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January 31, 2014

Happy new year! (No really, it is a new year...)

Happy Lunar New Year!

Today marks the first day of the year of the horse. So...happy new year! Or, as we say in Chinese, Gung Hay Fat Choy!

Celebrating the new year in my Chinese American family usually involves many traditions, from things you do (or don't do) to foods you eat (or don't eat). We ate a special meal last night to close the old year of the snake, and tomorrow we'll open the new year of the horse with another special meal. The first day of the new year is meant to set the tone for the rest of the year, so today we'll focus on enjoying ourselves, spending time with family, not doing any housework, and having a peaceful and happy day.

Here's a question for you all: Did you set any new year's resolutions this year? If not, why not set a lunar new year resolution? =D

I have this bad habit that I've been trying to kick since I was a teen. It's really gross. No really, it is. I confess: I bite and pick at my nails and cuticles. GROSS, I know. Ugh, I know, it's awful. This nervous habit had been the bane of my existence for over half my life. For the "regular" 2014 new year, I made a resolution to be done with it once and for all. On this day, 31 days later, I can say that I've been successful so far. Yay. YAY! Hoping and crossing my non-gross fingers that I can keep this up.

So in the spirit of new years, rather than kick a bad habit, I'm going to try to develop a good one in this year of the horse. Beginning today, my informal lunar new year resolution is to write for an hour a day with as few interruptions or distractions as possible. That means you, internet! I recognize this goal isn't much for a lot of authors, but with so much on my mind - between Nico's care, my now-active job hunt, and the general time-suck that is the internet - I want to make my goals realistic and achievable. Baby steps, right? So now I've got something to aim for that will hopefully help me get those plot bunnies down on paper. *shameless grin*

Speaking of Nico-kitteh, he begins his radiation therapy on Wednesday. I have high hopes that he will come through this well and be with us for many more years. The recommended treatment is quite aggressive, but I have confidence that he's receiving the best care possible that will give him the best chances possible. That said, your positive and healthy vibes would be much appreciated!

In closing, I wish all of you a happy lunar new year! Here's hoping that the year of the horse will bring us all health, happiness, longevity, and joy. =)

Gung Hay Fat Choy!

January 17, 2014

Difficult Times for the Nicos

This is a hard post for me to write. 2014 hasn't started out well, to say the least. I was sick for the first two weeks, but now I've been hit with something much harder: Nico-kitteh has cancer.

Yes, cancer.

It's hard news to take. As I'm sure you can tell, we're very close; I borrowed this pen name from him, after all. Over the years I did everything right: fed him high quality, grain free foods, took him to regular checkups, and gave him lots of cuddles and lovin'.

And now he has cancer.

In October 2013 we had a tumor mass removed from between his shoulder blades. The mass was around the size of a ping pong ball, and it only took a month or two to grow that big. He came through that surgery well, and he bounced back to his usual adorable and affectionate self. We thought that might have been a fluke - a one time thing, a growth that just appeared and then was removed. I was especially optimistic when the surgeon confirmed that the biopsy showed the margins of the removed tissues were free of cancer cells. That made me think that we got it all.

But no.

When I felt a little lump on his shoulder blade recently, I knew we shouldn't wait like we did the first time to "see if it goes down." So we had him into the vet hospital right away, and they removed the lump two days later.

But now we have to face the very real thing that the lump was not a one-time occurrence. Nico-kitteh has cancer, and given how aggressively these cells reappeared, it's likely not going to disappear on its own, even if the margins are clean again.

I cried. A lot. The ugly, blubbery crying, and it still comes and goes when I think about the situation. To be honest, I'm actually crying a little now while writing this post.

I'm not naive. I know that cats don't live forever. However, I thought that we'd have many more fun-filled, stress-free years with him. Instead, now we're faced with the question of what's best for him in the long run.

We spoke with the medical oncologist before his surgery. Apparently there's a cancer that tends to develop due to injections of vaccinations in the area between the shoulder blades. (Note to pet owners: Have your vaccine shots done on the hind legs or front paws where it's much easier to isolate problems should they arise.) He also spoke to us about treatments to address the fact that the cells didn't go away.

There's radiation therapy that would hopefully give Nico a better chance at ridding himself of the bad stuff. It's tough on cats, though, because they need to be anaesthesized each time they go under radiation. We'd also have to take him to facilities 1.5 hours away to have the treatments done. On top of all that, it's expensive. Like...really expensive. And when you take into account the cost of the surgeries, too, then this awful cancer has taken a toll financially in an amount that most people would probably say is absolutely crazy.

But here's the thing: he's my furbaby. He's my little boy. So I'm at least going to talk to the radiation oncologist to find out what we can do. And then I want to give him a fighting chance at having those many more years together.

And to everyone who says "how can you spend that much on a pet?" then I say shut the hell up. I don't want to hear it. If you're thinking it, then fine. Think it. But if you say anything to me about this in a way that criticizes me for doing what I think is best for me and for my furbaby, then you are not my friend. Period.

It's not your money. It's not your pet. It's not your life.

The way I see it, I don't have any kids. I'm not spending thousands on daycare every month or saving up to send someone to college. I don't have a mortgage. I'm lucky that I don't have any really big responsibilities at this point in my life. Nico is my responsibility. And I want to be responsible for giving him the best care possible so that he has the best chances possible at beating this thing.

Here's something that some people might have deduced about my situation from various posts or that, alternately, some of you might not know. I was a lawyer for many years and managed to save up enough money to take time off. I posted about this decision to take a sabbatical period a while ago, and I'm sure you've seen other posts where I've traveled and done some really awesome and fun stuff along the way. Even after over a year of time off, I still have plenty of those savings left. And after whatever this radiation therapy costs and whatever cancer will suck out of those funds, I'll still have more than enough as a nest egg.

So please don't judge. I know what's best for myself and for my boy-boy. Let me do what I want to do; it's not your decision to make.

That's what's happening with me. Big decisions. Big (and unsettling) news. And big hopes for a long, cancer-free future with my little Nico-kitteh. It's not often we can make decisions from our hearts and have the ability to support them. In this case, I'm doing what my heart says is the right thing to do, and that's to try to provide him with the best care possible. He'll have a chance, and hopefully he will beat cancer.

Your positive thoughts and vibes would be much appreciated as we go into this fight.

NJ and Nico-kitteh

January 11, 2014

Random Post to Start 2014: Saving Water is Sehr Importante!

Yes, I'm mixing my languages, but maybe it's actually a meta message because water conservation is a global concern. See what I just did there? :D

Here's a tangentially relevant picture from my trip to visit Niagara Falls last year. It has water in it, at least, okay?

Anyway, there's a real threat of drought here in California, which comes as a surprise to me after having spent years not living in the Golden State and in places that instead yielded feet of snow and wet weather. However, that is, indeed, the case. The Bay Area hasn't had rainfall in forever, and the reservoirs are in a dire state.

I thought I'd share a few tips because, like Aidan in BTW I Love You, I'm a bleeding heart environmental do-gooder like that. :) Now I just need my own Jake to give me mushy presents, and I'll be all good.

  • Easy-peasy Tip #1 - Turn off the faucet when you're brushing your teeth. It's super easy to do and can save lots of water. I mean, why is it on, anyway? It's not like you need a security blanket-noise of water running while you're keeping your chompers pearly-white, right?
  • Easy-peasy Tip #2 - If you have extra water lying around the house, don't just toss it out in the sink and let it go down the drain. Water the houseplants with it! As long as you have some hardy and healthy houseplants (and let's be honest, don't we all? Not all of us are born with green thumbs...), then give the water to the hardy houseplants and they'll say thank you by staying that way - that is, by staying hardy and healthy. Here are some ideas for water that might be wasted otherwise: (a) the used water when you change your pet's water bowl or (b) the used up ice when you empty your cooler.
  • Easy-peasy Tip #3 - Don't wash your hair every day. Bathing is awesome. Yes, I'm a big fan of bathing. Just try prying that Turkish hammam kese exfoliator out of my hands or taking away my aromatherapy shower gel. So yes, bathing, I repeat, is awesome. However, most of us don't need to wash our hair every day. Most of us probably shouldn't wash our hair every day. It strips oils and can dry out your hair. So give it a shot and see if you can handle second (or third!) day hair. I'm guessing your hair just might look even awesomer than on the first day of washing it. And water-saving bonus! You just cut your shower time in half. Awesome!
Hope these tips are easy-peasy for you all to incorporate into your lives. Not only will you save water, but you'll be saving sehr viel dinero, too! ;)

Toting her reusable bag everywhere,