February 2011
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Positive Indications

So Saturday we took Blackjack in to a veterinary specialist about his cancer. He has feline lymphoma, which is typically not curable but can be treated. The vet took an ultrasound of his body and it appears the cancer has not metastasized, so we are going to be taking him on on Wednesday for a CT scan, followed by several days of radiation treatments over the following two weeks. Hopefully that will put him into remission and we’ll have several more good years with him.

Apparently cats deal with radiation treatment and chemotherapy better than humans do, so he probably won’t be flattened for a long period of time following treatment. (If we’re really lucky, the actual trips to the clinic will be the worst part for him. I expect it will not be so easy, but we can hope.)

The poor guy got his belly shaved for the ultrasound, which makes him look kind of pathetic. On the other hand, it’s a lot of fun to rub his shaved belly – fun for us, that is! Not really for him.

Sunday we drove around to look at some more houses. None of the houses we looked at were ones we had high hopes for – four of the five were actually pretty far afield of where we’d like to live – but we wanted to get more of a feel for what’s on the market. Three of the five were homes which clearly hadn’t been substantially remodeled since the 80s (if not longer) and needed some TLC to make them livable. The other two were more modern and had much to recommend them – except for their location, as far as we were concerned. But hopefully some more places will be hitting the market in the next month that we can take a look at.

Today I took the day off and caught up on a bunch of project around the house. For example:

  • Went jogging. It was a hard run this morning, but I managed to finish it.
  • Washed all the bedcovers, which took most of the day. Also vacuumed around the bed.
  • Replaced a dying bulb in a light fixture.
  • Catalogued all the comic books I’d bought from the last two months.
  • Paid bills.
  • Distributed the minutes from our last homeowners association meeting.
  • Pulled up some weeds outside.
  • Even took a coffee break, walking down to Starbucks and reading for 40 minutes.

A pretty productive day, all around. Still haven’t done my taxes, though. Might work on them tomorrow, so I can send all the data to my CPA this week.

The Other Shoe

We got the results of the biopsy on the mass in Blackjack’s throat.

It’s cancer.

The vet thinks it might be treatable, but it’s tricky because it’s so close to his throat and nasal passages. We’ll be meeting with an oncologist about it in the near future.

It’s hard to remain optimistic when each new piece of news is worse than the last one.

Too Complicated Before Coffee

I didn’t get enough sleep last night, so I was pretty groggy this morning. About half an hour after getting in to the office I got up to fill my water bottle, and also decided to hit the bathroom first.

While in the bathroom I thought, “Wow, I really am out of it. Maybe I should go get some coffee.” Conveniently, the coffee machine near the bathroom has the ostensibly “good” beans, while the one near my office is supposedly not as good. But I didn’t have my coffee mug with me. I could have just used a paper one, but decided to be good and get my mug.

So I walked back to my office, got my mug, and decided I didn’t care enough about the bean quality to go back to the other side of the floor (I’m not sure I can really tell the difference), so I headed to the kitchen near my office with my mug and water bottle.

On the way, I noticed the Donut Faerie had made a delivery, and one of my favorite donuts was in the box.

But my hands were full.

I went into the kitchen, put down my mug and water bottle, grabbed a napkin, and went out to get a donut. Back in the kitchen, I picked up my mug and went to the coffee machine.

Which had a sign on it that it was out of order.

So I filled my water bottle, put the donut on top of my mug, and carried it all back to my office. I put down the donut and water bottle, and headed back to the other side of the building and got my coffee.

I’d say that at least I got some exercise in all this, except that I ate the donut, which surely more-than-counteracted any benefits I got from walking around the floor.

A Little Rebound

After our rough week last week we gave ourselves a low-pressure weekend.

The good news is that Blackjack is feeling better, practically his old self once he recovered from being knocked out at the vet. Debbi says the vet told her that they took a pretty large sample of the mass in his throat for the biopsy, and he’s been swallowing less – hardly at all the last couple of days – and eating and drinking more. While this is hardly conclusive evidence, I’m choosing to take it as an encouraging sign that the mass may be treatable. And more importantly he hasn’t spent the last few days in distress because he feels like he has something stuck in his throat.

The vet was closed for President’s Day today, but hopefully we’ll find out the results of the biopsy in the next day or two. And hopefully it will be good news.

On the house front we went out on Saturday to some open houses, visiting three homes. In contrast to past visits, none of these homes are presently occupied; two were staged, and one was empty. The first one was a large house with fairly dated decor. It will probably be a really nice house for someone willing to do a major remodeling job on it (which is not us). The second one was the empty house, which has been remodeled and brought up-to-date (other than the rattling furnace which would need to be replaced), but which was rather dark in the main living space and the back yard, and which had a few quirky floor plan choices. It was probably the closest to what we’re looking for, but we weren’t bowled over. The third house was just frustrating: A nearly-brand-new house on a large lot near downtown, but with an utterly bizarre floor plan and a lot of space that just cried out, “What were they thinking when they designed this?” Debbi eventually figured out that it’s a sort of showcase for the builder’s skills, but it really needed a couple of run-throughs with an architect before it was built. It will probably be a nice place for someone looking for a large house who’s willing to do some major renovation to fix the weirdnesses.

Our hope is that as we head into spring more houses will hit the market and we’ll see some more variety. But it was nice to be looking at homes with no pressure again.

We also had the trailing end of a series of storms passing through the area, and visited the open houses in the rain. Which was actually kind of fun itself, driving around and walking in the rain. I do like rain. The cold temperatures aren’t as welcome, however.

We had a quiet day mostly at home on Sunday, which I was totally ready for. And then back to work today.

And the Bad News

The second worst thing today is that we were not able to come to an agreement with the seller on the house we were interested in, so we decided to let it go. Now, this is disappointing, but when you get down to it, it’s just business: The seller wanted so much money for it, and we were willing to pay so much money for it, and the gap between those two numbers was pretty big and didn’t look likely to converge. As a friend put it when I first told him about seeing this place but not being prepared to do something about it, “My experience is that there are always other houses.” So we’ll keep looking. And at least we’ve gotten the ball rolling.

So the second worst thing is, well, just the way it goes sometimes.

The worst thing that happened today is that we learned the reason Blackjack has been swallowing a lot and perhaps occasionally horking is that he has a mass in his throat under the soft palette. The vet was unsure whether she could simply remove it, so she took a sample for a biopsy, and we should know in a few days whether it’s benign or, well, not.

There’s nothing we can do about it right now but wait, and try to make him comfortable and give him lots of love. Fortunately he’s mostly his usual self (other than recovering from being put under for the examination), but I’m trying not to think too much about it until we have more information.

Blackjack, by the way, is only seven years old. He’s been our hyper-energetic cat for years, so it’s hard to believe this is happening. Especially since we just figured he had a bunch of hair in his stomach he was having trouble processing.

You wouldn’t think that anything involving income taxes would be the high point of the day, but we met with my tax preparer today to talk about tax ramifications of buying a house together (inasmuch as we’re not married), and actually had a fine time chatting with her, even if going through all the options and running the numbers did melt our brain.

Well okay, the real high point was probably going out to dinner tonight at one of our favorite restaurants. Which after the low points we felt like we deserved.

Stretched Thin

Another week-and-a-half without updating. Sigh.

A big part of it has been deciding what to do on the house front, as you might guess. Lining up an agent and delivering all the documentation to get preapproved for a mortgage has taken quite a bit of time, and then looking more closely at the house we’re interested in. I’d forgotten how all the little details involved in the process add up to a fair amount of effort and stress! But Debbi and I have been supporting each other, and we’re making progress. We’ll likely have something to report soon.

On top of that, last week was one of the busiest weeks I’ve had at work in quite a while. Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday I came in to find several hours’ worth of new work in my incoming queue, which made it difficult to get ahead even though I was getting a lot done. Fortunately by the end of the week I had gotten through all the new stuff and almost all the old stuff. So that felt like a personal victory. But geez, not a great week to be run ragged like that.

On the home (well, current-home) front, Blackjack has been having hairball problems. Over the weekend Debbi thought he had the hiccups, but on Monday I realized he’s actually been trying to clear his throat, I think by swallowing. And he does occasionally throw up a hairball. He doesn’t seem miserable, but it does seem kind of tired of it (the way one gets tired of being congested or having a persistent cough, I imagine). So he’s going to the vet tomorrow and hopefully there’s a simple remedy. This is the first time he’s had hairball problems, so we’re trying to brush him a bit more. Which would be fine except that he doesn’t like being brushed. (Neither of Debbi’s cats do, while both of my cats adored being brushed.)

Rain returned to the bay area on Monday, which I’ve enjoyed, although it’s mostly rained at night. This winter has been weird: We got record rainfall in November and December, plus set some record low temperatures during a December cold snap. Then in late January we set some record high temperatures, often nudging into the 70s. And now it’s raining again. I’m sure none of this fazes all of you who live in regions that have gotten huge snowfalls over the last month, but it’s still pretty weird for this region.

And amidst all this, Debbi and I did our annual day-after-Valentine’s-Day dinner together last night. It seems like something always comes up on Valentine’s Day that keeps one or both of us busy (our first year together I had frisbee), but we’re both fine with that: It’s easier to get into a restaurant the day after, and it’s a lot cheaper to buy flowers, which I’ve done on occasion. Really a win-win all around.

House Gathering

We’ve been talking about looking for a new house for a while. I’ve been in our current home for 9 years, and Debbi moved in 5 years ago. A bunch of Debbi’s stuff (and a little of mine) is in a storage unit. And we have 3 cats, with the expectation of going back to 4 (or even 5) someday. So we’ve basically outgrown this place, even though when I bought it it was just the place I wanted (well, within the bounds of what I could afford).

We went out and looked at a few open houses early last year, but I wasn’t really ready to move. Now I’m feeling more motivated, so the last two weekends we’ve gone to see some houses on the market. January isn’t the ideal time to look at houses since there’s not a lot on the market (most people like to move during the summer, between school sessions), and the market is down so many people are keeping their homes off the market until it improves. We were mainly going to see what’s out there in in our price range in the area we want to live, and to talk about what’s important to each of us in a house and see how close these houses come.

What we didn’t expect was to see a house we both adored the second time out.

Now, this isn’t a huge problem. As a friend of mine observed, there are always other houses. But this one is quite nice, with three bedrooms, a den, a 2-car garage, a large yard (and yet, a yard that doesn’t look like it would need too much maintenance), and it’s very bright and cheerful. Its drawbacks are mostly cosmetic: I’d say the biggest one is that the living room could be bigger, and it could have more closet space. It is perfect? No, but we were both charmed by it. And the location is good, too!

Of course, we’ve only seen a few houses, whereas when I brought my current place I’d seen upwards of two dozen townhomes and had a pretty good understanding of the market. But we don’t feel like we have the same grasp of this market this time around, which is why finding this place so quickly feels a little uncomfortable, since we don’t have a lot to compare it to (though it’s much nicer than the places we do have to compare it to). On top of that, we hadn’t talked to a realtor or a mortgage broker yet, so we weren’t ready to actually put a bid on it.

So we’re talking to a couple of agents and a broker over the next few days. And if everything goes well, we’ll decide whether we want to make an offer on this house.

But if that house doesn’t work out, well, we’ll have started the ball rolling.