23 February 2010

VCA Cat Hospital in Philadelphia

Those of you who know me well know that I spend some time writing Angry Letters and making phone calls when companies piss me off. NBC has received two letters during the Olympics coverage (one during the Opening Ceremonies - they didn't make it very far before Bob Costas pissed me off). FOX got more than one call from me earlier this month for showing me snow instead of Daytona qualifying. So, to even out the balance, when someone is awesome, I want people to know that, too.

I need to sing the praises once again of the VCA Cat Hospital in Philadelphia; they are the wonderful, compassionate people who have been helping me take care of the Ocs (this is pronounced like "ox," by the way) for the past week and a half. Specifically, Oscar's doctor is Dr. Katherine Kurpel, about whom I can not say enough good things.

When Dr. Kurpel initially saw Ocs, she wasn't sure what was wrong with him, so she gave me an estimate for several tests. I explained that I had JUST been laid-off and asked her if she could help me prioritise what tests would be more urgent, would make more sense, etc. She was extremely understanding and compassionate about this, especially when I started crying that if I HAD the $600 I would pay for all the tests she was proposing, but I just DIDN'T. She didn't guilt trip me about it at all. To the contrary, she said something (it's all kind of a blur now) about when you have rent and food to pay for, of course you have to prioritise, and everyone can understand that. She talked to me about whether Ocs was the kind of cat who eats foreign objects or chews on toys that he shouldn't, etc., and when I said that he really doesn't at all, she decided to scrap the abdominal x-ray. We whittled a few other things down and got the estimate down to about half of the original.

That all happened on Saturday. She called me on Monday with the blood test results, even though she was on travelling on her vacation. She called her office and left special instructions with them so I could go in and pick up Ocs' meds, some special food, and talk to the other doctor if I thought of any other questions (which I, of course, did). She called me the next day to check on Oscar again because she knew he wasn't eating well, and that impressed me.

But what REALLY impressed me was today. I got another call from the office today. At first, I assumed that it was to remind me that I needed to bring Ocs in for his follow-up blood work testing in 3-4 weeks (well, now 2-3 weeks) to make sure his thyroid meds are at the right level. And I thought, "Yes, yes, I know." But, I was wrong. They just wanted to know how he was doing. Was he still having diarhhea? Was he eating any better? How was the dehydration? How about the behaviour? Was he more himself yet? In fact, I'M the one who had to ask about the follow-up appointment as we were hanging up!

I really, really can not say enough about how much I love this place. I've decided to make Dr. Kurpel the boys' regular doctor. As much as I love The Cat Doctor and Dr. Eigner, I was SO impressed by this office (who, as you may remember was recommended by Dr. Eigner's office), that I'm sticking with them permanently.

19 February 2010

Happy 14th Birthday, Oscar!

About 13 years and 10 months ago, I went to pick out a kitten from a co-worker's sister's litter. That night, I brought a tiny all-black kitten home to two very suspicious dogs - Max and Nicky (who have been since gone over the Rainbow Bridge).

It took us a few days before we hit on a name that was Just Right, but Oscar it was. Somehow, throughout the years, I started calling him Ocsar Boxer, which sometimes gets shortened to Ocsar, and mostly gets shortened to Ocs.

When Ocs was two we almost had to amputate one of his legs, but thanks to nearly daily visits with a dedicated veterinarian in Missouri, we were able to save his leg. He had gotten his leg wedged between a chain link fence and a wooden privacy fence and was found hanging upside-down by his leg. To this day if he's walking on a non-carpeted surface, you can hear him coming because it sounds like he's walking on a peg leg; the leg he got caught "clicks" when he moves it.

Oscar has also flown on an airplane (as carry-on - no cargo for this baby!). And he made the transition from being an indoor/outdoor Missouri cat to an indoor Philadelphia cat. But in his heyday, boy could he hunt! Rabbits and birds and squirrels and anything else he could get from the park across the street.

The Ocs and I would like to thank everyone who has given us so much support and love over the past week while he was recovering. We appreciate it very much, especially since there were moments when we weren't sure that we'd make it to today. Hugs to you all, especially to your pets who sent licks, skritches, cuddles, etc.

17 February 2010

A Pet Peeve: Literally

My friends know that one of my biggest pet peeves is when people misuse the word "literally."

One time I heard a woman say, "It's literally raining cats and dogs outside!" Uh, no, it's really NOT, ma'am. Cause PETA would be all over that shit.

In the aftermath of September 11th, the news aired a "man on the street" interview in which the person said, "I really feel for President Bush. He literally has the weight of the world on his shoulders." I called my sister who said EXACTLY what I yelled at the tv: Who is he - Atlas???

But I would hope that Olympic sportscasters and colour commentators would know a little better than the average person. But, apparently, that's a bit much for which to hope.

On Saturday, I was informed that one of the U.S.A. speed skaters "literally had a wall of Korean skaters" to get through. I turned to Naomi (who was watching The Games with me) and asked her if that wasn't perhaps against the IOC rules. We then wondered if the Koreans would be building this wall after the race started, if the wall would move around the track with the skaters, and why other countries wouldn't employ this strategy.

And just tonight, I was told that one of the downhill skiers "literally let it all out." Dear God, I hope not. First of all, it's bloody cold on those ski slopes in Vancouver. Secondly, doesn't she need some of that, you know, IN her?

Also, the Oscar update:

The Ocs is doing well. He continues to make urine and today he actually made a tiny little poop! I've never been so excited in my life to see poop! He's still somewhat listless, but he's ambled through the living room a few times on his way into the kitchen for water, and then back under the bed.

Finally, a couple of pics of Felix because he deserves some blog space:

15 February 2010

The Oscar Update

Ocs' doctor called today and said that his blood work shows that he has hyperthyroidism. Way to go, buddy, for following in mommy's footsteps. You couldn't have just decided to be a Raider's fan? Or like Scott Speed? No? Okay, then. So, two pills a day for the little buddy, at least for now.

But, in the meantime: He still has the diarhhea, and I'm very sorry to report that he is still not quite making it to the litter box every time (no, really, you don't know how sorry I am to say that to you). And the vet was extremely alarmed today to hear that nearly 48 hours after I started a 5.5-ounce can of wet cat food, Oscar still has yet to make his way through the entire can. So she had me try a different try kind of food. We had been trying Hill's Prescription Diet i/d, and now we're trying then e/n. Each can costs nearly $2/can so I'm hoping we hit on a winning combination quickly. Not to sound crass, but the unemployed don't have money to burn, especially when Saturday's vet trip used a good chunk of the savings account.

But it's not all bad news: This morning Ocs went and voluntarily drank some water for the first time in over 60 hours! AND he kept it down! I didn't let him have very much for fear he'd overdo it and then bring it up just because he would have too much, but I'm happy he finally showed interest in water at all. But since then, when I've offered him water, he's not been interested. I have been adding small amounts of water to his wet food to sneak him extra water (thanks, Brook!), though. And I've been forcing (God, I sound like a horrible shrew) small medicine droppers-full of sugar water down him every so often.

So: still with the diarhhea, still slightly dehydrated, not getting enough food, but showing a slight interest in water once. And a diagnosis of hyperthyroid.

And just to remind you of the handsome fellow we're talking about:

Also, Felix was doing a really good job of leaving Ocs alone until today. But this morning, Fe ran up to Ocs and swiped at him. I thought maybe Fe was trying to play with him so I just separated them and reminded Fe that Ocs didn't feel good and left Ocs under the bed by himself. But just awhile ago, Fe ran up to Ocs and batted at him again and hissed. I don't know what to do; ideas?

13 February 2010


My Oscar is sick.

Yesterday morning, he threw up, but I didn't think much of it. Anyone who has cats (and some who don't) know that cats just sometimes ick up. But then he did it again. And again. He wasn't able to keep down water.

Then, in the afternoon, his stool came out completely liquid - mucous-y and bloody. And a few hours later, it happened again. My wonderful friend Brook immediately set to work Googling what she could about cat diarrhea.

And this whole time, Ocs (as I call him) was hunkered down under the bed between some boxes. For me to even see him, I had to move boxes around. For those of you who have met this love bug, you know that this is VERY un-Ocs-like behaviour. For those of you who have not met him, imagine if House, M.D., suddenly began treating his patients with better bedside manner than Wilson does. Or if Simon Cowell went three weeks in a row without saying some variation of "I don't mean to be rude, but..." Or if the NASCAR media went 48 hours without mentioning the "D-word" (and I don't mean "damn").

I called The Cat Doctor today, whom I adore, but they were overbooked because of this past week's snow cancellations and such. I asked them to refer me somewhere, and they suggested either VCA Cat Hospital or Girard Veterinary Clinic; however, only VCA is open on Saturdays. Fortunately they had some open appointments. Given Ocs' age (he'll be 14 this coming Friday) and symptoms, they suggested I have him seen right away. Which is when I started crying. Right on the phone with the poor woman. Embarrassing.

Another wonderful friend of mine, Naomi, rented a car to come pick Ocs and me up because I didn't think I was in any condition to drive by then. Ocs got examined and, just like a car at the mechanic, he started to act more himself, wanting skritches, licking my face, etc. The vet couldn't even listen to his heart because he wouldn't stop purring! I told her good luck with that because he ALWAYS purrs.

In the end, we got sent home with a prescription for an anti-diarrheal if it's still happening tomorrow, and directions to give 2.5 mg of OTC Pepcid AC once a day. They gave him fluids sub-cutaneously since he was slightly dehydrated. They took some blood tests, and the results should be back on Monday, or Tuesday at the latest. If the blood work doesn't show anything, though, she wants to discuss x-rays, urinalysis, and hospitalisation.

He didn't eat at all yesterday, so tonight, she wants me to try to interest him in one tablespoon of wet food. If he keeps that down, I'm to keep trying 1-2 tablespoons of wet food frequently, as he can tolerate it. Wish us luck!

Oh, and for anyone who hasn't yet met the wonder known as Oscar - one pic of him trying to occupy my knitting bag, and one pic of him keeping the inside of a bag safe from enemy invaders (he really is in there!):

10 February 2010

Creamy Onion Lasagne

Because Ria requested it (and I askeered of what might happen if I don't).

From Taste of Home's Simple and Delicious
Claims to be $1.06 per serving! Gotta love that!

1 lb ground beef
1 26-oz jar roasted garlic Parmesan spaghetti sauce
1 egg
1 8-oz 4% cottage cheese
1 8-oz carton French onion dip
1 25.6-oz jar Italian sausage and garlic spaghetti sauce
12 no-cook lasagne noodles
3 cups (12 oz) shredded (part-skim) mozzarella cheese

1. Cook beef over medium hear until no longer pink; drain. Stir in the roasted garlic Parmesan spaghetti sauce. Combine the egg, cottage cheese, and onion dip.

2. Spread 1 cup Italian sausage and garlic spaghetti into a greased 13 x 9 baking dish. Top with four noodles. Layer with half of the cottage cheese mixture, half of the beef mixture and 1 cup mozzarella cheese. Repeat layers. Top with remaining noodles, sauce and mozzarella cheese.

3. Cover and bake at 375º for 50 minutes. Uncover; bake 5-10 minutes longer or until cheese is melted. Let stand for 15 minutes before cutting.

Variations: I used beef spaghetti sauce instead of Italian sausage sauce, because I don't eat pork. And because I somehow made it home without the mozzarella cheese (although it's checked off on my market order??), I used different cheese, but it still tasted VERY good.

I also might use SLIGHTLY less sauce next time, or just a different 13X9 dish since I had a bit of sauce spill out onto the bottom of my oven.

08 February 2010

Snow Shovelling Scorecard

As I mentioned in my last post, much of yesterday's entertainment came in the form of watching people attempt to clean off their car and shovel out of their parking space. I would relay the play-by-play to Ria, who would then assess (or take away) points based on technique, creativity, use (or not) of equipment, etc.

Mind, it wasn't our intention to set out to play this all day, but it all kicked off when I watched The Most Epic Fail EVER in digging out and reported the efforts to Ria. She then scored said efforts, and the game was born.

Here, I present to you, the final results for your entertainment. Alternately, so you, like my mom can roll your eyes and wonder just how bored Ria and I were yesterday (or, as Mom said, "Ria must have been REALLY bored since she didn't actually get to SEE any of this.").

The Asshat:
  • -5: no shovel
  • -10: use of tire iron in lieu of shovel
  • -5: use of too little kitty litter (one handful in front of each tire)
  • -5: not backing car up even though there was ample room
  • -10: not clearing snow from top of car
  • Total Score: -35
Cafeteria Boy
  • +5: Shovelling snow (unlike Asshat)
  • -3: Tech (not clearing snow from top of car or hood)
  • +2: Creativity (use of something that looked suspiciously like cafeteria tray to shovel snow)
  • +2: Tech (going back to clear snow from top of car and hood)
  • Total Score: +6
Nice Neighbours
  • -3: Loaning shovel to Caf Boy (thus taking away entertainment value from Ria and me)
  • +15: Taking Asshat's parking spot (they didn't leave, just cleaning car pre-emptively)
  • -5: Clearing other parking spot out of goodness of their heart (again, robbing us of entertainment)
  • Total score: +7
Not Asshat
  • +5: Amusing irony (for taking spot Nice Neighbour's cleared away and not being Asshat)
  • Total Score: +5
The Couple
  • -10: Lack of chivalry (the guy swept snow from car while woman shovelled)
  • -5: Letting guy make her do all the shovelling
  • +5: Thoroughly cleaning car off
  • -3: Shovelling technique (piled all snow on plow pile then shoved snow onto street)
  • Total Score: -13
  • +5: Starting car as soon as he started cleaning
  • -3: Turning car off too early
  • -5: Improper use of equipment (using hands to clear snow from windshield/hood)
  • -5: Improper use of equipment (using ice scraper to clear snow from hood, even though he had a broom)
  • +5: Completely clearing snow from all surfaces of car
  • +3: Sound shovelling technique
  • Total Score: 0
Night Crawlers
  • +5: Clearing parking spot out
  • -2: Waiting so late (11:30 p.m.)
  • -5: Pointlessness (moved car down the block and across the street)
  • Total Score: -2

WINNERS: Nice Neighbours
LOSER: Asshat

07 February 2010

Ten Things I've Learned Recently

  1. If you're in a car singing along to Michael Jackson's "Thriller" and doing the requisite dance moves and the people in the car next to you see you, they may point and laugh.
  2. They may also then join in.
  3. Because Michael Jackson is universal.
  4. If you are a dedicated race fan and you think hard enough, you will figure out that crawling out of your second story window and stretching out onto your roof to clear the snow and ice from your satellite dish will restore the signal so you can see the ARCA race.
  5. You should NOT tell your mother that you did this.
  6. A fun way to pass a snowy morning is to score neighbours on their ability (or inability) to clean their snow-covered car and shovel their car out. Ideally, have Ria as a judge to help score; she's very fair at this.
  7. When needing to girl talk, it's good to have four people with slightly different perspectives and styles to give advice.
  8. It's also good to have friends who understand that disagreeing with them doesn't mean you haven't listened to them.
  9. Maple syrup can be substituted for vanilla extract.
  10. Grass will blow your hood up.

05 February 2010

Thyroid Update

I saw my endocrinologist today for the first time in two years. Since my last appointment, I'd mostly been euthyroid, meaning that my thyroid decided to start acting like a normal thyroid and do it's job properly. Then suddenly last year, it decided that, no, it was tired of that shtick and would be a slacker again, thank you very much. So we'd been keeping in contact via phone calls and faxes.

Since I worked at a hospital and had easy access to a doctor, I got the doctor in my department to order the lab tests I needed and got the blood draws I needed while I was at work. Then I just faxed the results to my endocrinologist. She'd called me, let me know her thoughts, adjust my meds, etc. Lather, rinse, repeat.

It wasn't SUPPOSED to be two years lag time between appointments, but her office is out in the 'burbs, not easily accessible via public transit, and she's kind of a pain in the ass to get to. But, you know, not having a job kind of made that easier. Yay, I guess. Heh.

My thyroid levels are great, and my thyroid itself (she always does an ultrasound) is small (which pleases me in a ridiculous kind of way) and abnormal, but in a normal kind of way, given the kind of thyroid disease that I have.

However, she's worried about my sugar levels. I had a random mid-day glucose level several months ago that was 144 (normal is under 100). So she had me do a fasting blood test last week. This one came back as 98. But my HA1C (this gives you a six-month history of your blood sugars) was 5.7 in July. The range for at-risk for diabetes (what the CDC used to call "pre-diabetes) is 5.5-6.4.

So since I'm JUST under the norm for glucose AND I'm in the range for "at-risk for diabetes" AND I'm in one of the high risk ethnicities for diabetes (hello, one of the downfalls of being Asian) AND we don't know my family medical history, we're choosing to be very conservative about this.

As soon as she said this, I said, "Yes, I need to weigh less, watch what I eat, and exercise more." She smiled and said, "Clearly, you've heard this before." I said, "I have, but Doctor, here's the thing. It's very frustrating. I worked REALLY hard and lost 14 pounds before I even met you. Then I got the thyroid problem and gained it all back plus two pounds. And I won't tell you that word I used when that happened, because it wasn't polite. And that's how I got diagnosed thyroid. Then you stabilised me. I joined Weight Watchers, and I lost 10.4 pounds. Then I suddenly gained it all back. That's when I realised my thyroid problem was back again. I'm not trying to avoid responsibility for my health or my weight. In fact, I've tried REALLY hard and worked REALLY hard to BE responsible, but I feel like my thyroid sabotages me EVERY time, and that's really freaking frustrating."

So she told me that for awhile, since my thyroid is erratic, we're going to test my thyroid levels every three months to keep a closer eye on it. So instead of being REactive, we can be PROactive. So instead of gaining 10-12 pounds and then knowing that my thyroid is acting up because I'm gaining weight, we can know that my thyroid levels are off and that I MIGHT gain a couple a pounds if I'm not careful in the coming weeks. And she talked to me about taking control of my thyroid and not letting it control me.

In the end, I felt like she really listened to me and that we made a plan together that made sense.


04 February 2010

Beef and Tater Bake

Yet another recipe brought to you by Taste of Home's Simple and Delicious. This purported to be a frugal $0.90 per serving, but, again, I had some of the stuff on hand already, so I can't add it up to tell you if that was true in my case. Seems reasonable, though

4 c. frozen Tater Tots
1 lb. ground beef
1 16-oz package frozen chopped broccoli, thawed
1 can (10-3/4 oz) condensed cream of broccoli soup, undiluted
1 medium tomato, chopped
1 can (2.8 oz) french-fried onions, divided
4 oz. shredded Colby-Monterey Jack cheese, divided
1/3 cup 2% milk
1/4 t garlic powder
1/8 t pepper

1. Place Tater Tots in an ungreased 13X9 baking dish. Bake, uncovered, at 400º for 10 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, cook beef over medium heat until no longer pink; drain. Stir in the broccoli, soup, tomato, 3/4 cup french-fried onions, 1/2 cup cheese, milk, garlic powder and pepper; heat through. Pour over Tater Tots.

3. Cover and bake for 20 minutes. Uncover; sprinkle with remaining onions and cheese. Bake 5-10 minutes longer or until cheese is melted.

Yield: 12 servings.

Variations: I didn't use the tomato because I didn't feel like paying January prices for a tomato. I thought about buying a canned chopped tomato, but, frankly, I forgot to put it on the list. I forgot to put in the milk - oops. I put in more broccoli than it called for. I was going to put in fresh mushrooms, but my mushrooms didn't smell quite right; sad. The recipe also suggests using a bag of Italian-blend veggies or frozen stir-fry veggie blend instead of broccoli.

My mom said when I was kid she used to make something like this but used cream of mushroom soup instead of cream of broccoli soup.