Beyond Cat Business

While it’s true that my life for the past 2 weeks has been dominated by my concern for Gwendolyn’s unexpected health condition, other things in my life haven’t come to a complete halt because of it.

Directly prior to all of this cat business, I had been in Myrtle Beach for three days for a project I’m working on. It was three days of verifying and photographing existing conditions at the Grand Strand Hospital and leading a couple of user group meetings for the additions, renovations and new heart center we’re working on.

User group meetings are cool. It’s so insightful to get feedback from the doctors, nurses and technicians who will actually be using our designs everyday. And it's totally sappy, but it’s extremely gratifying to be a part of something that has the potential to really make a difference in people’s lives.

Having said that, I hate hospitals. Not designing them, mind you, but being IN them. I hate the way they smell. And really, anything even remotely medical related makes me weak. Needles and bandages and IV tubes and stretchers. faint

One of the things we’re doing at the Grand Strand Hospital in addition to the new adjacent heart center, is an expansion of their existing emergency department. As my co-worker and I were verifying entrance and elevator conditions in the ED, suddenly she said, “don’t turn around”. Naturally, I immediately whirled around to be confronted with a stretcher holding a man who was bleeding profusely from the head. As I turned an unhealthy shade of white and willed myself to remain conscious, we quickly moved to the outside of the building to get some exterior photos.

Besides the whole being-in-a-hospital-for-three-days, it was a good trip – educational, informative, and productive. And I have to say, if you’re going to practice healthcare architecture, do it on the beach.

Other work-related updates include the start of the ACE season. ACE is a mentoring program for high school students interested in the fields of architecture, construction and engineering. This will be my third year of participating as a mentor and team leader. This year our team consists of 18 Juniors and Seniors with 3 girls and 15 boys. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, this is still a very male-dominated industry even for the upcoming generation. When I graduated 7 years ago from architecture school, there were 23 of us in the masters program and 5 of us were female. In my office, there are 29 architects and 4 of us are female. So, my mission in ACE is to be a positive female mentor to hopefully help inspire future female architects – as we are few and far between.

Also at work lately, since the partners have decided to make entering our projects for awards a priority, I’ve been writing a lot of award submissions. I totally dig this. It’s great fun and gives me more writing practice. Last week, one of the projects I wrote up for a submission won a "Best of 2008" design award for a magazine. Coolness.

Outside of work, I’ve been babysitting A LOT. Like every Saturday night for the past 3 weeks. This has been for the Jewish family I know here in Nashville. I swear they know more Bar-Mitzvah-age kids having lavish Bar Mitzvahs than anyone I know (okay, so I don’t really know any other Jewish families). But seriously, every week it’s another Bar Mitzvah. Last week, the Bar Mitzvah party they went to was being held at the Adventure Science Center with their new state-of-the-art Planetarium. According to the party-goers it was a whole space theme and really cool. Yes, nothing says cool like 13 year olds hanging out at the planetarium. Anyway, it’ll be another fun-filled Saturday evening for me and the 8-year-old who never gets invited to these shin-digs.

Also outside of work, my first Spanish class is tomorrow evening. I know what you’re thinking, dear reader, “Spanish!? I thought you were taking French lessons? Weren’t you taking French lessons?” Yes, very good. You pay attention.

Here’s the thing with the French lessons. First of all, they are not nearly as easy to come by here in lil’ ole Nashville as you might think. They are expensive and/or sporadic. See, I signed up for the Summer semester French lessons through the community education program, but they were cancelled because…uh…well…I was the only one who signed up. So, then when I got the Fall curriculum catalog, they were only offering three – yes THREE – classes for the entire Fall semester. So, for $64 dollars I would get six hours of French lessons. The Spanish lessons they offer are close to my home (unlike the French classes which are only offered in BFE north Nashville), are 10 weeks of weekly classes, each class is two hours long, and the cost was only $70 dollars.

While the aesthetics of French appeal to me more than Spanish, Spanish is definitely the more economical choice and probably the more practical choice. So, I’m switching it up to Spanish.

Okay, last thing: I've also joined a book club. Well, not so much joined as helped get together a bunch of women who like to read and said, "hey, let's all read the same book and then talk about it." So, we decided that each one of us would host a book club meeting and whoever was hosting would get to pick the book. She would pick the book by emailing everyone in the group three choices. Everyone would then vote on their preference and the host would decide which book to pick based upon the majority group preference. Seems like a good idea, yes?

For the first book, our host chose, "Eat, Pray, Love" by Elizabeth Gilbert, "A Thousand Splendid Suns" by Khaled Hosseini, and "Chasing Harry Winston" by Lauren Weisberger. The majority spoke. "Chasing Harry Winston" was the verdict.

To be fair, I was warned early on that this book club could, and in all likelihood, would contain some "fluff" reading material. And that's fine. Really it is. I read fictional "fluff" as much as the next person. But, c'mon, given the choice between those three books, how does Harry Winston sound like the most interesting (unless you've already read the other two) choice? Anyway, I bought a used copy from Amazon and have been trying to keep an open mind as I plod through it. After all, one of the good things about a book club is being exposed to books you may never have chosen to read on your own. And I can say with a fair amount of certainty that I wouldn't have chosen this book to read on my own.

"That is all".

(Yes, I've watched the movie "The Devil Wears Prada" (more than once actually), which was written by the same author as "Chasing Harry Winston". BUT, I have not READ "The Devil Wears Prada"...so...uh...so there!)

Status Report

Okay, so last Thursday after giving my girl her IV everyday and her medications everyday for three days, I took her back to the vet for another blood test.

And thankfully...miraculously...stupendously...her levels were all in the normal range with the exception of one, and that one was only slightly elevated. Hallelujah!

The doctor told us not to give her an IV all weekend and to bring her back on Monday for another blood test after 4 days of no intravenous fluid. This prescription made both me and Gwennie extremely happy.

She was acting normal all weekend, but by Sunday evening it seemed as though she was slowing down, not being her usual bitchy self and I thought "oh great, her levels are definitely going to be up tomorrow and we're going to have to start with the IVs again"

Monday at 5pm, Daniel and Gwennie and I were sitting in the small exam room anxiously waiting to hear the blood test results.

And guess what? All was well. Can I get another hallelujah!? All of her levels were still in the low normal ranges except that one which the doctor was not concerned about. So, now we get to go 9 days without an IV and take her back next Wednesday for another blood test.

After that, if her levels are still normal, we'll go three weeks and then check again.

It's a hard thing (and an expensive thing) having a beloved pet go through some serious health complications. I know it pales in comparison to the health tragedies human beings are faced with everyday, but when I took her into my home 8 years ago and promised to care for her to the best of my ability for as long as I am able, that included looking after her health. I'm just thankful I have the means and ability to make sure she is getting the treatment she needs to remain healthy, active, and happy.

Fingers crossed that her future blood tests continue to give us positive feedback!



This is my girl.

My girl's been sick.

Her kidneys are not doing so well. Not well at all.

When I got home from Myrtle Beach last Thursday evening, I could tell she wasn't feeling herself. She'd been sick the previous week throwing up a lot, but I assumed it was a hairball issue, gave her some hairball medicine and she seemed to have perked up a bit before I left. But Friday morning she looked miserable. And so off we went to the vet.

Her temperature was normal, she looked a little dehydrated and she had lost some weight. The vet thought it was most probably a worm issue in her small intestine. But he wanted to do bloodwork just to be sure. Lo and behold, when my girl's lab report came back, it indicated that she was going into serious kidney failure.

They admitted her into the hospital right then and there, hooked her up to an IV, put her on antibiotics, and there she stayed until Monday late afternoon. Daniel and I did get to visit her early Saturday morning and she looked better, hydrated, and even ate a little while we were there. It was hard to leave her in that strange place, in that little cage, hooked up to an IV not knowing how she was doing or even what our options might be.

Monday afternoon they did another blood test and her white blood cell count was down. The levels for her one kidney were closer to normal, but the other kidney, even though the levels had been brought down some, were still way out of the normal range. The doctor said she probably has some permanent kidney damage but that felines can live for many years with damaged kidneys.

Not the best news...but certainly not the worst news.

We got to take her home with us Monday afternoon with a 1000cc bag of fluid, IV tube, needle, antibiotic, and an anti-diarrhea medication. We were told to give her 50cc per day, plus the two medications twice a day for Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday and then they would do another blood test late Thursday afternoon to see where she is and what our options are.

My girl does not like IVs or medication. I do not like needles or causing my girl distress. Daniel does not like causing me distress. Not an ideal set of circumstances, to say the least.

We tried yesterday morning to get the IV in her. But she was adamant in her refusal. We did get her meds in her and thought we'd go home during lunch and try the IV thing again.

Again, we did not succeed.

We decided to take her back to the vet to get one of the techs to help us with the IV - which they did, graciously and efficiently.

Today I just drove her to the vet first thing in the morning to get her IV for the day done and over with. My girl is much better behaved at the vet's office (probably because she's terrified).

So, tomorrow I will take her in again at 7:30 am for her 50cc's and then at 3:00 pm for her blood test and we'll see what happens next. The doctor said she may need an IV 3 times a week or once a week or maybe not even at all.

Cross your fingers for my girl.


"We have, I fear, confused power with greatness" - Stewart Udall

I wasn't gonna go here...I really wasn't...

For the first time in my 32 years of being alive, I am deeply afraid for my country.

As most of you know, I have never voted in any election. I registered to vote less than a year ago. I have rarely followed national politics, much less local politics, and have generally taken on the cynical attitude that ALL politics are corrupt and ALL politicians, regardless of party, are basically the same. My view was one of disgust and disinterest because I genuinely believed that no matter who was in office, general ineffectiveness and bureaucratic business-as-usual would reign as it always has and things would remain status quo in our country.

Naive? Definitely.

Irresponsible? Absolutely.

But this presidential election has got me interested. It's gotten everyone interested. And while I have been following the election from the beginning, I always hesitate to voice my political opinions - I don't know why.

Last week at work, while I was in my own cube, minding my own business, drawing wall details at my desk, one of the partners of the firm walked by and said to one of my co-workers (loud enough for the benefit of all of us within a 30 foot radius to hear):

"Did you watch Obama's speech last night? I watched about 3 minutes of it and then had to turn it off it made me so mad...harumph harumph harumph...he's trying to incite a class war instead of fixing the problems in this country...harumph harumph...and did you hear who McCain picked for his VP candidate?...she's good..."

So, what did I do? I immediately logged on to the Barak Obama for President website and made a donation. Ha! That's right. The money you pay me is going to support Barak Obama.

I have never made a monetary donation to a political candidate before. Never. But I'm scared. I'm afraid of this arrogant, self-described 'pit bull with lipstick'. When I hear people on the radio, or on the television, or on the web, or in my own office supporting Sarah Palin as a viable candidate, I feel physically ill. No, seriously.

The hairs on the back of my neck stand up, my fingertips go numb and my stomach does nauseating flip flops in a primal response to fear.

The Republicans and conservatives reading this are now gleefully shouting, "Hell yeah you should be afraid! You ridiculous liberals thought you had this presidential election all tied up but now we have this pit bull in our corner!"

Yep, you're right. It scares the bejeezuz outta me that there are people who sincerely think that Sarah Palin as Vice President of the United States of America is a sane notion. First of all, unless you are a religious freak-job like she is, I don't understand your support for her. Sorry, I just don't.

Without even going into the hypocrisies that populate her personal life, there is so much substantiated evidence of her ineptitude, her inexperience and her self-righteous arrogance in her brief political career.

When I first caught wind of McCain's choice for his running mate, I felt deeply insulted as a woman and even kind of pitied Sarah Palin for being used. I can't imagine a more cloyingly transparent political maneuver. Many Clinton supporters feel displaced, so let's let them have their female in the form of Palin. After all, women are basically interchangeable, right? Who cares if her politics are the polar opposite of Clinton's...she has a vagina and that's all that matters to those angry Clinton supporters.

And I thought, "Oh that poor woman. Being dragged into this because she's the physical type of candidate they need right now. She's nothing but a desperate pawn."

Oh how wrong I was!!

Despite her appalling lack of experience (hey, wait a minute...isn't that what Obama has been accused of all along?), she has managed to do some serious damage. Let's put aside her stance on reproductive rights and family values and her questionable education, (after all we wouldn't want to personally attack the poor woman, would we?) and focus on the political facts surrounding her:

Does she even know what the hell she's talking about half the time?

She recently tried to explain that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have "gotten too big and too expensive to the taxpayers". But then she went on to say, the companies "aren't taxpayer funded but operate as private companies. The takeover may result in a taxpayer bailout during reorganization."


Even though, according to her, she has just oodles of experience, she has no clear notion of what the Vice President of the United States does. "As for the VP talk all the time, I'll tell you, I still can't answer that question until somebody answers for me what it is exactly that the VP does every day? I'm used to being very productive and working real hard in an administration. We want to make sure that the VP slot would be a fruitful type of position, especially for Alaskans and for the things that we're trying to accomplish up here for the rest of the U.S., before I can even start addressing that question."

Apparently she has no idea that the VP presides over the Senate.

There have also been chilling rumors of Palin's interest in banning books (and, for the record, a bogus list of books she allegedly tried to have banned). This, above all, is enough to scare me to death. The Valley Frontiersman says: local librarian, Mary Ellin "Emmons said Palin asked her outright if she could live with censorship of library books. This was during a weak [sic] when Palin was requesting resignations from all the city's department heads as a way of expressing loyalty. 'This is different than a normal book-selection procedure or a book-challenge policy', Emmons stressed Saturday. 'She was asking me how I would deal with her saying a book can't be in the library'".

Hmmm...let's see, Hitler banned books, Mussolini banned books, and oh! that's right, theocratic nations like Iran ban books. Nations that do not separate church and state.

We won't criticize Palin's personal beliefs when it comes to abortion (cuz that's not fair after all). We'll just note that she opposes programs that teach girls how not to get pregnant. She lobbies against their right to decide whether to have a child. And then kills social support programs to cushion the impact of those policies. A few months ago she used a line-item veto to cut funding for a transitional home for teen moms in Alaska. So, unless you have the support system of Bristol Palin, you're outta luck.

Even though Palin has openly admitted to not following the Iraq War closely (are you kidding me!?), she nevertheless thinks it's "a task that is from God". Yep, theocratic nations engage in Holy Wars as well.

In a 2006 gubernatorial debate, the soon-to-be governor of Alaska said of evolution and creation education, "Teach both. You know, don't be afraid of information. Healthy debate is so important, and it's so valuable in our schools. I am a proponent of teaching both." Of course, she's referring to Christian creationism here, not any of the other of hundreds of creation belief systems. There's a difference between science and folk lore. Even John McCain believes in evolution when it comes to the origin of life.

To some, Palin is cute and vivacious and plucky. The qunitessential small-town girl, mother of five children, all with quirky names. She eats moose and trophy-hunts in the wilds of Alaska. Girls can do anything they want AND look good doing it. Girl Power!

The frightening reality is that Palin is a rightwing-Christian extremist who has used her limited political clout towards vindictive, self-serving ends. She tells blatant half-truths, refuses to address any kind of real issue, and makes juvenile, mean-spirited remarks about community organizers who not only shoulder responsibilities and make positive differences in people's lives, they do so without a political agenda. While she's throwing all of her energy at tearing down Obama, he is asking people to protect her privacy.

Frankly, I CAN. NOT. WAIT. until she has to engage in grown-up debate with Joe Biden.

One of my co-workers said the other day she fears that Obama, if elected, would institute a socialist state. Never mind the stupidity of that statement... I say, I fear if Palin gets any kind of real power, she will do her best to institute a theocratic state.