Oh, it’s blissful to be home! I spent Sunday through Wednesday in a whirlwind of madness and creativity at the How design conference in Atlanta. I’m still trying to process everything they threw at us — a whompin’ truckload of great information for designers, both professionally and personally. Life is good, man. Life is good.

Last week, though, it was a different story….

Thursday, June 7
7pm. Auuuuuugh!! I haven’t gotten anywhere NEAR the amount of things done at work that I’d needed to accomplish before leaving town. But I must leave the office….I have a gazillion errands, and a house to clean so that I won’t be embarrassed for Anna to come over and check on my cats while I’m gone. Still, though, I feel good, because I have permission to work from home on Friday. Focus, yeah! That’s just what I need.

Friday, June 8
Noon-ish. Wow, I’ve been really productive this morning. That annual report is coming right along, and I’m confident I’ll get a proof out before leaving town. I think I’ll have that leftover salmon and broccoli for lunch. Yum!

Soon after noon-ish. Ahhhhhhhhhh, a beautiful moment of peace, love, and clarity while cuddling with sweet man-cats Ozzy and Blue. I notice a small lumpish area on Blue’s tummy, and make a mental note to take him to the vet when I get back into town.

5:30pm. Still feeling good. Copy formatting is taking longer than I thought, but I have a design direction which I’m sure will pan out easily and quickly. I’ll go run the last of my errands, and I’ll finish Proof 1 when I return. I may have to work into the late evening, but that’s OK. No worries.

Saturday, June 9
1:30am. OK, I’ve got worries now. Design direction sucks, and I’ve got a cloud of black doom lurking above. I can’t work in this mood. Grrrrrrrrrrrrrr. I go to bed.

Mid-afternoon. My heart is filled with love for my job and the people I work with. Realizing I’d not have enough time to finish the work and print a proof before I leave, I make a dreaded phone call…..and……she……(gasp!) understands. Wow. I’m blown away. I promise to have it ready a week from Monday. Relief!

8:20pm. God, it feels great to hit my couch after a hard workout! Today, for the VERY first time in my mostly-couch-potato life, I craved — hungered for, needed — exercise.

8:25pm. “Hi, boys! Come over here and cuddle!” Hmmmmmmmm. Blue’s lumpish area is quite a bit bigger, about the size of a pea. And…..isn’t it surrounding one of his little nipples?

8:35pm. Starting to pull together everything I need for the trip. One more load of clothes, and that’ll be all the washing. Could a swollen nipple be serious?

8:40pm. God, I need to clean the dishes in my sink. Anna will be disgusted when she comes in to check on Ozzy and Blue. Poor Blue….I wonder if his nipple hurts? He seems to be fine. I should check it again.

8:42pm. Hmmmmm, he seems to shirk away a little as I put my hand over the lump. I decide to fire up my laptop to see what I can find on the internet.

9:05pm. Googling “male cat swollen nipple.” It takes some digging because it doesn’t seem to be a common problem, but the advice I find: “Get him to the vet as soon as possible.” Yikes!

9:55pm. Sitting in the emergency vet clinic waiting room, trying to comfort my sweet, introverted, homebody cat. He’s tucked tightly into a softsided carrier with mesh sides, panting heavily with fear and shyly reaching toward me with his left front paw. Car rides absolutely terrify him….I’m sure he’s glad to be out of the car, but this strange, fluorescent-lit place is not much better. I’ll bet he’s wondering what bad thing he did to deserve this horrible treatment.

10:10pm. A couple children catch sight of him, and they come over to ooooo and ahhhh….. “Look, a cat!” “He’s soooo big!” “Oh, how pretty!” Blue presses against the back of the carrier and starts to breathe even faster….. Geesh, is he going to have a kitty heart attack?? Luckily, the kids’ parents, small family dog in tow, came over to take them home. Blue and I are left alone in the waiting room.

10:30pm. “Wow, what a big boy! And so handsome!” The vet’s assistant admires Blue, just like the excited kids in the waiting room. She turns Blue on his back to check out the place I describe to her, and gets an ever-so-slightly-worried, wrinkly look on her face. Gently collecting him in her arms, she says she’ll be right back. I can’t believe how well behaved Blue is, but more than that, I’m horrified that she is taking him to another room without me!

10:40pm. Still alone. Was that Blue’s distressed meow I just heard?? I want to cry.

10:55pm. The vet’s assistant has returned to the exam room, and is turning Blue on his back again, this time to show me a raw, small slit of a wound surrounded by a cleanly shaven area of soft fuzzy tummy. I still can’t believe that Blue is so well behaved…as he’s turned onto his feet again, he meekly walks into the carrier, turns around so he’s facing out, and gingerly lies down with a weary little kitty-sigh of a noise. The vet’s assistant leaves the room, saying the vet will be in in a moment.

11:10pm. The vet–another caring young woman who loves cats–is explaining to me what happened while Blue was in the back. Apparently the swollen area was an infection, but there was no way of knowing what caused it. Perhaps Blue had caught the nipple on something, she explains, or maybe Ozzy had accidentally scratched it while they were play-fighting. She says the area “just exploded” during the examination, and–while this calm professional makes a “that-was-freakin-nasty” nose-wrinkling face–says, “what came out was…..very….cheesy. I’ve never seen that happen in a male cat.” And to top it off, poor Blue’s little nipple had completely dropped off with the spooge! Ewwww.

11:45pm. Blue is wailing and panicking and panting heavily, as he always does, during the car ride home. I think it’s the motion that disturbs him, because he seems to calm a little while we’re sitting at stop lights. The vet told me there wasn’t any danger of a kitty heart attack during short trips, though, so I’m not worried that Blue’s extreme stress will be detrimental. I have antibiotics at my side to make sure that the infection gets cleared. How I’m going to get those pills down an obstinate cat’s throat, I am not sure…. And I begin to prepare myself that I may have to stay home from the conference.

11:50pm. I’m surprised that Blue doesn’t dart out of the carrier as I open it in the living room…..instead he tiptoes cautiously out. Ozzy comes to meet him, and sniffs his brother while Blue sits perfectly still. But the second Blue leans over to lick Ozzy, Ozzy hisses violently. I remember reading a few years back that if you have multiple cats and take only one to the vet, the ones left at home won’t recognize their sick pal when he returns because he will not smell the same. Apparently, it’s true. I feel even worse for Blue now–he had to endure not only the anxiety of the car rides, the indignity of the vet visit, and the pain of his nipple falling off….but also complete rejection by his brother. Sigh….

Sunday, June 10
1:18am. Watching the numbers change on my LED clock, trying to go to sleep. The important thing: Blue seems fine, though quiet, and he and his brother are cuddly with each other again.

2:08pm. Elation! Anna agrees to come over twice a day to give Blue his antibiotic. She’s a freakin’ angel, is she not? I push my packing efforts into warp speed, even though a big part of me wants to stay home with the boys.

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