Thursday, December 27, 2012

"The Snowmen" Dr. Who Christmas Special Review

Here be spoilers...
I have never been one of those Whovians who hates Moffat because he's not Davies. I think that Moffat is a wonderful writer, and great at the big picture. I just wish he would hand the reins off more often. I don't think he's great at the in-between. And in general, I do think Moffat is losing his touch a bit. My first evidence? Seeing that he had tinkered with the opening sequence. I know that seems like a minor thing, but sometimes minor changes can stand for bigger ones. Between the changed opening, and the inexplicable change to the interior of the T.A.R.D.I.S, it seems as though Moffat is signalling to all of us that larger things are afoot.

"The Snowmen" is the latest example of Moffat not quite getting it. In fact, that is my biggest complaint of Moffat in general- he always has all the pieces, but when he puts them all together, they don't quite work as they should.. From the opening scene, where the snowman simply mimics the boy's statements, it's obvious that the snowman is not the "Big Bad". Instead, the main problem in this episode is the fact that the Doctor has lost all interest in the human race, interacting, and investigating. If you assume that this episode takes place soon after the disappearance of the Ponds from "Angels in Manhattan" perhaps you don't see this as a problem. But it is, and Moffat gives us the importance in a throwaway line- "Over a thousand years of saving the universe..." Given that he says he's 907 right after he meets Amy ("Flesh and Stone"), 1103 in "The Impossible Astronaut" and 1200 in "A Town Called Mercy", he has had the Ponds in his life for 300 hundred years. Note: Whovians who wish to argue with me that his age is never nailed down, or buy Moffat's theory that the Doctor doesn't KNOW his own age can stop right now. The exact age is not important. What is important is that...roughly a third of his life has been occupied with them, making the loss of them that much greater. It also makes Clara's choice latter of "pond" as her one word, that much more important, as it brings him back to the world. BUT it also makes the introduction of a new companion in the very next episode seem tacky. While it would certainly be harder to write several episodes with a brooding Matt Smith, as we saw with some of Tennant's run- a brooding Doctor can lead to some wonderful storylines. I like Jenna-Louise Coleman, both as Dalek Oswin Oswald and as Clara. But I think it shortchanges the series, and her character, to shove her in the series at this point (but more on that later).

Jenna-Louise Coleman, as Clara/Lara is different from the beginning- she's the one to chase after the Doctor, fairly enthusiastically, this combined with a fun scene where she pulls him behind her, as he states that's not how it goes- he's the one who does that, makes for a great entrance. The last time we saw curiosity like this was with Donna in "Partners in Crime" and it worked wonderfully there. Clara is certainly different from any other companion we've seen. For a start, she seems to have quite a few secrets herself, beginning with why a governess would pose as a barmaid, and ending with how she is exists in multiple times. The teaser for the rest of the season tells us that her secret, and the Doctor chasing across time and space to discover it, is what the rest of the season will revolve around.
I did like the fact that the Doctor gives her the key so easily. It was a cute moment...when taken all by itself. But again, when you stop to think about it, having the Doctor recover so quickly from the loss of the Ponds seem wrong.

Other than Jenna-Louise Coleman, there were two high points- all revolving around reintroduced characters, so Moffat can't take any credit. Jenny and Vastra, as the (wonderfully married) inspiration for Sherlock Holmes and John Watson, are a lovely little nod not only to these characters, but the space that they inhabit. The interview between Vastra and Clara is also a great bit of dialogue and interaction. Clara proves that she's not only the Doctor's equal, but perhaps the equal of everyone else she would meet as well, something we've never seen outside of River Song.
Strax, and the potato jokes, as well as his warped sense of humor, are another bright point. The back and forth between proper English gentleman/butler and bloodthirsty warrior are great- Grenades? Or may I take your coat?. The bit with the memory worm is especially funny, aided by Clara's interaction with the Doctor, and giving as good as she gets- working it out even before the Doctor does. We see this again with their interchange as they run away from the Ice Governess and escape to the T.A.R.D.I.S.

As happy as I am for the Christmas special, both for the fun that is possible because it's not exactly part of the timeline, and for the addict's need it fills before the second half of the season, there are some major flaws to this year's special.
  • Richard Grant, as Doctor Simeon, certainly gets the short end of the stick in this episode. His dialogue is trite, and recycled. I don't always agree with Moffat, but I've never accused him of being unoriginal. But lines such as "I serve at your will, as always" are just trite. Grant's character also doesn't seem to serve much of a purpose. Perhaps he's just a Whovian who just wanted to be in an episode. (This reasoning would certainly explain Sir Ian McKellan as the voice of the Snowmen).
  • Also, while the Doctor as Sherlock was funny, perhaps Moffat could have not ripped off the musical strands from his own Sherlock. We're not idiots, we get the joke without you banging us over the head with it.
  • The constant repetition of "Victorian values" made no sense whatsover. It doesn't add to the story. It doesn't explain anything. Unless it's meant as a signpost for Jenny and Vastra, but even that doesn't make sense, as their setting has already been signified to us through previous episodes, and through the Sherlock references in this one.
  • Then there's the (constant) Moffat issue of bringing something up and not answering it. In this episode, that's seen with both Clara Oswin Oswald's dead/not dead, and with the evil institute behind Simeon, and the evil snowmen- The Great Intelligence Institute. First, at the beginning, Simeon tells Captain Lattimer that what belongs in the ice is "his" and Lattimer pays no attention (?). Later, there's no explanation for why Clara would even survive her fall off the cloud long enough for Strax to even try to save her.
  • I don't know about anyone else, but for some reason, the kiss between Clara and the Doctor also seriously bothered me. Perhaps it's because I love the character of River Song. Perhaps it's because River and the Doctor seemed to have finally come to common ground in "Angels in Manhattan". Either way, I didn't like it.
  • The Doctor is many things, but he's not stupid. I find it hard to believe, that with as great as he is with figuring things out, that it would take him seeing Clara Oswin Oswald on the tombstone in order for him to figure it all out.
  • Moffat's introduction of Clara Oswin Oswald to the Doctor is also a bit hamfisted. Because we know she's Oswin Oswald. I (and I'm sure many others) spent the entire episode wondering how Moffat was getting out of this one. The lines about "I like to make souffle" "You're a foot taller than I am", and "Run, you clever boy. And, remember" are necessary to let the Doctor know who she is, but to the audience, it seems a little...boring. It was as though Moffat decided that he needed to introduce Clara Oswin Oswald and forced that episode onto the Christmas episode. It just doesn't seem a good fit. I'm not sure what a better solution would have been, but this just didn't seem on par with what I've come to expect of Dr. Who. It's too bold, too in your face, a little too crass. It also doesn't make a whole lot of sense, that Clara says these lines, but has no memory of the Doctor. It may end up being one of Moffat's grand plans, but the problem with that is we won't be able to tell until the end of Series 7.

Most fans have gotten used to Moffat painting himself into a corner, and then spending the entire season getting himself out of it. He did it with "The Pandorica Opens" and "The Big Bang". He did it again with "The Impossible Astronaut" and ending with "The Wedding of River Song". Most of us are pretty forgiving of Moffat, because we've seen what he can end up doing with it. But here's the problem- there are only so many times that you can pull that with your audience before it becomes boring, and routine. Perhaps because he's juggling this, the stress of the 50th anniversary, and Sherlock he's simply falling back on what works.

While this episode had some cute moments, and clever dialogue, it only proved my point about Moffat- all the right parts, but never put together in quite the right order.

The Christmas That Wasn't...?

This year, on Christmas Day, I found myself doing something that has never happened in our house.

I took down the tree and packed away Christmas.

In the two Christmases since Mom died, I have worked very hard to make Christmas just like she did. But this Christmas I realized, that one person cannot carry on traditions.

I think maybe there was a magic that Mom added that is gone now, and I realized this year, that maybe I can't recreate it.

Mom made sure that the Christmas season started as soon as you saw Santa in the Macy's day parade.
The tree went up, and the house was decorated the day after Thanksgiving.
Ridiculous Christmas outfits and shirts got worn the entire season.
Christmas cards were written, and sent.
There were specific meals- green bean casserole.  Sweet potato casserole. Roast Beast on Christmas Day.
There was baking to be done- Mom's Hersey Pie, and bourbon balls.
Stockings always had candy, and little treats.
Matching Christmas PJs got opened on Christmas Eve.
Lots of pictures taken on Christmas Day.

And I've done all of these things. I've replicated everything down to the very last detail. But there was something missing. And this Christmas I realized that there was one missing element. One I couldn't recreate.
Mom was missing. And she wasn't coming back.

I can replicate everything she did. I can make the house look just like she did, but it doesn't mean that she's coming back.
And I realized, I don't know what Christmas is without Mom.

Christmas to many people is large families, and catching up, and it's a combination of all those things, and all those people's traditions. But to me, Christmas is Mom. And I guess I don't know what it's supposed to be without her. I don't know if I can recapture the magic of it without her. She always made it the most magical time of the year. A time when magic LITERALLY entered the world. When everything was a little brighter, a little nicer. When anything was possible.
And I want to believe all of that.
But I realized this year, that maybe I don't. That maybe I don't know how.

Because how magical can the world be if she's not here?
It's been almost two years since she died, and I guess part of me thought I was over the hard part. That I had gone through everything. That I still missed her, but it had begun to heal. But I've realized that it doesn't heal. When you lose your Mom (and god to I hate that phrase- I didn't lose her, it's not like where did I put my Mom?) nothing is ever right again. The world keeps spinning, and life goes on, but it never seems right again. It always seems as though you're living in an alternate timeline.

When a friend of mine's dad died a few years ago, her family stopped celebrating Christmas. They all go to a tropical hideaway and just spend some time together. I mentioned that to Dad, and he said it sounded like a good idea- we should all go to DisneyWorld, or Vegas.

But even if I can't recapture the magic of Mom. Even if the holidays are lacking something without her, I don't think I can let it go. Because she's not here. And the fairy dust magic she added is gone. But when I do everything she does. And recreate it all, there's a trace of her.

So yes, the tree and all of Christmas came down on Christmas night this year. Yes, Christmas for me was over as soon as it occurred this year.
And next year, I can't guarantee that any of it will be the same. I don't know if these are the holiday blues or a blip.
But I'm betting next year it will still look like elves threw up all over the house.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Political Debate over Facts vs. Belief

If you hold beliefs opposite of me, or think a policy is good and I think it's bad, then I am more than willing to engage in a debate of ideas with you. However, a debate of ideas is based on fact. For instance, if you think we should have school vouchers because it gives poor kids a chance of an excellent education and I don't because I think all our money and efforts should be poured into making our public schools the best in the world. That is a debate of ideas. And I will gladly spend hours on that. And even though I'll think you're wrong, I will be willing to debate your ideas because you present an argument based on facts.
Here's what is not a debate- when your argument is based solely on your beliefs, often in direct opposition to facts. For instance:
  1. If you believe gays are evil and therefore shouldn't have the exact same civil rights as everyone else or are somehow part of a conspiracy to bring down our civilization.
  2. If you think evolution is some sort of conspiracy theory. Bonus points for idiocy if you believe dinosaurs are tricks placed in the ground by the Devil because the world is only 6,000 years old.
  3. If you believe that Christian morality should become law. If it were any other religion stating that they were going to make their religion the law of the land (say, I don't know, Islam) you would throw a frakking fit. The United States of America is not a Christian nation- "AMERICA IS NOT, IN ANY SENSE, FOUNDED ON THE CHRISTIAN RELIGION." The Treaty of Tripoli, 1797 - Signed Unanimously by Congress and President Adams.
  4. If you believe abortion should be illegal. It's perfectly fine for you to think it's immoral. However, you have no right to impose your religious/moral views on me (see above point). If you're so worried about lowering the number of abortions then raise better Christians. You have control over that- not my body.
  5. If you believe that rape is ever because she asked for, dressed cheaply, or otherwise indicated it was something she wanted.
  6. If you believe funding the arts somehow weakens our civilization instead of raising it up.
  7. If you think climate change is made up.
And here's the problem when it comes down to Republican vs. Democrats. Too many highly visible Republicans are arguing the above. Don't believe me? Well, let's go down the above list:
  1. It isn’t that some gay will get some rights. It’s that everyone else in our state will lose rights. For instance, parents will lose the right to protect and direct the upbringing of their children. Because our K-12 public school system, of which ninety per cent of all youth are in the public school system, they will be required to learn that homosexuality is normal, equal and perhaps you should try it. And that will occur immediately, that all schools will begin teaching homosexuality.” ~ Michele Bachmann (New Civil Rights Movement)
  2. "I think there is a theory, a theory of evolution, and I don't accept it. ... The creator that I know created us, each and every one of us and created the universe, and the precise time and manner. ... I just don't think we're at the point where anybody has absolute proof on either side." Ron Paul Remarks made at a state Republican Party meeting in Spartanburg, S.C., Nov. 1, 2007
  3. "Yes, religion and politics do mix. America is a nation based on biblical principles. Christian values dominate our government. The test of those values is the Bible. Politicians who do not use the bible to guide their public and private lives do not belong in office." ---Beverly LaHaye (Concerned Women for America) and "I don't know that atheists should be considered citizens, nor should they be considered patriots. This is one nation under God." --- George Bush Senior
  4. Since 1992, the official Republican platform opposed abortion even in the cases of rape, incest and severe risk to the life of the mother.  
  5. “A jury could very well conclude that this is a case of buyer’s remorse … It appears to me … you invited him over… the appearance is of consent.” - Ken Buck October 2010 
  6. “Public Broadcasting is a sandbox for the rich. The NEA and the HEH are simply enclaves of the left using your money to propagandize your children against your values.” -- Newt Gingrich
  7. "I believe the earth gets warmer and I also believe the earth gets cooler. And I think history points out that it does that and that the idea that man, through the production of CO2 — which is a trace gas in the atmosphere, and the man-made part of that trace gas is itself a trace gas — is somehow responsible for climate change is, I think, just patently absurd when you consider all the other factors, El Niño, La Niña, sunspots, moisture in the air. ... To me, this is an opportunity for the left to create — it's really a beautifully concocted scheme because they know that the earth is gonna cool and warm." --- Rick Santorum The Rush Limbaugh Show, June 8, 2011

  • As happens every election season, the debate of ideas seems to be drowned out by the screaming "believers". In a world where public shootings are getting worse not better; where people are dying due to issues with healthcare; where veterans are returning to few, if any options; where getting an education is no longer a guarantee of a better life; there seems as though there is a huge need for a public debate on these issues. And yet, these issues are being ignored in favor of sound bites from crazy people who are screaming their beliefs, and passing them off as facts to the American public.
  • Unfortunately, the quotes above represent the public face of the Republican Party. So if you wonder why intelligent, reasoning people lump together ALL Republicans with the crazies above, it may be because they are the only ones we're hearing from.
  •  Regardless of your own political views, I encourage you this election season to engage in a debate of ideas instead of a screaming match of beliefs.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Chick-Fil-A, Facebook posts, and staying silent about hate in order to be polite

The internet has been abuzz lately with news about Chik-Fil-A and their anti-gay stance. Everyone has an opinion, and well they should. Everyone should have strong opinions based on their beliefs, and should be proud of standing by them. There's been a lot of talk about how the people supporting Chick-Fil-A have rights under "free speech" to state their beliefs.
And they do- but so does everyone else. So do I. Just because you are entitled to free speech doesn't mean you're right, or just, or smart, or not a prejudiced bastard.
I was extremely proud when I saw the statement below, not just because they took a stance, but because this company influences children, and our best hope for a better world rests in new generations NOT having beliefs based on hate.
While these people have the right to say anything they want, I have some severe issues with the rhetoric being used by people online. One person's statement said that liberals were hypocrites because they claimed to be all inclusive, and then boycotted Chick-Fil-A for standing up for their beliefs. That argument doesn't even make any sense. By this logic, anyone who opposed apartheid was a hypocrite for boycotting South Africa- boycotts that were largely responsible for apartheid not being around anymore. 
I also have a serious issue with people who only follow the parts of the Bible that they like (hello- Leviticus?) and don't seem to take the Bible in any sort of context. I am a screaming liberal- so by this post, I am a hypocrite. Someone I've known for a long time posted this on their Facebook. And then said anyone disagreeing with them need not post a comment, just unfriend if anyone disagreed. So I did. Because the statement is hate speech. And ignorant.
I have a hard time understanding why I'm a hypocrite when I stand up for my beliefs, but you're a saint for standing up for yours.
Here's another example of the ridiculous tripe floating around the internet:

"The recent attacks on Dan Cathy and Chick-Fil-A over Cathy’s support of “the biblical definition of the family unit” show, once again, that leftwing elites who support a radical homosexual agenda are nothing more than hypocrites and bullies.  As I have followed the developing controversy, I have noticed a tone of desperation in the over-the-top attacks on the Chick-Fil-A organization.  It is as if radical homosexual organizations fear that the pro-family, pro-Christian values of one of America’s fastest growing restaurant chains will, once again, take hold in an America that has forgotten these values."

So I'm a hypocrite and a bully? And did I miss the memo that states how guaranteeing civil rights such as marriage, and equal protection under the law somehow constitutes a "radical homosexual agenda"? If believing that every American citizen is entitled to the same rights as every one else equals a "radical homosexual agenda" then by all means, sign me up.

I know some people are just refusing to engage in political discussions on their Facebook or Twitter. They delete the insane email forwards that insist President Obama is a fundamentalist Muslim with an agenda. But through all of this, one phrase keeps floating through my mind-
All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.
While  some may believe that they're not making waves, or not upsetting Aunt Sally, or not trying to change a generational viewpoint, it's much simpler than that. You are supporting hate. If you do not agree with people who are racist and prejudiced, then you need to speak up. Otherwise, you are just as guilty as they are. No friend, no family member is so high and mighty that they are worth you giving up your beliefs.
So yes, I will continue to stand up for my beliefs- I believe that EVERY one is entitled to their civil rights and equal protection under the law. I will continue to believe that hate and prejudice is wrong, and that people that hold these beliefs under the ridiculous protection of their religion are still prejudiced. I also happen to think you're ignorant, but that's another matter.
I have lost people as friends because of my beliefs, but I'm okay with that. Because if you think that hating people for who they are is right and just, then I don't want you as my friend anyway.

So the next time you read something you think is wrong, and you think "I'll just let it slide", take a moment and think about what the repercussions of doing that are- because I don't think manners should take precedence over beliefs. Think of where the world would be if we didn't stand up for women's rights, or civil rights, or against apartheid or racism because we didn't want to upset anyone. It is always the little, consistent habits that speak much louder than any one large action. 

If we want the world to be a better place, the least we can do is stand up and say so.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Water Rant

So here's my latest rant, for those of you listening. Now that Nehi is almost back to her regular walking schedule, I am struck every morning and night by multiple pet peeves- all revolving around water.
We're in the middle of one of the worst droughts in over fifty years. And yet, there is only ONE other house in my neighborhood that has a rain barrel. But, every morning Nehi and I have to walk into the middle of the street to avoid the sprinklers. Sprinklers on auto timers, running for over an hour in the morning. Let's just gloss right over the obscene waste of water, and instead talk about the ridiculousness of watering in the morning- where the sun will scorch your plants and that it's not nearly as effective as watering at sundown when it's cooler, and has all night to soak into the soil.
And this leads me to the next major pet peeve- do you know why these sprinklers have to run in the first place? Because rather than plant clover, or native, drought resistant grass, these shmucks have put down sod. At the beach, which for those of you paying attention is a BIG FRAKKING SAND DUNE!
I will be the first to admit that I am perhaps, a little more environmentally conscious than some, due to how my Mom raised me. But this seems like a no brainer. How can these people NOT see the awful waste of this? Clover lawns are prettier and easily sustained because it's a weed! Rain barrels easily provide enough water for potted plants. If you MUST water multiple plants/trees in your landscaping, then that's also an easy fix. Buy a long lengh garden hose, hook it up to your water, then take a nail, amd everywhere you have a plant or tree, push the hose close and then use a nail to poke a hole in the hose. Nice, easy, water conservative watering.
It's so easy to take these steps, and cheaper, and I simply can't fathom why, in this day and age, there are people that are still so blind to the environmental impact of their thoughtless actions.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Ballet as an Adult- a lesson in humility

When I was little, I took ballet in Connecticut. I don't remember the instructor's name, but I remember the studio was a huge, warehouse type place, with big windows, metal bars, and was always freezing in winter. She was Russian, and old, and had a cane that she would smack us with if our turnout wasn't great, or we weren't doing what she wanted. I remembered liking the barre work but being horrible at floor work, because I am not an aural learner and I never understood combinations called out quickly.
In college, I took Ballet I and II to fulfill credits for graduation. I always loved the barre part, but as a theatre major, taking class with dance majors is not guaranteed to make you feel great.
Still, I did enjoy it- there's just something about being able to, in any way, say you're a dancer.

So, I've been thinking (and writing) a lot about ways in which I can make myself happier, and things I can focus on, something just for me. So, I started thinking about taking a dance class. I did some hunting around, and chose one. They offered a brief summer session, so I signed up.
First, I'd forgotten how expensive dance is- there is the class, then the shoes, then the leotard, then the hair accessories. Go ahead and laugh- but it adds up pretty quickly. There's also, from a lot of schools, the pressure of the "one more thing" they try to get you to do. Most schools make their money from convincing people they NEED more- more outfits, more shoes, more classes.
So, I paid for my class (was a little upset later when I realized it was only for one week, not two, and therefore suddenly seemed VERY expensive), a leotard, shoes, and tights. The instructor said since it'd been so long, I should start in the baby class. Which by the way, really was the baby class- I think they were five years old.
I was feeling okay until I slipped on the floor and came down like a ton of bricks.
Other than being in a fair amount of pain, bruised, and humiliated, I recovered and finished the class. In my defense, the floor is ridiculously slippery for a dance floor, and therefore, not completely my fault. On the plus side, after the class, the instructor asked me to come back and try the Ballet II class, and see if I could keep up. I did, and did (except for the fact that I'm obviously STILL not an aural learner, and still have a hard time with combinations quickly called out). She even told me that she thought I was strong enough to start on pointe in the fall, and said I should stay after Ballet II for the pointe class. But of course, that's also more money. What little girl doesn't dream of those beautiful pointe shoes- so of course, I ponyed up the money. Yep, I'm a sucker.
However, I didn't have time to get up to Virginia to get pointe shoes until yesterday, so I spent the class, just going through the exercises.
I left early yesterday morning, and drove the hour and forty minutes to Virginia Beach. Small issue- President Obama was in town, they shut down all the 264 interchanges, and my GPS kept telling me to take 264. Finally- two and a half hours later, I reached the dance store. I was in and out in fifteen minutes, and then got stuck in traffic as the motorcade went by (I didn't even get a good view). On the plus side, once the motorcade had passed, all the interchanges had opened back up, and it was smooth driving home. An hour of sewing later, and I had my shoes!
I was very excited about having shoes for the last pointe class of the summer before fall. I was less excited when I realized the floor was still slippery, and I'd been put on the movable bar, which was not going to take my weight if I lost my footing. Also, the pain. I knew pointe shoes were painful, but I guess I had always assumed that was true of dancing on them for a while, not half an hour of class. I would be wrong. After class, I already had two blisters, and the tops of my toes still hurt.
I'm happy I took this week. I'm happier that there's six weeks between now and when fall classes begin. Not to save myself the pain- rather, it's six weeks to stretch, practice, and break in my pointe shoes. Because here's the deal- I'm 36. The kids in my class are 13. They have been dancing since they were five or six. They are bendy dolls. They think nothing of doing splits and easily get into fifth position. I've never been able to get into a split, and my thighs seem to be getting in the way of fifth position. So, I've got some work to do.
I'm looking forward to class in the fall, but really hope that there aren't any of the students I teach in my classes. I can take a little humiliation at my age- but that may be too much, even for me.

Going into week 4 of post ACL

This past Tuesday, Dr. Grossman said Nehi was doing great, and he'd see her in two weeks. He cleared her for going up and down stairs, as well as exercising a little more.
Nehi had a really hard time with the stairs the first time- a little scary, actually, she would just stop on a stair, sort of spread out. As of yesterday though, while slow, she did okay going up, and went well (although too fast for my taste) down the stairs. I've gotten a no-skid bath mat for the bottom of the stairs so she doesn't hurt herself coming down off the stairs too fast.

Another big step- Nehi chowed down on her breakfast today with no wet food!

On other fronts- I still have a few concerns. Nehi still won't get up on the bed, even though it's only a few inches higher than the couch which she gets on all the time. I asked her trainer- because I'm concerned that Nehi is now scared of the bed, since she slipped a couple of weeks ago getting up. Her trainer said that if Nehi had always slept with me, then the only thing that would stop her is if she's still in pain. So, I'm trying to be patient. She said to try and use food to get her up onto the bed. I've tried treats she likes, rawhides, nothing works. She'll stretch a little, get the treat, but won't get on the bed. Her trainer said to give her a couple more weeks to heal, and keep trying with the food. I'll do that, but I'm still a little worried that Nehi isn't getting up because she's scared, and not injured. I guess time will tell. But I miss having my bebe with me at night.
Her energy level is still pretty low. She used to get very excited about walks. I would barely touch the leash and she'd come running. Now, it takes a lot of coaxing to get her to come, if she'll come at all. A lot of times, she won't even get off the couch.
Once I get her walking, she's doing well. We're going a little further every time. I'm concerned that because walking is rehab (and therefore a little painful) she's trying to avoid it. I'm not letting her, but I don't want her to develop an aversion to something she used to love. The other day, I even made her walk in the rain- as it's been raining off and on all week here. I was a little worried when we got back, as the tile I have in most of the house is very slippery when wet. Fortunately (or not?) she was content to just lay on the couch, soaking wet. So my couch smelled like wet dog.
As with the other things, I guess I have to hope that as she feels better, she'll start liking the things she used to. It's been a really hard couple of months, and I know that we've had a near perfect scenario- good recovery time, not having to towel walk her, great doctors. It's just really hard. The stress on me, and on her, because it's been two months since she felt well, and I know that's gotta wear on her. It's hard to know when to push her, and when to let her be.
Time will tell, and I guess I just have to be patient. Cause I'm so good at that!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Week 3 Post ACL Surgery

Today we had our check up two weeks after surgery. The office was very busy, so we sat there for a while, but Nehi never minds hanging out, so it wasn't a problem. The only issue was keeping Nehi from socializing and getting over excited.
Dr. Grossman says she's doing great, and she didn't give them any trouble when they took her into the back to check her range of motion.
I did have a couple of concerns:
  • Nehi is doing her hunger strike crap again, now that she's not getting wet food to hide her pills in. However, it's gone on much longer this time than last time, so I'm a little worried. 
  • She's getting up on the couch okay, but not on the bed (which is only a few inches higher). He said she'd get there, just give her a month and she'd be getting up there.
  • She's seemed a little listless. This, combined with the not eating worries me. The last couple of days are actually the first time she seems more like herself. He said this was normal- two surgeries in a couple of months is a lot. She's recovering, probably still in some pain, and he says not to worry.
So, for the not eating, he said we had a couple of options. We could give her medicine to make her feel better, and maybe this would lead to her feeling like eating. I could change her food, maybe get her interested in her food. I could put her back on some wet food. He said he gives Jessa one can of wet in the morning, and then dry in the evening, so nothing wrong with that. I told him I'd prefer to start out with trying some canned food (we put her on j/d for joint health) and changing her dry food. If next week we were still having a problem, we could try the medicine. I really prefer not to medicate her if I can avoid it.
So, I spent $100 on new wet and dry food (A Bison and Sweet Potato mix). I tried first with just the new dry food. Nehi sniffed it, but wasn't interested. So I added the wet food. She ate the wet food and left the dry food. But at least she ate, so I guess that's something.

I guess I just need to listen to Dr. Grossman, and trust what he's saying. She's doing great, and the rest will come. It's just been a hard couple of months. Fingers crossed that she continues to do well and continues to eat.

Thursday, June 28, 2012


I have always been jealous of people who had deep family roots and history. I've always wondered what it was like to have a culture and past to anchor and ground you. I've always felt adrift, with our family history being murky at best.
Mom was adopted from St. Joseph's Hospital in Albuquerque, New Mexico in 1952.
The story she always told was that her birth mother was Navajo.
She was 8 years short of 1960, when the Navajo Tribal Council voted "The Navajo Tribe condemns the removal or attempted removal of any Navajo minor from the Navajo Reservation by any non-member without the prior approval of the Advisory Committee, except for the purpose of attending school under a non-sectarian program approved by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, provided however, that the Navajo Tribe does not condemn the removal of Navajo children from the Navajo Reservation by their adopted parents pursuant to a final judgment of adoption rendered by the Trial Court of the Navajo Tribe under said resolution." The preference now is to allow someone within the tribe to adopt a child before they are lost to the reservation, and the tribe.

There are 22 tribes in New Mexico. The majority of the population of New Mexico has either Hispanic or Indian or Metzo-Indian ancestry. So it's not a bad bet that if you're a native of New Mexico that you have some culture or history to pull on.

When I was in Santa Fe in 2010 for my last summer of grad school, I spent hours on the phone with the adoption contact in Albuquerque trying to figure out how Mom could get access to her records to see if she was indeed Navajo. While she had always claimed this culture as her own, she had never been able to get confirmation. New Mexico has closed adoptions, which requires a lawyer to open, but there is a provision to get a representative of the court to view your records for the purpose of seeing if there is information in the record proving tribal membership.You can apply (and pay) to have them look, and they can report to you whether or not your parents were Indian, and can help you file the paperwork for tribal membership.
She needed to fill out some paperwork, and submit a copy of her birth certificate. I got everything she needed and made sure she got it.
She never filed it.
When Mom died, I came across the paperwork, so I contacted the adoption office in Albuquerque to see if I could get access to the records. Despite the fact that I am her daughter, the only person who could access the records was Mom, and now that she's dead, there is no way to access the records.

I have no information on my birth father, and have never met him. Mom used to say I looked like him, but that's all the information I have.

So here I am- 36, no Mom, no history, no heritage.

When I visited Lance's dad, Hank in Hilo, Hawaii, I was overwhelmed by the the family history. Hank is very involved with the Community Center and gathering pictures tracing the history. There's a whole group involved with keeping up with the history of Camp 5 on Piihonua Road in Hilo, Hawaii. They are the descendents of people who worked on the sugar and pineapple plantations.

That's Hank in the background near the wall at Pi'ihonua Kaikan.

 Here's Hank walking into Pi'ihonua Kaikan to introduce me and show me around.

Hank lives in the home his mother raised six children in. His family emigrated to Hawaii from Okinawa and his father eventually returned to Okinawa, leaving his mother to raise all of the children on her own.
The Shimabukuro family tree is huge, and confusing, with many of the aunts, uncles, and cousins having the same name.
They can trace their ancestry. They are surrounded by their own history- on Piihonua Road, there is a plethora of relatives' homes. Hank is 81 and has stories of the tsunami that struck when he lost classmates, life on the plantation, and lots and lots of stories about family. There are stories of parents, grandparents, and great grandparents. Cousins, aunts, uncles and

It's a rich heritage and culture and I am very jealous.
I have no black and white pictures of ancestors. I cannot trace my ancestry. I have no stories to pass down. And even if I did, there is no one to pass them down to.
My family consists of my sister, Alexis and my step-father, Lance. Lance has a huge family, but I'm 36, and his step-daughter, so it's not like I have a lot of access to all of that history.

In the modern world, that seems to value family and history less and less, perhaps this is not such a spectacular thing. There are lots of people with history, who have no desire to be tied to it. Perhaps it's a case of you always want what you do not have. Those with a rich history and family heritage have no desire to be tied down by it. Those of us without history have a hunger for something to ground us.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Flipping through pages

When Mom died, there were many things to do- go through her clothes, her papers, the library, straighten up. Most of it happened in a whirlwind. I don't know if it's better to do it right away, or better to wait until you're not in a complete mental stupor.
It was two months later before I could go through her papers and tidy up the library. Even then, I couldn't bear to look at her journals. A quick glance through some of the pages showed that I was in no mental state to face whatever was in there.
I gathered them all together, and put them in a box and put them in the garage.
They've sat there for a year and a half. I've been unable to face them.

This summer, with my time off, I was determined to find the time, make the time, to sit down and go through them all at once.
The more recent ones are difficult to read. There's more than a touch of madness to the pages. Most pages reflect what had become her life- a daily litany of her medications and a recording of how often she took what. I feature prominently- she states that she hated me, that I made her miserable. That I was mean, distant, had a chip on my shoulder, and in one passage, describes me as having multiple personalities. There's an overwhelming theme that she could live a good, happy life if only she could escape here, and I suppose me. I was condescending, pitying, and angry.
Hard does not describe what it is like to read detailed descriptions of how much your mother hates you. She details how the vision of her having the perfect, loving relationship with her daughter was a lie.
I will be the first one to tell you that life those last few years was hard, and I know I was nowhere near my best. I've written here about the immense guilt I feel about that, that I never made amends, never made the most of the time we had together. But never, not for a single instant, did I ever not love my mother. I never would have even considered hating her. She frustrated me, the situation saddened me, I felt lost, and alone. But never did I hate her. She was my mother, and I loved her more than anything else. And it breaks my heart into a million little pieces that these were some of the thoughts that she had in these last few years.

I grabbed journals at random- more than half have only a few pages written in them, and then nothing but a fan of blank pages. There were over twenty all told, and most from the last few years. I cried openly at most. I was saddened by all. But I was glad that I sat down and read them all, not stopping at the ones that hurt so much.
It's a different picture as you travel through time, moving backwards through the pages.
The earlier ones, she is proud of my work in NYC, happy I became a teacher, ecstatic at my visits home, our coffee time talks long distance. Taken as whole, it is easier to see that perhaps her hatred is to be taken with some perspective given her illness, that the amount of pain medication she was on could have affected her moods, her feelings. I'd like to believe that her feelings are a complete result of her illness, of the mental problems we saw those last eight years with mood swings, memory loss, and anger. I think the answer probably lies somewhere in the middle. I choose to believe that my mother loved me, and could never have hated me. I choose to believe that her illness, the drugs she was on, and being housebound, did produce a kind of madness. I choose to believe that it is this madness that speaks through the pages of so many of her later journals.
So many of my good memories of Mom are tainted by the many years of her being sick. I would like to hold onto the good memories as much as I can.

Mom's journals were filled with Post-It notes, cards, stickers, random lists. It seems pretty clear where I got that from! Mom was notorious for leaving notes everywhere. She constantly left me notes on the coffeemaker, put notes in my lunchbox (even once I was an adult and teaching!). They were silly, they were loving, they were constant reminders of how much she loved me.
I came across one such "Coffemaker Note" in one of her journals.
I've laminated it so I can keep it close.
This is what I want to remember about my mother. That she loved me. That she set the coffeemaker for me on early school days. That she left cute notes for me. That I was her Ichi-ban.
I have to believe all of these things, because I think if I had to believe that my mother hated me for the last seven years of her life, it would kill me.
Perhaps that's the thing once people are gone- you are left with only puzzle pieces, and the image they form is up to you.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Week 2 Post ACL 2

Week 1 Recap
Nehi spent most of her first week post-op sleeping. I count myself lucky, having read some other post-op stories online. I don't have to towel walk Nehi to move around, while she's not putting full weight on her right leg, she is walking, and can go outside to go to the bathroom and everything by herself. She is also great about self regulating. She sleeps in her crate, goes outside and sleeps in the sun, sleeps in the bathroom, sleeps on the couch. She's been very chill, and not overdoing it.
I was a little concerned about her getting up on the couch, but while she is slow about it, she doesn't seem to have any problem. The bed is another story. Since her diagnosis months ago of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, I got rid of my bed frame, and just have the box spring and mattress on the floor. However, it's still high, reaching to my knee. Nehi was using the steamer trunk as a stepping stool. A couple of nights ago, she slipped, and froze in a Superman pose with her arms on the bed. My heart stopped. Once she was stable though, she got up. Since then though, she's spent her nights sleeping on the couch. I miss cuddling with my baby, but whatever is comfortable.
She's eating well, and taking all her medicine because I mush it into the disgusting wet food.
Week 2
So the end of Week 1 check up went great. Dr. Grossman took off the bandage (I can't believe that Nehi left it alone all week!) and said it looks great, and that he thinks this surgery may have gone better than the last one.
I asked about walks- as Nehi almost ran when I grabbed the leash to take her to the vet this morning. Dr. Grossman said she was ready for short walks to contain her energy. I was happy to hear this, as I rather not sedate her.
She should finish her antibiotics and Rimadyl this week, so we'll see how she does once she's finished with that. I know I'll be happier NOT to give her wet food (gack!).
Hopefully, she'll continue to self regulate and continue to just rest. We'll see. If not, I'll sedate her.
We'll see how it goes for our check up next week.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

ACL Reset- Week 1

I got to bring Nehi home today.
All the front desk ladies were very sweet, and I know that's one thing that makes all of this easier on me- I never worry about the quality of care that Nehi receives at Roanoke Island Animal Clinic.
Dr. Grossman says the surgery went great- if possible, even better than the first one. I asked about whether I should be worried about stress on the other surgery leg, but he said that by the time scar tissue formed, it was pretty steady, so I shouldn't have to worry.
I was worried that she would have a hard time getting in the truck with both legs, but she did okay. As soon as we got home, she tried several spots on the floor, but couldn't seem to get comfortable. Finally, she settled in her crate, and slept for a few hours. She roused to go sit in the sun a little, but it's freaking hot outside, so she soon retreated to the cool tile, and is sleeping soundly.

Here's Our Routine for Week 1 Post Op:
  • Rimadyl and antibiotics twice a day. Nehi loves this because the antibiotics have to be taken with food, and the only way to make sure Nehi does this is to hide it in wet food. I've never seen her eat so fast!  I hate it because I don't think dog food should smell the same going in as it does coming out. I practically throw up cleaning the yard. I must really love my dog.
  • Lock Down: no nothing. No stairs, no having fun, no walks, no nothing. She gets to lay down. That's it. Baby gate has gone back up on the stairs going upstairs, so no visiting the kitties either.
  • With Nehi, I have to watch the bandages. She hates bandages. Last time, she chewed the Ace bandage in half trying to get it off. This time, I'm keeping a close eye on her with it. The longer she can keep the compression bandage on, the better. For now, she doesn't have the cone of shame on, but if she starts on the bandage, I'm going to put the neck brace on her. I really want to get her to her week 1 check up with the bandage still on. Although Dr. Grossman did say that if it fell off not to stress about it.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Other ACL?

So Nehi and I were out in the yard playing with her famous donut. I was glad to see this because she's been sleeping a lot the last couple of days, when she was playing the end of last week, so I was a little worried.
She ran into the ran garden, made the most God awful yelp, a sound I've never heard from her. At first I thought she'd gotten stung by the bumble bee she was snapping at earlier. And then she limped towards me.  It was her other leg, the "good" one, the non-surgery one.
I came inside, called the Emergency Vet number, got voicemail, left a message, and hung up. I made good use of my time waiting by getting dressed and putting shoes on. I even considered going ahead and getting Nehi in Baby Truck and heading over to the vet so that we'd be there to meet the vet.
The vet on call called back. And said to give her some Rimadyl if I had it left over and bring her in tomorrow- because I knew the drill, they'd have to sedate her to get her relaxed enough to feel the knee, then take x-rays.

I was a little incredulous. And really wished I'd gotten another answer. Or a different doctor on call, like the one who's been treating Nehi.

I gave Nehi the medicine, and she's laying down quietly. Mostly. She's crying a bit, and can't seem to get comfortable. I keep trying to get her to just lay on the floor, and not stress the leg anymore, but I just watched as she awkwardly got up on the couch, tried to find a comfortable position, and then shift a lot trying to find a good position. She finally abandoned the couch for the floor again.

I know I'm a freak about my dog. I will be the first to admit that. And I'm sure for most pet owners, if their pet is in pain, they want to try and fix it as soon as possible. So, maybe I'm an over-reacting lunatic. It's more than possible.
But's she's lying in front of me, doing this weird growling/crying thing. And I'm trying really to channel Cesar Millan and stay calm, and not stressed, so Nehi doesn't become more anxious. But it's really hard. She's my Bebe. And it's twelve hours until the vet's office opens.

So, I called back, said she was in a lot of pain, and was there anything we could do for her tonight. She said bring her in.
I take back any unkind thought I previously had, once we got there the doctor on call was as nice as could be, and was very understanding and explained what I needed to do to help. Good thing I used to work for these guys in high school!
So, we tried light sedating her (with a muzzle of course, because I was acting as vet tech). Doctor tried to feel the knee with that, but Nehi was too tense and wasn't having it. So Doctor asked me what I wanted to do. To save Nehi the sedation again tomorrow morning, and give them more options if they had to do surgery, I chose the heavy/out sedation. We waited for it to take effect so Doctor could feel her knee. And, yep, Nehi tore her other ACL. She couldn't tell how much, but was betting because she did it acutely, and the level of pain she was in, that it was bad.
So, surgery scheduled for tomorrow.
We stretchered an out Nehi out to Baby Truck, and then put her in her seat.

Not even thinking, when Doctor asked me if I had someone at home to help, I of course said sure! Called Dad from the driveway, and asked him to bring out a comforter, turn on the outside lights and help. It was only once we had Nehi's weight that I remembered that Dad has injured (probably torn) his shoulder. I tried to take most of Nehi's weight, but he wouldn't let me. We barely made it in the door before setting Nehi on the floor.

She's just now coming out of it- doing that weird bobble headed thing, an hour later. I'm weighing getting her into bed with a cookie against the no food the night before surgery. I'll drop her off tomorrow morning and she'll have surgery tomorrow afternoon, and then stay overnight and I'll pick her up Wednesday morning.

As upset as I was the first time, it was all business this time. Nehi doesn't need a blithering idiot, she needs a Mom who will take care of her.
Calm, assertive energy. See, Cesar, I'm learning.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Five Weeks Out From ACL

Nehi had her last post-op check up last week, but her annual yesterday. Dr. Grossman says she's doing great, and has rarely seen a dog recover so quickly. Which I love to hear!
On a side note to the ACL, I asked since Nehi was now three, if maybe we could see if she was old/mature enough to be over her protectiveness.
When I first started taking Nehi to the vet's at three months when I got her, one of the vets told me that the reason they had such a hard time working on her was because she was so protective of me. So, after Nehi attempted to snap at a couple of techs, we decided that the best thing was to take Nehi in the back. She was a completely different dog- submitted easily to treatment, and they never had a problem.
Anyway, rewind to yesterday- I asked one of the techs, and as she petted Nehi, she said she didn't think protectiveness was a problem, or else Nehi wouldn't let her pet her. Brought the same thing up with Dr. Grossman, and he said we'd try it in the room and see. I held Nehi's head while he checked her knee. Nehi growled, but stopped when I said "No". The shots were a different story. Partway through one and Nehi tried to snap. Now, I know how to hold a dog, so there was no way she was going anywhere, but even Dr. Grossman stepped back. He took her in the back and same thing as always, she was a doll. Guess she'll just always have to go in the back! Doesn't matter to me, and since it seems to make it a less traumatic experience for Nehi, it's all good!
When he brought her back, he commented that it was a hell of a bond that we had. This led to a conversation about what Nehi's breed might be. He said you could definitely see the Shepherd, but what else? I said that a friend had said Nehi looked like a Ridgeback to him. The Doctor said that would make sense, that he never truly trusted Ridgebacks, and the aggressive/protectiveness could definitely come from that, although Shepherds, particularly female Shepherds, often had the same instinct. While we talked, Nehi was fine, and he was able to give her cookies. He was impressed at the difference in her, and complimented me on how gentle Nehi was with her mouth. I told him that was A LOT of work when she was a puppy, because I was aware, because of her breed, that she had a hell of a bite pressure.
He asked how she was about others, and I explained that we didn't have many visitors at the house, and she had a stranger-danger bark, but once I let people in, she quickly settled down with most people. With the exceptions, they are people that you can tell that aren't comfortable with big dogs, although Nehi does try and play dominance games with most people who come in the house until I correct her, as they are too timid to- she can be intimidating. So far, there's only one person that when they come to visit Nehi lays down on the couch with and actually falls asleep!
Dr. Grossman was even more amazed when Nehi let me give him a hug at the end. She's well trained enough that her protectiveness has limits.
So, clean bill of health for Nehi, and hopefully, we won't be back at the vet for anything other than monthly heartworm/flea and nail clipping.

So, enough of a side trip...
She's back to eating her full bowl of food, which is great and this week was the first time she picked up her toys and showed any interest in playing.
We're right now just at one walk in the morning, just two blocks down and back (roughly 1/4 mile). By the end of this, she's favoring the leg a little, so we're going to have to work back up to our normal 1 mile, 2 times a day.

I think it's possible she's overdone it  in her excitement this week. Today she was limping after our walk. Although she's favored it more after walks (and part of the reason we're doing walks in the morning, rather than the evening when she's tired), today she seems a lot more stiff than she has been. She also is uninterested in toys today, or much else, other than just laying in bed, or in the sun.
It's not a bad way to spend a lazy Saturday, but hope she keeps feeling better as I've read some dogs tear their other ACL when compensating for a healing one.
Dad says I'm just being a Mom.
Dr. Grossman told me yesterday that for a human, the recovery from ACL surgery is six months of constant rehabilitation, so not to worry. He said that the walks are plenty of rehab for her.  She's also on Dasuquin chews which, if anything can, might prevent her blowing the other ACL. If not, I certainly have surgery and post-op down to a science!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Updates on Nehi's ACL

So, the problem I'm having this week has to do with reference. I don't know what Nehi's incision should look like. I don't know if her constantly laying on that leg is bad. I don't know. I'm supposed to take her back for her two week check up on Friday. But I'm such a worry-wart mom that I wonder if I'm messing up her recovery by not taking her now.

She was feeling much better the past couple of days, so she's been whining a lot because I won't let her go outside to play. I'm sticking to my instructions and restricting her to the house/inside. When she's in the house, she's mostly sleeping on the bed, or the couch. But she's sleeping ON her incision, and I don't know if that's bad or not. She seemed to move better Monday than yesterday. Monday she was placing her weight on the leg, and walking fine. Yesterday she was alternating with putting weight on it and not.
She's crated during the day, not licking it and not running around, so I guess my concern is her laying on the incision is doing it harm.

I've tried Googling what "good" post-op  ACL incisions look like, but the info out there seems to be mainly what to do as an owner post-op, rather than how to tell if you're an awful mother.
This site was helpful, because as much as I love my vet, received no written instructions. This vet's site gave specific expectations of what each week should bring:
Still, I'm a visual person- which I had some pictures to side by side compare with Nehi- I really do work myself into a fit about whether or not I'm doing the right thing. Yet more proof that human children would kill me.
This website was helpful for people's personal stories of their dog's ACL surgeries and recoveries, but still not what I was looking for.

I suppose I'll split the difference: call the vet at lunch, see what they say, and go from there. Oy.
I know I probably make myself sick with stress about this. But, well that's me.

P.S The vet's office says Nehi laying on her incision is fine, that if it hurt her she wouldn't do it. She said swelling was normal- "Pink and puffy was fine, red and swollen was not". The English teacher in me wanted to point out that is semantics and now would have me arguing with myself over what the difference between pink and red was, as well as puffy vs. swollen. Double Oy. Can I just go home now? I could easily argue that Nehi needs me more than my students.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Daily Difficulties

Perhaps it's the nature of life that as soon as we think we've found stable footing, it feels as though the ground has collapsed beneath us. Whether big or small, these things always seem to rock us back and make it difficult to see where we should head next, to know what the next steps are.

Last Thursday, when I got home, Nehi was limping. We've dealt with problems with her mobility the last few months, so I thought maybe she'd pulled something. I wanted to take her straight to the vet, but Dad said to wait a day and see if she was okay. By Friday night, she was the same, so I took her to the vet first thing Saturday morning. I fully expected something related to the Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever from a few months ago or maybe a sandspur she wouldn't let me see.
Instead, a vet with no bedside manner informed me she had torn her ACL and needed surgery. I had two choices- have it immediately, with a doctor I knew and trusted, or wait a month for a doctor I didn't know. Anyone that knows how I feel about Nehi can see this was a no brainer- I went with immediate and the doctor I knew.

She had surgery Monday, and it went fine and I was able to pick her up and bring her home on Tuesday. True to form, it was Thursday night before she began to chew on her bandages and lick her incision. I put one of Mom's old neck braces on her for the night as a stop gap.

Then it was back to the vet on Friday. Dr. said it was the bandage that was bothering her, so he took it off, and said she was fine and the incision was looking good.
She started putting weight on it yesterday, although I'm grateful it has rained all week so she is more inclined to take it easy and not run around.
She's loving the wet food she's getting because she needs a full stomach to take her medicine on (and it lets me try and hide her pills in it). Although she cracked a pill today, and spit the medicine all over the floor, so I guess I have to work harder at hiding them.
She seems to be doing fine, and I'm feeling better about it all, especially after friends have shared positive success stories about their own bebes. I'm still not sleeping great, mainly because every time she moves, I'm up to see if everything's okay.
But here's the big meandering back to my original point- the news of this wrecked me, and threw me for a loop. I was just starting to feel like I had a grip of things, and then comes along the knowledge that Nehi has to have surgery, the $1000 expense, the two month recovery time, the cost of follow up visits, the stress of whether or not she'd be okay, the worrying that her other ACL will blow (which is does in 50% of cases where one has). I went from thinking things were okay, and suddenly there's all this STUFF.
And this is on top of all the other STUFF already weighing down- still dealing with Mom's death a year later. Trying to figure out how to balance full time teaching, online teaching, adding on adjunct teaching at the community college. Trying to make some life changes.
At first, it feels like the straw that broke the camel's back. And you fall to your knees with the weight of it. Because you can't believe that now there's ONE MORE THING you have to deal with, and you weren't doing such a great job before.
But here's my personal belief- there are those of us who are survivors, and those of us who just aren't. There are people in the world that when these things happen just throw up their arms, blame the world, and give up. And while I know people that are like this, I have never understood them.
So I cried when I got in the truck with Nehi last weekend. And I mourned the loss of my safety net savings. And I worried about what it would all mean. And then I put it away.
I took the money out of savings to pay for the surgery.
I calculated what goals and projects were going to have to be put on hold because of this.
I dealt with the immediate issue of taking care of Nehi.
I ignored everything else.
And I kept going.

Now, my dog being injured may seem irrelevant to other people. And it probably is. I know people who are struggling with being unemployed for over a year, who are raising kids on their own, struggling with juggling work and raising families amongst a hundred difficulties. Life is rough all over, and maybe Nehi's ACL surgery seems small compared to all of that. But it's not small to  me. I think with most of us, it is these smaller things that can seem so much worse than the big things we're juggling or dealing with. Sometimes it is the small straw that does break the camel's back.

But sometimes, it's just the  weight that you add to your pack, adjust to, and keep going.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Making Your Own Happiness- just add...?

In the words of Abraham Lincoln, "Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be."

I read this today, and it made me stop and think. I totally agree with this quote. I am a firm believer that you can make your own happiness. That if you're not happy, it's completely up to you to change something- your job, your home, your geography, your relationship.
But I also wonder at what point, if you're doing all you can, you have to stop and re-evaluate what is obviously not working. How long do you give something? Friends of Dad set themselves a five year deadline to sell their home, their business, and live life on a sailboat (you can follow their great adventures here:
No offense to Tammy or Chip, but five years seems like forever. If you're not looking for a move that big, maybe just a change of pace, how long do you give yourself?
The last six months have seemed really hard spiritually and emotionally. As I approached the one year anniversary of Mom being gone, I started to contemplate what I wanted my life to be. Everyone said to wait at least a year before making any big decisions. But I found, as the one year mark came up, that I allowed myself to start thinking.
I've been here eight years, and while I wouldn't trade it, it certainly wasn't of my choosing. So I began to think about what I wanted. What I want to choose.
  • To make the transition to teaching college (preferably community college, as they accept Masters degrees)
  • If I can't make the transition with the experience I have, then apply to doctorate programs and get myself the experience/piece of paper I need to teach college
  • Get published in scholarly journals
  • Continue to present at conferences
But it's been rough. The rejection. The stress. Wondering if I'm doing the right thing. Wondering if this is really what I want. Growing unhappiness. It seems as though I'm treading water. I think I'm doing everything I can, but without a support system, it's hard to know if I'm navigating the waters the best way I can.

So, universe? What words of advice do you have for me?

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Worst Advice

The worst advice I ever received was from a priest. He meant well, and I suppose I meant well in going to him for advice, but it was the worst advice I could have gotten and the consequences are something I hate myself for almost every day.
I went to him because his mother had suffered from Alzheimer's, and I thought he might have some advice on how to deal with a parent who appeared to be disappearing before your very eyes. His advice was to realize that they were no longer the person that they once were, that in order to deal with them every day, you had to separate yourself from your memories of them and how they were, who they were. That the best way to deal with all of it was to think of her as a different person. I was drowning in everything associated with watching my mom seem to fade away, it seemed like sound advice, and I followed it, and it was the worst advice ever.

Because it wasn't true. My mom was still my mom. She was the person who sang me to sleep by singing "White Christmas", who read to me every night when I was little, who left the window open in winter so that Peter Pan could still get in, who hugged me, and supported me, and was my best friend, who I spoke to every day, several times a day, who made me who I am today. As she got sick, part of her frustration was that she couldn't do the things she was used to doing: drive, be independent, do anything for herself. She seemed to be trapped in her own body. But that's just it- she was still her in there. Somewhere, with all the mood swings, the spells, the altered states, my mom was still in there somewhere.

And by following that advice, I ignored that. I disavowed the fact that my mom was there and needed me, perhaps more than she ever did before. And I will always regret that. I have to live with the fact that perhaps when she needed me most, I wasn't there. She was scared, and felt alone, and instead of her daughter being there, her daughter treated her differently, held her at arm's length.
Friends have told me to let it go, that I did everything I could. That I was under an incredible amount of stress and did the best I could. But the simple fact is, I didn't. My best would have been to ask her more what she needed, what she needed. To get her out of the house, to take her shopping, to play in the yard with her and Nehi more. To invite her down to watch movies. To make absolutely sure that she knew every day that I loved her, was there for her and always would be.
I guess that's the thing with long term illness, you get lulled into a false sense of security. You come to terms with the fact that they're sick. And then you assume that it will just be like that. That they'll be sick, but they'll be there. We thought Mom would get worse, we all saw it, but we thought she'd be here. And we took that for granted.
I took it for granted. Losing my temper, or not doing all I could every day didn't seem like that big a thing, because I always figured that there would be a day to make it up. We could hang out next week. We could play tomorrow. We could talk later.

Father's advice seemed to exacerbate all of that. It was a coping mechanism for the long term. It was a way to disassociate yourself. It seemed like a solid answer in seven years of nothing but questions.
The problem with all of that, is that it ran counter to everything that defined my relationship with my mother. She had always been my best friend. She had always been the one I was closest to. She was the one I told everything to, who I counted on to see me through. It's almost a year later, and I still don't know how to get through my life without her. I don't have anyone to talk to, to ask what I should do, to share my life with.
I should not have listened. I should have known in my heart that my mom was in there, somewhere, trapped more on some days than on others. I should have done more, worked harder. And there is not a day that goes by that the guilt of that doesn't eat me from the inside out. The nights that I can do nothing but say "I'm sorry, Mommy" to thin air. To nothing, because there's nothing there. She is not here for me to make it up to her. She is not here for me to make it better. There is nothing I can do to make this right.
This is the last picture I have of her. 26 December 2011. We'd had snow over the Christmas holiday, which Mom and Nehi both loved being out in. It's a statement of how distant I'd become that she features in so few of the pictures I took in those last months. Like everything else, you think you'll have more time. The person I loved most in the world, I let down in the end, and I don't know how anyone lives with that.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Teachers should have a device on their desk with pre-recorded messages

One of my favorite blogs is Rants from Mommyland. I am not a mother, however, the stories about their kids, their lives and the schmidt (to borrow one of their phrases) that they deal with on a day to day basis is just hysterical, or depending on the day, heart-breaking.
The other day they posted this, and since it's the end of the semester, couldn't help but think of the things teachers say FOUR MILLION TIMES a day, but particularly at the end of the semester. This led me to the absolutely insane conversations I have.
  • Yes, this assignment counts
  • Stop texting during class (followed by "give me your phone". Often responded to by "But it's my mom")
  • Don't call people "faggot"
  • Don't call people "retard"
  • Yes, you should copy the board notes 
  • Don't talk when directions are being given
  • Yes, you needed your notebook for class
    • And the book we're reading in class
    • And a writing utensil
    • And the work that was due today
Student: Did you get the email I sent you?
Me: Let me explain the concept of email, if you sent it, I got it. (followed by, check your sent mail)

Student: Why don't I have a grade for this essay?
Me: Did you turn it in?
Student: No.
Me: ?????

Student: Can you repeat those directions?
Me: The ones I just spent 20 minutes going over? That you didn't hear because you were talking?

Student: I don't understand why I'm failing
Me: On your missing task list, do you see the tests you failed that you didn't retake?
Student: Yes
Me: And those low/failing/missing essay grades?
Student: Yes
Me: And your failing notebook grade because it was blank?
Student: Yes
Me: Did you ever come to after school tutoring or Saturday school?
Student: No
Me: So, what exactly is the point of confusion?