Tuesday, October 9, 2018

I blog to avoid the internet.

Fifteen minutes tonight filling out permission slips and volunteer forms and her reading log - I feel so grown up!  There's never a moment I drop the responsibility, never a moment their care isn't a live current running underneath everything else happening in my brain, but sometimes, when I have a quiet moment to sit and really think, it blows my mind that I am a mother, responsible for the lives and well-being of two other entire humans.  What they eat, what they wear, when they bathe, how they play - I have a say in all of it.  Not just a say - I damn-near control it entirely.  It's crazy to me that someone let me have this much responsibility without checking to make sure I'm qualified in any way for this much power.  No Pressure.

G had her first parent/teacher conference today, and it lined up perfectly with C's follow-up pelvic ultrasound, so Jimi took the phone conference in the car with G in the backseat while C and I went inside for her appointment.  They were done with her so quickly, we were back to the car in time for the last part of the conversation.  Basically, she's awesome.  She's reading and writing at nearly a first grade level, which is awesome.  She's ahead of most of her class in math, but she needs to keep practicing on her counting (that jump from 29 to 30 fouls her up every time).  She's a little ray of sunshine, a joy to have in class, friendly and helpful to all of her peers.  I heard the part about how they had to move her to a new table because she was too social, and how they expect they'll have to move her again eventually when she gets social with this table too, and I grinned because, yep, that's my girl.

They told us not to expect C's results for a few days.  The technician took the pics, the radiologist "reads" them and sends results to our doc, then we should hear from our doc in a few days.  I want to hold a goshdang Kaizen event to get these people in line - can't we remove a step or two here and multitask to improve turnaround?  For gosh sakes.  Anytime you're in an ultrasound of any sort, you desperately just want to know, "Does everything look normal?"  She didn't halt the test and go get a doc for a second opinion or anything, so there's that, but when she was done, she did say that she needed to check with her doc and asked us to wait for just a moment.  I felt a small pit of dread drop itself into the center of my stomach, but she came back within a few minutes and said we were all set, good to go.  That doesn't answer any questions, though.  So we wait.  And keep sending out into the universe good vibes for no big deal.

My head is a mess, guys.  I'm so sad when I scroll through my social media pages - pictures of new babies and family gatherings sandwiched between horrid tales from sexual assault victims and memes joking about sexual assault survivors posted by men I previously believed to be Good Men.  I want to stay informed, but I've realized my desire to be informed is not so much keeping me abreast of current events so much as depressing the fuck out of me.  I can scroll for hours in twitter and facebook and Instagram, but I'm not gaining any new knowledge or enlightenment from it - I'm just following the crowd into the hole of chaos and awfulness.  I tried to step back last night; I drew myself a warm bath, threw in a bath bomb, turned on a YouTube meditation video to help with stress and anxiety, and tried to let it all go.  When my bath was over, I didn't feel any better, I felt lost and still so sad.  I asked Jimi if he would hold me; I just needed to lie in bed with his arms around me and feel safe.  He did, and I cried and cried until I couldn't breathe through my nose anymore.  I sobbed the big shaking sobs you cry when you're heartbroken, because I am heartbroken.

"I want to live in a world where everything is fair, where everyone is treated equally, where everyone has to follow the same rules."   Why is that too much to ask?

I am aghast at the state of our nation today.  I am appalled.  But I've been doing a little learning, and I'm learning that I shouldn't be all that shocked.  To paraphrase a post I saw somewhere by someone on some social media something:


The United States 
was formed by 
wealthy white supremacists 
to promote their interests and agenda.  
The system is working 
exactly as it was designed.  


In-fucking-deed.  


So yeah.  I'm having a hard time over here, but I'm taking steps to get better.  A social media hiatus between now and election night is on the agenda. I'm even avoiding some of my favorite podcasts, because they're political and informative and the facts they give stress me the fuck out.

Self care, right?  That should be the word of 2018.  It's the only way most of us will survive it.



Finnegan 2

G drew a picture of a cat and taped it to her wall a week or two ago - it was a white cat, and she wrote "Cat" above it.  She likes to label things, now that she can.  Today, I found her with a black crayon, making black spots on the cat.  She'd marked out "Cat" and written "Dog", and underneath that, "Finn".  She drew a black mark at the bottom of the page, "that's his fur that he leaves everywhere."

*Sigh*

We picked up his ashes yesterday; I had both girls in the car with me when I called to see if he was ready.  I should've thought better of that - Cora piped up, "We're getting our puppy back?"  The hopeful melody of her sweet voice broke my heart.  I had to explain again that we're just picking up his ashes.  That he's still dead, that he's not coming back.  "Ashes?" G was curious. "They turned him into dust?"  We talked a bit about that, what it would look like.  I told them to imagine the ashes under the grill, the ones they like to play in.   I sent out a silent thank you to the universe when we got through the conversation again without them asking how they turned him into ashes - I can't think how I would explain cremation technique without them being horrified.  "Did they turn his fur to ashes too?" G asked.  She had that sad, tentative voice that she uses when something is bothering her and she's trying to understand.  "Yes, baby, his fur too."  "Oh," she said, looking down.  "I wanted to feel his fur again."  Somehow I managed to not cry, but it took effort.  I lost it last night when I shared that anecdote with Jimi - he did too.  It's almost too much to bear, to think of his soft fur and what a good boy he was.

We got him picked up, though, got him home, on the mantle.  They included a paw print pressed into some sort of soft dough that will firm up permanently in a few days.  I don't know if that was great or terrible.  I cried last night for a long time.  It wasn't all for him, but a lot of it was.  I have so much guilt - I was not the greatest dog mom over the last 5 years, and I don't know how I'll come to terms with that.  I can't make it up to him.  I can't tell him I'm sorry.  I can't redo any of it.  I keep replaying this night in my head, one of our walks in his last few weeks, before I realized he was hurting - we were walking our usual route and he was being so slow, and I was in such a hurry, like I always am, to get to the next thing, whatever it was.  I lost my patience with him, I assumed he was just being pokey, taking his time, and I pulled on his lead and griped at him to "Come ON - hurry up!"  I would love to not have that memory anymore. When he was slow the next night too, that's when I noticed something was not normal.  Also, the weeks leading up to that, when he was so slow to get up and come to the door to go outside in the mornings; I assumed he was being lazy, or ignoring me - as if he ever did those things - and I would lose my temper and yell at him, "Finnegan, COME!"  I didn't realize until later, when I put the entire sequence together in my head, that he obviously was aching and sore and having a hard time getting up to go out - I was just so engrossed in my own bullshit, worried over my own morning checklist and timetable, I didn't even notice my best boy was having a hard time.  And if I go further back in this memory lane of self-hate - the days when we'd come home and he would be waiting there for us, and we'd blow into the house full of kids and to-do lists and walk right past him without much more than a "Hey Finn, you need to go out?" and we'd let him out, but then ignore him nearly completely until it was time to feed or walk him.  I noticed when he wasn't greeting us at the door any more, but I figured he was napping.  I didn't realize that those door-meet declines coincided with the slow mornings, or that our walks were gradually taking longer and longer, until it was just obvious, and then it was too late.  He deserved better than that.  I owed him more than that.

I want to defend myself, to tell how I was good to him, and to the other dogs in my life before him.  But then I remember that night on that walk, when I hurried him along when he must've been in pain, and I just hate myself.  

I had this ridiculous thought yesterday:  "Dog is God spelled backwards."
Then, "If the way we treat our dogs determines if we get into Heaven, I don't know if I'll get to go."
Then, just now, "If Finn is the one who determines if I get in or not, he'd let me in.  He was always so forgiving."

He used to love it when I'd squat down in front of him and hug him.  He'd lay his head on my shoulder or in the crook of my arm as long as I'd stay there, my face buried in his neck, my hands rubbing along his flank and back, telling him what a good boy he is and how much we love him.  I can almost smell his doggy smell, remembering it.  How soft his fur was, the way he'd lean into me.  I feel like if I get to meet him again, we'll do that, and I'll tell him all of this, and he'll understand, and he'll still love me like he always did.  In the meantime, though, I get to live with the memories, of both the good times and of when I was not a good friend to my best friend.







Friday, October 5, 2018

Scrapbooking

When I was a teenager, starting at 14, I kept a scrapbook. It wasn't full of cutesy stickers or pictures with scalloped edges, that wasn't a big thing until a few years later.  This one was a photo album, the kind made from a 3-ring binder full of pages that are sticky on each side and covered with a sheet of clear plastic, crafted into a baby book - you know, those things moms-to-be get at their baby showers and then keep in the box it came in, shoved in the closet or basement ,until you find it long after those babies are no longer babies and you stick it in the yard sale or donate it to goodwill?   This one was given to Momma when she was pregnant with Dylan.  It had a gender-neutral mother goose fabric and was trimmed with alternating blue and pink lace.  The fabric was quilted, and lightly stuffed, and had a picture-frame sleeve sewn into the front cover.  But, as a 14 year old girl suddenly with a new life outside of my family, I felt a primal urge to document the important and awesome things that were happening in my life, and it was full of those pages that are sticky on both sides, and so when I found it in the back room downstairs and mom said I could have it, cover be damned, this would fit the bill.  I called it "my book".  As in, "Do you want to come over and hang out and look at my book? I made a new page last night."  Or, "I have an entire page of my book devoted to him,"  or, "here, look at this page in my book, it'll explain how I feel better than out loud words can." 

I spent hours physically formatting pages with high-school class schedules and picture-day wallet-sized photos of my friends, cutting out, with normal straight-edge scissors, from-film pictures taken at Kat's house, at Drill meets, at family events, so I could paste them into my book. I pasted in Valentines from classmates, comic strips, and handwritten poems.  I poured over old copies of Readers Digest (from Granny & Pappaw's house) and cut out the best quotes that seemed so epiphanic, so important and new and big to my young 14 year old brain:

"We are born with our eyes closed and our mouths open, and spend our entire lives trying to correct that mistake of nature."

"The words penalty, restrict and violate appeared more times in President Clinton's health care bill than in his crime bill."

"When one door of happiness closes, another opens, but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one that has been opened for us."

"An apology is the super glue of life; it can repair just about anything."

I drew pictures with pencil, practicing the shading skills I was learning in my freshman art class.  I cut article titles from Cosmopolitan (mine) and Home & Gardens and Woman's Day and Ladies Home Journal (all mom's) to paste into collages to express my heartache when my boyfriend kissed another girl.  I made pages filled with birthday cards from my aunts and grandparents and friends.  And more Reader's Digest quotes:

"When one finds himself in a hole of his own making, it is a good time to examine the quality of workmanship."

"Being defeated is often a temporary condition.  Giving up is what makes it permanent."

Newspaper articles from my friend's rappelling accident, the one that nearly killed him. 

There's a pretty definitive line where I find my dad's old Time Magazines.  All of a sudden, there's a political spin on the pages - they're not just about my day to day life, my relationship drama - there's all of those things, then you turn a page, and there's a black and white cartoon of a man holding a gun on a doctor who's standing between the legs of a pregnant woman who's lying on a table, and the doc is holding the pointed edge of a knife over her belly.  The caption says "Justifiable homicide?"  The question mark is in the shape of a fetus.  Other additions to this page include cut-outs of protest posters that read "choose life, abortion kils" and "why not kill the baby killers?"  The next page has pics of flag code violations titled "Do you salute the dog?" and a "Powell '96" button.  Turn the page -  A cartoon from 2/15/93 that shows a line of people waiting in front of a sign that reads "white house tour" - the guide says "The Clintons ask that there be no smoking in the white house."  one of the citizens in line asks, "What if we don't inhale?" 

TIME didn't change my scrapbooking style, but it definitely gave me a new facet of my opinions to explore.  The traditionally "women-focused" magazines I was drawing from didn't invite me to have a political opinion, and while I am appalled at much of what I apparently believed back in 1994, and while I know none of that was geared toward me, I will always have a soft spot in my heart for that first introduction into political conversation. 

I said all that to say this:  The girls who find their dad's old TIME magazines today are working with way better material than I ever had.  I'm going to go find a few copies of this one tomorrow to keep on hand.

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Finnegan.

I just couldn't do it yesterday - it was too sudden, too soon, too much.  And after the awful start to the morning, he seemed okay after we got home.  Sort of. I felt rushed. The girls needed time to comprehend what was happening.  I needed time to love on him just a little bit more.

The dog who had barely eaten in two days wolfed down the T-bone I grilled him, and gnawed on the bone off and on throughout the evening.  Mostly he just lay on the pillows and blankets and yoga mats I'd laid out in the living room for him, breathing in a way that didn't quite sound right to me - too shallow, too raspy? - his body trembling the slightest bit with each rise and fall of his chest.  We picked the girls up early and explained as best we could what was happening.  I think they get it; we're reminding them to talk and ask questions and that it's okay to be happy and sad at the exact same time.  When the sun came out, we all went out to the front yard and he meandered and sniffed and then went to lay under a tree.  That was his favorite tree back in the day, back before we had a fence and he always went outside to the front yard on a tie-out - he liked to lay there and smell the air and watch the world go by.  Friends came by to love on him one last time, to tell him what a good boy he's been - and to love on us, because they know how awful this is.

Eventually he decided he was ready for bed, I guess, and he went and lay in the middle of the floor in the girls' room.  He would move from side to side, but was not interested in getting up for any reason for the rest of the night.  We talked about how it would maybe be better if he just went to sleep and didn't wake up.  Jimi and I stayed up listening to folk music that somehow was all about losing people you love and reminisced about our lives with him - all the crazy antics that drove us crazy and infuriated us back then - things we wish he could do again.

He had terrible separation anxiety in the beginning.  He bent the bars of his kennel trying to escape it.  He destroyed all of the blinds in our houses - the one we lived in when we got him, and the one we moved into the next year - trying to get to us when we'd leave for work.  We took the best walks through the parks together, and he scared the kids because of his one blue eye and one brown eye.  "Ghost eye," Jimi called it.  He was always sweet and dopey, though.  He was always the best boy.

He loved to explore, and I spent the first 4 years in this house chasing him through the neighborhood when he'd escape through a hole in the fence; once, there was a foot of snow on the ground and I was in slippers, until I lost a slipper.  Then I was just in one slipper.  Fucking dog.  When we'd go to camp, I'd irritate the shit out of Karen because I was constantly yelling "FIIINN - AAAA - GAAANNN!", trying to find him after he'd wander off into the cornfield or around the corner to someone else's camp over and over again, coming back covered in something stinky and gross more often than not.  Using a tie-out was a pain in the ass out there - he'd get wrapped around stuff or tangled up, and besides, what dog wants to be tied up out in the woods?  

He loved to be with us.  If we weren't here, he loved to be with our things.  At first, when he was little, he'd love our things too much with his mouth - we lost a lot of shoes.  Eventually, he just wanted to lay with our things.  He'd make a pile, in the middle of our bed, of shoes and shirt that we'd worn most recently, and then he'd lay there.  All day.  Waiting for us to come home and scold him for making a pile of our things in the middle of our bed again.  Nah, we never really scolded him for that - we'd scold him for the shoe he'd destroyed or the harness he'd cut through again with his scissor-like teeth or the bag of bread he'd shredded and eaten while laying on a pile of our things in the middle of our bed.

When G was born, we sent the little cap they first put on her head home with Stacy, who was keeping Finn for us.  She gave it to him, and says he carried it around with him everywhere for the next few days, whimpering.  When we came home, he watched over her constantly.  When I'd sit in my spot on the couch and nurse her, he was there, right there next to us, with his head next to hers.  He showed extraordinary patience with both of the girls, and was almost always exceedingly gentle with them.  (He nipped at G one time, but she deserved it.  We used it as a teaching moment to remind her to be kind to her puppy brother.)

He did an awesome job keeping our floors crumb-free, though he did contribute what I feel is probably more than his fair share of mess in the form of hairs shed.

He was the best boy.

I slept in the girls' room, so I could be close to him, in case he needed anything in the middle of the night.  He didn't.

We got up late today, just before 7.  G turned the light on and told him good morning and kissed his head - he thumped his tail a few times.  I gave him a few minutes to wake up, then asked if he wanted to go outside.  He got right up and headed for the door, more steady on his feet than he seemed yesterday.  He went straight out the door, down the steps, into the yard.  He peed, sniffed around a bit.  Stood, sniffed the air.  Then he came up the stairs and stopped, stood for a moment, then his back end started to wobble and he fell over on his side.  I caught him and helped him down.  He was panting, but not too heavily.  He lay there for a few minutes before he was able to get up again, but he made it back inside on his own and lay down on his bed.  He drank some water, seemed okay.  Just okay.  It was so obviously time.

We had to wait for the vet's office to open at 9.  I cooked him another steak and he ate the parts I'd cut from the bone, but didn't have any interest in the bone itself.  He drank some more water, rested his head.

I pulled the girls together and explained again what was going to happen.  I told them to go tell him they love him, that he's been a great puppy brother.  "Goodbye?" Geneva asked.  "Yes, baby, goodbye," I answered.

We'd talked about taking the girls with us, about having someone keep them both, or just Cora, but in the end, I decided I wanted to do this on my own.  The vet's office has tiny examining rooms, for one thing.  And the chaos - I just wanted my boy to be able to go in peace, and when we come as a group we bring the chaos.  Usually it's fine - this wasn't one of those situations, though.  So Jimi said his goodbyes, the girls gave their last kisses and hugs and belly rubs, and I asked, "Hey Finn, wanna go for a ride?"  He perked up, ears alert, and got up.  He trotted across the living room, down the short hall, through the dining room and kitchen.  He hesitated at the steps, but only for a moment, then he was down them, through the gate, sniffing in the yard.  He didn't try to jump into the car, but he was waiting patiently for me to lift him into it.  I opened all of the windows and we drove the short drive.  There were lots of people in the small office already - I'd left him in the car to let them know we were here.  After checking in, I went back out and let him down onto the ground to sniff - there are great smells for a dog in the parking lot of a vet's office, I imagine, and that's before you factor in the chicken place next door.

When they were ready for us, I carried him into the small room.  They lifted him onto the table.  I held his face and looked into his eyes and told him how much we loved him, how he's the best boy, how thankful we were that he was part of our family.  It felt like he understood.  He was not scared, he was not panicked, he was not stressed.  As the medicine took effect, he lay down on the table, into my arms, and breathed a few last deep breaths, and then he was still.  It was done.  And it felt okay.  Deeply sad, but okay.

That's how I feel.  Deeply sad, but okay.

I'll miss that good boy.  He was the sweetest boy.








Sunday, July 29, 2018

I'm going to do this regularly again one day i swear...

I saw friends last night I hadn't seen since before I was a mom.  I met people with whom I've run in the same social circles for years, but had never had an opportunity to get to know.  I watched as this group of intelligent, giving, wonderful people formed a circle of lawn chairs in my backyard and shared stories and laughter - and it made my heart grow three sizes and reminded me of how lucky I am to know such awesome people.

The occasion was a birthday gathering for a dear friend - she wanted the night to be full of her closest and most beloved, so I let her handle the inviting and Jimi and I took care of the rest.  I made a chicken shawarma that was out of this world (thanks NYT!), and Jimi spent all day smoking a pork shoulder.  The food was yummy.  And somehow, we've ended up with way more alcohol than we began the night with - good or bad, that will be determined. The guest of honor cried happy tears and rapped to Biggie Smalls; I call that a fucking win.

I loved it so much I've decided I'm going to make it a weekly thing.  Starting next week, I'm going to invite all of my friends to my house each Monday night - open house style - come and go as you please, bring something or have whatever we're having - bring the kids and let's throw them upstairs or in the back yard to play while the grownups talk and drink and whatever...fill our buckets, our cups, our mental health meters.  It's so fucking hard these days to just exist.  Last night, the conversations I had, remind me that IT'S NOT JUST ME.  We are all fighting the same fight, struggling in the same ways.  Well, we're not, but we are.  You know?  You know what I mean.  And being with people who tell us it's okay, that we're not alone, that we have people in the world who love us and support us even when shit gets hard, well, that's super important.  And despite the fact that we're living in a technologically advanced age of social media and oversaturation connection with every detail of each others lives at our fingertips - I think a lot of us are feeling really lonely and isolated.  Talking to my friends in person, seeing them in person, hugging their necks in person - it makes ME feel better.  and I'm guessing IT'S NOT JUST ME.  

The girls stayed at Dot's last night, and since my house is "company clean" today, I decided I had time to take the girls somewhere fun after I picked them up.  We got bathing suits on and headed up to Iroquois Park - we go there a lot, but it's a special treat for them to get to play in the spray pad water thingy.  When we pulled up, I noticed two young black men getting out of a car two spots from us, and a family of white people getting out of a car across the parking lot.  The older man of the white family met the older of the black men halfway between their cars in the middle of the lot and shook hands - somehow I gathered that the white family was looking to buy the car the black men were driving.  I got the girls out of their car seats and set them free - as I was walking to catch up with them, I noticed the family walking around the car, as if inspecting it.  I peripherally noticed when it drove off, as if someone was taking it for a test drive.  I thought one of the black men stayed behind.  I thought, "Yeah, that makes sense, if you're meeting someone in a park to buy a car, take a second with you, and leave someone behind to assure everyone everything is legit."

I walked around the playground as the girls played in the water - I was trying to get steps in.  I was hung over and not hydrated enough to try to do any real cardio today, but I could get some steps in walking circles around my kids, like the helicopter mom that I am.

I don't know how long it had been since we showed up since someone drove off with the car for a test drive, but on one trip around the playground, I saw a woman coming up the sidewalk in front of the park, and she seemed to be yelling, and crying...I was confused, was I hearing what I thought I was hearing?  My girls were squealing and yelling - I couldn't be sure, but it sure looked like this woman was crying and screaming...and then her people, the family, were running toward her, and I'd walked closer and could hear her saying "...told me to go around the circle one more time and that noise would stop...put a gun to my head....took my purse..."  oh no oh no oh no...

She'd been robbed, at gunpoint, by the two black men who'd posed as people selling a car.

I fucking hate people.

The older white man, the one I'd assumed was the father, he looked to be in shock, stunned.  The mother-lady, she was calling 911.  The woman who'd been robbed, she looked to be in her 30s somewhere, she just stood there, sobbing, trying to hug herself and gasp out the story.  No one hugged her.  No one was hugging her.  That still really bothers me.  I just wanted to go and hug her, but G was suddenly by my side, asking why that woman was crying, asking what was wrong, and I led her away trying to explain in 5 year old terms what had happened and that everything is fine and she shouldn't be scared even though I was shaking with adrenaline and rage and fear and the urge to scoop my babies up and run even though the rational part of my brain said "they've gotten what they were after, the police will be here in a moment, they're not coming back, the girls are safe."  The feeling of violation, the audacity, was so strong, despite that this was a situation that didn't happen to me, that didn't harm mine.  With the family, there was a 13ish year old girl, and a 9ish year old boy - the girl was so sad and scared - her pale face was red from crying.  The boy seemed to be in shock.  Ugh.

I'm so angry.  That poor woman, who probably just needed a good reliable cheap car to get her to work, she's been traumatized for life.  Her family has been traumatized.  Those kids...  And now they all have a story to help endorse and perpetuate the tale of evil black men in our society.

And those black men.  What were they thinking in those moments when they first met that family?  I'm so glad she brought her family with her.  What situation made them so desperate for a little cash that this was the best plan they had?  The forethought and premeditation and trickery that went into it - it makes me sick.   What made them so desperate?  Part of me hopes they have some dire circumstance that lead to this, because alternately...  well, I like to try to not think about the part of the world where people do this sort of shit just because.

I started wrangling the girls to go home shortly after the first police car showed up.  I generally don't like to hang where there are police anyhow, but I was so skeeved out, so uncomfortable, so uneasy, I just wanted to get my kids home to where I knew we were all safe.

This all happened hours ago.  I'm still struggling with it mentally a bit.  It's a fucked up thing to witness, the immediate aftermath of a trauma like that.  I'm so sad for that woman, that family.  I'm so sad for those men, and angry with them too.  Goddammit.  And I'm angry with our society, with our reality, that makes it easier for people to make money doing horrible things than to make money doing noble things.

*******************************************************************************

I discovered this morning that  blogger I'd loved forever, who stopped blogging a while ago, stopped blogging basically because her life went to shit.  All of the things in her world that looked really awesome from the outside were crap on the inside and exploded in a bad way.  It made me really sad for her.  I think a lot of the time people only ever want to tell the good part of the story, the happy ending, the silver lining. I keep finding, over and over again, that the best part of the story is the part that makes you cringe when you tell it, the part that you think makes you look the worst, the part that hurts the most.  Those words, they're the ones that heal, the ones that resonate, because they're the ones spoken with the most truth.



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