It has taken me a good long time to get around to writing this post.
 There are several reasons for this. One is that I haven’t wanted to examine the factors about which I would be writing so closely. Another is that just as soon as one obstacle was safely behind, another popped up in its place. My mantra for the past four months or so has been “if I can just make it to the end of the week…”
 Suffice it to say, it’s been a rough time. And since this past “end of the week” is the first time a true end actually arrived or felt even applicable, now I take the time to write. I’ll try and start as close to the beginning as possible.
 On November 9, I found out I was out of a job.
 My boss had gotten married and decided to move out of state, and just didn’t want to be a business owner anymore. All fine, of course, but it sure would have been nice to know that he was thinking seriously in that direction a few months earlier (at least for my stress levels). I worked through the end of the month, and felt decidedly un-Thankful around the holiday. But it was a great one nonetheless, featuring my K’Frank as my dauntless sous-chef and a record-breaking 17 mouths to feed.
 When December set in, so did the unemployment. And the depression that accompanied it. I applied for a handful of jobs at companies I was really passionate about (Etsy, the NYPL, etc.) and heard nothing back. I tried to fill my days with constructive work at home and exercise, but despite my best efforts I was in a serious funk. The light at the end of the tunnel of idleness was the promise of a new show. Rehearsals were to begin on February 8, and I was ready to have something to do with my time other than bake and knit and watch TV.
 I spent half of January in the same malaise, and then, miracle of miracles! Not one, but TWO jobs on my horizon. Then came the stress of having to choose between them, worsened since I infinitely preferred one position to the other which had been referred to me by a close friend who was desperate to bring me on board. And on the day I made my choice and accepted the offer from the job I liked better, we found out Dragon was seriously ill.
 We’d noticed a decrease in his appetite and that he seemed in general uncomfortable, so we’d taken him to the vet (a new vet, since the last one had been criminally unresponsive on numerous occasions). After the first visit, they recommended a urine test. After the urine test, an ultrasound. There was something terribly wrong with our sweet little guy’s kidneys. When the ultrasound results came back, the doctor who read them was pretty sure it was lymphoma, which was good news. At least lymphoma was treatable.
 So the day after the urine test, the Husband-Dude left for a week-long trip to Peru. And the day after that, the ultrasound came back, along with the subcutaneous fluids I would have to administer every day and the antacid to help stimulate his appetite.
 That Saturday, I started rehearsals.
 And the following Monday, I started the new job.
 So there I was, working 18 hours a day and then coming home to singlehandedly manage our very sick kitty. By the time Husband-Dude returned, I was completely exhausted, a debt of sleep and mental rest that still hasn’t been paid off. With two sets of hands the doctoring got easier, and easier still was that Husband-Dude could take over the myriad vet visits we had to keep making to get the little guy his fine needle aspiration and other diagnostic tests. But I was still working nearly around the clock, a circumstance exacerbated by the horrible timing of routine subway maintenance that doubled the time of my late-night commute home.
 The diagnostic tests came back inconclusive, and the pet insurance I got at a discount thanks to my new job hadn’t been purchased in time to cover the costs of the biopsy that would be the next step (a next step, the vet told us, that might well kill Dragon in the undertaking, weak as he was). He had progressed to having accidents around the house, and would barely move from his place on our bed. The vet had given him a blood transfusion to try and lessen the load on his barely-working kidneys, as well as a low-protein diet and even more medicines. We decided that we were willing to keep going with the fluids and the pills and the liquids as long as he was.
 And then, on my birthday, he decided he wasn’t. The sweet, tired boy who had borne every prick of the needle and mouthful of foul-tasting liquid with his usual placidity was fighting us, HARD. When we finally got enough into him to justify letting him go, we just looked at each other and cried. Dragon had been perfectly clear. He didn’t want any more help. Not of that kind, at least.
 So the next day I left work early and took off from rehearsal, we went to the vet, and we petted and talked to our sweet little guy until the drugs took effect and he was gone.
 It was the hardest thing I have ever done.
 The post-mortem would show that Dragon had a rare disorder, one about which almost no literature exists and that was completely untreatable. It is a poor comfort, but a small one, to know that we saved him some suffering by helping him die. But when I pass by one of his favorite bedding spots still covered in hair or notice the water dish he used to pull toward himself every time he wanted a drink it is no comfort at all. Forever-home for him was only a year and a half. Not nearly long enough for us. Nor Cougar, who despite treating him like the veritable leper while he was sick cried at the door after we came home without him and now more than ever follows us from room to room, as if afraid that if we leave her sight we too will never come back.
 The weeks after we put Dragon down were hard. Coping with his loss, back to working long hours with no respite, dealing with a dying hard drive that I wasn’t financially prepared to replace, and then the death of a former coworker from cancer. With news of James’s passing, I was pretty much convinced that nothing good would ever happen again, that I was stuck in a grim loop of sadness and strife. This is of course untrue, but it didn’t change the effect this mindset had on my physical and emotional state. Times were tough. I was running on fumes and pretty much tired of fighting what felt like an unwinnable battle.
 I still am, really. But the show has completed its run, so I have a little more time to myself now. Thanks to wonderful friends and the most wonderful guy in the world, I made it through. No one else had died. Yet. Hopefully I will be able to recoup some of my normal equilibrium before the next tragedy.
 And in the meantime, I will get some therapy. Craft therapy.
 Be on the lookout for some FO posts, folks. They’re coming.