While driving around DC yesterday on one of the hottest days of the summer, my check engine light suddenly came on. This, of course, made me flip out into a panicked frenzy, because there is nothing more inestimable than the variety of issues than the implications of a check engine light. After a few minutes of me panicking, imagining hilariously impossible scenarios, such as my car exploding when I next stepped on the gas pedal. (Totally logical, I know!) After 30 seconds of these ridiculous fantastical situations hijacking my imagination, I finally noted that my car hadn’t just shut off and ditched me on the side of the road, and began to think of realistic reasons as to why my car was proclaiming car illness.

  • Juno, as I like to call my 2008 VW Rabbit, is 5 years old and has been my Old Faithful through 4 high-traffic areas with severely varied weather conditions. While maintenance has always been thorough and constant, it’s bound to be at the point in Juno’s life where regular tune-ups are not necessarily going to be enough.
  • It was one of the hottest days of the year, and the freon levels were low. I’ve known this since last year, but I’m not a huge A/C fan, so I’ve never bothered to get that fixed up. Maybe shooting up the A/C now was not the best idea I’ve ever had.
  • The last time I put in gas, I was in a bit of a hurry, so maybe I just didn’t properly tighten the gas cap.

Anyone who owns a modern VW knows that, of everything on this list, the only thing I could really do anything about is the gas cap, so I got out of my car as soon as possible and tightened it. If anything was actually wrong with the engine, which is encased in a shell of sorts, all I could do was wait for the appointment I made for the next day to take Juno into the dealer and pray for it to be nothing serious.

The next day, I went in and talked to the lovely people at the dealer, talking to them about how I had just recently replaced the battery, brakes, and tires, and begged and pleaded for there to be nothing wrong. Unfortunately, after a couple hours of diagnostics, I got a phone call letting me know that Juno’s cooling fans were near shot, and that I had been pretty lucky to not have been left on the side of the road on one of the hottest days of the year in city traffic. Damn, my car is a great car.

My parents think I should trade Juno in for a newer VW. I’m sorely tempted to do this, considering how the last 2 visits to the dealer have been me hemorrhaging money to get her fixed up, whereas she used to only cost me a couple hundred per tune-up. Considering she’s under 60,000 miles, I think I could probably get a pretty good trade-in deal for her, too. I guess it would just be a question of looking around. I’ll say this, though: Juno is going to be one tough act to follow.



Of Litter Boxes and Delicate Paws

Stepping on leftover litter pieces is THE WORST! (From CatVsHuman.com)

Stepping on leftover litter pieces is the worst. (From CatVsHuman.com)

I’ve never been picky about litter. At the end of the day, I don’t care how much you want to defend your brand of litter, cat pee and poo is awful no matter what kind of litter you use. I used to be a frequent buyer of Fresh Step, but the perfumes and the ridiculous amount of dust it gave off every time I scooped, and every time Shelby would visit the litter box finally drove me crazy. Its distinct perfume was all over my furniture and clothing; the leftover dust had completely caked the inside of my vacuum cleaner, and quite possibly Shelby’s and my lungs; and I had had enough of the stray razor-sharp pieces cutting into my feet and seeing little scratches on my brand new, wooden floors from the damage incurred from the necessary daily sweeping just so my apartment could be maintained. I was also sick of my allergies going haywire since Shelby was dragging the remnants of the litter everywhere, including my bed. There’s nothing worse than finally lying down at the end of a long day and finding pieces of razor-sharp litter in your bed. So, after four years of customer loyalty, I decided that I needed to change litter brands.

Happy teddy bears kitty paws!

Happy teddy bears kitty paws!

I told Jen, a close family friend, who has had cats her whole life about my litter woes and she recommended I check out Shweat Scoop, which she uses for her cat, Maybe. From the first pour, I liked the Shweat litter right away. It smelled sweet like, well, wheat, and not at all like the nauseating perfume of Fresh Step. It wasn’t accompanied by a mushroom cloud of dust, though there was a little bit of it, and the little strays that didn’t make it into the litter box were admittedly annoying and uncomfortable, but didn’t make small incisions into the pads of my feet. Shelby seemed quite pleased as well. He spent less time licking his paw pads post litter box trips, and he seemed to be more comfortable while there. It was pretty great! The only real noticeable downside was the odor-covering capacity of the Shweat was most definitely not as powerful as the Fresh Step, meaning necessary daily scooping, and / or a required addition of baking soda after each scoop. Small price to pay if you ask me! Needless to say, it was disappointing to have the vet tell me that, until Shelby’s paw issue improved or outright healed, I should switch over to Yesterday’s News or something similar. For those of you who have ever owned a ferret, Yesterday’s News is a very familiar litter brand. I had a 20lb. bag left over from when before I put Lucía down, so I brought it over and put it to the test.

Worst. Cat litter. Ever.

Is it absorbent? Yes. Does it smell of perfumes? No. Does it leave dust clouds? No. So, what’s the problem? Have you ever stepped on a tiny LEGO or tiny rocks while barefoot? Have you ever scraped ammonia-scented cake batter off the side of a pan? Have you ever smelled uncovered cat poop? If any of those three examples are familiar to you, then you’ve probably used Yesterday’s News or even Feline Pine. I just don’t even know how either of those could possibly be marketed as cat litter. Seriously. I fortunately already had a 20lb. bag of Yesterday’s News from when before I had to put Lucía down, being that pellet litter is amazingly great for ferrets, but those 20lbs. were gone in 2 days. Not only did Cass think the pellets were little toys, but I could tell that neither she nor Shelby were fans of stepping in the box. They made sure to communicate their discomfort by making a dramatic display of seeming like a first-time swimmer diving into the deep end of the pool every time they needed to use the box, and by making sure to cover up their litter box presents with little to no litter pellets. Let me tell you how thoroughly unpleasant eau de chat sans cover-up is!

Anyway, after nearly 3 weeks of treatment with nearly $1,000 in vet fees and medication and $60 of useless litter, Shelby finally has a nearly completely healed paw, and we are back to using Shweat, much to the cats’ and my delight. The vet and I reviewed Shelby’s case one last time and came to the conclusion that Shelby has suffered a mild bout of Plasma Cell Pododermatitis, AKA Pillow Foot. It all added up since he had elevated eosinophils (white blood cells), which I originally chalked up to his IBS / IBD, or the mysterious case of Roundworm that Cass, the kitten, somehow did not have. In the end, we will never know exactly what caused this since biopsies are unbearably expensive, but at least we know it wasn’t allergies to his litter.

Time for muscle

Last week, Fuel Pilates / XTend Barre DC posted a Facebook update asking for help with morning check-ins in exchange for Pilates and XTend Barre lessons. While I’m not a huge fan of early mornings, I’ve always wanted to try Pilates, and XTend Barre looked pretty interesting, so I jumped on it faster than a speeding bullet.

I was trained on how to use the system to check people in yesterday afternoon right before my fitness boot camp, which, as per usual, kicked my ass. I arrived this morning to my 6:30AM check-in shift without any problems. It’s actually closer to my place than I thought it would be. I think that, since there’s barely any traffic at this time of the year, and especially at that hour, I might just bike it from now on. Since there were only 2 people registered for the 7AM beginner’s XTend Barre class, I was able to join in, and check out what XTend Barre was all about.

Me doing XTend Barre.

Me doing XTend Barre.The other two students and the instructor doing XTend Barre.The other two students and the instructor doing XTend Barre.

It was a very interesting workout. If you’ve ever done ballet, this is the perfect exercise for you. It was probably exactly what my figure skating coach would have loved for me when I used to compete, but oh well. Most work is done using various ballet stances, adding weights and inflatable balls for an extra burn, and stability and control, as applicable. There are also straps that are used along with the barre to assure that you can continue using all of your force without falling on your ass. This is good for those of us who aren’t as balanced as the rest of the world. (Don’t ask me how I made it through skating while having nearly 0 balance on solid ground. It’s ridiculous.) While there are some extremely challenging pieces of this workout, I have to say that I didn’t find it as ass-kicky as I wanted to, but it’s probably because I was doing it all wrong, and because I was still beat up from Friday’s fitness boot camp, and had another layer of its abuse from yesterday’s session. Still, I was glad of the muscles that did get worked out and, more importantly, stretched out. I no longer feel like I want to detach my left leg from the rest of my body and throw it to some hungry wolves for a snack.

I ran waddled that mile in 15 minutes! Thanks, left leg! :D

I ran waddled that mile in 15 minutes! Thanks, left leg! :D

Speaking of fitness bootcamp, I finally got to meet the rest of the class, since they actually showed up seeing as the weather wasn’t crappy. I’ve managed to earn Trainer’s Pet award for showing up last week and training through the storm. However, everyone else was all fresh and healed and all cruisin’ for a boot camp bruisin’, and I could barely walk, much less run the 1 – 2 miles they had planned for us that day without looking like Igor from Young Frankenstein. Still, I gave it all I could without actually injuring myself, knocking it out of the park with a 15:15:00 run waddle time! I redeemed myself later with an 00:08:15 wall sit. I really need to find a better position for myself, because I think my legs could’ve held on longer, but my toes were completely asleep by the end of that.

The good news is that I’m always welcome home to two extremely soft, fluffy kitties and superbly supportive boyfriend. Without that, this would make this extremely difficult to keep up, regardless of how painfully awesome it feels. I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s fitness boot camp!

Poor Shelbycat!

Shelby's paw after 5 days of diluted Nolvasan soaks.

Shelby’s paw after 5 days of diluted Nolvasan soaks.

A closer look at poor Shelby's paw pad crater.

A closer look at poor Shelby’s paw pad crater.

After our last visit with the vet, Shelby was sent home with a vial of Nolvasan Concentrate (AKA chlorhexidine diacetate) to dilute in warm water, so he could have 5-minute paw-soaks; and more Buprenex to help with the pain. My poor little boy has been dealing with the indignity of being sat on, while having his paw soaked in what I bet feels like what mouthwash feels in your mouth when you have a canker sore. Afterwards, he gets his dose of Buprenex, and then has to don the cone of shame so he wont lick at his paw and, in the process, ingest the extra dilution of Nolvasan, which is exactly when Cass decides to start trying to attack him. Poor Shelby. He’s been such a good boy and a major champ about the whole thing. I can’t even imagine what It must feel like to be him right now.

I have no idea how his paw got that horrendous-looking crater in it. When we went in for his check-up the day before his paw started showing signs of inflammation, bleeding, and limping, I had some blood work done for him. According to the vet, everything was completely normal, minus elevated levels of eosinophils, which are usually signs of parasites or allergies. Unfortunately, the vet and I let it slide, since we both know he suffers from IBD. So, at this point, it’s kind of hard to say where all of this started, but at least it’s healing. My poor little champ. I know he’s mad at me right now as he sulks about with his E-cone on, but at least he’s going to live to see another day, and with all four paws.

My first attempt at fitness boot camp

I like to describe myself as a healthy person. During the school year, I eat 2 – 3 small, but relatively healthy meals; and during breaks I eat various, tiny, healthy meals throughout the day. Every now and again my body craves intense amounts of tuna, and, for some reason, Chinese takeout; but even eventually the boyfriend learned that it’s important to make extra “bunny food,” as he calls it, for me when he makes dinner for us.

Let’s not pretend I’m a saint, though. I’m an absolute sucker for Coca-Cola. I’m quite certain I could still easily polish off an entire case of 12oz. cans, were I given the chance, but I know I’m no longer figure skating 3 times a week and conditioning 2 times a week on top of that. (Ah, to be young and have your parents pay for your talent… *sigh*) Still, at my age, a Coke is a Coke.

But I figured I was doing okay. I mean, I could hold my own on the ice; could make it through a 2-hour roller derby practice, no problem; carry more things than I probably should up and down 4 stories’-worth of stairs daily for work; and still maintain at 128lbs. – 135lbs. and between a size 4 – 6. Things weren’t so bad, right? RIGHT?!

Yeah. I think I got too comfortable. I decided to join a fitness bootcamp thinking, “Well, my boyfriend is getting back into shape, and I’ve been meaning to kick myself back into gear. If he can do it, I CAN DO IT!!!” I talked to one of my best friends, Lauren, who is constantly doing SOMETHING to push herself to the next limit, and she convinced me that it would be TOTALLY FUN. So, with the help of GroupOn, I found a hell of a deal of $48/2 months at Foundation Fitness near Georgetown.

I started my first session yesterday, thinking, “FUN TIMES AHEAD AT THE INDOOR GYM!! WOO-WOO!!” It was like everything that I hated about high school gym class. FOR AN HOUR. OUTSIDE. IN THE RAIN. Running. Push-ups. Crunches… The list goes on. It was my own personal nightmare, only I paid for it. I ended up not giving a crap about the rain when the push-ups came into the game. Not even when I was a nationally competing figure skater could I do a single pull-up, nor a set of push-ups properly. I’ve always had the upper body strength equivalent to that of a wet noodle. It’s really sad. I actually was thankful when kind, sweet Alex was like, “Okay! Time for crunches! :D” Then planks happened. By the end of the whole hour, I just wanted the whole thing to be jogging. Sure, I probably would’ve fainted thanks to the asthma I keep on pretending I don’t have (THANKS A LOT, ADORABLE PETS OF MINE WITH ALL OF YOUR DANDER!!!!!!), but it probably wouldn’t have hurt as much.

As I sit here and type this, I can’t help but wish I would’ve just kept on doing some basic exercises after I decided to quit skating all of those years ago. I mean, eating healthy has never been difficult for me, and was easier after being a part of a Co-Op at Oberlin; but, after yesterday, it’s super clear to me that no amount of healthy eating will ever replace the ass-kicking of a work-out.

Shelby and the terrible, no good, very bad weeks

Shelby has somehow managed to pick up a paw infection. (Dun dun duuuuuuun!) Not only has my poor boy been seeing the vet quite regularly, he has been getting liquid medication, pain killers, paw soaks, shots, and is required to wear an E-cone. To top it off, Cass can’t seem to completely wrap her kitten head around the need for the cone of shame, and keeps on pouncing poor Shelby, seeing it as an opportunity to claim top cat.

Poor, poor, Shelby. It has been a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad last two weeks for him. Still, he’s been a champ about it all, and it’s given me quite the opportunity to learn a variety of things about cat behavior, caring for a sick kitty, and cat medication.

Cats are, as every cat owner knows, territorial, stubborn, and, more than anything, privileged little bastards. Introduce me to one cat who doesn’t believe that they don’t just automatically deserve the very best just because and I will be absolutely shocked. By the same token, they’re also amazingly tolerant of things as long as you have earned their love.

Cass likes to sleep on my pillow now, directly on top of my head. I’m not as to why, but I think I need to work on that before my 16-week-old kitten is old and big enough to take over the whole pillow. I welcome any and all tips.