Friday, August 31, 2007

In Ireland Part I

Here I offer proof that we made it. We've all showered, eaten (including a few bites of black pudding yesterday morning), gotten turned around a couple of times, petted the goats, and gone to sleep with bellies full of that black magic Guinness.

Everything turned out okay with the missing passport. The flight to Chicago with Ed passed quickly. Thanks to my friend Lunesta, I slept all night and was full of energy, enough even to work the crossword with Ed. We passed it back and forth, doing one word per turn, competing to fill in the long blanks. Fun game. It made the flight fly by, so to speak.

Turns out the airport in Chicago is undergoing construction and so getting to the Aer Lingus gate wasn't the easiest thing in the world. We were misdirected by an American Airlines rep, but eventually got there. Melissa, the head honcho that day for Aer Lingus reassigned us some better seats and took Ted's passport with her down to the check-in. When he arrived, it was waiting there for him, and he made it through. She went so far as to later peek into the plane to make sure Ted had made it. How nice when someone goes out of their way to do their job well.

I was pretty happy to see him. He was the jolly green giant, celebrating the journey by wearing his green jeans, green Duhks t-shirt, and a green jacket.

The flight was long (of course) and none of us slept too terribly well. About an hour before landing, Ed finds out that we're landing soon and says, "Well, where'd the time go?" I'm not sure how it had passed so quickly for him. It definitely hadn't for the rest of us.

After a fiasco with the car rental insurance, which Ted may blog about later, we got on the road, stopping in the town of Gort at Sullivan's Hotel for tea. Ed got coffee and a scone and we had fun reading the "spoonful of Irish" sugarpackets with sayings such as "Even the quiet cat drinks the milk." We're still trying to make sense of that one.
After leaving Gort, we stopped in Kinvara and happened upon Dunguaire Castle, which I found out later isn't really a castle. It was pretty anyway and a nice backdrop to our full Irish breakfast. It was here that Ed had his breakfast Guinness.

We got on the road, and Ed and I both passed out. I had that familiar jet-lag feeling of invisible hands pulling my eyes down and pushing my head back, forcing me to sleep. Thankfully, Ted the driver didn't succumb to the jet-lag ghost and got us to the country house in Balla. Then we slept and slept and slept.

It's pitch-black here at night, so silent and lovely, with the sky full of stars, so perfect for sleeping. We got up this morning and had a breakfast of grilled cheese-ham sandwiches from some groceries left here by our wonderful hosts. We're soon to head off to Dublin to pick up Tom, one of Ted's five brothers, who is flying in from his home in Germany. We'll stay there overnight tonight, tour the Guinness factory (maybe), and head back here Saturday evening. The my dad arrives Sunday, and the house will be officially full of men.

Until next time...

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Adventures in getting to Ireland

Yes, I said in getting to Ireland. My hope is that when we arrive, everything will be peaceful. For now, they're not really. My husband had to go back to L.A. Monday morning after the wedding this weekend to check the progress of the home-improvement project going on, and he's flying from there tomorrow for our trip to Ireland. I'm flying with his dad from Portland, and the plan is to meet up in Chicago--we're all three on the same flight from Chicago to Ireland.

Here's the snag though: Ted forgot to bring his passport to L.A., which means that we're not really sure what's going to happen tomorrow when we get to the airport. I'm planning on heading out to our airport here in Portland in a few minutes to explain the situation and beg for mercy. Ted's optimistic about it. I'm trying not to be half-empty, trying really hard to push away those mental images of getting to Ireland without Ted and picking up the standard-shift rental car on my own and driving me and Ed on the left side of the many narrow, scary, coastal roads to the place we're staying.

Sigh. Half-full, half-full, half-full, half-full...such is my mantra.

While in Ireland, we're not sure what our access to the internet will be like exactly, so I may not be posting very much. But I have started a new blog, which you can find here.

I stole this idea from someone who stole the idea from someone else. I plan on taking a photo every day for the next...however long and posting them there. Of course, since I'm leaving tomorrow morning for two weeks in Ireland and Italy, the postings will be sporadic at first, but it'll also give me some scenic photos. I like pretty scenery but I like more taking photos of random things that I find interesting. I hope you enjoy the experiment.

The person's blog whom I stole the idea from can be found here. She's a friend of a friend whose pictures are pretty awesome. And she considers herself from Mississippi which makes her even cooler.

Oh, and about the adoption: Our social worker had to change some of the wording in our home-study after CIS contacted our agency to tell them about a glitch. So she reworded it and sent it off to Kate on Monday. That should be the last thing. Any day now, I'm hoping to get that CIS letter saying that we're approved. Of course, word will have to come via my friend who's house-sitting for us for the next two weeks--no mailbox stalking in my future. This trip is a nice distraction.

When the CIS letter comes, we can get on that infamous waiting list. I think. I hope. If the world doesn't end first. If I don't drive myself off an Irish cliff in a couple of days.

Half-full, half-full, half-full, half-full...

Sunday, August 26, 2007

They're bringing sexy back.

This is what happens when the ties come off:

Not sure what to say about this one. Just see for yourself:

Tuesday, August 21, 2007


I don't remember now how it came up in the conversation, but one day last week, my mom kept referring to grocery store buggies. I got all choked up. After getting teased by my husband for using this term, I started calling them carts or shopping carts. I've even started referring to cokes as soda, though I doubt that I'll ever go so far as to call them pop. Yesterday when I walked into the gym wearing my "I reckon" shirt that I got at Merlefest this year, the guy at the counter said he was trying to figure out what it meant. He knew the word "reckon," but he thought it had some ironic meaning. I don't wear ironic t-shirts. I just said, "I'm from Mississippi and say this a lot. There's no deeper meaning than that."

After I worked out, I biked home (uphill!) in the rain, ate some organically grown hippie food, drank kombucha and listened to The Decemberists before heading off to our local brewpub with some in-laws. I like where I live. I really do. Portland is a great city.

But it hit me yesterday that it's not home. Several things spurred my homesickness, which would be too much to go into now, but suffice it to say, I started absolutely longing for Mississippi yesterday. I thought a decent night's sleep would cure me of this homesickness, but I woke up this morning thinking about chickory-blend cafe au lait.

Several years ago, I was driving this stretch of highway 469 that goes between some railroad tracks and Whitfield, the local "state hospital," i.e. mental institution. It was around dusk and the sky was full of these dark, gorgeous clouds, which some might describe as "ominous" but I describe as thrilling. In that one moment, I felt so in love with my state. It was further along this same stretch of road a few years later with Ted that we came to the T-intersection and were waved on to turn left by some guy in a pick-up truck who didn't even have a stop sign. He just knew we were waiting to turn and decided to let us on by. Ted was in shock. I said, "That guy looks like my uncle."

There are a lot of talented people who have written much more beautifully about the south than I ever could (Rick Bragg's All Over But the Shoutin', William Alexander Percy's Lanterns on the Levee, etc.), so I'm just going to try to share some hodge-podge things I love about where I'm from.

For starters, our good friend Morgan is from Mississippi, and boy is it fun to share a Newcastle, a snuggle, and a dance at Ground Zero with the man:
Please excuse the shameless name-dropping. I was just genuinely hyper-excited to meet and chat with a movie star, especially while in the Delta where it was pretty unexpected.

The women in my Granny's yoga class show up in full make-up, hair fixed and heavily hairsprayed, lipstick in place. Their work-out outfits match. Afterwards, they sit at these round tables and drink stale coffee with the menfolk, gossiping about various church scandals and each other's extended families. I was sore for three days after this class. Those women kick ass (Can you guess which one is my Granny?).

It may be trite, but it really is true: no one makes sweet tea like a Southerner. And we don't call it iced tea. It's just tea or sweet tea; the only person I knew who ever drank hot tea was my great-grandmother, Granny Ford, and we all thought she was a little weird for it. When you order tea in a restaurant, you should specify whether you want sweet or unsweet, but why wouldn't you want the sweet stuff? I don't even mind the way it makes my teeth burn, feeling like the syrup is wearing the enamel off. Good stuff, good for the soul. In any Southern town, the locals know which restaurant has the best tea. One of the best compliments we got down at Jody's Coffeeshop in Hattiesburg where I worked in graduate school was that our sweet tea was even better than McAlister's Deli's tea. And McAlister's is known for their tea. Every time I go home, I have to stop in there to get my plastic cup with lid and straw of their tea. I drink about half in the restaurant, then fill it up before I leave, sipping on it for the rest of the day.

Any of you from Jackson may have noticed the Primos sign on that above picture. My friend Neola wrote a lovely piece in which she talks about the wonder of Primos. You should read it. I grew up eating at the Primos down on Meadowbrook when we'd go somewhere with my great-aunt, who everyone calls "Sister" even though she's only my Granny's sister (that's another thing about the South: most families have a Bubba and a Sister--for a while my little brother started calling me Sister, and I thought I was going to be the next generation for my family...but then I just became Lori again...sadly).

Primos is a locally-owned restaurant, specializing in high-end Southern food. It always made sense to me that we'd go there with Sister since I always saw her as my most aristocratic, upper-crust relative. I mean, she did live in Milwaukee for a long time, married my Uncle Ted from Poland, and her nails were always polished so pretty. Her apartment was and is filled with lots of gilded golden mirrors, thick carpets, and even a marble statue of David, whose strategically placed figleaf intrigued me as a kid.

She always serves us home-made pimento cheese, pineapples, ham, and wheat crackers when we visit her. She also always let us swim at her pool as kids but she was pretty vigilant about not getting the furniture wet with our swimsuits when we came in. She has hosted countless bridal showers and other parties at her place since it's the fanciest. She gave herself a birthday party when she turned 80, also the same year Ted and I got married, so she made sure to remember us at the party:
I could write a really lovely book about Sister, or at least a very long chapter about her, but I'll wait until I get my book deal for that.

I was talking about Primos before I chased that rabbit-trail about my great-aunt, which is I guess another thing I miss about the South: rabbit trails are not only tolerated in conversation but encouraged and indulged. Being able to weave in several side-stories to your main one, always managing to tie everything up neatly...that's a true talent.

Primos: just go read what Neola wrote about it. I just want to say that their caramel cake is the most delicious dessert you'll ever put in your mouth. I'm not sure what those other pink cakes are. Don't bother with them. Just always go for the yellow cake with caramel icing. The last time I was in Jackson, I brought a piece of it home for Ted, but he was nice enough to realize quickly that I'd actually brought it home for me, so he just took one bite and let me finish the rest. Good man.

My friend Angela married a good man herself, Dave. He's known around town as the Dean of the Honor's College at USM, but this isn't what impresses me most about Dave. What I like most about Dave is his truck. He proudly has this as his personalized license plate, giving props to his obsession/collection of anything rutabaga-related. Dave and Angela are most likely the silliest people I know and also perhaps the most southern, in the truest and best sense of all that means. I love them, and today especially, I miss them. I wish I could see them every day. Angela once came all the way to Slovakia to visit me and she even had a t-shirt airbrushed for me at K-Mart saying, "The Weena Grabba Winna." Timmah! (excuse the indulgence in inside jokes) They also make very funny videos that they put on youtube. You should check them out especially this one, in which Graham, Dave's son, goes on quite a bit about both buggies and "McAlister's sweet tea with three lemons." This video fills me with an insane amount of joy.

Speaking of friends, any friend you make in the south is gonna be there for the rest of your life. That's just how we do it down there. And age doesn't matter. One of my sweetest friends is this beautiful lady, Ms. Dot. Ms. Dot was my boss at the coffeeshop when I was in graduate school, and she is a firecracker. That woman not only knows everybody who has ever set foot in Forrest County in the last fifty years but also who their daddy is and what he does for a living. Though she was nearing 80 when I worked for her, she'd never let any of us help her, determined to climb the stepladder herself to restock the paper cups, thank you very much. When my Grandaddy died, Ms. Dot drove up to Jackson for the funeral, even though I'd only known her about six months. Heck, she knew half my extended family anyway. When I moved to Slovakia, she would mail me things occasionally, including that poem about how she wants to slide into heaven with chocolate in one hand and a glass of wine in the other (or something like that). Ms. Dot is fierce. I miss her a lot today too.

Then you have the kind of friends that become so close the line blurs between who's kin and who's not. I consider both of these people my sisters, truly.
Then there's family. Just like any normal Southern family, we have our misfits:
And we're real careful to treat them just the same as the rest of us, don't you worry about that.

When I was in Mississippi earlier this year, the family got together for my niece's birthday, and I couldn't have been prouder of this group of people. Even with all the steps and exes running around, everyone was so much more than civil--they were all friendly and seemed happy to see each other. A few were so giddy, they started doing yoga poses out in the driveway:

I don't mean to romanticize things or gloss anything over. Every family really does have its own particular brand of discord at times. I guess I just have a growing appreciation for my own family, despite its lack of perfection. Maybe if I lived there year-round, I'd feel differently, getting sick of everybody...but I doubt it.

So this week it just started hitting me how much I miss that familiarity that comes with having family in the same town as me. I miss being able to call while I'm on the way over to my sister's house, knowing that I'm not intruding, that she and her family will just be glad to see me.

I miss sitting outside in the garage with my Granny during thunderstorms, watching the bottom fall out. I miss the simplicity of throwing a stick or an old milk carton to my dad's border collie Doc over and over until he passes out in exhaustion. I miss listening to Thistle & Shamrock or A Prairie Home Companion on Saturday nights with my mom. I even miss the smell of the paper mill at my Maw-Maw's house in Natchez and those perpetual three pots of greens always found on her stove: turnips, mustards, and collards. I miss the way my little brother sidles up beside me, resting his head on my shoulder to tell me that he misses me. I miss sitting on a metal glider like this, eating the blueberry yum-yum that Maw-Maw made just for me, cause it was a special occasion. I miss my accent something terrible and wish it would come back.

So for all you good folks out there who have cousins and aunts and uncles and nieces and nephews all in the same town as you: go find them and give 'em a squeeze. Even if they drive you ape-shit crazy sometimes, hug them anyway. Tell them you love them. You'd be a different person without them. I know I would.

Friday, August 17, 2007

The Lil'Bastard

My sister and I grew up with cats, but for most of my 20's, I couldn't have one. I was either living in a dorm, an apartment that didn't allow pets, or with an allergic roommate. So I was pretty excited that the man I was marrying owned two cats (though that's not the only reason I married him). The problem was that these were his cats, not mine. They came to him for food and affection, just tolerating my presence in their house. After being married a few months, I told Ted that I wanted my own cat.

He really wanted me to feel at home in this huge, new city we were living in, so if a cat would help with that, he was game. We found him at the Pasadena Humane Society after a couple of visits. He was four months old, and what made him stand out during our official visit with him in the getting-to-know-you room was the way he'd stop by to say 'hi' to us and then run off to play. He was constantly moving about playing yet always checking in with us. We thought he was a winner.

Convincing the crazies at the Humane Society that we were decent people, not prone to torturing and maiming helpless animals was quite a herculean effort though. The minute we said he'd be an indoor/outdoor cat, the "social worker" abruptly shut our application file and said we couldn't have him. Ted got mad at this, stood up, said "thank you" and walked out, leaving me dumb-founded about what had just happened.

We went back the next day to try our luck again, this time asking to speak to the head of the volunteers to discuss how we'd been treated and to see if we could get the cat. Ted waited outside her office while I was treated like a criminal, positively interrogated by this woman who seemed hell-bent on believing that our greatest joy in life was bringing kittens home to watch get squashed by cars and eaten by renegade coyotes.

I quickly grew tired of the darkened room and spotlight tactics, so I politely explained that I didn't like having to prove to anyone my decency and that I'd appreciate an apology for being treated like a kitten-stew eating witch. She was a bit taken aback but apologized and then I became human to her. I know how to put the humane back in the Humane Society, let me tell ya.

By the end of our meeting, I'd convinced her that though the cat would go outdoors sometimes, that we were good people worthy of taking home one of her animals. So a few days later, after he'd recovered from that little snip-snip surgery, we brought the newest addition home in a white box. This is what he looked like the day he came home:
Pretty cute, huh?

Our vet was shocked when she found out that the Pasadena Humane Society crazies let us have him. One of her clients went there to get a new cat but was denied because he had a college-aged son who came home on the weekends and the crazies though it would be too traumatic for the cat to have a stranger in the house on weekends. You see now why I call them "the crazies."

Despite it being a dorky name, Buddy seemed to be what he ended up with. We'd wanted something more clever or cute, but he just got stuck with Buddy somehow. He quickly developed a crush on Chitty, the fat one, and would follow him around everywhere staring longingly when he couldn't manage to get Chitty to play.
Chitty acted miffed that we'd brought this new being to his domain, but we know he secretly liked having the new one around. He'd even eventually let Buddy get this close...
...which made Buddy drunk on Chitty-love:
These moments were few and far between though. This is how Buddy earned his nickname, the Lil' Bastard. Despite his deep love for Chitty, he could never resist the urge to be rascally with him.

Chitty is a fat cat. He's so fat that he has this pocket of fat that hangs down in front of his hind legs that waddles back and forth when he walks, even faster when he scampers (because Chitty doesn't exactly run...scampering is the fastest he gets). The Lil' Bastard cannot resist this wabbling, swaying bubble of fat that Chitty has. He just has to reach out and grab it. Sometimes Chitty gets away...briefly.

Buddy quickly won all of our hearts. Then the trauma began.

Anyone who's spent any time in L.A. is familiar with coyotes and even knows a person or two who've had pets disappear in the early mornings. We had never seen one on our property though so weren't too worried, uh...until we saw one on our back deck one morning licking himself, taking it easy like he was right at home.

This began the period of chasing down the cats every evening before dusk. Chitty and Bang Bang were never a problem to get inside. The Lil' Bastard thought it was a game: he hides, we find him, he runs away, we chase him, he scampers half-way up a tree, we stand there fuming asking him, "Do you want to get eaten alive?" for hours on end. No kidding.

We saw the coyote a few times over this period. One morning, the coyote shows up in the space between our houses, and we get a phone call from Ed, our 85-year-old neighbor. We look out the window towards his house and immediately wish the camera were closer by: there was our excited, white-bearded neighbor standing on his side porch with his red-plaid bathrobe hanging open for him to hike up his, uh... adult protective undergarments all while cocking the rifle, shouting, "Ted! I've got the 22! Where'd the coyote go?!"

The coyote got away and the day went on as usual, except when it started getting dark. We couldn't find Buddy. He had disappeared. We waited and looked for hours. We went all over the neighborhood. Neither of us slept all night.

I kept laying there in bed imagining dark, horrible things involving sweet, soft Bastard fur and horrible yellow teeth. I felt guilty for being reckless with our cats' safety. I thought about how the crazies at the Humane Society were right about us: we were irresponsible pet owners.

When I got out of bed in the morning, Ted was already up and there was still no Buddy. The oppressive reality of Buddy being gone, probably eaten, sunk deeper and heavier on my shoulders as I wandered the house. I was in shock at what had happened. I wanted to rewind time and bring him in earlier in the day. I wanted to go back and promise the crazies that I would never let him outside, ever.

I had to go with Ted that morning to his eye doctor's appointment, so on the way there, neither of us really talked much. We sat in the dark waiting room crying. We'd fall asleep for a few moments, then wake up and cry more.

This is when Ted started eulogizing Buddy. As we waited in the room for the doctor, Ted would say, "The best thing about Buddy was his innocence, how he went through life led by those furry white paws...." Then we'd both cry even harder. Then the doctor came in and was genuinely concerned with what was wrong with us. When we told him our cat had been eaten by a coyote, he actually sat down and listened to our eulogies and cries. He's a very kind doctor (if any of you ever have a retinal detachment, we can pass along his name to you--Ted's had three of these...a whole other long, dramatic story).

I called my mom on the way home from the doctor to tell her about what happened. She said that she would pray. Pray? I was convinced he was dead. She prayed that if Buddy was alive, that he would come home.

We got home and started the long trudge up the stairs. Half-way up, Ted stopped to talk to Hermalindo, the guy who was there doing some work on the house. I continued up the stairs, came into the house, looked at the landing of the stairway, and saw Buddy. He was just sitting there looking at me. I lost my breath. I screamed out loud for Ted as I joyfully ran to pick up the Lil' Bastard.

When Ted heard me calling him, he told himself not to get his hopes up, that it was probably just something else. He came running in the house to see me in tears holding our cat, and he joined me, grabbing Buddy and crying just as hard as I was and saying, "He's home! He came home! Oh thank you God!"

Buddy was having none of it. He had no idea what the hell was going on and actually started scrambling to get away from these two weeping and wailing lunatics squeezing him to death.

It turns out that Buddy had been locked under the house all night. He really liked watching Hermalindo, so he'd followed him under the house at the end of the day. Hermalindo hadn't realized he was there and just shut the door before he left. So when we'd been calling him the night before, he could hear us and was probably scampering about trying to get our attention somehow. I shudder to think about what would have happened had Hermalindo not been scheduled to come back the next day...
Buddy Trauma Part II
Time went by and things were fine. Buddy was a little more skittish after his night under the house, but he still would win people over, like he did when my Granny came to visit:
He also got a lot of attention after Trauma Part I. Many evenings after we'd successfully wrangled him into the house, one of us would spend time combing his fur, getting rid of any nasties that got stuck in his furry tail during his adventures outside during the day. He was our prodigal son come home, and we pretty regularly killed the fatted calf for him.

One Friday, we noticed that Buddy seemed to be going at a slower pace than usual. He'd still follow Ted around outside while he was doing chores, but he looked sluggish. The next day, we noticed him just laying limp in his favorite patch of dirt in the backyard. I went to get him, and he easily let me pick him up. I knew something was wrong.

He just hung limp in my arms. This was a Saturday evening. We waited all night and during church Sunday morning, I couldn't take the worry. I left during the middle of the service, telling Ted I was going to the emergency vet. Of course, these things always happen on the weekends.

I registered him at the vet but was told that this was a triage facility and since he could pee and drink water, we pretty much went to the bottom of the list. Buddy was in his traveling basket beside me, panting harder as the hours rolled by. Yes, hours. After three and a half hours, I thought I was getting closer to getting my dying cat seen, but then a little Filipino lady walked in the door in tears, carrying a shoebox with a baby squirrel inside. It had fallen off her roof, and she wanted it fixed. Normally, I might have had some sympathy, but after spending so much time there, I was ready to punch her in the face for bumping me down the list even further for the sake of a wild, disease-carrying squirrel.

So we waited another two hours.

Finally we were called back, and after what seemed like forever, the vet brought me into the examining room. There was no Buddy with her. My heart sank. She put two x-rays up on the light-board to show me what was going on. She said, "He has one of three things, two of which are fatal and the other will cost you a fortune to have treated."

That's when I pretty much lost it. It turns out Buddy was in the back in an oxygen tent because he had developed a condition called pyrothorax, which normally dogs get, not cats. An infection was growing in his chest cavity, slowly suffocating him to death. He'd probably had it for weeks but his cat's stoicism kept it hidden from us until he collapsed the day before.

The vet explained that she could draw out some of the infection...let's call it what it is, shall we?...pus...with a syringe to give him room to breathe during the night, but that the next day I'd have to take him to the animal hospital across town.

So Buddy spent his first night in an oxygen tent. Early the next morning, we picked him up and paid what would be the first of many bills.

After taking him to the wrong vet, which is a whole other story I don't even like to think about, I ended up at the fanciest animal hospital I'd ever seen located directly west of Beverly Hills, with all the Beverly Hills ammenities you could imagine for pets. Automatic doors whooshed open as I approached them, and I was greeted by three smiling receptionists who were expecting us.

They took Buddy to the back while I filled out paperwork. I was able to drink all the complimentary herbal tea or coffee I wanted while waiting in the kitty waiting room, though I also had the choice of slumming it in the doggy waiting room if I'd wanted to. I didn't.

I got to know this place well in the next week. The first thing the doctors did was put tubes in Buddy's chest to drain the infectious pus accumulating there. That was to buy them time while they tried to figure out what was causing the infection. We were on the phone every day as they tried various antibiotics. Nothing was working. At the time, we had a couple of my former students from Slovakia visiting us, so I'd drop them off somewhere like The Grove or the beach while I'd go visit Buddy.

Let me tell ya', those were gut-wrenching visits. They'd bring him out all wrapped up in a towel, with that crazy white cone on his head to keep him from licking the tubes in his chest. He'd be doped up on pain medication, which made him have the nibbles, so they'd give me something to feed him. And I'd sit there holding him and cry like I didn't know I could cry. I remember telling myself that this is only a cat, for crying out loud, not a person, but it didn't seem to make it any easier.

As the days went by, the decisions got harder each day as to how far we'd go to keep him alive. Ted made the point that hospitals like this shouldn't make it so easy, with their offers of payment plans. There must be so many people out there in love with their pets who go into debt to help them.

The hard thing for us was that no one ever handed us a bill saying, "This is what the total cost is going to be." It was just this daily ticking, adding up slowly so that before we knew it, we'd already spent a chunk. So when the doctor says that there's a good chance this one next procedure or next medication could cure your pet, it's difficult to know what to do.

We'd both go visit him sometimes and both cry. We'd look at this helpless little creature and think that, despite this illness, he was the luckiest guy in the world to have been picked from the crazies at the Humane Society by us. How ironic that they almost wouldn't let us have him. It didn't make it any easier when the nurses would tell us that he was the sweetest patient they could remember having, that he'd actually purr when they went to handle him, never fighting them.

Finally, we agreed to "exploratory surgery." Yes, I said it. They opened up his chest cavity in one of these rooms, and found that one of his lungs had collapsed. Not only that, but it had hardened and started to adhere to his chest cavity wall. So they had to scrape it out. They think that some foreign body, like a piece of foxtail grass, had penetrated his skin and made its way to his lungs. Cats' lungs are not even: one handles 70%, the other 30%. Luckily (?!), it was the smaller lung that had collapsed. They washed everything out and sewed him up, sending him home with three different antibiotics to be given twice a day for three months.

So from that point, if we had to go out of town overnight, our friends David and Kelly babysat for us. David would faithfully give Buddy his pills every morning and night. Those two are true friends.

Buddy was pretty skinny for a while afterwards, and you can see here his fancy mohawk which lasted several months. His chest and tummy were also totally shaved as well.

Two years later, his fur has totally grown back, as you can see here.

We're hoping that the rest of his life is uneventful in comparison to his first year of life. This is what also made the whole drama so difficult: all this happened to him while he was still a kitten.

We know that some friends and relatives thought we were crazy to go to such lengths to keep this cat alive, but in a way, we couldn't help ourselves. It's like Haven Kimmel said in her book A Girl Named Zippy, "Few can understand the love between a girl and her chicken." There's a bond between people and their pets, whether a cat or a chicken, that you can't understand unless you've experienced it. I really believe it's one of the greatest joys in life, that God created us with this need to offer security, warmth, and love to certain creatures.

When I was a kid and my mom's cat Ebony died, she mourned. I remember her actually sitting out next to the place they buried her for hours and hours. I knew not to disturb her, though I didn't really understand at the time why she was so sad.

Now I do understand. Sometimes Ted and I wonder how we'll react when one of our cats is gone. It's hard to imagine. With both of Buddy's traumas, I guess it surprised me how deeply I cared for this little creature in such a short time.

Even in the middle of the night, when Buddy wants food and tries to wake me by delicately and deliberately poking any bit of skin he can find with his claws, I still love him. Even when I open my eyes to see a little hiney-hole getting bigger and bigger as he's preparing to sit on my face to try getting me up that way (yes, he does that), I still love him. Even when he sleeps in the bushes for hours, ignoring me when I call him, I still love him.

Maybe few can understand the love between a girl and her Lil'Bastard.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

A Few Ways that the Internet Rules

I was thinking today about some of the ways the internet has made my life better. Here's a few that pop into my head.

1. Through our membership, we can do home exchanges all over the world and get to be accommodated for free in a local home. We've done it three times so far. We can also do "nonsimultaneous exchanges," meaning that we are hosted and host another family. We did this for the wedding in Miami and got to stay with these amazing people who served us the most delicious cafe con leche I've ever had in my life, took us to a Cuban restaurant, and talked Harry Potter:I wasn't so sure what I thought at first of these nonsimultaneous exchanges, but I can honestly say that our time with this family in Miami was so beyond wonderful. I even slept soundly both nights we were there (for me, that's a big issue). I am so looking forward to them visiting us one of these days, whenever they can make their way to the west coast.

2. Thanks to the blogging world, I have met so many wonderful people, many of whom are linked in my sidebar. We got to have lunch last week with some of these bloggers, another couple adopting from Ethiopia. They posted about it here. How cool are they? I felt like we were having lunch with rock stars...except really down-to-earth, funny rock stars who believe a lot of the same stuff that we do and who were sly enough to play a joke on Ted (not an easy feat).

3. Also thanks to the blogging world, I reconnected with this guy who was my friend Chris's roommate ages ago in Prague. He's now biking all the way across the U.S. for charity. We once spent a day at Ikea and later drinking tea at a Buddha-themed restaurant in the shadow of the castle in Hradcany. Now he's going to end up in our neck of the woods in Oregon next month. Thanks to the wonders of the internet, we get to host him for a couple of days before he flies back home.

4. Lastly, because of the internet, one can see videos like this, which are just sickeningly cute. And who doesn't like to be sickened by the cute-ness?

When you're done with all the gagging, hurling, rolphing from the above video, feel free to share how your life is more bright and beautiful thanks to our fuzzy friend, Mr. Internet.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

All the Little Things

The other morning while in Los Angeles, some guys showed up around 7:00 am to start jack-hammering at the bottom of our hill, tearing up the existing staircase and wall to put a carport in. Our bedroom faces the street, so the noise was starting to chip its way into my consciousness through my earplugs and the fan on at high speed. However, before I was fully pulled from my dream of driving a golf cart through the streets of Prague, Ted raced all the way up the 76 steps from the street to the house to close the windows so that I could continue sleeping.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: that man is my hero.

Then today I went to use the unisex restroom at our Trader Joe's and noticed that the toilet seat was up. As most other women, I'm not a big fan of having to put these down, especially in a public restroom. Through my mild annoyance, it occurred to me that I'm spoiled by how Ted remembers to put the seat down probably 90% of the time. He's made the point that it's the gentlemanly thing to do.

It got me thinking about how in any marriage or friendship, it's the little things that seem to serve as the glue to keep things together. It's the little ways we prefer each other, the small things we do to make the other happy.

So I want to put the question out there: What are some of these little things for you all?

Monday, August 6, 2007

80-Year-Old Flirting

Ted's dad seems to be getting a growing fan-base through his occasional appearances here on our blog. Yesterday, I got the following message from him on my cell phone:

Hi Lori, this is your gramp..., no I'm not your grandfather! I'm your father-in-law! I'm up at the grill, Portland Grill, with this lady. I'm sitting here because she had reading glasses and I didn't bring mine and she allowed me to sit with her. But she's loaded and she doesn't have any money and I'm gonna have to pay her tab and she lives in Salem so I just needed ...just call me back and let me know what I should do, ok? (lots of girlish laughter in the background).

It looks like someone was calling me from Sunday happy-hour as a means to flirt with a cute little lady from Salem. What's funny to me is that, had I picked up the phone when he called, the "conversation" would probably have gone the exact same way.

Keep on truckin' Ed.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

48 Hours in Los Angeles.

Absolutely nothing going on (as far as we can see) with the adoption. Still waiting on that infamous letter from CIS giving us the go-ahead to send off our foreign dossier.

We're down in Southern California at the moment. I am not much of a fan of "SoCal," so I decided to make the most of this trip by making a list from my Lonely Planet guide book of interesting things to see and do here. I can handle the stress of this place if I see myself as a tourist.

On that note, here are some initial observations during my first 48 hours in Los Angeles. I promise that it's not all about traffic, just a little.

1. Though my flight arrived on time, it was a full hour from the time we landed until the time I had my checked bag in hand to walk out the door: the first test of patience.

2. LAX is frenzied. As we were trying to merge into the outside left lanes to get on the freeway, a taxi driver was barreling through the inside right lanes laying on his horn, despite people trying to get to their cars. Scary.

3. Many locals are aware of the constant long line of cars at the interchange of the Pasadena Freeway to Interstate 5 North. There's debate as to whether one should just patiently wait in line or rush ahead and cut in in front of someone. Ted tends to try cutting in, since the alternative means a 20-45 minute creep on the freeway. So on our way home from the airport, he tries cutting in but doesn't make it. However, a big white SUV (hopefully not O.J.'s) cut in front of us and barreled over to the I-5 , despite this being very illegal to cross over solid white lines. Several cars had to screech to avoid hitting him, and Ted got his chance to lay on the horn, for at least a full twenty seconds. As we passed the white SUV, with the horn still screaming in protest, we got the "Lord bless ya" finger. Nice. Welcome to the big city.

4. The next morning, as I sat eating breakfast, the first conversation that came up between our friend Susan and me was about traffic. And I hadn't even mentioned the previous night's event.

5. A coworker of Ted's was being accommodated at the Beverly Hills Hotel where he had a simple breakfast of bagel and coffee...for $25.

6. In Koreatown, there's a chain fast food place called Jollibee that advertises in bold yellow letters: "Crispy Chickenjoy and Juicy Yumburgers!" I'm dying to try the joyful chicken.

7. I rode in a cab to Paramount Studios with an Armenian driver who graduated in film studies at a university back home. He now works part time cab-driving and part time at J.C. Penny's Portrait Studio, though he said with a wink that he prefers taking "all sorts of pictures."

8. While sitting outside on Larchmont having lunch, a little girl no older than 4 years old, came strutting down the street pulling the front of her dress out with both hands while singing a made-up song that goes like this: "I'm poking out my boobies! Boobies, boobies, boobies! I said I'm poking out my boobies like this! Boobies, boobies, boobies!" Her cell-phone distracted mom came following her and they both walked into a yoga studio, leaving the rest of us on the sidewalk a little dazed.

9. Right in front of Urth Cafe, we saw a Bentley go by with New York plates. I didn't check the mileage, but I bet someone has some cash on hand for flying their cars cross country.

10. On the Melrose strip, while waiting at a red light, we were treated to a jogging manequin prancing by, very tan and wearing only running shoes and cut-off red sweatpants that were falling down enough to display both the top of his crack and tattoo right above it.

11. Simultaneously at one point, I was surrounded by Kermit the Frog smiling down at me from the Jim Henson Studios on my right, a topless bar on my left, and a woman with a chihuahua licking her face driving a "pimped out" black hearse.

12. In Portland when I dust the furniture, what comes up on the cloth is a light brown color. In Los Angeles, what appears on the cloth is coal black. And it's on everything. How can this be anything but toxic to our bodies? Why anyone would want to spend a lifetime in a huge city, I'm baffled by.

I forgot the cable for uploading photos to the computer, so until I get back to Portland, I can't post pictures here. Hope you enjoyed the above observations, and I'd love to hear some of your daily observations of where you currently are, especially from a couple of you who I know are in gorgeous locales like Montana and Italy!