Tuesday, July 22, 2014

5 Things To Like This Week: You Are Here

Hi!  In my last "5 Things To Like This Week" I wrote about places that I would like to see.  Today I am going to write about places I've been and loved!  Enjoy!
These colors are no joke.  It really looks like this.
1.  Glacier National Park, Montana.  Glacier is breathtaking.  There is a route called the "Going to the Sun" Road and on it you pass by waterfalls, an actual glacier, blueberry patches, feisty squirrels and perhaps a bear or two.  I am terrified of bears, but I braved the park from the comfort of a car and I still had a wonderful experience.  I remember being a bit overwhelmed by the natural beauty of the place, that I was choked up a little.  Nature had never made me cry before!  This is truly a magical place and I would highly recommend a visit.  Just bring the bear spray if you're camping . . . there are grizzlies there, and they are hungry.

Midnight in the Garden of goooood . . .
2.  Manhattan, New York.  I dated a dude (actually 2 dudes) from the East coast, so I was fortunate enough to get to visit NYC several times.  My favorite trip was New Year's Eve 2005 when I got to see The Black Crowes perform live at Madison Square Garden.  The opening acts were The North Mississippi Allstars and Trey Anastasio from Phish.  At the time, the lead singer, Chris Robinson was married to Kate Hudson.  At the stroke of midnight, streamers and confetti fell from the ceiling and Kate, her mother Goldie Hawn, and her step father Kurt Russel all came out on stage!  That wasn't the only highlight though, it was the best concert I have ever been to!  It was Madison Freaking Garden, but it felt as intimate as a small stage.  It was really low key with little to no production, only an oriental rug under the drum kit, candles, and a couple of tapestries.  It was a wonderful experience!

Ugh.  Why?
3.  Bozeman, Montana.  As you probably already know, I lived in Bozeman for over a decade.  Bozeman will always hold a very special place in my heart.  I will never forget the breathtaking valley surrounded by the Bridger, Gallatin, and Spanish Peak mountain ranges.  Just seeing pictures does not do this beautiful area justice.  You just have to go and see it for yourself.  Not a day went by that I wouldn't look at those beautiful mountains and smile.  I miss them dearly.  The Bozeman I moved to over 15 years ago is very different from the Bozeman today . . . but that is another blog entry.  I still enjoy visiting my friends and hitting up the old haunts, but it is my memories of this place that I love most.  They Crystal Bar's power hour (before the remodel), the Point After, Poor Richards Smoke Shop and shooting the shit with Zeb, downtown before Bar IX, sneaking into reggae shows at the Zebra on a Friday night, the Strand Union before "that weird noodle thing". . .  Was it the town that changed, or me?  I'll always go back though . . . always.

It's pretty.  Pretty freaky.
4.  Yellowstone National Park.  I got an up-close and personal look at YNP for nearly 5 years from dating an angler who outfitted out of West Yellowstone.  The park both fascinated and frightened me.  First of all, it is a geological wonder filled to the brim with Bison, wolves, elk, bears, and pretty much any other forest animal you can think of.  Secondly, it's a freaking SUPER VOLCANO.  This was always on my mind, even when I was in Bozeman (90 miles away).  The park itself is the caldera.  Although it's not supposed to blow for another 1,000 years, it was still unnerving to be living about an hour away.  Unnerving and kinda cool.  Yellowstone has awesome fishing and scenery.  It has a conflicting existence.  On one hand, it is beautiful and majestic, but on the other, it's a freaking SUPER VOLCANO.  Ain't nature a bitch?

It doesn't look like the HBO series . . . this is 2014, people.
5.  Deadwood, South Dakota.  I currently live about 20 minutes away from this historic city.  Guess what else?  Deadwood is not a SUPER VOLCANO.  I mean, of course, we would still feel the effects of the SV, but still . . . Anyway, I love Deadwood because, as a giant nerd once said, (yes, me) "You can just feel the history here".  I love thinking about the people who left their homes to adventure out West in search of gold and riches in the Hills.  I love thinking about what the place looked like before the fire of 1879 burned the original buildings.  Still, the history lives on here. Today, it's much more commercial with casinos, modern hotel chains, and crab buffets, but if you stop into the Adam's House or visit Mount Moriah Cemetery where Wild Bill Hickock and Calamity Jane are buried, "you can still feel that history".  Plus, there are some awesome bars there too (Saloon No. 10, the Tobacco Co.).  You could always knock a few back and "feel history" that way too . . .

Love,
Nik

Thursday, July 10, 2014

My Sophia

This is "little" Sophia.  (Circa 2004)
My cat, Sophia, passed away early Monday morning. She was very old, and had several health problems (hyperthyroid, UTI, weight loss, a heart murmur, ear infections) for about 2 years and her little body just couldn't recover from this last bout. She was so skinny and her body wasn't fighting off infection anymore. She’d been on antibiotics for about 4 weeks and she stopped eating on Friday.  I was so silly and must have been in denial, because I thought her special medicine food had gone stale, so I spent $50 to buy her some new stuff.  It just didn't occur to me that she might be dying.

She had fought off illness so many times before, I must have thought this time was no different. As a matter of fact, her passing away Monday was the last thing I thought was going to happen.

If she wasn't in the bedroom with me, I would always go out and check on her before I went to bed, just to see where she was sleeping at night. I walked into the kitchen around 12:30 a.m. and she meowed very urgently at me.  It was a meow I had never heard before and I immediately knew something was wrong. When I ran over to her she was having trouble breathing.

I cried out for my boyfriend, Jeff (who Sophia loved to pieces) to help me, and I picked her up and carried her to the couch in the living room.  We contemplated taking her to the emergency vet, but because our town is so small, the local vet uses the emergency vet after hours, which is 40 miles away. I just laid down on the couch in the living room with her on my chest, right by my heart.  I stroked her fur and her paws and cried quietly while telling her how much I loved her, what a good cat she was, and how I was so thankful to have her in my life for so long.  I was able to remain calm and comfort her as best I could.

Thankfully, it only took about 20-30 minutes, but it felt like forever.  Her breathing came in gasps with no inhalation in between. Over the course of the 20 minutes it became longer and longer between the gasps. Until finally she took one last gasp, closed her eyes and passed away right on my chest. I was so glad it didn’t last longer because I was so frightened that she would have to go through that all night. I didn’t even have time to decide on euthanasia, although I was never crazy about it, but during those 20 minutes, I understood why it is done. It was excruciatingly hard to hear and see her like that, but everything just happened so quickly and after hours, so it was all we could do.

Thank God Jeff was there to do the really hard stuff like get a box and towels and take her from me after she had passed. He was so awesome the whole time, helping me, being so gentle with her, talking to her and me and telling both his "girls" that things would be alright.  In fact, we both laid our hands on her the moment she passed. I think it helped him process death too, as his grandmother just passed away 2 weeks prior to this. He is amazing–so patient and funny and kind. Somehow, I think Sophia knew it was okay to go because I have him in my life now.

It was so hard, but it was time.  I've never experienced the death of any pet that close and intimately and to tell you the honest truth, it was peaceful and . . . even beautiful.  I really could not have imagined it going any better. You know, if she had trouble breathing like that during the day, I would have rushed her to the vet, freaked out, and it would've been a very different experience. It was just so strange and happened very fast . . . but somehow perfectly.

I am lucky that I now live only 90 miles from my immediate family.  So, Jeff and I drove to my parent’s house Monday and buried her there under a beautiful Spanish olive tree in the front yard. It was very nice.  My parents loved her very much too. She would often come with me for holidays or stay with them when I was going on an extended trip. She loved to sit with my Father in his comfy chair and talk to my Mom when she fed her.  She even had her own Christmas stocking.  She was very much a part of our family.

I am doing pretty good now too. I’m getting to the point where I can smile when I think of her instead of crying.  Sophia and I had so many wonderful memories, as she was with me for over 13 years. I still have no idea how old she was when I got her, maybe 2? The vet thinks she was older than that, so she was maybe 16 or 17 when she passed away. I still have moments when I miss her, especially when I am at the house alone, but I know that it will get better and that she is healthy now and sleeping in some warm spot with her grey shiny, fluffy fur shining in the sun.

This is "old" Sophia.  (Circa 2013)
I've struggled and felt a lot of guilt over letting her die at home instead of being "put to sleep".  I honestly did not think she was that sick the day it happened.  I also have to believe that she did not suffer much and not for long.  I don’t know which way of dying is better. Any way it happens, dying is hard and it hurts so much. It’s probably the worst hurt out there, but I find it easier when I think of it like this: I was her Momma, kinda like I have a Momma. (This next part is kinda silly, but bear with me.)  Now, if I was a cat and I passed away and was looking down on my Momma, I would not be focusing on how I died (natural, accidental, or euthanasia). I would want her to be okay and happy.  I would want her to know that I am okay and happy.  I would want her to remember the good times we shared, and how well she took care of me, and that death was going to happen, no matter how . . . and that I love her.

I hope this entry will help anyone who has lost a pet recently, in the past, or is struggling with the loss.

This is "queen" Sophia!  I loved her little paws!  (Feb. 2014)
Love always,
Nik

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

5 Things to Like This Week: Are We There Yet?

**Special Edition**


1.  Southern United States.  I've been all over the United States, but I've never been to the Southern states.  I've been interested in Southern history and culture since I was young and I think it would be great to travel there and visit a plantation, see underground railroad routes, go to the civil rights museum, and eat Southern food--especially New Orleans style cuisine.


2.  Egypt--Valley of the Kings.  (I could honestly take or leave the pyramids.)  This is a hard one though.  I've actually been looking at tour guided trips online and getting prices.  I like to humor myself sometimes. . .  Anyway, on all of the travel sites, you have to sign a waiver basically saying you accept the high risk of injury or death as a result of traveling to the area.  Ya, that sounds like an awesome vacation.  Anyway, someday I will get the courage, or the world will calm down enough for me to visit my beloved Egypt.  Until then, I suppose there's always Google Earth and pictures.  Dang.


3.  Amsterdam.  I love the vibe of this city.  I love the colors of the buildings, the tulips, the windmills, and the people who seem to live life with that same color.  I think it would be wonderful to also have the freedom to relax and enjoy a vacation in a European city . . . just sayin'.


4.  Jamaica.  This would be a purely pleasure trip.  I would relax on the beach or by the pool and drink a ton of rum.  I would be a very "American tourist" and I would probably get a tan and Bo Derek braids.


5.  Petra, Jordan.  I would love to see Petra and wander through the rock cut corridors.  I would also love to eat the food and see the bazaars of this beautiful middle Eastern city.  But again, it is not the safest place to visit right now . . .

xoxo,
Nik

{photo credits}