Monday, May 26, 2014

A Tribute For Neko

We've lost one of our family members.  We've had four cats for over 10 years - Neko and Buster who were natural companions, and Squeebles and Junior Beans who are best buds.  

Friday started the nightmare of Neko having what appeared to be mild local seizures.  He would meow loudly a couple of times, drool and stand in place.  This happened once Friday night and then again Saturday morning.

From that point on it was a roller coaster of stronger and more frequent seizures, trips to emergency vets who could find nothing wrong other than the seizures and Neko getting sicker.

Saturday he spent some time in my room lying on my chair as he usually did, looking like himself, when suddenly he would make funny gasping noises, fall off the chair to the floor and twitch uncontrollably, his body moving across the floor with his jerking movements.  One of our other cats, Squeebles, looked on in shock and backed away while Buster tried to approach him slowly and then spooked and ran away.  

By the end, Neko was seizing almost constantly and my husband took him to be put to sleep - we had looked online for information and nothing was promising.  I couldn't stand to watch him flailing around, sleeping peacefully one moment and the next flung to the floor, his legs, neck and face jerking and throwing him around.  

Unfortunately, the vet thought phenobarbitol would help and instead of euthanizing Neko,  gave hubby those pills to give Neko.  Neko ate some tuna with the phenobarbitol as prescribed, but it did not improve things.  The whole night Neko stayed under our bed, meowing loudly every 20 minutes or so and drooling, his eyes dilated.  

Finally, by the morning, hubby took him back to the vet to put him to sleep.  He had suffered enough.  He didn't know who we were, where he was.  It seemed he was hallucinating.  When he would get spooked, his skinny black tail would always puff up to about 3 times it's size, and that is how it looked now constantly.  

At the vet's they gave him some gas to calm him down, and then the final needle.  And peace returned both to Neko and to our hearts, although we will never forget him.

About 13 years ago, when my daughter was in college, she wanted to sneak a kitten into her dorm.  She felt lonely and we knew if she was discovered we would take the cat.  So we went to the local Humane Society and we were put in a separate room.  They brought a tiny black and white kitten in with huge eyes who wouldn't stop meowing and rubbing on us.  That was Neko, needy from the start.  We brought him home because he seemed so desperate to be loved.  He had kennel cough and we gave him his medicine and loved his needy little self.  

My daughter took him to college with her, driving him in her car.  He became used to traveling with her.  He was a hyper kitty and kept her entertained, in addition to being a great hunter who kept the local roach population down for her.   Of course, the kitten was discovered and had to come live with us.  We had an aging beagle and a cockatoo, so what was a cat added to the mix?  We became attached to Neko until my daughter moved to an apartment  and could take him back.  My husband drove Neko back to Jacksonville, where my daughter was living, Neko riding on his shoulders the whole way, meowing and digging his claws in nervously every now and then.  Missing Neko, we went to the Humane Society and brought home another kitten who became Buster, our king kitty.  At some point, I forget the reason why, Neko returned to live with us.  We now had 2 kitties and they became companions to each other.

I always called Neko our "Goth" kitty because he was never satisfied.  He was jealous of the other cats we subsequently acquired.  If we called one of them by name, Neko would come anyway hoping for rubbies or food or both.  He made eye contact and meowed demandingly a lot.  If my hubby came to give me a hug, Neko would demand to be petted, too, meowing loudly until he got what he wanted.  

Neko also resented the other cats.  Although he and Buster were friends, Neko remembered the halcyon days of being the only cat in the house, and never got over having to concede rubbies and attention to any other cat.  

As we acquired Squeebles and Junior Beans, both of whom Neko despised and snuck up on to smack as the opportunity presented itself, Neko became more and more the plotter of revenge.  

Hubby liked to make up stories about the cats, giving them human characteristics.  He said Neko smoked too much and paced at night nervously, chain smoking and planning the demise of his competition, the other cats (except Buster).   At other times he said Neko would take a bus to Hialeah to get Cuban coffee and play dominoes.  Neko was decidedly angsty, bemoaning loudly the existence of the other cats in the household that took away from what should have been his attention and love.

If you spoke to him, he always spoke back, making eye contact.  He was also a real steak and beef lover.  When hubby would make steaks, the smell of the meat cooking would make Neko run to either of us and demand our attention, meowing loudly as if to say, "I want some!!"  One time I made pork chops and while we were eating, Neko ran to the kitchen, jumped up on the counter and grabbed one for himself.  All of a sudden we saw him run past us to the bedroom, his skinny light body dragging a pork chop half his size awkwardly.  My husband had to run to catch him before he took his booty under our bed and we couldn't get to him.  Somehow the smell of spoiling pork chop bone isn't what I want under my bed.  

Neko could be mellow, too.  His favorite thing was to jump up on my desk when I'm working on my computer.  He would then carefully pick his way over to my lap where he would lay his head down on my chest, curl up and purr.  My job was to pet him and breath on his head and give him little kisses.  

Another thing he loved to do was to race ahead of me no matter where I was going in the house, practically cut me off, run in front of me and skid on the floor mats.  Then he would stop and crouch and stare at me as if we were playing and I should chase him, which I sometimes did.  He literally bounced off the side of a wall if he had to make a tight turn.  

Neko was a black and white tuxedo kitty - always dressed up and ready for a party.  I like to believe that he is with his Maker now, as someday I'll be - and we'll be together again.  Perhaps he's bounding around somewhere or laying with the warm sun on his fur.  I'm sure that instead of being stuck to just one word, "meow", he will now have a whole vocabulary and can express himself as he always tried to do.

Below is a picture of Neko from just before this weekend.  I am so glad I took that picture, not knowing at the time it would be his last.

 Such a sweet face.  He loved to roll on the floor on his back, purring and waiting for a belly rub.

A closeup showing his little black dot.


Something we saw a lot - Neko talking, in mid-Meow.  He was very vocal.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Looking for Organic

I've become convinced by articles I read, one of which is a daily email from Dr. Mercola, that our regular food sources are compromised by the following:

  • Meat - unsanitary and inhumane living conditions which problem is "solved" by giving the animals  lots of antibiotics and growth hormone additives, not to mention feeding them genetically modified corn and soy.
  • Vegetables - grown with genetically modified seeds.  The plants are sprayed with Roundup, a poison called Glyosphate, that kills everything but the plant itself.  The plant also absorbs lots of Roundup, so in addition to being genetically modified, it is filled with poison.  In addition, plants are sprayed with insecticides, which are absorbed by the plant.
  • Dairy - Milk, Cheese, Butter, half & half, ets.  The cows are given growth hormone and fed GM (genetically modified), glyosphate filled food and antibiotics.  All this is leached into the milk.
  • Bread - Most breads are processed foods extraordinaire.  The wheat used to make the bread has been bred over the last 40 years into a much tougher variety than the wheat of the mid 20th century.  This wheat is the cause of much of the growing epidemic of gluten sensitivity, in my opinion. In addition, one of the major ingredients in every loaf of bread (as well as all processed foods) is sugar in its' many forms.  
The American today eats more sugar daily than in any time in the past.  It is an additive in all processed foods. While manufacturers have responded to the cry to get rid of modified sugars such as "high fructose corn syrup", sugar is still a major ingredient in foods one would not imagine, such as soups, salad dressings, and other items that don't seem to taste sweet at all.  It is thought that this epidemic of over-sugar is what is leading to another burgeoning disease, Alzheimers, also called Type 3 diabetes.  Now if the other information above hasn't scared you, this should.  Who wants to get Alzheimers, raise  your hand......

I could go on, but I've covered our major food groups.  When you shop in the grocery store, even in the outside aisles, avoiding processed foods, you are buying the contaminated items above.

The flip side of this coin is Organic.  While you will find "all natural" on lots of products,  which marketing gimmick means nothing, only a "Certified Organic" label is your alert that the item is safe to eat.

Since I live in South Florida, I should be able to find organic replacements for all the food groups above, and I can; however, only if price is no obstacle.  There are several independent markets for vegetables in my area in addition to the Whole Foods grocery store.

However, I do not want to spend my life savings on my weekly grocery bill.  It is bad enough that the prices for regular poisoned foods are through the roof, but Organic is priced out of the ball park in many cases.

For vegetables, there is a list of the "dirty dozen", which are those vegetables that are grown with the most pesticides, but this does not address the problem of GM and glyosphate. Many people decide to avoid the "dirty dozen", and buy regular for all the rest of their produce.  Corn is not on the list for the "dirty dozen", and I believe that is one of the chief GM products, full of glyosphate, so avoiding just the "dirty dozen" doesn't do much to protect your food.

For about 10 years now I have had "Irritable Bowel Syndrome", which has now ratcheted up to occasional bouts of "Diverticulitis".  I avoid processed foods from the center isles, like a good girl,  but that doesn't seem to have helped my condition.  

So I began my quest to find organic and not spend a mint.  So far I have been unsuccessful.  I plan on growing my own vegetables this upcoming winter, which is growing season for South Florida.  Summer is way too tropical for growing vegetables in the back yard.  Too much rain, the sun is far too hot when it shines, high humidity - all these, according to everything I have read, kill off vegetables unless you use tons of insecticides and anti-fungals, which betrays the purpose for growing in your back yard to begin with.

A few weeks ago, I looked online for the farmer's markets in my area and found 2 so far that are year round.  One is actually inside a strip mall and has been there awhile and the other is part of a plant nursery and feed store.

I went to both on consecutive weeks.  The farmer's market, called Southwest Ranches Farmer's Market   is best so far, although more expensive than Stiles', because they have the most organic produce.  The other in the strip mall, called Stiles Farmer's Market has fabulous prices, but I have no idea how the items are grown, or where.  If you read the comments for Stiles you will see that the prices are very cheap, but I'm looking for organic and there were only 2 items of organic produce when I shopped there.

Next I went to an actual store advertising low prices, Nutrition Smart.   While their web site looks impressive, the store itself is not.  I went to the Pembroke Pines location, which does not sell meat.  A big part of my shopping is trying to locate decently priced safe meats, so this was important to me.  The selection of vegetables was limited and priced similarly to Whole Foods, which has a much bigger selection.

I crossed off Stiles because, in spite of the great prices, almost nothing was organic.  I thought at first that Southwest Ranches Farmer's Market was too expensive, but it is cheaper than Whole Foods, and has a nice selection of produce.

I crossed off Nutrition Smart because in comparison with Whole Foods, I spent more money, not less for similar items, and I would always have to make an additional trip to buy meat.

For convenience, Whole Foods wins so far.  We don't have a Trader Joe's in the area yet, but one is coming.  They are supposedly well known for inexpensive items and organic choices.

I have to be SO careful when in Whole Foods because I am not good at sticking to a list.   But those days must come to an end.  One of my favorite items at Whole Foods is their Broccoli Slaw.  A large container is $4.99.  Very expensive when I could buy broccoli heads and process the stems myself.  The slaw also contains carrots, which could also be processed by me for less.

However, I work full time and am 58 years old.  This figures into my calculations.  I am tired when I get home and very often don't have the energy to cook something complicated from scratch.  Usually I try to make something that will last a few days as leftovers so that I don't have to cook every night.  In the past, and if I confess, sometimes still, I will just give up and get a rotisserie chicken from Publix (definitely not organic), or even worse, some Italian, Chinese or Cuban take out food.  These are all full of sugar/too many carbs, MSG and/or salt, in addition to knowing that no part of any of them is organic or non-GM.   There are so many more things I could do to cut costs if I didn't work (and I'd sure have a motivation for cutting those costs without my paycheck!!), however, that is not the case right now.  I must work, and so I spend more for food than I have to to make it easier on myself.

My husband, to compound the problem, is also a heavy meat eater.  He often goes on a modified Atkins diet to kick start weight loss because he is a type 2 diabetic and LOVES carbs, which make him fatter and are poison for his condition.  I don't buy potatoes or rice, so most meals consist of meat and a vegetables or two.  Actually, I just read that scientists believe some of our super processed foods are addictive because of the added sugar, modified fats and salt.  The super flavor becomes an addiction.  There are already books one can buy on carbohydrate addiction, and I can vouch for the craving for something with sugar in it.

In case anyone has been asleep for the past few months, the price of beef, pork and chicken is rising like crazy, and this is for the ordinary meat, not for organic.  Hence, organic is through the roof.  We stick mostly to hamburger since I can get a pound of grass fed, organic beef for $7.99.  Organic chicken is crazy expensive.

So here is the bottom line so far in my quest.

Whole Foods is the best place to shop for meat, if you can afford it.  The Southwest Farmer's market is good for produce, but since the prices aren't that different from Whole Foods, I prefer to make one stop - at Whole Foods.

I stick to hamburger unless there is a sale on other meat or fish or chicken.  I serve less meat and more vegetables, which include salads and cooked veggies.  I buy Ezekiel bread which is expensive, but healthy and no added sugar.  I buy lots of organic eggs.  Eggs can be hard boiled for snacks and lunch, as well as cooked for dinner with veggies added, and organic cheese.  I buy organic cheeses for snacks and sandwiches and organic bacon when it is on sale.  I stay away from expensive meat cuts, organic chicken (unless on sale).

I buy organic half and half for our coffee.  I still buy regular peanut butter, since I haven't found one that I like in the organic area - and my husband is the major peanut butter eater.  I have to remedy this, since regular peanut butter is too full of sugar.

I do not save money at all.  Period.  I spend more than I want to for groceries, and the prices go up all the time.  At our age, my husband with type 2 diabetes, and I are ripe for the effects of poisoned food to really take it's toll.  I am aware of this all the time, perhaps too much.

A part of me wants to just throw up my hands and buy at Publix, which has a few organic choices, and take the physical consequences.  After all, we all have to die sometime.  It is hard to believe that the vegetables I look at in a regular grocery store are full of glyosphate, are GM and probably full of pesticides.

It is also part of my nature to be skeptic about the organic things I buy.  How do I know they are truly organic?  The truth is I don't.  I am trusting that the place where I shop is honest.  I think that a place like Whole Foods is more likely to be honest since they are so prominent and well known.  I wouldn't put it past many local places to put "organic" stickers on their produce when it isn't organic at all.  And there is no way for me to know this unless I know the grower personally and have seen his methods.

I'm still searching, still looking for sales on organic items, still cutting back so that we don't eat so much, and we eat less meat.  I'm still looking for more farmer's markets.  There is a new one called Tree Hugger's Organic Farms, which looks very promising.   They are just starting up, so their produce is only sold at a weekly farmer's market, not at their own location.  That farmer's market is finished for the season and won't begin again until some time in October.

Today I'm baking my own gluten free bread in a bread machine.  I'm trying a recipe for the first time and have bought the ingredients, which will last for many more loaves, if this bread tastes good and I want to make it again.