Did I ever mention that my Partner and I are weird people? Like “gallows humor” and “eat anything on the planet at least once” weird? Or that we’re advocates for social justice? If not, you have officially been warned.
I may have mentioned before about how my kitty has PTSD from being abused, starved and abandoned before we got her. I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned that she also has kidney issues, old injuries that limit her mobility, and even more allergies than I do. If the abandonment anxiety alone wasn’t enough to prove she is my spirit animal, then the rest ought to guarantee it.
We suspect that her complicated medical issues might, unfortunately, have been the reason she was ultimately abused and abandoned. I mean, we’ve seen it done to vulnerable humans. It’s not much of a stretch of the imagination to assume it happens even more frequently to vulnerable kitties.
We didn’t know about her issues when I first started fostering her. I was just told to shove as much food and liquid into her as possible. She was too sick to eat, so anything I could tempt her with was automatically approved. I fell back onto gold-standard kitty addictions: tuna water and Fancy Feast. She ate both with gusto, and my Partner and I both quickly realized never to combine cheap cat food and smelly tuna in her tummy again. Let’s just say what she produced was thick enough to mortar a bunker and lethal enough to weaponize to use to clear out the bad guys holed up in that bunker at the same time. She put my two-ply lullaby to shame.
Nothing says a “third date” like an emergency trip to the grocery store to buy every possible form of air freshener in the aisle at nearly midnight. I say she’s “our” foster failure. And, in her mind, she is. She met both of us on the same day. But, technically my Partner and I hadn’t even DTR’ed at the time I got her, and her adoption papers are under my name alone. She’s “our” cat in hindsight, but, at that time, I think my Partner really showed his character by helping clean up after her when he had no official responsibility towards her, or me. I don’t regret it. That experience didn’t require half the strength that actually marrying me and handling my caregiving responsibilities demand. Heck, by the standards of my life it was humorous. It even had an actual resolution, which is particularly unusual in my life. One veterinary specialist, some kitty Prozac, and a lifetime commitment to buying her expensive allergen-safe cat food later, and her tummy troubles cleared up. (However, if her special food ever goes off the market, please send gas masks. We’ll need them.)
That experience has become a running joke for the trajectory of our relationship – and spawned another running joke that our kitty eats better than we do. How many people can read right on the can that their pet’s food is safe for human consumption?
We also watch a lot of Food Network, and while we were dating my Partner dared me to make him a meal that “highlighted” her wet and dry food in the same dish, Chopped-style. If I could successfully fool him into going back for seconds, he’d fork over for a Michelin 3-star restaurant willingly. I never quite remembered to do it when he’d remind me. We’re now married, so any gourmet meal would be funded out of pooled money anyway now. But, the challenge has always stood. And, I’ve always had on my mental bucket list – at least I have every 6-9 months or so when something reminds me of it – to undertake it anyway.
We didn’t end up going anywhere for Christmas. At first, that sparked a mental meltdown. As much as travel is a luxury, it’s also a tradition that is one of the first independent ones I ever developed as “me” – not the 9th Circle of Hell shadow of me – and it has probably done more for my mental health over the years than any therapy or medication. Not going somewhere this year felt at first like the 9th Circle of Hell winning. It felt to my C-PTSD like proof that the 9th Circle of Hell will always be what waits for me in the end. I mean, that damn place cost me at least the equivalent of three international trips this year just to travel there to relive my own history while testifying to new abuse. And, it cost me this at a time while I was on three months of unpaid leave in one of the five most expensive markets in the country.
But, I couldn’t justify traveling over Christmas. We usually book travel in September, the cheapest month, and that’s how we pull off quirky vacations for less than the airfare to Disneyland (or the wretched 9th Circle of Hell.) Trying to book even a simple trip to Canada at the last minute would have run equal to or more than our typical international trips. And, well, discount airlines like WOW seem to have trouble selling tickets in February and March. So, we decided that maybe we’d go then. My boss hasn’t responded to my end-of-year review, but he did assign me projects due in February the week before Christmas. So, presumably, he’s keeping me around after my formal review in January? I’ve decided I need to train my brain that waiting until we have a little firmer ground under our feet financially – delaying not deleting that sanity-saving trip to be responsible humans – does not mean I’m destined to end up destitute and alone in the 9th Circle of Hell.
Hell, given the degree of panic I was under midyear when my boss was legitimately threatening my job over visible PTSD symptoms, when the 9th Circle of Hell Crisis of 2018 stretched on with no lull (I’ll never dare say “end” with that place) in sight, and when I seriously wondered if my newly official EDS/Dysautonomia would limit the number of future places that would hire me, it’s a testimony to my own fortitude that I survived 2018 “bent but not totally broken” enough to contemplate a trip in 2019 at all. Being fiscally responsible about it should further countermand my deep, dark anxieties about ending up back in Hell, not afford additional support for them.
But, Christmas is rough when you can’t flee the country that spawned the 9th Circle of Hell and that seems to want to spread its hateful model of government-endorsed eugenics-through-neglect nationwide. How do you mark a holiday that you hate in a country whose broken safety net in places like the 9th Circle of Hell have so cut safety nets that slipshod and unscrupulous agencies have abused and neglected to almost tragic results as a result? How do you mark Christmas as a season of “joy” in a country that you fought against heart and soul to keep it from destroying someone vulnerable you loved?
I take the cat food challenge as proof that I survived, I guess. I took it to mentally give the U.S. and 2018 the double middle finger. Didn’t I mention I heartily recommend gallows humor as a healthy coping mechanism? If the 9th Circle of Hell wants to get its clutches on me forever, I’ll fight going back there with every penny before I cave, as symbolized through making a “Tandoori Chicken and Rice Bake” with cat food. Oh, and I’ll cook well enough to pass my Partner’s challenge of old to boot!
I cannot keep a secret from my Partner for more than five minutes, but I managed to have dinner on the table the moment he came home and, thus, not have to hide my secret long enough to inevitably give myself away. If I had pre-planned, he’d have figured it out, but thanks to ADHD, the moment I remembered the challenge existed, I just went for it immediately. I knew I was safe: he couldn’t have worked out my intentions before he left since I hadn’t worked them out yet either. I managed to eat a bowl with him and wait until he went back for more to share my secret. He’d been catfooded! (I honestly think he had it easier. He got to eat his first bowl of food in serene ignorance of where the chicken, pumpkin and “breadcrumbs” – dry food – came from. I, in the name of giving myself the best chance of passing the challenge in the first place, had to taste test as I prepped and eat my bowl alongside him with my eyes wide open. But, it really was good. (You know you rock when you can successfully catfood yourself, too?)
The recipe that bested the challenge is below, though posted with a few modifications. I substituted actual chicken breasts, chicken stock, pumpkin puree, and toasted breadcrumbs as “mundane” equivalents for the specialty grain-free dry cat food and “chicken and pumpkin in moist gravy” food that I first used. Hopefully, if it was good enough to eat made with pet food, someone will appreciate it in human format. If you try the human version of the recipe, let me know how you like it.
And, if you do, consider helping me say a final “fuck you” to 2018 by making a donation to charities serving animals, the poor, the disabled and/or any other vulnerable group. I remember growing up in the 9th Circle of Hell around the time of the 1996 welfare reform. Those reforms have been shown to have only increased poverty and hardship. Even the welfare “poster child” who stood behind Clinton and Gingrich in the iconic picture of the bipartisan passage of the bill died in 2002, in one striking example, from complications of medical conditions she couldn’t afford to treat. I was only a kid in 1996, but while too many asshole adults around me were applauding the reform as sticking it to phantom “welfare queens” that they somehow believed bilked the system (hint: they don’t exist), I was simply aghast at the clear evidence that cruelty extended beyond Hell even back then.
I also remember tearing up when people would make jokes about leaving old ladies to eat cat food alone if they ever don’t please others. I remember looking up – before some of the most successful anti-poverty reforms like SSA and SNAP – how prevalent senior poverty was and not seeing why the idea of either humans or pets going hungry was funny. Those social safety nets that have drastically reduced the number of seniors taking the “catfood challenge” under duress over the past forty years are under attack in 2019. SNAP, WIC, Federal School Lunch, the ACA, SSI: everything must go under Trump. I still don’t find it funny.
You are allowed to laugh with me at my own cat food challenge so long as you remember that it is humorous only because – despite all the terrible things that did happen in 2018 – losing my job, at least, was not one of the things I had to deal with. Financial hardship is a daily reality for many of my readers and for 1 in 3 residents of large cities. Look around you on the street. If you personally didn’t have to to make any hard choices between food, medicines, needed health treatments and/or paying rent or utilities in 2018, one of your nearest neighbors probably did.
I promised a random act of baked goods generation in my previous post. Casseroles count as “baked” just as much as cupcakes. So, maybe I can generate some additional RNG goodwill off what really is a good recipe (even with catfood.) I’ll end my challenge by “highlighting” one blogger whose story I have followed in 2018. She’s living in a 9th-Circle-of-Hellish area, which contributes to her family’s circumstances, and she struggles with multiple diagnoses, trauma, raising a kid alone and caring for rescue kitties. If you have means and aren’t sure how you can help, she’s my RNG option. And, she’s only one among many within our chronic illness and mental health blogging communities.
I know I there are many others who could equally use a shout out. If any of my known community members from 2018 (no brand-new WordPress accounts set up just to direct to GoFundMe pages) have had to make impossible financial choices in 2018, feel free to link to a post describing why you could use some help in the comments below. I can’t promise that I have the readership to direct you any donations, but I’ll do my best. I know there are more deserving bloggers out there than my own flaky memory can list, so I’ll try to offer an open forum. Half of GoFundMe campaigns are for medical costs, and less than 1 in 10 succeed. That’s not funny. That’s just sickening.
Happy New Year everyone. May 2019 suck less for your family, for my family and for the country than 2018. And may we all do our part to help that to happen. Eat up!
Tandoori Chicken and Rice Bake (Human Version)
1 Tbl. butter or olive oil
1/2 green onion or leek (use tips only for low #FODMAP)
1 Tbl. rice wine or white vinegar
1/2 c. canned pumpkin
1 c. chicken broth or chicken gravy
2 chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
1/2 c. yogurt or cream (use lactose free for low #FODMAP)
1/2 c. tomato paste
2 c. cooked rice
1 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. red pepper
1 tsp. salt (or more if you have dysautonomia!)
1 tsp. curry
1 tsp. garlic (or garlic oil for low FODMAP)
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. cloves
1 tsp. ground mustard
1 Tbl. – or more – Tandoori seasoning (commercial seasonings have garlic, but can make own with only coriander, cumin, paprika, ginger, cardemom, saffron)
ancho chilies or chili powder to taste
Season chicken with salt and pepper(s) to taste. Saute chicken and onions or leeks in a pan and set aside. Meanwhile, cook rice in a rice cooker or on stovetop. Combine all other ingredients together in a bowl and blend in a food processor or immersion blender until it makes a thick sauce roughly the consistency of regular yogurt. Combine all ingredients in casserole dish and bake thirty minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Need a recap of anything I’m talking about in any post? Check out the Glossary of Terms.