I am Bonnie

A long time ago I used to work in the Forest Products office at Oregon State University. I worked with my best friend Debbie, a boss who was so stupid sometimes I wondered if it was possible for someone to be that dumb, and a sociopath named Bonnie. Bonnie was…I can’t even begin to describe her in a single word except to say she was a sociopath. She could and did make life hell for a lot of people. She was also very annoying. She was possibly the most negative person I have ever met. If it was sunny, she complained that it was too hot and should be rainy. If it was rainy, she complained it was raining. If we had work to do, she complained that she had work to do and that she was the only one who could possibly do it. If we didn’t have work to do, then she complained because she was bored. She didn’t like her chair. She would get another chair and wouldn’t like it and go back to the original and then complain about it. She had gossip to share on every single person who walked in our door and even those who didn’t. It was a guarantee that as soon as you left the room she was dishing something about you and turning anything you did into something to complain about and to use to make you look bad. The only consolation with her was that she was an equal-opportunity sociopath so if she didn’t have her sights set on you, she was going after someone else and there were a lot of other people for her to choose from.

Most of the time I worked with Bonnie was pure hell. Six months after I started working in the lab, I was wondering if I was crazy. Between the boss who couldn’t figure out how to explain the most basic assignments to this constantly complaining crazy woman who had something nasty to say about every human who walked into the office, I seriously thought I was losing my mind. Luckily, I made friends with Debbie and discovered that no, I wasn’t nuts, the office was. She helped me stick it out (until I got pregnant and realized I didn’t want the loony factory anywhere near my growing fetus, but that’s another story).

Sometimes working with Bonnie could be fun. It wasn’t fun because of anything Bonnie did to make it fun, but because Debbie and I could see what she was doing and it would make us roll our eyes and laugh silently from behind our hands on our lunch break. Bonnie fancied herself the sexiest woman in the office and made a great show of throwing herself at every male who walked through the door. This got to be quite amusing, especially when the male was a 20 something grad student from India or Pakistan who had no idea that what she was doing was supposed to turn him on. Many of the older, white, male professors got off on her attention, which could be kind of gross (especially the one who was married to a disabled wife with MS), but Debbie and I could still find things about this situation that made us laugh.

The lab would periodically hold grad thesis presentations whereby the student would make their presentation to faculty and other students, followed by a small reception with doughnuts and other refreshments. Prior to these events, an announcement was to be made by our office notifying everyone on our floor that the presentation and reception would be taking place. Bonnie LOVED doing this and would literally race to the microphone to make sure she got to be the one to make the announcement. She would snarl something or other to us about how “The goddamned printer isn’t working again! The piece of shit must be out of ink or something.” Then she would turn to the microphone, sexily flip her hair behind her shoulders, lean in and grasp the microphone and breathily intone, “At four o’clock this afternoon, which is in just fifteen minutes (breath, breath, breath), there will be a presentation by Rakesh Akbahr, on the role of stress-strain on the physical transformations that occur (breath) during the cure of thermosetting adhesive-to-wood bonds (breath, breath, breath). After that (breath) there will be a reception in the Buchanon room, where refreshments will be served.” She’d then flop back down in her rolling desk chair and screech at us again, “Goddamned rain. It was supposed to be sunny today.

Debbie and I could laugh and laugh at these displays (out of the office, of course).

Bonnie told us she was an expert on everything. She said she had a degree in forestry, as well as a degree in nursing, and in English, and several others I no longer remember. No matter what came up that required some knowledge by someone in the office, she was in competition to be the top person in that knowledge and she usually had a degree to go along with it. Debbie and I would wonder to ourselves why she wasn’t putting these degrees to good use somewhere considering how underappreciated and underpaid she was sharing an office with us. It is because of Bonnie’s expertise that I even bring her up in this post today. I earned a Juris Doctorate degree in 2003. Then last year, I completed a Master’s in Teaching so that I could transition out of being a lawyer and become a teacher instead.

Last week, I had a conversation with someone, the content of which really isn’t that important. In the course of the conversation, the person I was speaking to was telling me another person had complained about something and that they had to complain because they were a teacher and as a teacher, they were required to complain. This puzzled me because I knew that the thing about which this person was supposedly required to complain was not required of teachers, so I said to the person I was speaking to, “I am a teacher, and that is not actually true.” He looked at me rather consternatedly (now there’s a word) as if to say, “Huh? I thought you were a lawyer?” because in another conversation on another day, he had asked me what kind of work I did and at the time he asked, I told him I was a lawyer, so my saying that I was a teacher on this new occasion was probably a bit odd to him.

I was like Bonnie and her multitude of unrelated degrees. I don’t have a multitude of unrelated degrees, I only have a couple of them. There is my undergraduate degree in English, then there is the lawyer degree, then there is the teacher degree. So I have several degrees and they are mostly unrelated. This got me to thinking about Bonnie and my time in the Forest Products lab so many years ago — twenty years ago actually, is when I started. I’ve stayed friends with Debbie. She came to the birth of my baby and probably knows me better than any other friend.

A lot has happened since then. I wonder now, with my handful of unrelated degrees, if maybe Bonnie really did have a forestry degree and an English degree and a nursing degree, and maybe perhaps something happened that she didn’t need to work in those fields at all. I don’t know. I can’t remember her last name so I can’t look her up (even if I wanted to, which, true told, I really don’t).

If I did look her up, I would find her and tell her I’m sorry for doubting her many educational accomplishments and let her know that I too now have many educational accomplishments. We could get a coffee and reminisce and I could tell her how funny I thought it was when she made the sexy forest products announcements and she could tell me how much she hates the weather and the coffee in the coffee shop we meet in and the chairs in the coffee shop and make googly eyes at the male patrons and…

On second thought, maybe not.

Our Illusion of Connectivity

Three years ago I wrote a blog post about the illusion of connectivity. It said:

“I go to Facebook. I go to email. I check all the addresses. I go back to Facebook. I check my blog. I go back to Facebook. In all, I find not what I am looking for. It is not satisfying. I see posts I share. I read here and there. On email I get Truthout, read through the articles. Find one that is really interesting. Read to the bottom. Post on Facebook. Go back to email. Go to Facebook. Read Salon, click on the link to “Continue Reading.” Go back to email. Nothing. Something from Powell’s. Something from Bug of the Day. Go back to Facebook. Share a picture of some cute animal or funny thing from George Takei, but overall, no connection. Not really.

To keep reading, please click here.

How to Be Dumb Like Me

Here’s how to be dumb like me:  Get invited to a Halloween party via text from a friend. Pencil the party in your brain’s calendar, but don’t put it in any other type of calendar. Keep it there for weeks. Get an idea for a costume. Buy a mask and body suit to go with your blue wig to be a blue-haired cat. Place suit in closet and mask on top of the refrigerator. Ask someone to go to the party with you. Get that person to get a costume. Plan for that Sunday to go to the party. Saturday the night before, hang out with your children and go to the grocery store late. While at the grocery store, stare stupidly at your phone when a text comes in asking why you’re not at the party. Go back through old texts from friend. Find text sent several weeks ago inviting you to the party on the Saturday before Halloween, which it is. Slap head. On the Sunday when you planned to be at a party, go bowling instead. Leave costume on top of refrigerator and in the closet.

Delusions

I had a friend who I thought was one of my bestest friends in the whole wide world. I have a couple of other bestests who fit into this category, but there are some topics that are simply not discussed with them. One is not interested in hearing about my lack of love travails. The other really could care less about anything about spiritual growth or any of that.

Yet I could discuss anything this friend who I thought was one of my bestest. Even when we hadn’t seen one another in weeks or months or years, which could happen because we didn’t live close, we could pick right up and begin again. A couple of years ago, we made a decision to try and visit one another more because we were both lonely for a bestest friend we could see more often.

Then last year she decided not to be friends with me. Stupid facebook. It posts everything you do on all your friends’ pages and all they say back and on and on. All of it was about politics. I am drifting too much left for her (or many friends, actually), and I knew she didn’t like that. She didn’t like what my other friends said so she cut me off, then sent me a message telling me as much, then that was it. I never heard from her again. Phone calls unreturned. No more emails. I knew it was final when the birthday passed without so much as a whisper because she’s always sent a card at the very least.

It’s been a life lesson that I’ve chosen to replicate my family dynamic (I am a cliche’ of the highest order). I get it now. I’ve spent three years of work with a woman who is like an old medicine woman in her capacity to heal old wounds, plus a good year and a half checking in with her now and then. Years with counselors before never even got me in the same healing ballpark that this woman did. She is amazing. In any case, I understand it was my dynamic to choose people to love who didn’t love me back quite as much or at all. I make different choices in how I pick people now, but it’s slow going sometimes.

I never considered this friend whom I have known for nearly 20 years to fall into that category, yet I have gradually realized that she did. I look back and see the signs. They were there. They were sometimes right in my face, but no, I didn’t see it. How blind we can be sometimes when we don’t want to see something. She meant more to me than I did to her. It’s as simple as that, and as painful.

I’m thinking of this now and writing about it because I miss her. I haven’t spoken to her in almost a year and I miss her sometimes so much it hurts. I want her to be my bestest again, even if she never really was because I can be such a deluded fool sometimes.

Ah well. Sunny days will come again? Maybe…

We Have No More Passion

This is what modern life is:  All relationships are via some electronic device, or they do not exist at all. Meeting face to face is a rare occurrence except in the workplace, and if you work alone, woe be to you. If you want to find out what is happening in a friend’s life, you have to use some version of social media to discover it, because it will not be found out through real conversation. Even the phone has gone by the wayside and telephone conversations are rare. Everyone is too busy to connect with real humans that have any meaning to them unless those humans happen to live in the same house, and even then, it won’t be the sort of connection time and reflection bring, but the rushed and desperate connection of going to and fro. If there is a misunderstanding via electronic device which lacks the nuance of face to face connection, it is quite possible the relationship will end, regardless of how long you have known one another because with electronic misunderstandings comes the possibility of projection of whatever the person who misunderstands chooses to perceive, whether or not there is any basis in reality. Even when you do meet your friends in person, this is no guarantee you will actually connect with them. The devices are there too, intercepting. Faces don’t turn toward one another, but toward little screens, lighting the visage with cold, blue light.

These are the lives we have created for ourselves. In exchange for products that can do everything for us and do do everything for us, we have given up human connection, human passion. Maybe it isn’t such a travesty that we seem on the trajectory to self-destruction.

Mulling

Losing a friend, or realizing that you are not to a friend what she is to you, feels as lousy as a breakup. It is essentially the same thing. You walk around dazed for a while thinking of all the times you thought things were one way when they obviously were not. You think of ways to make things different, then you realize there is not a damn thing you can do about any of it. At least that is how it is for me. It has taken me decades for me to understand that I have, for as long as I can remember, chosen friends and boyfriends who are not nearly as devoted to me as I am to them. I have maybe 2 friendships where this isn’t the case, but they are certainly the exception. And this person, this one I thought was a bestie. Shows what I know.

I don’t know how to be different.

Undergoing Modification

I made Christmas presents this year. This is not unusual for me; I’ve made them for the last 8 or 9 years at least. There are many reasons for this. First and foremost is that I want to get off the consumer merry-go-round that are western holidays. I also want to raise my children to understand the meaning behind the holidays, that it is about the connection with friends and loved ones rather than rampant shopping and spending. I want them to realize there is much more satisfaction in giving a gift that you spent time creating, putting in that time, and then having it come together, than there is wandering fluorescent aisles searching for something made in China along with a million other somethings made there. Finally, it does help to save somewhat, although the materials for everything I have ever made have not been cheap.

Over the years we have made many gifts. A couple of years ago we made candles. This was a great project to share with Milla. She loved improving her candle-making skills. We spent time together over several days crafting a variety of candles out of beeswax. It was a lot of work. Other years we have made candy and baked goods. We have made soap, and bottled bath oils. That was fun. Once the presents are made, I love wrapping them up in tissue and ribbon, presenting them beautifully.

This year I decided I would make scarves. Milla and I went together to the fabric store and chose some lovely crushed velvet in a variety of colors. For some, we chose some embellishments for the ends of the scarves to jazz them up. Milla really enjoyed this part of it. She likes decorating things. The two of us worked hard on the scarves. Milla helped a lot, and also made choices about which scarves should have decorations on them. Some of them had such beautiful fabric that any froufrou would have taken away from the scarves themselves. Milla loved having the sewing machine running all the time. She also made some incredibly beautiful little satin tie bags. I was impressed with her abilities. She has been taking sewing in school and I had no idea how much she had learned.

Then we gave the gifts. The anti-climax. The grave disappointment.

Gradually over the last several years, I have felt increasingly disenchanted with the reception our gifts have received. One friend in particular seems almost offended that we give her a handmade gift. In return one year she gave me an item she had obviously received for free at some sort of employer function. Amazingly, almost none of the recipients thank us. This year only one showed any real gratitude and commented on how difficult it must have been to make her scarf.

I haven’t been making these gifts hoping for gushing gratitude and admiration. In fact, such platitudes would make me very uncomfortable. But it is so disappointing when the receivers are offended or completely indifferent, especially when, like these scarves, I honestly chose to make a gift I thought they would enjoy. After so many years of the reactions we have gotten, I tried to make gifts that I really thought they would like. I chose colors I knew each person loved. I chose styles that matched them. After their reactions, it makes me wonder why I should even bother. (I can write all of this without impunity or concern that these people will see this as digging for compliments because none of my friends read my blog.)

I have been embarking on a transformation of sorts over the last few years. One thing I have come to understand about myself is that I have consistently chosen non-reciprocal relationships, not only love relationships, but friendships too. In the past I have chosen people who don’t want me as much as I want them. This was the dynamic in my family and I repeated it. I’m such a cliche’ and I get it. Interestingly, as I have realized this about myself, I have made different choices, and I’m managing to develop some friendships that are not like this. But it is hard. Finding new friends is not easy. To alleviate this, I’m actively seeking out activities where I might meet other people. I read once that our peak opportunities for making friends are in school and when our children are little. I’m past school. Isabel is still little so I suppose there is still that possibility once she goes to school.

In any case, I want something to be different. It is hugely disappointing to spend hours making a gift for someone only to have it received with absolute indifference. Maybe I need to make friends who also make their gifts, and for the same reason. Really I want something different in more than just this, and I’m getting there. Sometimes I wish it would happen just a little sooner, that’s all.

Our Illusion of Connectivity

I go to facebook. I go to email. I check all the addresses. I go back to facebook. I check my blog. I go back to facebook. In all, I find not what I am looking for. It is not satisfying. I see posts I share. I read here and there. On email I get Truthout, read through the articles. Find one that is really interesting. Read to the bottom. Post on facebook. Go back to email. Go to facebook. Read Salon, click on the link to Continue Reading. In spite of my solid belief that this election is meaningless, I still recoil when a friend likes Romney. He’s such a self-absorbed, arrogant ass, an emotional toddler. And his running mate, ewww. That guy is a sociopath. I have a physical reaction to them and wonder what is wrong when someone I know thinks this person is worth supporting. Then again, I feel frustration at the Obama love too. He’s not the Jesus they want him to be. He’s worse than Bush. He gets away with more because the Dems have their man so no one is paying attention. Ughh. Go back to email. Nothing. Something from Powell’s. Something from Bug of the Day. Go back to facebook. Share a picture of some cute animal or funny thing from George Takei, but overall. No connection. Not really.

I go to these websites alone in my house looking for a connection but there is not one. I want to communicate. I want conversation. I want intellectual stimulation. I want to discuss philosophy, that amazing talk by Alain de Botton on atheism. I want someone else to care as much as I do about what we are doing to our planet. But it’s all futility, bytes and pixels and illusion that there is connection. Searching from page to page, hoping one of the people I know will actually speak to me, to ME, and not to the general public that is their online community, is an exercise in futility. We claim to be more connected than ever, but we are further from connection than ever before. Just because I can share a comment with a friend I met in the Hague last summer does not mean there is any connection. It’s so minute as to be laughable. I read a story that brings tears to my eyes. Instead of talking to a friend about the details there, I post a comment that says, “Dang, I cried.” “Me too,” she comments back. That’s the extent of it.

I long for stimulating dinner parties with friends. Or sharp banter about books over warm drinks in a cafe. Or even stupid, silly dancing and laughing with a best girlfriend. Yet I know this is an idealized version of community cultivated by movies and books. It doesn’t exist for most of us. It sure as hell doesn’t exist for me. I’ve tried to pull it together, to be the one who invites everyone over to make some feeble attempt at this, but no one ever shows up. I have a serious knack for being stood up at parties by all my guests. I think the problem isn’t that I’m some loser or something, but that I have an idealized idea of how these things should be, and that most or all of my friends have other things to do and are simply too busy.

So I troll. I make phone calls when I’m in the car and can’t do anything else (don’t worry, I have a car phone and I’m completely hands free). I write here and wonder if anyone I know will read what I write. They don’t, but I don’t begrudge them. If what I said was interesting, they would still be too busy, just as I am too busy too. It’s our 21st century, with its illusion of connectivity. It’s sad really. Sometimes I wish I had a big, ol’ front porch in a close-knit community where everyone came and shot the breeze. I know, I know. Too many movies like The Jane Austen Book Club, or Fried Green Tomatoes. It’s what some team thought of and put together on celluloid. I get it. Just like the teams that make families in catalogs look just a little too perfect. Just like Photoshop. It’s all an illusion. I don’t think we are better off. Not even close. It’s lonelier. It’s isolating. And I have no idea how to change it, at least for me.

Lara Fauth

When I was in college I rode on the University of Oregon equestrian team.  We were all women and as is often the case with groups of women, there were arguments and disagreements that in retrospect seem juvenile and stereotypically female.  In spite of this, I still remember one team member as a complete reprobate and have less than fond memories of one of the others. However, one of the team members has since become one of my dearest and closest friends.  You win some, you lose some.

For some reason I cannot articulate, last night while expunging Christmas decorations from my home, I suddenly remembered one of the women I rode with. I remembered her with fondness and wondered what had become of her.  Of course I jumped online and searched her name and made some discoveries as to her whereabouts.  I’m hoping I can connect with her.

In any case, this got me thinking about the people I knew in college.  What with Facebook and this blog and my firm website, with little effort, if anyone wants to find me, they can.  I wondered then, why there is a whole group of people from my past who have not turned up as requesting my friendship or via emails and whatnot.   Then it dawned on me.  Duh, Lara.  For five years, I had a different last name.  Anyone searching for Lara Fauth wouldn’t find much at all.  I changed my name back to my maiden name of Gardner as soon as I got divorced in 1999, which is before the ability to locate one’s former friends and acquaintances online became so ubiquitous.

I’m not sure anyone has looked for me.  I searched for Lara Fauth and found a site linking Lara Gardner to that name, so it’s probable that if someone wanted to find me, they could.  But I did have to look in the site to make the connection, it wasn’t just sitting there on the search page in google.  The idea occurred to me that if I put the old name in my blog, if someone searched for that name, they would find me, and so that is what this is.  It’s an attempt to put my old name on a site linking to my new name, so that if anyone who knew me while I was married ever wanted to find me, they could search Lara Fauth and perhaps this page would show up.  It can’t hurt to try.

High School

A couple of days ago I listened to a story on This American Life about prom.  It got me thinking about mine because the people interviewed kept remarking just how important prom was.  One person even went so far as to say it was second in importance to a wedding.  Seriously?  I don’t know that I agree with that.  Prom is certainly a ubiquitous high school event, but it wasn’t anything at all life-changing for me, and it wasn’t because I was an anarchist or anything.  I just didn’t really care.  I thought it was a dumb dance.  I was not one of those people who spent all of high school looking forward to attending.  I did finally obtain a boyfriend by senior year so I actually had a prom date.  If I hadn’t gotten the boyfriend, I probably would not have gone.  I was much more concerned with acquiring a boyfriend than attending prom, and much more surprised and shocked that this happened than I ever would have been at getting a prom date.

For me, the story of how I got my first boyfriend was practically out of a high school movie.   Every February, our school hosted a Valentine’s Day school dance.  For some reason, one of the most attractive, most popular boys in school asked me to dance.  A lot.  We danced together all evening.  This was a surprise to me.  He was Mr. High School All-American boy.  Extremely popular, he had attended the schools in my town his entire life.  This meant something in our little town; it meant you knew everyone and everyone knew you.  This could be a bad thing, but for a lot of people, it accorded them with additional status.  Eric had this status in spades, plus he was captain of the football team and President of the Senior class.  Seriously.  He also had blonde hair and blue eyes, lovely chiseled features, and an athletic build.

I, on the other hand, was not Miss High School All-American girl.  I had the blonde hair and blue eyes, but my hair was short, and for the dance in question, I had tried beforehand to trim my bangs.  After cutting, I realized they were crooked, so I cut them again and made them crooked the other direction.  By the time I was done, they were about two inches long and still crooked.  I was also skinny as a rail, with no breasts to speak of.  Certainly not curvy.  I imagine I was prettyish, but definitely not a beauty and never one of the girls the boys talked about or wanted.  I spent most of my time buried in books, riding my horse, or acting weird because my friends thought it was funny and I liked making them laugh.  My parents lived like they never had money, no matter how much they had, so my clothes were not name brands, which I cared about in those days.  (One nice thing about growing up was giving up that ridiculous delusion.)

In spite of my average appearance and lack of social standing, here we were at this Valentine’s Day dance and Eric was dancing with me.  My friends couldn’t believe it.  “He must like you!” said Marie.  “He keeps dancing with you!”  I didn’t quite believe he liked me.  Deanna kept giggling every time he came near.  “Stop it,” I would hiss to her in a whisper before heading to the dance floor.  Kari just smiled her poker-face smile.

Over the weekend after the dance, my friends and I spent many hours on the phone deconstructing the dance and its portent.  Did Eric like me, or was he just being nice?  I could not believe that he did.  They could not believe that he did not.  On Monday, I was embarrassed and terrified at the prospect of seeing Eric. We had a class together the last period of the day.  I spent most of that day a nervous wreck, wondering what would happen in that class.  I was terrified.

Later that afternoon, we were all in Mr. Fisk’s class listening to him drone on about who-knows-what.  Mr. Fisk’s stories were fascinating as sophomores and stupid by the time we were seniors.  I don’t remember now how it transpired, but somewhere along the line in the class a note was transferred to Eric.  I think it was supposed to be from me to Marie or Marie to me, or something like that, but it was about how much I liked him.  He sent me a note and we agreed to both ask to go to the bathroom at the same time.  A few minutes later, Eric got up, asked to use the bathroom, and left.  Heart pounding, 30 seconds later, I asked to go to the bathroom as well.  Mr. Fisk was none the wiser and let me follow Eric. He probably didn’t even notice we were out at the same time. We were the good kids, the ones who always turned in our homework and would never leave to go fraternize and cause trouble, so bathroom passes were easy to come by.

Eric was waiting by the bathroom.  He was wearing his Levi’s 501 jeans, a pink polo shirt, and white sneakers.  I thought he looked amazing.  He said hi and then kissed me.  Exhilarating.

We were going out after that.  We never had a conversation where he asked me to be his girlfriend or anything, I just was.  I adored him.  Completely smitten, I would do anything he wanted to do or go anywhere he wanted to, just to be with him.  Compared to stories of teenage activities I hear about these days, our actions were so tame.  I would never have considered having sex with him, not in a million years.  Honestly, we never made it past second base, but to both of us, this was a lot.

How is it that I managed to get the most popular boy in school for my boyfriend senior year?  I mean really?  I think about this time and I have to wonder.  I know part of it is that this most popular boy in school was unique in some respects.  So often the popular kids are so idealized that we have a vision of how they must be, but to become truly popular and liked by everyone (which Eric certainly was), that person must possess some characteristic of some sort that makes people like them.  Eric was truly likeable.  Plus he’d been in the same town schools since kindergarten.  Plus he was handsome.   Really.  Blonde.  Blue-eyed.  Captain of the football team.  President of the class.  I mean, come on, was this for real?

It was.  That is what is so remarkable to me.  I look back now and for the first time truly marvel at it.  I mean, come on!  Do you think he could have been more of a cliché?  And it’s even more amazing that I, with my background and thought processes, could have had him as my first real boyfriend.  That alone is a feat in and of itself.

One night, we were making out in the backseat of his housemate’s ginormous 70’s automobile.  The thing was a boat on wheels.  I was supposed to be spending the night at Marie’s house, and a group of us had all gone and done something that evening.  Eric and I parked the boat outside her house and started kissing in the backseat.  It was cold out and the windows fogged up.  At some point, I realized there was a round light moving along the back window.  We both sat up quickly and pulled on our shirts (each other’s, as it turned out).  Then we heard a tap on the window.

Humiliated, Eric opened the car door and got out.  The officer took him aside and scolded him.  He then stuck his head in the car and asked me my name and where I was supposed to be. Terrified and humiliated as well, I told him.  He said I should go into my friend’s house and go to bed.  It was probably only 11:30, but I was scared and obeyed without question.

I spent the next week completely terrified that the stop would show up in the local paper.  A weekly, the local paper did not have much to report on, and therefore contained a section listing every petty grievance to which the police force responded.  I was certain our names would be listed with our transgression for all–especially and including my parents–to see.  Thankfully, this never transpired.

Because I now had a boyfriend, prom seemed like it might actually be fun. My friends were all going and I looked forward to hanging out with them.  My mom is an excellent seamstress, and after looking and finding no dresses that I liked, she offered to make a prom dress for me.  I picked out a pink satin and some pink tulle.  She made a long dress with a fitted bodice, with a pink ribbon around the center and tulle around the collar, which sat off the shoulder on my collar bones.  I liked it fine.  Looking at it now, I think it’s kind of boring, but I enjoyed getting dressed up.  Eric looked amazing in his tuxedo, and he arrived in the boat to pick me up, a pink corsage in hand to match the boutonniere on his lapel.

The best memory I have of prom is that my best friend Marie won as prom queen.  She had a huge crush on a good friend of Eric’s named Gary.  Gary had a girlfriend, but for prom king and queen, there would be a dance.  When it was announced that Marie was queen and Gary was king, I was thrilled to death for her.  She was able to dance with the boy she liked for an entire slow song.  I could tell watching her dance, her head against his shoulder, that she was in heaven.

After prom, we went to a party at some friends of Eric’s and sat in a hot tub before he took me home.  Most of them were drinking alcohol and this scared me.  I didn’t find that part of the night much fun.  I can’t remember when I got home, but I don’t think it was very late.

One other huge aspect of my relationship with Eric was that shortly prior to our starting to date, he had become “born again.”  Over the course of our courtship, he became more and more heavily involved in the church.  In an effort to please him, I went along.  I had been friends for some time with another girl who was extremely involved in her church.  I started going with her, mainly because I had a crush on David W. and David W. was in youth group.  David W. would flirt with me at youth group and I enjoyed this.  Also, my friend’s parents would take us for pie after church.  Having grown up in a family that went out to eat maybe once every two years, this was an immense treat.

Interestingly, while I was attending church and trying to be a good Christian, I was discovering a lot of hypocrisies that bothered me immensely.  One morning, the pastor described faithful Muslims praying to Mecca.  He spent a good deal of time describing the scene, to the point I could practically feel the warmth of the sun on my back and the rug under my knees.  Then he dropped a bomb saying, “Isn’t it a shame that all these millions of faithful Muslims are going to hell?  I could not tolerate or believe this.  This sermon was a turning point for me.  I had serious doubts about Christianity and organized religion in general anyway, and that statement made me start looking for inconsistencies, which were not difficult to come by.

However, I kept my doubts to myself.  Eric would drag me to youth group on Wednesday and church twice a day on Sunday and I would go with him because usually after we would make out in the back of his truck and I liked doing that.  I went along with the church thing, even so far as memorizing the entire book of Romans because he did so as well, and I believed that he wanted me to.  I would pray with him, and discuss the Bible with him.  Mainly I just wanted to be with him and this offered me the greatest opportunity.

Our small town, like many, had started offering an all-night graduation party to the entire senior class.  The point was to keep teens from drinking and getting hurt or killed as a result.  I was not a drinker and looked forward to graduation and the graduation party.  My grandparents had flown in from Kansas for the event and I was excited by the prospect of all of it.

The day before graduation, Eric took me out in the afternoon to eat at a nice restaurant.  When we arrived back at my house, at the top of my parent’s driveway, he got out and gave me a hug.  Then he said, “It’s been really fun hanging out with you, but we are going to have to stop. I’m going to college in the fall, and I am afraid our relationship is interfering with my relationship with Jesus.”  There were more words, but I don’t remember them.

I was incredulous.  I had not seen this coming, not even close.  Heartbroken and numb, I stumbled into the house and into my bedroom.  I spent the rest of the afternoon lying on my bed in a pool of misery.  We were to attend a Baccalaureate dinner that night.  I dressed in the new outfit my mom had bought for me, a knit yellow sweater and white cotton skirt.  I don’t remember much of the Baccalaureate dinner except there were some speeches.  Eric was there, but he ignored me.  I stared at my plate all evening.  My parents and grandparents could tell something was wrong, but didn’t say anything.

Later, after we arrived home, I went again to my bedroom and lay on my bed, trying not to cry.  My family wanted me to come in the living room and visit, but I just couldn’t do it.  Finally, my grandma came in to talk.  I confessed what had happened.  “Oh, honey,” she said, rubbing my back.  “It seems so hard now, but you’re so young. It is for the best.”

I still remember her voice and the way she stroked my hair and back.  I also remember that graduation and the party were a drag.  My friends kept trying to get me to liven up, but I just couldn’t do it.  Forever after, when I think of graduation, the memory is colored by the fact that the day before the ceremony my first love dumped me for Jesus.

It was the best decision of course.  Eric became a successful missionary in Africa. He is still there, working on a Bible translation of some sort, I think.  I saw him at our reunion and it wasn’t weird at all.  Time heals all wounds and we had grown up. I was such a baby at 17.  I am immensely grateful Eric didn’t do something stupid like ask me to marry him.  I would have said yes in a heartbeat and it would have been the wrong decision. We would have been divorced by the time we were 20.  I’m so different from that person, I can barely remember how I thought or acted.  Most of what I remember about myself at that time makes me cringe in embarrassment.  I certainly could never have been a Christian.  The seeds of doubt in organized religion had been planted, probably before I knew the ground was tilled.

In any case, this was my prom and the story around it.  Nothing spectacular, just an old memory. It’s funny, as I’ve been writing this, how much I actually do remember.  Life is interesting and so much is forgotten.  I’m glad I remember this.

Home Again

We have led a remarkably busy, whirlygig sort of existence over the last few weeks.  On August 5 we decided to move back to Portland.  As a child is imminent (due September 10), we wanted to accomplish a lot in a very short amount of time.  We also sent a moving truck along its merry way from NYC on August 13, and required a home for our belongings to land.  This put some pressure on us to get things done so we would not have to unload the truck into a family garage or storage unit, reload into another moving truck, and unload into whatever home we located.

Fate was with us.  We searched all day for five days for an apartment or house.  We applied at many locations and were accepted at one, but it wasn’t exactly what we were looking for.  Early the morning after that acceptance, I woke up too early (the m.o. these days) and was doing the search on Craigslist.  The first house to show up that morning was exactly what we were looking for.  I was reluctant to call because it was so early, but figured since the posting had just shown up the person must be awake.  So I called.  I am so grateful that I did.  We were the first callers and the owner said he gave priority in order of who called first.

Later that morning (last Wednesday) went and looked at the house.  Not only was it in the exact neighborhood we wanted, it was the style of house I love the most, had plenty of room, and was simply lovely.  It is a bungalow with a huge front porch, a fenced backyard, a full basement, and all the amenities we could ask for.  The old tenant was a cool guy who was heading to Canada to “hang out with his mom in Vancouver, B.C.”  He graciously agreed to allow our belongings to arrive before he departed, whenever that happened to be.  On Saturday we received the call from the driver that he would be in Oregon on Sunday.  We made arrangements for him to meet us at the house and we started calling friends.

Here is how Oregon is different for us from New York:  In New York, we had 3 people who could help us, one of whom had to leave after an hour for another engagement, leaving 2 people plus Dan to load our truck (considering at the time I was 35 weeks pregnant, there wasn’t a whole lot I could do in the hucking boxes department).  Here, we had 10 helpers, plus Milla had two girls to play with, daughters of one of the helpers.  Loading the truck took nearly 8 hours.  Unloading took under 3.  Unloading always takes less than loading, but the speed here was phenomenal, plus everything went into the house in an organized manner.  I couldn’t unload, but I could certainly direct traffic!

Basically, since we decided on August 5 to move back to Oregon, and arrived so late August 14 it may as well have been the August 15, we have managed to find a place to live, buy a used car, find a new midwife, and begin settling in.  We have been busy, to say the least, but so far things are working out.  Dan has had a few gigs and I’m slated to return to work for a firm here after baby is born and maternity leave.  It has been a lot of work, but it has been so worth it.

A year ago I could not wait to leave Portland.  There had been a long string of hard times and it was difficult to see a future here. Having left, spent too much money, and returned, I cannot imagine being anywhere else.  I am grateful for a place among family and friends.  I am so grateful we found a house we like in the neighborhood we wanted.  Now I just need to relax and sleep through the night.  It won’t be long before our little one arrives and sleeping through the night will be a thing of the past…

January 7, 2009 Driving to New York

We just entered California on the second day of our great moving adventure.  We are both happy to be on the road and headed to our new home.  I have lived in a lot of places, moved around the country on several occasions, but this time feels surreal and exciting at the same time.  It is the first time I have decided to permanently settle somewhere besides Oregon, with no intention of returning, and the first time I have done so with another person.  We are both thrilled and a little scared.

The last few days have been exhausting.  We picked up our rental truck on Monday morning, drove to my friend Kathleen’s house to pick up my boxes that were stored there, drove to my friend Mark’s house to get the last of my boxes, then drove home to pack the truck with the piano.  Our timing was perfect; we drove up just as the piano movers did.

A word about piano movers–they are brilliant at their job.  They loaded up a baby grand and got her on the truck in under a half an hour.  I was mightily impressed.  We had a set of stairs at our Oregon house.  They led from the yard down to the street.  The piano movers backed up their truck and placed a bridge across.  They then just wheeled the piano across the bridge, backed their truck up to ours, set the bridge into our truck, and rolled the piano onto our truck.  Viola, piano loaded!

After the piano movers left, we loaded some gross furniture on the truck to take to the dump.  That was an experience.  We went to an environmental dump where they parcel everything out into different piles depending on what it is.  There was a giant wood pile, a giant couch dismantling station with piles of upholstery, foam, and wood, and a giant plastic pile.  The plastic was tossed onto a conveyor belt where it was dumped into a compactor that turned it into hideous, plastic lumps.  I am constantly refusing to buy certain items for Milla because they are landfill disasters.  I took a photo of the landfill disaster and sent it to her to see where all the ugly plastic goes when it breaks or someone doesn’t want it anymore.  Too bad we can’t put the dump next to Walmart or Target so people can see where the shit goes six months after they buy it.

After the dump at nearly 4 in the afternoon, we headed home to load up.  Boyfriend wanted to leave early Tuesday morning.  I thought he was being overly optimistic, but hey, who am I to rain on his parade?  Unfortunately, Boyfriend’s belongings were not quite packed yet.  We started packing boxes and loading the truck at the same time.  A friend came to help, but things were slow.  Another friend of Boyfriend called and offered to help.  It was dark but things were moving.  Boyfriend’s mom came and helped to pack the kitchen (thank goodness–she was a lifesaver).  Her fiance’ packed Boyfriend’s bike (thank goodness again).

One of our best helpers was Robert, an old, alcoholic singer with grey hair.  Long in the face and long in tooth, he is simply awesome.  He took charge and ordered Boyfriend and helpers diplomatically.  When rope needed cutting, he pulled out his trusty “Old Timer” pocketknife.  Such an old character, so cool, and he adores Boyfriend.  He was indispensable.

It became apparent after the mattresses went into the truck that all the stuff would not fit.  We packed the truck completely, but realized at about 10 p.m. we were going to have to get a trailer.  The rental places were closed at that hour so we amended our plan to leave until later on Tuesday.  Finally, at about midnight, we were ready to stop work and get food.  It had begun raining about 11, so we were grateful everything was in out of the weather and that we could finally eat.  After eggs at an all night Denny’s we headed home to get a tiny bit of sleep.  We had packed the bed so we curled up on an old twin mattress on the floor.

Our dog was confused by all the changes. She had spent the day wandering around watching all her stuff leave the house, her black, triangle-shaped head cocked to one side.  She lay on her bed next to us, blinking sleepily.  I can only imagine her doggy thoughts.  Probably not much more than some vague notion that life was not right, and hopeful her people wouldn’t leave.  Before dawn the next morning Boyfriend moved to his roommate’s futon because he kept falling off the twin mattress, so the dog came and curled up next to me.  It wasn’t until the alarm went off that I realized it was the dog I was snuggling and not my warm man.  She was a worthy substitute.

The next morning I immediately called the Uhaul up the street.  They had trailers we could look at.   As we drove the truck to get the trailer, it became patently obvious that the truck had not been packed evenly.  It listed precariously to the right, all the weight dragging it over.  A baby grand piano, 300 pound armoire, and thousands of records were all on one side, mattresses were on the other.  Damn it if we weren’t going to have to repack half the truck.

Boyfriend immediately jumped on the phone and called everyone he could think of who might help us.  An hour later we had three friends to help, the rain had stopped, and we began to furiously unload to beat the weather and lost time.  We managed to reload and load the trailer in only a couple of hours.  We both feel much better about the reload; the armoire and records are now on the opposite side of the truck from the piano.  We also repacked a bit more securely.  It must have worked; so far at every check, nothing has shifted and fallen.

We were finally able to leave the house at about 6 p.m. Tuesday night.  We had to stop and give a friend the key to Boyfriend’s car because he is selling it for us.  We also had to stop and buy a lock for the trailer.  It was rainy and late, and traffic was terrible because of the hour, but we were both so excited to be on our way, we didn’t care.

Boyfriend climbed a steep learning curve last night on how to drive a big truck with a trailer.  I have driven many trucks and trailers because I have hauled horses all my adult life.  I am used to the stopping distance and turning radius required.  I have learning how important it is not to overcorrect, how a little move of the steering wheel results in a big move with a heavy vehicle.  Boyfriend figured it out last night driving in the dark and rain.  Needless to say, his shoulders were a bit tense.

Today, however, is a different story.  He is driving like a pro.  At one point he went to pass a slow car in the right lane.  The truck began rocking side to side.  He held the wheel and the rocking gradually ceased.  Later, he was making strong man arms as he climbed the mountains at 45 mph.

Our iPhones have been a fantastic road trip addition.  Once we were finally on the road, we figured we would make it to Grants Pass, Oregon for the night.  I jumped on the internets and booked a room on Expedia for $40 a night.  Not bad for a twin bed, clean room, and warm bath!  Tanya the dog approved of the room, and she protected us this morning from an 80-year-old Navy veteran.  Good dog, Tanya!

Luckily for us but not so for the planet, it has been sunny and warm today.  It was too warm for hats and scarves, that’s for sure.  Anyone who thinks climate change is a myth is deluded.  We spent the last two hours driving over the Siskiyou Pass.  At 4600 feet there was barely any snow on the tops of the mountains off in the distance.  Everywhere else it looks like late August.  I can’t quite express my dismay and fear at the sight.  Things really are changing; arguing over it is a tragic waste of time.

Right now we are driving through Shasta national forest.  It is breathtakingly lovely.  Here there actually is snow on the ground, but the road is completely clear and dry and the sun is shining.  We could not ask for better conditions for driving the first week of January.  Our original plan was to head south through Albuquerque, but forecasts and friends assure us we can go through Denver without any problems.  We will decide here in few hours because we have to decide by Reno whether to continue to Elko or head south.  Right now it is looking like it will be Boulder.  We’ll get to stay with friends and see Milla besides.  Sounds good to me.

Cranberry Sauce

The local Boulder weekly paper published this article with advice on how to make holiday parties easier.  Among the ideas is the suggestion to buy certain foods rather than making them yourself, including cranberry sauce.

Advising someone to buy cranberry sauce to make preparation easier is like telling someone to buy bottled water instead of using the tap.  Gravy I can understand.  It take a bit of effort and skill to get it right.  Pie?  Same thing.

But cranberry sauce?  Toss cranberries, water, and sugar in a pan and boil for five minutes.  Voila, cranberry sauce.  It tastes better, has no extraneous ingredients, and doesn’t use up a can.  If you’re really feeling brave, you can add cinnamon or other spices.  Again, it’s not rocket science.  Homemade cranberry sauce is so easy and tastes so good, it’s a wonder people ever thought to put it in a can.

Sometimes, it seems, humans go out of their way to make life more difficult.

Miss Molly

In December 1996, I decided that I wanted another dog.  I had lived with my sweet dog, Autumn, for four and a half years. We had moved back to Oregon from the east coast, and I had finished college and begun working full time. I decided Autumn needed someone to hang out with during the day while I worked, so I chose to go to the humane society and look there.  I had been donating money to the humane society for years and fully supported animal adoption that way.  I considered myself an ideal owner; an animal that lived with me would be a full member of the family, receive top of the line care, and lots of love.

I was living in Corvallis at the time.  I decided to go look at the humane society in Salem because it was bigger and would therefore have a larger selection.  I was not sure exactly what kind of a dog I wanted, but I knew I did not want a brand new puppy and that I did want a female dog.

There were so many dogs to choose from.  There were lots of brand new puppies and most of them had signs on their cages indicating they were already adopted.  I entered the back kennels to search for an older dog.  The kennel was bedlam.  Because it was a Sunday, there were lots of potential doggie parents milling about looking for dogs.

I wandered up and down the aisles, occasionally stopping to pet one and say hello.  One dog in particular caught my eye.  She was about the same size as Autumn, but mostly black, almost like Autumn’s photo negative.  Where Autumn was brown, this dog was black.  Where Autumn’s points and eyebrows were dark brown, this dog’s were beige.  She sat quietly in front of the fence.  I went over and started to pet her.  She looked at the floor, but leaned into the fence of the kennel so I could pet her ears.  She was extremely thin, so thin I could count all of her ribs and see her hip bones.

This dog had curved front paws.  There was no obvious bend like an L.  Rather, her paws simply curved like the bottom of a U.  Later when Autumn contracted diabetes and gradually starved, her paws began to curve too and I learned that curved paws were caused by starvation.  I did not know at the time that the reason this dog’s paws were curved was because she had been starving.  The sign on her kennel read QUEENIE. Her breed was listed as a doberman mix.  I did not think so.  Her colors might have been vaguely reminiscent of a doberman’s, but nothing else about her resembled that breed.

I pet her for a bit, then moved on to look around some more.  I would wander up and down the aisles then return to the kennel with Queenie.  Other visitors would stop at various kennels, but no one else stopped at Queenie’s.  I kept going back.  She would look up at me, then look at the floor, then look back up at me.  The workers allowed me to take her out into a back yard to walk her around and spend time with her.  She sat next to me and walked quietly beside me while we walked around a bit.  I asked her if she wanted to live with me.  She just looked at me, then looked away, then looked back again at me.  She won me over and I decided that she was the dog I wanted to take home.

The workers told me that Queenie had been found wandering the streets of Salem three weeks prior.  The day I chose her, she was extremely thin.  I could count each of her ribs and she had those curved paws I did not know signified atrophied muscles from malnourishment.  If she was in this shape after three weeks, I can only imagine how thin she had been upon arrival.

Prior to that day, my dog Autumn lived as a child with my husband and me.  She slept in our bed.  She ate the best dog food.  When it was determined she had hip dysplasia, she received top of the line vet care.  She was a priority in our lives.  I cannot imagine an animal more loved and cared for.  Yet the humane society in Salem would not let me adopt Queenie because the house we lived in was rented and did not have a fence.  There were other smaller reasons as well that I no longer remember.  The main thing that stood out was the house situation.  Even though I had owned another dog and cared for her in that house for over a year, the people there determined it was not good enough.  No wonder so many animals can’t find homes.  If someone like me could not adopt a dog, I did not see how anyone could.

I hugged Queenie and left the facility completely dejected.  I wanted her.  I knew she would fit well with our little family.  I had to find a way to bring her home.

Knowing the criteria that had kept me from adopting Queenie, I set out to find a friend who would “kidnap” her for me.  I called around and described the situation.  My uncle John had just moved to the area.  When I told him what was going on, he agreed he would go and get Queenie out for me.  I was so pleased!  Perhaps she would be coming home with me after all.

The next day, Uncle John went down to the humane society.  We rehearsed the story we would tell in order to ensure he could adopt Queenie.  I waited and waited for him to call.  Over an hour later, he finally called to tell me he had Queenie and was on his way to my house.  I clapped in joy.  She was mine!  The story my uncle had told was convoluted and long.  He told them he owned his own house with a fenced yard.  He said he had a little boy who wanted a dog.  They told him he could not take the dog until the little boy had visited.  He then created some sob story where they had had a dog who had died.  His little boy was desperately sad and missed this dog more than anything. Queenie looked like that dog and he wanted to surprise his little boy.  The people bought it, thank God!

The night Queenie came home I changed her name to Molly.  She did not look like a queen, but she did look like a sweet Molly girl.

As part of the agreement to adopt, I had to pay a rather large fee, something like eighty dollars.  It was claimed that most of the fee was to pay for a certificate to spay Molly.  The humane society where she was adopted was in Marion County.  I had been assured the day before that I could use the certificate at a vet in the county where I lived.  I scheduled the appointment to have her spayed.  My vet told me that the certificates were not good in our county.  I called other vets and was told the same story.  Because I was not going to get to use the certificate anyway, I took her to my vet.  He decided he would honor the certificate even though he would not be remibursed for the work by the humane society.  I was grateful to him.  We had only been shortly acquainted at that time, but I now consider him a good friend.

Two days later I took her in to be spayed.  She was afraid of the vet’s office, but went along willingly.  That was Molly. There were many situations where she was afraid, but she would trust me and go along if I was there.  She stayed that way her entire life.  A couple of hours after dropping her off, I received a phone call from the vet letting me know her surgery was complete.  It turned out that when they opened her to spay her, she had already been spayed!  The doctor sewed her back up and called me to come and bring her home.  He said because the humane society told me she needed to be spayed, it had not occurred to him to question it before performing the surgery.

As I stated before, I had donated a lot of money to the humane society.  I wanted to help the organization so it could help animals.  However, after my experience that day trying to adopt that dog, after the experience with the spaying certificate I was told would work and then did not, and finally the fact they did not even know she had been spayed already requiring she undergo an unnecessary procedure, I stopped donating to them.  It has been my experience, then and since, that there are many people who work in the animal adoption industry who seem to have the attitude that they are the only people good enough to care for animals.  I absolutely understand taking steps to keep animals out of bad homes or laboratories.  Yet when organizations that claim their purposes are to serve animals, to keep them from being euthanized, and to find them decent homes, they should not make it impossible for a good owner to adopt a pet.  Unfortunately, because of the holier than thou attitude at some facilities, this is exactly what happens.

Molly was initially skittish, but she loved me and trusted me right away. Autumn was not thrilled by the interloper considering I had been sole mommy for the four years comprising her entire life.  However, she grudgingly accepted Molly into the pack once she determined she was not going anywhere.  For the rest of their lives the two basically ignored each other.  In my attempt to get Autumn company with Molly, I failed wholeheartedly.  Later when we adopted Poppy, Autumn and Poppy became good friends. And later after that, Autumn and Edna seemed to like one another as well.  But Autumn and Molly never did.  They acted like the other did not exist.  About once a year they would get into a nasty quarrel and one or the other of the two would end up with a bloody bite.

From the beginning Molly knew certain words and was terrified of them.  Her entire life if I said Vacuum she would go and hide.  In the early days, she was genuinely frightened.  In later years she would go and sit on the back porch or in the closet when the vacuum came out.  She could not stand the thing.  She also knew cuss words and would go and hide even if they were spoken in a sentence full of other words. For instance, I could say I’m going to go and dump the damn garbage and she would go hide.  It was like a parlour trick, her knowledge of naughty words.  I often wondered what happened to her in her early days to instill such a fear.

My vet and friend, Dr. Fletcher, examined Molly’s teeth very closely the month I brought her home and told me he was 95% certain she was just under two and a half years old.  This would have put her birth around September 1994.  A lot could happen in that time and I will never know what.  In addition to her fear of cuss words and vacuums, she was terrified of loud men, arguments of any kind, and she knew sit, stay, and come.  It was obvious she had lived with someone, but who knows what her life was like exactly.

Molly did not like being in trouble.  Her perception of trouble had a higher threshold than most of us.  During Autumn’s last years, Autumn would get into the trash and try to eat things beyond her diabetic dog food.  I would come home to Autumn wagging her tail and Molly sitting in the corner hiding.  Simply based on Molly’s body language, I knew Autumn had done something naughty.  I know some animal behaviorists would say that Molly was reacting to my reaction, that she had no way to know Autumn had done something naughty.  This explanation does not satisfy.  Molly would be reacting to Autumn’s behavior before I even knew and reacted to it.  Molly was smart.  She knew.

Molly was also extremely fastidious.  She would hold potty for hours and hours rather than go in the house.  For a couple of years we lived in a 1930’s farmhouse with a full basement.  There was no door on that basement so we put a gate at the top of the stairs to keep Milla from falling down them.  The top of the stairs opened onto an enclosed back porch.  When we were gone, we would leave the dogs on this back porch.  One day I came home to discover Molly on the top stair to the basement.  How did you get over the gate? I asked her.  She wagged her tail.  I went down into the basement to discover Molly had gone potty in the farthest corner of the basement.  Rather than potty on the back porch Molly had jumped over the gate landing on stairs and gone down and as far away as possible to do it.  That’s how she was.

Molly loved sleeping on the bed, but we had decided after we had three dogs and a cat and a child that the bed was too crowded so the dogs were relegated to beds on the floor.  Every so often, Molly would slip quietly onto the bed and lie there as still as possible hoping we would not boot her to the floor.  Most times we let her stay; she was not obtrusive.

Last April, Molly had a severe seizure.  I wrote about that on this blog.  You can click here to read about it.  The seizure was horrible.  When I woke to her twisted body writhing on the floor, her eyes rolling in two different directions, feces and urine everywhere, I thought for sure she was dead.  But she did not die.  Three hours later, to the surprise of everyone who had seen her, especially the vet, Molly was 95% better.  And she stayed better.  The vet warned me that more seizures were to come, that she likely had a brain tumor and would continue to seize until one of them killed her.  But that never happened.  She never had another seizure.

Because of her age, I knew Molly would not be able to cross the ocean to live with us in Hawaii. I arranged for her to stay with my boyfriend and his dog, Tanya, in Portland.  She seemed to accept the change after I left.  She spent a good deal of time under the bed, her favorite place to be.  Boyfriend bought her a rug to lie on under the bed and a pillow for the living room.  He bought her a new tag for her collar that said Miss Molly on a pretty pink flower.  I would talk to her on skype.  I don’t know if she knew what was going on, but she always had a happy face and would come out to play and say hello.

Yet over the last week and a half, Molly seemed to deteriorate before our eyes.  She fell down the stairs to Boyfriend’s basement.  She has had difficulty with stabilty on slippery floors for some time now and these stairs are covered in linoleum.  She stopped wanting to eat.  We thought maybe hard kibble was bothering her so Boyfriend bought wet food on Saturday.  Molly gobbled that up like a starving beast and we thought things would improve.  Only the next day she did not want to eat wet food either.  Boyfriend fed her some by hand and she ate that, but the next day she wanted even less.  Two days ago when he took her outside to go to the bathroom, she slipped and fell going up the back porch steps.  Yesterday when she went out to go to the bathroom, she urinated then lay in it.  I knew then that something was dreadfully wrong.  My dear, sweet, fastidious dog would never go anywhere near her urine if she could help it.  Boyfriend bathed her and I made an appointment with our vet for today.

Molly died this morning in the arms of my boyfriend.  The vet said she had a large tumor in her spleen that had burst and her belly was full of blood.  She said we could operate to remove the tumor, but she would likely not survive any surgery.  There would have been no benefit in trying to save her life.  She was fourteen years old.  Her body was old and worn out.  Trying to keep her alive would have been selfish and cruel.

Milla and I spoke to her over the phone telling her we loved her and goodbye.  I hope she heard us and if not I hope our love was there for her.  I imagined her flying away from that body just like Autumn did a little over three years ago.  My boyfriend took her body home and buried her in the corner of his backyard.  Tonight he went out and sat by her under the full moon.

I am so blessed this creature was a part of my life for almost twelve years.  She was always there, quietly in the background.  Molly loved a lot of people.  She was always so excited to see my mom or my good friends.  She loved my boyfriend and enjoyed his company, following him around the house for a snack or to have her rear end scratched.  She took a bit of time to warm up to a person, almost like she was sizing them up to determine whether they were worth her friendship.  Yet once she decided she liked you, she always liked you and would remember someone after months or even years of an absence.

Upon hearing of her death, a good friend said this to me, “She was such a good friend and such a polite and gentle dog.  What a blessing to have had her for so long – she loved you all dearly.”  These words are simply true.  I am grateful Molly came into my life. In her quiet way she was a fixture in my life for over a decade.  Of the hundreds of dogs I could have chosen from the humane society that cold, winter day, I am so thankful I chose her.  I loved her and I will miss her terribly.  I am glad that she was my friend.

Are YOU Ready to Be President?

Do you think you can be president of the United States of America?  Should you be president of the United States of America?  Do you have the qualifications necessary to run this country?  Regardless whether you want to be the president, would you like to have a president you see as a person with whom you could share a beer or hang out with?

It seems to me that the desire to hang out or have a beer with the president comes from a desire to view this person as human, as “like us.”  But think about it, how much “like us” should the president really be?  Are any of the people you hang out with ready to be president or should they be?  Are the people in your child’s soccer league ready to run the country?  What about the people in your PTA?  Are the people you have a beer with at the park ready to run the country?  Hell, are the people in your city council, or even your mayor ready to run the entire United States of America?

Just because we could sit and have a conversation with a person does not mean either of us is ready to run one of the most powerful nations on earth.  Think about it.  Faced with the prospect of leading at least two wars, global starvation, natural disasters, increasing environmental concerns, a worldwide mortgage crisis, an economy on the brink of collapse, millions of uninsured and unemployed Americans, and a multitude of other issues, are you or your neighbors ready to run this country?  Could you do it?  Could you fix these problems?

Don’t just ask yourself if the person running for president could drink a beer with you or hang out at your church.  Ask yourself if this person can manage the complex and myriad problems facing this massive nation. Over three hundred million people are citizens of the United States. Three hundred million!  Could you lead three hundred million people?  Perhaps in considering whether someone should be president we should worry less about whether that person is “like us” and start asking if they can do the job, because I highly doubt that most of us could run this country.  I doubt our neighbors could.  I doubt our friends could.  Perhaps after years of experience and training we could do it, but not right now, not today after drinking that beer. Being “like us” does not qualify someone to run this country.  It might make someone more likable.  It might provide us with some link to the enormity of their responsibility to feel that person could be “like us.”  Being “like us” may make us feel in another lifetime at another time we actually could do that job.  Unfortunately it is not enough to determine whether someone could be president of the United States.

Presidents should be super heroes.  Yes, they are human.  Yes, they shit.  But I want someone in charge of the fate of a very large number of people to have superhuman strength and abilities.  Just because this person could have a beer with me is simply not good enough.

Today is Autumn’s Birthday

Doesn’t that sound like the first line of a poem? Speaking metaphorically of course.  I am not, however, speaking metaphorically.  August 16 is the day my Autumn was born, in 1993.  She died July 19, 2005.  I chose her the day she was born and she died in my arms.  She lived her life with me.

Most people today will go on and on about this being the anniversary of the day Elvis died.  I have not yet seen any news sites or anything to proclaim this event, but having spent the last fifteen years noticing August 16, it is difficult not to notice this other event associated with it.  I find it remarkable that two decades after the man’s death, the date is still so publicly memorialized.  Ah, the cult of celebrity.

Autumn was a gem.  She was my little partner.  I knew before she was born that I would have a dog and imagined her riding with me in the car.  My boyfriend at the time and I drove across the US to go live in Virginia/Tennessee (yes, on the border), and the whole way there I fantasized about getting a dog.

I chose Autumn within weeks of our arrival; she came home five weeks later.  I went and held her every day from the time she was born, before she had eyes or ears.  I’ve since heard from a rather know-it-all dog breeder that this was completely dangerous because Autumn could have supposedly acquired some disease or other from me, but she did not.  All she acquired was the desire to spend all of her time with humans and particularly with me.  Throughout her life she followed me wherever I would go, no matter how trivial or short the trip.  Going into the kitchen for a glass of water?  There was Autumn, at my side. Going for a short visit to the toilet?  Autumn would rise from wherever she had been lying, follow me in, sigh heavily as she laid down next to me, then rise again thirty seconds later to follow me back to wherever I had been.  I spent a term at school in Munich, Germany when Autumn was just a puppy.  Upon my return, she peed on the sidewalk at the airport, her face and demeanor obviously relieved that the person she loved and remembered from the time before she had sight or sound was back.  The person she adored had not disappeared forever.

Autumn’s fur was golden, laced throughout with brown hairs and white.  She was the color of autumn, hence the choice for her name.  She had a white patch on her chest, on two of her toes, and on the tip of her tail.  She had the most beautiful brown eyes and I took it as a compliment that people often commented that we looked alike, even more so the year I wore brown contact lenses.  Two of her teeth were broken in half from carrying around and chasing rocks.  The dog loved fetching.  I would mark rocks and then toss them into three or four feet of water in a moving stream.  Invariably Autumn retrieved the marked rock from the floor of that stream.  She loved to swim, she loved to fetch, diving was the natural result.

Her last years were not pleasant for her.  First she acquired interstitial cystitis, then diabetes.  All of these I believe now came from problems with her adrenal glands.  At the time, no one really knew what caused interstitial cystitis, but I’ve learned that recent research shows a link to adrenal malfunction.  All along the doctors thought she had Cushings disease, although she never tested positive for it.  Considering Cushings is an adrenal malfunction and Autumn’s diseases were all manifestations of adrenal malfunction, I think it’s a safe assumption that this gland did not work properly for her.  Diabetes was the worst.  In spite of the twice daily insulin shots I gave her, she wasted away over nearly two years.  She lost her sight and grew thin.  Yet until the day she died she was lively and happy, chasing sticks and frisbees she could smell even though she could not see, snuggling close to me under the covers after I lifted her onto the bed to be with me.

I am so glad she was born and spent her life with me.  I have another beautiful dog named Molly I chose from the humane society when Autumn was two.  Molly is a photo negative of Autumn–black where Autumn was yellow, and yellow where Autumn was dark brown.  Like two children with their own personalities, each were individuals.  Autumn was outgoing, a textbook Leo in personality, Molly is timid and precise.  Autumn would attack the vacuum cleaner.  Molly goes and finds a corner as far from the sucking machine as possible.  She often worries she might be in trouble when you call her. She stares at the floor if someone else has been naughty, human or canine.  She will go and hide if another dog potties on the floor, fearful of the possibility someone might get mad.  I have now had Molly longer than I had Autumn.  She lives with one of my best friends in Oregon.  I have missed her stealthy presence, hiding under my bed or in my closet.  My friend calls me.  He tells me Molly is in the closet. He sent me a photo of her in there staring at his boots.  He coaxes her into his basement to eat her food and to get away from the summer heat.

I realized this week that this is the first time that I have not had a dog since I brought Autumn home in September 1993.  Growing up we always had dogs.  I am not used to being dogless.  I like the presence of another in the house always there.  I enjoy having my own pack.  I miss it.  I wonder, sitting here thinking, if maybe I have been experiencing a version of empty nest these last few years, years I have been wanting a purpose, needing something to do, feeling sort of lost.  I honestly enjoy taking care of my babies, whether they are dogs or humans. The happiest days of my life I remember are the times when I was taking care of my dogs or my baby girl.  My girl has grown enough into herself that she does not require that level of care anymore.  My dogs are all gone.  How 1950’s housewife of me that taking care of a house and babies is what brings me the most contentment.

I miss Autumn.  I love her.  Her life is one of the two most important things I have ever experienced.  For her life and the time she shared with me, I am grateful.  I realized at the birth of my daughter that celebrating one’s birth is a celebration of the fact of being born.  I celebrate the fact that Autumn was born.  Happy birthday to you, dear one.  Thank you for living your life with me.

If you would like to read more about Autumn, I have written about her here. More about Molly can be read here, and the story of her death can be read here.

Empathy for Kurt Cobain

Life is surreal. It’s amazing how twisted up people can make things.  I constantly hear stories that from the outside seem to have such simple solutions, yet the parties involved are fully unwilling to act simply, choosing instead to remain mired in complications.  Humanity.  It appears we are doomed to destroy ourselves, but before we go we are all going to make certain we’re as miserable as possible.  How often, I wonder, could one’s life be different with the simple choice of just letting something go?  Ah, what do I know anyway?

Blogging non-sequitur: I did not know that Willie Nelson wrote Crazy.

So yesterday I went to Aberdeen, Washington.  The trip was an homage to Kurt Cobain.  We listened to Nirvana the whole way there.  Okay.  I’m joking.  That would have been pathetic.  Aberdeen was an afterthought.  We listened to a lot of music, but none of it was Nirvana.  My friend and I decided to go to Long Beach to get out of Portland since we both had the day free.  We got to Long Beach and although it was brilliantly sunny, the wind felt like it was blowing off the side of a glacier.  We walked out to the ocean then turned around and went right back to the car.  Our ears were frozen.  The best part of the visit was our dogs.  His dog was thrilled to pieces.  Oh my God, we’re at the beach!  There is sand!  There is water!  There are people to sniff!  I can get wet!  I can run!  I can wag! My dog was not thrilled to pieces and clearly thought we were insane.  He followed behind me whimpering.  You have got to be kidding.  Can’t you pick me up?  My paws are freezing!  Is that water?  That’s water.  No way.  I am NOT crossing that water.  Oh for Christ’s sake, are you crossing that water?  What is wrong with you people?  That water is freezing.  Do you feel that wind?  Seriously.  I can’t believe you would volunteer to come out here into the sand and water and wind.  There must be something deranged about human beings.

I think Piper was right.  It was too cold, windy, and wet.  So we decided to leave Long Beach and head to Aberdeen.  It was only another hour north and Kurt Cobain grew up there.  We had to see if the town was anything spectacular, particularly since he’d become famous and then died.  I mean, towns love that stuff, don’t they?

Apparently not.  Wow.  That is about all I can say.  We both lamented having failed to bring any sort of recording devices beyond the cameras in our mobile phones.  I don’t know that I can convey in words the pitifully depressed state of the place.  I actually had the thought that I could understand why someone living there would want to commit suicide.  Of course, Kurt wasn’t there when he committed suicide and had probably not been there for a long time, but it gives one the sense of the place to know that the impression it leaves is that of the will for self destruction.

The approach into town from Long Beach leads one by miles and miles of decimated forests.  Good for you, logging companies!  It appears you have ensured there will be no lumber to harvest for decades!  The land was fully raped and pillaged.  We passed the Weyerhauser Mill, drove along a stretch of uninviting highway lined with storage warehouses and beaten down manufactured homes.  We came to a bridge and wondered whether Aberdeen continued on the other side or if the next locale was Hoquiam.  We discovered to our delight that Aberdeen did indeed continue to the far side of the bridge. Unfortunately since our visit was an afterthought, we arrived just shortly after six p.m.  This meant that nothing was open except the corporate strip mall and a porn shop.  We browsed the porn shop.  It was the same as all other porn shops I have ever frequented.  The funny part of the visit there was that a man sat at a counter and another man browsed horrible videos.  There were rooms in the back and we heard noises leading us to believe there were men back there as well.  But as far as we could tell, other than me, there were no other women in the place.  I informed my friend that the other men in the place were probably impressed he had a real girl with him and not a plastic pussy.  Good times.  The other highlight of our Aberdeen visit was the Star Wars store, but unfortunately it was closed.  Today I discovered quite by accident a similar store less than a mile from my house.  Since we missed the Aberdeen version, we’ll have to hit the one here.

The homes in Aberdeen were run down beyond belief.  My friend suggested that perhaps I could purchase one there for cash out from the money received in the sale of my house.  We took down the address of a place for sale to look it up.  I did and it is actually possible to buy a house there for 1960’s prices.  I saw several for between $40k and $80k.  The only problem is why would you want to?  Yuck.

Visiting freezing Long Beach and decripit Aberdeen was a fun impromptu road trip. We went to the grocery store in Aberdeen and bought jelly beans and went to the bathroom.  The bathroom had a beautiful view of the bay.  Seriously amazing.  Too bad it was wasted on a grocery store bathroom.  We drove home on the non-scenic highway through Olympia.  An enjoyable time was had by all.

House Sold, South Park, and Gross Out Videos

Yippeekayyaiyay!  The couple who made the offer seem just perfect for this place.  The wrote me a letter with their offer describing their impressions upon moving in, how they could tell how much love has been put into the house, and how excited they are to live here.  I couldn’t ask for a better family for this lovely little place.  It has been my first, real home.  I’ve lived all over.  I’ve had lots of other houses.  But I made this place all mine.  I put real blood, sweat, and tears into remodeling it.  I showed it love and it has blossomed.  Now I pass it to a new family and I will start another phase in my life.

A tear rolled out of my eye after my agent called to tell me of the offer.  I thought suddenly of all the possibilities and changes to come.  I’ve been in a holding pattern for so long now, it’s amazing this is finally happening.  Amazing, exhiliarating, and terrifying.

While I am here, I would like to tell Maestro that I have been having an amazing bit of fun. I give you kudos.  You’ve been brilliant, thank you.

I encourage all who have a dark sense of humor to watch the South Park episode on Britney Spears.  It can be found here.  It’s truly priceless.  I laughed so hard I hurt a muscle in my tummy.  Oh, and another video to watch for sheer entertainment and gross out value can be found here. This video is truly sick and wrong.  It’s not sickeningly nasty like Two Girls and a Cup, but it’s still pretty foul.  Don’t watch it while eating ice cream or yogurt or having a milkshake.  I’m just warning you.  It might not be a good thing.

Black and White and Grey all Over

So the lady who wrote me about the girl who was mean to me in junior high and I had a little chat via email over a few days. I actually enjoyed chatting with her. She seems nice. Anyway, I kept thinking about that time in my life, maybe because my brother is living with me for the time being and I think about childhood, I don’t know. One thing I have thought a lot about was what kind of a kid I was back then, especially from about age 12 to age 14. Looking back, I still don’t think I like who I was. I know there are all these self-help growth books blah blah blah that tell us to go back and love our inner child and embrace that kid who felt so rotten about herself.

Whatever. I don’t mean to be dismissive when a person needs that, but for me, what a load of crap. I could perhaps feel some compassion for the kid who was picked on and whose stepfather had turned out to be mean instead of loving and possibly even for the big dork that I was as I tried to navigate through junior high, hormones, and popularity. But in some ways I was exactly like the mean girls, just trying to survive. Funny what humans will do when they think it will buy them some control.

I watch movies like Mean Girls, where the main characters come to the realization that they are selfish and shitty and shallow, and it’s great that this is how it comes to be for them. But in my life, I was not as enlightened. I decided not to be friends with Sandra Gordon based solely on the fact that the other girls I wanted to be friends with termed her a “scumbag.” I purposely pulled away from her for no other reason than that. I wanted to be included with more popular people and if that meant dumping Sandra, then I did it, even while the even more popular girls were picking on me.

And later I stopped being friends with Dee Roberts for the simple reason that I heard others thought we were gay, and I did not want anyone to think that. So stupid. So shallow. It was years before I grew any sort of personal backbone, years before I quit giving a shit what other people think and standing on my own. Luckily Dee and I have some friends in common so as adults we were able to reconnect.

I look back now and am amazed at my ability to cut my friendships off with such precision. Perhaps we would have grown apart anyway, but I will never know that because when I decided that I was not going to be friends with someone anymore, that was the end of the friendship. Thinking on it now, maybe some of that ability was just the age. I had friends who cut me off with the same sharp capacity when they saw me as a hindrance to their own popularity. Friends one minute, not friends the next.

I followed my friends Rae and Wendy around like a puppy, begging them to love me. Especially Rae. She was my best friend, in my eyes, but I wasn’t hers. I was there for her, but she wanted Shawna Peterson. And at some point Shawna Peterson decided that she hated me. So if Rae was hanging out with Shawna then she was not hanging out with me.  I guess I can hardly blame her.  In eighth grade all my friends had braces.  I had perfectly straight teeth.  So one day I wore tin foil to school.  I told Rae the dentist made me do it.  Seriously.  I did this.  Is it any wonder few people wanted me near them?

Rae never openly told me not to let anyone know I was her friend, but she did not hang out with me at school. I hung out with Sandra Gordon until Rae and Wendy told me I shouldn’t, then I didn’t hang out with anyone. Those years in junior high were utterly hopeless, utterly miserable. Then I went home and life there sucked too.

I wonder where the kids with a backbone get the backbone. In movies, the left out child that the others bully comes back with a vengeance, kicking ass and proving their inner strength. Often the bullies realize that they don’t have to be so mean either. In my real life, I did not have any such inner strength. I hated myself. I think I believed them.

Occasionally I would stand up for myself, but I was fucking scared to death of it. One time on the bus, a torture chamber if there ever was one, these girls put gum in my hair. They were perfect. They had perfect clothes, perfect hair, perfect makeup. And they hated my guts, just because I wore the wrong clothes, the wrong hair, wore no makeup, and probably looked like I was waiting to be kicked. I told the bus driver. She told me to put gum in their hair the next day. I waited, planning to do so, but scared shitless to actually go through with it. I ended up just putting gum on the pants of the girl who instigated it all. I don’t think she even noticed.

Another time, the bus driver made me get off early and walk to my house. I was pissed. So I hid in the bushes in front of my house and when she drove by, I threw gravel at the bus. She pulled it over, brakes screeching. I hightailed it into the house and hid. My sister Melanie wouldn’t let her in. I think I got written up, but I don’t remember. Funny, that bus driver was a friend and an enemy. Mostly I did not like her. She let a lot happen on the bus that shouldn’t have.

It is also interesting that when I would stand up for myself and not chicken out, I was ruthless, kind of like with cutting off my friends. Where is that? Where does it come from, that ruthlessness? That ability to be so cold? I just don’t know. But I could do it. Maybe it’s that survival instinct, that belief in some control.

The main person able to incur my wrath without fear was Kim Dawson, Melanie’s friend. She hated me and I hated her. I don’t recall why. But she was constantly after me. The first time I fought back, I had gotten on the bus wearing purple cropped pants before they were in fashion. I think I just wore them because I liked them but had outgrown the length. As was typical in those days, I did not have a lot of clothes and my parents would not buy what was in fashion. My mom tried making me some pants like the other girls wore, but it didn’t make me popular. Nothing could have, I don’t think.

Anyway, Kim asked me if I was waiting for a flood. When she went to get off the bus, I stuck my foot out into the bus aisle as she walked by, smearing mud on her pants. She was pissed. She pulled my hair when I got off the bus. I pulled hers. The bus driver pulled us apart. We both got written up.

Then another time, the bus was really crowded. I sat in a seat near the front with a little boy. She was in the seat directly behind me. She leaned forward and made some comment about me and the little boy. I reached back and slapped her in the face. She grabbed my hair. I kept hitting her until she let go of my hair. I think we may have gotten written up then too.

Funny, I was written up three times in junior high, but all three times were so far apart that each time, the principal said since it was the only time I’d been written up, he’d let it go at that. Makes me laugh.

The final time I fought with Kim, I beat the crap out of her. I was twelve years old. She was at our house with my sister. The two were nagging me, picking at me, egging me on. Finally, Kim said something to me that I do not remember now. I jumped her. I sat on her and hit her. Melanie screamed. I finally got up and that was the last time Kim bugged me, but we hated each other to death.

Luckily for me, Rae hated Kim too, so we would order pizzas to her house and make hair appointments for her at salons in town. This was in the days before caller id and all that tracking. We knew her address and phone number so it was easy. Later, she got a boyfriend who was a really big dork, and Rae and Wendy would tease Kim about him. I just joined as a watcher. I loved it because I still hated Kim.

I can’t believe now that I got in hitting fights. Actually, my fights with Kim were the only fights I’ve ever had where hitting was involved. And mine wasn’t one of those situations where I saw open violence at home all the time or anything. Our home was filled with the stealthy kind of violence, like a gaseous poison that oozes through the walls; words laced with hate, looks of vile hatred, screaming matches between parents while children hid in their rooms, doors slammed. Except when I would get hit for doing something, which was somewhat infrequent, we didn’t witness hitting or slapping like some of my friends did. My fighting with Kim came from my own inner capacity to whack someone. I don’t know where she got hers.

Funny, I read back through this and it’s as though I’ve unintentionally continued the same theme that permeates all my posts lately: nothing is black and white, human behavior is mostly directed by an illusion of control or an attempt to garner control. Like I said, it has not been intentional. It just keeps coming up. Maybe there is some deep dark purpose behind this, but more likely it is just that these are central themes in human behavior and I happen to be noticing them in my attempt to reach a point. I don’t know. I do know that I’ve been writing for a hour now and my daughter is irritated at me because she wants to go bike riding and she says I “always write” and she can’t understand it. She wants me to stop and focus on her. So that is what I will do. Maybe I’ll have to show her the scene at the end of the movie Stand By Me where the dad is writing and his son who has obviously been waiting and waiting comes in and asks him when they are finally going to leave and the dad says in a minute. Then the boy turns and tells his friend his dad gets like that when he writes. See Milla? I’m not the only one.

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.

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.

Brainless, but no anal probes

I wrote to my good friend Goro in Hawaii.  Because he is a fellow space creature, I asked him if he had seen the mother ship, that I was lost.  He told me had not been able to locate the ship.  He wondered whether I could take him to my leader.  I had to tell him that I have no leader and that I have no brain.

“Haven’t you read the letter I received from Brain Restorative Services, LLC?” I asked him?

In case you are not aware, my brain was lost over the Bermuda Triangle some time ago.  Aliens have no interest in me because there is no brain to probe.  At least they are leaving my anus alone.  There are some benefits to being brainless.  I mean, you could end up president, you know?  Then instead of taking people to your leader, others would bring people to you.  If you were so inclined, you could pass them on to the aliens to study.

Go faster!

Today I was walking through my house to get to the back porch to feed my dogs.  My greyhound was so excited at the possibility of food, she shoved her nose up my butt to hurry me along.  She’s done this before.  It works.  Cold nose in my butt, I move more quickly to escape the nose in my butt.  Dog wins.

Who says dogs don’t have a sense of humor.