August 19, 2018

letter to molly

Dear Molly,

First, I would like to say that it's unfortunate that you managed to tip my cup of coffee into that tray a few weeks ago, and after consuming every illicit drop with vigor, acquired what appears to be a keen taste for it.  It is further regrettable that the coffee was not decaf.  Watching you run laps around the yard was entertaining, to say the least.  However, it would be appreciated if you could abandon the seek-and-destroy mentality you now manifest regarding our coffee cups, everywhere in the house.

You're wicked smart and our attempts to cover the ceramic mugs with various objects have proven vain.  If we place them on high shelves, then we can't reach them ourselves, and the exercise is self-defeating.

We need you to un-learn coffee, please.

(Note:  By way of extrapolation, this request extends to bagels.  I tire of cleaning cream cheese off my laptop keyboard.)

I've been Googling this morning on the subject on whether the tiny pieces of cloth you're ingesting when ripping up toys - and this includes tennis ball skins, terry cloth toys, and bits of rope - will pass through you instead of causing an obstructive blockage.  The consensus seems to be that in moderation, this is normal, but it's still going to stress us out.

My main reason for writing, though, is to ask that you dial down the blatant manipulation achieved by being cute.  Pouncing on tiny grasshoppers in the front yard of the Lodge is acceptable employment of your cuteness, as is tilting your head with pointed ears and a wrinkled brow of concern when someone plays dog noises on YouTube or hits keys on the piano.  However, this pattern of jumping up beside one of us on the sofa and then quickly wriggling into a curled-up, snuggly ball of sudden puppy exhaustion is diabolical.  It cannot be resisted, though our conscious minds scream the logic of negative precedent and lost opportunities for training and reinforcement and the sudden danger to our down-filled throw pillows.

It seems to have already solidified as a permissible behavior, thanks to your wiles, such that last night, I found myself lying down cuddled up with you, lazily rubbing your soft belly as we both dozed lightly, watching you while you dreamed with twitching paws and sniffing nose.  You really do enjoy those grasshoppers, don't you?

I've never slept with dogs in the bed before, though I know this is widely accepted behavior among many persons.  I'm wary of its effect on my sleep, which has suffered lately because of work stress, but I can see that there is no going back.  I'd just like you to know that being still and calm and sleeping through the night is cute.  Incredibly cute.  You just wouldn't believe how cute it is.  Try it out.


Lille S. God-Damn-It*

p.s.  Could you please stop changing color?  Every day there are new markings on you, more and more German shepherd traits emerging.  We can't keep up.

*Our dogs' surname is God-Damn-It.  We frequently call them by their full names.

August 18, 2018

it felt like the first day of school

The same song that gave me full-spine chills the first time I heard it, the song that played on the radio and in my head after I dropped my son off for his first day of kindergarten with a new backpack and pencil box and name tag and spent the drive to work afterward singing along with a clenched throat, is with me again.  It's something to do with the slant of the light and the upcoming bustle on my calendar and the construction paper on sale at the grocery store:

"I had a dream that blows the autumn through my head
It felt like the first day of school
But I was going to the Moon instead
I walked down the hall with the notebooks they'd got for me
My dad led me through the house
My mom drank instant coffee
And I knew that I would crash
But I didn't want to tell them
There are just some moments when your family makes sense
They just make sense
So I raised up my arms and my mother put the sweater on
I walked out on the dark and frozen grass
The end of summer
It's the end of the summer
When you send your children to the moon."

--Dar Williams, "End of the Summer"

I don't remember my first trip to the moon, only the mimeographed red apple sheet that I colored with new crayons while my mother talked with my kindergarten teacher and assessed my readiness.  I've already discussed what kindergarten was like for me.  I was a plaything across the school.  Instead of making friends and learning those fumbling first steps of making and keeping friends, I was whisked from the class so regularly that I knew the halls of the elementary school, passed around among teacher after teacher and asked to read difficult passages from middle school reading textbooks, perform multiplication and division problems, type stories on their newly-acquired IBM PC, absorb Spanish numbers and colors and phrases, solve pattern problems with blocks and weird little kits.  Other times, I was confined to my cramped desk in my kindergarten classroom, being treated like a kindergarten student.  I sometimes sat on the floor under my desk to hide, though plainly visible.  And I sometimes left my seat and asked my teacher for a hug.  She gave them freely.

My kindergarten teacher wrote me letters until I was in my twenties.  Every few years, she would check in to see how I was doing.  This tells me my experience was not a typical one at that school.  It also tells me that she knew they didn't do quite right by me.  I suspect most of how I fared there was not left up to her.

First grade was more of the same, until my family moved to the next town and I had to transfer schools.  I was uprooted and planted in different soil, and exposed to an entirely new approach.  My first grade teacher called my parents in to discuss, not my intellectual development, but my social deficits, after I showed her the Pythagorean theorem on the chalkboard one morning and she spent the rest of the day observing my aura of solitude.  I remember the first day in her classroom.  The girl named Danielle with frizzy blonde hair stared at me, and she seemed to have command of the group of children who surrounded my seat, and I knew with a child's simple, tribal understanding that I would be alone in that room, no adults to fill in for the children who would never accept me.  So it goes with all new kids arriving mid-year.

My parents agreed to stop teaching me things at home, and I was away from teachers who did the same thing, so the rest of the year brought boredom, and cautious accolades from the teacher for completing my math worksheets in record time, and watching Ricky the skinny kid with long hair do the worm and several other break-dancing moves during recess.

In second grade, my teacher loved me, and did a poor job of treating me the same as the other students.  She was a thimble of water in a desert.  I adored her.  I adored the perfume she wore.  I sat beside her desk and basked in it.  I spent that year engaged in reading as many books as possible in competition with others and in re-learning much of the math I had lost.  Sometimes the principal of the school would come watch me do long division.

I wonder if they ever discussed me in meetings.

In third grade, my teacher may as well have been a robot, for all her cool, impassive presence.  I cannot recall a single kind word, only emotional inaccessibility already well-known to me at home.  It was a split classroom, half third-graders and half fourth-graders, and we lower citizens were expected to complete worksheets while she taught the older students multiplication.  I would call out the answers before any of the other kids could, and she would rebuke me and tell me to mind my own business.  The girl named Danielle would stick her tongue out at me when the teacher wasn't looking.  But I remember when we drew names at Christmas and brought in wrapped gifts.  I got a pack of magic markers from Leslie that smelled of fruit scents.  The black one was licorice.  I treasured them.

Fourth grade was the year when we all began to develop the social awareness that would follow us for life.  One girl already had to wear a bra.  Many of us were already discovering bad breath and deodorant and cliques and baseball cards and a thousand other ways of finding safety in a tribe.  My teacher is at fault for at least two-thirds of the nails in my social coffin.  She would stand me in front of the class with her hands on my shoulders and tell everyone how they should be like me, making perfect marks on classwork and working so very hard and being a model student.  I could almost hear their fangs filling with venom to be used later.

I was lucky.  I only got a black eye once that year, only endured verbal pummeling from two fifth graders in the car rider line after school, under the symbolically protective gaze of several teachers, and I was more or less unmolested when I played on the playground monkey bars by myself.  I did make a friend named Louise from another class.  We liked to be alone together at recess and pretend that we had psychic abilities, but I can't remember if we used them for anything other than describing made-up visions and predicting when persimmons would fall to the ground from the tree next to the swings.  I would go home at night and read in our 1971 encyclopedia set about the differences between telekinesis and clairvoyance and mental telepathy, then go to bed and fall asleep trying to close my bedroom door with my mind.  I never even budged it, but I kept that from Louise.

My fourth-grade teacher did do something right, though.  I had a purple bracelet with my name spelled out in beads.  I had bought it from Zayre after saving up weeks and weeks of allowance money, my heart set on it.  The other girl in my class with the same name nabbed it one day, and put it on, and claimed it was hers.  I brought the case before our teacher in considerable distress, the judge, and each of us said it was hers.  Our teacher said she could not prove either of us was being truthful, so she confiscated the bracelet.  After school, she came to me and said she'd seen me wearing it before, and gave it back, and asked me to take it home, but to never wear it to school again, because it would cause trouble.  I can think of three better ways now that she could have managed this predicament, but at the time, it felt like mercy and validation, and I did as she asked.  I have no idea what became of the bracelet.

I had a male teacher in fifth grade, something new to all of us, and school became a lot more academic that year.  I failed my first test.  I also became the butt of a thousand practical jokes played by a group of boys, the ones destined to be the popular kids, and had the girls form a club for the purpose of tormenting me.  One day, without permission, I made my seat in the back of the room by  dragging a school desk alongside two discarded stacked teachers' desks draped with a cloth, just-so in the corner, turning it into a cool, dark private space where I could listen and pay attention and also hide and feel safe.  It was highly impractical because I had to climb over my desk to get out each time.  But it was a clubhouse.  It was Martha's Vineyard.  It was Wade's van in Ready Player One.

The teacher was assailed with jealous pleading and wailing and gnashing of teeth by the club girls because I had created and claimed this coveted space, but he listened with a blank expression and never altered the arrangement.  I think he perceived the situation clearly and decided I needed the desk more than anyone else.  Sometimes, tiny justices are what save us.

Sixth grade.  This is how I entered my Teacher's classroom, crowned with all of the possibilities that advancement to middle school bestowed, but showing no other sign of royalty beneath my pauper's rags as I took my seat in front of the far left row, right in front of her desk.  I was still alone, and thirsty, and longing to hide under something or become invisible.  On the first day of school, she looked at me holding a crisp, new green notebook, the one who had crashed yet again on the moon and clambered out of the familiar, fitting wreckage, the one who radiated need, the one who had crumpled in the face of adversity instead of growing stronger, and she smiled at me.

August 17, 2018

body odor, scorpions, or krispy kreme doughnuts

Typical day at Body
Odor High School
The Kid's high school open house is five days away and I'm already dreading it, in sleeping and waking, by day and by night.

This is normal.  A school open house is like Wal-Mart on Black Friday combined with an amusement park on the day all the middle schools bring their band kids, except with more paperwork.  The hallways are full of elbows and shoving past and girl giggles and the OSHA-regulated smell of adolescence.  Everyone gets there very early, and on time, and later in order to avoid the initial rush, so that there is never, ever anywhere to park.  Dreading all of this is a reasonable thing to do.

It's not that, though.  It's the fear that I'm going to run into our old friends, the ones who dumped us a year and a half ago.  Their daughter will now be attending the same high school my son attends.

I've been trying to envision the various possibilities.

Best-case scenario:  I don't see them anywhere, either because they come at a different time or because we happen to be on different hallways.

Worst-case scenario:  We're in the same hallway and a gap opens up in the crowd (maybe because of some particularly foul body odor in the vicinity) and they're standing over there and we look up and our eyes meet, and they turn away and walk off.

The other worst-case scenario:  We're in the same hallway and a gap opens up in the crowd (possibly because someone poured scorpions all over the floor) and they're standing over there and we look up and our eyes meet, and we stare at each other because none of us knows what to say or do and no one wants to be the asshole who looks away first, and the Universe implodes from excessive awkwardness.

The other other worst-case scenario:  We're in the same hallway and a gap opens up in the crowd (definitely because they announced free Krispy Kreme doughnuts in the cafeteria over the intercom system) and they're standing over there and we look up and our eyes meet, and they come over to us and start talking in an effort to un-awkwardify things, and maybe it's just to settle that down, and maybe it's because they want to make amends, and honestly I don't know which would be worse, so break this one down into other-other-worst-case-scenarios (a) and (b).

Scenario that isn't worst but is still pretty bad:  We're in the same hallway and a gap opens up in the crowd (and I can't even have the doughnuts, so fuck whoever in the parent teacher association went out and got them), and they're standing over there and we look up and our eyes meet, and because I decided to beforehand, I'm the one who turns away and walks off.

I'd probably walk right into a wall because the tears would sting.

See?  There isn't a good way for this to work out.  We don't want reconciliation because we'll just get hurt again down the road, but I'm afraid of seeing them because that will hurt, too, no matter which scenario plays out.  It will hurt if they flip me off and it will hurt if they hug me and says it's been too long.

The flip-off is far more likely.

That's why I liked them so god-damned much.  They would even do the horizontal part and say, "And the horse you rode in on."

I considered making The Kid's dad take him, but I'm not going to chicken out because I'm obsessive about getting my hands on those lists of needed supplies.  I sit in the parking lot afterward and order rare Five Star notebooks and the best pens and shit from Amazon on my phone, then yell, "Upper-class tiger-mom bitchesI beat you!" triumphantly out the car window.

Not really.

But I'll be there.  Shaking, maybe, with a pit in my stomach, but there.  This is one of those despicable situations where the only way out is through.

August 14, 2018

never deep clean because you find traumatized edamame

Yesterday, Molly yarked up a mile-long trail of grass and foam ear plugs.  P.J. picked it all up in a towel and folded the towel up in a desperate attempt to make it all go away like it never happened, because it really was that disgusting, but the end result of that is a towel that's sitting there balled up that nobody wants to touch.  It's a problem and we can't nope out of it.

The ear plugs came from the same place as the lotion bottles, we realized:  Molly's found a way to get under the bed.  I started sleeping with ear plugs years ago, mainly because every single little thing that happens in the house can trigger my startle reflex once I'm asleep and nobody wants to peel me off of the ceiling or put up with me the day after a night like that, especially me.  I buy those purple Fleet plugs in the 100-piece jars.  I'm constantly having to take new ones out of the jar because the pair I took out just a few days before mysteriously disappeared joined their people in Plugotopia, located on the floor under the headboard, a magical land of dust and power strips.

Because of the yarkisode, P.J. and I decided that it would be an ideal time to turn the mattress, which we've been putting off doing for over a month because it's too much like work, and to use the disheveled-mattress stage to pick up everything that's under the box springs back there.  Except that when we got the mattress moved and I looked to see how many ear plugs there were, I saw this:

It was at least five minutes before I could even talk.  P.J. and I still can't look at each other today because we start laughing again and it hurts.

This little ... object ... entity ... being ... was looking at me all reproachfully like, "Do you even know how long I've been down here?  Where the fuck have you been?  Do you see how dusty it is?  I don't have any friends, either.  The ear plugs hate me.  I'm sad.  I've been here and sad for a really long time.  Don't you even care?"

I didn't know if it was supposed to be the God of Ear Plugs conceived by a growing population, or a rotten lime, or a forgotten Bark Box toy, or a figment of my imagination.  I just know that it's the funniest thing I've seen since the night P.J.'s cat walked over the lamp shade and cast the shadow of Gothor the Great Blood Demon of the Night on the ceiling and I pointed up in silent horror with my mouth open.

Investigation bore out that it is a forgotten dog toy, probably an edamame that wanted to be an actor when it grew up, but that had tiger parents that forced it to be an edamame against its will.  We know it's a dog toy because it squeaks.

The experience of living under our bed for god-only-knows-how-long has not done wonders for its disposition.  Ditto for the sight of Molly's teeth when she heard the squeaking.

Then it occurred to me that it has been hiding all this time from Chester or Rose, alone and afraid and completely traumatized by its early days of being used as a squeaky toy.

We're trying to give it a supportive community and teach it what it's like to have friends and a hygienic environment.  I'm naming him Derek the Traumatized Edamame.  I think with enough time and understanding, we can help him ....

... oh, fuck, seriously?  I was going to write "come out of his shell" and then I realized what I was about to say and no, because I hate puns.  So we're just going to make him feel better, okay?  Fine.  Good.

Update:  It turns out that it's a Bark Box cactus that's been ripped open and lost its spikes and been exposed.  So it's Derek the Violated Cactus now.  I liked him better as edamame.

August 13, 2018

mushy sponge brain

The chances are fair to middling that I won't be as prolific this week as I would like, owing to our annual Hell Week at work (loads of fiscal bullshit, chaos, and general frenzy).  My brain is a wrung-out sponge right now and the parts that write are on strike.

I cope by playing Minecraft at lunch.

Therapy is also fun ... I have the ability to access great depths within myself, such as concern about my toenail polish color and dreading the start of school because they never tell you which notebooks you need until it's too late to buy them, except that Amazon solves Problems like that.  Therapy isn't all that productive.

I'm going to try my best, though.

So I'll leave you with this wonderful text from my daddy yesterday, regarding Molly's turd-eating episode:

"How is your S-E-D?  That's my acronym for 'feces consuming animal'."

It took me three full minutes to get "shit-eating dog."

August 12, 2018

puppy love

"I was breaking the laws that the sign-makers made
And all I could eat was the poisonous apple
And that's not a story I was meant to survive ... "

                - Dar Williams, "You're Aging Well"

"Oh, hai!"
Molly is about to turn three years old in dog years.  I'm not going by a chart to determine that age.  I'm going by her behavior and her developmental stage.  If you've reared a child and passed through this stretch of road, you remember.  It's a road to Somewhere Else.  You wouldn't have dreamed of renting a room here.  You passed on through as fast as the speed limit would allow.  And you went nine miles per hour over it.

The details have mercifully hazed over, but you recall the sense of being tethered, hyper-aware, discovering over and over again small mischiefs of negligible consequence - and sometimes damned near misses of grave consequence - that in both cases required you to be the corrector and guide, the vigilant and appointed enactor of the real meaning of "discipline".  There was no rest, no trust in your charge.  You were always there.

Except for when she's sleeping.  Molly will sleep through the night with us now, but daytime naps last four minutes.  She keeps one eye ready to open when she detects any human movement, even just crossing our legs on the couch.  Then she switches back into awake mode, which has two sub-modes, one of which is come up and asking for affection and the attendant opportunity to lick our faces and bite our noses and chins.

The other mode is seek-and-destroy curiosity.  She finds things like eight-year-old food wrappers that fell behind something in accessible to us and that we gave to Jesus and moved on, and small bottles of lotion from low-lying baskets that we failed to relocate.  Earlier this week, she got a mouthful of body wash.  I never got to find out how she felt about that.  Her breath didn't smell like Sparkling Peach Cider Foaming Shower Gel.

It did put me in mind of the time Chester nicked and ate an entire fucking package of lemon Plink balls and had lemony-fresh breath for two straight days.

We've implemented Phase Two of puppy-proofing.

This is on top of continuing to need to monitor her every move when she disappears from sight, because while we have an imaginary sign posted in our hallway that reads "[THREE] Days Without Piddle Accident", it could still happen.  She's getting much better.  We might be in the home stretch here.  Typing that just doomed us to a piddle accident today.  I realize this.

The pineapple dinners are working.  The bottom half of the sign reads "[SIX] Days Ingested Turd-Free".

But sometimes, there is Molly, lying contentedly on a rug or voluntarily in her pen, where she thinks she is invisible and safe from discovery and interruption, chewing on a shoe or a roll of toilet paper or one of our good colored pencils that rolled under something two years ago and couldn't be retrieved, and one of us issues the corrective rebuke, waits a few seconds, and then reassures her that she is, in fact, a Good Girl and everything is all right.

Because it was all about the colored pencil.  It was never about Molly.  Molly doesn't live and breathe with the awareness that anything she does might be okay but could also bring down wrath that wouldn't be so easily retracted, could bring down condemnation.  Molly knows that if what she is doing is in violation of how we do things around here, she will experience a few seconds of unpleasantness, a learning moment, and then a "good girl" and an ear scratch and a chin to kiss.

She is acting appropriately for her age.  Her intrinsic worth is never invaded and vandalized.  She can do Wrong and never leave the circle of love-light.

Puppies and children deserve this.

August 10, 2018

dear target, don't do that

Dear Target,

First, please understand that I am still committed to our long-term relationship.  I fucking hate Wally World and boycott them whenever possible, and I love you for having cheap Quest bars and good dog toys that are mostly made in 'Merica.  We're good.  We're tight.

I just want to bring up the whole Target Photo thing.  We need to talk.

It's like I don't even know you right now.

I ordered a print of my kid yesterday through your web site.  I uploaded a high-resolution copy of him in his natural habitat (staring at his phone with a vacant expression, because I think it's important to have accurate snapshots of one's kids on an office desk) and you asked me what size I wanted, and I told you, and I submitted everything, and you gave me an order number and told me to pick it up today and pay for it at the closest Target store.

I walked into that store this morning and asked a cashier where the Target Photo area was located, and she pointed to the customer service desk, and the person at the customer service desk pointed at something in the corner that looked like a yellow, boxy version of Robot B-9 from Lost In Space but turned out to be a Kodak photo printing machine.

"So I just key in my order number and it spits it out?" I asked her.

"Yeah, just use what they sent you, put it in under Online Orders," she replied, and walked away.

It only took one minute and fourteen seconds before I had to ask her for assistance.  "Where is the Online Orders section?  I've looked under all of these categories and I can't find it," I explained.

"Oh, it's right here, under Other Services, then Services, then See Additional Options, then More Services, then Other Orders, then Online Orders.  See?"

She flew through those choices, then hurried off again, and I set about typing in my order number from the e-mail Target had sent yesterday.  This was done with some difficulty, as this machine's screen utilizes the modern, cutting-edge technology of resistive touch, last seen in PalmPilots, placing it somewhere between current cell phones and God etching shit on stone tablets with lightning bolts on a mountain top.

I finished hammering in the number and used my elbow to bear down on Next.

"That order number is not found.  Please check your order number and enter it again."

It was correct.

I punched Next again.  They could have at least provided a courtesy stylus.

"This printing unit is experiencing a connection to store issue.  Please ask for assistance."

I very inappropriately wedged myself behind the machine to check for network connectivity and jiggled a few cables.  But in the end, the same down-trodden customer service associate ended up inside the cabinet beneath, pulling out servers that belonged in War Games and looking at blinking lights.  "Everything's working perfectly," she said, in direct contradiction to all proof otherwise.

I shrugged and told her I'd try Walgreens.  She looked relieved.

Target, is this your idea of Target Photo?  Is this what you're representing to be a service offered by Target to customers, with an online interface, convenience, seamless integration of technology, and exceeding point-of-sale standards?  Because you know what?  The kid in my photo is younger than that Kodak machine.  He gets his driver's license soon.

August 9, 2018

which aisle has the sonic screwdrivers?

conflict?  No problem.
I ran to the hardware store at lunch time today to buy the bug-light flood bulb .... flood-light bug bulb ... light-bulb flood bug ... whatever, one of those things that hornets don't hang around for fun.

While I was far along the light bulb aisle and looking through the umpty-million kinds of bulbs, an employee of the store more or less shouted down the aisle to me from the front of the store, "Ma'am, do you need any help today?"  I ignored him the first time, because there was no way he could possibly be speaking to me from that far away, but then he did it again, so I made long-distance arm gestures to indicate that I was fine.

Because a woman wearing a dress cannot possibly shop for light bulbs under her own power and capability.

I also bought a tie-out and stake for Molly and a tarp to go under her crate at the Lodge this weekend, since the piddle accidents have not exactly subsided.

I considered finding the light-bulb-shouting guy and dropping my handkerchief, though, when I walked every aisle and absolutely could not find a sonic screwdriver.

I thought that place had everything.

On my way to work this morning, it occurred to me that what happened last night didn't go the way it should.  It should have worked like a Dr. Who episode.

I was playing with Molly with this rope toy that has a ball of rope at the end.  It's proven one of her favorites.  And then I accidentally hit her with the ball bit in the face while trying to toss it.  She yelped and ran away from me, up the stairs and into P.J.'s waiting arms (she'd been watching the fun).

I waded through Trigger City mentally and went up the stairs, because I needed her to be okay with me in the next three seconds or something bad was going to happen in the Punishment Department.  And she did warm right back up to me, after some reassurance.  It upset Rose, too, of course, so much petting and high-pitched voices were involved.

I went back downstairs, mired in self-anger, and Rose came with me, and I told her under my breath, "Sure, Rose, come with me, let's see if I can find a way to hit you in the face."

The self-injury impulse was ferocious.  I stood up to it, and it had my sister's face, though it could have been Genghis Khan instead.  Lille screamed at her.  "Get out!  GET OUT!"

She didn't get out.  I just eventually calmed down.

The whole Dr. Who component was missing.  I have Matt Smith in mind.  The way it's supposed to work is this:  There's a problem plaguing a planet or a people or some large entity, and it's been there for a long time, and no one realizes what is causing the problem, but in the last ten minutes of the episode, Dr. Who discovers what it is, devises a solution, implements it, and everything is fixed.

The sonic screwdriver is usually involved.

Lille can't kick my cunt of a sister out of my head.  This has been plaguing me my entire life, causing me to self-injure for the past decade, causing me to look at my feet when I walk and verbally lash myself inside with "you're so fucking stupid" and feel like all of these things are in perfect order and just as they should be.

So we're at the part where Matt Smith comes in and uses his sonic screwdriver and my cunt of a sister disappears in a flash of light or a really terrible special effect with a green light that has pink behind it and makes her shrink away like a goo blob until she's gone.

It's the last ten minutes.  I know what's wrong now, what's been plaguing me.  Why isn't this episode wrapping up nicely and tidily like it does on TV?

August 7, 2018

the tree scrotum

I almost didn't put this
here because now I have
to look at it a lot.
Therapist Gumby:  "So we were planning to talk about your cunt of a sister today, yes?  Do some more work on that?"

Me:  "Yeah.  Promised last week that we would.  Guess we have to.  If I can.  Whatever."

TG:  "Hmmm."

Me:  "But that's like asking you to do your math homework in the middle of the infield during a major league baseball game.  Just saying.  My brain is all everywhere today.  Hey, is the lighting in here different?  How long has that picture been there?"

TG:  "Well, let's try, and the distractions might subside.  It's worth a try, isn't it?"

Me:  "Are you accusing me of being obstructive?"

TG:  "No, I am not accusing you of being obstructive, nor do I think you are being obstructive.  Just a little distracted.  So about your cunt of a sister ... "

Me:  *tears welling up*  "You're irritated with me because you think I'm changing the subject because I don't think I can focus on my cunt of a sister, aren't you?  I can totally tell!"

TG:  "I am not irritated with you."

Me:  "You are, too!"  *counts on fingers, stares at ceiling while mouthing numbers*  "Oh, never mind.  I just figured out why I'm like this today.  I have PMS.  Wasn't expecting it so soon.  Sorry about that.  What were you saying?"

My mother spent most of my early adolescence thinking that I might be pregnant.  This sheds light both on her complete lack of reality contact when it came to my social life, because not very many years had passed since all of the birthday parties she had for me when she baked cupcakes and not a single fucking person showed up and our family grazed on cupcakes for a week, and on the complete lack of education we had as a society regarding polycystic ovarian syndrome, which, it turns out, you can have from the onset of puberty if you spent most of your childhood subsisting on a diet of Gorton's fish sticks and three-liter bottles of grape soda.

I started my period when I was eleven, shortly before my twelfth birthday.  I discovered this in a Hardee's bathroom, which is hardly romantic, and came out into the dining room and told Grandma, because I knew she wouldn't overreact or start telling me Things.  She did neither.  I loved that woman.  Even then, I dreaded going home and telling my mother for fear she'd get gushy and emote.  I really just wanted her to hand me a ten-spot so I could walk down to the drug store and get some pads, a silent transaction, but I had to endure her waxing all "hark! my youngest daughter has blossomed into the flower of early womanhood blah blah blah" but without those words.

Even then.  I'm realizing right at this moment that this happened before she read my diary.  She gave me a sentimental look and I remember dreading it beforehand and enduring it unwillingly for the few seconds it lasted.  That's probably significant.

So when I didn't get another period the next month, those looks she gave me went from sentimental to suspicious.  I didn't get one the next month, either.  Or the next one.  My adolescent pattern was two or three times a year, because my ovaries and endocrine system were already croggled.  She only asked me outright twice that I can recall, but she probably lived on the edge and was secretly stashing bibs.

My twenties weren't much different, except that with the help of drugs and some other drugs and some weird drugs on top of those, I was able to conceive and carry two pregnancies.  That was also the decade in which I ended up in an urgent care facility nauseous and breathing shallow breaths because of the pain in my left hip, which turned out to be the result of a four-centimeter ovarian cyst that was "referring pain".  I didn't know about the right-sided thing back then and assumed my appendix had burst and I was moments away from a poignant, toxic death and that my child would scarcely remember his mother.  They gave me Advil.

Only after The Kid was born did I start having PMS.

Only after my gastric bypass did I start having regular cycles and real PMS.

I wasn't ready for that.  The ovary issues were knocked back and my endocrine system was all happy post-surgery, and suddenly I was one of those every-twenty-eight-day bitches from the locker room back in middle school who bragged about "being like clockwork."  Particularly like the bitchy part of those bitches.  And the cramps are horrible.  I take Tramadol for them.  Sometimes it helps.  Sometimes.

The hardest part has been learning how to distinguish between PMS and the mood disorder that's there all the time.  The only way to do it is math, because otherwise there's just no telling on those days.  I track it on my mood chart.  Today's scheduled PMS snuck up on me, but now I have some honey bourbon that I totally should not have in my coffee, because I already had a panic attack this morning because of the second hornet, and then I was an asshole to my therapist for part of the session, and driving home I flat-out told P.J. on the phone that I refused to cook and that there was a desiccated piece of leftover pizza and some pork-fried rice with bean sprouts that look like pinworms and some mozzarella cheese sticks in the refrigerator and that I therefore didn't understand the problem.

The kid came home from his dad's during our meal of nachos, cold steak, and a Lean Cuisine meal.  We were discussing this morning's hornet, which flew into the kitchen the moment I opened the door for the dogs to go out to pee, which was eighteen seconds after my alarm went off and I climbed out of bed.  But I was smart, because Sunday afternoon at the grocery store, I bought that god-damned can of Aqua-Net I was talking about, and I grabbed it and sprayed that fucker until he groveled and prayed to the God of Stingers, then killed him with the edge of a container of disinfectant wipes, because the swatter wasn't on its peg because one of us seems to have hidden it from the other, or from Rose, or something.

I wrote about Aqua-Net to be funny, but seriously, it is sine qua non when it comes to hornet arsenals.  He dropped almost immediately after I sprayed him.  I'm considering pairing the can with a Bic lighter next time.

P.J. called our Bug Guy and was told that European hornets can live anywhere and fly anywhere and do whatever they want, so we're fucked.  There was some detail in the middle of all that, but it didn't really matter.  He did say that they're probably being attracted to the huge-ass flood light we hung outside so we could see if Molly was peeing at night, so we're bringing this on ourselves, and that was pretty helpful information.  We can use yellow bulbs; that helps.  Oh, and they have two stingers, one to hold you close to them and the second to introduce you to a world of venomous pain.

I'm trying to decide if it would be worth watching an entire season of the original Care Bears in exchange for not being stung by one of these.  The jury's deliberating.

Our Bug Guy also said they'd have to find the nest.  P.J. suspected the Cock and Balls Tree in our back yard:

The Cock-and-Balls Tree

Our kid said he'd help me look, but I had the can of Aqua-Net, so he called through the screen door, "Actually, you can do this alone, since you're the only one with a weapon," because apparently I was in Rainbow Six Siege or something.  I approached the tree slowly.  "Does she think it's in the scrotum?" I yelled to him, oblivious of neighbors.  I heard him ask P.J.  "Yeah, check the scrotum carefully," he yelled back.

I approached the tree scrotum with great reluctance, and it had nothing to do with being gay.

I walked the whole yard but no nest could be found, and I'm kind of glad because if I had found it I wouldn't sleep tonight.  We can't watch them at dusk the way you watch yellow jackets return to their nests, because the hornets are active day and night.  The ones that work third shift get better pay from the union, I guess.

All of this is to say, my day started off shitty and then I was hit by walloping PMS, but at least there have been zero dog turds in it thus far, so it hasn't been literally shitty, and Therapist Gumby is super-understanding and really wasn't irritated at all, and my family is so awesome that they don't mind shouting loudly outdoors about tree-scrotum examination.  And when Molly isn't pissing or shitting or turning an entire rug upside-down while trying to bury a flat toy, she's really pretty cute, and Rose is a dear sweetheart, and while I might want to kill people right now, life isn't so bad.

August 6, 2018

and on the second day, god made some other things

Like nitrile gloves, and grocery bags, and MSG.  Which is weird, because rumor has it there wasn't even Pangaea yet, and the Earth was more like Waterworld without the captivating plot.  But I'm not complaining, because I'm looking at all of these things and seeing that They Are Good.

It turns out Molly has the adorable puppy trait of coprophagia.  If you haven't encountered this word before, it basically means "eat shit and die", except without the dying part.

She brought in a foreign object last night and went under the dining table with it, which is what she does when she doesn't want me to take it away from her because usually it's a scrap of toy that a dog lost in our back yard in 1841, which is the last time anyone bothered to rake up leaves, and is therefore grotty and disgusting and has moss growing on it.  Her penchant for locating and excavating these things is remarkable.

So I crawled under the table for the four-hundredth time to get whatever it was away from her.  I held out my hand and commanded, "Drop!"  And she did, into my hand, and looked at me because I had taken away her toy, and her toy turned out to be a huge turd that was still warm.

I'm pretty sure that after I went outside and threw it into the next county, I boiled my hand.

The second time she brought one in, I did all of those things again and then burst into tears, and P.J. had to convince me that my life had not just been instantly reduced to eating, sleeping, breathing, and being a professional shit picker-upper.

Yeah, she said that, but right after that, I chose to walk around the yard with a huge glove and a double-lined plastic grocery bag and worked until I had a bag full of feces, bits of rotten toy, and pieces of household items that I knew would be found and eaten.  Then I gave Molly an entire box of dental chews so I could allow her to lick me again.

Meanwhile, P.J. was researching, and now we have lots of canned pineapple to mix in with the dogs' dinners and a vat of MSG powder on its way from Amazon to our doorstep.  These two things are said to act as a good behavioral deterrent because they make dog turds taste bad to dogs.  One vet site said it makes them taste metallic, but I quickly clicked away from that page and went somewhere else because how the fuck do they know that?

....... no, really.  How?

But ... but ... I don't look like a manipulative, coprophagic,
ADHD, world-destroying piss factory, do I?

August 5, 2018

and that's why god made aqua-net

Did you know you can still buy Aqua-Net hair spray?  I passed it on my way to the non-quiche aisle Friday night.  I love Aqua-Net.  That purple can screams 1980s and takes me back to childhood.  It sat next to the Jean Nate and Cover Girl foundation on my mother's dresser and was largely responsible for my cunt of a sister's three-story hair edifice.  But my love for it has nothing to do with hair.

When I was twelve and in the middle of a regular Saturday night babysitting gig, a spider crawled out from behind the dresser as I was helping him into his pajamas.  It wasn't the kind of spider you could hit with a shoe while it was on the run.  This spider would have had a splash zone.

So I looked around and saw a can of Aqua-Net hair spray on the kid's mother's dresser, right across the hall from the doorway of the kid's room.  Gears ground in my brain.  It just might work, I thought.  I grabbed it and sprayed three-quarters of the can on the spider.  I watched as it tried to run away and experienced diminishing returns on its efforts.  Six feet along the wall later, it couldn't move, and it dropped to the floor in what must have been a manifestation of little spider nightmares come true.  It was paralyzed and probably thought it was back in high school in only its underwear.  Not dead; just very, very vulnerable.

That was the day Aqua-Net hair spray became my favorite weapon against insects.  White Rain comes in a close second, followed by Rave.  The cheaper and older the brand, the shorter the freeze time, the stickier the result.  Wielding a can in each hand is even better.  It makes me feel like Simon Pegg flying through the air sideways while firing two pistols.

I only bring this up because of the European hornet that was in our kitchen last night.

P.J. and I noticed it while we were standing in the kitchen talking because in addition to the deafening buzz, the hornet was so large that it actually cast a shadow as it flew over our heads.  We went into Oh Fuck Mode, which generally involves climbing over each other to get out of the room as quickly as possible.  The dogs were with us.  I yelled, "Get the dogs in the bedroom!  Now!" as I bravely darted for the fly swatter hanging on a nail across the kitchen.  The hornet landed on a light, then started flying around again.

(Rose had to be out of the room because even showing her a fly swatter in someone's hand makes her shake and cower.  I used to think I wanted to use those Simon Pegg pistols on the man who inflicted this wound on Rose's psyche, but last night I thought better of it and decided doing it nice and slow would be better.  I would use Flex Tape, channel locks, concentrated drops of salicylic acid, and corn cob holders.  It would take a really long time.  I'd have to give him I.V. fluids to make sure he didn't die of dehydration in the process, because that would ruin my fun.)

Then we turned our attention to killing the fucking Airbus-sized invader.  The only poison I could find was ant and roach spray, and after a couple of spritzes of that, nothing interesting happened, so I handed that and the swatter to P.J. and said, "Cover me."  I ran into our bathroom and returned with two cans of hair spray.  "Where is it?"

"I don't know, it landed somewhere.  Kind of over there," she said, waving at the pot rack.

I saw it crawling on a Dutch oven and sprayed the hell out of it with the Herbal Essences first, since that one was cheaper, and then with the finer-mist can.  I judged the point at which it probably couldn't fly any longer, then tapped it with the edge of the swatter and knocked it off the pot rack.

That hair spray cost over five dollars, which is why the hornet flew straight for me.  Normally, I miss every house fly I try to smack with that swatter, but last night my mad high school badminton skills came back to me and I brought it down hard and THWACK watched the hornet ricochet off the back wall and never fly again.  I smacked it again for good measure.  (We had to comfort Rose later, because just hearing the sound of a swatter is apparently enough to render her insecure and clingy.*)

P.J. did what she always does, because she has an illness called insatiable curiosity, and picked up the corpse with a paper towel for close examination.  "Fucking hell, look at the size of this thing," she said.  We both stared at it.  She moved it slightly so we could see the size of the stinger.  Jesus.  Look at that.  Wow.

Then it buzzed a little bit and fell off of the paper towel and onto the floor, at which point we both screamed bloody murder at maximum volume and jumped four feet into the air and almost hit our heads on the ceiling and then tried to climb each other to get away from an inch-long dead hornet with cadaveric spasms lying helplessly on the floor.

And then we held each other and laughed like lunatics while also secretly wondering which neighbor was going to call the police because of the screaming.

I don't think using hair spray constitutes unnecessary cruelty, and not just because insects aren't sentient.  Whatever gets glued up and experiences the insectile or arachnid or myriapodic equivalent of perplexity is repeatedly smacked to death shortly thereafter, reduced to its component molecules, so this should be considered a totally humane practice.

*Oh, and that guy who abused Rose?  Throw in a fly swatter and some cheap hair spray.  There will be plenty of time for irony.

August 4, 2018

from couch to marathon

Yesterday, I ran a marathon.

No, I didn't.  I don't run.  Unless I'm being chased by a wild animal or a well-meaning fundamentalist Christian going door to door.  But these instances are mercifully rare.

I don't even jog.  I walk.  But this was a driving marathon, and I can drive all day long.  Which is good, because that is exactly what I did.

I started the day with a haircut at Great Clips.  I checked in online, which made my wait time only forty minutes instead of two hours.  Usually I get right in, but I learned that Friday mornings is when the more gentrified residents of my small town get their hair cut, blued, or styled.  It reminded me of Grandma, who would visit the Beauty Parlor downtown every Saturday morning and sit under one of those dryer machines for an hour while reading an outdated copy of Reader's Digest, the same one she'd read dozens of times.  I think Grandma knew her stylist, Phyllis, better than she knew her own children.  She always tipped her a crisp one-dollar bill.

The lobby of Great Clips was full of white-haired men and women.  When my turn came, I sat at the stylist's station and noted the envelope of crisp one-dollar bills, given in a spirit of genuine gratitude that was frozen in time thirty years ago, while she snipped and locks of my brown hair fell on top of the wisps of white hair on the floor.

I mailed a package of clothes I'd sold on eBay at the post office.

I dropped off three boxes of clothes and household miscellany at the Goodwill truck sitting alone in an otherwise unused parking lot.

I took some computer batteries to the environmental recycling center, which was all kinds of noble because normally I find it within me to not give a shit and to toss them into the trash, which is one hundred percent what you are not supposed to do because it causes landfill cancer and poisons our ground water and makes our young children glow in the dark.  No one has stopped to consider how useful having our kids glow in the dark could be, but I'm expected to conform to social standards.

I gassed up the van.  The screen at the Speedway played videos and blaring music even when I was unscrewing my gas cap and inserting my debit card and telling it I didn't want a receipt.  And one of the speakers inside it was broken, so the sound was all shitty-stereo crackly while I stood pumping gas and sang not-really-all-that-quietly to myself to block out the noise.

I went to my appointment with the ex-monk, and we agreed that all was going well in what felt like a pointless session that we could have easily held over the phone.  I have to admit that it was good to celebrate the lithium's efficacy with him.  I don't feel bad about forgetting to mark my mood chart for two weeks and then filling it in all at once, because I more or less know the right place to put the dots.  There are fluctuations but they are mild and far-between.  I add those in to reduce suspicion and make it look like I totally do this on a daily basis like I'm supposed to do.

I deposited a van load of broken-down cardboard at yet another recycling center, since the battery place didn't accept anything except batteries and old computer monitors and television sets.  I secretly want to work there so I can find out if they open the stuff up and risk their lives cracking open cathode ray tubes and dealing with poisonous chemical leaks.  I like to believe there are explosions inside that building and that they have exciting jobs living on the edge.  I would not want to work at the center that involves sitting in a tiny stall of a building watching people put cardboard in large bins.  I would implode from an acute case of existential crisis by the end of the first week.

I picked up my son's friend, who will be spending the weekend at our house, helping my son trash his room.  Now with double the indifference to chaos!

I picked up my kid back at home.

I drove to the grocery store so they could pick out seven hundred thousand calories in snackage and beverages.  (They will claim today that there is absolutely nothing to eat in the house.)  While they ran loose in the store with a cart, standing in the cracker aisle calling it racist instead of doing what they were supposed to be doing, I set about trying to find some of those miniature serve-at-a-party quiches at the grocery store.  P.J. needs them for a work function on Monday.  I looked through all of the frozen food three times and was about to ask an associate for assistance; then I remembered that less than a month ago, I was looking for a carton of Pour-A-Quiche in the same store, and I did ask for help that night, and two people came to help me look for quiche in any form, but no one could find any.  They looked in the back.  They made some phone calls, but no quiche was to be had.

So I stood there last night, bereft of quiche, and it dawned on me that I was crazier than I had realized because a) obviously they didn't have what I was looking for, and b) I came within an inch of asking them again, which would have given me the reputation of That Quiche Lady and I would never be able to set foot in there again, because odds are I'd be buying eggs and cheese and scallions and bacon bits, for reasons totally independent of all that is quiche, like a savory galette that happened to look like quiche, but they wouldn't understand and they would exchange knowing glances, which I would pretend to ignore, but we all would know.

Then I crossed the finish line all sweaty with a number on my chest and got to drive home and stay there.  My eyelids were drooping.

Oh, wait.  Then I had to run out and pick up the pizza and wings for the kids.

Do people run a cool-down after a marathon?  Because I wouldn't know.

August 2, 2018

no, no, no, not hats, you idiot

I was well into my Lunesta last night, standing in my nightgown while brushing my teeth, and suddenly I had this phenomenally great idea for a post, and then I remembered, "Oh shit, I have to order my special super-expensive bariatric vitamins because I'm almost out," and that bumped out of my brain the best idea for a blog post in the history of all blogging, because at that point in the Lunesta onset, there is exactly one memory slot.  I strained to recover the idea, retracing my thoughts leading right up to that moment (with considerable difficulty), and then what jumped into my brain was, "It was Hats!"


Jacques ... what the deep-fried fuck?  I mean it.  Hats?  I don't know anything about hats.  I don't even wear hats.  I have nothing to say about hats.  That's as random as splash-free bleach or cross-pollination or Grover Cleveland.

Then I remembered my idea, which wasn't awesome at all, but the Lunesta had made me think it was.  It's a damned shame I've never tried weed.  Jacques will probably offer me some soon.  I can't tell you which way I'll go with that.  I'm afraid I'd like it too much.

Anyway, the idea was neither hats nor weed.  It was the baby shower registry.

I was buying stuff online for a baby shower for somebody I don't even know and will never, ever meet.  Except that the registry on the web site has this goofy picture of them looking into a web cam in a way that gives them huge heads with tiny chins.  This gift is for the girlfriend of the son of one of P.J.'s niftier co-workers.

P.J. asked me to help with it because I'm the only person/canine/spider in the house with prior experience buying baby-oriented items.  We knew it might be triggering for me, but instead of being hit with a wave of sorrowful nostalgia, I went all baby-having expert and blasted their registry selections.  "What!?  You totally don't even need that.  What the hell is wrong with you?  That's going to end up in the back of a drawer.  You do not need that many of those.  And the baby will grow out of those while in utero.  They fit kittens.  Just skip right to the four-to-six-month onesies, Jesus, everybody knows that."  I was politely asked to go into another room to finish the gift-giving activities, but I refused to budge.

Most of what had already been purchased was complete bullshit.  It was at least three-quarters bibs.  I think they have been given one box of diapers, a changing pad, some child-proofing household stuff that they won't need for a year that will have gotten lost somewhere in a box in a closet by then, and bibs.  The obligatory "I Belong to Grandma" bibs and some giraffe and zoo-themed bibs and at least four hundred organic fair-trade cotton bibs, plus patterned ones and pink ones and neutral ones and big ones and small ones and one that has this nifty new way of hooking around on the side.

This child will begin its life sleeping on a blanket that consists of sewn-together bibs because that is all the family will own.  They'll be used as wash cloths, pot holders, seat covers, and bath mats.  Eventually the child will come to think the bib is the standard unit of currency in society.

I got burp cloths and towels instead.  Now, that shit will get used.  You have to know where your towel is.  And I hope to Christ the fruit-blessed couple gets covered in gift cards.

I did not buy the baby any hats.  Seriously, Jacques?  Did Walter put you up to this?

August 1, 2018


Lille still has her fantasies, zoned out in traffic on the way to and from work, using reality as a diving platform .....

Kate:  "Hang on, I didn't say you could leave the stage yet!"

Me:  "Yes, ma'am!"

Kate:  "We got some requests during intermission."

Me:  "We?  You got a mouse in your pocket?"  *audience laughs*

Kate:  "Here, do you know this one?"  *begins playing yet another song*

Obviously, Therapist Gumby and I still have a lot to work through together.  Lille's fantasy life is juvenile to the point of chagrin.

He pointed out yesterday that it's been exactly a year since we began working together.  It was a time for reflection, for assessment and measuring and considering where we've been, where we're going from here.

Both of us wish we felt that we'd accomplished more.  I think that's just something we both have in our natures.

He said that [news flash] I'm extremely complicated and that this is part of the reason for the meticulous, painstaking pace of our work.  We both knew what we were getting into from the beginning.  I think I recall having him sign a lot of important forms in triplicate acknowledging that he understood the face-palm, pull-your-hair-out challenge he was accepting in allowing me to sit on that brown sofa and open my mouth.

This isn't to say that we haven't covered a fair distance in a year.  There's quite a bit of progress there to see.  For one thing, he's taken me through EMDR several times now without causing me to break out in hives.  That is huge.  I was terrified of EMDR a year ago.  And there's everything that using that tool has accomplished, the diminished power of some traumatic memories that were costing me sleep, stability, peace.

Therapist Gumby has twice seen me at rock-bottom during a severe mood swing, before the recent era of lithium.  He's stood there on the rocky floor right beside me both times, without flinching, without squirming or checking his watch and suddenly remembering a pressing engagement elsewhere.  He has been there when I wanted to knock myself to the floor and spend my rage abusing myself.  He has been there when I could find no other reason to keep living than personal utility, when I had a space of time to myself at home and suddenly perceived it as an opportunity for intervention-proof suicide instead of a few hours of quiet solitude.

It's one of my personal Great Mysteries, how he can be both Gumby-flexible and steel-beam strong.  The nucleus to my frenzied electron pathways.

I'm incredibly lucky that he picked up the pen and signed those forms.

July 31, 2018


From a parking deck
to our front porch.
One day I looked up and he was pushin' eighty,
An' brown tobacco stains all down his chin;
Well, to me he's one of the heroes of this country,
So why's he all dressed up like them old men?

  -- Guy Clark, "Desperadoes Waiting For a Train"

It's a wonder we ever open our hearts.  Especially those of us with a network of defense mechanisms that rivals military bureaucracy in its complexity.  But we do, sometimes, when love comes knocking.

I wasn't expecting some things.

I'd forgotten the unrelenting exhaustion that comes with having a baby in the house, and the mantle a parent assumes when a toddler graduates cruising and becomes a fully mobile machine hell-bent on putting every single thing it can reach into its mouth for sampling and analysis.  Even after puppy-proofing, having Molly is reminding me of that thing where you know where your young child is at all times, a radar, an awareness that is always present and scanning, even when you're involved in another task.  It's like leaving Bluetooth on and then wondering why your phone battery drained so quickly.  P.J. and I are both sleeping but utterly spent.

I wasn't expecting the swell of emotion this morning at work.  I miss my dogs.  Molly wasn't squirreled-out this morning; instead, she sat patiently with one ear up and her head tilted and watched while I brushed my hair and teeth and dressed for work, issuing the occasional small whimper for attention.  She wanted to be beside me.  Rose accepted affection as though she would take the crumbs left over, almost resignation.  I know I'm doing twelve different kinds of projecting and anthropomorphizing right now, but I miss my dogs terribly and want to be home with them, to give and receive love.

And then there's the part that completely blindsided me.  This morning, even though late for work, I spent that moment with Rose, lavishing affection, and saw in her face an expression that I've only ever seen on Chester's face.  Her eyes said, I'm an older dog now.  They said, I'm mortal.  Rose is eight and I know the odds are we have years left to enjoy her company, and it has been a thing of mirth, watching her and Molly play together these past two days.  But this morning, her eyes said, I'm the older dog now.

My own eyes are leaking now, just from typing that.

It might come from watching her manifest alpha behaviors that Chester used to exhibit, and an intersection with grief.  Rose is still my sweet girl, and I must look past my heightened awareness of the white hairs increasing steadily in her fur and on her muzzle, past having her doe-like grace and slower pace thrown into relief by Molly's puppy energy, past how much sand has already poured through the neck of her hourglass, and past the memory of her at Molly's age, sitting in her pen looking up at us with a pensive, curious puppy face.  Past all of these things, I must see Rose as Rose, my simpleton baby girl who needs me now more than ever.

I have two children, but I have only reared one.  It is foreign to me how a parent's heart handles siblings.

July 29, 2018

truth in advertising

Someone has cast a spell upon our house, and I alone resist it.  Both dogs are snoring on the floor at my feet, and P.J., who took the lion's share of last night's puppy-wrangling, has dozed off beside me on the sofa.  All is quiet except for the hum of the air conditioning and my typing, which is amplified.

This is making me giggle to myself.  They're all konked out.  My coffee was better.

As I said, we got Molly yesterday from a rescue smack in the middle of South Carolina.  I've often wondered how a cartographer would set about determining where the "middle" of an irregularly shaped state is, but method aside, I know we were there.  This involved a different highway than the one we drove a week ago to visit family.  This one was devoid of those body-count marquees (depriving us of the satiation of our morbid curiosity about the current total - oh, wait, they have a web site) and paved a bit better, but it was littered with memorial intersections and interchanges.  Signs like "The Mary Jane Doe Memorial Intersection" and "John H. 'Jesse' Fluffmeister Interchange".  We were wondering why these folks only got an intersection and not a whole stretch of highway like notable folks are given in other states.  It seems stingy.

Our road trip game yesterday involved car colors.  We got behind a Ford Escape that was an unfortunate shade of ungodly shit-gold, and decided that we needed to know what Ford calls that color.  This led to some Googling, then our own imaginary car line with realistic color naming, for the consumer weary of considering clothing and car colors that are marketing meaninglessness:

Ford’s Colors
Our Colors (Obviously Superior)
Canyon Ridge Metallic
Screaming Inflammatory Disease Red
Ingot Silver
You Came In Second
Lightning Blue
Cerulean Fever Dream
Mosquito Dusk
Oxford White
Endangered Polar Bear
Shadow Black
The Cowl of Death
White Gold
Beige Lady
Cinnamon Glaze
Dried Blood
Deep Impact Blue
Heterosexual Cub Scout Leader
Electric Spice
Your Baby Shat
Karat Gold
Your Baby Ate Mustard, Then Shat

See?  You would totally know what color of car you were getting, if you shopped with us.

through the streets broad and narrow

Patience is a virtue.

Which is a damned shame, because neither P.J. nor I partakes of it in a quantity measurable by behavioral scientists.  But we've heard good things about it.

Oh god, the stereo wires.  I didn't even think about those.  And my charger.  Unplugged that.  Get away from the pillow with bead fringe!  Need to put that away.

See, what happened is, we saw another picture and P.J. was smitten and it grew on me, too, and next thing we knew, we had put in an adoption application with three references and an extensive history and vet contact information and retinal scan results, and it was approved within an hour even though the vet office was closed and none of the references was contacted, because it looked legit.  It looked legit because I know how to type on PDF forms instead of tediously printing them and writing them out and scanning them.  I guess it looked like we had our shit together.

We found ourselves in a car yesterday, with Rose in the back with our Lodge luggage, driving once again into the heart of South Carolina and along streets broad and narrow to retrieve a "shy, cautious" German shepherd mix four-month-old black-and-tan puppy from a Shepherd Rescue organization.  This "shy" pup immediately jumped all over P.J. with kisses and love and excitement, then hopped into our van.  "We ready to go?" she asked.  "Come on!"  Shy, m'arse.  She was bloody well waiting for us.

We stopped at the first rest area along I-77 to walk both dogs.  Then they waited together in the back while P.J. and I took turns going inside for our own piddle breaks.  Molly and Rose waited side by side in the back while I sat with them.  Rose leaned over and licked Molly's face with a kiss, then settled back into her keen watch for P.J.

The rescue had taken her from a high-kill shelter and had named her after a flower, which is all very well, but ludicrous, given her personality.  Anyway, after Molly the First, we were singing "Molly Malone" in the kitchen, then read an article after which "MrsMollyMalone" was a commenter; following this, in the checkout line at PetSmart, one of the three examples hanging up of the engravable tags was "Molly", right next to "Fido" and "Coco".  P.J. and I looked at each other and said, "Right, then.  Okay, Universe, have it your way.  Overbearing much?"  P.J. has never actually named any of her dogs; it's always done for her, and this was no exception.

Yeah, Molly.  Molly has ears with superpowers.  She can put one or both of them up at will and they look like diminutive radar dishes.  Her brow wrinkles when she's concerned or interested.  Total German shepherd face.  We can't figure out the other breed in her because she's mildly elongated with shorter than normal legs.  No, not a Corgi or a Dachshund, but something interesting, no doubt.  We'll see the vet on Friday.  We'll have to ask their opinion on matters.  It isn't so pronounced as to be a sign of dwarfism.  And in two months she'll need to be spayed.

We stopped at the PetSmart in Rock Hill coming and going, first for a leash (and the final sign from the Universe about her name) and then for all the things.  So many chew toys.  And we're glad of it now, because she's gone through nearly all of them within twelve hours.

Welcome home, Molly, you sweet, kissy little compact bundle of destruction and curiosity.

Rose can't settle down.  She keeps walking around, surveying the damage.  Sometimes she stops and looks at us.  "Why are you doing this to me?  What did I do?" she seems to ask.  But then again, they began playing together fifteen minutes after we introduced Molly to the house and, thus, Rose's domain.

Rose puts her into submission over and over again when they play, and at first we thought Molly might be freaked out because she's half Rose's size, but then we saw her instigate it and all tails are wagging, so we're letting them work it out for themselves.

That potential nightmare - the one where Rose hated her at first and we had to pen her with a lid on it and it took days for grudging acceptance and Molly was in danger - did not come true, a major boon for us.  But there's another that has materialized, transformed from abstract to concrete:

Molly is wicked fucking smart and we are, not to put too fine a point on it, doomed.

And runs as fast as greased lightning.

She has already figured out the dog door, except for the actual going through it part because it's made of three hard plastic pieces and she doesn't want to get smacked in the face.  This is a reasonable concern if you're a puppy.  She figured out it's the means of ingress and egress after being shown once.  She sits on command now.  She knows "no" and "down" and listens.  She's located Rose's toy basket and helped herself to all of the contents, including the beef bone, which she keeps "burying" in bits of blanket or towel.  She knows her kennel and pen are her "safe places" when Rose chases her, and after one piddle accident, she's got things more or less figured out in the piddle and poo department.

We need our lawn guy to mow, stat.  I'll text him today.  My ankles weren't happy last night, out in the dark.  There might have been Venus fly traps and strange tentacles out there that my phone's flashlight app didn't detect.

I finished my StepBet yesterday after following her around for a few hours in the evening.  I can take today off and I get my forty dollars back, plus about twelve more dollars for winning and sticking with it.  That should cover, like, one antler toy that we bought yesterday.  Hey, it's something.  And my time is freed up to revert to the days of having a newly-walking toddler and to puppy-proof the entire house from Miss Chew All The Things here.

When she was in her pen and P.J. left the living room for a moment, she cried in a way that we agreed would be totally banned by the Geneva Convention as a prohibitively cruel form of torture.  It would break strong men.

I'm breaking out in welts here and there.  This is probably from the mosquitoes that chose me while I waited outside for her to piddle and not a sign of being allergic to Molly.  Because that would suck, so it isn't happening.  Mind over matter.

She has now "dug up" that beef bone and is chewing on it ... er, rather effectively.  Peace in our time.

July 27, 2018

the crucible of advent

I said this back in 2012, waiting to hear that Obama secured the presidency from Romney:

"Hope is an interesting thing ... once you strip away the irrational desire for outside forces of any type to intervene and accept your own inability to influence an outcome, you're left with raw want, suspended in time and waiting for information that will quench it. Yet such a simple thing can clench your heart and commandeer your mind. This night has been a long time coming ...."

That is how I feel right now, because it's 6:58 a.m. and I've never live-blogged before (okay, this doesn't count, but it's as close as I've come), but my hands are shaking because I can't call to find out about would-be-Molly until 10:30, when the shelter opens, and I have to find something to do with this energy because the situation has rendered me manic as shit.

I snapped awake while ago and thought, "Molly!"

My coffee is cinnamon bun flavored this morning.  I'm having oatmeal for breakfast.  Is that the sort of thing people live-blog?  Inane details?  The oatmeal is delicious.  I eat it raw with cold milk, except it's Quaker Instant so it's mostly cooked already and doesn't count as a really stupid thing to do.

8:31 a.m.:  I've finished doing tasks in my dragon game, which has an event going right now that requires attention to timing.  I'm all set until this afternoon.  So now ... what to do?  I'm drowsy in spite of the coffee (sonofabitch, I didn't sleep so well ... I wonder why).  Going to try to go back to bed for a little while.

10:04 a.m.:  I slept.  Wonders never cease.  Holy shit, only twenty-six more minutes until I can call.  I'm going to shower.  That will help the time pass.

10:21 a.m.:  I'm sitting on the sofa with my laptop and my phone.  Tick, tick, tick.  If they say she's still there and needs a forever home (I keep thinking fur-ever home but that's the kind of thing people would put on saccharine Facebook graphics and I am better than that - begone, foul thought) - anyway, if they say she's still there, I'm trying to decide how to prevent myself from going and grabbing P.J. and telling her to clock out and inform her boss she just came down with twenty-four-hour gonorrhea or something, and push her into the car to go to the mountains right nao.

Maybe it would be wiser to ask for a hold.  I've heard of holds.  Then we could go to the fair tomorrow with a hold and meet her and we'd be right there at the pet store to buy puppy pads and puppy food (I wonder what she eats?) and about four hundred dollars worth of unneeded merchandise.  And a collar.  And we could get one of those engraved tags they sell at the register.  Two of them.  Rose and Molly.  Rosey-boo and Molly-dog.

Fucking hell, I'm mental right now.  I need more coffee.  This is vital.

10:28 a.m.:  It's time to call.  What if somebody already adopted her?  What if they say she's gone?  Will I start crying on the phone?  Fuck.  Fuck fuck fuck.

It's time.  I have to call them now.

Shit, where did I put the phone number?

10:32 a.m.:   She actually had to put me on hold and go to the back to check.  I'm breathing.  I'm breathing.  What was that yoga shit they were saying?  Namaste?  Not "ohm" ... that's Buddhism.  I'll just keep breathing.

10:34 a.m.:  I'm still on hold.  That means that she had to go see if somebody took her out for a walk or maybe to the vet for a shot, find somebody else who knows why she isn't in her pen.  That's what it means.  Yeah.

10:39 a.m.:  Okay.  I couldn't type for a moment.  She, um, gone.  Already adopted.  I think I bit a hole through my bottom lip while I listened to her say "they get gone pretty fast" and then talk for way too many seconds about three other six-month-old terrier mixes that they just brought in that aren't shepherd mixes and look nothing like each other.  Somehow I got through the rest of the conversation in a civil manner.

I want to delete this whole post and the entire previous post because it's embarrassing.  You would think I'd learn not to get attached to shit.  To animals, and people.  Ohm, my ass.  I won't learn.  I know myself.

This isn't 2012.  It's 2016.  When P.J. had to tell me Trump was our president.  We sat up the rest of the night and cried.  I have to go up the stairs again now and tell her about Molly, just like last night with the Westie.  Did I say bamboo sticks under my fingernails?  More like The Rack.  She felt it, too.

But first, I have to get a hand towel from the kitchen and wipe the tears off this keyboard.  Water isn't good for a laptop.