Thursday, June 29, 2006

I am so totally like... Super!

I have been informed by a very credible source, my 5 year old, that in the event that the whole family became super heros, I would be Sarcasm Girl. She went on to say that she would be Fast Girl (because, you see, she is very fast), Emma would be Annoying Girl (because little sisters can be annoying), and daddy would be Invisible Boy.

I said, "Wait, when you ask me what super powers I would like to have I always say invisibility. I should be Invisible Girl." I am serious, I would love to be able to disappear at will, and have a little solitude, a little me time. "Nope", she said, "you're Sarcasm Girl."

John and I discussed what super powers we would want for a few minutes. Some people like to talk about gas prices, energy conservation and recycling, but not us. We like to imagine that we are the main character of a recent movie or show, and we discuss what we would do different to change the outcome of the movie. We also like to talk about the various supporting roles, artistic imagery in key scenes, and the psychological undertones and emotions. We're deep, that's how we roll. Anyway, John couldn't decide between the power to fly or super strength, I stuck with invisibility.

In the end, you can't always pick you strengths so I vowed to Anna to try to use my powers of Sarcasm for good, not evil. It occurred to me that the apple doesn't fall far from the tree, as they say. There have been quite a few times Anna has said something to John with a "sookie" and the flourish of a finger snap, to which John responds with a brief moment of glowering silence, then, "Hmm, I wonder where she got that from?"

My favorite exercise in sarcasm was about a year ago, standing in line at the Target. Anna really liked Ashlee Simpson, and she pointed to a magazine with Ashlee on the cover. "Look who's on the front of that magazine, sucker,"she exclaimed while looking right at her dad. Again with the glowering and silent stare that says only one thing, "I am soooo gonna beat you for that." Well, I can only imagine because I did an about face so that Anna wouldn't see me laughing hysterically, meanwhile the stare scorched the back of my head. I couldn't help thinking, "The Force is strong with this one."

So as I said, I am going to try to use my powers for good, not evil. That's why we haven't yet talked to the remaining maternal unit. We are dodging all offers for babysitting at this time, which makes me feel like a dirty, filthy liar. What I mean is, I am trying to have pleasant and meaningless conversations with her, but feel guilty because underneath it all I am still po'd about the whole rock walking incident. I told John I don't feel comfortable with her watching the kids while we are here working on the house even, because that would make us users and hypocrites. We haven't talked to her about it yet because we know she will be very hurt and upset, it's just not something we want to do. We have to though, because eventually she is going to wonder why we wont leave her alone with the monkeys.

I know if I have the discussion with her by myself, she will quickly become angry and defensive, and absolutely *snippy* ( by that I mean that special *B* word) with me. Been there, done that, and she didn't want to admit she did anything wrong until I told her if she couldn't figure out that leaving my kid locked in a car on a hot summer day to either die of heat exhaustion or be abducted along with her car, she wouldn't ever be taking Anna alone again. I don't want John to have to do it on his own because I don't want him to feel like he is being abandoned and I am shirking my end of the deal, and because I want to be sure that all of the key points have been discussed. Also, I just want to have my say, naturally. I am worried that if we both have the talk with her, she will feel like we are ganging up on her, so I am not sure how we are going to handle this yet. I know how it will end, probably with one or both of us yelling at her because she keeps interrupting or is just being plain *snippy*, the water works, the possible mention/threat to move back to Texas, John and I leaving in a huff, then no communication for 2 or 3 weeks.

On a positive note, I was thinking (which , as you know, can be dangerous)... If Anna is Fast Girl, and has inherited her parents' super powers, she should have the ability later on when her powers mature to be sarcastic and then disappear very quickly. *wink*

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

My trip to Manville (or at least the girly version)

I am so tired. Pooped, if you will. We have been working like dogs on our house in hopes that someone will be kind enough to relieve us of it. Don't get me wrong, this house has served us, but not well. Since we have been here this house has tested the boundaries of our relationship in various ways, including:

Housing 2 families of squirrels in the chimney, requiring a new flue and chimney cap

The sewer backing up into our basement 3 times, the first time being on my anniversary

Refusing to turn on the heat and requiring new parts, twice

Allowing rain to come into our house by way of leaky roof, requiring a complete tear off of 3 layers of material including the original wooden shaker roof tiles. To the tune of $13,000.

Popping out tiles in the shower area, both hot and cold water knobs breaking off, and the tub drain clogging so badly that new pipes needed replacement. New tiles+ new fixtures+ new pipes+ inexperienced and unhandy owners= $1500

Part of our sewer line busting just outside of our house, requiring a $2000 replacement

Replacement of the glass in our fireplace because it decided to shatter for no reason

Just think... Over $16,000 and we will recoup none of it when we sell. Fantastic.

Please keep in mind that all of this has happened during the 4 1/2 years we have lived here. We are currently in home improvement hell. This house seems to think that we are it's sugar daddy, and it's getting old. Oh sure, at first we were so in love and so proud of her. We bragged about how pretty she was despite her years, and we loved her for her charm and originality. Somewhere along the line, our house became a cold and bitter *not nice person, starting with a B*, and her wants have been becoming more and more extravagant. So we are patching the old *B* up so we can unload her on someone else.

Because the kitchen had been wallpapered poorly, and the paint peeled off the sheet rock as we peeled it off, we recently had to prime and paint it twice. Gee, that was fun. And because the blue Painters Tape had been on so long, it peeled up some of the paint when removed. Now parts of the trim will have to be done, and touch ups are needed along the trim where our new yellow paint peeled. Since the hubby was tired, and as an early Father's Day present, I decided to paint the last 2/3's of the kitchen myself. That plus removing the tape carefully by trying to cut the tape loose with a steak knife... Well, I'm weary.

Right now though, our bathroom is giving us trouble again. We peeled up the depressing blue flowered paper about a year and a half ago and were stunned to find some sort of alien compressed wood concoction. So being the poor single income, inexperienced and unhandy people that we are, we have lived in bath house squalor. So much so, that our guests have been afraid of even entering its brown, dull and crumbly walls. I guess we had gotten a little used to it since it took us a while to be able to repair the shower situation. For a year we used wrenches where our shower knobs had once been because we couldn't afford to have new plumbing and tile put in. But before we had rigged the shower with wrenches, we were freezing our bums of showering in the open shower stall in the basement.

Ah, good times.

So, we finally have new sheet rock in the bathroom, after John's cousin did the job for us for $400 and the promise of a free crib. Now it's our job to redo the sub-standard mudding job. We sanded it down 2 nights ago, boy, that was so much fun. I blew 2 pounds of reconstituted compound out of my nose, and my lungs still haven't recovered. For all you folks out there thinking about taking a job like this on... One word. Masks. Clean up was interesting. Try sweeping up 2 lbs of dispersed compound dust into a neat pile. Shee-yeah. Since I know my sweet, dear husband has not the time or the patience, I have taken it upon myself to do the fine tuning of the mudding. I think it's the artist in me that can take the time to make sure it's done right.

Ok, ok, it's the anal, obsessive-compulsive artist in me.

Yesterday, I touched up the areas where the screws poked through. Again. I also fanned compound out from the metal corner thingys, and redid the corners where John's cousin knowingly left tape showing. *Sigh* What was I saying about family again? Oh, yeah... Family, you can't pick them, you can't live with them, and you can't kill them. Without getting caught.
Let's add "You can't ask them to work for you for free or money, because you are going to get screwed either way."

Manville, fun to visit but not for long. You are likely to end up with larger biceps and sweaty, chalky, plumber's crack.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Tragic Comedy

Have you ever felt that life is just random moments of sorrow and hysterical laughter, all connected by long pauses of nothing?

I had to put another cat to sleep yesterday. That makes 4 in about 21 months. My husband once said that he didn't want any more pets after our 6 cats were gone because "pets are just small tragedies, waiting to happen". I had hoped to get a dog once we finally found a larger house, but now I am not so sure.

Four cats gone in less than 2 years. How could this be? I feel like a serial killer, or at least I feel like what a serial killer would feel if they had a conscience. I feel numb, I feel sad. I wish I could have done more for my poor Sophie.

I have to remember that she was 16, and she was diabetic. I guess I knew that she wouldn't last long when I first started giving her insulin shots 5 months ago, but I wasn't expecting her to become so ill in a matter of 2 days.

Ursa gradually lost weight over 6 months, then began to vomit at least twice a day. During her last 2 months we tried our best to figure out what was wrong, we even managed to patch her up a few times with fluids and Procrit after we saw that she was vomiting blood. Our vet said that her red blood cell level and her temperature were so low, she couldn't believe that Ursa was still alive. 2 1/2 weeks after John's dad died, we had to let Ursa go.

Ivan and Seven were my boys. They like to see who could pee the most in one spot, or who could cover the most area in one good spray. They both became blocked at different times, after finding out we were pregnant with Emma. They both developed kidney disease, and the peeing got worse. We put Ivan to sleep first. Seven fell ill a few months later and almost died, but we managed to patch him up twice. Each time the peeing got worse, it was as if he couldn't help himself, he just peed where ever. Again, our vet told us his kidneys were in bad shape and that he would continue to be this way. He could be well for several months but chances were that he would be ill again. So, about 3 months after we put Ivan down, we lost Seven.

John and I wavered between guilt, anger and misery. These were our babies, they were our children when we thought we couldn't have any. We would never put an actual child down for doing these things, so how could we do it to our cats?

Having gone through watching Ursa become very sick over 6 months, I knew just by looking at Sophie yesterday that she was going to die soon. I told the receptionist that instead of bringing Sophie in for fluids for a few days, that I wanted to ask the vet if this was really the best option for her. As I held Sophie while waiting for her appointment, during what would be her last hours, I relived Ursa. Even though Sophie had her eyes open, she wasn't responding to my voice. She didn't even purr when I petted her. She twitched and her pupils would jerk. I wasn't even sure if she knew who I was.

Last night, in the quiet, the guilt came. I didn't even try to patch Sophie up. In my own twisted way, I tried to belay the hurt. My brain fluttered with justifications. She pooped where ever she wanted, no more insulin shots. WHAT? How could my muddled brain think such a thing?

Again with the doubts. John gave me stern talking to last night, just the way a best friend should. We did what was right for her. She was never going to get better, the vet said so. She might be able to be patched up for a few days or a few months, but she would definitely become ill again, either from kidney or liver disease.

He reminded me that she did look just like Ursa did the day we put her down. We did the most humane thing we could, out of love for her, not anger. We let her die with peace and dignity instead of letting her suffer for 2 more days.

In the end I looked my very first baby girl in the eyes and told her how beautiful she was, and for a moment she was actually there with me. She let out a tiny purr and scrunched up her eyes at me, the way she always did when I talked to her. I held her face in my hands as the vet gave her the shot. I told her I loved her and that it was better to go this way, and with in moments she was gone.

I came home to 2 very angry cats. Wolfie yelled at me, just as he did the 3 times before. Each time I tried to pet him, he jumped away. Numa, Sophie's mom, just sat there and glared.

Tonight when we came back from Anna's graduation from preschool, I noticed a familiar smell in my dining room. Ahh, what's this? And in Sophie's favorite pooping spot, under the dining table. Actually, not in one spot at all, but in several in the general vicinity. Yesterday we thought the days of "find the wet, stinky surprise" were over. Looks like two old and pissed off cats had a grudge party while we were gone. I guess the joke is on us.

Monday, June 12, 2006

My dad

I miss my dad. I miss the memory of him that isn't tainted by my mother's insanity, and her convenient justifications. I miss the father I had before she took him away from me, before she killed everything that was good about him in my heart.

In November of 1990, my husband and I were at different locations in the sweltering Persian Gulf, during DesertStorm/ Desert Shield. One day I received a Red Cross message from my mother telling me that my father had been ill for months, and the doctor was giving him 3 months to live. Her excuse for not telling me was that she knew I had more important things to worry about. What could be more important than my father? My stepdad, whom I call my father because he raised me from the age of 5, had pancreatic cancer that had already spread to the lymph nodes. I desperately wanted to go home to see him before he died, but was told by my Commanding Officer that no Corpsman could be spared, everyone was needed because we were at war. He arranged for me to go to the bridge to call my dad, and I had the chance for one tearful and loving goodbye before he died 3 days later. I received another Red Cross message in the chapel, and knew before the Chaplain even spoke that my father was gone.

Suddenly, my grief qualified for a trip home. Just a few days before I couldn't be spared but now that my dad had gone to his Maker, I was not needed. A Red Cross message had been sent to John also, and arrangements were being made for us to meet on base at Bahrain, and fly home together for my father's funeral.

I had experienced death before, but never like this. Grief plagued me, ate at my soul and for the next 24 hours while flying home I could do little more than cry. The word cry doesn't do my pain justice, anyone who has lost someone close to them understands. It's more like you have this hole in your chest, and it pulses and ignites every time the tears begin, and with each tear you feel like a little bit of you is dying too. All my life I had been told to be quiet, to shut up, not to scream so that the neighbors could hear. No more, not this time. I wailed without selfconsciousness because the world around me did not exist. It was only myself and my husband, in the eye of a tear stained and blurry storm.

Most of our time home during the war is still cloudy to me, but I do remember a few things. I remember that moments after my father's wake, my mother was kind enough to start fouling my father's memory. She told tales of abuse and hate, that not until just 2 years ago would I find out that they were one sided. My brother witnessed many of their verbal and physical altercations, and many of them were instigated by our mother. While I was there, though, I would for the first time hate my father, too.

My father wasn't perfect, he was no saint, but he was mine. I knew that they had arguments that would often lead to physical abuse. My brothers and I would cower upstairs during fits of rage, and there were times that we were awakened but horrifically loud crashes and sounds of glass being smashed, only to have our mother finally come upstairs and smile serenely and say that it was ok, to stay upstairs. I remember now with confusion that these were the few times our mother actually showed any affection for us, as she sat on the side of our beds and stroked our hair. It makes sense to me in a way, only because of what my brother had told me- that she would hit him with cast iron frying pans, or throw heavy glass ash trays at him, and then stand there waiting for the blows to begin. From what Ben (my brother) tells me, it was as if she wanted to make him hurt her.

At that moment when my mother began to tell us the horror stories, her one sided concoctions, all the pain and misery she had caused my mind and body as a child was suddenly washed away. Her grief for the past and present stunned me, and I no longer loved him, not completely because now my love and grief were tinged with hate. I told her that if I had known what he had been doing to her all of those years, I would have killed him. I realize now that out of my need for her acceptance, approval and love, I was able to believe all the things she said. By giving her all my love at that time, I was rewarded by her, finally, briefly.

14 years later, 2 years ago I finally learned the truth. I learned that my mother lied, and has lied for years. She lies when the mood strikes, but mostly to keep up appearances. She is always the victim, and since she believes that is so, she has to be right. I guess, now that I think about it, I hadn't just learned the truth, in a way. Ben had been trying to tell me the truth over the years, but I didn't want to hear it. She had always said that Ben was too dramatic, and liked to exaggerate. Out of co-dependency and my addiction to please her, I believed her.

What makes me angry is that there had been times over the last 6-7 years that she admitted her previous accounts of the past had been false, that she had been to blame, or had spurred him on, but only after varying her stories a bit here and there over the years. When we would question her, she would say that she had forgotten to add those things in on previous tellings, or that she had gotten the details mixed up. I now know that she said what ever insanity she believed at the time, and that over the years she had told her lies so often, she actually began to believe them. Once in a short while the truth would manage to drag its way to the surface, and usually it was because she liked to gleefully tell us the things she did to him, the ways in which she tortured him.

Now, I see the truth clearly. Our dad loved us, and he loved us enough to stay with a woman that was completely insane and without reason. Why would he? I believe he saw what she did to us, and knew that it could be so much worse if he left her. Why else stay with someone who's mood swings were so bipolar, someone so abusive and hateful? I know it wasn't because of the good days, they were few and far between. He abused her as much as she abused him, and now I think to myself, "She got what she deserved, and he showed her as much kindness as she showed to her own flesh and blood." I was his only little girl, and I love him for cherishing me, which is more than I can say for my real father. He never hurt me, which is more than I can say for my mother and my real father.

So, to make a short story long, this Father's day I finally have my father back. All that was good about him is with me once more, and I have my brother to thank for that. I hope that my brother and I can at the very least be as parents what our father was to us. He was selfless in his love for us, and in his quiet, eye twinkling way, he shared it with us.

I miss you, dad. Rest well knowing that one day we will see you again. I only hope there is a witness protection program, up there in heaven, or at least "mental" detectors. *smile*