Sunday, September 28, 2008

Warning: Contains Barf

I'm wiped out. Today the kiddo and I went to church and treated ourselves to breakfast afterward. That was nice. Upon returning home, however, we discovered that Slider had pooped in his crate. I took the crate outside to be washed, took the dog upstairs to be washed, washed the dog and just when I thought the situation was under control...he barfed on the floor. Okay. Cleaned up the barf, watched him for a while, decided he was fine, let him sit on the kiddo's lap on the couch...and he projectile vomited across the couch and the kiddo's backpack. Things fell into slow motion for me at that point, and I actually tried to catch the barf in my hands to protect the couch. Of course, I failed miserably and just wound up covered in dog vomit.

Oh, and did I mention we were trying to get out the door to get to the kiddo's baseball game on time, and I still hadn't looked up the directions?

The kiddo started crying and wailing about the possibility that the backpack's contents were covered with vomit. I tethered the dog outside in case he had another episode, cleaned up everything as well as I could, then went upstairs to change my clothes...and heard my computer making a funny whirring/whining noise.

That's never good.

I changed my clothes and tried to fix the computer. However, the machine wouldn't display my desktop photo and gave me a plain background. I rebooted and took .25mg of Xanax because I was starting to hyperventilate. Then I called the kiddo's dad and the team mom to tell them we would be late to the game.

The system rebooted, minus the desktop display function, but at least I had icons and otherwise normal function (I hope, I hope), so I looked up the directions to the ballpark. Several times during this process, I had to send the kiddo downstairs so I could take a few deep breaths and tell myself everything would be fine one way or another, and that nothing that was happening was life-threatening. Perspective is a great thing and I hope to get a little bit someday. ;^)

Anyway, I crated the auxiliary dog and took the barf-dog with us to the game, although I knew the park probably didn't allow dogs. His crate was still in need of washing, and I couldn't see leaving him loose at home to trash the house.

Then I got lost on the way to the game. The kiddo was working to keep it together, telling me "It must be so frustrating, huh, Mom?" and trying to be sympathetic. Then when I apologized to him for how crummy everything was going at the moment, he told me he was trying hard not to cry. I was, too.

After several wrong turns, we arrived at the game about 30 minutes late, we found the kiddo's dad, and the kiddo was able to jump right in and start playing. I took the dog to a non-park area to pee, and wrapped his leash around my hand several times to shorten it. I wasn't going to take a chance on his finding the side of someone's lawn chair to pee on.

A bunch of little kids rushed over to pet the dog, then thought it would be fun to bop him on the head, so I relocated to a shady spot (it was hotter than snot today) where we could stand away from everyone else. While we were there, a park worker came over to tell me that dogs aren't allowed in the park. I didn't want to go into detail on why I'd brought the dog along, but I told her it was too hot to leave him in the car and I was keeping him on a short leash so he wouldn't get into trouble. Nevertheless, she asked me to move, so I found a shady spot by the other team's dugout and held the dog on my lap as I sat at a picnic table and watched the game. I just didn't have it in me at the time to argue with a park worker with imaginary authority.

The band of little kids (ages three and four) once again rushed over to bop the dog on the head, so I redirected them to collect rocks so they could build a tower. The dog was excited by this, so he did a flip off my lap and landed flat on his back on the concrete. He's still skinny and has no extra padding, so he made a nice thwack when he hit the ground. I scooped him up and rubbed his back for a while, and he seemed happy to sit still after that, poor baby. The kids gathered around to talk about the dog's boo-boo and show me every boo-boo they had. Then one of them decided to sit on the picnic table, started to topple over, and grabbed my hair to keep from falling off the tabletop. A dad sitting close by grabbed the kid's leg and we both hauled the kid off the table. Another kid thought that all looked like fun and started to climb onto the table, but we put the kibosh on that.

When the game was over (amazingly, I did get to see a lot of the game; the kiddo got a couple of good hits and also made a nifty play at first base), the kiddo's dad and I took the kiddo to lunch. The kiddo's dad had run a 10k earlier in the day, so he eventually left to take a nap, and the kiddo, dog and I went to W*l-M*rt to buy CDs for my computer backup and rug/upholstery cleaner for the house. The kiddo sat in the cart and held the dog on his lap, which got a few looks from some people, but worked out great.

Back home, the virus scan was complete and the system was ready to back up, so I popped a disc in the drive and waited. Thank goodness the thing worked. I feel better now, in case the machine goes belly up. Still no desktop image, though.

(Oh, and on our garage door we did discover an invitation that had been hand-delivered today...for our old neighbor's 65th birthday party. I guess we're good after all!)

The kiddo wanted me to lie on the bed with him and talk, so I did that for a while until the day caught up with us and we fell asleep for a bit. Around the kiddo's normal bedtime, he woke up and told me he was hungry, so I gave him his lunch leftovers and took the dogs outside. There I ran into my still-new neighbor, whose stepdad owns the unit she lives in. He has cancer. I asked how he was doing, and she said it seemed to have spread to his lymph nodes and he'd just had a port put in for chemo. She said she was scared for him, but also scared for her mom. I told her I was thinking about them a lot (I still have a hard time telling someone I'm praying for them) and hoping for the best.

And then I was thankful for my day. Not in a glorious, the-heavens-opened-and-I-was-filled-with-peace way, but in a sometimes-it-takes-a-kick-in-the-butt-to-give-me-a-little-perspective way.

I stroked my son's foot to help him fall asleep, cleaned up yet another (small) barf incident, and played a few rounds of FreeCell.

Life is pretty good.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Oh, Mercy...

So I went with a pastor last Friday to deliver a box of food and an electric fan to the woman who'd called the church. She called a lot and her requests increased each time she called. As I've said, it's hard to know who's really in need and who's pretty much working the system. The (female) pastor and I pulled into the woman's run-down neighborhood and looked very out of place in our makeup and jewelry and nice car. We called the woman and asked if she could come out, since we couldn't tell which apartment she lived in. She came outside and started trying to make her way down the stairs. She was morbidly obese and had a lot of trouble with just a few steps, and we immediately told her we'd carry the stuff up to her instead. She was agreeable and when she turned around to make the laborious climb back upstairs, I saw she had a bloodstain on the back of her pale gray sweatpants. I just wanted to cry, seeing her in need of so much more help than we could really offer, and carrying what seemed like a pitfully small offering.

After we left, the pastor and I talked about compassion and mercy. She said she's noticed that I'm "high in mercy," whereas she's "high in compassion." I asked how she defined each and she said she thinks of compassion as listening and counseling and helping people find their way, and she thinks of mercy as giving people immediate, practical help, to the point of giving the shirt off one's back. Food for thought.

On Sunday, I was struck by the realization that I could have become that woman if I hadn't had a family to help me with my panic attacks and so many other things. Later, in a class at church, the idea of helping others, but not so much that we take away their chance to find their own path, came up. I'm really not sure what to make of that yet. I mean, I understand it, and at the same time I wonder how one finds that limit. People can't listen or function unless their most basic needs are taken care of. I'm not talking about the old expression, "People can't listen until their bellies are full." I still don't know what my relationship with God is, so I have no desire to go out and preach or anything like that in the slightest. I'm just in mercy mode right now, I guess.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Just Some Things

My son recently asked his dad for the meaning of "rape" and his dad said it was when someone makes someone else do something they don't want to do. I let that stand until yesterday, when the kiddo was hanging out at my office. He was playing with another kid and I told the kiddo it was time to stop playing and get ready to go home. He refused, so we went outside for a talk. "Why are you making me do this??" he wailed. "YOU'RE RAPING ME!"

That's a nice thing for a kid to yell at his mom at a church.

Needless to say, I later clarified the definition of "rape" as "when a person makes someone do something with their private parts that they don't want to do," and I reiterated that the word most certainly does not apply to anything that happens between the two of us.

The pastors sure did laugh their asses off when I told them about it, though. ;^)


(Why, oh why do the dogs smell like hummus farts? This worries me.)


The homeless guy, "Mr. Bus Pass," came into the office last Thursday and I had to turn him away empty-handed. Our finance secretary is on vacation and she controls the petty cash. I'd also been told not pull money out of my purse in front of the homeless folks who visit us, lest we suddenly be deluged by homeless folks. Apparently it has happened in the past. When we had a full food pantry and routinely gave out boxes of food, word got around and we wound up having more requests than we could meet. Anyway, our childcare director was in the office when Mr. Bus Pass came by, and she heard the whole thing go down. When he left, dejected, she said, "That has to be the suckiest part of the job." I would venture to say it might be the only sucky part of the job, but it's pretty damned sucky.

Anyway, my conscience nagged me mercilessly since last week (WWJD indeed! And I'm not even a WWJD kinda gal), and when Mr. Bus Pass came back yesterday, I told him again that our finance secretary was still out (true), but that I'd check to see if a pastor was around to talk to. Then I covertly pulled some cash out of my purse, went away, came back and said I'd found a pastor who was able to scare up some cash, and gave it to him. The guy fills the waiting room with his unfortunate aroma, to the point that I have to stand back about five or six feet or my eyes start to water. He's been coming to us for a long time -- since before I started working there -- and I'm probably the latest sucker, but at least I felt better having given him something instead of sending him away with nothing. It doesn't solve his problems, but it gets through the afternoon. But what a fucked-up world it is sometimes.


The last few days have been completely awesome on the home front. The kiddo and I have been able to get ourselves ready for school/work ahead of time (incl. doing homework one morning!) and gotten out the door and to our destinations free of stress. Well, I do still feel some stress but I'm working hard on not transmitting it to the kiddo. As a result, he's been super mellow lately and has begun singing in the car. I CANNOT TELL YOU HOW MUCH I LOVE THIS.


Last night the kiddo had baseball practice (rescheduled at the last minute from Wednesday) and I brought the dogs. With the exception of a few moments when the kids spotted the dogs and began barking at them (that's right, the kids were barking at the dogs), it was fabulous to have two hours to walk the dogs around the area -- not the field, although the primary dog did express interest in visiting the outfield and was very ticked off when I put the kibosh on that. The dogs got to expend and expel and were appropriately tuckered out by the time practice was over. Everyone slept like a log last night, so yes, we will be doing this again.


Today a woman called the church and asked if we could provide her with food. We'd recently begun to revive our food pantry and I told her I'd have the appropriate pastor contact her. Then she asked if I could maybe just go to the store and buy her some eggs, chicken quarters, milk, etc., "about twenty or thirty dollars' worth and I'll pay you back," and bring them to her house. Once again I told her I'd need to have the pastor contact her that afternoon because that pastor has a procedure we need to follow. I don't really know what to make of the caller. On one hand, I can certainly appreciate the fact that she's in need. I've been in dire need at certain times in my life and have total sympathy for others in need. On the other hand, I felt a little bit like I was about to be taken advantage of.

How does one walk the line between selflessness and selfishness?

Update: Today, 9-18-08, the woman called again and asked if we could scrape together seven, or maybe ten or eleven dollars and bring it with her food (and box fan) so she could do her laundry and she would pay us back. I don't know if we're getting scammed a little, but I mostly feel heartsick to think of anyone doing without basics, scammer or not. It's hard to know how to be with all this, and it's an ever-evolving lesson.

One Woman's Take on a Panic Attack

It's hard to accurately describe a panic attack to someone who's never had one (I used to have no clue what it was like until I experienced it for myself), but Andrea of Superhero Journal does a mighty fine job.

Monday, September 15, 2008

If You Missed It...

Look at this:

Thursday, September 11, 2008


Last night when I was hosing out the dog's crate (and seriously, what is with the pooping?) in my spare few minutes between getting home from work and heading off to the Back-to-School Night, one of my neighbors casually came downstairs and watched me. Yeah, that's not at all unnerving. Then she told me it was her hose. And that it was supposed to be coiled up nicely. I told her that although it had never been coiled up in the past five years since I'd lived there (and the other former neighbors used to use the hose exclusively), I would be happy to coil it up for her when I was done. I was pleasant about it, but WTH? And she watched me coil it up. I felt a little bit resentful because it's not as though each condo has its own hose hookup. If she's bothered by my using her hose, maybe I'll just buy my own and disconnect hers when I want to hose stuff off. Silly, but whatever.

Also in the WTH category, she told me she'd been to the old neighbors' new house. Hmm. The old neighbors had promised my son several times that they'd invite him over to swim in their new pool and told me they would invite "all the neighbors [they] like," including us, for a housewarming party. Guess the party happened and we fell off the list. I gotta admit, I was saddened by this. It's not the idea of not being invited to the party that bugs me. It's the weird disconnect between what I'd been told and what transpired. I liked them a lot and had been told the feeling was mutual. We exchanged gifts every Christmas and I gave their daughter money for her high school graduation. And again, it's not the material things that matter (and it isn't the first time they talked about our doing something together and it never happened); it's just that I thought we were, well, friends. Guess not! And I gotta admit that I spent more time thinking about this last night than I probably should have.

WTH indeed?

Saturday, September 06, 2008

"I thought you said your dog did not bite!"

If you want to avoid being bitten by your dog, do not grab his collar when he was only trying to steal the treats you're using to lure your auxiliary dog out of the weeds because you're late for work and your auxiliary dog has learned a new delay tactic. You probably know your primary dog, having come from the shelter about two months ago, has a mysterious past and hates having his collar grabbed in already-tense situations. Further, when he shows his teeth, do not give in to your urge to grab his snout in a misguided attempt to exert dominance. Your dog will only point out your stupidity by biting your hand and then running off to hide outside for twenty minutes, leaving you to curse like a sailor, wash and bandage your hand, and hunt for the giant bottle of generic painkillers you know is around somewhere. Do go back outside to retrieve your dog, who will be standing nervously in the middle of the sidewalk somewhere in your condo complex. Call him nicely, and don't argue with him when he slinks right into his crate upon returning home. Briefly consider selling primary dog to gypsies. Be sure to show injury to co-worker later for entertainment value. After all, she did just show you her child's ringworm and it would be rude to withhold a perfectly good disgusting injury.


If you wonder why the house smells like poop when you come home from work, check the primary dog's crate. It's possible that he's pooped and then stepped all over it. (If you come home and smell poop and you don't have a dog, you may have bigger problems than I can address here.) If you're lucky, you may have had the foresight to have left the antibacterial wipes next to the crate after the last poop occurrence. If you're even luckier, your dog will obediently stay in the crate (on the poop-free side) while you wipe every one of his paws, instead of shooting out and running toward the door. He may even avoid looking at you while you do this, because he knows pooping in the crate is a no-no. If you're really, really lucky, your freshly wiped dog will then good-naturedly trot upstairs and voluntarily hop into the bathtub so you can give him a Silkwood scrubdown with lots of doggie shampoo. Remember to clean the poop out of the crate right away and put the crate outside to be hosed down and bleached in the morning. Do not stop at your computer to check your email for even a second (thirty minutes), lest you be unpleasantly surprised by a familiar odor when you return downstairs. Think about selling dog to gypsies, and idly wonder if he would fit into your crockpot. Later, look up "pooping in crate" on the Internet, learn about preventing dogs from "taking a potty stance" in their crates, and start pricing smaller crates and/or crate dividers.


If you decide to watch TV and fall asleep on the couch, be sure to close the bedroom doors beforehand, lest you awaken in the wee hours and wander off to the bathroom, only to discover that your dog apparently thinks the king-size bed upstairs is his. Lock (bleary) eyes with dog, who shows no sign of vacating king-size bed. Briefly wonder why you're not asleep in king-size bed. Consider removing dog from king-size bed, but decide you're too tired to deal with another training issue at 4:00 a.m. Continue to bathroom. Try to ignore dog, who now watches you intently as you accomplish your original goal. Wash hands, first stepping around dog, who thinks the sound of a toilet flushing means it's time to go somewhere and who is excitedly running circles around your feet. Tell him there's no way in hell you're going outside when most reasonable people are asleep. It is important to throw in a few curse words to let dog know you are serious. When dog continues to leap around and assume play stance, wonder if gypsies read Craigslist, make mental note to price family-size crockpots online, and try to convince yourself that your son wouldn't notice primary dog's absence if you loaded him (son) up with enough chocolate. Realize there's not that much chocolate in the world. Retreat to computer to wait for sunrise while playing FreeCell. Lots and lots of FreeCell.

Thursday, September 04, 2008


At work/church, I see a lot of people in need. I'm in the front, so most of them come to me first. One regular is an elderly man who wears an Illinois sweatshirt no matter what kind of weather we're having. I've seen him come in wearing that sweatshirt on days that are swelteringly hot, rainy days, you name it. He always says he needs eight dollars for a bus pass, and although I suspect he visits a lot of churches and tells the same story, I always try to get him some cash. He likes to talk about Chicago; usually he wants to talk about the time the elevated train (the "el") derailed a couple of years ago. He never smiles, and usually looks a little shell-shocked. I can understand this. Once he told me about getting into a fight with someone, though, and I couldn't imagine this frail, lost man having enough energy to fight anyone.

We used to have a regular who demanded help from us. The guy was youngish, in his late twenties or early thirties perhaps, and looked like about 250 pounds of pure muscle. He said he didn't "do well" with women, and we always referred him to a male pastor. This guy was known to come to Sunday services and pick fights with certain men (huge, hot, widowed, retired firefighter included). Luckily he found another church to attend after his demands grew too large for us.

One woman came in and said her husband was in the restroom, too embarrassed to ask for help. She said she had a heart condition and that she and her husband and two twin girls were living in their car. Our senior pastor talked with her and got her on her feet. She was not a regular.

For a while there was a man who would call me every day and ask for help. He said he and his wife and son were staying in a motel and couldn't pay the bill. I did what I could for him, including looking online for various agencies that could really help him (unfortunately churches just don't have the kind of money it takes to pay daily hotel bills and such). I wish I could've done more.

A young married couple in our congregation occasionally needs help paying bills and procuring treatment for one of their young sons, who has ADD and a few other diagnoses. This family breaks my heart because they obviously favor their other son who is "normal" and seem to loathe their "sick" son. Our children's pastor is working with them and their situation weighs on us all.

We have a congregant who believes she's a minister and speaks in a joyful, rambling, incoherent manner. She's delightful, and yet no one quite understands her. One of our other congregants has taken her under her wing.

Last Thursday, a man in his mid-thirties came in and asked for help. His command of the English language was only fair, and I had to work to speak slowly and listen very closely. Our children's pastor also spoke with him, but she spoke way too fast and went off on a couple of tangents, so the man turned his attention to me again. I took him into a semi-private room when he said he needed to keep his situation confidential. Turned out he was from Mexico and has AIDS; he'd even brought his entire medical folder with him in case we wanted proof. I listened to him for a while until another pastor returned from lunch and took over.

I often think about all these people and have wished I could do something meaningful for them. Lately I've considered that what I do is meaningful: I listen. I may not be able to hand out church funds or fix their problems, but I can listen. I try to remember that their contact with me might be one of the only times they find someone who will listen - that day, that week.

Thanks for listening to me.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Speaking Up

On Thursday, the same day I was late for work due to a panic attack, I was feeling introspective and more sensitive than usual. I arrived at the office to find one of the pastors taking a phone message for me. She's about my age, and she kindly asked how I was doing. Everyone at work knows about my situation; I made a decision not to even try to keep it a secret because keeping it a secret makes it even worse. Secrets fester and people wind up confused and inadvertently making up their own explanations for other people's behavior. I wouldn't want anyone to think I was simply a fuckup...or I've pretty much put it all out there in my personal life (family, PTA, church/work), as long as I feel I'm in a loving environment. And when I say I've put it all out there, I don't mean by whining or constantly complaining; I just mean that I've told people, "Look, here's something that happens with me and I'm taking care of it, but I want you to know so that you don't have to speculate, and so I don't have to carry the burden of keeping this a secret."

So far my instincts have been right on. (That's another thing I'm working on: trusting my instincts. I've some to realize that it's when I go against my instincts that I get into trouble.) I've confirmed what I already knew - that a lot of people are dealing with panic attacks, depression, etc., and are glad to have another friend who understands. I'm glad to be meeting people who understand as well. Even people who haven't experienced these things have been very kind to me. I remember last year when I was at school, standing by the fence and chatting with another mom; I suddenly felt panicked and lightheaded. I asked the other mom to stay with me while I put my head between my knees and tried to get a breath. Afterward, she walked me to my car. Later, she told me that her adult daughter had been telling her she'd been having panic attacks and she (the mom) hadn't believed her; she said she now had a better idea of what her daughter might be going through, and she would try to help her.

This tells me it's good to talk about this stuff. That there is some benefit (both ways) to my speaking up about it. And yet it's hard to talk about at times. I'm not going to turn this blog into a single topic discussion, but this is where I am right now and it feels right to address it.