The Future

I've mused on here a number of times about what my future holds, both personally and professionally. I've been a stay-at-home mom for going on twelve years now. It's been a few years since I really didn't need to stay home, but I wasn't sure I wanted to return to the workforce as a computer professional.

Back when Randy and I were talking about me returning to college to complete my Bachelor's degree, one of the fields I was interested in was architecture. The program at Miami expected me to concentrate on this field for two years and then submit my portfolio and see if they would accept me. As a twenty-something with a family, that seemed like a lot of work to put into something and then (possibly) have them reject me. I didn't have a lot of confidence in myself back then. I also had a niggling doubt in the back of my head that I was changing degrees because I "couldn't hack it".

So, being the stubborn mule I can be, I returned to college and completed the degree I'd set out to achieve: a Bachelor of Science in Applied Science. I almost had enough credits to minor in Spanish as well. It's been thirteen years this summer since I graduated. I worked for less than a year under two different managers -- one as supportive as a new employee could hope for; the other a complete bitch liked by no one I knew. I ended up spending more time with the latter of the two. By the time I left that position, I couldn't imagine ever wanting to program computers again. Aside from some small projects of my own, I haven't.

I'm not sure what put the seed of the idea in my mind now, but for the last two years, off and on, I've been contemplating returning to school. Arizona State University has a Master of Architecture program which is aimed at non-architecture Baccalaureates. It's called MArch 3+. As can be seen on the last link, I'd start in the Summer session, taking 15 credit hours. The first year, I'd take 14-15 credit hours each semester and then dove-tail into the two-year program. But, in order to begin, I need to take the GRE, which I've not even begun to prepare for.

There's one other complication to consider. It's both minor and major. My sister is getting married! The wedding is August 28th of this year and I'm going to be a bridesmaid. The Summer session would be completed by then, but the Fall session starts on the 19th of August. Randy and I are planning on driving back to Ohio for the wedding, which means I'm likely to be out of commission for about a week. Not a good idea for a serious student.

So, I'm going to spend the next year preparing myself mentally and physically to go back to school. I'd like to take a sprint course or two in the fall, if any of the deficiency courses I need to get up to speed are available. But, perhaps my time is better spent studying for the GRE.

Meanwhile, I've just had my doctor's nurse practitioner (NP) sign off on the DMV form for a disabled plate -- she marked me as permanently disabled. She ordered x-rays and an MRI of my lower back. We're waiting on the insurance company to sign off on the MRI and we'll do both at the same time. Based on what we find there, we can proceed. I was looking at a poster in the doctor's office and saw that the sciatic nerve is right where I've been experiencing pain. The NP noticed I don't have trouble "transferring" -- I moved from a chair to the exam table easily -- and I explained, "Some days I move without thinking and it's fine. Other times, I go to make the same move and pain halts me and I have to slow down."

I used to be able to manage the walking on campus from PS4 (now called Rural Road Parking Structure) to Moeur or Coor Halls. Google Maps says that's about .6 miles each way. By the end of a semester, I was usually doing okay walking that much. I'd go from Coor to Moeur, then up to Rural and University for lunch and then back down to the Computing Commons. At the end of the day, I'd go from there back to PS4. Today, I could barely manage the walk from Coor to Moeur. sigh

I might be crazy, going back to grad school at 40, but I'd rather try and fail than sit here and dream "what if" but never do it.

RIP Sebastian Donovan Ferret


Today we said good-bye to Sebastian. He was diagnosed with massive tumors in his abdomen which had been pressing against his intestinal tract. A barium-contrast series of x-rays proved he had no blockage (like a piece of rubber or some such thing) in his GI tract. Our vet felt that operating, while an option, would only buy us a couple months, putting Seb through much pain and discomfort for very little return benefit. We elected to take him home and spoil him rotten. That was February 23rd. The vet said he didn't expect Seb to last a month.

Sebastian's GI tract with barium, 15:12

He was right. Last night, Sebastian just seemed to be so wasted away, both physically (which has been painful to watch) and finally, mentally. He licked at some guacamole (his favorite food) but didn't really seem to care much any more. Instead of trying to run off with the chip and guac, he walked a few inches away (without the treat) and just sacked out. The tumors were obviously pressing and making things uncomfortable. He would wake up and pee almost immediately -- no matter where he was. He clearly hated this, but had no strength left to do otherwise.

This morning, we took him in to the vet. We weren't able to see Dr. Funk, but one of his colleagues was just as kind to us. She administered the shot and he was gone in less than two minutes. I'd even say he was gone in under a minute. He just took a couple last breaths and was gone.

We brought him home, as we've learned to do, and I gave him a bath. Since he couldn't bristle his fur and fluff it dry, I used my hair dryer on the "cool" setting, to fluff him dry again. It was hard seeing how this once-vibrant and feisty ferret had been whittled down to barely skin-and-bones by that fucking disease called cancer. I'm so sick of cancer stealing from me and mine.

We called Rowan, who knew we were going in today, and he came up to sit with us and cry. When all the animals and the humans had been given a time to say good-bye, I collected a small snip of fur for Rowan and put it into a glass vial.

We are having Sebastian cremated, like all our other ferrets have been. But I know he's really no longer here, but across the Rainbow Bridge, frollicking and nipping the toes of all the ferrets who have gone on before.

Sebastian, we'll see you again someday.

I'm still here...

...I just haven't had much to say.

I'm knitting on a variety of projects:

  • a shawl I got fed up with a long while back and have finally returned to working on. It's going better this time.
  • a pair of socks for Randy in Black Trillium's Heavy Merino Sock -- yum! I'm done with the first sock and working (top-down) on the leg of the second sock.
  • I've finally cast-on something for me and by the time it's done, I probably won't need it: a shrug in Lion Brand Homespun. The great room can be quite chilly at times and I'd rather layer.
  • a multiple-ditty bag project I'm dreaming up (inventing?) as I go. This one is using leftover sock yarns. So much for that sock yarn blanket I had planned...
  • a little something for Valentine's Day. It's done, I just need to get some accessories.grin

I'm still working on my gaming character sheets. At this point, I'm trying to work on two sets at the same time. One is the v3.5e set and the other is a Pathfinder set. Not a whole lot has changed, but the parts that have affect the layouts of a couple of pages. I suspect Wizards might give me a little trouble in Pathfinder. I'm also struggling with creating class-specific pages for classes like Psionics -- classes I've never played. So, I'm talking to my three gaming groups and trying to get feedback on the data that's most critical.

I'd like to work up some spell sheets -- have the entire text of a single spell on the sheet, so the character's prepped spells are readily available. But some spells take so little room that they'd be a wasted of sheet space.

Randy has suggested a sorted list of monsters/creatures by various types. It's easy on the Wizards of the Coast site to do that sort of thing, if you've got their v3.5e Monster's page bookmarked. But what if you want only aquatic creatures? Or only desert creatures? I mean, a wandering monster check can't really give you Dire Sharks (do they exist in d20 SRD?) if you're in the middle of a desert, right? It looks like I'll have to build a database to do it right. do I do that again?

Meanwhile, I'm trying to pick up some JavaScript and PHP to add a Pathfinder template to the RPGProfiler we're using. It's times like this I miss having an office of my own -- less going on around me, less activities to catch my attention and drag me out of my very deep learning curve.

I came across a window cling designed by Jen Delyth of Keltic Designs last week. It's the perfect basis for a circular shawl, so I bought the cling. When I got home, I hunted down a website for her work and promptly sent her a message. Sure, I'd like to do all the work of designing this and turning it into a shawl, but when it's done, I'd really like to be able to sell the finished work. I received her response the other day:

You are welcome to make 1 shawl and post it on your site with full credit.

If you make more, which consitutes commercial use, please get back to us, and we can work out license agreement.

Hmm... Should I still work on a shawl design for this? I'm not sure. I mean, I'm not a professional, so it'll probably take me a year, at least! I've still not completed the design on the shawl for my mom that I promised her. Sigh. Maybe I should finish Mom's shawl first and then work on this new idea?

But, speaking of my own designs, have you seen the little guy down on the right side of the blog lately? As of this writing, there's 39 projects of him and he's in 147 queues. Squee!

Lately, I've been feeling the need to get into something more mentally challenging. I think there's some things in my projects listed above which could fit the bill...I just need to clean my desk and get to it.

NaNo over, new email, last month of 2009


I'm back after struggling through the hardest NaNoWriMo I've ever done. I had some intestinal problems which led me to urgent care. That in turn led to an abdominal ultrasound which found nothing. Great. So why does it hurt, doc? sigh

After surviving the stomach cramps and et cetera, I came down with a cold. I fought like heck and managed to get over the actual cold pretty fast but I'm still dealing with asthma symptoms (always happens when I have a cold!) and an intermittent cough.

Still, in the end, I reached my 50,000 word mark. Barely. Towards the end, I was writing sections of chapters about any scene I knew I wanted to have happen. A wedding. An adoption. An initiation. The beginning of the novel (on November first) is now somewhere down around chapter ten or so.

I think this year's NaNo was challenging because it's the first one I've participated in since we sold the house. In the house, I had my own office. It was purple and one whole wall was covered with whiteboards -- great for working out ideas and keeping a larger-than-life To Do list on. But most of all, it had a door I could close and shut out what everyone else was doing.

To be fair, this was also in 2002 and 2003 -- if YouTube and other such sites existed, I think we were still on dial-up at the time, so I surely couldn't have spent much time on those sites! Equally true, Ravelry didn't exist and I wasn't the avid knitter I am now. I guess that all boils down to: I've got a lot more to distract me and less ability to shut myself away from it all.

I've whinged and whined here in the past about my writing and where I'm going with it, so I'll spare you a redux of all that. There's a good idea in this year's NaNo novel, struggling to get out. So maybe down the road a bit, I'll get back to it and make it shine.

In the meantime, I've got to change the email over on the right of the blog, under my picture. It's getting a lot more spam and I'm tired of it. I don't know what the new one will be yet, but I suspect I'm going to have to make it an image, so the bots and such can't grab it.

Finally tonight, we're down to the last month of 2009. Where did this year go? It's been a painful year, with a couple bright spots, but I'm definitely going to be glad to kick this year out the door. I'm not really in "the Christmas mood" so far. We haven't had a tree since 2004 and we don't do live trees here -- I'm just not that big of a risk taker! I'd like to have a tree, but if I bought one, it's likely to be the entire Christmas! So I don't know what we're going to do, decoration-wise. At a minimum, I want to get out my large fiber-optic wreath and use my mini-decorations on it, like I used to do.

As for Christmas gift-giving, I've got an idea for one person on my list -- well, that's not true. I've got a couple ideas for several people. I just have to see how the planning pans out. Most of all, this year I don't want to crap out on the Christmas stockings. That's usually where I really shine: making sure everyone's stocking is overflowing with weird things, goofy things, items which are small and often forgotten and most especially candy of some kind. Randy always says I'm the best at stuffing stockings; this year I want to really knock their, ahem, socks off!

No matter what you celebrate, I hope you have friends and family to share these year-end festivities with. If you can, look around and spread the love to someone less fortunate. Walmart and other chain stores of the type usually have 'gift trees' with wishes from local children who won't have much for Christmas. There's also Childs Play, "a game industry charity dedicated to improving the lives of children with toys and games in our network of over 60 hospitals worldwide." For those who read here and are ferret lovers, there's the Ferret Giving Tree, where you can find a fuzzy (or two or three!) who are spending Christmas in a shelter that you can spoil.

I'm not sure I've blogged about Bark 10-4 which is aimed at getting pet oxygen masks on fire trucks around the country. You can order one for your local fire station and know your pets will get the help they need in a fire emergency.

As Book says in Serenity, "I don't care what you believe in, just believe in it."

RIP Theodore "Snaps" Ferret

Why is it that, even when we know death is coming, we're still not ready to lose the one we love?

We had to make The Decision -- the one all pet owners are aware of and dread -- today, for Theodore. This boy has had a really interesting life (and we're sure we didn't know the half of it!). He was found, running the streets of Savannah, GA by a gal by the name of Melanie. Her friend Julie had a ferret that wasn't doing well after losing a companion ferret. Julie took this friendly, curious boy in and named him "Snaps". He was a great comfort to his new ferret friend, Ginger until she passed on and joined her ferret companion Fred.

Julie knew she couldn't adopt again, but he deserved a chance to play and have much more ferret fun. So she made a different tough decision: to give Snaps a home with more ferrets.

That's where we came into this amazing boy's life. I remember the day I met him -- he almost lept from Julie's hands, he was so excited to meet new people! And he's always been like that. What surprised us most was that he bonded with Maya, our first re-homed ferret who'd been brought to our vet's office, having been found wandering the streets of Savannah. It seemed they either knew each other or were able to communicate to each other about their free-range lives before us.

When we lost Maya so suddenly on my birthday in 2007, I thought for sure we'd lose Theo soon after that. We all spent a lot of time with him, cuddling him and making sure he knew how loved he was. He pulled through her loss.

Then, he started having seizures and my research told me he had insulinoma. This meant we had to make sure his blood sugar didn't drop too low and be ready to treat a seizure with a little Karo syrup rubbed on his gums. The seizures were terrifying. A couple of them were so bad, I wondered if The Decision was close at hand. But each time, he pulled out of it and was back to his bouncy, playful self.

Oh, he was older. And it showed in the less frequent playful periods, but when he played, he played. And when he slept, he was so sacked out, he'd sleep himself into a crash. So, our vet said to wake him and feed him "gushy food" (usually a mix of Gerber baby food and feline a/d) to prevent the crashes.

Then, earlier this year, I noticed a knot or a lump on his belly, near his penis. I was worried his "boy mechanics" were being tied up and causing problems, so we took him in to see Dr. Funk again. Without anesthesia and surgery, he said it would be hard to be sure, but he felt confident it wasn't interferring with the internals much. It grew rapidly -- I mean scary-fast. Today, after he was gone and there was just a body there, I felt around and it was about the size of a large walnut or bigger.

I think all pet owners question all their decisions when there's no clear-cut right or wrong to follow. We work from our hearts and from what we believe we can read in the eyes of our beloved pets. I chose, with Randy's agreement, those several months back, not to pursue removal of the tumor because it would require anesthesia. My reading and the knowledge of vets past and present has led me to believe that the older ferrets just don't do as well coming out of surgery. Something about the anesthesia just messes them up and some just fade away. So, we decided to pass on the surgery and give him as many love and treat filled months as we could.

That came to an end today. We're not sure exactly what changed, but Randy found him huddled up in a corner yesterday weaker than a new-born kit. With supportive care, he curled up for sleep. Sixteen hours later, he still had little to no mobility. Holding him, he was constantly shivering/shuddering. And his eyes, normally bright and attentive, seemed glassy with pain to me.

We scheduled with Dr. Funk and this tough street-smart ferret hung on, even in pain. When he was gone, it was just like a light had left the body and the shell was dark. We brought his body home to let all the ferrets say their good-byes. It's a step which is so important to our pets. Considering how social ferrets are, I believe it would have been cruel to not bring Theo's body home for this good-bye.

Once the good-byes were all said, we returned to the vet's to give over Theo's body for cremation. It's a private cremation, so we'll have his remains back with us soon.

Theodore will be joining his first companion, Ginger, his second companion Maya and other cage=mates Elijah, Octavia and Zoë. Theodore never knew Kittanning and Maxwell, but they'll be there to greet you. Remember Nana's Wheezy and Mousey and Huskers, too! You'll have so many friends -- remember Heinlein-kitty? -- just have fun and we'll see each other again, someday.

Where is Anne?

It's been a long time since I've participated in National Novel Writing Month. I participated in 2002 and again in 2003. Both years, I reached the 50,000 word mark by the deadline. It's been six years!

I'm nervous about writing this year for a variety of reasons. My first is, "Do I still have 'it'?" "It" is that mysterious thing which comes over me: the writing is less brain-to-fingers-to-keyboard and more just there, on my screen. If I'm really in "the zone", time passes without my awareness of it. There's no fumbling for words, no struggling for ideas. There's just the screen in my mind where the action is playing out and I'm translating it to text as fast as I can.

Another reason for the nerves: I haven't had my own office since around 2003 or 2004. This will be my first NaNoWriMo where I'm in a room with between 1-3 other people (depending on the time of day). I can't just "rock out" while I space out and write. I can't just close the door and have it understood, "I'm writing. Go away."

Nick's old enough now that our old "blood, bone, vomit" rule isn't really necessary. Plus, with Rowan here, there's a second grown-up in the house almost all the time. I've prepped everyone as much as I can, reminding Nick and Randy how I'm basically "not here" for the month of November.

I still plan to attend our RPGs every Saturday night -- that'll be a good release from the writing monkey on my back. And we have our every-other Thursday RPG set in Eberron. That's only two Thursday nights, so that's no big deal. I dropped out of the World of Darkness Werewolf the Forsaken LARP last week so that's all good.

I've got a kernel of an idea, but not a plot. Not even an arc of a plot. Just an opening. And that's all in my head. Not a word on paper/screen until midnight 1 November.

I've stuck some widgets in this post which probably won't "go live" until the first.I may add them to the blog for the month as well.

Update 25 March 2012: Whoops....the live graphs aren't available any longer, thus the two broken images. Sucky, but what can ya do?

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