Monday, November 23, 2015


One thing that has kept me busy for the last few months is helping the local nonprofit that works with our county animal shelter get its new website up and running.

They put out a call for a volunteer. It seemed like a way for me to consistently help a cause and a group that I care about.

I have a hard time when I’m in the county shelter. No shelter is a good place for an animal. And the one in my county is too small for the work that needs to be done. Seeing the cats in cages in a small room is hard.

We adopted our Abbey from that shelter.

This is Abbey in her cage at the shelter before we adopted her.

Friends of Campbell County Animal Shelter is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that works in partnership with Campbell County Animal Control. Members do things that the staff of Animal Control just wouldn’t have the time to do. They help facilitate fostering and adoptions and network to find as many adoptable animals as possible homes.

They walk the dogs, cuddle the cats, do assessments of their personalities, socialize them, get them vet care, etc. It’s harder for me to do that. So I volunteered to set up the new website and maintain it.

The move of the website to a new content management system was not easy, but Rescue Groups, the new web host, had great support. We were nervous as we waited the five days or so for the domain to transfer. But the transition was relatively smooth.

I’ve learned things I never would have otherwise learned. And I’ve seen how so many volunteers, who have jobs and families and their own pets and their own lives outside their volunteer work, come together to help the animals of Campbell County.

If you’d like to see the new website, it’s HERE.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Where I work, what I do

I started a new job on May 1, and I haven’t had a lot of opportunities to tell you how that’s going. So I thought I’d use today’s post to catch you up.

I am a public information specialist for a local government, Campbell County. I am the assistant to our public information officer. I work in Rustburg, the county seat, in the Haberer Building.

The building I work in.

I am enjoying my job and am happy for the transition from the newspaper job to what I’m doing now.

I do a lot of different things, but here are a few:

·         Update the county website
·         Update the employee portal (intranet)
·         Make graphics for the website and portal
·         Write public service announcements and media advisories and send them to local media
·         Interact with local media and find information for them
·         Help in responding to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests
·         I do a lot of editing
·         Take photos at county functions
·         Help with making presentations, crafting messages
·         Update the Public Safety Facebook and Twitter accounts
·         Lead the Web Content Authors group (those in other departments who update their pages on the website)

We are in the midst of transferring to another web platform for the county website. It will be so much better than what we have now. Right now, some people in other departments update their pages on the website. Once the changeover occurs, I will be doing the bulk of web updates.

I do a lot of writing, communicating, and creating with this job, and there is a lot of variety to each day. So I am enjoying it.

A view of some of the Campbell County buildings in the government complex.

I’m in the county administration office with my supervisor, the county administrator and his assistant, the clerk of the Board of Supervisors, the staff attorney, and the director and the assistant director of Public Works and their assistant. It’s a good group of hard-working and dedicated public servants.

I don’t miss the newspaper at all. I’m working full time where I am now, but the hours are regular and I rarely have to work nights or weekends. I work 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., so I’m home by 5:30 most evenings, which is hugely important to me. I don’t feel like I have to constantly be tuned into what’s going on around me in case there’s a story I need to cover. That is so good for my anxiety.

I feel very fortunate to have such a wonderful supervisor and to be doing work that I enjoy.

Friends, what has been your favorite job? Or do you think it’s still in your future?

Friday, November 13, 2015

Plucky Abbey

Abbey, the tiny girl we adopted from the county shelter in April, has been a wonderful addition to our family.

You may remember when I was still blogging in May that Abbey seemed to have some health issues. The vet would not spay her because she was anemic and her white cell count was also low.

I don’t know how many times they took her blood from May through July. They tested it there in their office and sent it to an outside lab for testing. She kept showing up anemic. The vet believed that she probably had cancer or perhaps a genetic problem.

All the while, Abbey was racing around the house, jumping, playing. Bright eyed.

I was convinced, as was Larry, as was the vet, that something was probably seriously wrong with her. But all the tests the vet ran came back negative for problems. So the vet referred us to the small animal hospital at the veterinary school at Virginia Tech for a bone marrow aspirate. We would get a definite answer from that, she said.

We took her there on July 21. The vet/professor and students that examined her were puzzled.

“That’s a healthy cat,” the vet/professor said.

Before doing the bone marrow test, they said they wanted to test her blood first. I was sure they would find the anemia. I had no reason to believe they wouldn’t.

They took her back for the procedures, and Larry and I wandered into Blacksburg to tool around and eat. It was going to be a long day.

As we were finishing up our lunch, my cell phone rang. The vet school said Abbey was ready to be picked up. That she was fine.

When we got back to the hospital, they told us that Abbey’s red cell count was well within normal limits. She was not anemic. Her white cell count was low, but the vet/professor said he was not worried about that in a cat so young.

Larry and I were practically speechless. We expected to hear many things that day, but not that our Abbey was healthy.

We asked how she could have shown up anemic over and over. They said that they took her blood directly from her into the lab. They hypothesized that the sedation she was sometimes under at the local vet’s may have skewed the results. Or not enough blood was taken and the results were skewed by the substance that preventing clotting in the tube. So even the outside lab showed skewed results.

It took us a while to process that Abbey was OK. We were overjoyed. Abbey had her spay in August and has gained weight. She’s still an active little girl.

And yes, we have questioned the wisdom of staying with the same local vet. The anemia issue plus some other things with her and Chase Bird have led us to the decision that we’re probably going to be finding another vet.

Right now, Abbey is going through a hard time because of Chase Bird. She’s eating and running around, but she’s also lying around more and is quieter, less playful. She also looks for Chase Bird. That breaks my heart.

But Abbey is a plucky little soul. We look forward to many years of her companionship.

See you Monday!

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Losing our boy

Chase Bird, Christmas 2014

I can’t tell you about the last six months without first telling you about Chase Bird. We lost our boy on Tuesday, October 27.

You know that my cats are my family. Larry feels the same way. So the last two weeks have not been easy.

Chase Bird’s death was unexpected. He was referred to a different vet to do dental surgery for stomatitis. During the exam before the surgery, the vet found a mass in his abdomen. We gave permission for her to do exploratory surgery.

He had numerous tumors, including one a little smaller than a golf ball. They could not be removed. Even without doing a biopsy, the three vets there thought it was lymphosarcoma, or lymphoma. The prognosis was very poor, and he was certain to be in pain.

Their recommendation: let Chase Bird go while he was on the table, so he would feel no pain and no fear. We let him go.

My friend Carolyn made this for me.

I want you to know about Chase Bird. He came into our lives in 2007 when he started hanging around our house. Apparently, he had been hanging around the neighborhood for a while.

He was so thin, we started feeding him. One morning, he jumped into my car as I got in to go to work. I remember his little face looking up at me, eyes so bright and eager. He chose us.

On October 20, 2007, we brought him into our house. We named him Chase Bird. He became family.

He was a gentle cat who would snuggle on our laps. He had the longest legs and jumped with such grace. When he purred, he also “puffed” his cheeks and made a clicking sound. That was his “I’m content” sound.

He could catch a toy mousie in the air. His paws could bend and pick things up—you’d swear he had thumbs. He would carry certain toys—only certain ones—in his mouth and looked so cute.

My friend Christi made this.

I am writing this on Tuesday night. We picked up his ashes tonight and brought him home. This ritual is heart wrenching and comforting, a strange mixture of emotions. It’s another reminder he’s gone. But his remains are home.

I have to believe that I will see my boy again. I still talk to him. I believe his spirit lives on.

And I think I heard him tonight.

The crematory service puts the name of the pet and the name of the pet parents on the bottom of the wooden box that holds the ashes and on a certificate stating that the ashes are his.

Chase Bird’s humans were listed not as “Larry and Tina Barbour.” They were listed as “Larry and Tiny Barbour.” Larry and I laughed and cried, probably a bit hysterically, when we saw that. And I’m sure I heard Chase Bird laughing too.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Back to blogging, back to my friends

Hello, friends! It has been many months since I’ve been in this space. A short time away turned into a longer period than I thought it would be. Many times I thought about starting back, but I have finally reached the point when the time seems “right.”

I have missed you and your comments. I have missed reading your blogs. I am looking forward to catching up as much as I can.

I have so much to tell you. I hardly know where to begin. The last six months have been busy, with happy parts, heartbreaking parts, and just-glad-to-be-here parts. I have stories about my animals, my new job, my new volunteer work, my health, and my life to share with you.

If I tried to tell it all in one post, it would be so long, I doubt you would be able to get through all of it awake.

So today I will leave you with this: I am still here. I am still living with OCD and depression. I am still forging ahead despite that. And I’m in a pretty good place.

I’ll be back on Wednesday.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

A lesson I have to keep learning

Abbey on her stool under the window.

We got some upsetting news about Abbey this past week.
She was set to have her spay done on Tuesday. I dropped her off at the vet’s office on the way to work.
The vet called me that afternoon and told me that they were unable to take her blood for the pre-anesthesia blood work until they had sedated her. They had her prepped for surgery when they got her blood results back. They weren’t going spay her that day.
Both her white cell count and her red cell count were lower than normal.

Some background: The day after we adopted her, we took Abbey to the vet for a check-up. She tested negative for feline leukemia and FIV. We were given a kit to get a stool sample to check for worms.
We didn’t get the sample to the vet’s until the week before her surgery, and she tested positive for worms. So we picked up medicine and give it to her for the prescribed three days, to be repeated in three weeks and six weeks.
We had not seen any signs of worms, and we keep Abbey inside all the time. But we don’t know where she was before she went to the shelter, and she stayed in the shelter for four months.
I feel so bad for not getting the sample into the vet’s sooner.

When the vet called me about her blood work, she said she didn’t think it was time to worry (easier said than done!). Abbey appeared to be healthy. The vaccinations she received the day after adoption could have caused the numbers to go down, but usually that resolved after a couple of weeks. She said parasites and infection could also cause the low numbers.
So her advice was to give her another dewormer, a different medicine that covered more types of parasites. She also gave us a vitamin supplement with iron to give her. We’ll retest her blood in a month. If the numbers are still low, we’ll retest her for feline leukemia and FIV in case she got a false negative the first time.

Abbey seems to feel good. She plays hard. She gained point 4 pounds in the three weeks from her adoption to spay day. She has not shown any signs of illness. The vet said it was fine to have her out with Chase Bird as long as neither showed signs of illness.

I did what I usually do when I get worried about a health problem with my cats or Larry—I started Googling. I know it’s a way to cope, a way to feel like I have some control over the situation.
But really, other than giving Abbey her meds and watching her, I have no control over the situation. It’s a wait and see situation until we retest her blood.
I wonder sometimes why I have to keep learning this lesson that we never can know for sure that all is well, that life throws curves all the time. But I’m not having to learn the lesson any more than anyone else. We all have lives that throw us curves. I just happen to have a disorder—OCD—that make it particularly difficult to deal with uncertainty.
So we’ll deal with what it is, if it’s anything more than an infection of parasites. And we are enjoying Abbey so much. She is a sweetie and so funny. She likes to follow Chase Bird around. Sometimes he is OK with that, sometimes he runs away, and she chases after him.

I love Chase Bird and Abbey and taking care of them. I’m enjoying that every day.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Catching up


Hello, dear readers. I’m feeling a bit out of breath and overwhelmed right now with all the changes going on, but I wanted to catch you up on those changes.

The big change is my new job. Friday was my first day. It was nice to start getting settled in. I didn’t have a lot to do because my supervisor is out of town until mid-week due to a family illness. But I enjoyed connecting with my new co-workers, many of whom I already know.

I think I’m going to enjoy the work and my work environment. I just don’t know enough to feel useful at this point, and I tend to get bored if I’m not busy. So I am trying to keep boredom at bay and use my down time to learn more about working for the county and the issues that I could be talking about with the media and with the public.

Tuesday night is the annual public hearing before the Board of Supervisors on the next fiscal year’s budget, and we’re expecting a large crowd. There will be no tax increase this year, but the schools are also not receiving all the funding they asked for. So the schools will have to make some cuts that not everyone is happy with.
More people seem to be involved now in speaking out about the direction they want the county to go in.
I’ll be at the meeting Tuesday, though instead of covering it for the newspaper, I’ll be helping to get people signed up to speak, and I’ll be listening to people’s concerns.

My supervisor returns to the office on Wednesday, and that’s when I’ll begin to learn the meat and potatoes of my job. I’m looking forward to that, because I like to stay busy, and boredom can easily lead to depression for me.

The other big change is our new family member, Abbey. She is so funny and sweet. We have given her and Chase Bird some face-to-face time. Chase seems to prefer to ignore her, though he has hissed at her a couple of times. But overall, though they are obviously wary, I think they will get along.

Abbey makes the cutest mewing sounds. Whether she’s greeting you or playing or asking for food or attention, it’s kind of a trill with rolled “Rs” mixed with “mew.” I need to record the sound for you.

I love taking care of my kitties. I get so much satisfaction out of making sure they’re fed and getting playtime and cuddle time. And a content, purring kitty is the antidote to just about any stress!

Take care until next time!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Meet the newest member of the Barbour family

Abbey Hunny Bee Barbour

Meet Abbey. She is the newest member of our family. We adopted her yesterday from the Campbell County Animal Shelter, and we are so excited!
She is about one year old and very small, weighing just seven and a half pounds. We have her in a separate room in the house, and she is looking more comfortable as time goes by.
Yesterday, she spent most of the day hiding underneath furniture. Off and on, I sat in the room and talked to her, read, and watched some TV. Last night, I went in and put on some soft music. She came out from under the sofa, sniffed my hand, then came to me so I could pet her and hold her. She is such a sweetheart!
Today we took her to our vet to be tested for feline leukemia and FIV—both came back negative. She got some of her shots, and we set up an appointment to have her spayed in three weeks when it’s time for her booster shots.
Larry said she’s already mama’s cat. But I’ve spent more time with her than he has. Once he spends more time with her, she will adore him, I’m sure.
Chase Bird? Well, he’s not too happy. We are keeping the door closed between the two kitties, but they have caught glimpses of each other. It’s a process for cats to get used to each other.
Our vet advised us to keep her isolated from Chase Bird for a couple of weeks because we don’t know if she perhaps caught an upper respiratory infection at the shelter.

I first saw Abbey on Feb. 1 when I went to the shelter to cuddle with the cats. Her name was Hunny Bee at that time.  
When I held her, she was a purr-baby and so affectionate. She also seemed tolerant of the other cats around her.
I kept thinking about her, but I didn’t do anything about adopting. We just weren’t quite ready.
Then I saw on the Facebook page of Friends of Campbell County Animal Control (a volunteer group that works to get the shelter animals fostered and adopted) that Hunny Bee had been adopted. I comforted myself with the thought that she had gotten a good home.
Then Hunny Bee popped up on Facebook again, available for adoption.

Sunday, when Larry and I went to visit her at the shelter, we learned that she had been adopted by a family with small children, and it wasn’t a good mix. So they returned her to the shelter four days later.
She had originally been surrendered to the shelter by her owner, so there she was at the shelter, given up twice. She had been there for four months.

Now she has a home with us, and we plan for it to be her forever home.

Where did her name come from? Her full name is Abbey Hunny Bee Barbour. We wanted to add Abbey but help her get used to it by keeping the Hunny Bee. We like the name Abbey because one of our favorite TV characters is named Abby (Pauley Perrette’s character on NCIS). We added the “e” in affection for our good friend Ann, whose first dog was named Abbey.

Monday, April 13, 2015

A time of anxiety

Chase Bird relaxing in the sun on the enclosed porch.

My anxiety is high, and I can’t seem to relax. That’s what I’ve been like for a while. I finally settled things with the job hunt, but I’m still in a time of change, and that raises my anxiety.

My last day with the newspaper is this Friday. Then I have nearly two weeks off before starting my new job.
It’s a busy time this week at the paper. I’m covering the first workshop the county supervisors have after receiving the proposed budget for the next fiscal year. That’s always a tough story to write, full of numbers and proposed changes and different opinions from the supervisors about how to fund the county. That’s Tuesday.
Then on Wednesday, a first-degree murder trial is scheduled, and I’ll be covering that.
And all week, I’ll be trying to put things in order for my editor and the other staff writer. The corporate office of the company that owns our newspaper has decided that my position is not going to be filled. So all of my work is being passed on to my editor and my co-staff writer. I’m doing the best I can to help them with contact information, a calendar of upcoming court trials, and background information to aid in the transition.
I know that I shouldn’t, but I’ve been feeling guilty about leaving my co-workers in that position, with all that work.

I’m not very happy with myself for letting the anxiety get to me like it has. I know so many ways to deal with anxiety. I guess knowing something intellectually is not the same as being able to put it into practice.

I did have a bit of a breakthrough Sunday. I used my phone to join a Facebook gathering to listen to classical music. At first, it was difficult for me to just sit and listen. I wanted to be busy doing something else at the same time.
But I recognized that I needed to just sit and listen, no matter how uncomfortable I felt. I finally relaxed a little and enjoyed the music.

I’m going to have to put effort into having more moments like that this week. Isn’t that strange—to have to put effort into relaxing? I think the idea of effort is really being willing to make myself uncomfortable for a bit, like I did Sunday. Making the choice to stop for just a few minutes.

I will be back on the blog next Monday, April 20. To all my friends who have blogs, I am so sorry that I haven’t visited much lately. I appreciate you staying in touch with me. 

Monday, April 6, 2015

Running like a cheetah

“You were running through the store like a cheetah,” Larry told me.
We laughed, and I said he was exaggerating, but I actually would have liked to be able to run like a cheetah on Saturday.

We had to go to the local big box store. I hate going to the big box store. I don’t like shopping, and I don’t like being in crowds, and the big box store includes both.
After a little while of dodging other people, being caught in cart traffic jams, and listening to the voices of hundreds of people, I reach the point where I take over pushing the cart and barrel my way to the checkout as fast as I can.
I shouldn’t blame it all on the big box store. I just don’t like crowds and noise, and when I reach the point where I feel like I can’t take it anymore, I feel a bit frantic and in need of an escape.
I guess I’m partly like this because I’m very introverted. And I come up as a highly sensitive person when I take the self-test.
I have to make adjustments, of course. Sometimes I have to be in crowds; sometimes I have to work in the midst of noise. But I try to limit those situations.

One of the things that bothered me about taking the town job—one of the things that was sitting in my gut, telling me to be careful—was a comment that was made to me by one of the people I talked with during the hiring process. I would have had to work with this person.
He told me that he would make me into an extrovert.
I didn’t like that. There is nothing wrong with being an introvert. There is nothing wrong with being sensitive. I’m an adult, I’m pretty self-aware, and I have learned to adapt myself to what needs to be done without changing who I am.

I will just keep adapting when I have to. And when need be, I’ll run like a cheetah.

I've been having fun with piZap.

How do you react to being in crowds?

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Choices: A good thing

This is a view of the main road through Rustburg in December 2013, before the start of the Christmas Parade.

How quickly things can change! I told you on Monday that I had accepted a job with the town of Altavista. Things changed later that day.

I received a phone call about the job I had applied for and interviewed for with Campbell County. I was offered the job, and I accepted without hesitation. I will begin the job as public information specialist on May 1. I will be working in the county seat, Rustburg, which is about 20-25 minutes from my house.

Though I was glad to have gotten the job with the town, I had been having some “gut” feelings that I may not be going in the right direction.
I was afraid that I would receive an offer from the county. To me, it would just complicate things because I would have to make a choice.
Now I realize that having the choice was a good thing.

I realized that I would regret turning down the county job. And the job description? Well, it’s like it was written with someone like me in mind. It includes a lot of my favorite things to do: writing, designing brochures, updating websites, helping others with content management, providing information to the public about county issues, etc.

And I know many of the people I will be working with because I’ve covered county government for the newspaper for five and a half years. They’re good people that I have a lot of respect for.

I knew when I said yes to the job that it was the right decision. Even though I don’t start the job for another month, I am looking forward to it!

It is a full time job. But I won’t be writing nearly as much as I do now on the job, and I am determined to carve out time for my own writing. Lots of writers have to do that.

I have not applied for any other jobs. I am satisfied with what I’ve done and am looking forward to the future. My last day with the newspaper will now be April 17. I am taking a couple of weeks off to decompress.

Thank you all for your support through this very anxious time of looking for another job and another challenge. You have helped me get through this.
Now I really do feel like I can let go of the anxiety and just be for a while.

Monday, March 30, 2015


A photo of Broad Street in Altavista. I think I took this on a Sunday a couple of years ago. I was standing at the library looking down the street. English Park is in the distance, as is the Staunton River. To get to Town Hall, where I'll be working, you would turn left at that first traffic light in the photo.

I can finally share some news with you.

On Jan. 6, I applied for a job with the town of Altavista. It’s a part-time position as an economic development assistant that includes coordinating the Main Street Program.
Last Wednesday, I finally got a formal offer.

I will coordinate a nonprofit group that carries out the concepts of the VirginiaMain Street Program. I will also assist the town’s economic developer in meeting the needs of existing businesses and helping to bring new businesses in. The economic developer wants me to work specifically with younger, creative entrepreneurs.

I’m excited and nervous. I am looking forward to a new challenge, learning new things, getting training, and being in a position to serve and encourage others.
I will work fewer hours and far more regular hours than my current job with the paper, but I will make significantly more in salary.

So why am I nervous? Change is unsettling to all of us, and it tends to raise my anxiety level. I also have the new-job-worries: Will I be able to learn? Will I do a good job?

I’ve always managed in the past, and when I remember that, I have more confidence in my ability to do another job.

Another worry has been that I’m leaving a job where I (finally) was able to write for a living.
What I found was that while my writing improved and I learned to write faster, I wasn’t always writing what I wanted to—that just wasn’t my job. And writing all day/all week took a certain kind of energy out of me.
I am not leaving my writing behind. I am a writer at heart. I hope to actually start writing more of what speaks to me and I’m passionate about. And the new job will afford me the opportunity to use some of my other skills.

My last day with the paper will be April 8 and my first day on the new job will be April 13. It will be a busy time at the paper, trying to finish things up and leave information behind that will help my co-workers.

I wish I could say my worrying of the last three months is over. But I complicated things by applying for another job while I was waiting to hear about the town job. I’ve had two interviews and am waiting to hear about it. So I may be faced with another decision soon.

To choose between two good job opportunities is not easy for me. In true OCD fashion, I tend to want to find the “perfect” answer, make the “right” choice. Of course, we never know at the time of making a decision whether or not it is the right choice. And there is no perfect answer.
For now, I’m going to enjoy what I do have: an upcoming new job and a new adventure.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Book review: Overcoming OCD: A Journey to Recovery. By Janet Singer with Seth J. Gillihan.

Today I have the pleasure of reviewing a book written by a woman who I met through blogging and who has inspired me with her advocacy for educating others about OCD.

The book is Overcoming OCD: A Journey to Recovery, by Janet Singer with Seth J. Gillihan.
Janet writes a blog called ocdtalk, where she discusses her experiences as a parent of a son with OCD and their journey to find help. She also keeps readers updated on research being done on OCD. And she is an advocate for Exposure and Response Prevention therapy, the leading therapy for OCD.
In her book, Janet writes about Dan’s journey from being unable to eat, from lying on the floor for days at a time, caught in the snares of OCD, to reaching a diagnosis of “mild” OCD and being able to have a fulfilling life.
Dr. Seth J. Gillihan is an expert in treating patients with OCD and other anxiety disorders. In addition to having a clinical practice, he is a clinical assistant professor of psychology in the Psychiatry Department of the University of Pennsylvania and a visiting assistant professor of psychology at Haverford College.
Gillihan gives readers the “facts” about OCD: what it is, what the symptoms are, what treatments are available, what problems people seeking treatment might face, and more.
The abiding theme of Overcoming OCD is hope. But Janet isn’t feeling much hope when her story begins. Her son Dan has struggled during his first year of college, and Janet visits him to try to help.
She is shocked by his haggard appearance and his obvious anxiety. And she is shocked when they reach the motel where she is staying, and he is unable to climb the concrete steps up to the second floor.
Step by step, slowly, she helps him up the steps. Then he says he’s unable to come into the motel room. She pulls him into the room.
“And so our journey began,” she writes (p. 2).
Janet knew her son had OCD, but she had never seen it manifested in such debilitating ways. Dan couldn’t eat, couldn’t use his cell phone, couldn’t drive, and couldn’t go to certain places. His promising future in animation—a dream that he had had for years—seemed in jeopardy.
Janet and her husband Gary and the rest of their family rallied around Dan and supported him on his road to recovery, which was never linear and never easy.
Dan spent about nine weeks in a residential OCD treatment center, and Janet and her husband struggled with staff who seemed to be leading Dan to a life of lower expectations. The treatment center did give Dan a good foundation in ERP therapy, providing him with tools to fight his OCD.
The family moved to Dan’s college town so that they could be there to support him. He saw a number of doctors and was on a number of medications. Side effects of some of those medications put Dan into a medical crisis and delayed his recovery.
Janet learned to speak up and ask questions of Dan’s caregivers. She did her own research. She interviewed perspective doctors to find the right fit for Dan. She supported Dan in the tenuous dance of being independent but getting the help he needed to fight the OCD.
And she and Gary remained Dan’s cheerleaders and advocates, supporting him unconditionally without enabling him in his OCD.
I read Janet’s blog, so I know that Dan is now doing great, with mild OCD. He graduated from college and has a job that he once dreamed of.
But as I read her book, I felt a taste of the anxiety that Janet and her husband felt as they watched their son sink so low that they never thought he’d come back. I felt the anger at the lack of caring and lack of knowledge that some so-called experts displayed in treating Dan.
I also wanted to reach into the book and tell Dan, It’s going to be OK. I guess that comes from my own experiences with having OCD and having to fight my way to better health.
Janet’s story makes it clear that ERP therapy, sometimes with, sometimes without medication and other therapy, can help those with OCD become more than their OCD. They can live fulfilling lives despite having OCD.
But she shows that one must search for and sometimes fight for good mental health care. Her story makes it clear that there’s still so much education needed of even medical professionals about how to best diagnose and treat OCD.
Gillihan’s explanations are very helpful, especially for those not familiar with OCD.
I really didn’t want to put this book down after I started it. It’s inspirational, absorbing, and just a plain good story.
Parents with children who have OCD would particularly benefit and would be reminded that they are not alone in their journey. The beneficial role that family support can play is well illustrated.
I would also highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to know more about OCD and to those with OCD. I found myself relating to so much of what Dan experienced.
Throughout the journey that Janet and her family took with Dan, family friend and clinical psychologist Mark was a godsend, a person who offered information and hope to the family. In her book, Janet writes, “If you are going to have a mental health crisis in your family, I recommend having a close friend who is an amazing clinical psychologist” (p. 25).
I would add that having a family like Dan’s would help those suffering through a mental health crisis see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Overcoming OCD: A Journey to Recovery is published by Rowman & Littlefield. 2015. For information about ordering the book, go HERE.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Yes, I love cats

Waddles and I in 2004. 

I searched the magazine racks, back and forth, up and down. The only issue I could find was the next month’s issue, already on the stands, not the current month’s issue. Cat Fancy.
I took it up to the check-out at the bookstore.
“Oh, it’s their last publication as Cat Fancy,” the salesperson said.
“Yes, but I was actually hoping to find another issue,” I said. “There was an article in it that I wanted to read.”
“What was the article about?” she asked.
I was a bit embarrassed to answer.
“I’m one of those people who follow cats on Facebook,” I said. “It’s an article about one of those.”
“Which one?”
I thought she meant which issue. “February,” I said.
“No, I mean which cat?” she asked.
I thought, She knows about cats on Facebook?
“Frosty the Frozen Kitten,” I said.
Then the salesperson named a list of cats that she followed on Facebook. It turned out that she, too, was one of those people who followed cats on Facebook.

I admit it. I follow numerous cats: Frosty, Champy Pants the Blind Siamese Kitty, Buhbee the Cat, Tenderness for Tyrone, FlowerPower.
It’s cute, it’s fun, and it’s relaxing. I’ve learned a lot about rescue efforts that are going on around the country and the world. I’ve learned about special-needs animals and the people who love them and take care of them. I’ve connected with other animal people.

But with connection can come feelings of loss. When one of the animals (mostly cats) that I follow get sick, or have a sibling that gets sick, or crosses the Rainbow Bridge, I feel very sad.
“Why do you look at those pages if they make you cry?” Larry has asked.
And I ask myself that sometimes: why do I do this to myself?
Because I enjoy reading about the antics of kitties. Because I can relate to what other pet people are going through with trying to give cats medicine, finding foods that they like, and dealing with sibling rivalry. Because I am part of an exchange of helpful information. Because it’s a group of people who value animals in the same way I do.

I know that Facebook is not the same as real life. If Chase Bird wants to play or sit in my lap, and I’m looking at Facebook, down goes my phone. I’m careful to limit my time online and keep my focus on the life around me. I’m aware that social media can be an escape from the worries and stresses of daily life. And it’s certainly been a stressful couple of months.

But online friends are still friends, even if I’ve never met them in person. I care about the animals and the pet parents I’ve connected with and want to be encouraging when I can. I’ve learned more about animal welfare and what I can do “in real life” to help animals.

So I say without embarrassment: I’m one of those people who follow cats on Facebook.

Have you ever been interested in learning more about a “famous” animal?

Thursday, March 12, 2015

The news and the no-news

Slower than molasses in winter. That’s what I’ve spent the last two months thinking.

What’s moving so slow? The job search process. Or rather, the hiring process.

On Monday when I posted, I believed that I would have news to tell you about a new job. I don’t. So here’s the news about my job search and the way I keep getting—no news.

I applied for a job in early January. I can’t give any details about the job yet. But I can say that I believe I would enjoy the work. Compared to my current job, I would work fewer hours but make significantly more in salary.

That sounds too good to be true. But it is a legit job. It would be a way to be a public servant again, something I’ve missed.

It has been a laborious process. I interviewed. Then I interviewed again. Then I met with two more people as a courtesy. Then I waited while an unexpected crisis hit the employer. I was praised for the patience I had shown.

Then, finally, with only one more step—a step that was more courteous in nature for another group than anything else—I was told that I would receive a formal offer Wednesday.

The courteous step turned into a quagmire. Now I’ve got two more weeks to wait.

Why am I willing to go through all this? Believe me, I’ve asked myself that question. I’ve been very frustrated. I’ve made plans, then had to undo plans. As most hiring processes go, it’s ridiculous.

But I am excited about the job. I want a new challenge. I can use more of my skills. I know the people I would be working for and with. I believe it would be a good fit.
I enjoy my job now. But one side effect of writing news articles for a living is that it’s harder for me to have the right kind of energy for doing the writing I love.
And I’ve been told—and I believe—that the slower-than-molasses-in-winter process isn’t about me. It’s about things out of my control.

And there lies my frustration. I can’t do anything about the process. I can’t hurry it up.

Situations like this raise my anxiety level. I’m tired. I have headaches. I’m restless. My thoughts race.

I haven’t done a good job handling the anxiety. I’ve been putting off dealing with it, telling myself that I would relax and do fun things after things are settled.

That’s not the best way to handle anxiety, and I know that. I am now trying to focus on the present. I remind myself that there will never really be a time when, in every area of my life, “things are settled” because each day brings us problems and frustrations. If I don’t practice my anxiety-reducing measures now, I will miss out on life now.

Meditation. Knitting. Pleasure reading. Lounging with Chase Bird. Laughing with Larry. Going for walks. All things I will be fitting back into my schedule.

And when this part of my life settles down, I will tell you all about the new job.

Have you ever had a strange or particularly stressful experience job hunting?

Monday, March 9, 2015

I’m still here

I am ashamed that I haven’t posted in a while and left with no explanation. There are so many things that have kept me from posting. I hope as I write the next several posts, I can explain myself a little better.

This post is about Chase Bird. Chase is a sweet, sweet cat, but he hates going to the vet. Any of you who has an animal who hates going to the vet knows how hard it is on the animal and on you when the visit has to happen.

I intruded on Chase Bird's nap on the pad on top of our bed long enough to get a few pictures.

Our vet has suspected that Chase has some kind of allergy or autoimmune condition that causes his gut problems and swollen paw pads. Back in November, we started him on a hypoallergenic diet—wet food, dry food, and treats. He was on it for two months. He threw up less, but the litter box wasn’t looking any better (I’m trying to be delicate).

After about two months, he stopped eating the wet hypoallergenic food and seemed to be getting thinner. So we started giving him Fancy Feast wet food again. He ate it a lot better, but continued with the gut problems.

I did some research and learned that a hypoallergenic diet is really about giving the animal a novel protein, or a protein that he or she probably hasn’t had before. It’s not full of ingredients that a cat could be allergic to.

Through some reading I did and through some Facebook animal friends’ experiences, I decided to buy some grain-free food. I know it’s kind of a “fad” now, but I decided it was worth a try. I found some Blue Buffalo, some of which are made with fewer ingredients for cats with sensitive stomachs. He loves the dry food. He eats some of the wet flavors. Some he doesn’t.

Meanwhile, Chase was due his rabies and distemper shots, and he needed a dental cleaning. So we decided to combine everything in one trip and also have blood work done while he was sedated for the dental work. All that happened last week.

The vet’s partner saw him this time, and she agrees that something allergic-like—something autoimmune—is going on because of his paw pads (which actually are looking good now) and because with examination she could tell that his gastrointestinal system is inflamed.

She wants us to gradually move him totally over to a grain-free diet first before possibly trying prednisone. But she did start him on Cerenia, a vomiting preventive that has been shown to have some anti-inflammatory effects. After three days in a row, he gets the pill twice a week.

So that’s where we are. He hasn’t thrown up since his vet visit. He still doesn’t like some of the grain-free flavors. And it’s too early to tell if the Cerenia will help. But we are hopeful. He seems to feel better than he did over the last few weeks.

I still think Chase Bird is lonely and needs a sibling. I really do think it would help him. But Larry is not ready.

On Thursday, I will tell you the story of trying to change my job.

So how have you been? And if any of you have experience with animals having autoimmune issues, please share your experiences!