The day I have been dreading for six months finally arrived. I took our mouthy little Siamese to the vet for the last time. He has been sick for some time and has been steadily declining after a brief rebound over the summer. Two days ago he had a seizure and lost use of his hind legs for a few hours. By evening he was at least able to walk again, but it was readily apparent that his time had come. I told our five year old daughter to give him a hug and a kiss goodnight. I had no illusions about what would happen when I took him to the vet the next day. Jen wrote a nice post on what this little cat meant to our family.

When Kwoan and I arrived at the vet we were sent right into the examination room. The vet soon came in and reviewed Kwoan’s history, talked with me about how he had been doing and gave him an exam, confirming that he had cancer. He said there were two options. The first was to take him to an animal hospital where they would further confirm the cancer and could do surgery or start chemo. The second was to put him to sleep. As tough as it was I knew that the right decision was the latter. I could not imagine putting him through surgeries and treatments that would only prolong his pain.

The process was fairly simple. One tiny shot under the skin that would make him doze off and then another intravenous shot that would end his life. The staff was very helpful and did everything to make Kwoan and I as comfortable as possible under the circumstances. After Kwoan received the shot to make him doze off he crawled into his carrier and drifted off to sleep. In that moment I thought “Stop, it’s not too late,” but knew that would just be selfish on my part. The vet then took him out of the carrier and gently laid him on a towel. I could see he was peacefully asleep, still breathing. I kept petting his head and rubbing behind his ears the way he loved. They proceeded to shave part of his leg and give him the second injection. A few minutes later the vet checked his heartbeat and informed my that he was gone. The staff then left the room to give me a few moments with him. I said my goodbyes and left him lying there at peace and out of pain.

After arriving back home I knew Jen would be home with our daughter soon and that I would have to break the news to her. She was sad and at five does not yet fully understand what dying means. Later that night I realized that perhaps I didn’t either. I had never witnessed a life at its last breath as I suspect few people have. At the time I think I was a little emotionally numb, just trying to get through something that had been coming for a while. Being there did not hurt so much as the feeling of responsibility. The fact that I brought Kwoan there, that I had made the decision to end his life. Even though I know it was the right decision, it still hurts and I can not help but feel I have lost a little shred of my humanity in making that decision. It is not a decision I can ever undo or go back and “make right”. The finality keeps coming back when I feed our other cat and accidently pull out two cans of food or I realize I don’t have to tip-toe around the kitchen to avoid Kwoan’s tail as he was always underfoot or be woken in the middle of night by his alley cat caterwauling.

@JimLokay recently responded to one of my posts about serving in the National Guard, thanking me for my service. I was at drill last weekend and while off base picking up lunch a man stopped me to thank me for my service. These moments mean a lot to me as they make me feel appreciated. The folks in my unit a wonderful group and we tend to go out of our way for each other. I definitely feel appreciated while I am there, but I am there with people going through the same experience. But when somebody who is not going through that takes that few seconds out of their day to just say thanks it is magnified. It cleans up up the mud from numerous rainy nights in the woods of Texas, Virginia and Pennsylvania. It washes away the sand of the California desert. It gives me back a little bit of time that I missed with my family. It makes me stand a little taller, a little prouder and helps me to remember who I am, what I do and what it really means to serve. Our commander often points out that we are doing the nation’s work and it is easy to lose sight of that day-to-day. Those thank yous are beautiful reminders of who we serve.

I think it is easy for all of us to lose sight of those that are doing the nation’s work everyday. It becomes easy to let things slip by, perhaps we are into much of a hurry or have work, family or a million other things on our mind. I challenge you to take the time to just say thanks, not just to military folks in uniform, but to everyone that needs it everyday. If you see your mailman, poke your head out and just say thanks. The kid bagging your groceries, tell him you appreciate it. The guys hauling your garbage away every week, your bus driver, anyone you come across that does something for you no matter how big or small, let them know. It will mean the world to them and they’ll genuinely feel appreciated.

I had my third and final pool dive on my way to PADI Open Water Certification last night. It went well and I am feeling more and more comfortable with the skills I am learning. I have been thinking a good deal about something my instructor mentioned during my second pool dive. He has been diving a long time and when his son turned 12 he introduced him to the world of scuba, 12 being the youngest age at which you can earn a certification. He said that it has brought him and his son much closer. Diving is something that few if any of his son’s friends do, so it became a great way for them to spend quality time together. Even as his son is close to graduating college they still dive together regularly. They have taken numerous trips to near and far off dive locations, just the two of them. I think in this day and age any opportunity to spend real time with your children and foster a lifelong hobby that encourages that is a blessing. Whether its diving or some other activity I am looking forward to finding something to do with each of my children that their friends do not do and that is my exclusive activity with them. I think it is so important and if I never dive again after my trip this summer I still take away an incredibly valuable life and parenting lesson. Thanks Lou!

This Friday marks the beginning of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. I am hopeful that the USA can rise above their less than stellar performance in 2006. Their first match is Saturday against England. I’m not sure if a win would be equal to the 1950 Miracle on Grass, but it would be darn close.

I absolutely love watching the World Cup. During the 2006 tournament I was able to see all or part of 58 matches (of 64). At one point I had two televisions setup in my office so that I could see the last games of the group round that ran simultaneously. This time around with three children and a long trip mid-way through the tournament I will be happy to catch the USA games and maybe a few of Italy, Brazil and of course the finals.

Soccer is an amazing sport. I play pickup games on Sundays. We know we are not good, but enjoy the game just the same. It is those moments where you create something, a little space, a beautiful pass, a nice defensive step that make it all feel worthwhile. It magnifies what the best in the world are able to routinely do and makes watching all the more fun, because you know the skill level required to accomplish some of their moves is in the stratosphere. Every World Cup the level of play picks up just a notch during pickup games with whoever I am playing with at the time. Everyone is watching the games and that alone is enough to educate and learn something new that you want to try out on the field. It just fuels the passion unlike any other sport. I can hardly wait for this weekend.

Working from home is a wonderful experience. My wife and I are both lucky enough to be able to work from home almost exclusively. It is nice as we get to spend our lunches together, a small bit of quiet time without our wonderful, energetic little ones. This week has been a little different. School has ended, but summer childcare does not begin until Wednesday. This means instead of our nice quiet house during the day we have all three weasels here all day long. Following the theory that productivity decreases by 166% per child at home, we are collectively 1000% less productive. The work I do does require some bit of calm to accomplish anything and trying to focus when there are rambunctious twin one-year-olds gnawing on my legs only introduces bugs and takes twice the time to repair later. So instead of fighting through distractions I tried to get done what I could and enjoy seeing the children during their semi-normal daily  routine, which mostly involves laughing, stealing toys from each other, trying to get through open child gates, inventing games that your two younger siblings will never understand, crying to be held by mommy and the occasional nap.

From threeweasels.com post "Real Life"

After a year of planning things are finally coming closer to reality. In a few weeks I am off to Guam for about a month and have very mixed emotions about the trip. On the one hand it will be a wonderful experience. I’m going with what I believe to be the best unit in all of the Air Force (of course I’m a little biased, but the unit’s track record and performance may be a more objective measure). All of the people that I will be directly working with are the best of the best. If I were able to hand pick the people in our unit that I would want to work and spend every day with for the next month (or year), the list would not change. We have an important mission to accomplish while we are there, but it is also a beautiful south pacific island and pretty darn close to paradise. There will be opportunities to explore the island, do some scuba diving and maybe just relax on the beach a little.  The other side of the coin is the time away from my family. Last year during the G-20 I was deployed to the other side of Pittsburgh with an Army unit for a week, the longest I have been away from my wife since we first started dating. My wife is incredibly strong and able with our children, she is a truly fantastic mother. Her folks will be around a lot to help out, so I know that house and home will be well taken care of, but it does not make it any easier to be gone for such and extended period. A month is a long time and I am already missing my wife, my daughter and especially our twin boys. I know that my wife and to a small degree my daughter can understand me being away, but at 14 months old, my boys have no concept. They are doing new things every day and their little personalities are just bubbling out. I’m setting up skype and a camera on our big living room tv in the hopes that I’ll be able to see and interact with a little bit, but I know it will not be the same. I have noticed lately that I am a lot more willing to engage with all three children no matter how tired I feel. I guess I am just trying to bank up some quality time before I depart.

This weekend I had National Guard. I’ve been in the military for almost 17 years now. I spent three years on active duty with the Army at Fort Hood, seven years with the Army National Guard in Pittsburgh and the past seven years in the Air National Guard at Pittsburgh International Airport. I have worked with a great many people over the years and done lots of things most folks would not normally get to do, including playing with landmines and various explosives as a Combat Engineer; maintaining and firing numerous small arms as a Unit Armorer; shuffling supplies all over bases and the California desert as a Supply Clerk; and most recently helping airmen and officers navigate their careers and all the paperwork that goes with it as a Personnelist. All-in-all it has been a great experience. Of course there are times that I look back on and am thankful that they are in the past, but the military has been the longest constant in my life. Almost half of my days on this earth have been as a service member.

Thankfully I have never been deployed. I came close numerous times, but different things happened that kept me from going overseas. The most important of these was my switch from the Army Guard to the Air Guard. Technically I was able to ETS (end of enlistment move) from the Army Guard, but I believe that was only because I had already signed paperwork with the Air Guard. Within weeks of making the move my old Army Guard unit was notified that they would be deploying to Iraq. They have been back twice in the intervening years. So instead of going off to Tech School for the Air Force, coming home and meeting my wife and raising our three beautiful and wonderful children I would have spent roughly three of the last seven years in Iraq. I often think about this decision point in my life. I had little control over it other than to express my intent to make the move. Had the timing been any different the move would not have happened. I got lucky, but I truly believe that the Good Lord was looking out for me and producing that luck. It is difficult to fathom that other life that was waiting there for me, that life without my wife and children, a life that would have seen far more violence than anyone should and I am so thankful that life never came to be.

Tonight I had a great time playing our rain shortened first game of the the Yinz Team Softball League. Its been awhile since I’ve had a chance to hang out with and it was nice to see everyone. Softball for us is much more a social gathering than a game. There is of course the usual heckling and @woycheck will be forever known as Sally thanks to encouragement from some local youths. I look forward to playing this season. Genuinely a great group of folks that are always fun to be around.

This summer I have picked up a few books that have renewed my interest in reading. The first book is 1776 by David McCullough and was recommend by my National Guard Group Commander. I was familiar with the American Revolution, but this book really brings it to life. It is more than just a recounting of dates and facts of the time. It brings in letters and notes from those involved and pulls you into the emotion of the period. It shows the precarious nature of our nation’s founding. All the little events and details as well as the larger issues that threaded the needle to our independence. Truly a must-read.

1776 led me to another McCullough book, John Adams, which covers the life of one our most important founding fathers. I am only a few chapters in, but am enjoying reading about Adams views on the Continental Congress and his role in The Declaration of Independence. Adams’ letters to his wife, Abigail, provide an amazing amount of detail into not just their relationship, but the relationship Adams had with the colonies and what became our country. Beautifully written and hard to put down.

The next book I am digging into and enjoying is a bit more personal as it is by a close friend, Worthy Evans. I have known Worthy since my active duty Army days back at Fort Hood. Worthy was always a bit eccentric, perhaps a little quirky and certainly not your typical soldier, so naturally we hit it off right away. He spent a significant bit of his free time writing in his journal and many (perhaps too many) years later the fruits of his labor are available for the world to see in his poetry collection, Green Revolver. Some of his poems bring me back to our Fort Hood days, not the soldier aspect of things, but the Worthy observation of people and events described in a way uniquely his own. It is a wonderful collection that takes the ordinary, digs in and finds something unseen, familiar, yet new.

I may post more here as the summer rolls on, but I always try to post a review over at GoodReads.

Kwoan - Kittie WithOut A Name So tonight I took our mouthy little Siamese to the vet for what I thought would be the last time. He’s been sick for awhile. In the past year he has lost about two thirds of his normal weight, going from about 15 pounds to about 5 now. He is usually very active and chatty, but lately he just eats and sleeps. Even by cat standards he is a hyper-groomer, always ready for show, so when he started to get mangy I knew it was not good. We give him as much food as possible, but he’s still losing weight. So I went to the vet with the expectation of not bringing him home. The vet suggested we run a few tests before we give up. He has been on thyroid medications for about a year, but his test showed still elevated thyroid levels. Otherwise his blood tests looked normal. The vet cautiously told me that this does not preclude another issue, such as cancer, but we can try doubling his medication dose and see if he responds over the next week or two.

Kwoan came into my home as a rescued stray when I first started dating Jen, almost seven years ago. It took him all of about two minutes to get comfortable in the house, meet my other cat and start his usual mouthiness. We had trouble coming up with a name, a problem with us as Jen’s cat is simply named Kittie and my old cat came pre-named. Ultimately, we gave him the non-name of Kwoan, which stands for Kittie WithOut A Name. I love my pets, but am also realistic about things. When we had our first child we had to send a cat to the shelter, because we simply didn’t have time to keep up with his health issues and non-use of the litter box. I try to keep things in perspective. Children are family members and pets are residents of the household. I never refer to my pets as kids, children, etc. Yes, they bring me joy and are nice companions, but nothing compared to my kids, not even in the same universe. Still, taking our Kwoan out of the house for what may have been the last time was no less fun or heart wrenching. The thought now of having to do this again and having to explain to my four year old daughter again, that Kwoan may not becoming home just tears me up inside.

I do not want to make the decision to put him to sleep, but I know that it comes down to me. The vet also mentioned that if he does not respond to the higher dosage that he can refer me to an internist at an animal hospital. I really want to see the mouthy little Siamese get better, but I’m really not willing to go down a long path that involves multiple potential “last” trips. Not to mention the cost. It may sound cold, but the reality is spending a large amount of money to keep my cat alive for a few more months or even years means taking something away from my family. I can certainly justify a few hundred dollars, but at some point I do have to put a price on this cat’s life. And that maybe the toughest decision of all…

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