How do you know it’s love?

It’s cold here.  Unusual Arctic stream alignment has brought freakish cold to places that aren’t used to freakish cold.  With a side of high winds to make it more festive!

How cold is it?

Ambient temp is -10°F (-23 C).  It will be about -20° F (-29 C) tomorrow.  There is a good 30 knot wind to assure that any exposed skin feels even colder.  Wind chill is estimated to be – 45° F (- 43 C).

To put it in context?  Here are some points of reference.

Great Wall, Antarctica………………….33° F (0 C)
Mt. Olympus, Mars (estimated)………21° F (- 6 C)
Avery Ice Shelf, Antarctica……………14° F (-10 C)
Ajan, Russia (Siberia)…………………..2° F (-16 C)
Curiosity Rover, Mars (estimated)….-19° F (-28 C)

It’s warmer in Antarctica and Mars.

But i’m fortunate.  My office closed due to extreme conditions, and my home is warm and well-insulated.  i have plenty to eat, internet for connectivity, enough booze to keep the Russian Navy afloat and no shortage of projects to do around the homestead.  i can hibernate in luxury!

Oh, wait.  My dog is not toilet, or litter box, trained.  He must go out.  As an old man, he has a fairly regular schedule for his digestive processes, requiring two walks per day (along with some short mercy breaks for his ancient bladder).

Being a skier wannabe, i have perfectly suitable gear for going out in this stuff, but i was worried about the pup.  In less-freakish cold, he has had some issues with the pads of his paws on the ice.  i was afraid he’d stick to frozen ground!

Pawz to the rescue!  i found some lovely, inexpensive and stylish kicks for my dog!  Other than the dog wrasslin’ required to get them on his feet, they fit well and don’t seem to bother him once in place.

Mr. P in his purple kicks

A bit tentative at first, he still managed to do his thing…

Mr P sproinging

Smilin’ and stylin’ before long…

Mr P Snow

i used to say “How much do i love my dog?  i pick up his turds twice a day!  If that’s not love?  i don’t know what is!”

Now? i can further qualify that statement.  “i pick up his turds in Martian-cold temperatures twice a day”.

And i’m delighted that i still get to do it…

For better, for worse.

“You’ve got to promise me that if anything happens to me, you’ll look out for her.”

These words were spoken by TK, my sister’s partner for over five years.  We were motoring back from Elliot Key in their boat, after a relaxing day on the water.  T was snoozing on the rear bench seat, while TK and i sat in the wheelhouse and talked, watching the Miami skyline sparkle at twilight.

i had made a weekend trip to attend the surprise 50th birthday party TK held for T last August.  After a gorgeous day on the water, with T sleeping and the wind noise drowning out our voices, TK and i had a chance to discuss T’s life-long battle with bipolar disorder.

daisyfae: i promised my Dad that i’d take care of her, and the others.  So i’m in it with you, for as long as you two are together.

TK:  I’m in it forever!  I want to grow old with her.  She’s perfect for me, and I can’t imagine life without her!  I’ve read up on bipolar, and read some of the books written by partners of people with bipolar.  Pretty sure I won’t be able to do this alone if it gets rough.

daisyfae:  Menopause and bipolar are a particularly tricky combination – and she just turned fifty!  Make sure she pays close attention to her hormones. 

TK:  I’ll do whatever it takes.  It’ll help to know you’ve got my back.

daisyfae:  She has had a tendency to lose her balance about every 3-5 years.  It’s been awhile, so i’m wondering if she’s due for some serious trouble.

And here we are nine months later.  i think the current situation counts as “serious trouble”.  T called Mom at midnight last Tuesday, talking rapid-fire, and obviously under a lot of stress.  Mom called to get me engaged… and after some calls to T, and TK from the road earlier this week, it was pretty obvious that T might be headed for hospitalization.  Which should be avoided if at all possible, as there would be potentially damaging professional implications if it becomes necessary.

Sitting in an airport Wednesday night, i was on the phone with T as i waited for my delayed flight* to board.  She was at home with TK, and was screaming into the phone about the horrible things TK had been doing in regard to the sale of their current house, and the renovations on their future home. 

If you’ve ever dealt with someone in the throes of a full-blown breakdown**, then you may know what this sounds like. 

My sister, T, is brilliant.  She is gifted with words.  When the brain chemistry goes awry?  She has the ability to cut you to the very molecules of your soul with her words.  The more she loves you?  The worse she can stab you, as she knows where to place the dagger with surgical precision.

i listened as she dished a vile stew of acidic words.  Tearing TK apart.  i listened as a door slammed in the background as TK couldn’t take any more of it and walked out.  A thousand miles away, and i could do nothing, except sit in a quiet corner of an airport and try to convince my sister that the most important thing she could do right now is sleep.

Helpless.

More phone calls yesterday, and today.  T’s therapist is involved.  Exchanging text messages, offering whatever help i can provide.  Offering to fly down there if it would help.  And a long talk with TK tonight.  Wondering if she can get past the words.  Wondering how they can work it out.  Wondering if T could possibly still love her in light of all that anger. 

i reminded her that T’s been through these times before.  She will get it behind her again and move forward.  The words are her primary defense mechanism when she feels like everything is collapsing around her.  There can be healing – as evidenced by the fact that i’m still engaged after being on the receiving end of her verbal switch blade several times.

Then the text a few minutes ago…

TK:  I love T so much.  If I could do anything to go back in time and fix it, I would.  Life without her would be meaningless.  I knew when I met her that she was and is perfect for me.  I don’t want to lose her.

We should all be so lucky as to know that kind of love…

Oh, and by the way?  They are forbidden by law from marrying.  As you can clearly see, it would denigrate the foundation of society if we ever allowed legalization of same-sex marriage amongst such wanton, promiscuous and amoral homosexuals.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

* i know you are as stunned as i am that i had another fucked up flight this week…..

** Hell, just pull up some of the recent videos of Charlie Sheen.  That’s what it looks like, folks.

Weekend “Scores and Highlights”

Snippets from the weekend…

- Mom has been quite frustrated with her failed eyesight for the past few years.  Due to droopy lids, she’s had difficulty reading.  Botox injections only help for a few weeks.  DQ, my niece, has started uploading eBooks for her from the local library – allowing Mom to listen to audio books, and tune out some of the perpetual white noise at the Trailer Park.  While The Girl and I were surfing the library website, to help Mom find some good titles, Mom waxed philosophical about retirement.  “I had all these books stashed around me, looking forward to retirement where I could read all day long.  Just goes to show you that it doesn’t matter what your plans are for retirement.  Your body is going to give out on you.  I had books coming out of my wazooo…”  At this point, The Girl’s boyfriend, ZZ, interjects with “And what, exactly, is a ‘wazooo’ I’m not familiar with that?”  i had to explain to ZZ that “despite the fact that her children all swear like drunken sailors, Momma doesn’t cuss.”
 
- Further rants on “life after retirement” focused on how much of her time and energy are spent with various doctors and specialists.  “The doctors ask me ‘Are you active?  Getting out much?”  I say “Sure, I went to see about 50 doctors last month!”
 
- On Sunday morning, DQ called me.  She simply wanted to know how Mom was doing…  A reminder that for all of the trailer park bullshit?  She really does worry when Mom’s not there…

- Sunday night?  Some downtime with The Girl, ZZ, The Boy and ZZ’s brother JZ, and his girlfriend M.  Over a pitcher of killer margaritas, M was telling a ‘scary spider’ tale.  As she told the story of hopping out of the shower, and grabbing a towel to dry off, JZ glared at The Boy and said “Hey – quit picturing my girlfriend naked!”  The Boy shrugged, hands in the air, an admission of “Busted!  But I couldn’t help it!”  M continued the tale, explaining that as she caught a glimpse of her shoulder in the mirror, she spotted a wolf spider hanging on, causing her to drop her towel and run naked through the house.  At this point, she paused and glared at The Boy for once again visualizing her naked, before finishing up the story.  i laughed so hard at her comedic timing, i about wet my shorts…

- Last night, The Boy and ZZ decided to cook dinner.  Since the grocery store run didn’t happen until around 7:00 pm, the meal wasn’t even nearing completion until around 9:00 pm.  My contribution to the entire event (other than financial underwriting for ingredients)?  Showing up in the kitchen periodically, letting loose with a Chewbacca-esque wail, and complaining that at my age i am used to eating at 4:00 pm in order to get the Senior Citizen early bird discounts.  The Boy finally had enough of this, saying “Look, I didn’t bitch for all those years you didn’t cook.  Shut her up with some bread or something…” at which point a bit of crusty Italian bread was pushed in my direction, and i was sent packing.

From that source of never-ending schadenfreude, Awkward Family Photos

The Catsket

Shortly after Dad died, i encouraged Mom to get a cat for company.  A friend of mine had a cat that dropped an unexpected litter so we stopped by and Mom found “Ladybug”.  At first, the cat was sweet and playful, but Mom didn’t like the biting.  She used the “spray bottle full of water” technique to discourage the cat from chewing on her.  It sort of worked, but the end result was that the cat got a little bit nasty.

Mom loved Ladybug, and although the cat made sport of hissing at the rest of us, biting our ankles, and generally making visits unpleasant, she was good company.  When Mom moved in with my niece last summer, the cat had to stay alone in the old house, due to fears that Ladybug would bite the baby, or scuff it up amongst the numerous animals in their existing menagerie.

Ladybug got even more snarly.  Mom loved her, and continued to visit when she could.  Last winter, my niece gave into Mom’s demands to bring the cat with her, and Ladybug was assimilated into the new environment.  Even just a touch nastier than before, but Mom was happy with Ladybug curled up beside her in the bed in the living room.

When i visited last week, it was obvious that Ladybug wasn’t doing well.  She’d been a fat cat, but had become a bag of bones over the past two months.  Mom was trying to fatten her up, but no luck.  When she stopped drinking water, Mom finally got my niece to take her to the vet*. 

This past Tuesday afternoon, i got a text from my niece. “Ladybug will need to be put down”.  Asking if it was kidneys, my niece affirmed the dreaded diagnosis, assuring that it’s all over but the hissing.  i asked how Mom was taking it, and my niece immediately texted back “Not well.  Can you call?”

It was very sweet of my niece to reach out for help, and as soon as i could abandon the work project of the moment, i called Mom.  She was obviously distraught. 

daisyfae:  DQ told me that Ladybug is in bad shape.  What’s going on?

Mom:  The vet said her kidneys are failing, and he recommended we put her to sleep.

daisyfae:  Ouch.  That’s pretty sad – she was just getting used to living with you again.  When are you going to do it?

Mom:  I don’t know.  I’m not ready yet.

daisyfae:  Is the cat suffering?  You don’t want her to be in pain…

Mom:  I don’t think so.  She doesn’t want me to touch her though. She’s not even feeling well enough to hiss at anybody.  I might be ready later this week…

daisyfae [flashbacks to conversations when Dad was on life support]:  But the vet said there’s no way she’ll get better.  It would be horrible if she has to suffer unnecessarily.

Mom:  I just don’t want to do anything too soon…

daisyfae [now having SERIOUS flashbacks to the interminable days before Mom signed the "do not resuscitate" order for Dad after he was full of tubes, in a coma, suffering complete multiple organ failure]:  It’s your call…

In the meantime, my niece, DQ, who has so thoughtfully reached out to get more support for Mom, decided that this would be a perfectly grand time to run the vacuum cleaner in the living room – where Mom was attempting to talk to me on the phone.  Through the noise, Mom finally agreed that she’d need to do it soon, but repeated that she wasn’t ready to let go yet.   Offering moral support, hugs and love, i told her i’d give a call later…

That was Tuesday afternoon.  On Wednesday afternoon, i received the following two pictures from my niece via text message.

Realizing what this was when the second photo arrived, i wrote her back asking if Ladybug had been put to sleep yet. 

DQ:  No.  BJ’s taking her to the vet now.  He worked on this all night long.

On the one hand? It was a beautiful and sweet gesture by BJ.  Clearly, it was meant to help Mom work through the impending loss of her cat, and perhaps even helped speed up her decision calculus, sparing the cat unnecessary suffering.

On the other hand?  BJ has been unable to find the time to continue renovations on Mom’s house, which is why she is still living on a bed in their living room.  He can spend 24 hours making a casket for a cat?

(sigh)

Such is the paradox of The Trailer Park… and an example of why i can’t completely give up on them.  Sometimes all i can do is shake my head. 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

* The cat.  Took the cat to the vet….  U.S. health care is bad, but not quite that bad.  Yet.  Although it would have been far less expensive if i’d gotten myself spayed instead of doing that tubal ligation procedure.

If we couldn’t laugh…

Another birthday.  Just a little over a week into June, and it’s already been a long month.  Despite some difficult moments over the past few weeks, my kids came through with another epic birthday card.

Note: i am not - at present - a grandmother.

Inside view:

For reference, my son has signed all cards with his first and last name since he was a small boy.

The presentation was topped off by them both rubbing their bellies: “Hmmm…. feels like a little soccer player” and “Guess who’s fireman wasn’t wearing a hat?”

Thanks, kids.  You turned out ok, despite my piss-poor parenting skills.  i’m a happy ol’ lady tonight.

If we couldn’t laugh, we would all go insane…

pointy headed thoughts

Dogs certainly think, but it can’t possibly be in the same way as humans. My dog is the one creature i can count on to be glad to see me – doesn’t matter whether i’ve been gone two weeks or five minutes, he is overjoyed when i appear in front of him… even if i’m smelly and covered in gnat corpses after a bike ride. 

i can look at him a long time, and he will hold my gaze.  When i’m in the bathroom in the morning, getting ready for work.  Even through the mirror…  Eye contact.  Connection.  Genuine companionship.

What is going through that pointy dog head?  Trying not to project human thought, i munched this over as i gave Mr. Pickles a treat this afternoon…

Mmmmm…. drool….  sit? whatever…. Mmmmm…. cheese bone….. damn it…. sit….. wait for it….. Mmmmmm….  cheese bone…

Aw, c’mon, woman!  Cheese bone.  Sit…  damn it.  [drool] Wait.  Sit.  Mmmmm….

Mine!  Cheese bone!  Mmmm….

Mostly?  He sleeps.  Barks when there is a noise, or if he receives a random signal from The Dog Planet.  Follows me from room to room, settling on the couch if i’m in the living room, on the cool tiled floor if i’m in the kitchen, or hopping onto the foot of my bed when it’s time to turn in. 

What’s he thinking?  i’ll never figure it out.  The only thing i need to know is that the mutt is mine.  i am his.  We are a pack of two. 

E-archeology…

i have been suffering the escalating consequences of what was only a minor brain-fart all day.  On my way out for a run/walk this morning, i shut down my laptop – hitting the “sign out” button on several windows without really thinking about it.  Returning an hour later, i attempted to log onto my e-mail — an drew a complete blank on the password. 

Thinking “of course i know this password”, i managed to get myself locked out after three failed attempts.  Going to the “password help” page, i realized that i was up against a major obstacle – this e-mail account was formed in 1988.  The security question “What is your pet’s name?” would have been four dogs ago… and could have been one of either critter we had at the time. 

i managed to get myself booted out of that after three incorrect answers, and went to the live chat “help” screen.  Where i was informed by a delightful young Indian man named “Krystal” that i was NOT the account owner, and therefore, he couldn’t reset my password.  Oh, right.  In 1988, i was married to a man with several graduate degrees, including a Master’s in Computer Science.  HE set up the account, even though he hasn’t used that address for 10 years. 

Quadruple Fuck.  i use that account for ALL of my personal business.  Bank accounts, bill paying, and all sorts of things… to have it just disappear?  Up the ass without a courtesy spit… fucked bad.

On my way out the door, i grabbed my work blackberry and sent my ex-husband a desperate plea for help… “really sorry to bug you, but i’m fucked.  can you try to reset my old e-mail password?”  Fortunately, he was able to guess at the set up information from two decades ago, and got the password reset. 

Having no luck re-setting the password (due to the aforementioned failure on my part to remember animal names – even though i used the one he told me he used to no avail), i decided it was time to retire the old e-mail.

i’ve spent the better part of the afternoon and evening beginning the process to migrate to a new account.  Was delighted to find that gmail has an ‘import’ function, which moved all of my saved messages into a sparkly clean in-box.  Even moved my old “saved mail” folders.  Groovy!

Along the way, i realized that i’d been packing a SHITLOAD of e-baggage.  First folder to be deleted?  Theater business.  Fuck all y’all.  Didn’t even read any of it.  “Skatepark” files?  Um, the local skater punks have been burning up those ramps for three years.  Done.  Next?  Went through all of the “home logistics” folders and deleted information that had gone well past the expiration date.  A receipt for a gift ordered in 2006?  Probably not worth keeping…  Therapeutic!

Oh, but the treasures… e-mail exchanges about work stress with my “day husband”.  Shit.  We were funny when our heads were exploding.  Sharing “trailer park” stories with my friends.  Pre-blog.  Some of those exchanges are ripe for lifting directly as historical posts… 

Messages exchanged with my daughter as she sailed around the world.  Heartbreak delivered, and received.  My entire divorce, essentially documented in e-mail exchanges with a friend going through her divorce at the same time.  E-mails with gentlemen friends as we tested the murky dating waters.  The “you have malaria” / “no wait, it’s mono” story.  The breast cancer coaster.

It was my intention to just trash those folders… but i don’t think i can do that just yet.  There are about 1,876 nuggets of “holy shit? i completely forgot about that!” to wade through first…

~~~~~~~~~~~

For giggles?  Here’s a look at an AOL ad from 1986.  Well, quantum link, the AOL predecessor.  And it doesn’t even mention the porn!

 

Rafting the River

There is a creek that splits on the North American continental divide*.  One channel, Atlantic Creek, flows east into the Yellowstone River, to the Missouri and then Mississippi rivers, hitting the Gulf of Mexico.  The other, Pacific Creek, flows west to the Snake River into the Pacific Ocean. 

The water churns merrily along, molecules of H2O entwined in a raucous aquatic parade.  Consider a gallon of water**, frozen at a moment in time upstream.  Percolating downstream.  Simply doing what water molecules do.  Each molecule traversing the moment.  Rafting.

As this conceptual gallon of water arrives at Two Ocean Pass, something rather remarkable occurs.  The fate of each molecule is determined by something random.  Something seemingly inconsequential.  Something that may itself be transient… a stick in the stream, a fish, an anomalous blip in the current due to something that happened much further upstream.

Two molecules, momentarily adjacent, diverge.  One meanders along Atlantic Creek, eventually being dumped in the Gulf of Mexico.  The other, rides the Pacific Creek out to the Snake River and emerges in the Pacific Ocean.  They never saw it coming.  And they sure as hell can’t go back…

Two Ocean Creek, Wyoming

Two Ocean Creek, Wyoming

Copyright – Ralph Maughan (image sourced here)

*Two-Ocean Creek, Bridger-Teton National Forest, Wyoming.  This spot is known as the “Parting of the Waters” National Natural Landmark.

** For reference – and my nerdier readers - a gallon of water has ~1.27 E27 molecules…

~~~~~~~~~~~

Thank you again, ms…. Still chewing on this….

Cleaning house…

The house of the heart.  Good to keep it tidy.  While excavating my office last week, i stumbled upon an ancient e-mail from my dear friend Yoda.  As i perform inventory on my soul, this was timely…

So much held in a heart in a lifetime.  So much held in a heart in a day, an hour, a moment.  We are utterly open with no one, in the end—not mother and father, not wife or husband, not lover, not child, not friend.  We open windows to each but we live alone in the  house of the heart. 

Perhaps we must.  Perhaps we could not bear to be so naked, for fear of a constantly harrowed heart.  When young we think there will come one person who will savor and sustain us always; when we are older we know this is the dream of a child, that all hearts finally are bruised and scarred, scored and torn, repaired by time and will, patched by force of character, yet fragile and  rickety forevermore, no matter how ferocious the defense and how many bricks you bring to the wall. 

You can brick up your heart as stout and tight and hard and cold and impregnable as you possibly can and down it comes in an instant, felled by a woman’s second glance, a child’s apple breath, the shatter of glass in the road, the words “I have something to tell you,” a cat with a broken spine dragging itself into the forest to die, the brush of your mother’s papery ancient hand in the thicket of your hair, the memory of your father’s voice early in the morning echoing from the kitchen where he is making pancakes for his children*. 

i am becoming more than comfortable with my future as a solo act.  A life lived fully, punctuated by remarkable friends, my smart and fabulous children, delicious lovers and even assorted members of my family – if only for comic relief!  Keeping collateral damage to others at the bare minimum.  There will be heartbreak and joy, delight and disappointment. 

What is a roller-coaster without ups and downs?  A commuter train… and nothing more.

Time to clean the “house of the heart”.  Fix up the guest rooms, set an inviting table - but make myself comfortable with a good book, a bottle of wine… and the demons in my head.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

* Best American Essays, 2005, page 28, Brian Doyle, Joyas Valadoras. 

Three generations…

 Three generations of ‘fucked up’, that is…  Brought Mom up to stay with me for four days while my sister, S, and niece, DQ, are out of town for a family wedding.  Some dysfunctional moments…

- Mom eats.  A lot.  Constantly.  Before going to get her, i made a basic grocery run for healthy breakfast food.  Before we left her house, she bagged up an assortment of non-healthy snacks to make sure she’d have a little something to “take with her medicine”.  A bag of Doritos, box of snack crackers, pita bread and hummus, cookies, spreadable cheese… and two small orphaned bags of Cheetos.

- Celebrating my daughter’s university graduation, we had home made pizza, cake and ice cream for dinner Friday night.  Followed by the traditional “Granny kicks our asses and wins the kids tuition money” poker game.  This year?  The Girl won.  We bagged it, and watched “Slumdog Millionaire” – which required running commentary by me to explain what was going on throughout most of the movie.  But she enjoyed it…

Read 'em and weep.  Bitches...

Read 'em and weep. Bitches...

- Mom can’t read because of her failing eyesight.  But somehow managed the subtitles in the movie just fine, and was reading items from the New York Times to me this morning over breakfast.  i’m confused…

- Took Momma to a “drag race” Saturday afternoon.  That’d be a “Walk A Mile In Her Shoes” fundraiser… Over 100 men.  Racing around a quarter mile track, in heels.  Holy crap, it was funny…  To hear the little dears whining about the discomfort, blisters, twisted ankles?  Precious.  Seeing the contestants ‘high fiving’ Mom in her wheel chair as the “Pump Parade” passed?  Delicious.  We cheered the fastest ones, and encouraged the slow ones, telling them they still looked fetching in their peep-toe pumps…

Stiletto Boyz in da Hood

Stiletto Boyz in da Hood

- Took both Momma and my children out for a very nice meal Saturday to celebrate Mother’s Day.  The Boy was hoping it was one of those ‘challenge’ restaurants, where you can order a 72 ounce steak, and get it for free if you can eat the whole thing.  Um…  no… Baby’s first Filet Mignon.  i think i’ve won him over on this one…  Perhaps he gained an understanding the concept of “quality” over “quantity” when it comes to cow parts.

- Not sure how it happened, but during the course of our dinner, we managed to cover a ridiculous number of horrible conversation topics.  Including, but not limited to:  “Prom Night Dumpster Babies“, incest, genocide, Stalin, photographing excrement and farting on toddlers. 

- Mr. Pickles is channeling Lassie.  Since Mom arrived, he has attached himself to her.  Sleeping by her bedside – almost in perfect position to trip her should she get up in the middle of the night.  We decided he’s waiting for her to fall down a well, so he can sound an alarm and get some good doggie treats…

Hey... Her pajamas are full of cake crumbs.  I'm not going anywhere...

Hey... Her pajamas are full of cake crumbs. I'm not going anywhere...

- As the bill for dinner arrived, i was surprised when The Boy reached for it.  He picked it up, and i looked over, somewhat confused… as he handed it across the table to me, he and The Girl both busted out laughing.  “Awww…. She looked hopeful!  Did you see that? Wasn’t that cute?”.  Bastards.  Complete bastards…

- Last year, my children did a lovely job of tormenting surprising me on Mother’s Day.  With a bit less fuss, this year, they were rewarded with a full five minutes of me laughing my ass off at their gorgeous card (created by one of The Girl’s friends).  Inside?   The handwritten sentiment:

Happy Mother’s Day!

Hey, you tried.