Time to catch up

The first half of last year was horrible for ratty losses. The overnight decline of Rocket followed by Yori’s sudden and completely unexpected death three months later hit me hard, so when old age caught up with Rommie a month or so later I really couldn’t bring myself to write yet another obituary. And of course, until that was written, I couldn’t put out the happier news of two new arrivals — Molly and Ivy — to keep our lone survivor Quorra company.

But today I have had to make the last visit to the vet with Quorra, so it’s time to spend a few days getting caught up with the overdue posts and updating the ratties page so that all the mischief, past and present, is properly represented here.

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To do list

There’s too much on my to do list and I’m pretty sure there’s other stuff that needs doing that hasn’t made it on to my to do list and my brain is so busy trying to remember what those things might be that I can’t actually focus on doing any of the things that are on there in case there are more important things that I should be doing instead.

And don’t get me started on the things that have been on my to do list for so long that they are verging on being embarrassing to actually do now. (Like the mischief status that is months overdue here!)

And then there were two…

Yesterday Seven ran out of energy, went to sleep in her hut and didn’t wake up again.

She made it to the very respectable age of thirty-three months, outliving her sister, Nine, by more than five months.

Seven started losing the strength in her back legs towards the end of last year and that slowly worsened over the following months. Although she couldn’t clamber around the cage any more, she did still manage to somehow — sheer determination, I think — get up onto the lower platforms and even into the tube hanging on the cage door so she could see the world going by. The other morning she managed to climb out of the cage onto my lap for a cuddle while I was doing the morning medication rounds.

She slowly turned into an old rat; still adorable, but life was obviously becoming more of an effort. We’d known for a while that she wouldn’t be with us for much longer and were dreading having to make that decision for her. She kept going right up to the end, she had some time out of the cage and a wander around my office earlier in the day, before settling back into her spot in the cage and going peacefully to sleep.

Never the smartest rat, but always the sweetest of them, and the one with the softest, most strokable fur, Seven will be sorely missed.

New Year resolutions

I don’t like this time of year. The days are short and grey, the weather is rainy and windy and makes the outside utterly uninviting. If it weren’t for my SAD light box, I would be sitting in a corner wishing the days away until spring. And that’s without the stresses of Christmas and the New Year festivities.

Then there are New Year resolutions. I don’t do those any more. That’s not to say that I wouldn’t like to be fitter, slimmer and more relaxed — I would — but those are year-round goals, not ones to be kick-started on the first of January only to be discarded over the next weeks and months.

And even if I were to pick a starting date for any new endeavour, it really wouldn’t be January 1st. I’m not sure I can actually think of a worse time to try to start something new, especially something that requires self-motivation and willpower.

On January 1st, the chances are you’ve just spent the last week or two over-indulging, you’ve had time off work, your routine is non-existent, and the house is probably still full of food that doesn’t fit in with the usual healthy living resolutions, and on top of that there was a late night seeing in the New Year. And you’re expected to leap out of bed ready to go on a diet, stop smoking, stop drinking, start exercising, find a new job, be nice to people, take up a new hobby…

The only New Year’s resolution I make is to never try to make any major changes in the first week of January.

Instead, take that time to get back to normal, reacquire your personal baseline. Maybe do some preparation: research the type of exercise you want to try first or the diet changes you can make and live with, or find someone who will hold you accountable for whatever it is you want to stop. Or simply reassess your choice of resolution away from the glare of everyone else’s expectations.

There’s been enough stress over the holiday period, why add to it? Just relax a little and actually have a happy New Year.

Too easy to stop

Where did November go? And most of December while we’re at it?

And why is it so ridiculously easy to get out of the habit of writing blog posts? All I did was go visit my mum for a few days for her birthday at the start of November and that was it.

When it got to the start of December I was going to do a November catch up, but there was always something else that needed doing, and writing requires more of my attention and time than I managed to get around to committing to it.

So rather than try to put together a long catch-up post, I’m quickly writing this one instead, so that my blog has no longer been dormant for nearly two months. The equivalent of scribbling on a blank piece of paper to allow more meaningful words to flow. I hope.

Four minus Nine leaves three

Today we made the difficult decision to let Nine go.

It wasn’t an easy decision, but it was the right one. Her main tumour had got large enough that it was seriously affecting her manoeuvrability and she could no longer reach to clean it all, the tumour on her chest was getting bigger, and the one in her ear had come back. In spite of this she still had her appetite and was always bright-eyed, perky and pleased to see us — enthusiastically dragging her way up my arm to get out of her cage when it was time to come out and slob on the sofa with us in the evenings.

Last night she had another respiratory attack, her third in the last two months, and we sat with her for several hours soothing her as she tried to get her breath. As with the previous times, she recovered overnight and was almost her usual self this morning. Almost.

We had an appointment at the vet this afternoon, check-ups for everyone and a serious discussion about what was best for Nine. Just watching her there, I could see her breathing was more laboured than it has been recently, last night left its mark, and the last thing I wanted was to put her through a repeat of that.

The vet was brilliant. He helped us make the right decision and gave us plenty of time to do it. And we had time to say goodbye, both before and after she went.

Now to go give the others an extra big cuddle.

Perseverance pays off

Sun through the cloudsThis time last week I had just had a brace fitted on my teeth and I wasn’t happy. I tried to be positive, put a brave face on it, focus on the benefits and various other clichéd attitude adjusters, without success. After three days, things were no better, if anything I was more stressed at the prospect of this continuing for a year or more. I couldn’t eat comfortably, I couldn’t distract myself from being constantly aware of the brace, and I just wanted it to go away.

Luckily I have a brilliant dentist. He not only understands my teeth and bite, he also understands my anxiety and will spend time just talking through things with me. So, after two long chats with him and a few adjustments to make eating easier, I am now a lot happier with it. It feels manageable. I’m a long way from being able to ignore it, but I don’t want to rip it out of my mouth right now.

Anxiety spike

I thought I was just going in for a consultation when I went for my appointment with the orthodontist this morning.

I had seen the orthodontist before and he had talked about braces then, but the last time I talked to my dentist about getting my teeth straightened we were still planning to go down the Clearstep route. I knew that plan would have to change — Clearstep have gone into administration since that last chat — so I was expecting to just discuss the options.

He was expecting to fit top and bottom braces.

This did not help my anxiety levels. I do not react well to unexpected events.

Keep Calm wristband

A few controlled breaths and some rapid rationalisation and I agreed to have one of the braces fitted to give me a chance to adjust to wearing them.

With great (Austrian apparently, though he sounds stereotypically German) efficiency, he fixed the brace in place. And that’s when the anxiety washed over me; the nurse was quite concerned at how white I had gone, but she was really good and kept chatting to me until I got a handle on things again.

I know it needs doing: the anxiety leads to clenching problems and my bite isn’t as good as it could be, the overlap on some teeth makes it hard to keep them shiny clean and, a long way behind in last place, being straighter will make them look nicer. I just wish I’d known it was going to happen before it did.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Sea


Brighton beach

An empty beach, blue sky, calm sea. A hot, sunny, summer’s day.

Some people’s idea of heaven. Closer to my idea of hell. No shade. The baking sun burning my skin and making me sweat. My eyes half-closed against the sunlight reflected off the water and sand. No respite from the heat other than the occasional promise of a cooling sea breeze. Nothing to do but slowly cook on the barren beach. The clouds are pretty though.

Pennard coast

A fragment of the South Wales coastline. Vegetation, greenery, rocks. It’s still too hot really, but at least the scenery is more interesting and there are coastal paths to walk along. A much nicer location to watch the sea from.

And I am much happier watching it than being in it.

I’ve never spent much time by the sea. A few trips to Skegness growing up near Lincoln, a week in Bognor Regis with a friend and her children, and a handful of day trips out around the South Wales coast.

The one thing I remember about going to Skegness as a young child, other than memories of donkey rides and rock pools that may simply be memories of photographs, is being warned about the way the sea floor falls away, cliff-like, not that far from the water line. That and tales of strong currents dragging people out to sea. And of tides coming in fast and cutting people off from the shore. So, not being a particularly strong swimmer, I never venture further than I can comfortably paddle.

I love the idea of the sea, but I will admire it from the solid ground of the beautiful British coast that it surrounds.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Sea