Nine Lives

One week ago, my lifelong friend and pet left us to cross over the rainbow bridge. I remember being 6 and having just lost a small kitten to an illness at the pound. We went to go visit my parents friends and meet a new litter that when I was ready, we could take one home. The black and white one was taken. A little lofty orange kitten, who did not want to be held, soon became my Happy. Happy was not named because of his incredibly pleasant attitude, but because I had been denied naming my cousin such and we had a strict alphabetical policy to follow. His namesake was the dwarf from Snow White.

He had a very full life, beginning with a crazy family, a love for hunting, and jumping out a second story window within the first year. He has moved across the country 3 times, hunted everything that moved or might have potentially, faced off with an evil doppelganger, and survived a house fire. His life was long and full. I know mine was with him. I always had a friend, pillow, or surprising story to tell the next day.

Now he is no longer with us life is quieter. I wake up without a furry friend that had crawled into my arms as I slept each morning. I can now sleep near the edge of the bed. As a result, I really haven’t slept at all. I don’t have an automatic lap warmer whenever, I sit down. I don’t hear my partner asking if they can pass out the 5 cat treat of the hour. Our apartment is free of litter boxes, scratching boards, and toys scattered around. I don’t have to be vigilant in putting any beverage down and walking away is going to be shattered to the ground. Anyone will be able to approach me while sick cause no one will be screaming them away. We won’t be keeping tabs on a phantom mouse. Happy was so much of my life and heart for so long it is going to take along time before I can’t reach any kind of feeling that this could now be my new normal, nine lives less.

Suspended Grief

So I have been in sort of an overwhelming place. Work is a lot, but mostly the tiny old cat is a lot. He has health problems for a while, but we hit a new low in the past few weeks. Last weekend, I slept about 8 hours from Friday to Monday, simply because I didn’t want him to have to die alone. Eventually, we got into see our regular vet for what is called a quality of life check to figure out what are the best next steps that are in the cat’s best interest.

Though we get some more time together, we got some bad news. Happy (the cat) is in borderline congestive heart failure. We might have up a year left, but his heart might stop tomorrow. Having our vet finally take things seriously was a relief, but I was not thrilled at where we ended. Our current status is unclear and waiting. The only goal of Team Happy is to keep him as strong and as comfortable as possible. He is getting medication to reduce pain, reduce vomiting, increase appetite, and ease digestion on the back end. The medications aren’t too expensive and he genuinely seems to still have a lot of spirit and energy, when he is strong enough to use it.

We are essentially waiting for him to die, officially. We know he has less than a year left, that has been confirmed. We are just waiting for the shoe to drop. Standing on the edge waiting to go over. It is really hard process knowing the end is coming while having to make the judgement call on when the end comes.

The vet is making me feel crazy

So I have a an old cat and an anxious brain. However, because I have had my cat for so long (6 years old to now 25), I feel that I know what behaviors are normal and abnormal. I still call our primary vet every time something major happens to see if I should take him to the emergency room or not. This has started happening more and more though sometimes they tell me no it’s fine. When we get to the vet emergency room, you also have to justify your visit explain to the triage techs why you are there. Then Happy and I are admitted.

Due to the pandemic, I have to spend the visit out in the car in the parking lot and they will call if they have questions or to give updates. The ER vet then calls to tell me everything is fine. After preparing for the end of my cat’s life, checking with the tech’s and are home vet. They tell me “everything is fine/he’s super healthy/you have some options, but there isn’t a lot to take action on/etc.” It is making me feel nuts, it doesn’t seem possible in the maybe 20 minutes it took to drive there that everything is fixed. It makes me feel like I am overreacting when they don’t offer to let the cat stay for observation, run extra tests, or like even say I am sure it was scary but everything is fine now.

How do I make the vet that we don’t see regularly take my concerns more seriously or should I just be taking as face-value like there is nothing wrong?

2021 is over? Here comes 2022!

I personally have no grasp of time regularly, but I can’t seem to comprehend that 12 months have past. So much has happened, but also nothing has happened and no one has aged and time is an illusion. This year was a rough one. My health took a huge physical toll, and my mental health soon followed after contracting COVID-19 in the spring. Work was overwhelming. I was granted a promotion for the job I was already doing, but it required doing it in addition to my current job after a work force reduction (aka 1/3 of our company got fired). Most of this year was 60 hours work weeks, that I wasn’t really being compensated for, which cycled back around to the mental health.

That is not to say I am not grateful for still being here at the end of 2021. I am grateful that my job is still here. That I got to celebrate 5 years with my partner. My cat celebrated his 19th birthday. We turned 25. I got to visit for my hometown for the first time in 2 years. I saw my extended family for the first time in almost 5 when we got together to celebrate my grandfather’s life. I read and watched a lot of new and old stories. I got to take my baby sister on college tours. My hope is that now that we have started to recover our emergency fund, are vaccinated, and are feeling settled life will start to improve and we can do things to actually improve our lives instead of try to function with in them.

Goals moving forward to next year:

  1. Read 156 new books this year (roughly 3 a week)
    1. At least 1 non-fiction a month
  2. Watch 52 new movies (I am including long-form documentaries, but not mini-series).
  3. Get past an intake interview with a therapist.
  4. Start volunteering, where ever we decide to live when our lease is up. Our plan is to start settling down once this lease is up, and while I work for a volunteer organization it just doesn’t feel the same doing it for a living.
  5. Leave the house once a month for a date night, day, hike, etc.
    1. Certain promises were also made about weekly game nights.
  6. Start investing,
  7. Cook more. Try a new recipe from one of our cookbooks at least once a month. I love cooking and baking, but having the time and clean kitchen to do so has been hard this year.

How we leave our cat for holiday

We have a very old cat, but we are people who like exploring and like visiting family, especially over the holidays or long weekends. As the holiday season is approaching we planning to be gone for a little less than a week 2 months in a row. I thought I would share how we prepare our home and our cat for us to be gone.

  • Water: We use a water bubbler pretty regularly, but we fill it up when we leave on vacation. It can hold and cycle about three days worth of water. We then fill up his regular water bowl and depending on if we are going to be gone more than 3 days an additional container of water and a Tupperware of ice. In summer they are both ice.
  • Heat:: So we are really lucky in that heat is included in our admittedly high rent because we can leave the heat on to a more reasonable level versus a minimum level. We typically leave it around 71 when we leave in the winter. In the summer, we leave it at 80 but leave on fans and make a cool spot under are bed with a fan always going.
  • Activity: Our primary activity is cuddling, but we do want to make sure he is able to use his mind and hunting skills when not sleeping. We typically hide treats around the apartment for him to sniff and pull out. Keep his toys in our catnip container for at least 24 hours before we leave. Then set up his scratching boards and window toys.
  • Clean: Mostly we make sure there is no clothes or fabric on the floor and set up a second kitty litter tray is we are going to be gone more than half a week (it is actually our travel one).
  • Food: We do a day of wet food for when we are leaving and then a half a cup dry food for everyday we will be gone including that first day.

The Other Side of the Interview

I have done so many job interviews over the years, for almost 7 years I have been interviewing regularly, whether for college, internships, or jobs. I have read interviewing books, listened to experts, done trainings in the interview (confidence and the handshake). To this day, the TikTok algorithm shows me interview tricks. However, until this last month I had never been on the other side of the table. To participate in the interview on behalf of the organization to be the one to extend out an offer and to have to make this decision.

Now, I am not the be all end all of this decision and I am not organizing the interviews, but I have a say, got to write questions, and am part of the discussion with my department and HR. I was really surprised by what when in behind the scenes. The interview is supposed to give both parties (sides) a way to move forward and feel confident accepting and offering the position. Each question relates to a quality of work and the position itself: goal setting, DEI, relationship building, passion, etc. I was really surprised by this, and how much it worked to find the information in the interviews.

What I was most surprised by were where the red flags flew. I thought there might be people that were rude or I didn’t feel were qualified, but that didn’t happen. People were polite, professional, and looking for a job that was the best fit for them. The red flags were raised consistently in the answers for continuous learning and conflict resolution. To preface with what was asked for one after hearing about a successful project they were asked ” Knowing what you know now, how would you improve the project if you were to do it again?”. We frequently run events multiple times a year or at the least annually and we want to know that someone can keep growing and improving for attendants and for our organization. Later in the interview, they were asked “Tell us about a time you had a disagreement with a coworker and how you resolved it.” Our work is largely subjective in it’s contents and people approach topics very differently there is no one correct way, disagreements happen and we want to insure that this is a person that understands that and can work and collaborate with others.

The Audacity! I know that you are only told to brag about their accomplishments but my goodness. I on so many interview forms was just like no. We only had 2 candidates genuinely answer the continuous learner with something real and logistical. Everyone else, said I should have charged more to reflect it’s quality or I should have spread it to more people because it was so excellent, etc. I mean truly we had one person talk about personalization and one talk about prep time and I was so relieved.

Similarly to the conflict question, I am thrilled you were right and have good instincts. However, the idea that you just push and push or start without getting approval on a large budget project makes me afraid! Just say I pulled the data, I conducted a poll with our area of service to show this is correct, I asked our volunteers who would had to implement, we COMPROMISED. You can absolutely be right, but the answers put people at the bottom of my list to hire.

We are making our final decisions today regarding who will receive the first (and hopefully only) offer. It was a pretty stressful experience, but I hope we are making the right judgements. I think my main tip from this side of the table is focus on how you are to work with as well as the level of work you do. These are people you are going to be with 40ish hours a week and no one wants work to be harder than it has to be.

Presentations and Public Speaking

For my job I regularly have to talk to large groups of people, give presentations, and guide discussions. You probably couldn’t tell that public speaking is one of the things that I never want to do. I did not seek out a position that required this, but as positions grow and change more and more is expected of you. When I first started doing any kind of public speaking was not successful. My voice got really high pitched. I overcorrected and spoke so slow it wasn’t clear when a thought was ending.

To be clear, I still do not like public speaking. Often my face gets more red than I want to. I say “uh” or “umm” or “so…” throughout. . It is not my main skill though I have learned a couple things along the way. What is your biggest tip for speaking to a crowd?

  1. Don’t practice too much. If you practice ’til word perfect and then get mixed up during, it is incredibly hard to recover naturally.
  2. Keep 1-2 examples for what you are presenting in your back pocket (memorized) and out of your formal presentation. You can either use them as examples if you get questions or if not throw them out as extra examples at the end of the section. This will make you look like a content expert and like you can think on your feet.
  3. Look above eyeline. For virtual presentations for me this is the top edge of my computer. For in person, it may be a back door, the clock on the wall or a window.
  4. Talk at a speed where you can hear what you are stay. Use punctuation to take pauses and breathes. After each major ideas take a break, either to ask for questions or move on.
  5. This is the one I struggle most with: Stop talking once your point is made. Say what you mean to say and nothing more. Answer just the question that was asked. Give a chance for questions or requests for clarifications, but over-explaining can lead to rambling and more confusion than just letting the audience receive the initial point.

Things I learned from my first concert back

This past weekend I went to my first concert since the pandemic first hit, and one of my first major concerts ever. It was outdoors in the city where my partner and I went to college. It was a progressive rock/metal concert. Due to the conditions of the world it was a dual headlining tour so that as many bands as possible could get back on tour, with limited outdoor venues around the country.

It was an incredibly fun experience. I did feel safe, but also I got to see one of my best friends and meet some other cool people. I will say that it could be incredibly overwhelming. Here are some things I will know to move into for the second.

  1. Your feet and legs will hurt. You will be standing. jumping, walking for a long time. This maybe in line, at the concert, or dealing with parking. Wear shoes that don’t kill you.
  2. Bring cash. You will want at least a beverage of some kind and the cards take long and hold up a line.
  3. You will feel gross at some point. Whether, god forbid, you have to go to the bathroom or it’s just the beer cans at your feet. My friend did get a drink dropped down the back of their legs while people were walking (it was not not funny).
  4. There is always a more hard-core fan. People are there for a good time and because they love the entertainment, and boy do they. Fan watching is so fun and you can always find someone more into it.
  5. There is space for you! Whether you are there for a hard-core most experience, to have a date night in the back, to listen to music bopping a long in the crowd, or something any where in the middle. There is space for you to enjoy the concert however you want to and people really seem to respect that because they are doing their own thing.

Quarter of a Century

Today, I turn 25. I will have been through a quarter of a century on this planet and what a time to be alive. It has been a long and full couple of years. I have lived in 4 states, visited 22, been to 4 other countries across three continents. I have had roughly 13 places of residence, while going to 9 schools through my bachelors. This has led to meeting hundreds of people and being able to explore places my whole life.

However, it has been rough sometimes. I was in a severe car crash, 3 severe illness, and your run of the mill trauma of life. One time a toothpick went through my foot. My brother has been imprisoned in come capacity for the past four years. Family and friends have died. I have cried in public more than I want to count. I have been stranded in an airport lobby by myself overnight, lost on a mountain in Alaska for hours, and bullied throughout my school years.

Not to complain because I have also had quite a magical life. I have travelled, been on safari, and been safe and happy. I fell madly in love with my partner of the last 5 years. My friends are incredibly smart, funny, and the kindest humans you will ever meet. My family is full of some of the world’s best humans, even if some of them have left us too soon. I learned instruments and built sets. There were flash mobs, movie marathons, and all-nighters. My home growing up was full of movies, books, and dance parties.

I am hopeful that I get to keep going for another 25 years. My only goal is less weird injuries and Urgent Care visits. Overall, I will take it all in whole to keep the rest. Happy birthday to me!

College Visits and Vibes

So I recently finished a week of college visits with my younger sister (who is a rising senior). It was wild. One going anywhere that has started to open up in the past year is nuts. Second, driving in Boston is the worst. Third, on paper and going in-person are such different experiences that it can be jarring. We visited 3 major universities and drove through another. Personally there were three major things I noticed that changed my feelings about the schools.

One, how welcoming the school is when you arrive. Are they excited for you to start your journey with them? Are they selling the school to you? Are they being upfront about any inclusion or access policies they have, this may look like informing when buildings with ramps and elevators are, financial aid, housing policies, dietary support, etc.

Two, the other prospective students. Are they excited to be there? Do they seem anxious and nervous? Do they seem like feel they are entitled to a spot at the school (smug, legacy status, etc.)? These are the people you could potentially be spending your time with, living with, stuck in classes with, etc.

Three, all colleges of stated values and ideals, but what are they selling it as. We had one school sell it as a stepping stone to success, that it’s graduates were the most hireable. One school focus on the college experience and community. Another about the love of learning and all the ways they promote curiousity. Another, talked about the next step in education and figuring out yourself. There are no wrong answers but there are better fits and it’s important to pay intention to what they think you will get out of their institution.

Good luck visiting!