Where have I been for the last four and a half years?

Category: Personal
Words: 1309

With the literal dawning of a new year, it’s time to address the opiate-addicted, shoplifting, felony-convicted, chaotic hot mess of an elephant in the room: what all has been happening in my life since 2017.

In June of 2017 we lost our home. The truth is, it wasn’t a sudden thing – though the homelessness was. One day we had a place to live, the next the sheriffs were at our door. Truth be told, between Daniel’s physical and mental health issues putting him out of work from 2012 onwards, and then my own physical health crises and multiple emergent and scheduled abdominal and pelvic surgeries and hospitalizations that began in 2010, we were struggling financially, and struggling earnestlyfrom 2013 onwards. We didn’t have centralized heat. We floated and bounced checks, robbed Peter and Paul to continue robbing Peter and Paul to eventually pay them both off – while still finding ways to help out my mom and brothers. There were times Daniel and I pushed food around on our plates, and then put it on the kids’ plates when they weren’t looking so as to make sure they ate, because there wasn’t enough food to go around. I vividly remember the day I realized I could go to a food bank: while loading up my trunk with donated groceries, I received a call from the county assistance office informing me we qualified for nearly $900 in crisis SNAP funds, and that they would be available the next morning. I could barely drive to the office and park the car in order to go in and pick up the debit card because I was crying so hard.

So there we were on June 15th, 2017, two days after my 33rd birthday: we lost our home. To make matters worse, six months before, I had had yet another emergency abdominal surgery – my sixth emergent surgery, my 14th surgery overall. Around that same time I was switched to a medication that, in rare instances (usually in elderly patients), caused severe short-term memory loss. It happened to be. So we were homeless, and I felt and acted like I was losing my mind for several months during a hard physical recovery (also a hard mental recovery, because that surgery, which was a vertical open surgery, just absolutely shook me).

June 2017 – June 2018 would be a blur of staying at my mother’s apartment, then with a friend, then in motels, then losing Alyssa and Ryan to foster care. This was when Daniel and I fell apart and nearly lost each other and ourselves. But we were still standing (barely). In January of 2018, after finding out we were living in our car, an online friend offered to let Daniel and I come stay with her, her husband, and her two children. You know how they say the road to hell is paved with good intentions? Indeed they are. It was around this time I was becoming addicted to my prescription pain medication (Oxymorphone), and my emotional addiction was jacking up my physical tolerance. She was becoming addicted to whatever opiates she could get from family and friends, and then from me. She was also, like me, severely depressed. And her depression was manifesting as neglect of her family and home, as well as hoarding behaviors, so Daniel and I walked into a huge mess that we cleaned up and continued to keep clean during the three months we spent staying with her and her family.

Two addicts living together will never end well, and our situation was no different. We spiraled individually as well as together. We were the worst possible type of person for the other. We left abruptly when she lost control of her emotions and pulled a gun on us. Admittedly, the I began the verbal confrontation over opiates, but she pulled out a gun. At no point did Daniel or I threaten her or her family. When the gun came out, we packed and left, and with the exception of getting our cats the next day, we never looked back. I got in touch with her once to wish her well, and that was that. She wrote a lot of untrue things about me on the internet – things I have not bothered to read in detail, because to be honest at the end of the day I know who I am, and people who care about me know who I am, you know? I do hope she is getting to and staying in a healthier place. I truly do wish her and her family well. Addiction is an ugly beast.

In April of 2018, when Daniel and I came back to Lancaster, we ended up at the Water Street Rescue Mission. In June of 2018, I broke a minor rule by saying something stupid, and was abruptly thrown to the streets. For next six months I would live on the streets and in motels, with a very small group of people who would turn out to be true friends. Unfortunately I would also run into situationships. I was physically assaulted. I was nearly raped. I ended up catching charges — retail thefts (shoplifting) — because we were stealing merchandise to steal to pawn shops in order to have money for motels. I’m not proud of what I did, but I will say that I do what I had to do to put a roof over my head when the weather is getting cold and I had nowhere to turn.

During all of this time, my opiate addiction continued. But I did not turn to street drugs or needles.

In November of 2019 I found a shelter in Columbia, Pennsylvania. They took me in. They were a godsend.

And on January 19th, 2019, I was arrested on an outstanding bench warrant for a retail theft. The secure bail of $10,000 was ridiculous considering I stole $51 of merchandise from CVS, but the 88 days I spent in jail were eye-opening: the women I met, the stories I heard, the pieces of broken lives I saw. And, I consider January 19th, 2019 to be the day I got clean. The very day I was released from jail, April 15th, 2019, I made arrangements to go to rehab. On May 1st, 2019, that’s what I did, and I would spend eight weeks in two different rehabs, going to individual and group therapy, and starting Suboxone medication-assisted-treatment. I will be three years clean with no slips in just a few weeks.

I was successfully discharged from rehab in June of 2019, and after spending two months in the Lancaster shelter Daniel was at, then spent a few months sharing an apartment with one of the two true friends I made while living on the street for six months, T.

On December 13th, 2019, Daniel and I moved into a house together, along with a roommate, J. J shared the house with us until July 3, 2020. We’ve opened our home since then to T and to another friend, Z, but since October of this year our house has once again been ours.

Alyssa and Ryan were reunited with us at the start of the COVID crisis, on March 20th, 2020. And in October of 2020, full physical and legal custody were returned to us. COVID has been horrible for so many people and for our economy, but for us personally, COVID has been a blessing.

I did attempt to go to school at the start of COVID, but mentally I wasn’t ready. The breakdown I had this past October was in the works last year. I was put on academic probation, but I am going back to school this coming spring semester – aka in a few weeks.

I know there is a lot I’ve probably skipped over, but in a nutshell, this has been my life for the past four and a half years! Feel free to ask me anything in the comments.

♥ Jenn
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Happy New Year’s Eve!

Category: Holidays
Words: 147

Here in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, 2021 is just a few minutes away from being over. I’ve been spending it coding, and I’m staying up only because I offered the local neighborhood free rides home in case anyone is inebriated. It’s my good deed for the day. Good things have been done for us, and besides doing for the cats in the community, I want to give back to people, too. Tired as I am, I’d rather spend the time and gas driving a few miles round-trip rather than risk someone hurting themselves or someone else, and/or incurring damage to vehicles and property, and/or upending their lives with expensive legal woes all because of celebrations. It has been a rather long but short, mundane but stressful, good but bad, bad but good, overwhelming but tedious kind of year.

Here is to a better 2022 for all of us. Cheers! 🥳

♥ Jenn
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2021: Year in review

Category: Personal
Words: 166

2021 was a pretty slow year, with the most action happening in the summer and fall. COVID-19 is kind of making weeks run together, and I can’t believe we’re going into our third year of it.

January: organized my kitchen, celebrated three years clean from opiate abuse.

February: discovered 1000-Lb. Sisters.

March: burned a decent amount of calories playing Beat Saber!

April: promoted the importance of vaccines, cut my hair. Dan turned 39. We managed to find a local carnival, so Ryan had an opportunity to get out of the house for a little while (Alyssa wasn’t interested in going).

May: Dan graduated HACC with his Associates Degree, and was accepted at Millersville University! ♥ I pierced my tongue.

June: I turned 37. We rescued a tiny kitten Daniel fell in love with and named Muninn. He inspired us to officially foster. I did a few more piercings.

July: We opened our doors to rescue and foster cats and kittens. Ryan turned 15. I did a few more piercings…

August:September: More rescues and fosters. More losses, this time to Coccidia.

October: I checked myself into a psychiatric facility for a voluntarily inpatient stay for severe depression and suicidal ideations. This was after two years of unsuccessfully fighting depression on my own, plus a toxic roommate situation that was dealt with, but that I still needed to deal with the mental effects of. I came home with the caution to “transition back to daily life gradually” warning echoing in my ears, only to find two litters totaling eight kittens within mere hours of my release. In the middle of the month, my mother came to stay with us for what we thought would be a few days, up to 2-3 weeks. It ended up being five weeks, but we used the time to rekindle our relationship, so it was good. ♥ No cat losses that month! Alyssa turned 17, and got her first job.

November: Four losses due to failure-to-thrive, which isn’t uncommon for second-surge litters of kittens. My mom dealt with some apartment drama that I was unfairly blamed for. Thanksgiving was low-key, and me being out of my Abilify meant I barely participated, though the food was delicious (thank you, Daniel!). I cut my hair short.

December: My mom moved into her new apartment a week before Christmas. Christmas itself was like another day for us, since none of us had any interest in the holidays this year.

All of 2021 felt like most of 2020, and I’m sure most of 2022 will feel like this, too.

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Daniel's 2021 graduation.

Daniel's 2021 graduation

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♥ Jenn
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2021’s top nine Instagram posts

Category: Personal
Words: 151

2021 top nine Instagram posts (kissmykitty)

Unsurprisingly, all but two were cat-related. Then again, the overwhelming majority of my posts are cat-related, so it’s not like I give my friends and followers and random drive-by likers a lot to choose from, eh?

Starting from top left and going horizontal:

♥ Jenn
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Ex-nay on the ast-lay ost-pay; Draco is sick.

Category: Cats
Words: 222

Scratch (like a cat scratch? Get it? I’m so witty. *insert eyeroll here*) my last post. Draco had two more (at least) seizures between my last post and now. Fortunately, in the world of rescue, TNR, and foster, we all kind of scratch one another’s backs. Alyssa and I are the go-tos for fostering, so in turn we can ring people for urgent medical help. In less than three minutes I secured a same-day appointment for Draco. In the next couple of hours, after low-cost spay/neuter surgeries wrap up, we’ll be getting a text letting us know to bring him in, and then hopefully we’ll get answers. My money’s on a repeat infection of Coccidia. As we already know from Tetris, seizures can be present in up to 30 or so percent of cases, and Coccidia itself can be present itself without the presence of diarrhea (meaning your cats (and dogs and rats and even cattle and oh, by the way, even humans) can have it without you knowing). It just so happens that Draco’s seizures are grand mal, while Tetris’s were the not-so-terrifying-to-observe focal.

Regardless of the Why, I just want to know What Do We Do: treat or euthanize?. Because more than anything, the most important factor here is QUALITY OF LIFE. Sometimes there is a fate worse than death.

♥ Jenn
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Draco had a grand mal seizure.

Category: Cats
Words: 403

Tonight I heard Draco, one of our two foster-fail[01] special-needs[02] kittens who is experiencing post-op post-Coccidia and post-Panleukopenia (yes, both boys survived both often-fatal diseases – and Panleuk has a 92% fatality in unvaccinated kittens younger than six months!), tumble down our last couple of stairs. I ran down to check him, and found him in the throes of a grand mal seizure. I’ve seen humans have seizures, and I’ve seen Tetris, our other special-needs FFer have focal seizures (his were especially pitiful, because he’d lose control of his legs, stiffen up, and fall over into Daniel’s lap; or the few times he wasn’t able to catch him, off of his desk onto the floor), but I’ve never seen a cat have a huge grand mal seizure (a friend of mine, though, yes, and I’ve been there for a few of them). I scooped him up and set him down on the kitchen floor, where Alyssa and I stayed with him throughout the duration, which seemed to drag on and on, and on and on, and on some more. In reality the seizure was probably over in a minute, but it felt like minutes. Poor Draco. He was completely drained, banged up from the fall, and exhausted, and you could tell he was so confused, and so, so scared. Once he was able to breathe easily again, he cried, and then he whimpered. But amazingly, he didn’t urinate, defecate, or vomit, and after a little while, his whimpering subsided, he was able to sit up, and he gave us a few weak “wahs”, which are a little game we do with him. Hearing those shaky but normal little Draco “wah”s made us both tear up, I think, even if Alyssa won’t admit it (heck, she might).

Needless to say, if Draco didn’t already have a vet appointment in the coming days to confirm the exact cause of his neurological issues (back leg weakness and wobbliness), we’d be scheduling one. Even when you’re prepared for the possibility of a seizure, they are still scary as fuck to witness – worse still when you’re feeling it happen from a slight 6ish pound cat violently shaking in your arms!

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Draco is the handsome Russian Blue

 

notes:

notes:
01 This is the term for an animal initially designated as foster-to-adoption that ended up being sniped by the fosterers because they fell in love
02 neuro issues
♥ Jenn
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The kitten adoption was a success!

Category: Cats
Words: 164

So Nyx’s adoption was a success! We drove just 22 miles to meet her daddy-to-be while he drove a good 70, so we didn’t mind waiting around for a bit we he stopped for cat food, litter, and some treats for her and even some for us, too (thank you). After he got her home and settled he sent me updates and photos that explained and showed that she very quickly settled in and took right to her new humans as if they had always been her humans. Like, she literally walked out of the carrier and waltzed up to one of the kids and hopped in her lap, then went to sleep with the other. Audacious little bitch. I love it. ♥ No but all expletives aside, I’m truly happy that Nyx and her hooman family of four are all so smitten with one another. Such a perfect match on the first go is a rarity, and we managed to nail it from an online connection!

♥ Jenn
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Nyx is being adopted!

Category: Cats
Words: 219
Nyx, 14 week old Russian Blue foster kitten

One of our foster kittens, Nyx, is being adopted today! I’m kind of afraid to say anything about it ahead of time for fear of jinxing things, but on the other hand, the adoption seems like SUCH a sure thing – the adopter in question seems like as much of a crazy cat lady as we are! He is so excited to meet her and bring her into his family that just thinking about our conversation puts a smile on my face. I can feel the love oozing from his words, you know? So about Nyx: Nyx is a very sweet 14ish week Russian Blue who came to us after being found in the wheel well of a vehicle on a particularly cold morning in November. She spent her first few days unhinging her face and screaming at anyone and anything that came near her, but she has since quieted down and discovered that she loves nothing more than to sit in your lap or on you. Seriously, she’s happiest when she is adhered to you, purring away for hours. Not surprisingly, she is in my lap right now.

Godspeed, little Nyxy. Mommy is so happy for you! ♥

P.S. This is our first official straight-to-home adoption! Usually our fosters go from us to rescues or adoption centers. Squee!

♥ Jenn
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Merry Christmas

Category: Holidays
Words: 72

‘Tis the season for the most mediocre Christmas ever. None of us are feeling Christmas this year. It isn’t that we’re depressed (though I am fighting depression). It’s just that none of us are really feeling Christmas, you know?

Nevertheless, we went through the motions, Christmas is here, gifts were exchanged, and now we can breathe a sigh of relief, toss out the tree, pack up the decorations, and move on to 2022.

♥ Jenn
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Merry Whatevermas Eve

Category: Holidays
Words: 50

Truth is, this is probably the worst Christmas ever in terms of Christmas spirit, because I’ve got zilch. It isn’t that I don’t want to celebrate Christmas. It’s just that I don’t have any Christmas spirit. I don’t even know why, either. It’s just like Christmas snuck up on me.

♥ Jenn
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