Death and Taxes

I spent just about all Sunday afternoon trying to get my taxes done so I can file them.  And boy, did it get me frustrated.

Problem 1: Apparently, my prize money (and maybe my wee increase in salary?) bumped me up a tax bracket. I owe more than a couple hundred bucks to the feds and I'm not happy.   
Do I wish I had put aside money when I first got the check? Not really, because I really love everything about my new stereo setup.  No regrets.  Music wins.

Problem 2: About a month or two ago, I learned that earned income tax that I thought was deducted from my paycheck and paid to the borough in which I work, was in fact mislabeled and indeed forwarded to the borough where I live.  Meaning I've been paying almost double in earned income tax.

The tiniest bit of good news is that what will be refunded to me nearly matches what I will be paying the feds.  

So that's all taken care of.  Yet it really has driven home the point that what I am doing--how I am earning a living right now--is not really taking care of my financial needs.  Throw in a cat who needs medical treatment, and I've got a situation that demands I deem my resume' polished enough and start sending it around.
But God I wish I could find my real niche.

Moving on to death, unfortunately: The Senior Cat at my parents' had been declining for a while, and this past week she started to do very badly.  Eating less, not able to walk one day, not able to use the litterbox without help.  My mom was particularly concerned about that last point, and after a couple trips to the vet (who was very kind and regarded Senior Cat with awe for her "Ancient" status) did not give Senior Cat much relief, Mom weighed the options and made the tough decision.

It was one of those things that was really hard to reconcile, even rationally.  I mean, I agreed with the decision.  Don't wait until the poor cat has a seizure or a stroke or worse because her little body's shutting down.  But her alertness was pretty good--in fact, she got out of her little heated bed to demand some shrimp at dinner.  She even seemed a bit bewildered when I leaned down to say goodbye last night.

"You're an amazing cat," I told her as she lay in her little bed.  [I'm tearing up just thinking about it again.]  "You were so good to Aunt E. and we were lucky to have you next.  Go find Aunt E. in Heaven, and sit on her lap."  And I told her I loved her (we all did!) and we'd never find another cat like her.  And then I had to go and not look back.

I didn't sleep that well last night, and at 3 a.m. I awoke with tears pouring out of my eyes.  I think I've cried in my sleep like that only once before, and that was when The Cat got scary-sick last summer.  And I had a lousy day today after no sleep, and the secretary making a comment on the weird tiny cluster of grey hairs at the back of my head (oh sure, she thought it was funny) didn't help.  I couldn't really eat.  The grief will be difficult for a bit, I know, and feels worse because I have my own time-is-short feeling with The Cat.

Senior Cat was with us for almost 16 years, the first few with my great-aunt E.  They were the best of companions.  One time, when my cousin couldn't get through on the phone to Aunt E. all afternoon, she used her spare house key and found Aunt E. at the bottom of the steps after a fall--and the phone, on a side table at a distance from the steps, had been off the hook--our only guess is that Senior Cat had knocked the phone receiver, because Aunt E.  had been unable to get up.

Later, as Aunt E. was in her last days and sleeping 24/7 in a hospital bed set up in her bedroom, Senior Cat defied the nasty home health aide who'd banished her to the basement: Nightly, after the home health aide went to bed, Senior Cat would sneak upstairs, jump onto the dresser, and climb over the bedrails to snuggle with Aunt E.  (Mom saw it happen one night near the end when she slept over but hadn't gone to bed yet.)  Then, before the home health aide got up in the morning, Senior Cat would climb back out of the hospital bed and head down the basement.  Incredible.

She wasn't dumb.  She purred the minute my mom held her at the SPCA almost 16 years ago.  When Aunt E. passed away and she came to live with us at my parents', she latched onto my dad as her boyfriend (well, she always found boys charming, anyway).  She put up with The Cat's antics, as well as the antics of Younger Sister's Cat (a.k.a. Calamity Jane)--and then later the two former strays/ferals who also came to live there.  And while she carried herself with a primness, she was rather vocal at the dinner table (in her gravelly Brenda Vaccaro voice) and expected my father to send a few morsels her way. . . not to mention she was caught getting into the kitchen trash can after dinner on more than one occasion!

What a life she had!  She was one heck of a cat.  We will miss her very, very much.  



The Only Exception

As many Catholics in the blogosphere know, one way to make a combox blow up is to start talking about women's wear.  A lot of these posts get kinda ugly, so I'd like to point out a recently refreshing and rather enjoyable one by Seraphic over at the Seraphic Singles blog: Retire the Jumper.

Ah, jumpers.  I would never wear one nowadays, but you know what? I really, really loved the one I wore back in the day as a kiddo.

I mean, Snoopy is always in fashion, right?

The ONLY time Younger Sister ever wanted to emulate me. Even down to the shoes!



Ash Wednesday 2012: Mission Accomplished

The one science teacher who helped distribute ashes today did it with quite a heavy hand.  Er, thumb.  So my forehead cross lasted with little fading through the entire day.

If I had a nickel for every double-take or weirded-out look I got while out and about today, I'd have a lot of alms to give.   Those responses are fairly standard, and they don't bother me.  But I'm pretty sure I've never had the following reactions from people in any prior year:

1. As I was coming out of the post office after school, I looked up while unlocking my car.  A woman a couple cars over was looking at me as she took a mail bin out of the passenger side of her car.
I smiled.  Her funny look turned into a smile.

2. When I got home, I dropped my schoolbag outside my door and continued on toward the lobby to get my mail from the vestibule.  Before I got to the lobby, the door of the apartment across the hall opened and out walked the elderly woman who lives there with her equally elderly husband. (When I first met her, I thought she was hard of hearing.  It turns out her husband wears hearing aids and she's just used to yelling everything.)  She's very outgoing, so she said hi to me--and then we had this strange conversation:

Neighbor: I see you got your ashes. I forgot about Ash Wednesday.

Me: Well, we had this thing at school. . .

Neighbor: So, how long do you keep yours on?

Me: (!?) Um, just today. You know, for Ash Wednesday.

Neighbor: Oh! Today is Wednesday.  I thought it was Thursday.  When you're retired, you kind of lose track of the days.

We had a good laugh over that.  Maybe she thought I was not going to wash my face for 40 days or something.

That was priceless.



Not a Typical Saturday Night/Early Sunday Morning

My team (my first time with them) placed third in a huge quiz bowl downtown.

I got home about 12:15 a.m.; shortly thereafter, the police pulled up outside my building to break up the party one of my third floor neighbors has been conducting.  (I knew about it because she invited me to it a couple weeks ago when we were standing around waiting for the fire alarm issue to get settled. Glad I had a previous engagement.)  I'd forgotten it was tonight until I saw this dude from the local party place trying to shove two dozen pink balloons into the elevator as I was leaving this afternoon.

Oh, and I think the K-9 unit came as well.  I've been hearing a lot of barking.  The Cat was a little weirded out, so she is "loafed out" in the middle of my dining room table, watching me type.  I'm trying to unwind so I can get some sleep before getting up to cantor Mass in the morning.

Never a dull moment in the 'burbs.



Stats on The Cat

Amount of weight lost since last vet visit on 12/26: 1/2 lb.  (She's still in a good weight range, 9 lbs.)

Number of growls at veterinary staff (including Dr.) during last week's visit: 7

Compliment elicited from Dr. during examination: "Her fur is so soft."  (Right after she had growled at him and he had told her he was almost done listening to her heart.)  That's the irony--she looks like a super-healthy cat. She's just a mess internally.

She did get her new depo-shot of steroids (after which she thought she was SuperCat and climbed all over the kitchen), as well as a shot of fluids and something to help with nausea.  I do wonder if she's still having nausea, as she is not quite back in the usual groove just yet.  There was Barf-O-Rama Sunday night, with a litterbox incident between bouts (the last bout occurring at 1:30 a.m. Monday).  She's still not completely compliant with taking her meds, although for the most part she's been agreeable as far as her thyroid pill). So we're in a readjustment pattern at the moment.

And at this particular moment, she's giving me the "Go get ready for bed so we can snuggle" behavior, so I'd better do as I'm told.


Sorry So Scarce

I'll do a separate post for The Cat, so outside of that information, here's what else you need to know.  I've been in Grading Hell (or at least Purgatory--but in any case, not the fun that Prof. Mondo makes it sound when he terms it "Gradeapalooza") for mid-semester, and I'm still holding my breath while I await the fallout (i.e. e-mails from parents on why little Perfection/Precious didn't get the good grade he/she needs to get into Honor Society or whatever).

We're at the point in the school year where I'm testing the students on the skills we've been working on, and many aren't putting much effort into it.  After all, this is just a "special subject" that meets once a week.  Never mind that I'm teaching skills these kids need now and for the rest of their academic careers and beyond.  I'm sorry every minute of academic integrity can't be scintillating--and trust me, I also am itching to get into some creative ideas I have about online ethics and safety--but we've got to slog through the stuff they need to do their first big research project properly.  I'm tied to someone else's curriculum and nobody seems to appreciate that.

Wednesday, I had a severe headache from the grading anxiety, and then when Friday came and I was forced to change zeroes (you know, for work students never bothered to hand in or make up) into less-failing grades (!!! Don't get me started!!!), I signed myself out to go pick up some books we ordered and cried in the car both ways.

With that finished, I thought I'd have the chance to catch up the blog on things over the weekend, but then Younger Sister came into town, and there was this get-together for my cousin's kids' birthday (oh yes, family follies galore), as well as a trivia night fundraiser thingy (which was a good way to keep from staying at the party long enough for some relative to say something super-traumatizing).  

I promise to post a pic of the trophy ASAP.  Team captain gets first rotation of trophy-keeping, y'know.  Honestly, it was such a fun time that even if we hadn't won--and it was a narrow win--I wouldn't have minded.  (I just wish all the couples on my team knew some nice single dude for me!)

O.K., now go read the other post about The Cat.



Kitty Update Forthcoming

The Cat had a (somewhat scheduled) trip to the vet last night.  Oh, and her scratching post-thingy arrived. I'll tell you all about it tomorrow.

I had a grading deadline today and am simultaneously annoyed with the students who didn't bother much with a major assignment and terrified their parents are going to flip out when they see their midterm grades.  So I am super-tired.  Too bad it's only Wednesday night!