Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Foster "mom" again!

The shelter has been looking for a foster home for a mother cat and her five kittens for the last week, and I took one look at them yesterday and fell in love, so we're now foster parents again :) Lucky kitties won't eat the carpet like the bloody rabbit!

The kittens are just 3 weeks old and absolutely tiny. I don't think I've ever seen kittens this little before, and they are just the sweetest little things. The mother (who we named Cleo) is also a gorgeous kitty. She's happy for anyone to reach into her space and pick up her kittens. She's also incredibly affectionate, very loving and has a very pretty face.

So we'll have these guys for about 5 weeks, just looking after them, and getting them used to being handled. I got a large wire crate from the shelter, which the kitties stay in most of the time. It's plenty big enough for them, keeps them from going too far (they aren't very steady on their feet, so they certainly don't need much room!), and will help them learn how to use a kitty litter tray. We'll just them out regularly to play with them and cuddle them. It certainly makes it much easier to keep them, I can just wash the blankets in the cage if they make a mess. We've let Cleo out a few times, and she hasn't gone far from us, she hasn't tried to go downstairs, she just wants a bit of attention herself!

There's 4 little boys and one girl, the girl is a tortoiseshell, one boy is a grey striped tabby, 2 boys are mostly black but have some tabby stripes starting to come through, and other boy looks black, but seems more like a really dark grey at the moment. It'll be interesting to see how their colourings develop in the next few weeks!

Monday, March 27, 2006

Review on 10th and 11th books for the year

Louise kindly lent me 3 books - "A child called It", "The Lost Boy" and "A man named Dave", all written by Dave Pelzer.

Dave was abused by his mother in what is apparently amongst the worst child abuse cases ever recorded in California. Between 5 and 12 his mother treated him as a slave, gave him impossibly short time limits to complete chores, and punished him with physical and mental abuse if he didn't complete the chores. He was made to swallow ammonia for being a "bad boy", for which his horrendous crime was things like stealing food from other children at school because his mother hadn't fed him for days, or for speaking to his mother before she had given permission to speak. Other punishment included regularly being starved of food, having to make himself throw up each day to prove he hadn't found food elsewhere, being beaten, kicked, punched, strangled and thrown around like a ragdoll on a daily basis. As a 5 year old (I think), his mother managed to pull his arm out of his socket during a beating. She didn't bother taking him to a hospital until the next day and claimed he fell out of bed. The cruelty shown to him is just horrible, and you wonder what can turn a human being into treating their own child like that. Especially as she had 4 other children who she treated like regular children.

Anyway, "A child called It" is about his life while he was with his mother, and the abuse he received up until age 12, at which point he was rescued by his school teachers, and put into foster care.

"The Lost Boy" picks up his life as he starts out in foster care, trying to regain self confidence, and work out who he is and where he belongs in the world.

These books were really interesting, and not the most pleasant things to read, especially if you think about a child that same age you know and imagine them being put through such horrible things. I still enjoyed them though, and how even as a young boy, Dave never let his mother win, in that while she was bigger and stronger, he had the mental capacity to improve himself once he got away rather than falling into the same abusive habits.

It's also interesting because he grew up in this part of the world where I am now. At one point, he lived in Menlo Park, which is only 2 cities away. It just makes it almost more "real".

I've just started "A man called Dave", which is his life from an 18 year old as he gets out of foster care and faces the "real world". Stay tuned for this review.

Atenolol and training

When I left Australia I made sure I had a good supply of my beta blockers (heart medication). I've just realised that I'm getting pretty low, so called up my new cardiologists office to see if they can get me a new prescription over here (I don't see him for another month or so.

I also checked that they were happy with the dosage (the dosage was set by other cardiologist before it was confirmed that I definitely had an aneurysm), and because I get my heart rate to 120 pretty easily just through fast walking and easy cycling, they're putting the dosage up.

I'm kind of pleased, because I'm limited to basic exercise and have to keep on holding back, but a couple of times when I've accidentally taken a double dosage because I've forgotten that I've already taken one (I'm hopeless with medication), it really knocks me around. For maybe half a day I feel absolutely exhausted, my heart rate drops, and it really slows me down.

Fingers crossed that it just takes a few days to get used to it!


We found Pixar Animation Studios!!!! I love Pixar movies, and we were out in the Oakland area so we went in search of Pixar, and here's the evidence. If only they did tours...

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Shelter kitties

We've had some interesting kitties at the shelter recently, and working there has been incredibly rewarding lately.

There's 2 kitties, Inky and Harley, who were both previously incredibly shy, and are finally coming out of their shells. Inky was previously in a home where the other cats picked on him, and managed to damage one of his eyes, which I think he is now blind out of. As a result he is very scared of other cats, and while he is very affectionate, and loves his head being rubbed, he would never want to come out of his cage, and would sit in his litter tray the entire time and try to hide his head behind the edge of the litter tray if you tried to get him out of his cage.

When he first started coming into the play cages, he would try to hide in the hidey boxes in the scratching post tree and it was such a pain to try and get him out. Now he rarely goes in there, and loves his head being rubbed, and will actually jump down to the ground and investigate what's going on with a bit of confidence. He also started playing a bit last week, and I even got him in my lap for a bit. I think he will be a lap cat once he gets comfortable in a new home. He's very sweet, and will make a great companion for someone.

I'm not sure of Harley's past but I don't believe she had a happy one. When she first got to the shelter, she would not come out of her cage to play in the larger play cages. If you tried to pick her up she would hiss and growl and bite, and get very aggressive. She generally loved being patted in her cage, but would still sometimes get very aggressive even if you were just trying to pat her. As a result, she never came out of her cage, and she didn't get a lot of attention because us volunteers were a little scared of her!

2 weeks ago, one of the other volunteers managed to get her out of her cage and into the play cage. He said she hissed and growled at everything in the cage, and took about 10-15 minutes to settle down, but then was very sweet!

So now she's settling down a lot more, and since we don't have many kitties at the moment, she has one of the bigger cages, and is a completely different cat. She's much more friendly, is is so much more settled in the play cages. She previously would prowl around the play cage and would not stop the entire time she was in there. Now she jumps up to the window and watches what's going on outside, she's finally starting to play with a few toys, and I even picked her up and put her on my lap where she stayed purring away contentedly until I had to get up. I think very soon, she'll be jumping up to the volunteers laps looking for cuddles.

I'm still wary of her, and I generally don't pick her up, particularly to get her out of her cage, unless she's facing away from me, but she's just dramatically increased her chances of being adopted. I think the kindness of the volunteers and staff has greatly contributed to this.

It's just such a rush to see how you can change a kitties life, and help find them a new loving home. There was a previous kitty, Whitie, who came in as a stray and was incredibly shy with people in the play cages (but fine with other cats), but after lots of gentle coaxing, slowly came out of his shell and turned into a complete lap cat who loved attention. Every day I went in, he seemed more and more confident. He went to a home that I wasn't particularly happy with (I didn't like the lady), but hopefully he's doing ok!

The whole experience is great anyway, and certainly breaks up my weeks while waiting for that damn work permit!

Monday, March 20, 2006

Allergy testing

A friend from Andrew's work, Marc, got some allergy tests done recently and got photos as well, which were really interesting, so I decided I should get tests done as well. As I mentioned previously, I get really itchy arms, and get lumps that look and itch like mosquito bites, and I wondered if it was caused by an allergy to something.

So, here's the results - redness and lumps indicate allergies.

As you can see as it turns out I have a fair few allergies!! It's always good when the doctor comes in and says "oh my God, you're so red!" :) They have to measure how wide/long the redness is, and the girl doing the test was having issues figuring out which redness belonged to which test, so her and the doctor both had to examine me trying to figure out which was which! The big welt in the middle of my back is a big reaction to grasses. The column to the left of that which is almost all red, is a rection to all but one of 12 weeds they test for. On the far left column is animals - toward the top is reactions to horses and cats (d'oh...), and toward the bottom is a reaction to dust mites, on the far right is a couple of trees. The main things were the dust mites and grasses, weeds and trees.

So we need to do a few things to get rid of the dust mites (bye bye woollen underblanket!), and I have a heap of steroidal creams to put on my arms. The doctor also recommended immunotherapy (ie. a series of shots to build up immunity to these things), particularly the grasses, weeds and trees.

Unfortunately I can't start the immunotherapy until my cardiologist gives me the all clear, because the shots are a contraindication to the beta blockers I'm taking, and I need to make sure that if I have a reaction to the shots, whatever the stuff they give is ok with an aortic aneurysm (which apparently it may not be).

I still feel itchy, but I don't know if I am actually still itchy, or if it's in my head (you know how if you see a movie where spiders are crawling over someone, you keep feeling what feels like spiders crawling over you...).

Books 7, 8 and 9

Book 7 for the year was Marian Keys "Further Under the Duvet". A book of short stories she's written - mainly real stories about her and her life, some previously unpublished, others published in magazines. Also talks about her battle against alcoholism when she was younger (which ironically turned her into a writer). Some stories are funny, some are sad, all are well written.

Book 8 was Nicci French "Secret Smile". This book annoyed me. Nicci French writes thrillers, and I've read one before which was quite good. In this story, nobody believes the girls story that this guy she dated for a couple of weeks is psychotic, and killed people, because he tells people she's stressed and not to believe her. He befriends the policeman looking after the case and convinces him she's lying. Lets not mention that this guy has a history of violence and strange behaviour, and uses fakes names (so wouldn't have any ID with his real name). As well as that she never tells anyone the whole story about what he's done, and also finds evidence that he's killed someone, but she never does anything with the evidence - doesn't hand it over to the police (because he's friends with the suspect), doesn't show her family (because he's wheedled his way into their lives)... And I'm sure if in a case, where the suspect became friends with the investigating officer, you could request a new officer. Anyway, it was quite annoying, and not worth the read.

Book 9 was Burned Alive by Souad which is "The shocking, true story of one woman's escape from an "honour" killing". And yes it is. Souad is an Arabic woman living in a small village in the West Bank and born in the late 50's. At 18, she has petrol poured over her and is set alight by her brother in law because she is pregnant, and unmarried. She would also receive the same fate even if she was not pregnant, and someone had have discovered she was secretly seeing a man (or even if she wasn't seeing a man, but someone THOUGHT she was!!), as it supposedly damages the family's honour, and she must be killed to restore their honour. This is the story of life as an Arabic female, and the daily beatings they must endure at the hands of the men in their family - purely because they are female, which makes them worth less than the sheep and goats. When she was on fire, some women nearby managed to throw her into a fountain and put out the flames, and she was taken to hospital. She managed to live, and get saved by a European aid worker, and taken to Switzerland to finally receive treatment. This is her story of how it is, and to get more publicity about "honour killings" which still happen today, and countries that still have laws to protect men who commit these killings. Definitely worth a read.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Getting very Californian!

Last week we finally got number plates for our car in the mail (that took about 6 weeks for them to send), and today I got my Californian drivers license (which took about 5 weeks I think to send...).

I'm feeling very Californian now!

They've also finally started processing my work permit - yayyy!! They sent me a letter saying they needed more info - to my old address. So I managed to track the letter down, got all the extra info ready, and on the weekend lost the letter. D'oh.

So today I rang Immigration and they're resending the letter. So I'll hopefully have the letter again soon and can get the work permit further in motion!

Saturday, March 11, 2006

I hate scary movies.....

We hired a bunch of movies tonight (as a side note, all Blockbuster movies are weekly's, except brand new releases which are 2 nighters - cool!), and the second movie we're watching is one called Infection.

The plot sounded interesting (to Andrew anyway...), so we got it. As it turns out, it's a strange Japanese horror movie. The good thing about it is that I can bury my head in the laptop and not watch it and can't understand what they're actually saying because it's in Japanese with English subtitles.

I HATE horror movies. I have such an active imagination and have really vivid dreams, so freak myself out, and this kind of movie will probably have me awake half the night!!!!!!

I'll have to buy a movie like the Care Bears to watch before bed for moments like these :)

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Do you ever feel a lot older than you are?

I have the following things wrong with me:

Heart condition
Bad back
Dodgy knee (previously operated on, still causes problems)
Lactose intolerance (only came on a year or so ago)
Constant rashes on my arms

Due to the above problems, I can't get my heart rate over 120bpm, my back aches if I sit in a bad chair for too long, stand for too long or just move the wrong way, the bad back puts me out of alignment which causes strained muscles, my knee often aches and it hurts to go up and down stairs, if I have any milky products I get associated uncomfortableness and lastly I am often woken during the night due to itchy arms - so itchy to the point that I'm rolling around in agony. I'm awake at midnight right now because I had a small amount of non-lactose free milk in a cup of tea, and am still awake with tummy cramps and an upset belly. Ridiculous.

All of this by the age of 25. Imagine what I'll be like at 30?

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Most recent books

Books 4, 5 and 6 for the year were read while we were in Phoenix.

Booke 4 was Mary Higgins Clark - Moonlight Becomes You. It was a good read, gripping, but not too scary for wussy little me :) I also picked the baddie from the start which is quite unusual for me!

Booke 5 was Nora Roberts - The Quinn Brothers. I really really really enjoyed this book!! I was absolutely hooked on it and finished it within 2 days. It was a really nice story of brothers and family. It was actually a 4 parter, and the first 2 books - Sea Swept and Rising Tides were put together in one novel to make Quinn Brothers. Once I realised it was the first half of a 4 parter, I knew I would have to go and get the rest of the saga as the book was just so good.

So Book 6 is also Nora Roberts - The Quinn Legacy. I also really enjoyed this, which was the last 2 books combined - Inner Harbor and Chesapeake Blue. It was a little unrealistic in that 2 of the 3 older brothers (all early 30's) as well as the younger brother who i nthe last book is all grown up are guys who have regular short term flings, and the other doesn't really date, but all of them suddenly meet someone absolutely amazing in each book and completely fall in love, and marry within months of meeting that special someone and stay with them forever. The story of their relationships could have changed a LITTLE in the books!

If you can overlook that though, you'll find a really nice set of books!

Thursday, March 02, 2006


Well, it was interesting to see who's reading the blog! So a big hello to everyone, and I'll keep on trying not to bore you too much... :-)

Anyway, almost every female I meet these days says to me "so do you scrapbook". So now my answer is "yes"! Or almost anyway...

When we were in Phoenix, our friend Sarah showed us her scrapbooking, and it was really nice - much more fun that looking through a regular album, and I figure it's something that my completely unartistic self can handle.

So Louise, who's husband is working with Andrew at Google (they're also Aussies who moved over recently), does scrapbooking, and was nice enough to take me out today to a couple of scrapbooking shops and show me how it all works, and the basics I'd need.

So now I have an album, some basics to get me going and some ideas. My nan had previously asked for a bunch of wedding photos, and I haven't managed to print them out yet, so I thought I'd try to do her a wedding album with the photos she wants in a scrapbooking style instead.

It's certainly something that will keep me occupied for a bit... :)