was going down. Sam called and said he was coming home, but that the roads were a mess and it took him nearly two hours to drive a normally 20 minute route. Part of me wished he would not come home, but I was lonely and scared. I kept wondering when the power was going to come back on. I kept checking my iPhone to see if CL&P was restoring power to Newtown. It was not. Other towns were being helped, but we were not on the list yet. Time seemed to pass twice as slowly. When was this going to be over?
©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Blitzen and Spencer by the fire.
We got the cats fed. I found an old down comforter and made a bed up for the foster cats to snuggle into. I built a fire in our crummy fireplace. It doesn’t heat the house unless you sit IN the fire, but it gave off a little warmth and helped light up the room. I noticed a few of the cats sitting near the fire, something they’ve never been interested in doing. I put down a blanket for them so they could sit close. Of course they fought over who got to sit where, but in time they worked it out. I brought many candleholders out and lit candles. There was just barely enough light to read by. I sat and shivered under a blanket on the sofa and tried to read. There was nothing much else to do.
Most of the stores and restaurants in town were closed. Getting dinner was not a simple task. Sam offered to get Chinese food again and this time I said OK. The misery of the situation forced us to get along. We were polite and courteous, but Sam’s side of the bed remained empty each night. I knew we’d both have been a lot warmer if we could have shared our body heat at night. At least I had the cats with me.
©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Glad I had candles, at least.
By Tuesday I was a miserable wreck. I was crying from not knowing when this nightmare was going to be over. I was tired of being cold, of not being able to wash my hair or myself, of lugging gallons of water to flush, and never feeling clean enough. I was tired of not getting along with Sam. He came over to me and gave me a hug. I told him I couldn’t take it any more and began to sob.
I decided to book a few nights at a hotel. I figured even if I could just get one or two nights sleep in a warm bed and have a shower and good meal, I could stick it out until the power was restored. Sam thought it was a good idea.
I used my iPhone to look up hotels, while wearing my highest magnification glasses so I could see the screen clearly. To my dismay, I discovered most of the local hotels were not open. There was a Hilton Garden Inn in Danbury that said they didn’t have power on their web site, but I was able to find they did have a location about 25 miles away that might have a vacancy. I called the Hilton Reservations number and they said they could book me at the Danbury location for two nights starting the next night. I asked them if they were certain the place was open and they said it would be open the next day. I was THRILLED!!! I could get through anything now!
Sam left for his client’s office and I was left to figure out what to do. I decided I was going to wash my hair. It was filthy. I couldn’t wait until the next night to shower. The town had a place open where I could get a shower, but they only had TWO shower stalls for the entire town to use, you only got 5 minutes (not really a big deal), but GOD KNOWS WHO took a shower before you did! I’m sorry, but I guess I’d rather have a cold makeshift shower at home.
Again, every little thing required planning. I knew we were getting a delivery of water in another day so I felt okay about using some of our resources. I got out a watering can. Looking at it made me sad. We used to use it to rinse Bob off when we gave him a bath to soothe his ringworm and here I was going to use it on myself.
I took the tops off a few bottles of water and set them aside. I filled up the watering can, then put a sauce pan in the sink to catch the water I used to get my hair wet. I figured I could use the water again since I only wet my hair with it. I built a fire in the fireplace so I could be warm after washing my hair. I removed most of the layers I was wearing until I had a men’s cotton undershirt left. It was so cold. I had to move quickly.
I wrapped a towel around my shoulders and bent over the sink. I poured some water onto my head, being careful that the water would fall into the saucepan. It was bloody cold! It felt like metal ice picks shoved into my brain! It was too late now. I had to finish what I started. I lathered up as best I could, then rinsed off my hair. I could feel my hair knotting up into a rat’s nest. I sprayed conditioner onto my hair and tried to smooth it out. I was shivering and shaking. At that point I was glad to be cleaner, but felt annoyed that my hair was a tangled wreck.
I ran over to sit by the fire, which was a small relief. I thought about how the next morning I’d be washing my hair in a nice HOT shower at the hotel. I could get through this. I just had to hang on. Some of the cats sat near me. They kept giving me this weird look. Clearly then were confused and cold and wanted this to be over, too. I tried to soothe them as best I could.
©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. A huge tent goes up. A line of porto-potties forms. It's the staging area for ALL the out-of-state utility workers!
The next day and a half was more of the same. More being cold, more not eating much, more being frustrated and now I was feeling more dirty. I just couldn’t get clean. I was feeling more and more desperate. I wanted my life back. I wanted a hot cup of tea, but most places were still closed and though Newtown had been declared as a staging area for the arriving out-of-state power company repair guys, we weren’t getting our lights on any faster. There were rumors the power would be on by midnight Saturday. Saturday? That would mean a WEEK without power! Oh GOD!
I started using the bathroom at the Town Hall for “certain” things. Try re-regulating your body’s digestive system timing. Yeah..not easy. At least I could avoid having to carry heavy containers of water up and down the stairs for constant flushing.
©2011 Robin A.F. Olson.
The major news networks showed up at the warming center. Brian Williams of NBC did a report. We were featured on CNN, Fox and all the big local networks. Apparently, our little town was “ground zero” for the worst damage in the state and that was one of the reasons restoring the power was taking so long. I never, in a million years, thought I’d be living in a place that might qualify for having FEMA show up. I’m usually the person that sends in a donation to the Red Cross to help others and now I was the one getting MRE (meals ready-to-eat) and trying to figure out how to put my life back in order. It was very humbling.
Wednesday afternoon I packed my bags. I couldn’t wait to get to the hotel. That morning I called the local number and the lines were busy. Sam called, too. Sam problem. We figured everyone was trying to get a hotel and we patted ourselves on the back for calling when we did. I called the main reservation line at Hilton. They said the hotel was on a generator and not to worry about it!
Thursday morning I was scheduled to talk to my neurologist about the results of an MRI of my brain. I was in a car accident almost a year ago and have suffered chronic headaches ever since. It was not an appointment I was going to miss and their offices had just opened back up. I figured I would go to the Doctor directly from the hotel and Sam would take his car, separately, and drive straight home to get the cats fed.
We drove to the Hilton. It was dark on the highway. I was in the lead. I couldn’t wait to get to the hotel. It was going to cost about $400.00 for two nights, but I didn’t care at that point. As I got closer to the hotel, I saw the nearby strip mall had lights. Good sign. I thought I could see the hotel from the road, but maybe it was further down the road than I remembered?
©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. I catch a glimpse of a convoy of utility trucks. Wish they were headed to my house.
I knew I’d be hard pressed to find ANY open hotel room within a reasonable distance from my home. I couldn’t go too far. I had to be able to care for the cats. This was NOT RIGHT, NOT FAIR, A CRUEL JOKE! I was so upset I felt like I was going to have a nervous breakdown. Sam pulled up his car alongside mine and rolled down his window. I started ranting and raving. Sam knew better than to say much to me. I got back into my car and called Hilton’s Reservation line. Some person from India told me she was sorry, but “what was she supposed to do about it?” I told her to FIND ME A ROOM. She said none were available unless I wanted to drive another hour to Newburgh, NY or go to LONG ISLAND, which is easily 2 hours or more away. I told her they must hold rooms for special guests and that she owed it to me to GIVE ME A ROOM for causing me so much inconvenience. She said she couldn’t make one magically appear and that she was sorry and that she didn’t have anything and there were no rooms at their partner locations. I don’t normally ever talk rudely to anyone, but this time I let her have it.
She didn’t back down. She just asked me if I wanted to cancel my reservation. ARE YOU F-ING KIDDING ME??? What do you think? They had a hold on my credit card. They were willing to take my money for a phony reservation. So I had to WAIT for her to cancel my reservation while I waited for my head to explode. Then she had the nerve to ask me; “Is there anything else I can do for you this evening?” I told her you’ve f-d me over enough for one day and hung up.
©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Artists recreation of crappy Hilton Garden Inn hotel in the dark.
I just lost it-whatever IT is. I told Sam to fix it. I had done all the work to make it right for us and now he had to get involved. He was angry with me. I started pacing. I wanted to drive my car into the hotel and set it on fire. Sam was having no luck getting anywhere. The cell service was lousy. I called my ex-sister-in-law, Anne, who I consider my sister. I left her a whiney voicemail saying I would take her up on her offer from earlier that day. I knew she was staying at her parent’s home about an hour from where we were and they had power. They offered that we could come over to take a shower, but I declined, knowing we had a hotel that night. Now we had no hotel so it was back to plan B. I could not go back to my house and FREEZE again! I was so tired and tired of being dirty and tired of being fed up and hungry. I was DONE with it all!
We had no other choice but to go home, grab clean towels and drive over to Mike and Pat’s home. Anne said she’d put the kettle on. Something my Mother always did. Hearing her say that was a small comfort-enough to keep me from doing something stupid. I envisioned that cup of hot tea. I started to cry again. I needed my Mother and my Father, but they’ve been gone for many years now. I wanted to lean on Sam, but he was mad at me. I deserved it, but in some ways I didn’t. My spirit was broken.
We got to the condo around 8pm. Pat and Mike are so sweet. They’ve been married for over 50 years. I think of them as my family, but I don’t often see them. Being in their home was like an oasis in the storm. Things were normal again. We were just visiting family except that we were going to shower in their bathroom instead of celebrate a birthday. I brought their cat Lily, a catnip toy present since I always seem to have new cats toys on hand. Lily looks almost exactly like Spencer, our mascot at Covered in Cat Hair. In fact, I adopted Lily, but she didn’t get on well with my cats so I re-homed her and now she’s a pampered princess.
Sam sat with Mike and Pat. They had a lively conversation. I went upstairs and got ready to take a shower. Anne insisted I didn’t use my towels, but take some clean ones from her Mom. “Why dirty up your towels when you have no way to clean them?” It was a simple kindness, but I got choked up. Anne got me settled, then left me to join her parents.
I couldn’t get into that shower fast enough. It had been FIVE DAYS since I had a real shower.
I didn’t hog all the hot water. I didn’t even make the water that hot. I just stood under the water, letting it rinse me off. It felt so good. My body began to relax. Tension began to drift away as I got lathered up, then rinsed off. I washed my hair. I finally felt CLEAN. I felt like a person again. I put on clean clothes. I thought about a commercial I’d seen where a laundry detergent company sent mobile laundry trucks to places hit by Hurricanes so people could wash their clothes. I started to realize that although we had it bad, it could have been so much worse. We had a house, though living in it was like camping, we had a structure that was still standing.
©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Dinner anyone?
The night before I said to Sam that I was thinking about all the people who live every day without any electricity. They don’t have TV’s or iPhones. They don’t have running water, but they probably experience the same sort of joy and sorrow we do. I suppose if you took away something that was normal to them, they would suffer, too, but why are we suffering so much? We’re just living like many other people…but we are not prepared, and speaking for myself, I have no skills in living like this. Again, more humbling moments for me.
As I sat down at the table, freshly washed, with Mike, Pat and Anne, Sam got up to take a shower. Everyone remarked at how happy I looked. Anne served me a cup of tea. I wrapped my fingers around the cup and absorbed the soothing warmth into my fingers. I had a sip of tea. I’m a tea snob, but at that moment, I could have been drinking just hot water and I would have been happy. I was really hungry, but I didn’t want to impose. It was getting late and I didn’t want to overstay my welcome. I figured that we could find a diner since this town hadn’t been affected by the storm as badly.
We had a really nice visit and they invited us to come back the next night for a shower if the power was still out. We offered to bring dinner, so it was a date. Now that Sam had showered we said our goodbyes. I felt like I could go another few days without the power being restored now that I was clean.
We found a diner that was still open and had a good meal. I had an omelette. It was really good. I’d barely had anything other than pistachios and fruit cups to eat that day. We got home around midnight. I retired to my freezing cold bed. Sam stayed on the sofa. Another day was done perhaps one day closer to the power being restored.
After careful consideration, from time to time I write a product reviews. If you see it here, it's because, at LEAST I think it's worth you knowing about even if I have an issue with it and, at BEST, I think it's amazing and we should all have one, two or more of whatever it is I'm reviewing. I get NO reimbursement for writing these reviews, though to write a review I am supplied with the item, as I was in this case. This review is MY OPINION, ONLY. The result you experience using this product may differ.
I spent the better (or worse?) part of my life being mortified by my Mother. She seemed to have a camera surgically implanted in her hand at all times. For every moment of my life-my first period, crying over my sandwich not being cut in a DIAGONAL, even one amazing bowel movement-my Mother was always there ready to capture it on film. 140 photo albums and 40+ years later and I have a private (meaning PRIVATE, GOD-FORBID-NOT-TO-SHARE) record of my life.
At the time of each photo, I was told to smile nicely, stand up straight, suck in my gut. I never thought about the polyester two-tone jumpsuit I was wearing, along with my big, clunky glasses. I was always pretty, right? Even with home-done white streaks of highlights in my hair. Who cared if it looked like my hair was a hazard sign in the making?
We all have one or two, or in my case a few thousand of “those” photos where we “can't believe we ever looked like THAT.” Today we look, cool, right?
Mike Bender and Doug Chernack have a keen eye for such vintage fashion flops, helmet hair, what-were-they-thinking compositions in their web site and matching NY Times Best Selling book, “Awkward Family Photos”.
Clearly, once realizing the gold mine they were sitting on, Bender & Chernack began their quest for equally awkward pet photos. There were so many submitted to their web site that these savants of the surreal decided to choose the best, or is that worst? of the bunch and create a separate tome; “Awkward Family Pet Photos”which will hit bookstores on November, 1, 2011.
Do you really care if this softcover book, at 173 pages, is well (or is that appropriately badly?) designed and printed on good quality paper? If you do/did, then this book is for you! If you have more depth and need actual content, then heck, this book is for you, too.
The authors didn't simply grab photos off their web site and reproduce them, though many are featured in the book. They included images not seen on their site, along with behind-the-awkwardness commentary regarding some of the photos from their contributors. They also asked a veterinarian to offer his take on some of the images, which amps up the awkward-factor.
©2011 By Awkward Family, LLC.
As I turned each page, I had a moment, part flashback to my childhood and part WTF! At first glance, many of the photos seem perfectly normal, if your idea of normal is a parallel universe where everything is slightly off-keel. There are families, posed in a group, dressed to the nines, wearing their best fur coat or matching Dutch girl outfits. Some are holding an object, more often than not it's a beloved pet, but wait...is that a TIGER? That is not a tabby...that is a TIGER! A longer glance and the true awkwardness washes over you...no, that toddler isn't simply smiling, facing the camera, oblivious, while a soft-focus pair of horny dogs copulate in the background, right?
©2011 By Awkward Family, LLC.
I have to wonder, if maybe this isn't so much awkward as unvarnished? Is this a crystal clear vision of what life is really like behind closed doors? Did all these people vote in the last election? Do photos like this exist of people and pets in other cultures or is this weirdness exclusive to Americans?
©2011 By Awkward Family, LLC.
I hope that Mr. Bender and Mr. Chernack are able to answer that question in a forthcoming book. I'd like to know if it's just us or is the whole world is as awkward?
If you like to laugh out loud while simultaneously feel creeped out and worried about the future of our country, stock up on this book. It's a riot and worth studying, carefully...because you never know, one of those photos may be of you.
In honor of Awkward Family Pet Photos, I thought I'd share a few of mine with you. I left out the photo of me with the striped hair or crying over my sandwich mishap (when I was 4).
©2004 Robin A.F. Olson. One of the worst photos I ever took. Guess Cricket's butthole is powered by the sun.
©2004 Robin A.F. Olson. My dear Stanley, humping Santa Bear. Good times...good times...
©1970 Robin Feminella. This is out of the vault. Yours truly (center) receiving the key to the City of Miami Beach from the Mayor. I had just arrived at the Delta gate from Minnesota to attend The All-American Glamour Kitty Contest with my cat, Tsu Tsu Gamuchi-just moments after she nearly escaped the tarmack a the Miami Airport. And yes, that's a Playboy bunny (left). The “contest” was held at the Playboy Plaza Hotel in Miami Beach. And yes, the telling of this story should be my next book project.
Oh, and make sure you check out Page 134 if you get a copy of the book...I'm just sayin'...
Have you ever seen something, then couldn't erase the image from your mind? This often happens during a tragic, high-stress event, like seeing your dad naked (by accident, of course!) or when you see a woman on the subway wearing stretchy leggings. She has a REALLY BIG BUTT. She's tired, standing in the subway car, so she leans her back against a metal support pole. Her huge buttcheeks part slightly, as she presses against the pole, which forces the metal support into her butt-crack! (This is why I avoid touching ANYTHING on the subway). I'm sure some scientist could describe why our memories lock down certain events, but all I can say is I just witnessed a kitten being neutered and now I can't unsee what I saw!
The event keeps looping over and over in my head. After all the cats I've had neutered over the years, I finally got to see it done. After the shock of watching it wore off a bit, I realized, WHY DO VETS CHARGE SO MUCH FOR THIS? It took all of a MINUTE to do the surgery! SHAME ON VETS FOR CHARGING MORE THAN $50.00 for this procedure!
Connie and I arrived at the Vet's office nice and early. She brought all five kittens, even though only the three boys were going to be neutered. Neither of us were positive we HAD three boys so better to bring them oll, just in case-plus they all needed a booster FVRCP shot, so now was a good time.
It was really lovely to see the kittens again. It'd been only a few days since they went to Aunt Connie's but I was missing them. They all sat serenely in their cat carrier, wondering what was going on, no doubt. I blurted out; “You're gettin' your balls cut off soon!” and the Vet tech scolded me for letting the “cat out of the bag.” She hissed; “Don't say that out loud! You'll upset them!” The kittens gave me a dirty look. I just shrugged and tried to look innocent.
©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. The gang just before surgery time.
Dr. M came out and said hello. Connie and I looked at each other. I knew what she was thinking. She didn't want to go in the back room. Neither did I. My heart started to race and my hands got cold. This wouldn't be so bad. We didn't have to watch. We just had to help a bit, then wait for the Vet to do his part, then we would help the kittens as they woke up.
We were taken into a long room that was a combination of shelved storage-a stockpile of drugs, syringes and other things. I mostly kept my head down, afraid to look around. The room was worn, the building was fairly old and this back room needed an update. There was a small, elevated table with a towel over it at the end of the room, parallel to the shelves. The Vet indicated that we could put the cat carrier on the table. I thought this was the prep area and that we'd be going into a surgical suite with a stainless steel operating table with bottles of magic knockout gas nearby.
Dr. M took one of the kittens out of the carrier-Ruby, the boy cat with the girl name. The Dr. weighed him, then made some notes. He opened a safe and took out a small vial. He drew some of the contents into the syringe. Then he told Connie to hold Ruby down tightly and to “karate chop” the cat's back leg to keep it down and force the vein to appear. Then we both realized he was going to do the neutering RIGHT NOW, RIGHT HERE ON THE TABLE. Did he wash his hands first? I had just put hand sanitizer on my hands, but what the heck? Connie looked like she was going to panic and I didn't blame her a bit. We both thought we didn't HAVE TO SEE the surgery and here we were about to SEE THE SURGERY! We couldn't RUN AWAY! This was the agreement. We help the Vet, he gives us a big disount.
Connie turned away. Dr. M injected the fluid into Ruby's vein. The kitten quickly went limp, his tongue hung out of his mouth. I petted him and said it was going to be OK. Then before I could turn away, Dr. M made a tiny incision across Ruby's scrotum, then pulled the fur down, exposing his tiny little testicles. At first I was amazed at seeing them, but then, he grabbed one of them and gave it a TUG. It stretched out on a flesh colored tether about FOUR INCHES LONG! He twisted it around. Did he put a knot in it? I felt woozy. Then, just as quickly, he took an object out of a sealed package and sliced the tether at its' base. WOAH! One nut down, one to go.
I held my hand up to help cover Connie's eyes. I didn't realize I was talking until Connie told me later, but apparently I was saying; “WOW! Look at that! Oh my GOD! Connie, it's not that bad, but WOAH! WOW! I will NEVER EAT CLAM CHOWDER AGAIN!”
Dr. M quickly repeated the procedure on the other testicle. In a few seconds he was done. Connie let go of Ruby and I picked him up. I began to gently rock him and pet him. In a few moments he began to wake up. His tongue hung out of his mouth and Connie said he drooled. He felt so limp in my arms. It reminded me of the day Bob died. I didn't want to cry. I just focused on Ruby. He was ok, but WOW...I did not think I could help do this two more times!
©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Sweet Ruby, who may be renamed Inky.
It turns out we didn't have to watch two more times because we have THREE GIRLS and TWO BOYS! The girls got their booster shot and Spot was the only other male. Sadly, Spot was very difficult to knock out. Dr. M had to try a few things-finally we had to bring him into the surgical suite and I had to hold a tiny gas mask over Spot's face until his body went limp in my hands. It was very unnerving. Dr. M. went to work quickly and in a few moments Spot was done, too. I was told it would take a lot longer for him to wake up, so I just held him so he could breathe easily and tried not to freak out over him being so very limp in my arms.
Ruby was still weak, but awake. Then Dr. M said he was interested in ADOPTING a kitten! He had two cats and one died a few months ago. He had plans to adopt another cat, but it didn't work out. He was looking for another black and white cat! BINGO! We had THREE! He asked which one was the most outgoing? Friendly? Sweet? They all were great, but he focused on Ruby, though it was tough to know how friendly he was based on him being wobbly and out-of-it. Then I showed him photos from my blog post about the Flying Zombie Kittens. He LOVED the photos and when he realized Spot was jumping more often than the others, his attention turned to him.
In the end he decided to let both kittens recover in his office, then he'd take them both home and see how they did with his two kids and his other cat! We said we would take back the one he didn't want, then he said he'd probably end up with both since each kid would probably want their own cat.
©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Spot before his surgery.
We didn't ask him to fill out any application. We didn't do a home visit. We didn't even ask how old his kids were! We just numbly nodded our heads, yes. We were both in a trance. I kept seeing tiny testicles getting chopped off and Connie was focusing on remaining cool even though I found out later that blood freaks her out! I was a bit jealous that my guys didn't get adopted, but I was really GLAD these two had a good chance. My goodness-a VET for an adopter? Does it get any better?
As we walked out of the office, Dr. M. said thanks for helping him neuter HIS cats! Geez, maybe he could have decided to adopt them BEFORE we had to see him do the surgery? Now my brain hurts and I'm really glad Sam didn't see that surgery! He better keep in mind that now I know HOW to do a neuter so he better shape up.
As for Connie, she never wants to do this again! I can't say I blame her one bit, but I know I'll be back. The price is too good and Dr. M is two hours closer than the low cost S/N clinic. I hope I don't have to see him do a spay surgery, but I have this feeling it will be the next thing I see that will be featured in my “greatest hits of stuff that freaks me out that I've seen and can't unsee.”
After my father killed himself in 1999 I figured nothing bad would happen for awhile, as if I deserved a “pass” from any more pain. Of course I was wrong. I got divorced four months later and lost my biggest client.
I realize that most things that happen during my life are not about me. My father took his own life. I didn't cause that to happen, but certainly it effected me deeply, and still does. The thing is I can't help but feel a bit, well pissed when one thing after another seems to go down the drain. I asked Sam if we were being foolish to think that things were going to get better “some day.” Maybe we should just realize that life pretty much sucks, is difficult, frustrating, heartbreaking and has moments, just moments of good stuff to keep us from offing ourselves, too.
Last month after Bob died, I thought that maybe we were done with long trips to Vet Oncologists, done with digging the deep financial hole to provide Bob with the care he needed, done with heartbreak over our cats. Bob was an old cat with FIV+, two kinds of cancer and half a liver. Our next youngest cat is eleven, so certainly they would be fine for many years to come. I really wanted to take a deep breath and relax, focus on the working out some behavioral issues with the cats and get the foster cats adopted.
©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Nicky, this morning, getting ready to roll over and show me his belly.
I nagged at Sam to take Nicky to the Vet. I was fed up watching the cat urinate on the floor, right in front of his litter pan, often not caring if we were watching him do it. We knew it might be due to the stress in the house and the cats jockeying for position in the cat hierarchy with Bob being gone, but due diligence dictated that Nicky should be seen by Dr. Larry.
I honestly thought Nicky had a urinary tract infection or might be in the early stages of hypothyroid because he drank a lot of water (and I knew his blood sugar was normal so it wasn't diabetes).
The blood work came back and it indicated that Nicky might be in early stages of renal (kidney) failure. The next morning, Ingrid King of The Conscious Cat just posted an article by Dr. Darren Hawks about Kidney Failure that helped me understand what was possibly going on. It was devastating news, but since we caught it early, Nicky had a chance to live many more good years. Maybe it wasn't so bad after all?
©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. He always gives us "lovey-dovey" looks.
But Dr. Larry wanted to do a sonogram to look at Nicky's kidneys. Sam agreed and the procedure was done yesterday afternoon. I wasn't worried. I thought we had that pass to not get bad news-Nicky is just eleven, right? He gets a raw diet and fresh spring water not our yucky well water. Sure he had some kidney issue, but maybe he just needed some antibiotics?
I was sitting at my computer, working on a project. I'd had a lousy day. An acquaintance of mine died. He was only 52 years old. He had a massive stroke last week and died on Monday morning. I had some very interesting times with him and I liked him even though he seemed to bring out the worst in my childhood friend, MaryEllen, who was dating him in those days. Now she's planning his funeral. I couldn't help but feel the weight of the ticking clock of my own life. How much time did I have left? I'm only two years younger than he was and a lot of people don't even get to be my age. I can't take it for granted I have tomorrow. It gave me pause.
©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Rub Mah Belleh.
Sam stood in the doorway to my office. He didn't look so good, but we've both been in fairly bad moods for lots of reasons lately. He started to talk about Nicky. He must have just gotten off the phone with Dr. Larry. They found a growth on one of Nicky's kidneys-which were both showing signs of degeneration. They found lymph nodes that were enlarged, but it wasn't renal disease, it might be CANCER.
When I heard “lymphoma” my head buzzed and my stomach flipped. I felt like I couldn't breathe for a second. No. No. NOT NICKY. NO!
They can't be certain until they do EXPLORATORY SURGERY. Maybe it's something else? Maybe it's some sort of reaction to something else? I don't know what else it COULD BE other than some sort of cancer!!!
©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Nicky's view of the world is often upside down.
For the handful of you who've met Nicky, you know he's our BIG 20 pound boy who would rather lay in your arms, belly up, like a baby or get tummy rubs than do just about anything else at all. Nicky is a big sweetheart who LOVES everyone. He and his sister...and then I thought about Nora...are inseparable. She wouldn't survive without her big brother. Oh my GOD..what is happening to my cats?! We found this out just because Nicky was drinking too much water and peeing outside the litter pan. That was all we had for symptoms.
©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Skritches from mama.
I really thought we had more time. Now we have to scrounge for money. Nicky must have the surgery, but we are tapped out. We gave all that we had, and more, for Bob, thinking we could recover in time for the next cat health issue, but we were wrong.
©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. We love you, Nicky!
Later that night, after we picked up Nicky from the Vet and brought him home, I half jokingly said to Sam that I was feeling suicidal and asked him if he was, too, and he said, yes. Then he said, gesturing to the cats, but they would suffer if we died and I answered simply, we'll just take them with us when we go.
I guess we didn't get that pass we were hoping for. We'll do our best for Nicky. I don't know what that means. It's one step at a time. We need to confirm that it's lymphoma. We need to sort out what Nicky's options are and how we can provide for him. These are dark days indeed and this is just the beginning of a very sad journey for one of our beloved cats.
Okay. I have 20 cats in my house. That's a lot of cats. It doesn't seem that bad because over half of them are split into two separate rooms. At least I don't have to share my queen sized bed with all of them.
©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Ruby or Max, not sure which one, but this kitty is VERY SWEET, regardless of the name.
A few days ago I got a call from my BFF's at AID. Once in awhile something happens-a cat gets an upper respiratory and all HELL breaks loose. In a shelter, they'll euthanize sick animals to keep the others from getting sick, too. AID doesn't do this-EVER, but what do they do if they have a kitty with a runny nose and it spreads to other foster cats? We all only have so much room for foster cats, after all.
©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Beardy. Beardy? Is that a name? For reals?
I had the same thing happen to me almost two years ago when I rescued the now notorious “Santa's Team.” Of the nine cats that came off transport, ALL OF THEM were VERY SICK. A few almost died. My cats got sick, too. Then some of the fosters broke with ringworm on top of it. It was during Christmas and New Year's. I was having a nervous breakdown between vet runs every other day, the fear I'd lose a kitten and the constant care they all required--and all the extra crap that goes on during the HOLIDAYS!! The Director of the group I was with basically watched me crash and burn, saying if she didn't get a break from fostering cats SHE was going to have a nervous breakdown, too. Of course this is after she spent a few months not fostering any cats. I later learned she was just getting back at me for daring to want to make changes to her rescue group by rescuing cats right through the winter, instead of closing down for a few months. I was happy to put in the work. She just had to pay for vet care. I did everything else, but the one time I really needed help, she turned her back on me.
©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Conference cube meeting in session. DND.
I was very lucky all the cats survived. I couldn't have managed if Sam hadn't helped me. I was angry, I cried and flipped out. It was NOT the way to learn how to care for cats with URIs. I could have handled it better than I did, but I didn't know what I was doing. It's one of those things where you have to go through it and on the other side, you've learned and can handle it better when it happens again. Was the Director doing me a favor letting me struggle so much? No. She hung me out to dry. She said "you're on your own" when I asked if I could rescue those cats, but I took it to mean, I would care for them and get them adopted, but heck, if they were near DEATH, certainly that voided any agreement we had? Guess not.
©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Beardy likes Auntie Ingrid's present!
So when another rescue group was in a similar jam, I didn't turn my back on them. Doing cat rescue is not about playing games or being passive aggressive to make a point. It's about the CATS. That's why I started Kitten Associates, so we could truly be about the cats and that's it.
©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Spot. Where is the spot this cat is named after?
On Saturday afternoon, Connie arrived with a giant cat carrier with little bitty kittens in it. They're already 8 weeks old but they seem tiny compared to Amberly's kittens. They're sweet little love muffins. I didn't expect it to be such a pleasure to have 5 more cats in the house. They're in the DOOD's old bathroom and get to use his nifty cat tree. (thanks to our friend, Amy for donating it!) The energy level in that room is amazing. I sat with them, taking photos, while they played around my feet. EVERYTHING in the room had the potential to be a toy. What a great mantra that would be for how we live our life-to look at everything and see the joy in it.
©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Ruby, BB and Max.
I'm not sure of the names of these babies. From some reference photos I was sent I think they are BB, Beardy, Spot, Ruby and Max.
©2011 Robin A.F. Olson.
There's not much more to say about them, other than it's nice to have them here and I hope they'll all find their forever homes soon. Until then I've reached my intake limit on cats!
©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Wave to your new friends!
©2011 Robin A.F. Olson.
Enjoy the photos!
©2011 Robin A.F. Olson.
©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Watching the washing!
©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Oh Spot, you're sooo cute!
I can't believe it's been over a month since Bob passed away. It was a tough time-between losing him, then losing three neonatal kittens who were rescued in honor of Bob-it just felt like too much. I got a very bad chest cold and have been sick for four weeks. It's finally passing, but something else is going on in my home that's added to the feeling of chaos.
The heirarchy between the cats has shifted. Clearly there are power struggles going on. Cats who have regularly been a "problem" are fighting with newcomers. The result are urine puddles and poop piles that aren't in the litter pan.
I get it. I really do. Not only is Bob gone, but we're test driving Doodlebug to see if he can live harmoniously with the other cats. Mazie, who I rescued just about a YEAR ago, STILL LIVES HERE. She's become more bold and brazen. She's staking out some territory, too.
It's easy to shake a finger and tell me to not have the cats, but I see Mazie as transient and overall she's a very good cat. The problems I see are with Blitzen, Nicky and Petunia. The others manage okay and they don't spray or mark the house.
The biggest culprit is Nicky. He will literally pee on the floor right in front of me. When this 19+ pound cat lets go, a lake forms below him. He also poops by the doorways, usually one of the first things I see in the morning.
In sorting out what to do, I have to remember that Nicky could be sick. Nicky could be upset that Petunia is asserting herself more than ever now that Bob, her arch enemy is gone. To rule out illness, Nicky went to visit Dr. Larry today.
©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Nicky, “Mr. Lovey-Dovey” at the Vet with Sam giving him a belly rub.
Nicky has lost over a pound in the past year, which is good, unless it's a trend downward from illness. He has one tooth that might be painful so he'll need a dental. Dr Larry did some blood work and a urinalysis-the results come in tomorrow. We discussed Nicky's water intake, which has noticeably increased over the past few months. This could mean diabetes (which I doubt since I did tested him a few weeks ago and he was normal), hyperthyroid (common in older cats and Nicky is 11) or renal failure (which we hope that's not what it is). ANY of these things, including his painful tooth, could be causing him to eliminate outside the box.
Then Dr. Larry asked me how many litter pans we had. I answered that we have three that are enormous. He seemed surprised, then said that we need a lot more. I questioned him about it because with the cats on a raw diet they don't fill up the pans and we keep scooping them at least once if not more times a day. He told me about a client who has TWO cats. She has one of those perfectly clean homes. She worked long hours and came home and found pee all over the place. To solve the problem, she ended up buying a kiddie pool (!!!), then placing SIX cat litter pans INSIDE the pool with fresh litter.
The inappropriate peeing stopped.
Each of the litter pans was used over the course of the day. There might be something to this after all. Our problem is that our house is a contemporary and all the rooms are open to each other. We don't have a lot of room for litter pans, but we will MAKE SOME ROOM, that's for sure. Tonight we're going out to buy some new pans. We'll see if that makes a dent in it.
The peeing problem is quite bad. It seems every day I find another place they were peeing on. We're trying all sorts of tricks and behavior modification and we've seen a reduction to not happening at all for the pooping, but the peeing..ugh...what IS IT WITH CATS? I am honestly trying to understand what they need and to give each one love and attention. I'm failing. I have to fix this.
Then there's Gracie.
Gracie is a sweet cat. She hardly has a mean bone in her body. Gracie was one of my first foster cats about 8 years ago. She was an "unwed" Mother to three kittens. Gracie's had Miliary Dermatitis for three years. I've done every test, treatment, seen every specialist I can and so far all I know is she seems sensitive to fish and homeopathy helped her stop being so painfully shy. I also think this may be the path to helping Gracie's skin now that we have her in a more calm frame of mind. You can read more about Gracie by doing a search on GRACIE in the sidebar. A few posts about her are HERE and HERE.
©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Gracie hiding under the towel. Maybe Dr. Larry won't see her?
A few nights ago I was petting Gracie. She's so jumpy I don't often get to pet more than her head, but this time she let me pet her belly. Right away my fingers detected something not right-a mass on her abdomen. It felt like an M&M.
Sam and I took her into the bathroom and tried to clip the fur away from her belly but we couldn't see much. This morning Dr. Larry got out the clippers and shaved her belly.
©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. The cyst is the blue thing. The scabs are scabs from her dermatitis (looks worse than it really is).
Before he shaved Gracie he felt the cyst. He had a grave look on his face that told me everything. I started to think..."Oh no..not cancer again..we just went through this with Bob...I have no resources if she's that sick." Dr. Larry explained why it didn't feel like just a simple cyst; that he couldn't get under it and the texture didn't feel right.
After he shaved Gracie he didn't look so grim. What appeared to me like a freakish blueberry, Dr. Larry thought might be, I will paraphrase, a pore, perhaps there's ingrown fur in the growth and basically it's like a big zit? I'm to put warm compresses on the thing for the next few days and see if I can encourage it to drain (pop). Weee! Fun! Almost as good as when Dr. Larry offered to let me express Bob's anal glands.
It could still be cancer. We're not out of the woods. If I can't get it to drain, then he will excise it. Gracie needs a dental, too, so he'll do both. We discussed that 3 years ago when she had her last dental, that she got this rash afterwards. He's going to sedate her differently so perhaps she will be less stressed. I know he'll go as easy on her as possible. It just seems as though her skin breaks out when she is highly stressed. I should have named her, Nervous Nelly.
As we struggle to cope with missing Bob and struggle to sort out what's going on with the remaining cats, I know that in time we'll have some answers. I just hope I'm okay with what I find out.
Last week sucked the life out of me. It was a cumulative effect of the stress of caring for Bob during the last weeks of his life, then watching Bob lose his battle with cancers, then the three little orange kittens dying and so many other things. Pretty much everything that's not an emergency has been kicked to the wayside. I'm just wiped out and sick with a nasty chest cold. After 10 days I think I'm finally starting to feel somewhat better, but now I have a mountain of things to catch up on. I'm still trying to write “thank you” notes to donors from months ago and catch up on posts for cats in need and somehow try to figure out how I'm going to pay the mortgage next month.
©2011 Maria S. Mikey!
Yesterday I sat in bed and felt guilty, but I really needed to zone out. Things have been very difficult in the house since before Bob died. Everyone needs a break and there's just no way to get one.
Right after Bob died, many of the cats started peeing all over the house. It's been a nightmare. We know that Nicky, one of the big boys, is peeing and pooping inappropriately. He's peed into a cat food bowl that was sitting on the floor. Great aim, but shocking, since he did it right in front of me. Of course, he needs to go to the Vet. We have to rule out illness, but we also just dropped $800. on Nora's (Nicky's sister) emergency dental. Nicky is due for a wellness exam, blood work and urinalysis. Maybe he's not feeling well, but odds are this is the result of the “pecking order” in the house changing.
I upped the number of SSScats and Feliway diffusers. I ordered Spirit Essences from Jackson Galaxy. Sam and I are working with the cats to keep them calm, but Sam and I have not been getting along at all. We don't fight, but we don't talk, either. I know it stresses the cats out. If for no other reason, we had to fix that, too.
©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Free at last, the DOOD relaxes on a cat tree in the living room.
Then there is the DOOD. Finally freed from two-month quarantine and not sick with Feline Leukemia, his debut into the rest of the house was probably going to spark more flare ups between the other cats and cause even more peeing. I knew it would probably be temporary, but that didn't make the fact that Nicky peed onto my family's heirloom oriental rug any easier to take.
Life is about managing change. Things are always in flux, but how do you deal with it when it all feels like too much?
Shutting down doesn't help and I can't just sit in bed with the cats and watch reruns of The Big Bang Theory for the rest of my life. I have to pick myself up and get to work and plow through some things. It's been a rough time, but I have to have faith that it will get better.
Sunday afternoon, Sam asked me if I wanted to clean the rug (again) or put clean sheets on the bed next? He was placating me. I don't think he wanted to do either, but he feared my wrath since the house is getting really messy and I was very angry about Nicky spoiling the rug. I don't know why I chose that moment, but I asked Sam to sit down so we could “talk.” I was done with being silently furious-it was time to just let it out and be done with it.
We had a long talk. We both let each other know we were fed up with the relationship, or lack thereof. It wasn't overly emotional. There wasn't any yelling. I think we were both to a point of either; “let's just get this over with” or DO something to fix it. I felt dead inside. I figured Sam probably felt about the same way. No reason to be afraid of being hurt. We've been in each other's life for 18 years. It's not always going to be smooth sailing and maybe we had grown apart so far there was no turning back?
I had no feeling about any outcome. However it worked out was fine, as long as something is worked out. I couldn't live like two strangers in the same house any longer. I really thought this was the end.
But...it wasn't. The turning point was when I told Sam I really wanted him to be my friend and he said he wanted the same from me. I had to tell him things that have really hurt me and about things I really need from him and he shared his feelings about what he needed, as well. We didn't try to be something we're not, but we did agree to just try to be friends. Our lives are intertwined in so many ways. We have to keep trying.
I'm glad Sam and I talked. Things are better and the cats seem more relaxed, as well. I realized you can't just plow forward and hope things will work out. They don't. You have to do the work or you can just suffer in silence.
As for the cats, there have been a few surprising updates. More on that in my next post, but first I gotta get some work done.
The last few minutes of the trip to Grand Central Terminal was spent traveling under the city streets. I often looked out into the darkness, catching a glimpse of other trains sparking against the rails or barely illuminated shapes that my imagination always conjured into strange creatures. What was out there? Were people living among the drips and constant rumble of the trains? I saw graffiti. Someone must be down there. The thought gave me the shivers.
©2001 Robin A.F. Olson. View from the Balcony at work, looking south down 5th Avenue.
As I did every day I commuted, I got up early and stood near the doorway. I wanted to be one of the first people off the train. Others joined suit. None of us wanted to be stuck behind someone fumbling with a briefcase or getting a coat off the overhead rack. We ALL had somewhere to go, NOW! The second the doors opened, people raced out the door, eager to get where they were going and get ahead of the guy next to them. I had my sneakers on. Yes, I was one of those woman who wore sneakers to the office, then changed into “work shoes” once I arrived. I could make better time, though being short, most everyone raced ahead of me, regardless of my footware.
©2001 Robin A.F. Olson. Another view from the office taken two days after Sept. 11th. You can see part of the Empire State Bldg. If you look carefully, you'll see some smoke near the bottom of the image. That's the debris cloud from the World Trade Towers collapse.
I never liked crowds and this always made me feel slightly panicked until we got out into the very grand concourse of Grand Central, with its soaring ceiling featuring a representation of the constellations, tiny bright lights emulating stars. In the center of the concourse was the big brass ball clock that sits atop the Information Booth. It's where I first met Sam in 1993. Many People were standing in the area around the clock, as it was a familiar meeting point. Other people were racing past the folks who were waiting. There were many near collisions as people tried to navigate around the crowd. One day, I stopped walking and stood still, shut my eyes and just listened. It was rather unnerving, to say the least. I think I heard the sound of the world passing right by me.
I made it to work in good time and, as I did each morning, I dropped my heavy backpack onto my desk, changed out of my sneakers, then grabbed a few dollars and went back downstairs to the deli to get my egg sandwich on an everything bagel.
©2001 Robin A.F. Olson. 5th Avenue and the gateway to the dust cloud from the Towers collapse.
This was the part of the day where I could finally relax and not feel like I was having an anxiety attack. I saw some of my co-workers and said my “hello's” and “how are you doings?” Then Tony saw me. He was the cook. Tony was from Puerto Rico and was missing a few teeth. He always smiled and was cheerful, his plump cheeks glistening from standing near the stove. He asked me if I wanted “the usual” and I answered, yes. I always felt a bit special when he asked me that. We had a quick chat, then it was on to filling the next order. Tony was like a machine. He had everything sorted out and was cranking out breakfast orders in a flash. The day was getting off to a good start.
©2001 Robin A.F. Olson. Just some of the many missing posters that papered the City for weeks after 9|11.
I went upstairs into the office. The firm I freelanced for was located in the former Tiffany Building on 37th Street at 5th Avenue. Our space, that held about 60 people, was in an open space with two-story tall ceilings. Some fancy pants architect designed it, but I hated what they did. It was VERY noisy. The floors were elevated a few inches so they could run the lines for the computers since there were no walls-other than the outer walls of the building. The floor was concrete tiles. You could NOT wear heels or they made a terrible racket. They kicked up dust and never looked clean. We sat in small partitioned spaces, some were crammed two to a desk because the company was growing and we had long since ran out of space. There were huge iconic pillars every 30 feet or so, but the ceiling, for some stupid reason, was left "as it was" originaly-so it had big holes in it and once in awhile a chunk of ceiling would crash on someone's desk. The only saving grace to the entire space was that we had two -story tall windows that wrapped two sides of the office. One of them overlooked 5th Avenue. We had a tiny balcony, too. We could watch the Columbus Day parade from there or check out the pedestrians over our lunch break.
©2001 Robin A.F. Olson. This always makes me sad. I just looked up the two names I can read on the posters. Giovanna and Mario's names are on the list that says they both died. Giovanna worked at Cantor Fitzgerald.
I sat down to eat and got my computer started so I could check email and see the status on some projects I was working on. A few of the guys went over to the balcony, then I started to hear a commotion. Nothing was private in that office and I wondered what was going on. I went over to the balcony and someone told me that a plane hit one of the World Trade Towers. I thought they meant a little tiny plane. I looked down 5th Avenue and sure enough, there was dark gray smoke coming out of the building. It looked like maybe a movie was being filmed, but two of the guys had scanners and were picking up the feed from them. Then someone else said that no, a BIG JET hit the World Trade tower!
So now I'm torn. Okay, this is bad but we have to do our work, so I sat back down at my desk. I started to hear sirens, lots of them. Then someone said ANOTHER jet just hit the other World Trade Tower! The first thing I said was; “we are at War.” The second thing I said to myself was that I needed to get out of the city RIGHT NOW.
©2001 Robin A.F. Olson. One of the memorials at Union Square.
I called my boyfriend and told him what was going on, my voice getting higher out of fear, the adrenaline kicking back into my system. He didn't seem particularly worried, as if I was being overly dramatic. I was really shocked, but he didn't get it. I said goodbye and looked around at my colleagues who were all buzzing about what was going on. I tried to call my Mother, but I couldn't get a call through on my cellphone or the landline. I walked a few feet over to the office cubby next to mine. That's where Sam was working. He was my boss. Somehow even though we broke up months before, we managed to be friendly, though our private life was something we didn't talk about. He sort of knew I was seeing someone and I was pretty sure he had a girlfriend somewhere out of state. He was the only person I really trusted in the office. As a lifelong resident of New York, Sam knew his way around.
Being on a main thoroughfare, we had firetruck after firetruck pass our windows, sirens blaring. I've never heard such a cacaphony before or since. Over the noise, the Owner of the company started to call out to us, to gather us together. We had no meeting area, so we flanked the central aisle. After everyone settled down, they told us what we already knew and said they decided to shut down the office and let us all go home. That if we lived out of the city, that we should partner up with someone who lived locally in case we ran into trouble getting out of town. I looked at Sam and I could tell that we were going to leave together. Safety in numbers, right?
©2001 Robin A.F. Olson.
I packed up my things, my head buzzing, trying to figure out what to do. Sam lived along the same rail line as I did, so we decided to make a beeline for Grand Central and catch the next train out. I looked at my worn red and white schedule and saw there was a train leaving in about 15 minutes. If we walked really fast we might just make it.
©2001 Robin A.F. Olson. I bent over to sign this banner, then noticed the inscription from Maryann, who was a survivor from the 48th floor. This really touched me.
Outside the office, things weren't too different, maybe a bit more chaotic. I didn't pay attention. I just wanted to go home. We got to GCT in record time. I didn't care if I was out of breath. I was on the train, we could go home now! I kept willing the doors to shut. I wanted to hear the familiar doorbell sound that indicated the doors were closed and we were going to leave. The doors shut. I heard the sound! We were going to get out!
But the train didn't move.
Then the doors opened. The conductor made an announcement. Grand Central Terminal was going to CLOSE. There would be no further train service—to get off the train immediately because they were evacuating due to a bomb threat!
Oh no! Now what do we do?
©2001 Robin A.F. Olson. Union Square-NYC.
Sam told me we should head north. His Mother lived on 102nd. If we walked to hear apartment, we could stay with her until there was train service again. We were on 42nd street. I dreaded the walk, but what else could we do?
We got out of GCT and that's when things changed. There was no real traffic. You could walk down the middle of the street in some places. There were people on the sidewalk openly crying. We passed about 10 people. They had formed a circle and were praying loudly, while others wept. People were on their knees, staring south, towards the Towers, crying. I tried not to panic. Then I told Sam I wanted to go south, to the Towers, to help. I knew people would need help and I didn't want to run off. He said, NO. It was too dangerous. That we could help later, not now. We needed to be away from the Towers for our own safety. We didn't know if there were more planes coming and being near the Empire State Building and GCT made us targets, too.
©2001 Robin A.F. Olson.
So I told Sam we needed to get as much cash as possible. We found an ATM and loaded up. There was an electronics store nearby so I bought a portable radio and extra batteries so we had some way of getting news. Our cellphones weren't working so this was all we had. I kept thinking about my Mother. I knew she would be worrying about me and I had no way to tell her I was all right. I turned off my phone figuring I better save the battery.
We walked up to Central Park, stopping at The Plaza Hotel. I thought we should just get a room. Who knew how long we would be trapped in the city? Maybe we should just get a place to hunker down? We could get room service and watch TV. Of course, me, I wanted to feel safe and like I had a place to stay for the night. I also just wanted to be off the street. They wouldn't let us in the door. They were under lockdown. There was no way we could get them to let us pay for a room. Everything was closing down.
A street vendor was selling water so we loaded up on a few bottles. My backpack was already heavy, but I had to do something. We walked into the park and sat down on some boulders. I put the radio on loud, so other stranded people could sit with us and listen to the news. The sirens continued to blare. I sat on the boulder in stunned silence. Then, the news that one of the World Trade Towers collapsed. First I thought, well at least there is another one, but mostly I just thought of all the people that probably just died. Like so many people in NYC that day, I cried, too. We could see dark yellow smoke downtown where the Tower once stood. The city was getting hazy. A fighter jet flew over us. We HAD to get out of town somehow before they started blowing more things up.
©2001 Robin A.F. Olson. Eric Lehrfeld died, too.
We decided to try to find a rental car agency. We walked and walked, finally finding one, but they wouldn't rent us a car. Then they told us the bridges were closed anyway, so our only option was to stay put or walk home and for me that was 90 miles away.
We kept walking north and the second Tower fell. I couldn't believe it. I was afraid to think of what was going to happen next. I just wanted to go HOME, but I had no idea IF I was ever going to go home again!
We reached 83rd street and found a cafe that was open. The Hostess said it was going to be a long wait because some of the staff worked downtown and were having a hard time getting to work. We didn't care. I was glad to sit down, even if it did end up taking 2 hours to get a meal.
©2001 Robin A.F. Olson.
We got to our table and looked at the menus. It was a completely normal thing to do, but in this context it became surreal. I excused myself to go the restroom and I saw a bank of pay phones. I think I had to call my Mother collect, but the call went through. She knew what had happened and had been furiously trying to reach me. I explained about the phones being out and what had happened. I started to cry. I said I just want to go home. She said she would come get me, but I told her no- to stay put. I told her I would call her again as soon as I knew what we were going to do and not to worry. I wanted to tell her I loved her, but we never did that and I feared she wouldn't be able to say it back to me. At least we talked.
We ordered sandwiches. Sam called his Mother. He told her we'd come to her apartment after we had eaten. It was all set.
I kept listening to the radio, hoping for news that the trains would be running again soon. Just as we were about to leave, they made the announcement that the trains were going to run, but with limited service! It was almost 5pm.
We found a cab and took it north to the 125th Street Station. We climbed two flights of stairs to get to the platform. Just as we reached the top, a train pulled up. I didn't care WHERE it was going. It was leaving the city and I was getting on it-even if it went up the Hudson line to Brewster, NY when I knew my car would be 100 miles in a different direction. I didn't care. Plus, who knew if they were going to shut the trains down AGAIN soon?
We got on the train; just about the last two empty seats. Sam fell asleep almost immediately after we sat down. I was too wired and just kept looking around at the passengers and out the window. The sky was hazier than before. There was a lot of smoke covering the city.
©2001 Robin A.F. Olson. I have NO IDEA why someone had a CAT sitting by the memorial, but the owner was nearby.
A woman got on the train. Her expression was grim; like she just found out she had cancer. She was wearing a business suit. Then, I realized what was odd about her. Her shoes were covered in white ash. Some of it was sprinkled on her clothes. She must have been downtown. I felt so sorry for her. I wanted to give her a hug, but you just don't do that in New York City.
©2001 Robin A.F. Olson.
The train pulled out of the station. It was going to stop at EVERY stop until New Haven. It meant a very long train ride, but I didn't care. We were getting out of New York and I could go HOME. HOME. HOME.
September 11th changed so many people's lives, including mine. After I got my car, I drove back towards the City, to Sam's apartment in Mamaroneck, NY. I was afraid for him, living so close to the city, so I offered that he could come stay with me for a few days and that he should bring his cats, Nick and Nora, too. I only had two cats, so it was no big deal. As we drove back to his place, I saw a highway sign that was flashing a message: NEW YORK CITY IS CLOSED. That's all it said. I will never forget seeing that for the rest of my life. Before September 11th, I had moved on from Sam. We were just friends. After September 11th, things changed. I was so disappointed in my boyfriend's reaction, even after I got home safely, that it made me take a closer look at that relationship. Over time, I came to the realization that I needed to end things and that maybe I needed to give Sam another chance. It took a very long time for us to break off with our partners and to being again. A lot of trust had been lost over the years, but Sept. 11th helped us see each other in a different light. It gave us the fuel to try again. A few years later, Sam moved in and Nick and Nora became my kitties, too. I also realized I couldn't work in NYC any more. I stuck it out for a few more months, but after that there was a work slowdown and they didn't call me and I didn't call them. It meant I would have to do without, but some how I would find a way to keep my home. Things are just as tough now, as they were then, but at least I have Sam in my life and I know that if tragedy should strike again, he's a person I can rely on.
September 11th changed so many people's lives, including mine. After I got my car, I drove back towards the City, to Sam's apartment in Mamaroneck, NY. I was afraid for him, living so close to the city, so I offered that he could come stay with me for a few days and that he should bring his cats, Nick and Nora, too. I only had two cats, so it was no big deal.
As we drove back to his place, I saw a highway sign that was flashing a message: NEW YORK CITY IS CLOSED. That's all it said. I will never forget seeing that for the rest of my life.
Before September 11th, I had moved on from Sam. We were just friends. After September 11th, things changed. I was so disappointed in my boyfriend's reaction, even after I got home safely, that it made me take a closer look at that relationship. Over time, I came to the realization that I needed to end things and that maybe I needed to give Sam another chance.
It took a very long time for us to break off with our partners and to being again. A lot of trust had been lost over the years, but Sept. 11th helped us see each other in a different light. It gave us the fuel to try again. A few years later, Sam moved in and Nick and Nora became my kitties, too.
I also realized I couldn't work in NYC any more. I stuck it out for a few more months, but after that there was a work slowdown and they didn't call me and I didn't call them. It meant I would have to do without, but some how I would find a way to keep my home. Things are just as tough now, as they were then, but at least I have Sam in my life and I know that if tragedy should strike again, he's a person I can rely on.
The alarm went off. It was 5AM. My stomach did a flipflop, a jolt of adrenaline made me feel sick. I knew it was from anxiety. I didn't want to get up. I wanted to sleep. I was exhausted and it was only Tuesday, three more days until I was off on Friday and then I'd have to do it all over again on Monday.
But I had to get to work. I was living alone, was divorced and had a huge nut to crack every month-utilities, mortgage, credit card bills. I loved my house and my life in the woods, but my home was meant for a family, not a single woman. I had to do whatever it took to make a living, even if I was getting sick from the stress.
©2001 Robin A.F. Olson. Squeegee.
I ran to the bathroom and got sick, as I did pretty much every day I had to work. I tried to calm down, but I knew my little hamster-on-the-wheel schedule. Go to the bathroom, get dressed, put on makeup. I showered the night before so I wouldn't have to do it in the morning. I put down some dry food and fresh water for my cats, Stanley and Squeegee. I went to the bathroom two more times, then I frantically checked my backpack to make sure I had everything I needed: cell phone, check, charger, check, money, powerbook, adapter, job files, keys...yep...Train pass! Yes. I had it in a holder that I wore around my neck. It shared a space with the electronic key card that would get me into the building where I worked. Then I had an odd thought “bring your camera.” I didn't know why I thought that and with my anxiety building, I had to get going or I'd miss the Express train, I dis missed the thought and left my camera at home.
©2001 Robin A.F. Olson. Lovely Stanley.
It was a gorgeous day; cool, crisp with a vivid blue sky. The sun was coming up as I got into my car. If I wanted to get parked and into the station, I'd have to get moving. My stomach protested but I didn't have anything left in me. I purposely didn't eat until I got to work. I didn't want to vomit on the train-again.
©2003 Robin A.F. Olson. My "lello car"...I had it for 14 years and sold it with 189,000 miles on it.
I hopped into my yellow Mustang GT. How I loved that car. It was a few moments of freedom as I sped my way through the rural towns on the way to Bridgeport, CT.
As the winding, tree lined roads gave way to highways, my gut tensed up even more. I REALLY did not want to GO. My heart was racing. I just had to press on. They were expecting me.
©2001 Robin A.F. Olson. Bridgeport station-another early morning arrival.
I got parked, then walked a few blocks to the station. It's raised above the ground, a few stories high, so it can meet the level of the tracks. It's an ugly, flat gray concrete building. Sounds echo. Even with only a few people there it's noisy. The announcer hasn't made any track changes yet, so I know to wait on track 3, but first...gotta go to the bathroom one more time; going on the train is about as unpleasant a task as I can imagine.
I drag myself over to wait on the platform after I wash up. My heart is thudding. I'm a few minutes early. I can make the Express-which is good because it's at least 20 minutes faster than the Local. The problem-is it tends to be quite full by the time it reaches Bridgeport. I have a plan of where to stand on the platform to get a good seat towards the back of the train, once it arrives. I have a plan for which seat to choose-not near the bathroom, it usually smells terrible, not in the middle of a 3-seat row, not near anyone, if possible, on the end of the row, so I can get up if I need to.
©2001 Robin A.F. Olson. Ugh. The train arrives. Last chance to turn around and go back home.
Once the train arrives and I get a seat, I start to relax a little bit. I want to cry, but I made it. I won't be late getting to work. I stow my bag. I don't want to be like the others, fussing with their laptops or reading the Wall St. Journal. Most of the people on the train are men, many in suits. Most of them irritate me because they can't sit still, look out the window, sit quietly. A few have to talk on their cell phones. Who do you need to talk to at barely 7AM? They're self important, self centered jerks. I wish they would shut up. Me, I'm going to try to rest. I know I won't sleep, even though my stop is the last one. There's one more stop before the train goes Express and that one will fill up the train to beyond capacity. I've had to stand all the way a few times. It sucks. The train service should be so much better. They raise the fares all the time, but the cars are gross, the seats tacky and there just isn't enough room. I put my hand on my badge holder, ready to flash my monthly pass at the Conductor when he walks past. I loath the “click, click, click” sound of his hole punch. It reminds me of where I'm going and that I'm stuck on this train for the next hour and twenty minutes-IF we're on time. The pass cost me more than $400 a month, I find it ironic that I have to work where I don't want to be, to pay for a train pass that takes me where I don't want to go.
I shut my eyes as I try to prop myself into a position where I can rest. I think about my boyfriend, Rich. I can only see him every other weekend or so. He lives in Boston. My heart starts to slow down to a normal pace. My stomach is empty and complaining, but at least I didn't get sick. The train is loud as it clacks along the tracks. At times it sways violently. I try not to notice, but it feels like we're going too fast and about to lose control. I feel that way about my life.
I have 90 more minutes to rest and try to prepare myself for the day. I work at a Marketing/Promotions firm as a freelance Art Director. It's a few blocks walk from the Terminal. I have some cereal packaging layouts to work on today. Hopefully, I won't have to work late. My commute is 2 hours and 40 minutes, each way.
©2001 Robin A.F. Olson. View out the window.
At least it's not raining, a really nice day. As I close my eyes, I think about my Brother, his birthday is in a few days, September 13th. I think about how most people think that number is unlucky, but my family always felt that the 13th was a lucky number because my brother and father were both born on the 13th of the month. I can't remember what we're doing to celebrate Dan's birthday, I'll have to call my Mother later and ask her.
©2005 Robin A.F. Olson. Empire State Building-2 blocks from where I worked.
It's only September 11, 2001. I have time. Once I arrive at Grand Central Terminal, I can get my brother a Birthday card. There are nice greeting card shops in New York City. It's a lovely day. I really shouldn't be so miserable.