30 April 2007

Ronnie James Deodorant

The organization I work for just hosted its first Big Golf Event, complete with country music celebrity and catered lunch that gave me hideous (and hilarious) gas, volunteers with bling worth more than my car, and lots of lazing around in a rocker on the clubhouse porch. And once again I find myself in the Great Summer Deodorant Crisis, also known as the Summer of B.O. So don't be offended, because I'm not hugging ANYONE past eleven in the morning for at least the next four months. This is Tennessee, folks. It's already been in the upper eighties and it's not going to slow down.


Bird has pee-peed in the potty twice in two days. The first time, she stood up in the bath and said "pee pee", so A. yanked her swiftly out of the tub and onto the potty, where she peed. And then we made a big joyful ruckus about the whole thing while she slipped and slid around in the puddle of bath water around the potty. She looked panicked at best. Maybe we should have toned it down a little bit-- two adults and one child is far over capacity in our tiny 1930s bathroom, where you can turn on the tub faucet, close the door, and wash your hands without ever leaving the toilet.

The second time was today, and it included some Easter-candy bribes and less fanfair. It happened while I was running the bath, and I let her run around naked while the tub finished filling. This event also included a poop in the laundry basket in the kitchen, somehow, in the few seconds between the joyous peeing and Bird hitting the bathwater. This is the second box-poop for our little housecat of a toddler, if you're keeping score.

Also, Bird got bit by another kid at daycare yesterday-- an anonymous kid, as the staff are not permitted to share the biter's identity with the bit-kid's mama, for fear that she would call up the biter's mama and give her an earful. At dinner, I was running through my usual battery of questions about Bird's day: Did you play with Jack? Did you play with Julian? Did you color with crayons? etc. (the answer is always "yes!") I asked, "What happened to your arm today?" and she said, "Abby. Bite. No bite, Abby."

So it was Abby, the kid new on the Toddler scene fresh from the nursery. Abby the biter. Birdy the snitch.


My office has become a baby factory lately, with two of four employees pregnant. Which means less working and more talking about babies, which makes me want to dash to my car and go swoop Bird up from daycare, and also makes me want to be pregnant again. Just a little bit.

One of the people I work with has started keeping a blog detailing her pregnancy, and has shared this with the others in the office. And it was announced last week that "we should all get blogs!" and how blogger is free and easy, and all of that. It's like I'm the last person hiding behind the closet door in a grown-up game of hide-and-seek. My cover may be blown very soon. Not that I would especially care if any of these people were readers, but I do enjoy the separation of church and state as it is at present.

I'm off again to Chattanooga in the morning to visit patients, and charging the camera batteries as we speak. You know, just in case.

20 April 2007

One Candle

So, this blog is a year old today. Like with the concept of email in the nineties, I was a little blind and slow to warm to the blogiverse, but look at me now. With a one-year-old blog and an eighteen month old baby and a nearly ten-year-old relationship and I'm still talking about pooping. A lot.

And you know what's crazy? The first blog I read belongs to a woman in my neighborhood with a baby Bird's age. She included her blogger link on her listserv signature, and I noticed, and I went there. And I still follow it, as she is a powerhouse of a mama and I feel connected to her since she unknowingly guided me to this public journaling madness that makes me a better writer and a better historian and a better examiner of the goings-on in my little life. And tonight, on my blogiversary, I met her in person at a mama-community event. Well well well. Circles and cycles, indeed.

So thank you for reading, and stick around if you'd like. Because Birdy turns two in about six months and that is going to be a joyful and headache-inducing wild ride. (She's already started to shout "MINE!" at regular intervals, to no one in particular). And I'm going to be easing my little boat into the waters of massage therapy, and probably falling out and banging my shin on the rocks while the whole senior class stands on the shore and laughs at me because my swimsuit bottoms are wedged up my crack. And you may want to be there for that.

Hey, that's my job.

The other day a friend asked me what it is exactly that I do for money. So I thought I would try to cover that a little bit here, since someday down the road this job will have been just a blip along the way and I won't remember much about the details.

I work for a non profit organization that serves people and families that are dealing with a terrible and deadly disease. I don't want anybody out there trying to Google for legitimate information about it and wind up in my little pit here, so I'll be all secret-y: the disease is named after an old timey sports figure and goes by initials, which are the same initials as Abby Loves Shoes. Got that? Okay. Because basically it means that your muscles and your brain are going to stop talking, and the muscles will stop working and you will be completely paralyzed, including your tongue and your face and your fingers and your toes--everything, so no moving or talking, and your mind will remain sharp as a tack. And you will be trapped in your own rigid body. And then you'll slowly lose the ability to breathe and then you will leave this world. It's grim.

So I visit patients and families, try to explain things to them, loan them pieces of equipment, answer questions, talk about end-of-life wishes, and help them prepare for the shitty journey of this shitty disease.

It sounds like a heart-wrenching job, and it is in a lot of ways. But for me, it is surprisingly not that difficult. I think partially because I've got so much other shit going on and I can't focus well on anything, even dying people, and also (mostly) because I've become really good at protecting myself emotionally when it comes to this kind of work. Maybe I'll be hashing out some serious shit with a therapist in twenty years, but for now, I can keep my distance surprisingly well.

Anyway. I do a lot of driving around and trying to find patients' houses to do home visits. And a lot of them live out in the nowheres in rural Tennessee. This is a part of the job I am really terrible at, as I am missing some kind of directional sequence fold in my brain. I drive along, and whatever just happened? Whatever turn I just made? Completely gone, like it never happened. I have the directional memory of a rat, and that makes the job both more difficult and more interesting (see the spaceship house? ) I have learned to trust MapQuest over Google Maps, by a long shot. And I am always so satisfied and amazed when the maps are always right, a little glimpse of the logic and the orderliness of the world according to a map. That things are there, where they're supposed to be. Like a complicated recipe that actually turns out looking a little bit like the picture. A finished crossword. That kind of satisfaction.

I love the drives, though, as they are usually long stretches of peaceful time for me. I think of things to write about. I think of things I want to make. I think of things I want to do and things I want to stop doing. I drive along in the bright green hills in a bit of a misty rain and I hear Gymnopedie No. 1 and I get teary about the perfection of the imperfect moment. It's my informal meditation, and probably the reason I can't find my own ass with both hands when I'm driving, because the destination is really so secondary.

I also eat fast food on the road, a habit I'd broken completely until this job. I now remember the difference between a Wendy's cheese sandwich and the same cheese sandwich from McDonalds. I can identify fries by brand from twenty feet away. And while I don't love the idea of eating so much total shit, I really don't like the idea of stepping foot in an unnamed, dilapidated shack with a rented marquee out front that reads, "We make pizza now." Because most of the time, that is my only other option. At least I know the McDonalds is going to have running water.

I also kick myself on every drive for not bringing a camera along, because I can't capture the crazy beauty and imbalance I see all along the way, like the falling down house this week at the intersection of two county roads, with junk and tires and an old bed frame and some lawn chairs covering the porch, littering the lawn. Painted in large letters on the front of the house: "I'm Deaf." Painted under that: "Beware of Dog" Lying under that: ninety year old dog, fast asleep, maybe dead or close to it.

Or the kelly-green field full of literally romping goats and sheep, and chickens and ducks and all kinds of other creatures, so chock full of story book animals that Birdy would have had a stroke just looking at it. Or the giant Jesus perched on the side of a hill, an adoring mass of broken-down Fords bowing at his feet. But the camera stays at home on the desk and I just have to tell you about it.

And I love the crazy families the most, like the over-educated, dirt-poor rural religious compound types that keep an insane collection of fringe-type religious pamphlets displayed, library style, and I feel like they're sizing me up to make a stew out of me with some potatoes as I sit in their living room and tell them step-by-step how their loved one is going to die. I feel certain that I will walk into a situation at some point where the patient has been dead for months and the spouse has lost it and keeps trying to sit them up in bed to take a drink of water. Because people? People are crazy. It's the ones drowning in resources, financially on top, mere miles from fantastic medical care and established social support that can't cope with the thought of a missed pedicure that I'd prefer to avoid like the plague. Because, yawn. Give me nutso bonzo any day.

And I do some things in an office, as well, like make up forms and return phone calls. That's the part of my job that knits my back into a hard wall of pain from my keyboard-centered posture and makes me want to run screaming from the building sometimes. But it's also the part of my job that makes it possible to catch up on bloglines and get all worked up about craft projects I'll never start. I have the time to write from time to time, or just to TCB online for a little while. So no complaints. Except for the people dying all the time, I mean.

Would you like a piece of cake?

Today is this blog's first birthday. There is a real entry brewing, but until then, I've written a haiku.

Sorry, I slept in
this tank top and yes, I'm still
wearing it today

More later.

13 April 2007

Bird and other, larger Birds.

A couple of days ago, while I was in the office by myself for a long and boring day, I turned around to look out the window behind me and saw a giant turkey staring at me from the back yard of our building. He just walked around for about an hour, stretching his wings and pecking at the grass.

The next day, I saw a very large hawk in the backyard, flying from tree to tree and swooping around between them, sometimes standing on the fence or in the yard.

The next day, I saw the turkey and the hawk together in the yard. Not playing croquet or anything, just both at the same time.

What does it all mean? Because those are both large birds, and large birds are harbingers and omens. A sign of something. A sign that I will be job-free by summer, perhaps? A sign that I need psychotropic medication to stop the hallucinations?

Neighborhood Watch
I'm going to give you a glimpse into the un-glamorous world of living in an Urban Neighborhood. For all its cute shops and hipster bars and internet groups and community gardens and Priuses, my neighborhood still has its unsavory residents, and I do live across the street from a row of duplexes that some might find... er... shady. So the other night, around 4am, a car alarm goes off. I look out the window and see the lights flashing but nothing else, so I say a whole rosary of "mother fuckers" and go back to bed. In the morning, I saw this:

Obviously it wasn't random, and there have been some yelling matches and the cops over there on occasion. And the woman who owns the car seemed barely bothered the next morning, which I found a little shocking. I don't feel personally threatened by it, though I don't like the thought that people were being so malicious so close to my peacefully sleeping family. Welcome to the 'hood, y'all.

Bird Update
Bird is up to three and four word sentences, like "baby. clothes. off" and "keys. door. go." and "cat. box. poop." She can also count to four and sing bigger and bigger chunks of her songs by herself. She stands on a chair in the kitchen and helps me make quesadillas. And so many milestones I envision off in the future somewhere are played out right before my very eyes when I go to pick her up at daycare and she is scooting around in circles on a tricycle. Propelled Fred Flinstone-style, but still. I had no idea she was so big. And she has her own life, in a way, which is so strange, and even stranger is that I am not completely heartbroken about that part of it.

The Clubhouse Climber that my parents bought Bird for Christmas has arrived. In two gigantic boxes on a pallet taking up half of our garage. It is frickin huge and it is going to be frickin sweet.

Now, here is a picture of Bird having a lovely breakfast conversation with Thomas, added to this post to make up for the picture of the Hoe car:

And here is a picture of her with my fuzzy socks on her arms, because she's just that silly.

10 April 2007

Holy Effing Eff

Did you think I had run off and left? Set my house on fire and run screaming into the street? Did you mistakenly think I am a person capable of keeping a blog afloat?

Well, I am here, just quiet lately and unable to breathe through all the layers and layers of shit going on. Are things out of control? Yes. Always. Am I okay with that? Yes. Because it has kind of always been this way, hasn't it?

So here are six things I felt like talking about tonight. And one more bonus thing right here in the beginning: our smoke detector battery has started its slow, chirping death this evening, and I don't have the right sized batteries or the right sized arms and legs to reach up to replace it, so it chirps about every four minutes or so, which is making my dogs act like a bunch of weenies and try to crowd under the desk together where they absolutely do not fit. They are driving me nuts. And the cat? The cat shits in the house, in a box, because I not only said it was okay to shit in the house, I invited him to shit right there in that box. It is awesome.

First of all, if the collective world keeps setting out Easter candy, I'm going to keep eating it, and I will be a big fat slug that waddles around holding her belly and whining about how she feels so siiiiiiiiick. Eat your own candy, everybody. I am here to help you, but do not make me help you eat that shit.

Second of all, living with a toddler is like sharing your home with a severely bipolar midget with bowel and bladder control problems, who talks with her mouth full and throws things from time to time. And sleeps in a big, open-topped cage.
Seriously. She gets funnier and more clever, sweeter and more herself every hour. But with that growth comes independence, opinions, the word "no," and periodic short-circuiting that usually ends in mild to moderate bodily injury for one or more parties and, ultimately, a sweaty, teary little exhausted person.
Daycare was closed yesterday and I had the privilege of spending the whole day with Bird, just me and her, playing and running errands and making lunch and flopping around in the big bed. It made this morning's drop-off 300% harder on both of us.

Next item: School. I think the last I spoke of it, I was getting sort of fucked over by the new schedule at school. The update is that I met with the director and she did not receive my carefully crafted email with the zinger at the end, of which I was so proud. There were reasons for the schedule shift and I get that now, but I still think it was handled shittily. She was willing to wheel and deal a little bit with me, and now I will start intern clinic in May (!!) and graduate in September, which is about 8 months earlier than I'd projected. So yay to that.

And to the person that landed here by Google-searching "Massage School rip-off No Jobs," thanks a bunch for bringing up that encouraging scenario.

Removed. It wasn't very nice. Sorry.

I tried to do our taxes on Turbotax, but when it told me we owed $1500 I was certain I had made a mistake. (We had, in fact, made a mistake-- walking around for 12 months with our heads squarely up our asses not having enough tax withheld and not realizing how much contract income was coming in that is now being taxed). So I went to HR Block for the miracle experts to fix it and get us that fat refund they're always talking about on television.

I started just now to write out the whole moment-by-moment encounter, but I'm tired and I've told the story a hundred times already because I needed to hear myself tell it, because the whole time I was sitting there I was pretty sure nobody would believe me when I tried to explain. Like the time I went to the psycho mad-scientist dentist and wondered for years (still do) if I dreamed the whole ordeal, with the goggles and the spelunker's headlamp and the shredding of my gums.

The short version (do I ever do a short version?) is that my tax preparer was blind, for the most part-- definitely not drivable and definitely shopping in the audiobook section-- with one eye looking one direction and one eye not really looking anywhere but definitely not the same direction as the other eye. And he spoke in a barely-audible whisper. And he ignored my questions, or maybe he answered them, who knows? Because his voice was the teensiest, mousiest whisper.

I'm all for people with disabilities getting jobs just like anyone else, and when this guy greeted me at the front desk of HR Block, I got all psychosocial rehabby and was really impressed that they'd hired a disabled guy to be the greeter. Until I realized he was going to do my taxes. That he would be there to read the fine print, literally. And I had dashed in to HR Block on my way back to the office after a patient visit, so it wasn't like I had all damn day.

Collectively, A and I had four W-2's between us, two mortgage interest statements, four 1099s and a shitload of daycare and school receipts. And he read each one with a magnifying glass, less than an inch away from his face, and punched the keys on the keyboard one by one, looked back through the magnifying glass, hovered over the keyboard, punched a key, squinted at the screen. Looked through the magnifying glass, hovered over the keyboard, punched a key, squinted at the screen. Lather, rinse, repeat. All of those forms. I nearly jumped out of my skin.

And at the end? After the blind guy read the teensy numbers off of the complicated forms and performed a barely interactive reading of TurboTax? It was going to cost me TWO HUNDRED SIXTY-EIGHT DOLLARS for the whispering and magnifying and the pecking out of the letters and numbers. On top of the $1500 we do, in fact, owe. The $1500 we don't have immediately available, as we are the definition of paycheck-to-paycheck living.

A blind guy. Did my taxes.

Five and a Half
Visited my in-laws for Easter. Ate yellow foods and brown foods, no green foods. Some small, hard pink and blue foods, also.

Bird hunted Easter eggs in the freezing-ass cold during the day, ate sugary treats in the afternoon, and violently fought sleep Saturday night, forcing us to employ the "cry it out" method which I have used less than five times in the entire almost eighteen months I've been a parent. I just can't see the point in forcing her to fall asleep so lonely and out of control that she collapses in an exhausted heap. That does not feel like a parenting success to me.

While in Indianapolis, I slept in a bed so Downy fresh that I woke up feeling like I'd rubbed a dryer sheet all over the inside of my mouth. Please, if you are having guests, don't double-up on the freshness. Some people just don't like it.

Of course, the only Downy fresh bed I ever sleep in is there at my in-laws' house, and usually we are there for a celebratory occasion and I might be associating waking up in a Downy-fresh bed with waking up with a fierce hangover. In any case, I had little to drink this trip and I can say with certainty that the bed was over-Downied and I stand by my dryer-sheet-in-the-mouth description.

I've been checking Bloglines here and there, though I have not updated my own little corner, thanks to my barely flickering personal life. I find myself getting really jealous of all the crafty blogs- -the women who just decide on a whim to stitch up a sundress or a this or a that or bake homemade bread and take the time to get delighted by this pattern or this thing or this thrift store find or whatever. All with beautiful photos and a true appreciation for little satisfying details. I'm not talking about jealousy like "oh, that's so well done! I love that! Omigah! I'm so jealous!" I'm talking about actual, poisonous jealousy of these bloggers and their fucking awesome crafts. I covet their time and their productive use of it. I have a traffic jam of shit to crank through before I can even speak the words "sewing machine" or even "photoshop" outloud.

But I can say "Fuck!" outloud! Also "Fuck this!" and "Fuck that!" and "For fuck's sake, cat, get out of the fucking sink!" Because I am prim and sweet and I dream of stitching up some aprons.