Monday, January 30, 2012

She still won't pull that *&%$ing tooth

Apparently I have nothing else in my life to occupy my thoughts.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

If only for a day

Yesterday I made my annual trek out of town for the rescue's board/volunteer meeting. I bid on a two-star room on Priceline and was upgraded to a Hilton. Yay me! I have now decided to forgive Priceline for putting us up at Chez de la Sucks Ass back in July.

I dropped the kid off at a birthday party at noon. The party was held at a local jumpity-jump joint. I think there were over a thousand birthday parties going on simultaneously. Just walking in to deposit my daughter with the correct party group and winding through the crowd to get back out was enough to make my face twitch. I'm so glad she's old enough to be dropped off at these shindigs and that I don't have to hang around. She gets invited to a lot of parties and my mental health is fragile enough already.

I then hit the road, tofurkey sandwich in hand and a new "road tunes" playlist at the ready. Two and a half hours later, I was at my hotel. I checked in and was given a room on the 11th floor. As soon as I walked into my room, I immediately morphed into my mother and thought, "Heat rises. I'm on the 11th floor. I'll never get this room cold enough for me to be able to sleep well." At home, I have the thermostat programmed to drop to 65 overnight. In a big hotel, it's a little harder to control the temperature - I'm convinced the thermostat on the wall is just for show. I turned it down and hoped for the best. Had I actually been my mother and not just a diluted version of her, I would have pried open the wall unit in an attempt to override the whole system. She has also been known to summon hapless hotel maintenance workers, attempt to pry open windows, and engage in other nefarious tactics to bring the temperature down to her comfort level. I've seen her do it, ya'll. I like it a little cooler, but my mama's not happy in a hotel room until she can see her breath.

I hung out for an hour or so and then headed to the meeting. We had our board meeting first. I was re-elected to the treasurer position for the hundredth year in a row . . . it involves a lot of paperwork and bookkeeping, so believe it or not, I don't seem to get any challengers. We then had our general volunteer meeting. It probably doesn't sound like fun, but we eat, drink, play games, and then plow through some boring policy-related stuff. And then have another round of drinks. A few new volunteers came, which was great because we need some new blood. As much as I'm not big on change personally (I've been wearing the same shade of lipstick for at least a dozen years), I know that the organization will not grow and improve without some new folks. So, I was excited to see some new faces and hear some new ideas.

When the meeting was over, I headed back to my hotel room. The thermostat indicated it was 67 degrees in the room, but I knew better, sister.  I spent the rest of the evening flipping through channels and eating candy conversation hearts. You know I love my family, but it was nice to have an evening to myself. I was asleep by 11, though. Party on, Wayne.

Although most hotels these days offer a free continental breakfast, my friends at the Hilton do not. No worries, though, because I brought some fruit and a granola bar from home. I did look at the room service menu just for my own amusement, though. Four-dollar orange juice? Is there gold dust in it or something? I got my act together and went down to the gym for a work-out. I have no witnesses, but I swear to you I did it - 50 minutes on the elliptical while I watched "Sunday Morning." Then I changed into my swimsuit and enjoyed a brief swim. I felt a little guilty to be swimming without my daughter, so I vowed not to mention it when I got home.

Finally, I checked out and headed home, stopping at Trader Joe's along the way. I enjoyed my 26 hours of freedom and am now back home . . . making the kid's lunch for tomorrow, picking up marker lids off the floor . . . you know, the usual level of glamour that defines my life.

One random closing thought: How come, no matter where you go (and no matter how nice a hotel you stay in), most people fail to grasp this basic concept: LET EVERYONE OFF THE ELEVATOR BEFORE YOU GET ON?  I mean, even if your mother didn't specifically give you this bit of advice, doesn't common sense just sort of kick in anyway? I don't get it. I witnessed several episodes of "I must get on the elevator ASAP because if the doors somehow close before I get on, God knows this rig is never coming back and I'll be stranded on the 11th floor for the rest of my natural life."  Some people's children, I tell you.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

I have to stop reading/watching the news

When I was a kid, I remember hearing the ticking clock of "60 Minutes" emanating from our console television every Sunday evening and always thought, "Ugh!" I could not understand how anyone could watch something so boring. Watching the news seemed like the very worst thing that could happen to a person. Of course, now that I have a few more decades behind me, my tolerance for news programming has increased considerably. I record "Sunday Morning" on the DVR every week and watch it after church. On weekdays, I scan the headlines on MSN and CNN while I munch my lunch. I have a long-standing crush on Robin Meade and usually listen to her newscast in the morning (even though I'm still mad about Headline News being shortened to HLN - I really did have time for those extra letters, CNN!).

There weren't any big news stories this week, so I had plenty of time to be pissed off about small ones.

1. Michigan's ass backwards adoption laws. Adoption laws vary greatly from state to state and some states are certainly worse than others. I would not want to be an adoptive parent in Michigan, that's for sure. It just seems sort of tragic that both halves of a same-sex couple don't have the same rights when it pertains to their children. Michigan will only allow one parent to be the official adopter, not both. If, God forbid, that parent dies, the other person has zero rights. No ability to make decisions about the child they've raised. Antiquated adoption laws don't benefit anyone. Plus, I can't think of any valid reason why any state would make it difficult for same-sex couples to adopt. I think it's been sufficiently proven that being raised by gay parents does not have any sort of adverse effect on children. Surely you've seen the video of this guy?

2. The overturn of a "downed livestock" law in California. Apparently, there was a law on the books requiring immediate euthanasia of sick/injured animals that cannot walk upon arrival at slaughter. I tell you, I have mostly lost hope that I'll ever live in a world where anyone gives a shit about animals and how they are treated. I mean, how many undercover videos showing livestock torture do we need? The part of the article that irked me the most was this statement: “The vast majority of nonambulatory pigs are merely overheated, stressed, fatigued, or stubborn and, if allowed to rest, will stand and walk unassisted,” it said.

Well, damn those surly pigs anyway. If they would just march serenely to their death like they are supposed to, we wouldn't have this problem. Stubborn pigs!  Why, that jovial pig in Charlotte's Web had a always little skip in his step when he jogged around the farm. The other pigs should make note of that.

3. Heidi Klum and Seal have broken up?  Say it ain't so! I'm not a celebrity-watcher, per se (my knowledge about Heidi Klum is mostly restricted to her work on Project Runway, which I love) but I thought they seemed like a good couple. Damn.

I'm sure there were some other news stories that got me worked up but I failed to commit them to memory. I've been busy getting ready for the annual meeting for the rescue, coming up this weekend. The meeting is being held a couple hours away from my house, so I'm going to stay in a hotel room alllllll by myself. The week has been mostly uneventful, save for my daughter's playground incident yesterday. At recess, she was running on some ice and apparently the black top flew up and attacked her face. I guess the poor kid landed face down on a patch of ice. Of course, she told me it was my fault because her snow boots are slightly too big. Because, you know, everything is my fault one way or the other. Anyway, it looks like she's going to pull through. I attended a parent-teacher conference last night and received glowing reviews of my daughter's performance. She's at an advanced reading level, is an excellent speller, and rocks at math, too. I'll take partial credit for her reading skills (since we read together quite a bit) and give the rest of the credit to her birthmom. The kid and I played Bananagrams on Sunday night. I was proud of her for using her tiles to create the word "MEATLOAF" (particularly since the longest word I'd come up with at that point was "SPIT") but was feeling somewhat less proud that she also laid down the word "ASS."  When I asked her about it, she said, "I'm going to turn it into GLASSES as soon as I get a G and an L."  Sure you are, kid. Sure you are.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Fearful


Although my daughter has excellent social skills (as evidenced by her innate need to talk to strangers and share intimate details of our lives with them), her physical skills are not as well developed. She was a late walker (14 1/2 months) and is still hesitant about trying new things if it means pushing herself physically in any way. She will not:
  • Ride a bike (with or without training wheels)
  • Ride a scooter
  • Roller skate
She owns all three items, of course. Ah, that was money well spent. Basically, if wheels are involved, she wants no part of it. It does not bother her that many of her friends can ride a two-wheeler with no training wheels. And ride a scooter. And roller skate. She simply does not want to try anything that might possibly result in a scrape or a scratch. I've told her that every kid falls off her bike at some point. I divulged that I fell off my bike when I was a kid, but I decided not to tell her that I broke my arm while roller skating when I was five.

The kid lost her first tooth last summer. There was a bit of blood and she was mildly traumatized but seemed to get over it in time. The tooth next to that tooth is so loose that it's hanging by a thread. She refuses to pull it. I have become obsessed with this tooth and her failure to pull it out. I've even thought of sneaking into her room while she is sleeping, looping some dental floss around that bad boy, and yanking it out myself. She is afraid of the blood and the twinge of discomfort she'll feel as the tooth leaves the spot it has held for over six years.

Her dentist said that when a tooth is loose, it's a good idea to pull it because the adult tooth is trying to come in and you don't want to impede its progress. My daughter does not give a rat's ass about any of this. Honestly, I don't know how she can stand leaving it in there. It must feel awfully strange every time she bites into something. I don't know about you, but when I was a kid, if I had a tooth that was even vaguely loose, I pulled it out immediately. I mean, there's money in them thar choppers.

I have no idea why she is so fearful about anything and everything related to her body. I can't help but think we either caused the fear or unwittingly reinforced it at some point. So, what's a mom to do? Do I push her to ride a bike, roller skate, pull her tooth (in hopes that once she does it, she'll realize that the act did not immediately result in her death) or just let her do it in her own time? And if I go with Plan B (the leave her be plan), will her college roommate notice the training wheels on A's bike?

Friday, January 20, 2012

Well, she sure showed me

We've been having a few minor behavioral issues with Short Stuff lately. She still gets in yellow at school a lot. We've gotten so used to it that we don't really make a fuss unless she gets in red. When I picked her up from Kindercare yesterday, a staff member told me that they are having problems with my daughter getting on the bus in a timely manner after school. Kindercare transports her to and from school.  This did not come as a surprise to me at all. Kindercare was closed on January 2nd and I had the day off, so I took her to school and picked her up that day. When I arrived to pick her up, I parked my car in the lot and walked to the blacktop (where the kids go after the bell rings). As luck would have it, it was extremely cold and windy that day. I stood out there with the other parents, doing a little jig to keep my blood flowing. I watched wave after wave of children emerge from the double-doors and board busses or meet parents. I saw A's friends come out, drag their backpacks across the blacktop, and then climb into waiting minivans. Soon, I was the only parent left. Had I goofed up somehow? Maybe she got confused and got on a bus or something?  Just as I was about to become full-on alarmed, my daughter pushed the door open and shuffled over to me. "Hi Mom!" By this time I'd lost feeling in my extremities and my eyeballs had cracked into pieces.

So, I have no doubt that she is keeping the Kindercare bus driver waiting every day. And I can understand why they would be unhappy about it.  I tried to have a talk with the kid about it last night. "Can you just try to get your act together a little faster when school ends?" I asked her.  She nodded but included a slight eye roll.

Later, when she was in the bath tub (and had been in there for close to an hour), I asked her repeatedly to put her bath toys away because it was time to get out. I returned to the bathroom at least three times to see that Ariel and Sleeping Beauty were still floating face down in the water as various cups and plastic toys bobbed around them.

"Couldn't you, just this once, do what you are asked to do?"  I was a wee bit frustrated.

She looked up at me. "If you don't be nice to me, I am going to run away."

I was intrigued. "Where will you go?"

"Chicago."

"Oh, okay. And what will you do in Chicago?"

"Get a hotel room. I'll be gone for two days," she responded.

"And then what will you do?" I asked.

"Eat breakfast and then lunch and then dinner."  She stuck her chin out defiantly.

So, basically my little rebel has informed me that she's going to run away, for two days, get a hotel room and . . . order room service?  Boy, she's sure gonna show us, eh?  We'll be sorry we were so mean to her! And here I was worried about crystal meth and other dark underworld type stuff.

I asked her how she was going to afford Chicago, as it is very expensive. She told me that she would take the money from her piggy bank, but I advised her that I didn't think it would cover all that room service. They add on so many fees and all, you know.

"What if I had a thousand dollars?" she asked.

"For two days in Chicago? That should just about cover it."

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Lordy, Lordy


So, you know that 20-year-old jarhead I picked up at a club in D.C. way back when? He's turning 40 today. I really need to look into exchanging him for a younger Marine.

The kid and I gave him his gifts early - a Kindle Fire and a pair of jeans. He's been playing Angry Birds on the Kindle for the past two days, which was actually part of my plan as it frees up the TV for me to watch the stuff I had piling up on the DVR.  We went to Red Robin for dinner last night so that he could claim his free birthday burger. As soon as we pulled into the parking lot, he made the same announcement he has made about every restaurant (or any public establishment of any kind for that matter) for the past two decades: "It's packed." I'm throwing a little party for him Saturday night (at an equally packed restaurant on the other side of town).

The kid made him a card that says,  "It's your britday, Dad!" Then she wrote "40" all over it and included a sticker of a snowman saying "Good job!" Good job on getting old, I guess? She also exclaimed, "Hey Mom, you're turning 42 and Daddy is turning 40? Daddy is two years younger than you????"  Yes, kid, I've done the math. Thank you for that, though. 

Happy birthday to my handsome, smart, comic-book-reading, one-star-movie-watching, grey-haired husband. You are a wonderful father and husband and we love you very much! You've been complaining for twenty years now that I never fill the ice cube trays (why should I when you are SO good at it, babe?) so maybe I'll throw you a bone and fill them today in honor of your birth. But just this once.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Sermon on Legacy

I was invited to speak at my church on Sunday. I spent several weeks (off and on) working on my message and figured I'd foist it off on my unsuspecting blog readers, too.

I also read a couple poems not included in the text below:

Eyes Fastened with Pins by Charles Simic
Men at Forty by Donald Justice

"What Legacy Will I Leave?

For as much as I’ve tried to pretend I am still in the first half of my life, I’ve slowly come to realize that I probably crossed over that invisible line some time ago. Based on my health history, I don’t expect to be an incredibly long-lived person. It’s important that I live long enough to finish raising my daughter, however, because I have seen how her father dresses her when I am not around. Plus, I am convinced that I am the only person in our home capable of unraveling the complexities of our school district's late start/early dismissal schedule. Without me, I’m fairly certain that A would never end up at school on the right days at the right times.

At 42 (in just a few short weeks), I don’t feel that old, but my daughter seems to think I am ancient. She refers to my childhood as “the olden days.” She recently asked me what toys I played with “in the olden days” and I told her we didn’t have time for toys because we were too busy churning our own butter and settling the frontier. Now I know why my mother was so vexed when my middle sister innocently asked her many years ago, “Mom, did they have pens and pencils when you were a kid?”

Still, there are signs that I am indeed aging. Despite my devotion to the practice of yoga and staying at least vaguely fit, I notice that I am a little slower to get up off the floor (and perhaps slightly less inclined to get down there in the first place). Parts of me creak when I wake up. I say things like “those kids” to refer to anyone under the age of thirty. I generally wear sensible shoes. I recently noticed with chagrin that a pair of my favorite jeans is outfitted with a patented comfort waistband. My eyes aren’t working quite right anymore – it seems I am simultaneously nearsighted and farsighted, resulting in the tragic need for bifocals. I get “ma’am’ed” a lot. And so on it goes.

I think often of the poem “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.” I’m sure many of you are familiar with it. Literary scholars have offered many interpretations of the poem, but the theme of aging and mortality seems unmistakable. It’s a long poem so I’ll just read a portion of it.

The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock by T.S. Eliot

And the afternoon, the evening, sleeps so peacefully!
Smoothed by long fingers,
Asleep … tired … or it malingers,
Stretched on the floor, here beside you and me.
Should I, after tea and cakes and ices,
Have the strength to force the moment to its crisis?
But though I have wept and fasted, wept and prayed,
Though I have seen my head (grown slightly bald) brought in upon a platter,
I am no prophet—and here’s no great matter;
I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker,
And I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker,
And in short, I was afraid.

And would it have been worth it, after all,
After the cups, the marmalade, the tea,
Among the porcelain, among some talk of you and me,
Would it have been worthwhile,
To have bitten off the matter with a smile,
To have squeezed the universe into a ball
To roll it toward some overwhelming question,
To say: “I am Lazarus, come from the dead,
Come back to tell you all, I shall tell you all”—
If one, settling a pillow by her head,
Should say: “That is not what I meant at all;
That is not it, at all.”

And would it have been worth it, after all,
Would it have been worthwhile,
After the sunsets and the dooryards and the sprinkled streets,
After the novels, after the teacups, after the skirts that trail along the floor—
And this, and so much more?—
It is impossible to say just what I mean!
But as if a magic lantern threw the nerves in patterns on a screen:
Would it have been worth while
If one, settling a pillow or throwing off a shawl,
And turning toward the window, should say:
“That is not it at all,
That is not what I meant, at all.”

No! I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be;
Am an attendant lord, one that will do
To swell a progress, start a scene or two,
Advise the prince; no doubt, an easy tool,
Deferential, glad to be of use,
Politic, cautious, and meticulous;
Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse;
At times, indeed, almost ridiculous—
Almost, at times, the Fool.

I grow old … I grow old …
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.

Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?
I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.

I do not think that they will sing to me.

I have seen them riding seaward on the waves
Combing the white hair of the waves blown back
When the wind blows the water white and black.
We have lingered in the chambers of the sea
By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown
Till human voices wake us, and we drown.

Of course, not a soul among us knows when his or her last day will come. But when it does, will we find ourselves distressed over our inaction, over missed opportunities, over the woulda coulda shoulda of our lives? My yoga instructor urges me to “be in the moment,” but it is so very difficult to do. We are all convinced that there is simultaneously so much time and so very little time. We believe there are an infinite number of days in which we will have the opportunity to right all wrongs but yet not enough time to say, “I love you and appreciate you” to the people in our lives.

And indeed there will be time To wonder, “Do I dare?” and, “Do I dare?” Time to turn back and descend the stair,

As I described my declining physical state a few minutes ago, I am sure those of you who are a few years my senior were thinking, “Just you wait, sister!” I know (or at least hope) I have many years ahead of me and can expect to become creakier, wiser, etc . . . and perhaps even to appreciate the process in some way. I’m not ready to “rage rage against the dying of the light” quite yet. I am not planning my funeral, although I do have an irrational fear of bad music being played at that particular event. To prevent this from happening, I have been working on a funeral playlist on my iPod. I have not created a bucket list yet, though I’ve been giving it some thought. I’d like to try kayaking, for starters. I'd love to travel to Europe. My focus today is not so much on death but on the concept of one’s legacy. What will I leave behind and how will I be remembered? What, as Unitarian Universalists, will we each leave behind?

I like to read our seven principles from time to time so that I can be reminded of the beliefs that bind us together and to ask myself, “Am I merely committing these to memory or am I actually living them?”

There are seven principles which Unitarian Universalist congregations affirm and promote:

• The inherent worth and dignity of every person;
• Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;
• Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations;
• A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;
• The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large;
• The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all;
• Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.

This exercise requires me to take an unflinching look at my own character. I don’t think of myself as being a particularly nice person so I don’t expect to be remembered that way when I’m gone. I’m cynical. I gossip. I’m terrible at small talk, often forgetting to ask someone “and how are you?” after they’ve asked me the same question. I mutter to myself when driving, calling other drivers names that their mothers would not appreciate. I like to think that the people in my life, including my friends here at the fellowship, do know that I care about them, of course. I may not be the friendliest or most outgoing person you know, but I’m reliable. If I tell you I’ll be somewhere or that I’ll do something, I most assuredly will be there. If I don’t show up, however, you should contact my husband and make sure he knows about my funeral playlist.

I fare better with some of the principles than others. I deeply believe in the inherent worth and dignity of every person. I learned this from my parents. They taught me that a busboy is a cashier is a police officer is a congressman. They taught me that no one is more important than anybody else. I am also glad that I was raised to be open-minded (dare I say, liberal?). I am glad to be able to tell my daughter that there is nothing, absolutely nothing, she can ever tell me about herself that will make me love her any less – and that includes her sexual orientation, of course. Being a UU keeps social justice issues in the forefront of my mind and reminds me that change takes work and activism. Being a UU also helps me to remember that we are all on our own personal spiritual journey and we support each other in that.

Imagine someone who knows you describing you to someone else. What descriptors would they use? “Oh, you know so-and-so, right? Tall, wears glasses?” That sort of thing. Typically, one uses some sort of physical characteristic as a marker. I’ve never heard anyone describe me to someone else, but I’m fairly certain words like “black hair” and “fair skin” are used. I’m hoping they don’t call me chubby but I guess I’ll never know.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we described each other in other ways, honoring the best parts of each other, our hearts and minds?

(I had some ad-libbing here, so you'll just have to wonder what on earth I might have said.)

As for how I’ll be remembered . . . I’d like to hope that I’ll be remembered as someone who cared about animals. The non-profit organization I helped found and build will be part of my legacy. I’d like to be remembered for my stellar taste in music and my love of words and language. That I loved my family fiercely. My daughter is also part of my legacy. It’s a little too soon for me to pat myself on the back and congratulate myself on raising her well, as she is only six. Or, as she prefers, six-and-a-half. I hope I’ll be remembered for caring about things that were important to me and standing behind my convictions. I hope I’ll be remembered as a caring (if impatient) sister, wife, daughter, aunt, cousin, mom, Godmother, and friend.

Recently the chimpanzee that played Cheetah in the Tarzan movies passed away. He was approximately 80 years old. I read an article about his death on cnn.com. The article briefly listed Cheetah’s cinematic contributions and noted that he spent the last 50 years of his life at a sanctuary. The very last sentence of the article was this: "When he didn't like somebody or something that was going on, he would pick up some poop and throw it at them."

Can you imagine if you were remembered for your worst habits or the most unpleasant thing you ever did? If that were the case, the last sentence of the article about me would read something like, “She honked at people who didn’t move when the light turned green, she sometimes did not brush her teeth before bed, and she stole a pair of jeans from Kmart when she was 13.” I’d better recommit myself to living the seven principles and build up some good karma to make up for those jeans. At the same time, though, I suspect that many of us are too hard on ourselves.

I spend so much time and energy worrying about my weight and other aspects of my physical self that sometimes I need a little wake-up call, a reminder that other people aren’t losing any sleep over my substantial mid-section and perhaps I shouldn’t either. I’m not planning to be buried when I die but if I did, it’s not as if my headstone would read, “Claudia was a good egg but holy cow did she like brownies just a little too much, eh?” I have been going to Weight Watchers for over six years now. I lose, I gain, I keep going. One recent Saturday morning, a fellow attendee leaned over and said to me, “Claudia, you have the longest eyelashes I’ve ever seen. I wish I had eyelashes like that.” It occurred to me then that she probably doesn’t notice my weight or think about it at all. Maybe there is more to me than that number on the scale after all.

So, perhaps there is time. For all of us. “Time to wonder ‘do I dare?’ and ‘do I dare?’” Time to say what we mean and mean what we say. To live in harmony with the principles that mean so much to us. As for me, I shall continue my journey towards a more patient and less cynical me. However, if you are ever in front of me at a red light and it turns green, you should really consider driving forward right away.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Here's a novel idea: honor your bleeping commitments

A charm on my Giddy's collar. And check out the bad-ass skull design!
I probably shouldn't generalize, but for many rescue volunteers, our least favorite task is working with owner-surrenders. Well, cleaning up one dog's vomit before another dog can eat it is pretty high on the list, too. About half the dogs that pass through our Boxer rescue come from shelters. The other half are surrendered directly by their owners. Now, you could make the point, "Hey, at least they didn't dump the dog in a field somewhere or shoot her in the head." That much is true. It is also true that many surrendering owners would love nothing more than to keep their dog. The last few years have been particularly hard on a lot of people. As a result, we've dealt with quite a few foreclosure situations, divorces, job losses, etc. Sometimes, the choices are few.  When you have nowhere to live, re-homing your dog becomes an unfortunate reality. For other surrenders, though, it comes down to one word: inconvenience.

At the time of our organization's inception over twelve years ago, we set down the policy that all volunteers are expected to be polite to surrendering owners regardless of the reason for the surrender. We are not paid for our work, but we aim to conduct ourselves in a professional manner. My personal tactic is to say as little as possible so as to avoid saying something I might regret - particularly in cases where the reason for surrender seems more than a little flimsy. It has sometimes been hard to bite my tongue over the years. Owners often say some pretty goofy shit in order to convince themselves that they are, in fact, doing the dog a favor. I remember one woman leaning over the dog she was dropping off at my house, delivering a light pat on the Boxer's head, and saying, "Okay, go have fun with the other dogs!" Over the years we've had dogs surrendered for reasons such as: new baby in the home, no time, moving, dog runs away, dog forgot to train himself, "we're suddenly allergic to him," and so forth.

For the other type of surrender, the type where the owner had no choice, we react differently. I've cried right along with red-eyed dog lovers as they've signed the surrender form, doled out genuinely sympathetic hugs (I'm having a flashback to a woman who brought me her brother's dog after her brother was killed), and offered my business card along with the promise that I'd let them know how their dog was faring in the weeks ahead. 

In many cases, after one of our volunteers brings a new dog into rescue, some venting takes place behind the scenes. We call each other and grumble over various irritations such as the owner claiming the dog was "totally up to date on everything" but where a quick review of the dog's records (if the owner actually brought them) reveals that the dog has not seen the inside of a vet clinic since the Civil War. We complain about how the dog is wearing a rusty choke chain and how his ears are full of mites. We wonder aloud how it could be that the owner was surrendering the dog for financial reasons but still managed to pull up in a massive SUV, chatting away on an iPhone all the while.

And then, we get over it. We take the dog to the vet. We slip a brand-new collar around his neck. We kiss his smooshy Boxer face and say, "I'm gonna find you a great home! Who's a good boy? You're a good boy." The focus shifts, and we move on. Until now . . . I'm having trouble moving on from a recent surrender.

A family adopted two dogs from us, one in 2004 and one in 2007. Once a dog is in his new home for a year or so, the odds of the pooch being returned to rescue are typically very low. So, we could hardly believe our eyes when the adopters submitted pre-surrender forms for both dogs. The reason they needed to return them? The dogs are getting old and have been running up some vet bills. The forms came in before Christmas, so we thought maybe they would change their minds over the holidays. Nope. I mean, how do you look down at your elderly dog and say, "Okay, just a few more days and then you're outta here, okay? But, hey, thanks for being our loyal companion for over seven years. We're sorry it didn't work out."

The two Boxers, a male and a female, were surrendered last week. My friend (and fellow volunteer) Kathy brought them into the vet clinic where she works so that we can bring them up to date on medical care. Also, we are short on fosters homes so we have no choice but to board them until spots open up. The clinic staff is very attentive to the dogs and they get a lot of attention, but obviously it's not ideal.  These grey-faced dogs are now in kennels, wondering how the hell they became homeless.

The surrender (well, return) of these dogs makes me sick. I cannot stop thinking about it. The female is pretty spry but the male may have cancer and essentially has one paw in the grave. How could they not see him through until the end? I just don't understand. And I'm not the only one - this situation has been rehashed multiple times via email and over the phone between various volunteers. We are all just . . . incredulous.

I think part of the reason we can't get over it is because we don't get the satisfaction of giving the former owners a piece of our collective mind. We have a good reputation in the rescue world and with the public at large and we don't want to tarnish it. Our mission is to take in dogs that need help and, if at all possible, find new homes for them. It would serve no purpose to read someone the riot act because they made a decision that seems wrong to us. We pin our hopes on the intangible magic of karma. Still, it is hard. What we really want to say is, "Listen, I'm not sure how you justify this in your head, but dumping your elderly dogs because they're inconveniencing you is just wrong. I don't care if they are ruining your carpets or taking up too much of your time and money. You made a commitment. Why don't you try honoring it, you douche canoe?" Okay, I guess I wouldn't add that part at the end. At first I wrote "fuckety-fuck" but deleted that.

As I type this, there are three Boxers snoozing on the guest bed behind me. Two are mine, one is not. They don't ask much of me. Hell, I don't really even do all that much for them. I don't buy them gifts on their birthdays or for Christmas. I don't confuse them with my human child. They get bathed three times a year, tops. They may not have the latest in doggie couture, but they receive regular veterinary care, good food, a warm place to live and . . . the comfort of knowing that I will never drop them off with a stranger and wish them the best of luck. It's a simple bargain, this promise we make to our companion animals. And not so very hard to keep.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Snake oil salesman?

When it comes to health and wellness, I'm in favor of an integrative approach. I take my dogs to a veterinarian who practices holistic/homeopathic medicine in addition to using traditional methods as needed. I like my vet because she doesn't just say, "Here are some pills" when one of my dogs has a physical problem. She looks at alternative approaches as well. For example, many behavioral issues can be lessened through the use of herbal tinctures (fear of thunderstorms is one example).

My daughter's right ear, as you know, is causing me much consternation. I just keep thinking that there's gotta be a better way - one that does not involve surgery. Now, my friend Cassi pointed out that there are some maladies that cannot be solved without surgery. This is true. When my gall bladder was full of stones a few years ago, I was in absolute agony and wanted that mofo out. When I sliced my finger open a few years ago, I didn't try to treat it through better nutrition. I had it sewn up, like any sensible person would. When it comes to my daughter's recurring ear problems, though, I just don't feel like traditional medicine has done enough for her.

I told my husband, "I'm taking her to a chiropractor."

The look he gave me in return made me wonder if I'd inadvertently said this instead: "I'm taking her over to the zoo to let the monkeys have a look at her."

I mean, I get it. A lot of people distrust chiropractors. They think the science behind it is flimsy at best. However, I don't see how taking her to a chiropractor can worsen the situation. My daughter is due back at her pediatrician's office in three months. If the right ear still has fluid behind the ear drum and she is still having trouble hearing those low-decibel beeps, I will schedule the surgery. I think it's worth trying to avoid it, though.

I took her to the chiropractor on Tuesday. I was referred to this particular doctor by a friend (who, by the way, no longer has to take allergy medications as a result of this type of treatment). Once we were in an exam room with the doctor, I was impressed with how much time she took to chat with me and to make sure she fully understood my daughter's health history. The first thing she recommended is that we try putting garlic oil or diluted tea tree oil in A's right ear. As we were talking, my daughter acted as though she'd never been out in public before, running laps around the exam table and then flinging herself over the top of the table in various positions.  The doctor asked me a few questions about the kid's diet. My daughter decided to chime in at that point. "My favorite dinner . . . " she started (and of course I was thinking that I couldn't wait to hear what it is because she seems to be able to live for days off a spoonful of black beans and virtually nothing else) " . . . is bread and butter!"

I laughed nervously. I swear to you I have never given my child bread and butter as a meal. We do sometimes have biscuits or rolls with dinner, but bread and butter alone? Oy. I was relieved when the chiropractor ended the questioning and examined A. She explained to my daughter that she was going to touch her and maybe make some adjustments. She explained to me that my daughter is not out of alignment - it's more a matter of stimulating the central nervous system. I watched with interest as she bent my daughter's limbs around and palpated her neck. Dr. M made two quick adjustments to her neck and one to her back. The kid giggled through the whole thing. She was nervous at first because she is fearful about new things (a topic for another day) but by the end, she was all smiles. 

We're going to go back for a few more sessions and then see how it goes. I guess you could say I am cautiously optimistic. When we left the chiropractor's office, we headed to a vitamin store to pick up some oil for the ear. A lady approached me as we were wandering around. She wore a crystal pendant around her neck and struck me as the "fit grandma" type. I told her about my daughter's ear-related issues. She looked down at Short Stuff. "Do you drink milk and eat ice cream?" Ah, I knew where she was going with this. Dairy. I explained that we switched to almond milk a few months ago but that we do still have some dairy products in our diet (the kid even asks for a hunk of cheddar cheese as a snack). The health store lady suggested backing off the dairy for a while to see if that helps. The consumption of dairy is often implicated in cases where ear infections recur.  I have to admit that she did seem knowledgeable and was pretty darned emphatic about her advice. I've been trying to reduce the amount of dairy in our diet anyway, so this is just another step in that direction.

When we got home, P asked the kid about her visit to the doctor, and shot me a few disapproving looks as he was listening to her. My response, in a nutshell, is "hey, why don't you tackle this issue then?"  I mean, I am the one doing research, I am the one hauling her all over town in search of answers, I am the one losing sleep over it. I am either an awesome mom or a borderline new age-y lunatic.

Speaking of being an awesome mom . . . the other night I was tucking my daughter into bed. Instead of kissing her on the lips like normal, I grabbed her face and gave her a high society left cheek-right cheek-left cheek kiss - three in quick succession.  "Oui oui! That's how the French do it!" I said. She laughed.  It was just a little bit of fun between the two us except that now . . . she has been asking people to French kiss her. So yeah, I'm awesome alright.

Friday, January 6, 2012

An unexpected compliment

I usually eat lunch at my desk (in cubicleville), but I decided to get out of the office for a bit today. Yeah, I get a little crazy on Fridays - you know it, girrrrrrrl. So, I hopped in my mom-mobile and drove to Walmart. (Don't hate! It's close and I needed some stuff, okay?) I grabbed a cart and picked up some fruit, ibuprofen, waffle mix, and a York Peppermnt Patty. Like I said, very urgent necessities.

There is a Subway inside the store, so I checked out at the register and pushed my cart into the restaurant. I grabbed a bag of chips and ordered the veggie patty on wheat. My favorite part is when I say "a little bit of light mayo, please" and the sandwich maker inevitably unleashes a torrent of mayonnaise unlike the world has ever seen. If anyone knows of another way to say "a little bit of light mayo" that might be more effective, please let me know. When my order was ready, I took my tray and pushed my cart to an empty table. All of the tables have four chairs, so I didn't feel like an ass for taking up a four-seater for myself.  I proceeded to eat my sandwich while pursuing a guilty pleasure: reading People Magazine.

Just as I was absorbing some very crucial information about the state of Princess Kate's uterus, an older lady from a nearby table walked up to my table and leaned towards me. She had been sitting with a friend, who was also an older lady (yes, I know I'm old, but they were older). I thought, "I wonder what she needs? Maybe she wants one of my chairs. Or maybe she wants to know where I got my Peppermint Patty." 

"I just have to tell you," she started. "You are so pretty. We just wanted to tell you. Your porcelain skin and your black hair . . . you look like Snow White. And your eyes are beautiful with the way you do your make-up. We just thought it was so pretty the way it all comes together." She fanned her fingers across her own face in a sort of circular motion.

I was floored. Flabbergasted. At a loss for words. "Oh, thank you so much," I finally replied. "That is so nice of you to say." I felt like I might start crying or something.

She smiled at me and walked back to her table. I took a sip of my drink and kept reading my trashy magazine, but I felt sort of distracted after that. For starters, I have a cold. I had blown my nose at least 700 times before lunch. (My friend Sara told me that if I took a zinc supplement, I would not get a cold. I have been taking zinc. You can kiss my ass, Sara!) Anyway, with my crimson nose I am pretty sure I am fully qualified to guide Santa's sleigh at this point. And of course there is my weight, which has really been getting me down lately. Most of the time, I am pretty much horrified by my own appearance. However, I try to be really careful what I say around my daughter because she is beautiful and I don't ever want her to have negative thoughts about herself. Of course, she generally thinks pretty highly of herself anyway. The other day I got home from the gym and was getting ready to take a shower. The laundry chute is right outside the bathroom door, so I stripped down in the hallway and shoved my sweaty clothes into the chute. Just then, my daughter walked by. I jokingly said, "Don't look at my butt!" She has the cutest butt in the free world and I often tell her that. I'd post a photo of it, but I'm pretty sure people get brought up on charges for that sort of thing.

She looked up at me, very solemnly and with no hint of a smile, and replied, "I did not look at your butt, Mom. Well, I did but . . . I did not laugh." She said it kind of like she had done me some great kindness, not laughing at my butt. I suppose she probably had.

So anyway, I'd like to thank the nice lady at Walmart for the compliment. She did indeed make my day. I'm still feeling a little verklempt . . .

Thursday, January 5, 2012

The tube saga goes on (and on)


My daughter failed her hearing test at school. Again. I received a letter from the health department in early December advising me that a nurse had tested her in October and again in November. She failed both times (well, that sort of makes it sound like she didn't study or something - obviously it's not her fault). The problem is, and always has been, with her right ear. The left is fine. As you may recall, this has been an ongoing issue - recurring ear infections and then surgery last February to have tubes inserted. We also opted to have her adenoids removed at that time, leaving the tonsils in place. We did everything we could to maximize the amount of time the tubes stayed lodged in her eardrums. We spent a small fortune on ear plugs and she's worn them for every bath, every shower, every swim (except one, when she lost the neoprene headband that held the earplugs in place - then we replaced that, too). I was hoping the tubes would remain firmly in position for at least a year. No such luck.

I took A to see her pediatrician on Tuesday. He confirmed that both tubes have fallen out. Gah! Furthermore, the right ear is filled with fluid again. He did a test that involved blowing air into the ear to observe the movement of the ear drum. If the ear drum doesn't move the way it is supposed to, the conclusion is that there is fluid behind the ear drum. He also ran a hearing test. She did okay, but missed two beeps on the right ear (at the lowest decibel). 

I told the doctor that we are not keen on doing tubes again this soon. It scares the bejeebers out of me to have my child under anesthesia. The whole situation is pretty frustrating, for lots of reasons. It is scary to have to make so many decisions about another person's body, but that is the requirement of parenthood, I suppose. My daughter is actually quite a bit older than most kids who need tubes - the vast majority are toddlers. As kids grow and get older, the Eustachian tube in each ear becomes longer and can do its job better. It also becomes less level than it is in small children, allowing fluid to drain more easily. A's doctor says that, for whatever reason, her right ear is following an "abnormal path."

The doctor wants us to come back in three months to see if the ear is looking any better. I guess we'll have to make a decision at that time. She does not have an infection and isn't in any pain; she just can't hear as well out of her right ear. As parents, we are left to make "lesser of two evils" decisions. Surgery and anesthesia? Or possible hearing loss?  We don't really want either one.

So, I started asking around about other options. I find it hard to believe that medical science can only offer ONE solution, which is to anesthetize my daughter and jab a tube through her ear drum. It just doesn't seem right to me. Part of me is concerned that we are going to have to go through this annually until she is an adult (or at least until her right ear gets its act together). A couple of my friends mentioned chiropractic, so I started looking into it. I figure it can't hurt to take her in and see if an alternative treatment might help. We have an appointment on Tuesday. The only catch here is that I will need concrete evidence (such as a successful hearing test) that it is working, because my husband gave me the "what are you, some kind of looney-tune?" look when I mentioned it to him.

I'm open to suggestions for other possible solutions, so feel free to throw them my way! And don't worry - we won't allow her to suffer with hearing loss. We'll get it figured out one way or the other.

Despite this ongoing issue, I am so incredibly grateful to have a healthy child. This sense of gratitude is never far from my mind. Last week I stumbled onto this blog. It's a heart breaker - a child lost at just eight months of age to a brain tumor. A parent should never have to know (or to articulate) that kind of grief. I will hug my kid and her defective ear just a little tighter, I think.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Yes, I'm still talking about *that*

When I wrote my post about 2011, I forgot to mention a couple of accomplishments. They probably seem minor, but they are noteworthy in my book. In early 2011, I broke my addiction to caffeine and diet soda. I am sure I still ingest some caffeine in the occasional piece of dark chocolate, but nothing significant. When I first quit, I had a couple of rough weeks but I white-knuckled my way through it. Now I don't even think about soda that much, although I do miss my Diet Wild Cherry Pepsi from time to time. One day a couple months after I quit, I took my daughter to a local pancake house for breakfast. We had to wait a bit for a table and as we sat in the lobby, I watched the hostess guzzling a soda. I stared at her like a woman obsessed. I could almost feel the bubbles in my throat . . . ahhhhh. 

Why did I quit?  Well, a couple of reasons. One, I read somewhere that in order to remove sugar from regular soda (and make diet soda), about a gazillion chemicals are added in order to approximate the same taste. Two, I don't think drinking diet soda was doing me any favors as far as weight loss goes. I had switched from regular soda to diet soda eons ago and can't say that I lost an ounce as a result.

Another food-related accomplishment is that I gave up dairy milk. At first, I continued to buy very small containers of skim milk in case we needed it. We never did so I stopped buying them. What we now use instead is plain almond milk. Honestly, I don't think we even notice the difference anymore. It tastes fine in recipes, over cereal, etc. If you drink it straight, the taste is slightly different from cow's milk, but not vastly different.  I quit buying dairy milk because I am trying to move away from animal products as much as I can. I've also been reducing our egg usage, too (I only buy free-range eggs but have no real assurance that the free-range chickens don't spend 99.9% of their day being packed into cages and treated as inhumanely as their no-range counterparts). Getting rid of cheese in my house would be a tough sell, so I think we'll just start with the milk and eggs for now. Many of the meals I make just for myself (such as breakfast) are vegan.

Why the switch from good ol' cows' milk? Lots of reasons for that, too. One, if you really, really think about it, drinking dairy milk is sort of gross. The milk is meant for calves, not for us. The bovine mamas are kept in a perpetual state of lactation and, in commercial dairy environments, not treated well. Two, I find it alarming to think about all of the hormones and such that are pumped into those cows. I'm not a fanatical health nut, but I try to eat healthy (healthfully?) for the most part and to make sure that my husband and child get some fruits and vegetables into their stomachs (well, my husband won't eat fruit - I'm surprised he hasn't died of scurvy). If we can avoid ingesting extra chemicals and hormones, I have to think that is a good thing.

So, there you have it - two accomplishments for 2011. I don't have any big goals for 2012 (who knows, maybe I'll get that tattoo I've been talking about since Clinton was in office). I asked my daughter to set a resolution to get up and get dressed voluntarily every morning. We'll see. Every day her dad and I are hoarse from yelling, "Please just put your clothes on!" a thousand times every morning. If we ask her to make her bed and brush her teeth . . . well, we are just pushing our luck beyond all reason at that point. Maybe my resolution should be to stop worrying about it and to send her to school in her pj's. That'll learn her.

In other news, my Weight Watchers meeting was removed from the schedule (the particular time slot that I attended for over six years, anyway). They also closed "my" location and moved to another. Plus, they changed the program again. I dunno - I'm like a cat when it comes to change. Perhaps I could've handled one change, but not THREE fer cryin' out loud. I'm also bothered by the amount of money I'm spending there. If I'm not truly dedicating myself to the program (and I think there is ample evidence that I am not), I wonder if I should just take a break from it. I've been at my goal weight twice and let me just admit here and now that it took a lot of deprivation to get there. Part of me just doesn't feel like doing that. The yoga studio has an 8 a.m. class on Saturdays that I've never been able to attend because it is held at the same time as the WW meeting. Going to yoga is actually a little cheaper than Weight Watchers. So, I'm thinking maybe I'll just focus more on my yoga practice for a while and see how it goes. I go to my gym fairly regularly (sometimes hitting the cardio equipment, sometimes taking a class) but maybe I should spend more time there, too.

I'm not sure if this particular blog entry really has a point. I was mad at myself for not mentioning two of my 2011 accomplishments previously, as I was really proud of both. Also, I think I've been a little more introspective than usual lately. I'm the speaker at church on the 15th so I've been working on my sermon (well, message - we don't really call it a sermon, per se) for the past few weeks. My topic is "Leaving a Legacy." I've been thinking a lot about who I am, how I will be remembered after I'm dead, and what I should be doing differently right now. I don't believe people change in fundamental ways, only in incremental ones. So it's not like I'm going to start voting Republican or stop drinking vino all of a sudden.  But could I use a little more patience and a little less cynicism?  I suppose I could.

I'll leave you with a poem that my daughter and I read recently. Before bedtime, we have a little ritual that involves reading Shel Silverstein poems. We've read Where the Sidewalk Ends, A Light in the Attic, Everything on It, and Falling Up. Now we're getting ready to start over with Where the Sidewalk Ends again (she received that one for Christmas). I'm glad she's old enough (and such an excellent reader) that we can start enjoying some books together. Goodness knows I did my time with Goodnight Moon . . .

The Clock Man  - Shel Silverstein

“How much will you pay for an extra day?”
The clock man asked the child.
“Not one penny,” the answer came,
“For my days are as many as smiles.”

“How much will you pay for an extra day?”
He asked when the child was grown.
“Maybe a dollar or maybe less,
For I’ve plenty of days on my own.”

“How much will you pay for an extra day?”
He asked when the time came to die.
“All of the pearls in all of the seas,
And all of the stars in the sky."