Yang Pergi

Indonesian, if you haven’t guessed the title. In English it literally means “which/who/that go (away)”.

I choose that title because it contains “Yang” of the “Yin and Yang” which go away today, just as stealthy as he came into our life, in the same dark and rainy night like today.

He was hiding there, under the bushes across the house, watching me feeding the street cats who missed my nightly rations and go to our house to ask for theirs. I can’t spot him; he is all black, and it is, as I told you, cold, dark and rainy at night, and there’s no street lamp except the light that travels from my porch.

When I finally noticed someone’s watching, I was done. There’s no more Whiskas Pouch in my hand but he is lucky because I stand right in front of our house. I spotted only the pair of his big, round, yellowish golden eyes and try to talk to him through mine.

I’m OK. You’re OK. Just wait there and I’ll be right back with more food, OK?

Then I ran back in while, apparently, he squeeze himself further into the bush by the road because I can hardly see him when I came back out. I saw his golden eyes deeper in the bush and stretch out an opened, great smelling Whiskas pouch.

He darted forward, but didn’t came out from the bush. I emptied the pouch on a paper plate, and  backed out.

He came closer. I knew it from his eyes that went rounder and bigger, anxious and eager, but he won’t come out still; so I step further back.

Then he jumped onto the plate, snatch it and ran away with it into the bamboo “forest” right across.

I didn’t mind he did it, I mind only at the fact that he snatch the plate in such fashion that all the tuna trailed behind him so I guessed by the time he stopped running, the only thing that left is an empty paper plate.

He didn’t come back that night; but I found him at the same spot the next night.

I was glad he learn fast.

That time he just snatch the tuna, went back into the bushes and munch away.  When the bits in his mouth was gone he went back snatching the tuna, and backed off into the bush.

The fourth day, he let me touch him. I didn’t waste the time. I know he is still timid so I left the fence open, stretched out my Whiskas Pouch way beyond the bush so he had to go out from his hiding to eat and when he momentarily focus all his attention to the food, I snatch him and ran, carrying him like a professional Rugby player.

Everyone of you decided to call him Licorice. In Indonesia, it’s called Akar Manis (means sweet root), but Licorice sounds a lot cooler.

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He was big (still is), familiar with human, and within the next day, as you can see above, he’s already snuggling me.

But he never get along with Frost, and my Yin even looked down on the new comer, but eventually, they just learn that they are just the same. They both has long hair, big round eyes, same size, same build, same bob tail; the only difference is that Frost is all white, and him, Licorice, is all black.

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Licorice – a cough suppressant – is cool. He is aloof, carefree of the many antics of his surrounding. At home, you will find him inside the cattery, on top of the big cages, stretching out, sleeping, or just hanging out watching the wild world that hurl and curl and furl around him.

He is not normally fond of kittens, but once in a while, he shows the warmth of his personality, just like the black yang always has its white dot.

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But there’s also something that he always kept in the darkness of his life. Never told, never known. Occasionally I would notice that he eats less, but his belly is always big and hard, just like everyday. At other time, he eats like a horse, or an elephant, perhaps, but he didn’t grow bigger.

At all time, he retains his laissez faire personality; except when he feels like being spoiled, he will follow me wherever I go, and pinch my hand, or hang around near the table where I prepare medicine, or crushing supplement pills into powder, and when I look at him and talked to him, he’d just meow and I know that he said he would rather me put my hand on his head.

These past few days, he was on the eat-less-steady-weight mode, but it concerns me less because he looks healthy. He eats, he sleeps, he plays, he rolls around.

But this morning I found him yellow.

It’s that dark secret of his that leaks and blots into the surface like stain over white cloth.

I rushed him to the vet, I remember whatever food he has, whatever supplement, and that I didn’t give him any medicine. He was never yellow before, he never really been sick, he was perfect.

The vet told me that he probably got it even before he came into The Whiskers’ Syndicate, looking at how fast he dropped down, and since we didn’t know what his life was like, they couldn’t pinpoint what cause his liver problem.

His jaundice was so bad, his eyes lost the green part, and the vet told me straight on that he didn’t look good. The outlook is even worse.

They put him on ICU none the less, and I left him in the clinic because Catherine called and told me she has been feverish for three days and it won’t come down. Her husband was out of town, so I went to her place and escort her to ER, the human one. She has urinary tract infection.

Then I went to the bank in the hope of picking up donation that Lori had transferred through Western Union, and you bet, it’s not easy either.

In the past two years, Indonesia government has been “massively” trying to convert our mundane, manually typed and printed ID cards into electronic ID. Their target is that by 2016 we have single national ID with retina identification (no, it’s not part of an iPhone, it’s the print of our eyes) and finger print, but like other things, the budget went into everyone’s pocket and people left with limited tools and equipment, so even after two years, some areas still doesn’t have an e-ID.

Including me.

When  got to the bank they ask for my ID and MTCN number, which I gladly comply. However, the bank only want to release money to people who have e-ID. Whatever the reason, no e-ID, no money.

Sounds familiar? I am dealing with another PayPal.

I left them and try other bank, calling Western Union on my way and suggested to bring additional identification. I was about 15 minutes from the bank when the vets inform me that Licorice went down and I might want to see him while he’s here.

I changed course.

He was calm, and he greet me with a long meow, protesting me for leaving him in a strange place, though he actually enjoy the vets spoiling him and marveling his soft, shiny fur. I noticed that his eyes were already completely yellow, and so is his black skin, I picked him up, cradle him, and let him rest his head on my shoulder.

I carry him around the clinic while he purred, with heavy breath. It seemed that he was very tired.

Then he cough, once, twice. Purr again, cough again.

When he finally fall asleep, he didn’t wake up.

The balance tipped over then; though I didn’t know what to do. I felt guilty because I interpret his “fatigue” as his personality instead of sign of sickness, but he ate normally for his size. He gained weight and lost a little, but aren’t we all?.

I guess I’ll never know. If it’s my sin because I was being negligent about those signs, then I’d go to hell when I die, then I’d willingly go to hell. The only comfort at that moment is Licorice’s relaxed corpse, draped over my shoulder like a baby. A fraction of that comfort was that he lived in abundance, though for such short time. He is loved and respected and has enough food, and plentiful of catnip whenever he wants. He lived like a king, he lived like a sentient being. He has family.

Such comfort kept me intact long enough when I picked Catherine up from the hospital and take her home, bought her medicine (thank God she has insurance), accompany her all the way until her drugs made her sleepy, and left her house, twenty minutes drive from mine.

It was half an hour late to pick up the Western Union, but I am very grateful that we still have approximately USD 60 and a sack of cat food, though I will have to make sure I pick it up tomorrow, or the cats will be starving starting next week.

When I brought Licorice home and show his body to Frost, he just sniffed, looked at me, sighed, and be gone; but the whole afternoon he just sleep on the corner, on top of the cage, where Licorice used to sleep.

He didn’t sit on the cabinet watching me doling out cat food into the bowls like he used to, but sit on the floor, where his departed counterpart used to sit.

Tomorrow half side of their blanket is going to be empty.

~ Josie

paypal.me/whiskerssyndicate

Who Let The Mouse Out?

Compared to four years ago, the whack of losing my PayPal account is not as devastating. First off, I am not in the hospital. I am a free man and I can take necessary measures. And then, since I can monitor what goes into and out from my email, through my cell phone, at almost real time so I know beforehand what is coming.

If anything, I am four years older. I have experience, I learn, I evolve. In the year that past, whenever things comes right onto me like tsunami I’d be mad; and I mean mad, as in losing my sanity. I’d villainize  everyone, everything, even God. The universe is conspiring against me, and then I’d slide into self pity. No one cares, no one will help, everyone is trying to kill me, everybody is happy to see me suffer, the universe is laughing maniacally in glee as I stumble, fail, and eventually die. I would never be allowed to reach my dream.

Well, it was what happened. Being the personal assistant to a commissioner and founder of the entire holding company plus sixteen subsidiary all over South East Asia, I am always pinned between the 1% and the 99%. I have to manage the delicate balance between the employer and the employee. Fourteen hours a day, with huge pay, but leave no space for personal life.

At that same time The Whiskers’ Syndicate is growing, and I was always torn between raising the baby of my dream and doing my job because it pays for the baby; while pregnant with Whiscraft.

Trying to feed all branches that sprouted in my life, I am choking myself and dwarfed my personal growth, if not pushing myself into schizophrenia.

But four years later today, taken the leap to follow my dream and never look back, embracing all the risk of being an artist (with non-steady income), I learned to choose; at least which one must go first. I still have a hard time letting go of a potential income or put non feasible idea aside (to come back later), but I come to realize that in order to reach my full potential, I cannot spread myself too thin. I cannot hold the sand too tight, or I will lose everything, including my dream, my effort, my schizophrenic lesson in life.

I learned to ask; and it’s God damned hard. I grow up socially awkward, and I the environment in which I grow up is choke full of norms, values, rules, beliefs, traditions. To be different is a sin, to achieve more than anyone else is a sin, and to ask is even worse. Do it your best, and if you fall short of your own (and mostly the “world”) expectation, that means you have less value than the other; no question asked and no exception made because God make everyone the same.

I have always turned to the power of my own talents to get around, big or small, more or less. I got used to live by myself, work by myself, do things by myself, as much as I can, especially because I am different, both in person and in profession. I have been stepping forward and backward and forward again and Lori knows how annoying I can be in that matter. I am so glad and grateful that although she said (of all things) she cannot be patient, she stick by my side better than glue as she keeps repeating herself that I am not a failure, I am not hated, that people care, people love, and “For crissake, jump into the water already!”

The level up exam came when I lost my ATM and my mortgage. I blurted out just that from the bus about what happened and practically let things rolls into place as I do my best, one thing after another. What else can I do? And then when the mortgage is paid, the cat food was delivered and the litter sand was ready, PayPal decided to be a jackass and ask me for documents that I don’t have, despite all the fact. So I didn’t sigh in relief yet. I was given about 7 days (including weekends) so I withdraw every penny in my account and contacted my brothers to see if anyone can lend me their PayPal account.

One of them step forward, but he is the kind of person who come to set things up and then disappear in the middle and come back three weeks later with the whole different concept and understanding (or misunderstanding) and do it all over (or continue but take another direction), so while I guide him into making a PayPal account and he disappeared in the middle I just go ahead with plan B: have Lori hold the money fin her PayPal while I am looking for a reliable virtual credit card provider.

From bank to bank, one finally told me that if I open an account with them they can link me to their VCN service.

I complied. I follow their direction and pay the fee for sms banking, internet banking, phone banking and put more money into the account than the minimum requirement for all the fees that arise from creating the account and all sort of facilities.

I was told that the VCN can be requested immediately, but when the system came back to me and said I am not yet eligible to use VCN, I called phone banking three times at different time to ask for more information and all three told me that my debit card has to be linked to MasterCard.

Duh.

So I came back to the bank, asking them to link my debit card and again, when I tried, no VCN. I told the bank officers to be serious and professional or I am filing a complaint and then they admit that no one had asked them about VCN before, at least in that branch. They finally was willing to ask their manager, and the manager actually called Jakarta and ask about full information.

You see, it’s not just me who is afraid to ask. Generally here in Asia, if you ask, you are worthless and incapable. We are demanded to be a super-me while ourselves a Supermee (mee = noodle. Supermi is a brand of instant noodle).

It was only then I was notified that to apply for VCN, you have to link your debit card, and then wait for seven working days.

That means the end of next week; practically the beginning of two weeks from now.

And I only have USD 250 left in my account. I have a kitten with broken leg, I have sick cats, I have kitty season, Pie had just been diagnosed with FIP (Feline Infection Periotnitis), I have neighbors knocking on my door giving me cats and kittens (more on that in another post).

I have to eat.

Meanwhile I do it right and put my Etsy shop on vacation, for the first time in four years, because I don’t have a PayPal account to receive money if someone orders. Facing the possibility that I will lost my venue at Etsy worried me because it means losing my income. All this time, my Etsy shop have been one of my financial support in funding The Whiskers’ Syndicate. Still, I put faith that every clouds has silver lining, and turn my shop into vacation via Etsy app on my mobile. That was last week if not more.

And yesterday I receive a notification from Etsy, congratulate me for a sale. Then PayPal notify me that a payment is floating in the air for that order and if I want that money, I should open a business account.

Wth.

I went back to Etsy standard version (instead of mobile version) and found out that my vacation setting had been removed. Then I when I poked around I was shown a disclaimer that the app is not hand made by Etsy so if it didn’t do the job its not their fault.

It is a common practice here in Indonesia that after you made a new PayPal account, you just let it idle for a week, and then start small (under USD 10) for some times before increasing, otherwise they will limit your account.

But I can’t explain all this sh!t to a stranger who innocently buys my stuff. I have reputation to keep and professionalism on the gambling table; so even before I get the VCN (if no more glitch) I opened a new PayPal account with different email address and receive the money. If PayPal limit my account, it will mean I fill the order for free.

It was USD 22.

You bet PayPal limit my account immediately and ask me for a credit card or I cannot withdraw the money.

So I have to stretch the remaining money to include a USD 20 order, and stuck with half done PayPal account that cannot be used at all and give me even more things to do.

Great. What’s next, God?

Sure, I am complaining again, just as I was complaining four years ago; but this time I try to do it smart: I didn’t complain to long, and I didn’t stop at complaining. I kept going.

I remember all of The Whiskers’ Syndicate’s supporter. I remember their names; I remember they have jobs, they have family, they have expenses, they have troubles, ordeals, sickness, they go through unfortunate events. They all struggles, but everyone just keep going and do whatever they can to help me, because they believe in me. They will not have tax exempt donating to me, but they support me anyway because we are in the same road. Different lanes, but we believe in the same thing, we have the same dream, we have the same cause that we hold in our heart so dearly, we don’t mind the distance, the tax, the hassle of moving donations, the trouble of reading and scouring Google to tell me about other options that I might have.

I have so many people around me extending their hand, telling me to just fall forward. I’d be an a ho to stop right here and whine and pointing finger.

So while waiting for the VCN, I learn about Western Union, Money Gam, Rapid Fire. Despite all the fear surrounding the ease of retrieving money, Western Union actually offer a better exchange rate than PayPal, which will stretch the donations a little bit further. So Lori is transferring all of your donation to me via Western Union so I can buy cat food and pay for the vet.

While waiting for the PayPal to be verified I can just do the order, as best as I can, so that when my PayPal is finally ready I have one more happy customer who might lead me to another.

Yes, this time is different.

This time, I have you.

Thank you very much, for the best gift ever given to a stranger: faith.

Thank you for having my back.

~ Josie

paypal.me/whiskerssyndicate

Trial and Horror

Saturday afternoon, I was on my way, walking to buy cat litter when I saw an old lady, maybe about the same age as my mother, got out of her car, and tried unsuccessfully to cross the street. Bandung people (not sure about Indonesian in general) is not known to give way to people crossing the street, at any place). I made a U turn and help her cross the street, into a small diner selling traditional dishes. She invites me to accompany her, and since I haven’t eat, I didn’t refuse. the food is affordable so I can pay for my own food.

Her name is Catherine. She used to be Catholic, but after an ugly experience with divorce, the church she believed slap her with archaic dogma that what has been unified by God may not be separated by human, and excommunicate her, although she tried to stay in the church. She then converted to Islam. I am Catholic. I am proud of being Catholic, but I openly tell her that her pastor is an antiquarian idiot. Catherine is an insurance agent, and I told her that some of her colleagues (from the same insurance company) turn their nose up high, look at me with disgust, especially on my T-shirt, jeans, and jacket, and said “Just leave your phone number, I don’t have time for you right now, I have bigger investor” and go away.

As we eat, we conversed about her life, about my unusual choices, and I thought we ended our mutual symbiosis when she told me her Blackberry was broken and she was about to bring it to a fake service center. I told her no, show her to an authorized service center, and when she was properly cared for, I bid my farewell and go home, dropping by to feed a group of feral cats nearby.

I tried to cut the way and go through an alley in some slum area, because I wanted to apply for a medicare. For the first time in history, under the new president Joko Widodo, we have an affordable medical insurance and I want to know how to apply because I am eligible.

Keeping my bag in front of me at all time, I squeeze through the packed alley, and bumped into a lot of people. I didn’t feel anything weird, of course. Some guys talked loudly that if “they” turned right and follow the road, one can get through sooner because the road is quieter, but I would rather not walking alone in a quiet alley in the twilight; although some women did turn to that quieter road.

I was still not sure, so I just continue to sift through my way and moved on.

I was grateful because I got the time to feed the ferals, and still get to the medicare office on time.

After a brief inquiry about the medicare, I went home; passing a pet shop with that huge sign that said “Sale 25%”. I still have time before the cats’ dinner so I walked in, and found some good stuffs with great price.

I was grateful because God gave me a good day that day.

But I can’t find my ATM when I was about to pay. I stepped aside, have the next in line to go first, and dig my bag, but I can’t find it.

I can’t find my cell phone either.

So I apologized to the shop manager, cancel my purchase, and run home.

I feed the cats as fast as I can and used internet banking to check on my account, but some people are faster. The money for the mortgage and cat food for next week were gone. The amount? around USD 600.

Sunday afternoon, I went to my provider and asked for a SIM exchange, and revive my old phone that I kept as a spare.

I was grateful that the next Paypal transfer will not arrive until tomorrow (Monday) otherwise it will be gone as well and the cats has nothing to eat.

I was grateful that although I don’t know how the heck I am going to cover the mortgage, at least I can buy cat food, though it means the cats will have to have brunch instead of breakfast on Monday because bank transfer usually take a few hours after opening. It means around 10-11 am.

Monday morning I went out early, chatted with Lori along the way, and arrive in the bank about 10 am in the morning, only to be told by the security office that the bank had moved. I have no idea because they did not send us notifications, but the security officer told me in detail where they move. It’s the other end of town at the other direction; so I went back, passed my house, and go the opposite direction for another two hours. The cat food is late.

After my account was secured, the bank cleared my Paypal withdrawal and I have money for cat food.

I was grateful that all ended up well, except for the late cat food.

On my way home, I received a message from Catherine telling me that her cell phone was dead, and that she needs my help to accompany her buy a new phone because she didn’t know the difference. Bandung has iPhone 6 for only USD 180 made in India or China, but it runs on Android. Get what I mean?

I told her I need to do things, and that I will be available after 3 pm. I didn’t tell her what happened, but I figured that I need to buy new cell phone anyway (though I haven’t figure out how to pay for it yet) there’s no harm in helping people while looking around.

I feed the cats, clean the house, went about like Captain America fixing things, and run back to the bus terminal. I felt guilty because I know I would have to leave them the whole day today, but I hope they would understand that at this moment, some extraordinary events is taking over.

Still, I was grateful because The Whiskers’ Syndicate has food, I got new ATM, and a little bit time to further resolve my situation.

Catherine ended up buying the same model as my lost cell phone. She drove me home afterwards, but midway her second husband called and told her that their friend was taken to the hospital. We will pass the hospital on our way home, so I told her that she should go visit her friend and I can continue my way home with bus. I was determined that I won’t be late for the cats’ dinner and that I will take time to play with them as an apologies for neglecting them the whole day and especially for starving them because the cat food was late.

Her second husband was waiting for her in front of the hospital, when I got down from the car, and told her that her friend had died. Her husband talked to me when she rushed inside, and there goes my plan to go home on time. I just couldn’t find myself brushing off an elderly who tried to strike a conversation as a diversion from sadness.

In fact, I was grateful that a stranger like me can be of comfort for someone else. It’s nice to be able to do something for others when they need it.

Surely I ended up getting home late again; though I am grateful that since the cat ate late in the morning, they are not starving when I got home.

I did notice, however, that God played pranks on me the whole day today, one trial after another, and I silently whisper to Him that I hoped he is happy now and let the rest of the day be in peace.

After the cats have dinner, I prepared food for the two colonies uphill, and out on my way. I was grateful that although I went out later than usual, it rained so the road is quiet. The two colonies I cared for consists of a lot of young cats, around 6-10 months old. They like to run criss-crossing the street toward me when they see me so I deliberately go late to avoid the risk they got run over. I mean, if Bandung people don’t have the mercy to let people cross the street, what do they care about cats running toward their (probably) only food for the day?

But none of them run toward me tonight, though I saw them sitting at the usual spot, with horror in their eyes.

As I rushed toward them, I saw one of them desperately trying to bite his foot off from the snare that hung him upside down.

I dropped my bag of food and hold him with one hand, while trying to undo the snare with the other. I didn’t bring my cell phone to take picture and even if I did, I wouldn’t have thought to take picture. I didn’t bring any knife or scissors.

The snare was glass thread. It’s a sharp thread used to fly kite.  One end of the snare was tied to a motorcycle inside the house, and the fence was locked. I have the option of shouting to the people inside, but I recognize the motorcycle as the property of people who throw stones at me when I feed the cats, so calling out will only give me more trouble.

All I have was my two hands; so I hold the frantic cat with one hand, while reaching into the fence as far as I can, wrap the thread once or twice around my other hand and pull it as hard as I can. Glass thread is sharp, but it’s thin. I know full well that I can rip my hand doing what I did, but I didn’t want to leave the cat back hanging and run twenty minutes back and forth for a scissor.

My only hope is that God will recognize that I stayed positive throughout all His pranks the whole day, and so He will stop being ridiculous just once.

I felt the snare start cutting through my skin when I start pulling. At the same time the wriggling, screeching, and yelling cat hugged my arm with his front leg, and bite me.

The pain stings, and sucks, but I don’t blame the cat. I just keep pulling the snare while holding him with the other hand so he won’t be hanging on his leg.

I hissed. “God, get serious. Help me”

The snare snapped.

I saw a lot of blood spattered onto the wall and fence in the dark, and it runs down like there was murder up there but I didn’t think of it. I untied the snare on the cat’s leg and as soon as he’s free, he jumped down and run hiding in the house next door.

I was grateful because the snare snapped at the right time, and I followed the cat at the right speed, because a few second after I moved away, the door of the house snapped open and someone throw hot water to the crime scene.

It was quiet for a few second. Whoever threw the water probably stunned because there’s no one there, and I was grateful because I was stunned and didn’t know what to do.

When that person finally went back inside and shut the door, some movie played in my head. A man will look at the snapped snare and noticed all the blood splatter and smile victoriously. “Serve you well, noisy/dirty/filthy/etc cat! It must have cut its leg/head/arm off!”
though I am sure he didn’t realize that all those blood does not belong to a cat.

It was mine.

With pounding heart and blood running through both my hands, I feed the cats, but none of them want to go near me; except from the one who was snared.

I am grateful that he is all right. He is not hurt or wounded, and that he eats like an elephant.

He was a special cat.

The colony on that hillside is a family of yellow tabbies. Two adults and two kittens. Two months ago I found a white and gray kitten screaming desperately in fear, a few meters away, alone in a cold night. He was still about two months old. I lured him with food and guide him into the “Tabby Road” (how I called the colony of yellow tabbies) and hoped that they will take him in so he can learn how to survive as feral cat.

The colony took him in, but he became the only one who knows the kindness of human and therefore trusting people. I feel guilty for interacting with him last time because it might be the reason he got into the snare, but the other half of me is grateful because if I didn’t lure him into the colony, he might have died.

I am grateful because his closeness to me instill trust on the colony members on my harmless intention, and I was sure that if I keep feeding them, one of these days I will be able to get them to be spayed and neutered.

But maybe I have to start over now, because none of the original members of the Tabby Road wanted to go near me when I put out the food. It might be because they smell the strong stench of fresh blood running streams through my hand, but I hope they will not lose trust on me completely, so I still have chance to fix them.

As I walk back home to give them the chance to eat, away from human; my heart is filled with sadness. I cannot understand why people would do what they do. The cats didn’t do them any harm. They would sleep on the porch or play on the stairs, but they do humans no harm. They mind their own business, and if the human is working, they won’t be at home long enough to be disturbed by those cats.

Then as I walked further away, the sadness turned into worry. If I have all the land in the world, no, all the land in town; no, no, even if I have just a little bit more land, I would have moved the entire colony away from harm; but I don’t, and I feel guilty I have to leave them on the road, where the same or other people device other trap that might send them to horrible death.

Then it turned into anger.

I hate this town, filled with ignorance and deliberate simple mindedness. I hate its people, filled with hypocrisy and arrogance. I hate their inhumane humanity, I hate their small mindedness and self-aggrandizing wisdom.

I hate God who sent me to this pit of hell that has no chance of salvation or betterment, and still entertain Himself by pulling pranks on me the whole weekend.

And yet, a few steps away from my house, I am grateful because I was there at the right time and the right place to save one life. I am grateful because the cats are not harmed. I am grateful because today, they live.

Tomorrow; I don’t know.

~ Josie

paypal.me/whiskerssyndicate

Half the Love

The sun rise atop the mountains that stretch across the island, and the first rays that marked new day set the mountain top ablaze with greens and yellows from the trees touched by light.

Somewhere in that small hillside town, just like Bandung, people rose from their bed and prepared for a new day.  It is probably the same with two neighbors; Ratna (pronounced rat-nah, means “gem” in Sanskrit and is a common name for females in the past) and Josie.

Somewhere along their day, they would both care for street cats in their neighborhood, one of them is an old hag Calico they come to call Chiko (just in case, it’s pronounced cheek-o). Like most of animal carer in smaller town across the country, they only know Whiskas, Friskies, or pindang (pronounced pin-dang). Pindang is tuna boiled with salt. It’s a traditional laymen food, but just like the myth where people associate cat with milk (or fish), Pindang is associated with cats and people accept it without thinking.

We should know better; but we are not a sovereign country. We are the so called “third world” and in many part of this extensive archipelago, we do things and think things as if whatever happened in our lives are the right thing.

I want to guess that the two women know each other, maybe even neighbors. I want to guess that they would accompany each other going round the small town by the leg of the hill chatting and laughing, talking, telling stories of their family, children, and cats; but I never know, and I would probably will never know.

What I do know is that they have different mindset about animals and their place in this world. Josie would feed the cats who came to the house and walk away, but Ratna takes time for a little attention.

It really doesn’t make any difference, I guess, until one of the street cats, the old hag named Chiko, has open wound in her tummy. Open wound that become an ulcer, and grow wider, and larger.

Josie would still feed her, but she stop there. Ratna grew worry, and start looking for an insight through Facebook, a place that she seldom use, and only exist to sell her home made traditional food.

From one group to another, she came across Tyas (pronounced the same way you pronounced Diaz from Cameron Diaz), a young engineer, and a crazy cat lady who take Ratna and Chiko’s plea personally.

She guided Ratna into looking for a qualified vet, the best she can find in a small town, she called the vet, and ask for diagnosis.

Which is not good, obviously.

Chiko got mammary gland tumor because she breeds a little bit too many and the long time it takes before her condition is known make things worse. One part of her teats have burst open, and from the hole in the wall one can see her gastrointestinal equipments.

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And then, like human enroaching the earth, tumors spread. Chiko needs to have an extensive surgery or she will literally turned into a living time bomb.

Not a good way to die.

With photos and a small paper detailing what is going on and what needed to be done and how much money it takes, Tyas then go from one group to another in facebook, fund raising.

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One of the group where Tyas is a member somehow found The Whiskers’ Syndicate, and posted Chiko’s plea in haste, once upon a late Friday night.

It came in a wrong time, seriously. Donation had touched the lowest in December and many of our regular sponsor cancelled their monthly support. If anyone wants to know, I feel like totally alone, and of all things, God decided to test me.

I thought I would count on my Caturday post back then, planning and thinking and editing a little entry asking for help for my own sanctuary, but I really can’t turn around and pretend nothing happened.

So I reach back out to the one who send me the message and ask for detail. She told me the cat is not hers, and that she was touched by Chiko’s plea and wanted to help. She hooked Tyas to me, and walk away.

I decided to take the gamble with the sanctuary’s life as a bet after a friend of mine, Lisa, told me along the line that “It’s what rescue all about. Saving lives, helping others.

So instead of asking for a donation for my own shelter, I reached out and campaign for somebody else that I never know and probably never going to see. For the first time I compel myself to believe and have faith; convincing myself that all I need to do is lend a hand, and leave the rest to the Big Boss.

I told Tyas I am willing to help asking for donation, in exchange of a guarantee that Chiko will be adopted and given permanent home, is made into a full indoor cat, and is given good quality, healthy food, for as long as she lives.

Chiko hangs out Josie’s house more, but knowing that her neighbor won’t care too much, Ratna decided she will take over Chiko and turn her into a house cat; her cat.

The post went out on Saturday, a quiet day; but people come pledging and the USD 200 that was needed for the surgery (and a little bit more) turned into USD 250 within half an hour, most likely more if I didn’t stop the campaign.

Never happened in our history we get USD donation in less than half an hour. I envy Chiko somewhat; she gets the money that I also desperately need, in less time, with less the effort, but in term of desperate, her situation is a lot more grave than mine.

Her plea humbled me. It’s a gentle reminder from Heaven that I should look down below and not up all the time.

Chiko went to surgery, the vet ended up having to cut four big, nasty tumors and cleaned up the surrounding areas, which mean cut all nipples and completely remove her mammary gland. She will not be able to nurse anymore, hence while cutting her open, the vet also perform ovario- hysterectomy.

If she is sterilized, Chilo won’t go on heat, she won’t get pregnant, and she won’t need to nurse. She shouldn’t.

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Don’t ask me about PicMix and how a vet still has time to use the app when he was on surgery; though I am very glad the vet decided to use a dark frame on the picture. Otherwise someone might have fainted.

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Since Ratna has limited knowledge about caring for a cat, Chiko stayed in the clinic until she completely recovered and we paid to have her put on surveillance round the clock. Meanwhile Tyas has to make a long distance call and check with the vet regularly.

The first week, Chiko fared exquisitely. She has a healthy appetite, she takes her medicine without plenty of fuss, and she loves salmon.

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We have Dachshund, the hot dog; we also have sausage cat. Chiko walks around the clinic a few days after the surgery.

A few days before I transferred the remaining donation, however, the vet noticed that she has liquid accumulating in her now (rather) empty abdomen. She is not allowed to go home per schedule, and instead, scheduled for a second surgery.

I do realize that with malignant tumor, it can spread, and that there will not be guarantee it won’t come back even after complete removal. In the other side, we know we should have expected it. Twelve years living on the street, exposed to the harshness of uncaring environment, eating who-knows-what, breeding excessively.

Even so, the fact that Chiko has to withstand the second surgery upset me and everyone else.

We can only pray, while thanking God the vet realize the situation very early and so we have better chance.

Chiko has to stay in the clinic, with drainage pipe intact, a cone, and a very bad mood.

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We’re sorry for her, but we’re not sorry she retains her healthy appetite.

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We do what we can. We give her the best food, the best care, best everything. The last one million Rupiah that was supposed to be for her food, is used for her second surgery, and we have to spend more for the food, but none of Tyas or I complained about it. Chiko has been through enough, and if we have to stretch just a little bit more to get her to better life, after twelve years on the street and two bout of surgeries, we’ll get her there.

One week later, Ratna herself posted on The Whiskers’ Syndicate page:

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Ratna cannot speak English, so her message was very short, but it beats any best seller books in universe:

“Welcome, Chiko.”

~ Josie

paypal.me/whiskerssyndicate

 

To Infinity and Beyond

I have lost one of my best friend today, and her passing left me blank for a couple of hours, though the moment of loss happened only for a few minutes.

Such is her impact in my life.

Her name is Dr. Who; after a TV show in Europe that I never see. But people and especially young women and moms’ club are fawning over him, or the show, whichever comes first, so I read about it and kind of figured out what the show is about.

Such is how I come to remember that name when I meet her: in a phone booth; it’s just that I found her among the rubble of an abandoned phone booth. Playing. Alone.

It was just beginning to rain and I want to board the next transport home so I won’t be late for the mobsters, but I can’t help it when I saw two pairs of white, furry, tiny legs tiptoed criss cross among the pile of stone and steel.

For some reason, I tiptoed closer myself (I can be ridiculously silly at times) – though she couldn’t have seen me even if I walk or run toward her place anyway – then squatted at the side, peeked, and meet her straight in the eye.

“Mew”, she said, inquisitive, but daring. “Meeew”

I stretched out my hand and she put one of her front paw on it. “Hello, little baby, would you like to come home with me?”

She came forward; such is our first meeting.

Looking back at the moment now, it seems like she is using a weapon called “guilt trip” to make me pick her up; or rather, I use it on myself. She is just two months old, probably. The age of Torbie, and Sunny II, and Little Tortie (abbreviated Leeto, out of respect to the older one), and Neo (after Matrix Reloaded. All black, jumps from top to top and crashes onto things). Except that they were born in the safety of my house. With clean bed, safe and warm room for their own, and their mom, plenty of food, enough water, cleaning service and customer care round the clock.

Such is my reasoning; but she was already in my bag when my mind start working and I don’t want to leave her alone even if if I can.

During our two and a half hour commute she already make herself at home. She meows for food from inside the bag, and I can’t help it but slightly tear a pouch of Whiskas and have her suck all the water from the piece of food that poked out of the pouch. I looked at the marking.

Ocean fish. After this my whole back pack will smell like a fish, but such is the risk if you are an animal rescuer who caught teeny orphan kitten on the road without livelihood on site.

When all the water was finally sucked out of the food, I felt like something is gnawing my thumb. It was her, trying to lick away any excess water from the food, and after that, start munching on the solids.

Such is how she puncture a hole in my heart and fill it in with abundant explosion of giddy-ish cutesy tootsy, itsy bitsy, teeny weenie yellow tabby kitty.

People come and go aboard the car along the way. Most are ignorant, a family had difference opinion (son: I want to keep a cat. Look, how cute. Sister: but you will get bored and I will do the job. Mom: No, they stink like garbage).

I lift my head and turn around, because my neck started to go stiff, and the mom squirm away thinking that I am offended by her blatant remarks. When our eye meet, she smiled, rather sheepishly, but without remorse.

Heck; go to hell.

Another passenger secretly took photo when she poked her head out of my bag and scan around with her super cute, binocular eyes. I can read lips. Hers said “So cute”, in English.

This time, I have to struggle not to smile too pompously.

Such is how she brought good tiding into my household.

She did not need quarantine. She rammed into the flock of Torbie and her siblings and take over their snack. She took over their toy, she acted like she belongs with them.

And they don’t mind.

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With Sunny II on top of my sleeping pillow. Won’t cure my insomnia.

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With Torbie’s bone.

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And leave Torbie alone.

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Earth to Control, earth to control, do you copy?

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And then she send a one (megabyte) report from earth to control, wherever that is.

Such is her way of blending in.

Well, if I may admit, I’d probably joined the fawning young women and the moms’ club; but I’d be fawning over her instead of an unreal hero. She is a million times better. She is witty, like the hero, she has her brain set in the right place, like the hero, she has the penchant of fixing things in her own way, like the hero, and she filled in my otherwise bland days (wake up, scoop the boxes, clean the house, feed the cat, scoop the boxes…) with colors of her wind.

 

Such is how she taught me not to take life too seriously. Eat, play, love, sleep, purr.

And catch her mid air if she attempted to jump from the top of the door, to the swimming pool of water bowl down under.

She is not afraid to ask, definitely not afraid to jump forward, and play hard.

Such is how she strike instant camaraderie with Torbie. Torbie has different chipset. Her sibling is Intel dual core; Torbie is Quad Core with 9900mAh lithium battery that can stand by without charging for eighteen hours; more if you feed her right.  Dr. Who is apparently carry the same type of power bank.

Look at the video: BEFORE Torbie and felt

Heard the meow? That’s Dr Who.

And here is AFTER: Torbie vs. Dr. Who

They are never sick, they are always happy, they always keep me on my toes, even in my sleep. They are ever helpful by making sure I wake up to a tidily crumpled blanket (mine) on the corner.

Sealed with a piss.

They eat anything. They are always hungry. They broke everything. They squashed everyone who stands on their way as they roll everywhere around the house wrestling.

Maybe they have nuclear power inside them instead of the usual Lithium Ion.

But such is how I slipped into complacency, and then negligence over their health.

The punishment for being a moronic cat mom is a bad monsoon. Extreme weather, extreme temperature, extreme trial on even the toughest immune system in town.

But even when they are both sick they still destroy the last three of my cups (the only one left is plastic) My pan and pot is not round anymore because they kill them too many times by pushing them off the counter, like Pirates of The Carribean.

Such is how my neighbor asked me if I am OK one day, if I am mad or everything, or if I have boyfriend, because they never heard me throwing pans and pots so many times before.

“Oh, that must be Dr. Who”, I replied, dismissively, and walk inside,

I can care less they knit their eyebrow thinking who the heck is Dr. Ho (not typo).

So, such is monsoon. Cats got sick. I got sick, but after a few days, all of them bounced back, and so is Dr. Who. She got cold again a few days later,when the weather got so cold, we can see our own breath; but no matter how bad it is, she always bounced back.

In the past few days, she got sick again, and this time it’s worse than any other time. She got dehydrated, she lost weight, she can’t smell her food because of all those crusts blocking her nose, but she rallies back. She got over her sneezing, she eats again, she swallow everything just fine, she is happy to take her medicine. She follows me everywhere for extra food (she always get it!) She rallies to the point of near recovery.

And as such, I was about to start breathing again.

But this morning she takes turn to the worse. All of a sudden, she lost energy, she coughed, she vomits. Trying to protect her against further dehydration, I gave her subcutaneous fluid, and she bounced back, but rolled back down a few hours later. She wanted to eat, and I gladly help her with syringe, which she swallowed. She bounced back, but rolled down again few hours later. Her vital sign deteriorate rapidly.

“What happened?” I ask her, desperate, “You are still playing soccer with the spoon yesterday night!”

Torbie was bereft the whole day. She sits by her partner in crime rather impatiently, if I can perceive those looks in her eyes, but this time, Dr. Who won’t wake up.

Such is how I knew the time is near.

I still don’t understand. I am still half mad she give me the burst of business at the time when I was occupied with my sneezes and coughs.

But I stopped Torbie from pawing her and sent her to the backyard, where she played with soap foam from the washing machine, though I think she swatted those foam in a sulking spirit.

Immediately Dr. Who flipped and sit on her tummy, meowing weakly.

Maybe she doesn’t want Torbie to see.

I looked at her eyes; round like usual, though no longer bright. “Are you sure? Well then, don’t blame me if I cry but if you gotta go, you gotta go”

She tried to crawl. I sat on the floor, pick her up and lay her down on my lap.

She start purring.

And slowly drifted away.

Sunny II came over, at one point, and jumped on my lap, pawing her, and when she didn’t respond, bite her shoulder, asking in kind to play.

I stroke the loose hay. His long hair seems to always standing to every direction, no matter how much I comb it tidy. He looked at me. I shake my head.

A small dollop of water fell down my face. Oops.

“Go play with Neo, or chase Soot Ball. Do you want to go out? There’s sun”

Sunny II jumped down and go away, but not before turning back one more time and bite her shoulder again. Perhaps to make a statement that he doesn’t approve of her journey.

Such is how much they love her.

It was past afternoon when she finally crossed over in her sleep. Just one, single cough; and then she was in peace.

Meanwhile I still can’t figure out why. Even hundreds after hundreds of crossing cats over I still can’t figure out why.

Maybe because God loves them so much, He doesn’t want them to suffer too long, albeit at my expense.

Maybe because God needs some entertainment that he no longer get from human, who themselves busy making war after war.

Maybe He just want some of His sense of humor back so He won’t lose His temper and make Armageddon comes tomorrow, and Dr. Who has a lot of sense of humor.

Maybe, as simple as the TV show, her mission accomplished, and it’s time to jump to another time, another day, another task.

Who knows.

~ Josie

paypal.me/whiskerssyndicate

 

 

The First Noel: Mama Cat

There’s a clinic; at the end of the street that stretches from the town below, to the tip of the mountain above. A small, decrepit house, packed with people, mostly females in their night gown, completely ignorant of their personal hygiene; maybe because they are too sick to bother, or they don’t bother at all.

Around the kids are screaming, crying, yelling, swearing, jumping, running, tantrum throwing, either in choir with or in competition against each other. Maybe both.

Some of those females just can’t handle it, and hand her kids some money, of which they spend on the numerous gawkers right outside its corrosion stained fence.

And then they will come back inside, quiet for a moment as they stuff their mouth with junk food and then throw the wrap care-freely. Some other can’t handle the junk and threw up on the floor, babies had urinary tract accident, and someone step on those and tread it everywhere, but there’s no cleaning service.

A typical third world clinic you will find in this country, this town, in particular.

Somewhere around the corner of its cemented front yard, that suppose to be a parking lot, there’s a row of suffering withered plants, lack of water, lack of proper care in general, a quiet presence tries to enjoy the small peace out of the sickening riot inside.

I thought she was pregnant. She has very big belly, and her tummy seems to be so heavy, she can only walked a few steps before sitting down and try to catch some breath.

If I come toward her and offer her some food I would have drawn unnecessary attention. Something she won’t need because kids tend to have craziest ideas.

Especially to a street cat.

But I feel sorry for her. Her green eyes are telling me without words that her world is heavy, and I don’t doubt her. However, to carry a pregnant cat all the way uphill? It’s just a mile and a half though.

And it’s so happened that I was carrying big bags of fabric for Whiscraft back then. I wouldn’t want her to fall from the transport if she squirms.

So I promised myself to come back the next day, though my heart and thoughts are heavy thinking about how am I suppose to support more lives with my strained budget. With a belly that big, I should expect say, four? five?

I came back anyway, and found the clinic overflowing with people, packed into the small waiting room, chattering, handling kids, moaning, perspiring.

I can’t find her.

I peeked to the row of withered plants but I can’t find her. I look around the corners but I can’t find her. So I went home thinking that she might be walking around somewhere in the labyrinth like slums behind the clinic and promise myself to come back the next day.

A few steps away, the corner of my eye caught her sitting in the next building. Alone in the shade, tired, desolate.

I walked as slowly and as calmly as I can, but she didn’t seem to bother. She just looked at me wondering what am I going to do with her.

I opened a pouch of Whiskas and offer it on a paper plate I always been carrying.

She smelled it, lick it, and eat it, though she didn’t stand.

Her belly is so big.

I try touching her. She twitched, but she didn’t run away. So I waited until she finish her meal, and try to lift her up. Wrap her in a blanket, and start walking away.

She just stay still.

At home, one and a half miles later, I put her down in my living room. She looks around, gingerly, and gnarled at the kittens that comes out bursting like bubbles as they see us.

Then she drink, and after that, just sitting there, forlornly, with the kittens staying as far away as possible while sending their long distance sniffs.

It was the ugliest sight I ever seen. Half of her face is swollen. Her body is so thin, her belly is so big. The fur along her back is thinning, exposing a half length tail with a a little curve at the tip.

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I didn’t have the heart to start poking on her to find out what she has, but I do notice that she was dripping greenish yellow liquid as she eats.

It was a leaking pus from a bite on her cheek. Maybe souvenir of a fight.  A little squeeze produces a handful of rotten ooze, so I spend the next few hours trying to clean her up.

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I thought at first, since I did not find any other hole other than those two, a good quality food and proper medication suffice. I was very reluctant to employ antibiotics because she was pregnant. So I only administer some Chinese herbal ointment on the wounds, and keep it clean and dry.

What suppose to heal in few days in other cats, takes few weeks. This mama cat’s body is just too frail. Eat something wrong, diarrhea. Do not drink much for one day, constipation. Too much fish, scratching, too much egg, gassing. And her wound just keep welling up. I don’t know how bad her condition was, but I know it’s just worse compared to other rescues

At roughly the same time, Torbie and her siblings are old enough to get out from the security of my bedroom and live rather communally with Hanshin, Florence and Baroness in the living room. Mama Cat, with her big belly, immediately call them like her own, and they listen to her. She naturally lay down and let the kittens nurse from her, and since I thought she is pregnant, I just let them.

Problem arise when some self-addressed rescuer and cat lover who is also a donor to The Whiskers’ Syndicate (though a bad one) made me accept a feral cat that she recently TNR-ed.  (the whole story here). The feral female was trying to make her personal space, and Mama Cat try to defend her (and her adopted kittens’ territory). What happened in the next three days were bloodshed.

And a major headache for me, because I have to help the feral cat heal as fast as she can (so she can be returned) while at the same time take care of a pregnant Mama Cat with four baby kittens.

Mama Cat ended up got bullied when I am not around to intervene; and she can’t fight with belly as tight and big as a basketball. She just sit there, tucking her ears, with kittens scattered all over places watching their “mom” in terror.

It wasn’t until well into the next month (after the feral cat was picked up by her rescuer) when her wounds start healing.

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But she is still pregnant. Her belly was bigger and bigger and bigger, I am afraid it will burst, or worse, like the previous Mama Cat.

I called a vet and after some examination she think that it might be Pyometra. So we agreed on a date and put her on the operating table before it’s too late.

Turned out it’s not Pyometra. Well, not Pyometra only. One of her bladder sticks to the wall of her stomach. Her intestine are all twisted, unlike normal intestine, and her blood is not red. It was bluish as if it is a blood of a carcass just came out of a long freezer nap.

One of her ovaries was tucked below one kidney, and the other were buried among the intestines. We have to pull all her gut out to de-tangle all sort of organs and put them back in proper order.

We had to remove the entire ovary because it’s in such bad shape due too much breeding. Later on the vet told me that she must have sustained an internal injury at one time in her life, but it went untreated, though somehow she survives.

It was like a horror movie; but we’re not the bad guys. We’re the clueless ones desperately trying to understand the forensics of what the heck was happening to this cat and what made her survive, and how we can help her.

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While Mama Cat herself seems to endure the entire procedure quite well, we are the ones who ended up with tremors after all those suspense with her messed up gut. It was the first time the vet ever asked “Do you have some coffee?”

As we cleaned up half in trance, the vet and I agreed that after this, Mama Cat will be able to live in peace, away from complications.

Maybe not.

Evidently, she won’t stop nursing; even with all those sutures and post op pain and bandages. Her adopted kittens didn’t help at all

I was in a cross road. Is it all right for her to nurse, since it seems to come naturally for her and the kittens are not made sick because of it?  Wouldn’t it be dangerous if her mammary glands were stimulated after she has Pyometra and whatever internal injuries? Would it turn into a mammary tumor?

I choose safety over sorry, and so I  put her in the cage. She was angry that I cut her maternal period off, but I continue to convince myself that I am doing the right thing, though cruel.

She still try. All day long, I heard her cooing and calling and purring from inside her jail, probably instructing her kids what to do and what not to do. Once every so often, I would hear the cooing turned into the real meow, when her kittens did something bad or running far enough into the kitchen and off her sight.

I am humbled by her resilience and I turned my admiration into motivation to do better for her. My budget was way too strained, with her unsuspected long and complicated surgery, but I still buy her the best food I can afford, give her immune boosters, give her vitamins, probiotic, and keep her environment as clean as  possible so that her wrecked immune system doesn’t have to work as hard, but still has chance to grow.

The vet, who usually prefer to avoid antibiotics, told me that since her condition was so bad, she will make an exception and prescribe me some strong antibiotics.

I tucked it away, and continue giving my best. Mama Cat has been through so many things and she survives until today, it means her regeneration ability is at least above average. I believe in her. I know she will survive, so I listen to my heart and tucked the prescription away.

Two month later she heals completely without antibiotics.

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Whiskers Syndicate Mama cat

She has normal belly, she has a good appetite, she is never sick, and definitely look like a cat.

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It was Mama Cat herself who asked to go to the backyard, although I give her the privilege to stay inside the house, and she walked into the Syndicate like a true conqueror. She has no problem smacking even the biggest mobster cat on the face if they are snooping on her too much, and soon the other cats learn to avoid her for the love of their lives.

She walks like nothing happened, she lives like nothing happened. In fact, it seems like she gladly embrace her second chance in life and enjoy it to the fullest.

To go through all sort of those bad things and still keep on going is inspiring.

Every time I passed that clinic, my spirit is renewed. If Mama Cat can do it, I can do it. Whatever hell life throws at me, I will just keep trying. I have a mentor now, and though her shape does not convey her wisdom, I am happy to follow her lead.

Who knows, maybe she was once one of those three wise men, led by Christmas star to guide a spoiled brat like me to grow up and keep moving.

~ Josie

paypal.me/whiskerssyndicate