Little Kitty

I fell for her beautiful blue eyes on the no-kill shelter page.  We were going to finally move into an apartment that allowed pets and I started cat shopping early.  She was still there the day we got the apartment.  We went to the shelter before we even moved our furniture because I was so anxious to get you.

When we got there, you were in one of the rooms with the big adult cats.  You were so tiny and yellow.  You wouldn’t eat or groom yourself because you were so scared of all the other animals.  While we were there a volunteer got her to eat some soft food by giving her her own dish away from everyone else.  She was really still a kitten– not even a year old.  But she’d had three little boys (adopted out) already.  That meant she’d never get very big.  And she was a great mamacat taking good care of them.  She’d been found in a box near a dumpster.  (She liked boxes.  The smaller the better. We called her box kitty sometimes.)

We took her home with the friendly Big Kitty we also picked out that day.  She hid for a while in a built-in cupboard.  At lunch I gave her some chicken and she became my best friend in the entire world.  By morning she’d cleaned herself up and her previously yellowed fur was bright white and she was so energetic.

She didn’t really know how to cat.  She learned a lot from Big Kitty, even though Big Kitty never particularly wanted to be friends.  (They had a nose touching en passant relationship, but no more.)  In the night we would hear these terrifying screeching sounds– it was usually silent Little Kitty practicing meowing.  She also liked to play ball in the night.  She escaped from the apartment once and led us on a not at all merry chase around the neighborhood.  She was very good at jumping fences.  Enormous height for such a little kitty.  We eventually got her on a halter.

She didn’t really like to be carried (though she allowed me to carry her so long as she’d get a treat right after), and she wasn’t crazy about people coming up to pet her.  One doesn’t pet the Little Kitty, the Little Kitty pets you.  Headbonks were her favorite, and we would have a nighttime routine in which she would visit us before we fell asleep for headbonks and pettings.  When it got really cold she might consent to be a lap kitty or to curl up on the same bed or couch as another cat (not touching).

Back when we had big computer monitors, her favorite spot was on top of mine.  When we moved to flat screen, she had to move in front, which she didn’t like as much.

She was the sweetest and most trusting of kitties.  Once she got into our chimney and was so trusting as we gave her a bath.  She’d look up to us as if to say she didn’t understand what was going on, but she trusted us to make it better (and to provide treats after any indignity).

She moved with us to our new job and loved the patio.  She loved our backyard (we still had to keep her on a halter because she was so good at jumping even the tallest of fences).

When we had a surplus of backyard cats she mostly stayed aloof and out of the fray.  She seemed to miss Big Kitty when Big Kitty passed and never really got into a nose sniffing relationship with Nice Kitty, the remaining backyard cat.

As she got older she got indigestion and then more recently ear infections that would go away and then come right back after treatment ended.  Then one morning she couldn’t walk straight and the vet found a tumor in her ear canal.  We drove to the closest vet school and determined it was inoperable and would not be a candidate for chemotherapy.  Radiation could be done, but there was no evidence that radiation without surgery worked at all in cats, and at most it would slow the tumor’s growth, not stop it or shrink it and she would have to go to the vet regularly which she hated.  So we prepared for hospice.

Cancer is not a pretty way to go.  But little kitty was so resilient as every new disability affected her.  She learned how to walk straight and deliberately with each new hit to her sense of balance.  She submitted calmly to baths and ear cleaning with minimal complaint.  She chomped down her medicine in pill pockets until she couldn’t chew and swallow anymore and then sort-of allowed us to dose her with the fruit-flavored and heavily sugared liquid versions of the pain killers and steroids that she hated.  We’d think it would be time and then she would figure out that she could get water from the faucet, or she’d figure out a new way to get treats to her throat and that would buy another week or so.  She would curl up on the patio or knead DH’s chest and purr, despite it all.  But each time she got better it wouldn’t be as good as it was before and each worse was a new low.  And finally, as the vet predicted, she couldn’t eat anymore, not even baby food, and we couldn’t let her starve to death or force her to submit to a feeding tube and she suddenly stopped getting joy out of her favorite things and we had to let her go.  Which is heartbreaking.

Death is hard, whether it is sudden and unexpected or following a slow deterioration.

Little kitty has brought so much joy.  Fifteen years was just not long enough for our sweet little girl.

Little kitty in better days

 

 

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Locally specific manners? Reading at the dinner table edition

Do you let your kids read at the table?  I feel like this used to be impolite but personally, I have no problem with it.  When I was growing up, at home we were allowed to read at lunch (my dad still does).  But we were not allowed to read at the dinner table.

I’m lucky that my parents supported and modeled that reading for fun is a great thing to do.  My dad’s mother was also a big reader, and as a result so are most of her children.  I think it’s ok to read in restaurants and bars (if you can concentrate).  My nightmare is a person who sits on a plane next to me and brings nothing to do except talk.  What did you plan to do for this six-hour flight, just stare into space???

Do you think reading at the dinner table is rude or perfectly ok?

#2 who has kids hasn’t really given this much thought but her kids do read at the dinner table sometimes.  We’re much more informal about meals than we were growing up though and sometimes eat standing up in the kitchen.  #2 also cannot handle the middle-seat chatterbox who has run out of the airplane magazine.  #2 wants to read novels uninterrupted on planes!

To the man who makes my heart flutter

When I see you, my heart still skips a beat.  You are the most handsome man I know, and I love the distinguished grey at your temples, the ever deepening crinkles around your eyes.

When we touch it still tingles just as much as it did when we were 17.  And it tingled a lot at 17.  One difference that time and proximity has brought is that cuddling close to you can provide more peace and calm than it ever did at age 16 or 17.  Being with you has always felt immeasurably right.  We are supposed to be together.  God is in His heaven and all is right with the world when you’re near.

I still have a hard time believing that I get to spend my life with you.  That I share your bed at night.  That we’re *supposed* to spend time alone together, completely unchaperoned.  Even though it’s been that way for 18 years.

Life with you is exciting and also warm and comfortable.  You provide every positive emotion for me, just by being who you are.  I am so lucky.  So very lucky.  You’re amazing and I never want to have to imagine life without you and your beautiful wonderfulness.

You’re mine.  I’m yours.

We fit well together.

I love you so much.  Today and every day.  I love you.

Grandmother’s legacy

My grandmother recently passed away at age 101.

She has left all of her grandchildren stock.

From my uncle: “Mom set up a trust that took all of the DuPont stock Dad accumulated over the years and put it to work in the stock market. It grew, and threw off dividends that she used to buy other stocks and mutual funds. She always said that she hated laziness, and having money as cash, was just having lazy money. It should be invested to grow. So she invested it through the trust.

“This was Mom’s gift to her grandchildren, given in the hope and expectation that they will use the funds wisely, and not let the money be lazy.”

She had 16 grandchildren. “One provision in the trust was she left each of her grandchildren the equivalent of 100 shares of DuPont stock.”

They had to do a little detective work because DuPont doesn’t exist anymore so what happened to the stock. But they figured it out.

It’s not quite enough to open a Vanguard brokerage account and get low fees, but I have been thinking recently that I have too much savings in the bank.

For now, maybe I’ll just DRIP until I feel up to doing things.

On knowing what’s out there: loosely connected thoughts from vacation with the relatives

Over the holidays, DH’s newly retired parents kept talking about how truly blessed they are.  None of their kids are in jail.  All are gainfully employed.  They themselves have more money than they ever dreamed and will actually be able to increase their quality of life in retirement (or rather, FIL now has both time and money for all those hunting trips he’s been wanting to do), at least while the stock market is booming.  (A couple of weeks ago, FIL called up to ask DH to ask me whether or not it was ok to have 90% stocks/10% bonds…)

DH’s relative that we’ve talked about before is not doing so well.  He’s got arthritis, which makes being a construction worker difficult.  His oldest two both had children as teenagers (the oldest is living at home with her toddler, the second moved West with her two kids to live with the biological mother who abandoned her as a baby).  His wife is recovering from brain cancer.  His third attempted suicide via electricity socket recently and is depressed because he’s too blind to legally drive.  His fourth has gotten in with a bad crowd and started stealing from family and was recently on suicide watch at a hospital.  We didn’t hear much about the fifth this time around except that she was driving the oldest’s car when it got totaled by an uninsured driver (which means the relative is now chauffeuring everybody around).  Also one of his two much younger brothers (his brothers are the same age as his oldest daughters) has been jailed for possession of stolen materials.

Focusing a bit on that third kid– he graduated from high school last year and the plan was to take the year off working (he’s washing dishes at a restaurant) and then spend the next year at community college.  Community college is about an hour away, so he would have to be driven.  He’s really depressed that he will never be able to drive and it’s not clear that he’s actually going to do community college next year, or ever.  He’s smart and has the grades and GPA to go to the flagship school or one of the closer regionals.  The flagship’s admission deadline has come and gone and the closer regionals have passed their priority deadlines but still have rolling admissions.  Over break, he and DH talked about careers and DH tried to convince him to just fill out one of the two page regional applications for either of the closest schools (while DH was there to pay the $40 admission fee), but no luck.

And the thing is, this kid has never been anywhere with public transportation (or even taxis!).  He has no idea what it’s like to be someplace where you can take yourself where you need to go without having to depend on the kindness of someone else to drive you.  It would be best for him to skip community college and to just go straight to a 4 year college with an extensive bus system and counselors.   He should be eligible for plenty of need-based financial aid and what’s left we can pay.  But… he doesn’t know that’s best.  He doesn’t know what is best and his parents don’t have 4-year college degrees (his mom never finished high school) and his dad has been on his own since 16, so they’re letting him do what he wants since he’s officially an adult.

Growing up I knew I wanted to be upper-middle-class because I knew people whose parents were upper-middle-class and I had an aunt and uncle who were judges, and I thought, I want that.  I want to not have to worry about money and to have the temperature always set to something comfortable.  DH never had those thoughts, but his parents were doing pretty well compared to everyone else in his family, and at boarding school he learned a lot about what all was out there.  And his mother had a wide variety of experiences growing up and she told me this most recent trip that she always thought it important to make sure her kids saw places outside the small town, so they went to camps (or in DH’s case, boarding school) and visited relatives (from her side of the family) up north and so on.  She also took them to get professional career testing before college and told them not going was not an option (for DH she also controlled where he was allowed to apply), just as her father had told her that not going to college was not an option.

Going back to DH’s family’s place at Christmas does tend to make one feel #blessed because it reminds us how well we’re doing and how well DH’s immediate family is doing.  It also forces the comparison of how hard it is for so much of America to get ahead outside of our highly educated McMansion-owning bubble.  DH’s relative is plenty smart, but his life diverged dramatically from DH’s at 16 when he got married and left home and had two kids.  But there were also a lot of factors that led up to that point and after– his parents also had two kids by age 18.  Our kids’ lives will diverge even more dramatically.  His kids are not our kids, and we don’t know how to help, or if we even can help.   So, we will continue to feel #blessed and to keep things in perspective while doing what we can to make it easier for poor kids more generally to get ahead.  We have our oxygen masks on, but there are still a lot of people out there who need assistance with theirs, and even more who don’t have access to oxygen masks at all.

Being breadwinner

can be stressful

Right now #2 and I are both breadwinners of our respective family units.  In case you were wondering about #2, after her FIL died, her DH got very depressed and is taking a break from paid employment.  There’s probably a bit more than that, but it’s not my story to tell.

This isn’t the first time I’ve been the sole income of the family– if you recall, DH quit his tenure-track job without anything lined up, so for a few months we weren’t sure what our income situation was going to be like until he got employed.

One of the first things I’ve noticed about being breadwinner is that I feel the need to increase my income.  Asking for raises, getting grants, taking consulting opportunities, all of these seem to be more important now than when DH is also bringing in cash.  Getting my research done and out so that I can be more attractive should we need to move takes on greater urgency.

Combined with this, I let DH take on greater responsibilities at home.  We already have a pretty egalitarian household, and when DH isn’t earning, he starts taking care of more of the daily and weekly chores, especially kitchen stuff and chauffeuring.  And I feel less guilty about him doing so.  I imagine this is how some women get shunted into home production even when things start out equivalent.  I do spend more time on our finances when I’m the only one earning, but it doesn’t make up for the time I’m no longer spending on regular chores.

I do like having DH take care of things at home, but I also like the stress of not being the only person earning money.  I think I like it best when we’re both enjoying our jobs and earning a lot of money.  I would like it least if I disliked my job but had to keep my job because mine was the only income.  My next least favorite would be being the homemaker if DH was the sole breadwinner and hated his job.  I’m not sure how I would rate hating my job vs. being a homemaker if DH was happy with his job.  I guess it might depend on how easily I could find a new job in that situation.  I suspect that I would rather have each of us make 150K than have DH make 300K with me required to make nothing.  I might prefer making 300K myself and having DH at home to either scenario though.  (Note:  I am happy to test any of these three propositions!)  Smaller dollar amounts would probably lead to different preferred combinations.

As we’ve noted before, this time we’re in a better position than last time DH stopped bringing in income.  As I look through that old post discussing what to do with finances, I am happy that we don’t have to move so much around.  There’s no mortgage to stop prepayment on.  No private school to save tuition for, no mother’s helpers to pay (though we do have summer camp and daycare throughout the summer).  No IRAs to fund (though if DH’s jobless situation continues, I will be eligible to contribute again).  And we have a nice cash cushion.  My plan is to convert this cash cushion into tax-deferred savings (by continuing to max out my 403(b) and 457, even as we dip into savings) with the thought that doing so will make us more likely to be eligible for financial aid when DC1 goes off to college.

I also don’t know how long I am going to be the breadwinner.  DH’s company is supposed to be getting back on track in July, but i’s have not yet been dotted nor t’s crossed on the contract that will put the company back to work for the next couple of years.  We can wait, as can DH’s direct boss, but much of the rest of the company cannot afford to take more than one month unpaid.  If waiting for the contract lasts too long, the company might just go under and the contract will fall through entirely.  My bread-winning this time around may end up being longer term than we had hoped.

Have you ever been the sole breadwinner of a multiple-person household?  How do things change?  Do you feel stressed?  Do you have a family income combination that you prefer (breadwinner/homemaker/dual-income, etc)?

DH and the kids are going on a real vacation

sort of…

We do a lot of traveling, mostly for work, which means we haven’t really been on any vacations that aren’t connected with a conference or someone getting married.  Almost all of our vacation time is spent in DH’s home town (population ~3K and falling) at the grandparents’ because DH needs to see his extended family at least once a year or he starts getting maudlin and depressed.  So essentially everywhere we’ve been, someone else is paying for our housing and often part of our meals or some of our travel.  Or there’s been a wedding.*  When we’re low on cash, we spend a day and another one back driving to get to DH’s home town (it is a very long day).  When we’re flush with cash or miles or rates are especially low, we will fly instead which cuts the time spent traveling by about 2/3.

This year DH’s parents are both retired so we’re going to try something different.  Not, you know, too different.  But still a little different.

Last year, DH’s brother’s company transferred him and he ended up moving near DH’s sister.  So last summer DH’s parents rented a couple of cabins in a state park near the town DH’s siblings live in and they spent a few days there as an extended family.  This year, DH wants to join them with the kids.  So after some discussion (and realizing that everybody in the world wants to visit peak tourist places like Yellowstone during peak tourist season which drives the prices way up), they decided to go to the same place as last year and DH and the kids will fly in to the nearest big city, rent a car, and drive down to the cabins.  After a few days there, they’ll spend a night in the city and fly home.  (Me, I will be staying home getting work done because I have to go to TWO conferences the next week.  :/ )

It’s like a real vacation!

When this was initially discussed, we talked about splitting the costs for the cabins, since DH would be adding an additional family and we want to subsidize his less-flush siblings.  Plus we’d just found out that DH would indeed be working in April and May so we were going to have more money than we’d anticipated.  AND DH’s dad is retiring and his parents are going to have to start budgeting again for the first time, so there’s no need for them to shoulder the entire expense.  But DH’s mom is being difficult about it (we finally got a “we’ll talk about it later” from her) so we’re going to have to figure some way to pay/subsidize.  Maybe we’ll pay for the hotel the night in the city and DH can pay for food purchases if she won’t let us write a check to her for half the cabins.

With some research, it looks like they’ll be paying $450/night (plus tax) for 3 nights = $1350 for the cabins.  We’re going to try to pay half of that:  $675

Airfare for DH and two kids came out to= $937 (We don’t have enough miles on the right airlines to make it worth while to use miles for this trip.)

Then there will be one night in a big city (estimated) = $250/room (if we go for near the touristy stuff rather than near the airport– airport hotels are closer to $150/room)

Car rental + gas for us (estimated) = $350 (though we may find a better deal closer to the time)

Food (estimated– a total guess because who knows) = $200

So total cost (not including incidentals):  $2,182

Which seems like a lot of money for 5 days for 3 people, but also not a lot of money for a vacation compared to what we see when people go fancier places than a Midwestern state park.  (Going on a weekend would have cost double the cabin fee!)

 

*We honeymooned in beautiful London… Ontario (the one in Canada).  Which is kind of like honeymooning in Ann Arbor if you could daytrip to Niagra Falls from there.  We did not have a lot of money.

What do you do for vacations?  How often do you go on them?