Seventeen Years of Denial: My Life With Cigarettes – Part I

I distinctly remember sitting in the smoke-hazed basement of a Parma dive bar, circa 2001. On the table in front of me was two packs of Marlboro Reds, one half smoked and one for back-up, with a Bic decorated in pastel scales and moons and stars for my zodiac sign. Topping off the stack of paraphernalia was an inhaler of Albuterol. One of my friends came over and said, “Really? Really, Annette?” gesturing towards the ironic pile of items before me, face contorted into a disapproving cringe. I laughed and said, “Yeah, I’ve got the bronchitis again but that certainly won’t get in the way of my partying!”

Concern about the dangers of smoking cigarettes was oddly absent from my psyche for 17 years. What makes this so strange is my penchant for believing that I am dying from every disease under the sun and that I have operated this way since I old enough to speak. This wasn’t unfounded however, as I was always a sickly person and immediately caught whatever was going around. More than one doctor diagnosed me with asthma, and I suffered from bouts of bronchitis several times each year when the seasons changed.

Growing up in the 80’s, everyone smoked everywhere. In the house, in the car, in restaurants while people were trying to eat their meals, on airplanes, in the teachers’ lounge at school, in the common areas of the mall. When I was little, I’d cry and beg for the adults to not smoke around me. “But I can’t breathe! Pleeeeease!” I’d wail. Who knew I’d grow up to be one of those fools, mindlessly blowing smoke in the faces of children, sick people, old people, innocent people, like my mom and my grandmothers.

A particularly dark nicotine-fueled crime that I committed is one that I block out and put so far in the corner of my mind because if I think too much about it, I’ll burst into a full-fledged anxiety attack. For the first three years of my beloved cat Larz’s life, and then later, my other cat Bisquie, lived in a smoke-drenched apartment. We smoked like chimneys and looking back, it was highly disgusting. I had no fear of cigarettes hurting me because I was in denial. So I really had no inkling that I was hurting my pets. I’m nauseated now looking back. And I fear every vet visit now is going to bring news that I caused my beloved cats damage and pain. For someone who loves her pets and goes to such lengths to keep them healthy and happy, it’s again insane that I smoked around them like it was normal and fine. It’s not, and it’s been shown that second-hand smoke is as dangerous to pets as it is to humans.


Cigs are worse than Cat AIDS. I know this now. 

It’s typical of a smoker to blame everything but cigarettes for the problems they have that are so obviously caused by smoking them. For years I would say, “I had these problems before I ever smoked! I was a mere tot when the bronchitis started!” I also had no regard for people who had to smell me and my smoky hair and hands and clothes. They were, as far as I was concerned, lying or exaggerating or just simply didn’t want me to be happy. They were all being crybabies and really needed to shut their whiny mouths. There was no way my smoke was bothering them because it wasn’t bothering me. And so that’s a peek inside the rational of a cigarette addict. Like many in the grip of an addiction, it is a dark and selfish place.

Years went by and my smoking became worse, even as laws to inconvenience me and put me in the margins of society continued to pass in Ohio and beyond. I didn’t care though – I’d just smoke at home then. I’d go outside in negative temperatures and freeze and shiver and look ridiculous. I’d miss entire parties, whole conversations and important moments and speeches and the singing of Happy Birthday and the cutting of wedding cakes countless times because I was outside having a cigarette. How sad.

By 2006, my Grandpa who smoked for 50 years, decided that it was time to quit. He said he did it for my dad, who was by this time, puffing three packs a day and we were all worried about him. Funny, I’d lie awake freaking out about my father’s smoking, but never had a concern for my own. The following May, my dad had declared he’d too had enough, and he got myself and a group of his smoker friends together and took us to a smoking cessation laser therapy session. I made it two whole hours afterward without a cigarette, then epically failed by meeting my friends at a Middle-Eastern hookah bar, where my willpower proved no match for the strawberry flavored, fluffy white clouds of cancer that couldn’t fill my lungs fast enough. My father however, never picked up a cigarette again after that day.

I didn’t know it yet, but by the Spring of 2011, my days of being a smoker were coming to an abrupt end.

Retrocatively Embarrassed: My Life with Cigs – Part II will post later this week…stay tuned for the climax and resolution of this compelling saga…


Update on Larz & Bisquie’s Diet Plan

It has been a long three months for Nette F over here. I took a lovely vacation to Southern California, celebrated turning 34 years awesome, and started a major dining room and living room remodel! Between the endless toiling in Corporate America, planning a wedding, and all of these other exciting endeavors, I haven’t had a chance to post as regularly as I hope to moving forward. However, I did want to provide an update on the kitties’ new diet plan. We’ve made tons of progress, and we have a winning combination at this time!

All of the foods that I originally tried out in September are now official losers in this house and we are off of them completely. Soon after I realized all of these brands were fails, it was back to the drawing board. Not only is it expensive to experiment like this, but it is also unsettling for the little guys. Cats are true creatures of habit. They love their routines, and they really don’t like change, even when it is for progress. In this way, cats would make good Conservatives (Kidding! No, I am not. Yes I am! No, I am really not though).  In fact, it can be detrimental to their health when something changes. They are not afraid to let you know when you’ve crossed them either. Larz won’t speak to me and Bisquie tries to bite my hands off when they need to let me know I’ve committed a crime against felinity. I could tell that they were cross with me because I was changing their food every day. I needed to pick one and stick to it, so that is what I did and that’s where we are today.

Before I reveal the interim resolution, here are a few things I have learned during this experiment:

1. My cats are going to have a hard time adapting to a raw food diet. They are not interested in the rehydrated raw varieties such as Stella & Chewy’s or The Honest Kitchen. This was a big disappointment to me because The Honest Kitchen comes very highly rated by all of the pet food studies out there. Most studies I have read actually places this brand and the philosophy behind it as the very best way to go outside of making your own food from scratch. I so badly wanted them to devour this wholesome food, but they literally refused it, paws down!

Failed Foods

2. After being on an all-natural, 100% grain free diet now for quite awhile, there are palpable differences in the way the cats look, feel and smell. Their coats are just gleaming and incredibly soft. I am talking softer than the finest silk and shiny as a gem. Larz’s black parts are so shiny in fact that you can see every color of the rainbow reflected when he is sitting in a sunbeam. Their poos are also barely smellable. Any cat owner will tell you that a kitty can produce a dump so foul smelling that you think that you will need to have the house professionally fumigated right meow! No longer. There is also considerably less dander to contend with as well, which is measurable by the amount of ground you can cover vacuuming before having to empty a canister or put in a new bag. As for the phenomenon of hairballs…we have had one – and only one – in months. I always read that these benefits come with a high quality, grain-free diet, but I have been impressed how much it’s become obvious lately.

3. This quest also led me to discover what I believe to be the best pet specialty store in the area. The Furry Nation is located in Lakewood, Ohio on Detroit and Brockley (pronounced like the vegetable if you are me). I love this place, and not just because it is located in a renovated early 1900’s funeral home and you occasionally leave with ectoplasm in your hair (no, you won’t).  I love it because it is locally owned, only carries top quality brands, has a massive selection, and two darling Husky pups are always hanging out there. They also have samples readily available, which is great because you can take a free meal home and see if they like something before having to commit to a $27 bag of food. It was because of a sample I received here that I was finally able to get these cats onto something that works. 

Larz smelled something he liked in my purse, so he dove in and made off with the food. This is how I knew I had found a winner.

Larz smelled something he liked in my purse, so he dove in and made off with the food. This is how I knew I had found a winner.

Where We Are Today

After months of trial and error and sample-begging store clerks, we have a food routine and it’s working! Soon after we started this journey, I was introduced to Tiki Cat brand canned foods, and I began acclimating the guys to this. To my surprise, they loved it! Tiki Cat is a very high quality canned brand that is highly rated, made with human grade ingredients and uses USDA certified Chicken for the type I feed them (Puka Puka Luau). I occasionally give them Hookeena Luau (Ahi Tuna and Chicken), Hawaiian Grill (Ahi Tuna), or Koolina Luau (Chicken & Egg).

tiki cans

One day I came home, my purse stuffed with trial-sized nuggets of Primal Pet Foods in Chicken & Salmon flavor, and as you can see from the photo above, Larz when nuts over it. The person at the store told me a great way to get them to accept these freeze-dried formulas is to sprinkle some on top of their wet food. I did, and they went nuts for it. Primal is also very highly rated, and all-natural, grain-free and made in the USA with USDA, human-grade ingredients. This is literally the best stuff you can buy.

And now for the kibble. We are firmly on Orijen Cat & Kitten Biologically Appropriate formula. This is another one that is the best you can buy.

Tiki Cat - Puka Puka Luau topped with Primal Pet Foods Chicken & Salmon formula, with a small side of Orijen Cat & Kitten Biologically Appropriate

Tiki Cat – Puka Puka Luau topped with Primal Pet Foods Chicken & Salmon formula, with a small side of Orijen Cat & Kitten Biologically Appropriate

So here we are with the winning menu! It’s a small Christmas Miracle!

Have you tried any of these brands yet? If so, I’d love to hear your opinion on how they have worked for you.