Poopy Paws

So what is it, Murphy’s Law or something that after you clean your rugs your dogs will immediately find some poop to walk in and track through the house?  My house has a large utility porch where the dogs hang out when we’re not at home.  It has its own doggy door and a little side yard for them to poop and pee in.  I clean the side yard as infrequently as I can manage, which is about once a week.  Once I let it go a month and that was just awful.  The air throughout the backyard was tinged with the pungent smell of poo.

Last night after doing a bunch of painting, I was straightening up the utility porch and could smell dog poop.  I said something to my daughter.  She suggested that Edna had farted.  Edna’s farts are legendary.  She is a greyhound.  She was rescued.  According to the vet, racing dogs are never fed hard food so their teeth rot.  Most of Edna’s teeth were rotten when I got her and they had to be pulled.  As a result, she has very few teeth with which to masticate her kibble.  This means she swallows the kibble whole.  Even though I buy her the smallest kibble for the smallest dogs, her digestive system is not pleased with this arrangement and rebels by making her fart the smelliest, most horrendous doozies your nose ever encountered.  They literally make the insides of your nose burn.  If we had wallpaper, her farts would curl it off the walls.

Only the smell was not fart smell, it was poop smell.  It stank like one of them had laid a big one right in the middle of the room, but there was nothing there.  Perplexed, I assumed there must have been a fresh pile right outside the doggy door that I would have to remove in the morning.

Unfortunately, this was not the case.  I came in the house, sat down here at the computer, and the poop smell followed me.  We do not wear shoes in the house, so I knew I could not have poop on my shoes.  Right about then, Molly came over and begged for a pet.  The smell was overpowering.  I knew then and there that she had poopy paws.  I hustled her onto the back porch and sure enough, BOTH back paws were covered!  It was late, I was exhausted, and I was not going to be bathing dogs at 10 at night so I left her there and returned to my computer seat.  Still the smell.  Damn.  It turned out Edna had a poopy back paw too, and both of them had tracked poopy into the house.  Luckily it seems only one place on one rug got poop on it.  Most of the rest landed on the hardwood floors.  But yuck.

So now it’s the next day and neither of them are pleased at having to sleep out back and both of them are yammering to get in the house.  Molly bangs the door with her head and makes it rattle when she’s out there and I’m in here and she wants in.  She’s banging away.  I tried to wash the poop off their paws with a wash cloth but it didn’t work.  It’s all ground into the hairs between their toes and pads and yuck.  It’s going to require bathing.  Only I wasn’t planning on taking a shower until after I rode the horse today.  What is the point of showering, riding and getting all smelly, then having to shower again?  It’s a waste.  No problem, except that I can’t ride until 11:30 when the arena is available and right now it is not even 9.  This means the dogs will have to chill on the back porch until early afternoon.  They are not pleased with this arrangement.  Unfortunately they are going to have to live with it because I just don’t feel like cleaning the rugs again.  It’s a big pain and takes all day.  Maybe I can pretend to leave.  I’ll drive my car out of the driveway, park in front, sneak in the front door, and hide in here.  They’ll think I’m gone and chill out. It might work, but I doubt it.

Dang Me

So today I pissed off two strangers.  One of them was just plain idiotic and mean.  He didn’t like what I said about Bush and started in on a character assassination of me.  None of what he said had any basis in reality.  None of his assumptions made any sense based on my post.  Among other things, he called me uneducated, stupid, fat, and told me I take no responsibility for my life.  Okay.  Whatever.  None of that is true.  Unfortunately, I took the bait and sent him back 3 emails, one saying my house isn’t in foreclosure, another saying I have two college degrees, and the final stating I’m actually not overweight.  In each case I wished him well.  As the day progressed, I thought a bit more about him and I realized this man is probably a really unhappy person who is undoubtedly completely alienated from everyone.  He is so angry and mean, I seriously doubt he ever listens to what anyone has to say and instead begins every encounter with an attack.  His is the behavior of someone who is not present.  He deserves nothing except compassion because I can safely assume he is miserable.

The other person made some assumptions as well, but at least the tone of “her” email was kinder than the first.  I say “her” in quotes because I do not know what gender the person was because “she” did not give her name.  However she said some things in the message that led me to believe that her gender is female.  She called herself “Tea Rock.”  Tea Rock stated that she knew the person who had been mean to me in junior high.  Tea Rock thought I was the meaner girl because what I said in my story about Kelly was “vitriolic.”  She said she could not believe an adult would say what I had said about what Kelly told me when I saw her some years later.  She was also concerned that Kelly’s children might read my post.

I emailed Tea Rock back.  I told her that Kelly did in fact say the words I attribute to her, whether or not Tea Rock believed me.  I also questioned her assessment of my descriptions of Kelly as vitriolic.  Vitriol means caustic, and while I am certainly critical of Kelly and her actions, I do not believe my words rise to the level of vitriol.  Finally, I pointed out that although I was critical of Kelly, I also offered my belief that something must have been happening in Kelly’s life that she made these choices.  In doing so, I recognized that there is always more than one perspective; this story just happened to be mine.

Because I was contacted by this person who claimed to know Kelly, I edited my post and changed Kelly’s last name.  Hers was a rather unique last name even though her first name is common.  I changed the boy’s last name to a more common one as well.  Their real names aren’t necessary; I just honestly thought no one who knew them would ever care about what I had to say.  I’m not exactly Oprah.

I thought a lot about this second email this evening.  I found it interesting that Tea Rock was concerned about Kelly’s children reading my post.  It is ironic.  Because Tea Rock purported to know Kelly, then her concern was for Kelly’s children.  What if she had known me, would her concern have then been for my child?  Assuming Milla did not know how I was treated in junior high, how would it be for her to know how it had been for me?  It is such human nature to take the side related to us.  Because Tea Rock knew Kelly, Tea Rock’s concern was for Kelly’s children.  If Tea Rock had known me, I doubt she would have cared if Kelly’s children read my post.  In fact one of my friends commented on that same blog and was cheered by the ending.  Since she had been a bullying victim and since she knew me, she found it “karmic” that Kelly ended up as she did.  I don’t know that I necessarily agree that is was karmic.  Mostly I just think it’s pathetic and sad.  I hope she has moved on with her life.  Tea Rock did say that although she did not know Kelly well, she could not imagine her acting this way.  Perhaps this is an indication that Kelly used her early experiences to grow and become a stronger, kinder person.  Who knows.

I’ve talked to my daughter quite extensively about bullying.  It would not be a shock to her to read a story where her mom was picked on because I’ve told her all about it.  In second grade, a girl in her class picked on Milla.  She went out of her way to exclude my daughter and got all the girls in class to do so as well.  My initial thought when this began to occur was, Oh no. Not again. Not my daughter.  Milla is so much more confident than I was.  She’s pretty, smart, and outspoken.  I actually cried at the thought that Milla would have to go through what I did.

I had cancer last year.  The parents in my daughter’s class made us meals and set up playdates.  They were unbelievably kind.  When the Bully Girl started harassing Milla, I did not have the heart to talk to her mom about it.  It just seemed so ungrateful to complain to this woman about her child when she was making us meals and helping us out, along with countless others.  I gave Milla some tips for handling things and when that did not work, I went to the teacher.  He was useless.  There were many, many other problems in his class besides this one and because of his ineffectiveness in handling the bullying and other problems, we chose to change schools.  We are still friends with students from the school and know children in the class.  Unfortunately, the Bully Girl has moved on to other targets.  It is sad.  I wonder what is happening in her little life that she acts this way.  But while I feel compassion for her, it is still my job to protect my daughter and I did that by getting her out of there.

In spite of everything, Milla seemed to handle the bullying better than I did.  Maybe having a mom to support her helped.  I did not have any such support as a child.  In this situation, I began to understand more fully that the behavior of bullies has more to do with them than with their chosen victims, although this realization did not lessen the pain of seeing my daughter suffer through nasty treatment at the hands of these girls.  It is one of those difficult lessons every parent has to learn; that their children have to live their own lives and experience their own pain and growth.  It is what makes them fully human.

While I recognize that Tea Rock’s perspective comes from her concern for her friend, other than changing the names of the people in question, I did not alter my story.  It’s mine, for better or worse.  Kelly has hers.  Mike has his.  I’m not going to censor my life or experiences because it might make someone uncomfortable.  If I had something to say that would genuinely damage another person I would not say it.  But in this case especially, I think my story provides a greater opportunity for benefit than for harm.  My point wasn’t to punish my tormentors, but to show that we grow up and get past junior high.  Even though we might meet more nasty people later and in fact it is probably a guarantee, we’ll survive it.  And seriously, what’s wrong with that?

The Idiot in the Plastic Bubble

I saw this headline on Yahoo this morning that says Bush says the US is not headed for a recession.  You just keep telling yourself that, Dude.  Go on.  Make yourself feel happy.  Keep living in your insulated bubble.  Why don’t you take a beer or some coke in there with you.  Enjoy.  We’ll stay out here paying $3.50 a gallon for gas watching our houses go into foreclosure.  You have fun there in that bubble.  Maybe we can find a way to blast you into outer space.

Development of the Opossum Approach

Caveat:  I originally posted this with the actual names intact.  Turns out enough people find these posts that a person who knew one of the players contacted me, so I have changed the names to make them anonymous.  All other facets of the story are my memories and true to the best of my recollection.

I have been thinking a lot today about mean people and the opossum approach and all that and I have concluded that a large bit of preparation for being mean is cultivated during junior high. I certainly got a great deal of practice being victimized by mean people in junior high. I was a target ripe for the pickings. And I most definitely mastered the opossum approach. I could walk through the halls invisibly and when necessary, play dead. I’m not here. Do not notice me. Avoid paying any attention at all costs. Sometimes though, I failed utterly and completely at avoiding notice, in spite of my best efforts.

I remember an incident that took place on one particularly memorable afternoon. It occurred in Sex Ed class, which on some level makes the whole thing much more vivid. I had a crush on Mike Jones. Mike was lanky and horse-faced, with tousley brown hair, but I thought he was adorable. Mike was popular. He was on the football team. Everyone knew who he was. He did not know who I was. I would fantasize that he would say hello to me. That was how silly and naive I was. I did not even consider hand-holding or kissing. At age twelve, such conjectures were well without my realm of possibility. No. Saying hello was about as brave as I could get. Because of my crush, I wrote “I like MJ” on my palm. Why did I do that? Did some little part of me hope he would notice and fall instantly in love with me at the sight of his initials inscribed on my hand? Was I a fool? Come to think of it, I doubt I thought much of anything. I probably sat there in my preteen, hormone-addled state, reading something in the library. I read a lot in the library. In fact, I took pride in the fact that I had read every book in the junior high library by the end of eighth grade. I also won the library’s “Ghastly Riddle Contest” at Halloween. It was a sort of treasure hunt through haunted books whereby clues were given in the form of quotes. You went to the quote and it would lead you to another clue. It required some knowledge of the books involved to locate the original quotes. A weekly clue would be handed out to help you when you were stumped. I won a nice set of horse books. I think they knew that I would win since I doubt anyone else tried.  Few people would have been geeky enough to play at a contest like that and I was too clueless to know it was geeky.

Anyway, I digress. Back to my lusting after Mike Jones by hoping he would say hello. I had taken the liberty of professing my love via ball point pen. I sat, hiding, in the far row of Sex Ed class. I do not recall the name of the teacher, but I remember what he looked like. He was one of the coaches. He was tall and stocky, with blonde hair cut in a bowl style. Unlike some teachers, he was actually pretty kind to me. The head cheerleading coach, for instance, acted like I was a virus she might catch if I asked her something about the pre-algebra that she taught. But Mr. Sex Ed was pleasant enough.

There I sat in Mr. Sex Ed’s class. It was a sunny afternoon and I remember sitting and staring lazily into the sunbeams. I had done the reading. Mr. Sex Ed was dozing up front. Most of the class was chatting and passing notes back and forth. Suddenly, Kelly Smith, who sat behind me, leaned forward in her chair and asked me a question.

An aside about Kelly Smith. When my parents chose to move our family to “the country” because that is where I thought I wanted to live in order to have a horse, I was in the sixth grade. The little school in our town had one grade per class and each class had about twelve students. Kelly Smith was in my class. She immediately befriended me and nearly as immediately dumped me when she discovered that I did not smoke, drink, or swear, and that I rode horses and read books. She had perfectly feathered blonde hair. I did not have perfectly feathered blonde hair. Mine curled in all the wrong places and my mom cut it for me. How humiliating. Kelly Smith wore San Franciscos and Sticky Fingers and had several colors of Nike swish shoes. I had one pair of Sticky Fingers, no San Franciscos, and no Nike swish shoes. I wore Keds and Keds were not popular. Kelly Smith knew that one was supposed to carry a large comb in one’s back pocket. Until meeting her, I was not privy to such inside information. In short, Kelly Smith had all the makings of a cool person while I had zero. By the end of seventh grade, when this incident took place, we were in junior high and I was a persona non grata. Kelly Smith was a cheerleader. She still had perfectly feathered hair. Mine still curled in the wrong places. I think I may have finally acquired a pair of Nike swish shoes and a comb, but they were clearly out of place in the library.

I was not happy to have Kelly Smith peering over my shoulder. Kelly Smith did not involve herself with me except to make my life miserable. She had completely mastered the pretend to be friendly and suck me in while simultaneously concocting some nasty evil plot approach. She would say something that seemed kind. Weaving back and forth, back and forth, hypnotizing me, I would respond to the false kindness, believing for a moment that she might actually be friendly, whereupon she would suddenly expose her true nature, losing the lovely exterior, spitting in my eyes and becoming the cobra she truly was. Once she put gum in my hair without my notice. Usually she would say something really ugly and make her friends laugh. “Do you use butter grease to style your hair?” she would sneer. Her friends would erupt in laughter. Ha ha. Real funny. You’re so clever, why don’t you hit the comedy circuit?

Back in Sex Ed, she wanted to know, “Who is MJ?” Uh oh. Uh oh. Uh oh. Fuck.

“Nobody you know.” My heart was pounding. Why couldn’t she just go away? Why did she have to torture me? Was I really such an obvious target? Apparently so because she did not go away. “So who is it?”

“No one you know. Someone from another school.” God, please don’t let her know. Mike Jones was in that class. If he found out. Oh crap.

“What’s his name? Is it Mike Jones?” What the….? How in the hell had she nailed that on the first try? Maybe she saw my hand and worked it out before saying anything.

“No. No, it’s not Mike Jones. It is not. No.” I stammered, obviously flustered. I must have seemed like a giant bullseye for her pointy cobra fangs.

“It’s Mike Jones, isn’t it.” It wasn’t even a question. “You like Mike Jones. Wow.” She turned and told her friend, another Kelly who must not have been so evil because I do not remember her last name. “She likes Mike Jones. Can you believe it?” Kelly could not believe it. In fact, she was so shocked that she had to share it with the girl next to her.

Then Kelly Smith did the unthinkable. She called out to Mike Jones, “Hey Mike. Lara likes you.” Oh dear God. Please kill me now. I should be punished for having written those damn initials on my hand. Actually, I was being punished for having written them on my hand. Mike turned and looked over in our direction. He may have been looking at me. I don’t know. I was staring at my desk and begging the gods to reach down and suck me from my chair. Anything, anything but this.

“Is this bad news true?” he asked. All the kids who had been paying attention laughed.

My pain was complete. Not only had I been fully humiliated by darling Kelly Smith, Mike Jones saw my liking him as bad news and he wasn’t afraid to say so. I couldn’t believe this was happening. I suffered through the remainder of the class, wishing I could disappear. Having ensured she had gotten a good and deep bite right into the side of my head, Kelly Smith was no longer interested in torturing me. She moved on to discussions of cheerleading routines and hairdos. My face burned and the room swam. I pretended to read my Sex Ed book. At least I could say the bad news was no longer true. I no longer liked Mike Jones and could not wait for class to end so I could go and wash my hand.

Once the bell rang, I shuffled through my belongings to take as long as possible to leave class and ensure I did not have to rise and move with the other students. After every one was gone I sat for a few more seconds. Alone in the room, I took a deep breath. It seemed like it had been long enough for the lot of them to clear out of the hallway.

You know, I must have lacked some serious capacity to foretell possibilities because it had not been long enough for Mike Jones to clear out of the hallway. He was the only one left, digging through his locker that was nearly across the hall from the Sex Ed classroom. Mine was down past his, requiring that I pass him, completely humiliated. Thankfully, he did not look up as I shuffled quickly by. Perhaps part of his dismay at my liking him had been for show. Certainly his reaction had been. At least he left me alone. I went to my locker, deposited my books, and took the long way around to P.E. class because the direct route would have taken me past his locker again, and there was no way I was going there.

Yes, junior high is definitely a breeding ground for mean people. Volumes have been written on the subject. Millions have been made in movies about the outcasts being tortured. Pleasure is taken in the geek who grows up and shows up to the high school reunion in a heliocopter. I think we all assume that as adults this crap goes away. Unfortunately, that’s wishful thinking. Even when you grow into a swan and develop inner strength and confidence, there are those people who never move past being mean to you.

Luckily for me, we had moved away from that school after ninth grade, so Kelly and her friends were only able to harass me for three years. I heard that she got pregnant her senior year in high school. A few years after graduation, I saw her at a discount store. She was extremely heavy and was dragging around four ruffian-looking children. A friend of mine who had finished school with her said they all had different fathers. I remembered her bragging in eighth grade about drinking and having sex. Maybe whatever made her so damn mean was also what made her gain weight and have lots of kids by different dads by the time she was 25. She’d clearly hit her prime in junior high. She was still mean though. At the store, she came up to me and sneered, “You think you’re really hot now, don’t you, Lara?”

I remember looking at her, not knowing who she was because she looked so wretched and different. When it was obvious I hadn’t a clue about her identity, she said, “I’m Kelly, Kelly Smith,” like I was retarded or something. Funny. I realize now she sounded something like Forrest, Forrest Gump. I said hello and turned to continue walking with my mom. Thankfully, when it came to girls from junior high, I didn’t have to pretend I was dead any more.

Random Period Rant

Periods suck. Yeah, yeah.  I know. I’m supposed to be all proud for my gender that I can give birth and shit and blah blah blah.  But I hate that I turn into some sort of mental fucking freak show for ten days or so a month, that my boobs feel like they are in a vice grip, I bloat like some fat sodden log, and I want to eat sugar, big bowls of it, when I normally can’t stand sweets.  It’s annoying.  All so I can keep the little old estrogen flowing and looking fresh and chipper for thirty five odd years or so.  Yuck.  Annoying crap.  While I’m at it, let me complain about the other bullshit woman stuff like yeast infections and bladder infections and that it is impossible to masturbate whenever and wherever we want to like men can.  Don’t get me wrong.  I like being a woman, but sometimes the plumbing is a little annoying.  That’s just all there is to it.

The Opossum Approach

Weird.  Apparently shitty workplaces are a popular topic.  The story has been hit over and over and over.  My readership stats have tripled, and most of them are to that post.  I have this book called the No Asshole Rule.  The guy who wrote it said it started as an article in Harvard Business Review or something, but he got so much feedback that he ended up writing a book.  Apparently, dreadful workplaces and mean people are pretty prevalent in good old America.  In fact a woman added a link to my post from her blog called www.DecontaminateToxicPeople.com.

Anyway, I think it’s sad we are all laboring, literally, in places that are horrible to work with people who treat us badly.  The thing I find amazing is that in most cases, other than the fact that we are forced to spend some amount of hours with them a week, our coworkers are generally not our friends, at least they weren’t before we went to work with them.  They are not the people we choose to hang out with because we met them and have a lot in common or whatever.  Some may become friends or lovers based on forced proximity, but for the most part, people who work together are all essentially strangers who give their time to a place to pay for their time outside a place.  Yet a large number of these people think it is okay to behave horribly to people they really don’t know.  How pathetic this is.  I guess it would be worse to treat someone you know badly, but there is a different kind of moral reprehensibility in treating a stranger in a wretched manner.

No, actually.  It’s all bad.  I sat here and attempted to separate out whether it is worse to be cruel to people you know versus people you don’t know.  Either one leaves me at the same conclusion:  it’s all bad.  I’m not much of a black and white person.  I can see the grey in many things, even in situations where many others can’t see anything but solid black or stark white.  But in this, in humans treating each other like crap, it all seems morally reprehensible.  I just can’t see where it’s justified.  Over and over I come up with situations in my mind where it might be okay, and I can’t justify any of them.  Well, I suppose it is alright to run over a little old lady who crosses the street against the light, but that’s it.  That’s the only time it is okay to be mean.

All kidding aside, this is my question…under what circumstances is it okay to treat another human being badly?  Because they treated you badly?  For revenge?  Revenge meanness is probably one of the most often employed reasons for hurting someone else.  I would argue against it because in treating someone poorly because they treated you poorly you become as they are in responding in kind.  And I just can’t think of any other reasons that aren’t patently objectionable on the surface, such as being mean because someone is black and you’re white, or not liking the look on someone’s face.  There are just no good reasons to be mean to each other.

Yet it happens. Over and over.  Apparently people don’t care if there is a good reason or not.  I suppose in most cases it has more to do with the person being a jerk than the victim.  Actually that’s probably it most of the time.  Inside the person feels worthless so they get some pitiful power out of being mean.  Or the person assumes no one likes them so they act like an ass to prove themselves right.  Or for some other psycho babble blah blah blah reason.  But these are still lousy reasons.  It says a lot about the state of mental health in most workplaces if this type of behavior is so prevalent, that there are a hell of a lot of people who feel bad about themselves and act this way to compensate.

Based on my own experience I wish I could say that the best response is to be kind and compassionate, and on some level I think that is necessary.  But from a practical standpoint, my experience was to stay the hell away from the toxic people and to avoid them at all costs.  I tried the being direct and professional approach.  They would use it to find a way to hurt me.  I tried smiling.  That seemed to make them mad and would result in some form of retaliation.  I tried being friendly and acting like there nothing was wrong, while simultaneously making damn sure my work was covered so they couldn’t sabbotage it.  That made them sneer and laugh behind my back about whatever friendly comments I had made (I caught them at this several times) .  Frankly, there was no way that I saw to behave except to stay as far away from them as possible.  Play dead.  The opossom approach.  That is the only viable method I advocate.  It might seem pathetic, but it worked.

Gods

Dogs.  I swear part of the reason they live with us is to cheer us up.  Yes, I know that is totally human centric, but it’s true.  I have spent all morning in a funk.  My little pack has been sitting around me, hovering and waiting for pets and lovies.  Just now I got up from sitting and writing and the three of them went running along with me.  The greyhound tapped her feet.  The chihuahua spun in circles.  Molly just hung out watching.  All of them had doggy smiles.  They cheered me up.  Now Piper is spinning around on the floor on his tummy with his back legs stuck out behind him.  It’s pretty hard to stay in a funk with three dogs doing their best to make you smile.  Funny, I went to type in Dogs on the tags line and typed Gods instead.  I think there is something to that.

Tick Tock Tick Tock Tick

How is it that I’ve arrived at 10:11 a.m. and have accomplished virtually nothing of substance?  I updated my about page.  I took my child to school.  I went to the post office.  All of that was done by 8:45 a.m.  Now I’ve spent a good deal of time at the computer and am in the same place as I was an hour and a half ago.  Oh, and I took a half an hour nap.  There was that.  But the other hour I pissed away looking at other Blog Presentations and surfing myspace.  What a productive use of my time.  I need to work on a letter for work.  I need to finish my taxes.  I don’t have any desire to do either.  Procrastination is in serious overdrive here.  I guess I’ll just have to jump in and do them.  Yuck.  I’d rather go ride the horse.

In the last couple of weeks I have become quite the irresponsible party.  Having always been the super responsible party, my becoming irresponsible feels quite unnatural.  Actually, I think it was only the week Milla was gone to see her dad that I have been like this.  I did a lot of work on the house, but I also went out, drank some rum and pineapple juice one night, stayed up very late several nights, including one until dawn, slept away a couple of days, and generally didn’t do much productive anything.  It was seriously pathetic.  Now I’m back into the schedule and that feels more normal, but my head isn’t in it.  Add to this angst over heartache and worry over finances and I seem a bit bent on a minor depression.  And of course there was the incident with the old workplace that still has me in a bit of a funk.

While lying in my bed during the aforementioned nap, I stared out at the sky.  The sun wanted to peek through the clouds and there was a squirrel in the front yard whose antics are hilarious.  Lying there, I thought I could lie there all day and do not a lot.  I thought through the things I needed to do and still did not get up.  It took the phone ringing to rouse me from my half asleep, hypnotic stupor.  As I stumbled through the living room to the kitchen where my phone is plugged in I actually had the thought that I was surprised someone was calling.  I’m not much on the radar these days, and I realize this is somewhat self-inflicted.  How is it that I got here?  What is it that I’m doing?  It’s like my desperation to leave Portland is obliterating all other thought.  Living in the moment is a struggle because I don’t like the moment, but my thoughts of future moments as long as they are in Portland aren’t much better.  I hope some of this funk is hormones.  It isn’t really time for PMS, but it would be nice to blame this on that.  Maybe I’m not such a strong person since one, two, three tough things in a ten day period put me in this state.  But I don’t care.  I’m tired of taking strength in being strong.  I’d rather just be.  Only that’s not good for my brain or my daughter.  So I’ll plow on and turn the music up very loudly to drown out my thoughts.

On another note, I thought I would take a moment and clarify a few things.  There:  Not here.  They’re:  They are.  Their:  A possessive pronoun.  It’s:  It is.

Bonding Over Bathroom Fixtures

When my nephew was four he was at the grocery store with my sister and my two year old niece who had finally started using the toilet.  While standing in the line with a loaded cart, Nathanael announced to everyone, “Now my whole family wears underwear!”  It was pretty cute.

I have beautiful shower fixtures now.  My dad installed them for me.  I asked him to do it a couple of years ago when I bought the fixtures, but he told me to hire a plumber.  He didn’t think he could do it.  Then the other day I was showing him the list of stuff I still need to do on my house before selling it.  I was showing it to him to demonstrate just how little is left on a house I’ve basically gutted and remodeled all by myself.  The only project I hired someone for was rewiring the thing and installing a new electric box (another friend who did an amazing job and to whom I still owe money when this box sells).  My dad has helped me on a few projects since he’s a retired contractor and carpenter.  I think he’s proud his daughter has picked up his skills and remodeled the entire kitchen, removed a wall, built a wall, built a ginormous walk-in closet, moved a door, retiled the bathroom, built two sets of built-in bookshelves, painted the entire thing inside various colors, replaced molding, rebuilt window frames, replaced light fixtures, took a jungle out of the front yard, built a rock wall, and installed a yard, as well as countless landscaping projects.  When I ask him how to do something, he seems happy I ask his advice and shows me what to do, sometimes offering to help.  I was so glad he offered to put in the bathtub fixture for me because I had no idea how I was going to pay a plumber.  After he did it and it took five hours because the new fixture was a different shape than the old one and the whole thing had to be installed behind two solar water heater pipes, I was even more glad.  One plumber I had called estimated the job would take 45 minutes to complete.  He had not looked at it.  I have no doubt when he got here and discovered the tile had to be cut and there were pipes to work around, he would not have been so optimistic and it would have cost a hell of a lot more than the $120 he quoted.

Anyway, my dad did this for me and I’m grateful.  I know he’s sad I’m selling the place.  We haven’t told my mom yet.  She’d freak and we all know it.  So continuing the tradition of secrets, none of us tell.  But it’s funny, it’s not like alcoholic secrets where things are obvious yet everyone denies them.  It’s more like we all know my mom freaks about the most mundane of events and won’t sleep for a month and will stomp around the house and make everyone around her miserable, so to avoid the hassle none of us will mention it.  If the information is dropped, well, we’ll spin it to create the best story for her so hopefully she won’t lose any sleep and start to freak out.  In my mind, that’s not really living with secrets.  Rather it’s more like living without a hassle.

Anyway, I’m glad my dad did this for me.  It looks amazing.  Last night I came home from a friend’s party and even though it was midnight, I had to take a shower in it.  It was so fantastic to be able to adjust the heat without pliers, something we’ve done for four years now.  Thanks, Dad.

Pleas of Please

Get me out of here.  Please.  Just take me as far away as possible, preferably to the other side of the planet.  Portland hates me and I’m beginning to really hate Portland.  At least while I thought I loved Portland it could take its passive aggressive actions against me and I wasn’t aware what was going on.  Now that our hostility is in the open, I’m afraid it might become even more bitter and hateful towards me, and I’m frightened.  I have to leave here.  I have to leave here as soon as I possibly can.  This is my lament carved into internet space.  These are the words I use to beg and plead for an allowance to pack my things and leave without further incident.  Please.  I wonder if there is some link in the word origin between please and pleas.  There must be.  Pleas of please, they are so similar.  One word.  One plea.  Get me out of here alive.  Maybe that’s two requests.  Okay, so two pleas.  Get me out of here.  Alive.  Please.  These are my only requests.

I wrote my tags and for them I chose despondence, despair, and desperation.  I need to look up the origin of desp because my pathos and longing exists in all of these desp words.  Okay, so I looked up despondence and it comes from forlorn, which literally means lost.  I looked up despair and it arises from lack of hope.  I looked up desperation and it also arises from lack of hope.  I can see its connection to despair.  Interesting words.  Funny the desp is not a root.

Anyway, I have to leave this place or I will wither.  Actually, I already am.

Our Non-Traditional Family

I’m sitting here at my computer doing my thing and my dogs are all hovering, their personalities evident in the hovering each of them does.

Molly, the half lab half border collie, is standing next to me, her head half down.  Every so often she’ll glance up and then look back down at the floor.  I’m here, but don’t notice me, but if you do, I’d like a pet, but you don’t have to.  I mean, I know you’re busy, so I won’t bug you, but if you do happen to look at me and you do happen to want to pet someone, I wouldn’t be offended if you petted me.

Edna, the greyhound, is dumb as a fence post and kidnap bait to boot.  If she’ll get a pet, she doesn’t care who from.  She stands next to me and shoves her nose into my hand as I type.  It’s cold and makes me typo.  I stop and pet her to try and make her go away, but that just makes her want more.  And I think she enjoys the fact she’s tall enough to make me pay attention.  I could say that she doesn’t care I’m busy, but I think she’s too dumb to know what busy is.

Piper, the chihuahua, spins in circles and grunts.  He just drank a bunch of water and for some reason, that makes his breathing difficult for about five minutes.  Maybe he sucks in water through his nose, I don’t know.  He’s actually the mellowist and quietist chihuahua I have ever met, but when he wants me to pick him up, he either stands and whines (the piping for which he is named) or he spins and grunts.   Spin, grunt, retarded face.  Spin, grunt, retarded face.  It’s actually pretty cute and generally serves his purpose in getting me to pick him up.

So now I took too long and typed this, so the dogs all went to their respective corners.  Molly slunk into the closet where her bed is hidden under the back shelf.  She wouldn’t want anyone to notice her, you know.  Edna went to poke around and see if any of the other dogs left dog food pieces she can nibble on.  Either that or she’s lying on the floor and taking up as much space as possible.  She has two positions, spread across the room or curled in the corner.  Most times, she chooses spread across the room.  Piper didn’t finish his food after drinking his water so now he’s eating.  Maybe there is something to the theory that he gets water in his nose since his snout is all pushed in.  Damn he’s cute.

I love my pack of dogs.  I’m their Pied Piper and lead dog.  It’s kind of funny.  Milla hates it that she’s not leader.  She asked me why I got to be leader.  I told her I didn’t choose it, the dogs did.  I told her she could be leader if they picked her.  Unfortunately since she drags them around on leashes and does things like trying to make Molly jump fences like an agility dog, or forces lazy ass Edna to run up the hill with her, being leader of the pack isn’t going to happen anytime soon.  Friday the cat doesn’t mind her mauling him.  In fact he searches her out, flopping on his back at her feet begging her to drag him around.  Perhaps she can pretend to be his leader since he loves the attention, although cats don’t seem to seek a leader.  He does treat us like his family though, coming in to lie on the bed with us at night, shoving his head under our hands for pets until we fall asleep.  It’s all good.

Funny that our family is mostly a bunch of non-human animals.  I bet we would give the traditional family values people something to cry over.  Actually, we already did, what with Milla being born out of wedlock, her dad and I living in sin for 5 years, and then splitting up.  Yikes! We’re the devil.  Now, I have this bastard child living with a bunch of dogs and a cat like her family.  Oh my God!  Call out the guard.  Sin is afoot!  Ah well. Sarcasm aside, it’s a good non-traditional family.

All the Wittle Animals and Adam

My friend wrote this.  I thought it was such a funny story, I had to post it.

Once upon a time, God got an itch to create himself some little planet.  Yeah.  And on the planet he put all the wittle animals, some shrubbery, and Adam.  Oh, and then he turned on the light.  And then he rested.  Yeah.  And Adam was lonely so he ripped out a rib and created a woman.  Yeah.  And then God made sure that Adam and Eve were stupid and wouldn’t question anything.  Yeah.  So then, there was a snake, a talking snake, that persuaded Eve to eat an apple.  Yeah.  And then, well, then everything went to hell (woman’s fault, you know).  And then, God wrote the bible and told everyone that this was the Bible and that it was the word of God and that you had to obey it all.  Yeah, even the parts where you stone your own children to death if they profess non belief.  — CW, 2008

My choosing to publish this story represents a perfect microcosm of a little problem I have been dealing with lately.  As cliche’ as it sounds, on some level my blog is my own personal therapy session.  I come here and spout and think and muse and make shit up no one cares about.  Part of the deal for me is that I have to be brutally honest.  But also, no censoring.  And lately, I have wanted to censor.  I have been worrying way too much about who might read this and their reaction.  As a result, I have not been the happiest little camper lately.  Part of it, I’m sure, is that I’ve not been sleeping well.  Not sleeping makes me turn into a rather cranky little monster, if you know what I mean.  Lack of sleep will do that to a person.

But another part of my angst has been wanting to write stuff and then not doing it because of my perceived expectation of a reaction or concern over what others will think of me.  I even went so far as to delete the post I wrote on toxic work places because I was worried someone at the old workplace would read it.  I also worried about what I wrote yesterday about wanting a boyfriend, all concerned the man I’m going on a date with might read it, realize I’m bananas, and run screaming for the hills.  I worried a parent in Milla’s class might discover what a foul-mouthed hooligan I can be.  Then there were a few days where all I wanted to write was a bunch of negativity because I was mired in a sleep-deprived, hormonally-induced, mini depressional psychosis and I didn’t want people to think I’m that much of a mental health disaster.  For over a week now I have not written much at all because of concern over someone reading what I had to say.

Then last night I was reading and taking a nice bath to relax before bed in the hope I would fall asleep when I realized what I have been doing.  I realized I was censoring myself and I had to ask, what in the world is going on here?  I am not writing for the audience, I am writing for me, regardless how stupid, opinionated, depressed, or ridiculous I may be.  I want to have an audience, that’s why I put it out there.  But I can’t write with the audience in mind.  So I had this little epiphany and resolved to go back to being my usual blabber-mouthed, opinionated, cussing sometimes self, regardless if I was having a good day and regardless what anyone else might think or say.

Then this morning I received the story my friend wrote and wanted to post it because I think it is hilarious.  I cut and pasted it and put it into my wordpress window, then when it came time to tag it and categorize it, I started to worry about offending someone or the neo-nazi religious types that might read it and send me hate mail and I got a little flutter and almost didn’t put anything in the tags and only a couple of categories to ensure no one would read it.  Then the lightbulb went on and I realized I was doing it again, censoring, worrying about the reaction, and I knew then that I had to post it and add all the tags and categories I would have if I knew no one was reading it.  I had to put it out there, regardless of the reaction.  Because ironically enough, I honestly don’t care whether someone likes it or not.   I’m just too tired right now to deal with the possible reaction.  And that is the crux of it, I suppose.  I have been feeling so lousy from lack of sleep that I do not have my usual strength and resolve to put up with someone else not liking what I have to say.  I’ve regressed back to the person in my teens and early twenties who had zero confidence in her writing or her self.  I suppose it is normal to make these regressions when I’m overly tired, but it doesn’t mean I have to stay there.

So I’ve put on the story and I put back the toxic workplace post and I’m leaving the relationship post and if there is anyone reading it who doesn’t like it, well, I guess that’s too bad.  Go read something else.  I’m not trying to change your mind.  I’m not trying to make other people hate my ex boss.  I’m not trying to troll the blogs hoping some Prince Charming will read my relationship posts and come sweep me off my feet.  I’m writing because I have to and it keeps me sane.  It is part of my spirituality.  I know that’s a useless psychobabble reason, but it’s true, and that’s all there is to it.

A Million Little Thoughts

I was thinking about the book A Million Little Pieces by James Frey.  I found the book to be an entertaining read. James got into a lot of trouble for embellishing some of the book and not admitting it up front. I wonder what he was afraid of that he didn’t just put in some disclaimer saying as much when he wrote it.  I doubt anyone would have cared. Unfortunately, the fallout was huge, and he’s still brought up as some sort of failure of a journalistic standard or whatever.  It all was way too overboard though. I mean seriously people.  Get a grip.  What I find ironic is that people managed to get so up in arms about it considering he called himself a liar several times in the book, and also he seemed the sort who liked to make a story big.  And the stuff he embellished was the stuff that made the story big.  Plus if he manages to offer some other solution to addicts besides various anonymous, then more power to him.  And he was honest about calling himself an addict and a criminal, which he was, at least the addict part.

I don’t know that I like the word criminal.  Yeah, someone did a crime and maybe at that point they were a criminal, but if they repent does that make them a criminal forever? Kind of like an adulterer or murderer.  But if we’re going to label someone something like that forever, then if they had been honest and hardworking then committed a crime then were honest and hardworking again, aren’t they still honest and hardworking?  And are all crimes necessarily dishonest?  I have known more than one person who had an affair while married or in another sort of long term relationship who did not repeat their behavior in other relationships.  Does that still make them an adulterer?  I guess you couldn’t get over murderer though. Once a murderer, always one I suppose.  Funny how we choose certain labels that can be added or subtracted depending on the circumstances, but the bad ones certainly seem to stick around longer.  Okay.  I can’t say anything anymore.  It all becomes some damn theoretical debate in my head, all this trying to get at the truth of something that may just be limited by language

As I may have mentioned before, my brother is staying with me at the moment.  I have been paying close attention to him, and I have noticed one consistent aspect to his behavior, and that is his absolute inability to delay gratification.  I know studies show that inability to delay gratification in early life can be a predictor for addictive behavior later in life.  And Derek just can’t.  It’s nuts.  He wants something, he wants it now, and he is basically obsessed about it until he gets it.  On occasion I have been able to explain him out of his desire for the thing, but often it will come up again several times with me reminding him again of the reason out of the desire until it finally sinks in or another thing rises to take its place.  For instance, I am minimally employed at the moment, so money is tight.  This means I do my best to keep from squandering it on things I don’t need.  Derek, however, has no job at the moment and has about $700 left.  He wanted a new external dvd drive, so he ordered it.  I asked him why and he said he wanted it.  I told him he might need the money for food or something later, and he just kind of shrugged.  I think on some level he must recognize his inability to keep from spending money if he has it because he gave me $500 to hold onto for him.  It also serves as a kind of monetary deposit should he fail to get another job and pay me for the space he sleeps in my basement.

I wonder if this inability to delay gratification is the key behavioral component that makes an addict an addict.  I’m sure all humans at some point or another have moments of unwillingness to wait for something.  I know I have paced and waited and stared at the phone hoping that new guy will call, biting my thumbnail to the quick, jumping like a startled rabbit when it finally does.  Or not even waiting, but picking up and calling him, then kicking myself in the ass afterwards wondering why didn’t I wait, damn it!  And credit cards are evidence alone that many, many people want stuff before they can afford it.  But I wonder if addicts choose to act more often than not.  A food addict wants food and eats.  A sex addict wants sex and goes to find it, regardless of the consequences.  An alcoholic wants alcohol and drinks, again regardless of the consequences.  Curious.  There is probably a body of theory and study out there in addiction medicine all about this, I’m just not in the know about such things.

Well, I can no longer delay my desire to eat.  I’m hungry.  So I’m going to go and make food.  The desire to write has been overridden by my body’s need for something in its empty stomach.

Love and Pointlessness

I just put my daughter on a plane bound for Colorado.  As I sat there in the airport, I looked out the window at the plane, watched as the ramp to the door was pulled back, saw the door close to the luggage hold, gazed upon the trucks that delivered the luggage pulled away.  Everyone moved away from the plane as it readied to leave except for the truck that pushed it backwards out onto the runway to taxi off into the distance.  I thought to myself, how weird it is that I’m sending my child, the love of my life off into the sky.  Soon she will be miles above the earth and I am not even slightly afraid.  How odd it is that we place ourselves in the sky like that.  How bizarre that we transport ourselves, airborne.  And I was not afraid.

I wondered whether I would have a premonition if the flight were in danger.  If I ever strongly felt such a premonition I would not allow my child to fly.  I would believe myself.  But I wondered, sitting there, whether I would have such knowledge to honor.  Odd thoughts these.

My brother commented on my blog on him.  I reread what I wrote and as I did tears came.  I read Derek’s comments and felt sad.  That boy I love so much who I suppose isn’t a boy.  He wants to do better.  I genuinely believe that.  But sometimes I think he does not think himself capable.  I’m trying to teach him about living in the moment.  I’m trying to show him that concerns about the future that keep him awake keep him from enjoying where his is right now.  So much of his life is worry about what will be or self-loathing at what has been.  He laments his luck and I want to show him that so much of it isn’t luck, but choices.  I want him to see that he can make different choices and perhaps end up with a different result.  It seems so clear to me, yet so murky to him.

He came to me last night and said that Sarah read my blog and said I called her dumb.  I knew the moment that he said it that it was true.  I remember writing it and thinking she would never read my words.  But she did and I am sorry.  I did not want to hurt her.  I want to be honest, but I don’t want to hurt anyone.  I do not know how to reconcile that.  I think if my parents read the story of Derek, they might see my version of them as a criticism.  I suppose in some ways it is there.  My judgment.  Is it possible to observe and report without judgment?  I do not know how to do that.  I have my opinions, my observations.  Whether or not they are accurate or fact isn’t always possible to ascertain.  Perhaps there is a bit of truth and fiction in them.

Also a couple of days ago I wrote about Valentine’s Day.  I said that my blog friend admired my blog for its lack of a point.  I read him wrong.  He did not mean that, but the opposite.  He wrote to me and quoted what he said again.  He was right.  He did not say I have no point.  Perhaps it was easier for me to accept that version of reality because it is what I already believed to be true.  So often I get started, type like mad as the words flow effortlessly from my brain, then arrive somewhere unsure how to conclude.  In that, I find my lack of a point.  Perhaps it is there, but in my inability to conclude in a tight and concise manner, I ascertained a pointlessness.  His observation of my mistake made me laugh. He was right.  How quickly we assume we know something when we bring our own prejudices to it.

So here I am again at the end wondering how to conclude neatly and cannot do it.  All the previous words flowed from my fingers.  Now my fingers stutter.  I type a sentence, then pause.  Type another, then pause.  How to end this?  I suppose it’s easy.  I need to go clean my daughter’s room and while she is gone, send stuff away she never plays with.  Plus I need to build drawers under her closet and attempt to put part of the window back together.  Oh, and paint.  Lot’s of paint.  So that is how I will sign off, by begging off because I have to go and work while it is still light, moderately sunny, and I feel the desire.  There is something in the sun that makes me want to work.  So I will.

Adieu.

Random Rant of the Morning

Why the hell is it people can’t figure out basic punctuation rules when it comes to quotation marks and things like commas and periods?  Even if you’re quoting something, the punctuation mark goes INSIDE the quotation marks.  Everyone seems to want to pretend to be British these days, where they stick the punctuation outside the quotes.  But guess what?  We had a little war about oh, say, 215 years ago, give or take a few years that allowed us to secede from Great Brittain.  Do you know what this means, to secede?  It means that we became a country of our own.  We left the mother ship.  We took our baby steps and fell and grew to be a country with language usage all our own. Lots less cool and boring in most cases, but still ours.  For instance, we took the “e” out of judgment.  We add a “the” before we head to the hospital.  We go on vacation instead of on holiday.  We call our boots and condoms rubbers.  They call their erasers rubbers.  There are lots of little different things.  And one of them is putting the damn little punctuation marks inside the quotation marks.  It is so bloody distracting to see the punctuation mark outside the quotes.  See there?  I used a British swear word to show everyone how distracting it is when Americans pretend they are Brits.  Weren’t you distracted? I hear you.  You’re saying, “Here she is complaining about Americans acting like Brits and she’s acting like one herself!”  I’m with you. But see, I did that on purpose to make a point.  Those people out there using the punctuation marks outside the quotes aren’t making a point.  They are just using the marks incorrectly.

I put a rant about this very issue on Craigslist Rants and Raves.  Do you know what?  Someone flagged it for removal!  This is a site where people use the foulest of language, some posting the most horrendous photos, with arguments back and forth between people on the web basically threatening to kill each other, and my little rant about putting small punctuation marks inside the quotes got flagged!  I swear.  I suppose Portland rant and ravers want everyone to think they are from Britain or something.  Weird.

So please.  I beg you.  If you are American and you are writing, follow the rules.  Put the small punctuation marks inside the quotes, whether or not you are quoting something.  This is the rule.  If you don’t believe me, I can recommend an excellent site on grammar and punctuation.  It’s called Wilbers on Writing and it’s at www.wilbers.com.  The specific rule about small punctuation marks inside the quotes can be found at www.wilbers.com/quotes.htm.

That’s it for the random rant of the morning.  Thanks for sticking around.

Death and Loving

Ah, Valentine’s Day, Valentine’s Day.  This is the first year I can ever remember when I haven’t either wanted a romantic Valentine’s Day or the not wanting it isn’t sour grapes.  There have been a few of those years, ones where I pretended to myself that I didn’t care but deep down it hurt that there wasn’t someone special to remember the day for me or I had someone who was careless about such things.  Right now, I am honestly happy just being who I am and love having my little girl as my Valentine.  As a result, this is a really nice Valentine’s Day, at least thus far.

Milla is so sweet.  Last night the two of us took heart cookie cutters and cut beeswax hearts for her classmates.  We then wrapped them in tissue paper and tied them off with yarn. As is often the case in these sorts of projects, I had the assembly line going.  There have been moments in the past where I go off half-cocked trying to be Martha Stewart mom and decided to make 28 Valentines from scratch.  16 Valentines in and 4 hours later I’m ready to slice my wrists with the scissors and poke the glue sticks in my eyes.  One year we hand-cut hearts from construction painting paper, then watercolored hearts on each one, then I helped Milla sign her name to each one.  It was fun for the first 8 or so, then Milla was getting mad because she was sick of signing her name and I was getting mad because there was paint on the ceiling and walls and we were both ready to kill each other so I’ve learned my lesson.  I’m not the Martha Stewart of mothers.  Now I know when it comes to large crafty projects making multiples of anything, go for the assembly line approach.  These kids won’t know the difference and ninety-percent of them will likely end up in the trash anyway.

So last night Milla and I lined up the wax and started cutting the hearts.  Then we piled them up in twos.  Then we cut the yarn for the tissue paper.  Then we cut the tissue paper into squares.  Then we wrapped them and she tied.  At one point she tried tying bows but that deteriorated after about 3 sets because it was a huge pain in the ass.  The yarn kept getting caught on her fingernails and she’d pull the whole lump out of my hand and we both got irritated so we quit that.  We managed to complete the entire project in under an hour, so that was all good.  Of course, we got to school this morning and it turns out her teacher doesn’t do a Valentine’s Day exchange, but with my luck if we’d skipped it there would have been an exchange and I would again look like the mother that couldn’t.  I’m good at that.

Valentine’s Day is kind of a weird holiday.  In some regards it seems almost like Mother’s Day; designed entirely by the greeting card industry to make people spend money.  But it has a really cool history and dark side that appeals to me.  There are all these legends about who St. Valentine may have been, but in all of them, he’s rescuing someone and doing all these good deeds and as a result, he gets killed off.  I suppose that’s the nature of Sainthood, but I find it somewhat ironic that his life is held up as the namesake for a holiday about romantic love.  Isn’t the murder of St. Valentine for all his good and loving deeds kind of a perfect analogy on some level for the way we lose ourselves in romantic love?  It’s all good if both sides are party to the celebration, but more often than not I think it all ends in despair.  And even when both sides are happy about things and ultimately stay together, the romantic part inevitably ends.  And most sane people I know are glad that it does.  It’s almost like death in some ways to be in that place where you’re so in love you can’t eat or sleep or think or do a damn thing and you might as well be dead.  It’s a good thing that part ends or we’d never get anywhere.

Another interesting consideration in the history of St. Valentine is when it’s celebrated.  Some say the mid-February date is to commemorate St. Valentine’s death.  However others argue it was an active choice on the part of the Christian church to obliterate a pagan festival called Lupercalia.  It was one of those native festivals where people prepared their homes for spring and celebrated fertility through a festival to the Roman God of Agriculture.  Well, we certainly couldn’t have people worshipping any Agriculture gods, now could we?  That would be idolatry.  So the Christians murdered off the local religion with a nice little holiday of their own.  How special!  I do find it quite fascinating that in all the history surrounding Valentine’s Day there is quite a lot of death.  And loneliness too.  As I understand it, St. Valentine spent his last days in prison before being put to death.  There he was trapped in his lonely heart and then he was killed.  Wow.

On that special note, I think I’ll sign off.  Someone I know told me he likes my blogs because I just go on my rant without making a point.  Yep.  That’s me.  Pointless.  Ha!  Well, I have a point today, and that’s to enjoy the beautiful girl I made while in the throes of romantic love that ended with a sputter.  Her father and I may have our differences, but if I could go back and choose whether or not to toss that condom across the room (Yes, mom.  That’s what happened.  It didn’t break like I told you.), I would do it again in a heartbeat because the love I have for her is better than any romantic love I’ve ever experienced.  I suppose that’s the point, though, isn’t it?  To fall in romantic love so you breed, have children, and ensure the continuation of the species.  Who cares if the species grows up, falls in love, and ends up killed over it.  As long as the breeding took place and the children were born first, it’s all good, right?  Kind of senseless and weird, but it must work or we wouldn’t have a population explosion.

Drip Drip Drop Little Rain is Falling

Our local NPR station is doing one of its annual membership drives.  They bug the hell out of me.  First of all, they keep going on and on about my having not called, but how do they know?  Maybe I did.  Yeah, I know.  It’s meant for people who haven’t called, but still.  Anyway, today this listener called in and said how her local NPR station makes her feel “connected to the community” and I got to thinking, connected to the community how exactly?  Because you hear what they are telling you, that provides connection?  Then I started wondering what connection is anyway.  Everyone talks about being “connected,” but what the hell is that?  I always considered connection actually requiring something be in one piece.  But some seem to believe connection exists just by knowing some of what is going on.  I don’t know that it is.  You hear about some group doing something or you hear about how some guy shot his wife or you hear about the local elections so yeah, you’re in the know, kind of like high school.  But how are you connected to that just by knowing it occurred?  And some of these things, like hearing about how someone killed someone else, who wants to be connected to that anyway?  Since I happen to think connection connotes, well, one piece, is it one piece for information to be broadcast and for me to hear it without really giving anything back? I suppose if the person on the radio told me about some volunteer opportunity and I went and did it, then maybe by virtue of my having become one piece at some point there was a connection.  But this notion of connection because the information is out there and I hear it just doesn’t quite sit with me.

It’s funny, people seem to feel we are more connected because we can go to the internet and get information from someone across the world, or we can send an email at the drop of a hat or pick up a phone and dial, and maybe in the context of the phone we can have a connection because another person can be on the other end.  But so much of it is an illusion of connectivity.  There really isn’t one piece.  There is one person at one end of an electronic device doing something or hearing or seeing something on the electronic device.  At another time, and possibly simultaneously, there is another person or several people in various places connected to electronic devices and interacting with them.  But the actual people are not necessarily actually connected, especially when it comes to the internet.

I thought about this a lot when I internet dated, something I have given up for good.  It creates this illusion of intimacy.  You go through essentially a catalogue looking for the right visual stimuli that appeals to you on whatever level, be it through photos or what is posted about the person, or what they have to say, whatever.  Then, while sitting alone at a keyboard, you send some signal letting them know you are interested.  At some point in the future, they get your signal, look at your marketing tools, then ignore the signal or respond via another electronic signal.  If that happens to be email, you can spend hours, days, weeks even, sitting and typing at the computer without ever having encountered the other human being.  You may discuss things in depth.  You may keep it light.  Whatever.  The point is, it is an illusion because you have never actually connected to that human being, at least in terms of connection being in one piece.  No wonder it is so easy for dishonesty to proliferate.  I’m not arguing that people can’t lie when they hook up in bars, but at least there you have the visual clues to go along with what is being communicated verbally to ascertain how much of what is going on is the truth.  I would suspect the same is true receiving information from various forms of media and assuming it is true and assuming we are connected.  It’s an illusion and it’s easier to be deceived.

If the rain is falling all at once, are the drops connected before they land?  If I am driving in my car with others on the road, are we connected by virtue of heading in the same direction?  I suppose the answers could be yes and no, spanning science and the metaphysical.  I don’t know.  I think I’ll go ponder these connundrums while I take a shower.

The Customer is Always Replaceable

The Customer is Always Right.  I used to see this sign in businesses.  The theory behind it is a pleasant one, although I usually only saw it invoked as a means for bullies to treat customer service representatives like crap.  But today, it seems the idea has gone completely out the window.  It’s like stores don’t give a shit anymore if we don’t patronize their businesses; 800 people will be standing in line behind us if we don’t like the service that we get.  It’s this way with stores, restaurants, customer call centers, you name it.

I don’t eat out much.  For one thing, it’s expensive as hell.  For another, I heard Portland has had an outbreak of Hepatitis A and that it is often spread by restaurants.  Since I had to get a shot in the butt in 1990 for an e-coli outbreak, and the thought of eating someone else’s poo is just more than I can manage, I avoid restaurants.

But sometimes you’re across town and starving as hell and ready to run people over your blood sugar is so low and you’re willing to eat all the things you wouldn’t normally touch from a mile away because you’re that hungry.  That was me today.  I recognized intellectually that I felt like a wretch and I didn’t care because I needed food.  So I went to Taco Hell.  Yeah, I know it’s gross.  But it’s cheap and they have this burrito with rice in it and I don’t get cheese so I went.  The service was horrendous.  The charming “customer service” representative who took my order informed me that the burrito I like “cannot be grilled.”

Huh?  I told her when I’ve patronized the Taco Hell by my house they always grill it for me.  Well, she sneered, that’s another franchise.  Uh, okay.  Small problem.  When I’m hungry, I don’t care how big a bitch I am, at least when I’m that hungry.  And I was that hungry.  But I’m working hard on living in the moment and I did not want to be the bully customer who makes a worker feel like shit.  I sat there in my car waiting to pull up to the window and thinking how irrelevant all this is and what a waste of my energy, but I was still getting angry.  So I decided to be calm, but I still wanted to know why can’t they just grill my fucking burrito?

I pulled up and asked the kind lady how come they couldn’t grill my burrito.  She said it is just a store policy.  I said that isn’t an answer, it doesn’t tell me why the policy is in place.  She said she didn’t know.  Across the way a man who was probably a higher up manager because he wasn’t wearing the fancy Taco Hell outfit but instead had on a cheap shirt and tie came over and asked the problem.  I started to say there wasn’t a problem, I just wanted to know why my burrito couldn’t be grilled.  He said they are not allowed to grill them, company policy.  I said that I get them grilled at the Taco Hell by my house.  He said they aren’t supposed to.  Then the girl helping said something to him and he turned to me and said it was a health issue.

Huh?  I said how in the world is it a health issue?  He said it’s like giving them a cup and asking them to fill it.  It has my germs on it.  I was VERY confused at this point.  My lack of blood sugar addled brain couldn’t quite muster what was going on.  I said how in the world can it be a health issue to grill a freaking burrito?  It’s in the restaurant, you put on all the ingredients.  I never touch it.  He just walked away.

At this point, I didn’t give a shit if my burrito was grilled or not.  I just wanted to eat.  I sat and waited until the girl handed me the bag.  I asked for my water and drove off.  I pulled to the side of the parking lot to eat it and it was grilled.  Weird.

The main thing I kept thinking about after all this was that had I threatened to take my business elsewhere, they would have said fine, go ahead.  We don’t need your two dollars.  Companies have gotten so big that the customer isn’t right anymore. Everyone puts up and shuts up about crappy customer service because there is nowhere else to go where it will be any better.  This is another byproduct of our one-size-fits-all one dimensional corporate society.  Hate waiting on the phone on hold for 20 minutes when you call the phone company?  Fine, go somewhere else.  And while you’re at it we’ll charge you $200 because you’re in a lopsided bullshit contract.  Hate the piece of crap you bought at the Dollar Store?  Too bad for you.  No refunds.  Who cares if the state law allows you to return a defective item to a store with no refunds.  You planning to sue us over a dollar?  Don’t want to wait in line at a store with no employees?  Fine, leave.  Better yet, stand in line for 10 minutes, then leave.  See if we care.  Want your burrito grilled and we won’t do it?  Go fuck yourself.  We don’t pay our workers enough to care.  We don’t hire enough workers so they’re all pissed off all the time.  Go somewhere else. Again, see if we care.

I know this is a cynical bitchy rant.  I shouldn’t complain without offering some solution.  But I don’t know what the solution is.  I go out of my way to avoid patronizing monster corporations, but sometimes it’s inevitable.  Sometimes it’s just being so damn hungry I’ll eat a rat in the gutter or Taco Hell.  Those are the times those places get my business.  I never go to Walmart or McDonald’s ever, and I mean never.  They could be the last businesses on earth and I wouldn’t go there.  Maybe there isn’t a solution unless enough people say enough, and judging by the lines in SkankDonald’s and Taco Hell or the mass of cars in the SkankMart parking lot, that isn’t going to happen anytime soon.  In the meantime I guess I’ll rant on my blog.

I Apologize in Advance for My Lack of Brevity and Wit

My daughter goes to a Waldorf school. There is a lot I love about the school. She has learned to knit and she is only 8 years old. She can do math word problems like no non-Waldorf 8 year olds I know. And she’s been learning music for years now as well.

But sometimes, if I’m honest, the “I’m liberal and New Ageyness” of some of the parents can be a little annoying. It’s like listening to the local NPR station sometimes with these people. Oh yes. Tomorrow we’re going to the farmer’s market to find grain to grind to make our own bread from scratch. It’s all organic and grown on that lot that was purchased in north Portland. Oh really? Wow. Yes, tomorrow Balfour and Aaliyah and I are going to a pottery class for 3 year olds, then we’re going to chant at the spiritual center. Both of these statements are made to one another in perfectly modulated, quiet voices, our indoor voices if you will. You know, just like NPR. And of course our children have unique foreign names to show our multiculturalism. We may be white Anglo-Saxon Protestants, but we’re diverse!

I know, I know. I’m being judgmental. I mean, after all, I am blonde, blue-eyed, white, and liberal. We eat organic and Milla knits. But I can honestly without a doubt say that sometimes our house sounds like trailer trash central. I walk in the kitchen and discover my dog vomited all over the floor and I scream, “What the FUCK is this mess? Goddamned dogs!” And last night, I admit it, we watched Dumb and Dumber without compunction. That movie is stupid and funny. And Milla watched it and laughed right along with me. Uh oh. If any of the other Waldorf parents found out, I’d be voted out. Maybe her teacher could claim the fact we’re late at least once a week is because Milla has heard the word fuck and has seen Dumb and Dumber. The fact I’m the only parent living here and have a hard enough time getting my own ass out of bed let alone my daughter’s has nothing at all to do with it. No sirree. And on the days where we’re late and I’m in the parking lot hollering at Milla to get moving because she’s the slowest thing on the planet sometimes, I swear, the holier than thou, how dare you speak to that child in that manner looks on some of the smug little faces make me want to whack them one. I don’t spank her. She’s got a good life. It isn’t going to kill her for me to tell her to get her damn ass moving already when she’s taking her own sweet time checking out some spot on the car door instead of getting into school. Jeez.

Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE Milla’s school. She used to go to a different Waldorf school where it felt like being in junior high all over again. The exclusion that went on there was out of hand. I guess what bugs me about the “I’m Liberal and New Age” crowd is that it’s worn like some badge of honor and used as a way to exclude those who aren’t in the “I’m Liberal and New Age” crowd. It’s the queen bees in another context. “Oh,” the eyes say as your child walks by wearing, GASP! Something from Old Navy! “You mean you didn’t spend eight-thousand dollars on a pure cotton, hand-knitted, grown up on the remade lot in north Portland skirt and shirt combo? How DARE you! I would NEVER let a stitch of acrylic touch my perfect child’s skin. And I certainly wouldn’t let little Balfour wear something made somewhere besides my own backyard! God forbid.”

It’s frustrating when you agree with the results of someone’s choices, but the why of their choices is problematic. Does it matter? I suppose it does in the context of trying to live without judgment, just letting others live their own life. Even the fact that it bugs me that they judge me for not being “Liberal and New Agey” enough in their minds is a form of judgment on my part.

Thinking about it, I suppose it’s how or why we identify with groups. Do we do it to belong or to exclude? And in belonging is there automatically excluding? Or can you belong simply for the sake of being a part of something? And some things people belong to by an accident of birth, yet this does not stop their identification to the point of even killing someone else who had a different accident of birth. Ireland comes to mind here, or Israel and the Palestine. Why is it that we will fight to the death for something that we wouldn’t have cared about if we had been born to another family? Even a seemingly innocuous choice, like which dog breed you prefer, can be a choice for exclusion as well. It’s weird. The whole thing is tied up in a big, old mess. Humans have this need to be a part of a pack but in doing so they leave others out of the pack and it seems like every conflict centers around this tidy piece of information. It’s the nature of conflict, isn’t it? One side against the other. One view against another. Me against you against me.

Sometimes it’s funny though. I try not to laugh at the “Liberal and New Age” voices in the hall at my daughter’s school. I try not to roll my eyes in class meetings when the parents get into a disagreement that they don’t want anyone to recognize as a disagreement. We’re using soft voices and “I centered” messages so it’s not a disagreement, is it?

“But really, I just can’t have Aaliyah eating cheese pizza for lunch, and we wouldn’t want her to feel excluded if the rest of the class has cheese pizza. She is allergic to dairy, yeast, soy, sugar, brocolli, pineapple, peanut butter, white bread, wheat, and every nut on the planet after all.” (And that’s another thing. Why is it that every kid is allergic to 18 different foods? For Christ’s sake, get a grip already!)

“Well, you know, Galbraith has been so cooperative at home lately, I promised him he could have cheese pizza. I wouldn’t want him to feel like I’m not listening to his needs if I didn’t get him cheese pizza.”

“Well, perhaps it may have been a wiser choice to bring him other options for his calm behavior. Perhaps you could discuss another choice with him. I’m sure he would be awake to such changes.”

“I just think that would create a lack of trust. Galbraith is such a sensitive soul. He has to be open to understanding, but I wouldn’t want to send the wrong message.”

And on and on and on. I just want to scream, For Christ’s sake! Let’s get the fucking pizza already. If your kid doesn’t ever eat pizza, how the hell is she going to miss it when everyone else eats it? And you’re just afraid Galbraith will throw a fucking tantrum if the class doesn’t get pizza. Why are we sitting here listening to this drivel at a parent’s meeting? I thought we were going to find out what they’re working on in class, not spend a half an hour bitching about whether or not to let the class have cheese pizza.

I sit there during these meetings and look at my shoes and wonder why it is exactly that the rest of us have to sit and listen to this nonsense for a half an hour. Oh, that’s right. Because we’re giving them an opportunity to be heard. And we all need to be heard, right? What about my right not to have to sit and listen to the shit? Guess what? We can’t all have all our rights at every moment we want to have them.

Okay, that was the longest, pointless rant ever. Sometimes I wonder about the pointlessness comes out of my typing fingers. I start with one thought and end up somewhere completely different. There is another blogger I like to read.  He wrote about the fact that he writes about a bunch of nonsense sometimes and wondered why he does it. Why indeed? Why is there this need to spew forth our opinions and observations? Why is it that when I’m writing for my blog I can write and write and write but when I just did my journal it was like pulling teeth sometimes? My counselor said that artists need an audience. I just wonder how anyone could call my drivel art. It makes me chuckle. But Full Metal Gerbil is right about one thing, if I’m writing on here, I’m not wasting time elsewhere, so it’s all good. Plus it keeps me sane. I haven’t been writing nearly as much as I need to in order to keep the brain sane and last night I realized I was in a depressive funk. I just have to do it. I have to get the meaningless drivel on the page. If someone has the stamina to sit and read all of it, more power to them. I apologize for my lack of brevity and wit.

My Poor Ass

One of the best reasons in the world not to stop exercising once you have started is that you will have to start again.  It’s hell on the body and seems to get worse as one gets older.  I have always been active, had to be for sanity’s sake.  I just have one of those high functioning, high energy metabolisms and brains that suffer from lethargy.  Luckily, growing up, I had no derth of exercising options.  My parents’ driveway is literally a mile long and I had to walk it to the school bus stop rain or shine, sleet or snow.  My sister and I were like the post office: through rain or sleet or dark of morning (not night, we weren’t vampires) we always had to deliver.  We walked or ran that driveway twice a day every day the entire time we went to school.  Nearly daily we would beg our sweet bus driver Annie to drive us up our driveway.  Her answer was always no.  One year for Christmas she gave me a chocolate N and Melanie a chocolate O.  At least her answer was consistent.  One time a bird pooped in my sister’s hair on the way down.  She was pissed off.  I laughed.  For some reason, we weren’t always cordial during those years. Gee, I wonder why… ?  I used to run the driveway on the way home.  It was mostly uphill and I liked getting home quickly.  I got to where I could run up in under five minutes.  Maybe that’s why I was so good in the 1500 m in high school track.

Our parents NEVER let us stay home from school.  I mean never.  I had chicken pox in 8th grade.  My parents sent me off to school even though I felt like shit and was itching like crazy and the school sent me home.  I dislocated my shoulder after having a horse land on me when it crashed through a fence rather than jumping over it.  Again, I went to school the next day even though I was in my own personal hell.

Needless to say, I got lots of exercise without even trying.  Plus I rode horses and ran on track and was even on the dance team a couple of years (that was a hysterical laugh, I can assure you).  Then when I moved away I kept riding and took up running and basically kept moving for the next decade, again, without really trying.  In college I started swimming.  My lifestyle kept me on the go.

Then I got pregnant and felt like a lumbering beast.  It hurt to move after a few months.  Walking was torture.  Everything I read said that if you’re fit going into pregnancy then pregnancy would be a breeze.  I was fit going into pregnancy and if that was a breeze, being unfit while pregnant must be sadistic torture.  My hips hurt.  My back hurt.  And I was as big as a house.  I’d always been stick skinny and suddenly I couldn’t fit into bathroom stalls.  After pregnancy I had to work a bit to get into shape.  It wasn’t as fun.  But I had the baby and bought a jogger stroller and got back into the swing of things.  I started riding again when she was 5 months old and that made all the difference in the world.  You know, all those people who use thigh masters and butt exercisers should just start riding sport horses.  It’s athletic as hell and gives you great abs, tight thighs, and a butt without much effort.  I’m not talking fat western saddles waddling into the mountains riding, I mean sport horses, jumping big fences and dressage on the flat.  It’s good for the body, I can assure you.  I started using a gym at one point to get strength training because I had always done aerobic exercise.  On all the equipment, I was pretty pathetic, using one or two of the little weight bricks.  But on the inner thigh weight lift, I could lift the entire stack!  Those inner thighs become little killers when you ride sport horses a lot.

Anyway, as is often the case, I digress.  In March 2005, I was jogging and sprained the shit out of my right ankle.  Seriously reamed the damn thing.  This killed my running career for the time being.  I was able to continue riding, but I wanted more.  So I took up biking.  I have kept it up.  I love it.  I put a rack on the back and drug Milla around with me until she learned to ride her own bike.  There’s nothing like climbing hills on a bike with a 30 pound lump on the back of your bike for getting strong, I can assure you.

But for some reason this fall, I just kind of stopped exercising as much.  Last year I had the excuse of stress and cancer and all that shit.  I had to sell my horse a year ago to pay the mortgage so I wasn’t riding.  But in the spring after radiation and everything, I started back easy and it wasn’t too terrible, but it wasn’t much fun either.  And I didn’t exercise as much last summer as I had always before.  It probably had something to do with our miserable ass weather.  It rained most of August.  What the hell is that?  We got sun for June and July and that was it.  We got screwed.  It started raining in August and has basically not given us much of a breather since.  During September I ran, doing interval training where you run like hell for a quarter mile or so then slow down then run like hell again.  But once it really started raining again, that was that.

So what brought on this little soliloquy?  Today I went riding again and it KICKED MY ASS.  I’m tired as hell and although I don’t feel those muscles yet, I can tell from the weakness in my hips, back, and abs that I’m going to be so sorry tomorrow and the next day.  Lucky me.   And a few weeks ago I went cross country skiing.  Again, kicked my ass.  And last summer, when I actually had been doing some bike riding, I rode in the Providence Bridge Pedal.  I did the middle distance.  I think it was 12 or 14 miles.   Not much compared to what I have done almost daily in the past.  Kicked my ass.  All these times, the ass kickings have manifested as my being tired as hell afterwards and sometimes lasting a few days.  It’s like my stamina is cracking or something.  I wonder if it has to do with the stress of last year, which was enormous, of if I’m just getting old.  Maybe it’s both.  I don’t know.  What I do know is that tomorrow my ass is going to seriously hurt and I am just not looking forward to that.

David and Goliath (the time when Goliath squashed David)

I get these political emails in my inbox urging me to take various political actions on a variety of causes.  One informative piece I received this morning informed me that China trades with Sudan, that wretched African dictatorship turning millions of refugees out to fend for themselves amid violence and chaos.  The email sender urges me to contact Congress, along with thousands of others, and get it to send China a message that it should not trade with bad Sudan.

Come on.  Seriously.  Do they honestly think Congress is going to give a rat’s ass that China is trading with Sudan?  Do they honestly think our petition is going to get anyone in Congress to care?  Even if we didn’t have Iraq going on, even if we didn’t have troops in Afghanastan, even if the economy wasn’t in the tank, even if we weren’t facing a mortgage crisis, even if Americans had healthcare, even if everything at home were perfect, I sincerely doubt that Congress would care one iota that China trades with Sudan, at least not in any way that is going to jeopardize our cozy little monetary relationship.  Money makes the world go round, honey, whether anyone likes it or not.  The people concerned mostly with money run this country and probably every other country in the world.  We do business with China so too bad for the Sudanese if they do business with China too.

Then of course there is the problem that China isn’t going to give a rat’s ass either even if Congress sent them a nice, stern message.  Naughty China!  Stop doing business with human rights abusers!  Oh.  But wait.  China is a human rights abuser too.  Dang.  We couldn’t get China to stop its own human rights abuses.  It’s not a big step to conclude China wouldn’t give one damn about Sudan’s human rights abuses either.  Who knows?  China and Sudan may even trade notes.  And realistically, we’re not going to do anything.  Hey China!  You’re naughty!  Stop killing priests and monks and everyone else in Tibet or we’ll get really, really upset with you!  Oh, and can we set up a few more Walmart warehouses over there, maybe a few more in Beijing?  And hey, why don’t we set some up near the Mongolian border too?  Perhaps we can sell Panda paws or something for virility.

Yes.  I know.  I’m sarcastic and cynical and all that.  But seriously, why don’t the activists who want me to get involved ask me to do something that isn’t going to be not only a huge waste of time, but a big damn joke as well?  Congress doesn’t give a shit that Sudan commits human rights abuses any more than China does.  I’m sure if you asked each Congress person individually if they were bothered by the human rights abuses they would probably say they are.  But I seriously doubt many of them are going to do anything about it, especially with the other previously-mentioned big messes the US has to deal with and even more especially considering all of the money we owe China.

The problem with sending email after email after email and letter after letter after letter telling me about all these world problems and asking me to take steps that aren’t going to do one damn thing and may even work against the cause because no one will take them seriously is that it creates a sort of numbness to the constant barrage.  There are a couple of organizations I belong to and to whom I give a bit of money from time to time.  On occasion I will send a letter to the editor on an issue about which they have kept me informed.  I’ve even called my Congress members when a vote is imminent.  These are things I can do. These are steps that might add to the masses who want something to actually change.  But signing some petition asking Congress to stop trading with China because of human rights abuses in Sudan is not only a waste of time, it’s likely to be perceived as a pathetic effort and possibly cause people to stop paying attention when something could actually be done.

That’s my soapbox for the day.

Truly Random Thoughts of a Stream of Consciousness Insomniac

My brain is normally overflowing with words.  I can hardly exist sometimes with all the words leaking out my ears and nostrils.  But for the last few days, my brain has been remarkably quiet.  I’ve thought of a few things, but nothing like usual.

Okay, non sequitur here.  But I’m sitting and typing this and my little dog, Piper, is lying down next to me with his funny little back legs stuck out straight behind him and he’s licking his front paws.  Oh!  Now the greyhound started snorting (she does that periodically, kind of gags and snorts like she has something caught in her throat) so Piper just jumped up to warn her with a couple of throaty little barks that he’s here so that snorting better not come any closer.  Oh she’s warned all right.  She’s lying across the middle of the floor taking up that half of the room.  I’m sure she plans to trip anyone who wants to come after me.  Dogs.  They are so present.

So anyway.  Last night I was pondering the fact that my brain has not been very active recently and I had a few interesting thoughts I wanted to write down, but I was too tired.  The brain wanted to sleep.  Sitting here, I almost wonder if it’s the insomnia that’s shut down my brain.  I have not been sleeping well.  It’s been over a week.  I know why.  I have no job.  I’m not making much on the contract work I’m getting.  I’m not sure how I’m going to pay the mortgage next month.  I got a shutoff notice from the city for water.   So I lie there in the middle of the night when I wake up and force myself into the moment, try not to worry about the future, try not to plan how to bring in cash.  I keep focusing on the pillow or the comforter or my dogs snoring or Milla’s arm across my head.  Bonk.  That brought me back to the present all right!

It’s funny how difficult living in the moment can be.  But I find that my days are much more stress free than they used to be, even if I’m not the best living in the moment person.  Compared to how I used to be, I really shouldn’t be so hard on myself.  Now I have to figure out how to stay in the moment at 3 in the morning when my brain wants to consider all the possibilities having no money brings.

So sitting here contemplating this now I am certain that the empty brain is just trying to sleep.  It does not function well without rest.  It loses its verve.  I yawn a lot.  I know this place.  Stress has always manifested as insomnia for me.  Insomnia makes it hard to be awake, in every sense of the word.  It is kind of nice for stream of consciousness, useless blogging though.

I’m selling my house.  I am moving somewhere warmer.  Or at least sunnier.  Milla’s dad wants us to move to Boulder where he lives.  He says it is sunny there 300 days a year.  I have a friend here who is from Denver.  She says it is sunnier there too, even though it’s cold.  I’m curious whether the sun alone will cure me.  I long for heat as well.  In the heat I can wear wispy dresses and flip flops.  In the heat I can pull on a t-shirt and cutoffs and I’m ready for the day.  In the cold I have to go searching for layers that won’t be terribly uncomfortable but will keep me warm.  And the choices!  It’s overwhelming.  So today, I can wear a maroon turtleneck, or hmmm….a black turtleneck?  How about grey?  And let’s see, should I wear the Levi’s for when I’m bloated or am I sufficiently watered that I’m not retaining anything and can wear the skinny ones?  Gee.  I’m not sure.  I could wear khakis, but that would require ironing and I really don’t feel like ironing.  So Levi’s it is.  There are those who tell me it’s because I’m so skinny that I’m cold all the time.  I don’t have enough padding.  So I should just gain a bunch of weight then I won’t be cold?  Not sure that would work.  I’m not the sort who gains weight easily.  And too much sugar makes me insane.  So I could try eating a lot more than I do, add sugar, and I’ll be chubby and meaner than hell, but I’ll be warm.  You know?  I think I’ll move instead.

Well off I go to try and earn some money so perhaps I can sleep.  That would be nice.  At the moment, I would really like a nap.

America Junior High

I saw this blog on the front page of wordpress this morning that says a vote for Huckabee is a vote for Hillary. I love how the writers of the post assume Hillary is going to be the Democratic candidate.  Why isn’t it a vote for Obama?  Or have the pundits all decided who the candidates are?

I listened to Talk of the Nation last week on polling.  One thing I found kind of interesting and also disturbing was all the talk about “failures” in New Hampshire and South Carolina.  So because they couldn’t figure out who would win ahead of time, they failed?  Why all this need to predict the future?  What are you going to know if you know who wins?  It drives me bananas.  There are some subjects where polling might be useful, but trying to predict elections to me seems to have no valid purpose.  If you are able to start figuring out who will win, then put that information out there, then people vote based on the lemming effect, isn’t that somewhat irresponsible?  Isn’t it encouraging people to vote based on something other than the issues?  And the people who vote based on who is already winning, what is that?  Do you feel like you are more important because you’re with the crowd?  I find it ironic that a country that pays so much lip service to the individual is actually full of so many sheep, whether it’s wanting the lastest consumer gadget because everyone else has it, wearing the latest fashion because everyone else wears it, or voting for the most popular candidate because they are well, the most popular.  It’s like giant junior high, and the pundits are the gossipers.  It’s nuts.

Derek

So today handed me my first how well can you deal with this new mentality of living in the moment when the moment is shit event.  I knew all along that the real test whether I got it with the living here and now and watching the thoughts but not acting on them would be when something really shitty happened.  So now something shitty has happened and my brain would really like to revert back to its old tricks of getting depressed and worried that life will be fucked up forever.  So I pick up my dog and nuzzle the fur in the back of his neck with my lips and feel its warmth and realize I’m here and right now, this moment I’m okay.  So maybe it will work if I don’t worry how long I have to keep doing it, knowing I’m just staving off the thoughts for now.  I don’t know, it isn’t tested.  But I don’t know what is going to happen the other way either, it just feels worse.

My brother, my baby brother who isn’t a baby anymore, but young enough I remember holding him and carrying him as an infant, I remember my mom’s entire pregnancy, started getting in trouble with drugs when he was a teenager.  He would get in trouble then my dad would pay to fix it and he’d be fine for a while then go back to my parent’s house then get in trouble again then dad would pay to fix it and he’d be fine for a while then he’d get in trouble again and on and on and on ad nauseum.  He’s been to treatment about five times.  He never really gets into it.  It started to be obvious that the key to Derek getting into trouble was going back to my parent’s house.  He’d get in a fight with my dad who likes keeping Derek the bad guy because that’s the only role he’s comfortable with.  Then Derek would use that as an excuse to go find his local idiot druggie friends and go do something stupid and he would get in trouble.

He was so smart as a little boy.  He built a robot from scratch when he was like four years old.  It walked and had blinking eyes.  He made a little motor and hooked it up to the legos and made it move.  But he had Tourette’s and the teachers were annoyed by him and he hated school.  I think he was genuinely ADHD too, but this was before that was the popular label for any kid who didn’t fit.  Luckily the Tourette’s faded by high school.

Anyway, Derek was the kid all the other kids worshiped.  They followed him around like he was the Pied Piper or something.  He is the sensitive sort, but he doesn’t want anyone to know it.  He loves animals like they are babies.  And loves babies.  But he acted tough around all his friends.  They thought he was God.  And he had one special friend, one who looked up to him, a friend he adored.  They were best buddies.  They worked on the farm of this man who was a teacher in Derek’s school, Mr. K.  Mr. K was a kind man and good for Derek because he made him act responsibly.  By the time Derek was 17, he was a foreman in the summer working on Mr. K’s farm.  But Derek had started smoking pot and would get into trouble.  Mr. K would try to guide Derek and get him to make better decisions, but Mr. K was too late on the scene.  Since Derek came along ten years after the rest of us he was handed anything and everything he ever wanted. This meant that when Derek wrecked a car, he got another one.  When he wrecked that one, he got yet another one (I wasn’t even allowed to use my parent’s cars, let alone get my own).  Anyway, so this is how it was.  Derek dropped out of school and passed the GED.  He worked on Mr. K’s farm.  And him and his best buddy Brad were the kings of the dipshits who followed them around like they were gods.

Then one morning Derek spent the night at his girlfriend’s house.  The clock radio woke him up and he was lying there listening.  The DJ told the story of a boy who had been four-wheeling outside town on one of the logging roads.  The logging company had put up a cable across the road up the hill to keep four-wheelers out of there, but neglected to put ribbons on the cables.  A local boy had been riding up the hill and was killed the day before by one of these cables.  Then they said his name and it was Brad, Derek’s best friend in the world.  This news destroyed Derek.  He was never the same after that.  It was like a sadness settled in and became a part of who he was.

Derek told me a story.  He went to the funeral home.  They were not having an open casket.  Brad’s head had been nearly removed by the cable.  The funeral director let Derek go in to be with his body after the funeral.  He told Derek he could open the end with Brad’s feet if he wanted to.  Derek did, but he opened the wrong end of the casket.  He said Brad’s eyes were open and he was crudely stitched together.  He said the image is a part of his brain.  I can’t even imagine.

So after this, Derek kept going to work, but he was darker.  He wasn’t the happy kid anymore.  He got arrested for a DUI and had meth in his truck.  Plead guilty, got his probabtion.  Then about 10 months later, Mr. K was going through the drive thru at McDonald’s and had a heart attack, his car hit a tree, and he died.  They didn’t know if the heart attack or tree killed him.  Derek seemed to quit caring after that.  He quit going to work and started always using drugs.  Of course, my parents would not admit he was using.  He would sleep for days then turn mean then leave.  On and on and on and on.  Then he’d get caught.  Then he’d get ordered treatment.  Then he’d be fine.  Then back on.  In between he married a woman he met online and had a couple of kids.  This came with its usual drama.  Somewhere in there Derek went to jail for the first time.  Then again.

The last couple of years Derek has really seemed to want to stay off drugs.  He took himself to Central City Concern, a treatment program here in Portland, and was doing well, got a job, then went back to my parent’s (there is a whole dynamic there too where my dad asks Derek to “come work for him” that helps keep this going on), then he used drugs again.

Finally, after the last episode, his PO told him he couldn’t go to Marion County.  That was the only place Derek had ever gotten into trouble, and that’s where my parent’s house is.  I allowed Derek to move into my basement until he found his own place, something he planned to do this weekend.  He got a job.  He did not go anywhere near my parent’s house.  The DA wanted to throw him in prison for six months.  The judge gave him probation with a zero tolerance order.  This meant he could not touch any intoxicant.  He could not go where intoxicants were served.  He had to stay in treatment.  He had to keep a job.  Derek was doing all of these things.  He was doing remarkably well.  He would help me with my house and play Clue with my daughter.  His girlfriend annoyed me, but not in any major dysfunctional way, she just isn’t very bright and gets on my nerves sometimes.  He worked graveyard and would come home in the middle of the night and sleep until he had to go to work again.

Then this morning, I woke up and was in the kitchen making tea and noticed the light blinking on my house phone indicating a message.  I did not have my glasses on or contacts in so I could not see the caller id to find out who had left the message, so I just dialed in.  It was a recorded message trying to get me to choose whether or not to accept a collect call.  I felt the flutter in my stomach.  I got my glasses and looked at my phone.  It said Inmate Phone.  I went to the front window and looked out.  Both Derek’s cars were parked there.  I walked down to the basement.  Derek was not in bed.  I called my Dad.  What is going on?  Oh, I just got up.  Not much.  No. What is going on with Derek?  Nothing I know of.  Well there is a call on my phone that says Inmate Phone.  Shit.  No.  My dad told me to call Sarah, so I did.

Man, she’s dumb.  That is the thing about her that annoys me more than anything is how damn dumb she is.  I’m trying to practice compassion, to accept each person as they are.  To love everyone, even if I don’t want to.  She is my biggest practice case.  I just can’t stand it because I don’t think she’s really that stupid, I think she is just used to people doing everything for her when she acts like she can’t do anything, and I don’t think she’s as dumb as she pretends to be.  So when she acts like she’s stupid, it drives me crazy.  And it’s not fair to her.  She can’t help it if she’s been treated like a baby her whole life so she doesn’t do much herself.  And I wouldn’t dislike a dog because it was dumb.  Hell, my dog Edna is dumber than a fence post, but I love her to death.  So anyway, this morning Sarah was as blase’ as ever, Oh Derek got arrested.  Why?  Drinking.  Why was he drinking?  Well we went to Gabe’s after he got off work and he had a beer.  Well the police wouldn’t just come up and arrest Derek for drinking a beer.  They would need some reason to know he had drank a beer.  It wouldn’t just come out of nowhere.  Oh well I was driving us home and I got a ticket and they smelled the beer and arrested him.  Fuck.

So I called my parents back and told them and the rest I guess will be whatever it is.  I don’t even know.  I’m trying not to be angry with Sarah for driving like she’s blind because she does and it’s annoying.  Hell, she totaled her car the day before while driving alone in the middle of the night.  More than likely she was sending Derek a text message.  I’ve seen her text while driving on too many occasions.  I won’t let her hold her phone when she’s driving with me in the car.  But the truth is it doesn’t damn matter how Sarah was driving because if Derek hadn’t been drinking, he wouldn’t have gotten arrested.  I told my dad this.  He wanted to be irritated at Sarah for how she drives and irritated at Gabe for drinking.  I told him none of their actions would have mattered if Derek hadn’t been drinking.  My parents would love for all this to be someone else’s fault, like laying blame will alleviate any of the pain.  It won’t.

I’m trying not to wonder how Derek could be so hopeless to get himself in this mess.  I keep reminding myself that he knew his limits, but he really has this “It won’t happen to me” mentality.  I know that in the journey that is Derek’s life there are many, many choices he could have made differently that would likely have resulted in something else.  I have known for a very long time that I cannot control this and that he is ultimately responsible for what happens to him.  And at the same time it breaks my heart.  I’m so sad that this is his path.  I wish he would choose something different.  It hurts to watch someone you love make choices that hurt them.

Two days ago Derek was sleeping.  I went down and gave him a big hug.  He asked me if everything was okay.  I said everything was fine, I just love him.  I’m so glad I did that.

Listen to the Music

I read this blog on Matt Nathanson’s myspace page.  He was lamenting that we don’t have music like the 60’s.  He thinks music today lacks the depth of the music in the 60’s and that it doesn’t impact us today the way music did for people then.  He received several comments back, mostly it seemed from aging baby boomers, agreeing with him.

Sorry, Matt, but I couldn’t disagree more.  I have long felt the baby boomers were always more flashy and external in their dealings with the world.  Notice us!  We’re here!  Our way is the best!  Since other generations have come along, the baby boomers have lamented their lack of everything, character, depth, taste, you name it.

But I don’t think we lack any of that, we just go about things in a different way, and our way tends to be more introspective.  I’m Generation X.  We are not like the boomers.  Music is just as important to us, it is just more internal.  I think it’s appropriate that Kurt Cobain is held up as a sort of icon of our generation.  His internal struggles are the struggles of our generation. His pain is our pain.

I have recently become acquainted, through an online forum, with a whole lot of people born within the two years before and two years after me.  All of us, no matter what part of the country we’re in, no matter what we’re doing, are all struggling, mostly internally, with the demons the baby boomers loved to scream about.  We just don’t put it out there for everyone in the same way the boomers did.  We mull things over.  We ponder.  We observe.  Our movies are quieter.  Our books can be quite dark (and darkly funny).  Music speaks to us as individuals.

Matt comes from the generation after mine.  I have long observed them as being kind of like the baby boomers, but happier.  They are creative and amazing, and seem to be enjoying themselves.  Us X’ers are struggling with a generational creative angst, but we internalize it more.  I look at the generation after mine and want what they have, their spirit, their verve, their happiness.

Music means more to me than most things.  I listen to certain songs and I am transported to that creative energy wave where I feel connected to all things.  I hear certain lyrics and know that the poet who wrote it (that’s the extent of my poetic ability–Ha!) was speaking my words, only more eloquently and with a beautiful melody.  I have generated some of my best writing after hearing a song that took me to that energetic creative place.

So Matt, don’t underestimate the music of today.  It’s amazing.  I love it that we have avenues to access music outside the mainstream music industry.  Right now I live in Portland and the music vibe here is unbelievable.  We’re tuned in…just because we aren’t screaming it from the housetops like the baby boomers did doesn’t mean it doesn’t affect us just as deeply.