Dogs

I woke up at 0500, as I am wont to do. I generally fall asleep to movies or podcasts, and last night it was Battle Royale II- Requiem. I made it through Battle Royale earlier in the day, because it just cracks me up. Yes, there is so much violence and not very much humor in the movie as a whole, but the instructional video makes me laugh until my sides hurt. I’m going to have to go back and watch the ending of II, because I should know by now that I cannot start a movie between 2030-2100. It reminds me of my dad coming home from a Covey seminar on time management, where the instructor told a funny story:

Instructor: I get my kids to wake up at 4:00 AM for a planning session every morning.
Guy in Class: How do you do that?
I: I put them in bed at 8:30 PM.
GIC: How do you manage THAT?
I: I get them up at FOUR IN THE MORNING!

I’ve puttered around the house for a little bit… went through the trash looking for recycling because my roommate is not so good about it. Made myself both a Hawaiian Punch and strong black coffee. Took all my psych meds so that I can ignore the “Meeting with Bob” reminder later (I call all my medication reminders “meeting with Bob,” and it really caught on when I was in the psych ward at Methodist. By the time I left three days later, I had my entire cohort saying “I have a meeting with Bob later.”

Yes, children. I checked myself in at Methodist thanks to an ass kicking by my precious Argo, who put everything succinctly: why do you expect everyone else to fix you? Can’t you see the common denominator is you? I didn’t realize that asking my friends to safety net me was in fact keeping me from moving under my own power, failure to take responsibility for my own actions. When you’re that far down into depression, anxiety, and PTSD, it’s hard to see. The kicker was suicidal ideation that I knew would go away with a trip to a psychiatrist who could adjust my meds, but I called and I could not get a new patient appointment for another three weeks. Anyone who’s been in that situation knows three weeks is way too long- halfway to SpongeBob Squarepants headstone (don’t think I won’t do it- not the suicide part, the hilarity of an actual SpongeBob headstone for all eternity).

Teenage trauma was compounded by my relationship with Dana ending in a fight to end all fights. Dana pushed me over and I just went off like a chihuahua with a God complex. All the fight was taken out of me when Dana punched me in the face so hard that for a moment, I thought my eye socket was broken. It wasn’t, but I had a pretty nice bruise under my eye that my glasses didn’t cover. I forgive, but I don’t forget. I concentrate on my hilarious memories with Dana now, because I cannot live my life in the smallest place possible. I take responsibility for not running away at the first sign that the fight was turning physical.

I, however, have stopped feeling that I deserved to be hit, because the fight absolutely made me come emotionally unglued. It took a while. The mobile assessment team that evaluated me at Methodist reassured me that I had a natural reaction to being pushed over, but that it was probably a bad idea to try and fight back with someone whose fist was three times bigger than mine. In the moment, my thought process was that it was a bad idea not to stand up to a bully. To Dana’s credit, she was immediately sorry and didn’t just give lip service to it. She really put herself through an enormous amount of self-help, which is why I can forgive her so easily. I wouldn’t be so laid back about it if I thought that there was a possibility it could happen again.

The one mistake I made was going home after hospitalization. I didn’t count on the emotional swings between us getting much worse. I made due by sleeping at friends’ houses and going to the house to pick up my stuff when I knew she wouldn’t be there. It wasn’t that I carried anger around. It was that I was trying to cut any and all fights off at the pass. It is a very, very difficult thing to go through that with someone you love so desperately, so my choice is not to be bitter and to remember all the things that happened between us that were overwhelmingly positive. It is enough that we are not in contact anymore, reducing the possibility of hurting each other again to zero, whether that means emotionally, physically, or both.

But that was a little over three years ago, and I cannot emphasize enough how much different my world has become. I’ve had an enormous swath of time to think things through and work on my own issues so that I’m less quick to anger, and trying to love my friends through their own problems, because so many people did it for me. I’ll never be able to pay it all forward, but it helps to try.

I am very open and honest about what it took to get past all this, but the stigma is there. People don’t always realize what it took to get you to the place of hospitalization, and only concentrate on how crazy you must be if you had to get that kind of help. It’s a black mark, whether it is deserved or not. I’d had severe psychological issues since I was a teenager, and I can’t help but think how much better my life would have gone had I been hospitalized in the moment rather than stuffing everything down into my socks. It made me feel like I was fine, thank you very much [Morgan Freeman: Leslie was, in fact, not fine].

I was able to lay everything out in front of Argo because she was a stranger on a train, not part of my physical life so she saw everything differently. She asked pointed questions that made vomiting up old trauma unavoidable, and I cracked into pieces. And then, with two sentences, I make no qualms about the fact that they probably saved my life…. yet another thing that I’ll probably never be able to repay.

I do, however, offer up prayers into the universe for her a lot. It gives me something to pray for her happiness, healthiness, and the joy of being alive with possibility. Her sunshine is bright, and it was a gift to stand in it. I simply would not be the person I am today had I not been able to see every place I went wrong in black and white.

It was an incredible motivator to keep going with psychiatry, talk therapy, and instituting behavioral patterns that keep me from going back to the dark emotional place that doesn’t allow for my own sunshine. I truly have a lot of it to give. It’s hard to notice when I’m spilling my guts on this web site, because most of my entries deal with problems I’m trying to process, but I am incredibly funny. My love is gigantic, from the personal to the international. I don’t just care about my friends and family, but the problems that arise with just being a human.

All of it shows more easily in person than it does while writing, something I am trying to change as both my marriage and the death of my mother fade further into the back of my mind. There are always going to be times when I’m incredibly sad over each, but especially my mother would be horrified to know that losing her caused me to lose my knack for both cracking jokes and laughing easily when others do it.

I am looking forward to a lot of laughter starting on Tuesday, when my little sister arrives for a work trip. What cracks me up the most about her is that when I say something sweet, her response is usually, “thanks, Boo.” It works on two levels; the first is that it is a loving term of endearment. The second is that my mood often bears a striking resemblance to Boo Radley.

Harper Lee is my spirit animal, and I will speak more as to why.

It is my unverified opinion that Scout and Boo are the same person, Harper Lee at different points in her life. Think about just how much she isolated after To Kill a Mockingbird was published, and I think you’ll see it, too…. keeping in mind that I’m wrong a lot. 😛 It seems to me, though, that there’s probably at least a grain of truth in my ramblings about somebody I don’t even know. The now unanswered question in my mind is whether Lee was reclusive before or after creating Boo…. did she base Boo on herself, or did writing about him put her into that place? Chicken, egg, etc. Either way, I’m not sure it renders my opinion invalid.

When I am able to support having a pet, I’d really like to get a dog. This seems unrelated, but it’s not. I often need forced interaction because it’s hard for me to do it on my own, and taking my dog for a walk provides just that. I know this because I used to live in an apartment complex, so letting my dog relieve herself in the backyard was not an option. Therefore, I met lots of other people who also had dogs, which not only gave me opportunities to socialize, but something about which to discuss that didn’t dig too deep. It was just fun. And, of course, if it’s a boy, his name will be Arthur. If it’s a girl, her name will be Louise.

Perhaps I should get a chihuahua with a God complex. Apparently, we’d have a lot in common.

My Dog

I am not a gamer. I have been playing one game since it came out, and any questions about any other games are where I tap out immediately. You’ll have to ask someone else. The aforementioned game is Fallout 3, which came out in 2008. I did not beat it until a few months ago, so you see, I am obviously a video gaming wizard.

The reason this is the only game I play is that even though I’ve beaten it (finally), every single time I start over it’s brand new. There’s more stuff to find, different characters to build, and you don’t even need the story. If you have an add-on called Broken Steel, it will allow you to continue the game after the main storyline is finished, which, for me, has included going to each and every building just trying to find stuff…. My house looks like Sanford & Son. In fact, “cantankerous junk dealer” sums up my character quite nicely….. and even ten years later, things happen that are brand new, as if I’ve never played before. One of the coolest places I’ve discovered is a Montgomery County water reservoir (the county where I live), complete with a crab painted on the building and filled in with the Maryland flag. Apparently, this is one of the few buildings in the game that’s real. The developers did a good job on the Metro system, though, because it actually does look the same, albeit, well, bombed.

The game captured my attention because it takes place in Washington, DC after nuclear war…. renamed The Capital Wasteland. This is because I am terrible at using navigation and it was handy to know which way to go on my own…. keeping in mind that it is not an exact replica, but close enough for government work. I can find Farragut West, and I don’t get lost on The Mall.

The main quest is to bring fresh water to the wasteland because people are sick and dying (or mutating) from not being able to get water without massive levels of radiation. There are also tons of side quests, with which I am not even closed to finishing. The game keeps drawing me back, though, because it is akin to a Choose Your Own Adventure.

dogmeatFor instance, this last time around, a dog started following me around that you could “adopt,” and will help find you food and ammunition. It is unusual because lots of people have reported said dog in the game, but I’d never seen him. His name is Dogmeat, and he is much smarter than I am. You can also heal him with stimpaks, the medication in the game, but if you don’t get to him quickly enough, he can die in battle.

And that is how I found myself sitting at my desk, completely squalling my eyeballs out, because I had inadvertently killed my own dog. It was worse than Old Yeller, worse than Where the Red Fern Grows, and it was much worse than losing any of my actual pets, because I’ve never lost any of them to death. It didn’t help that I’d recently read about the K-9 unit in the CIA that prepares bomb/drug sniffing dogs for The Agency and our local police departments, because I was all like, “I bet THEY never accidentally kill their own dogs…..” even if that can’t possibly be true.

I learned later on that there’s a perk in the game called Puppies! (you have to have Broken Steel, though), where if Dogmeat is killed, you can go and fetch one of his puppies from another location in the game. But that first time, when Dogmeat was really, truly gone, the floodgates opened and every grief-filled feeling I had just sprayed all over my shirt and pants. Because, as I quickly learned, it wasn’t about the dog. It was the surface thing that tapped into all the deep wounds. Sometimes, I have a hard time letting go enough to cry, and will begin crying at what I think is an unrelated thing, yet nothing ever is.

Write SOMETHING

I feel no inspiration at all, which is how I know that I need to just sit here and keep going. Writing is a muscle, and it will atrophy if you let it.

At first, I was all I can’t think of anything so here’s a picture of my cat (that I don’t even have anymore but still think is adorable).11080854_10153102162680272_481846125438751217_o He came from the Oregon Humane Society with the name “The Artful Dodger” (one of the characters in Oliver!), which worked great because I love musicals and Dana loves the Los Angeles Dodgers. I absolutely manhandled him as a kitten so that he is just the most chill non-human on the planet. Seriously, he could pull off jelly sandals and a bathrobe. Most of the time I actually called him “The Dude.” He also passed “the kitten test” at the shelter, which is that I made sure I got a cat that knew I was alive. I didn’t want a cat that wasn’t other aware. He was friendly from the moment I saw him, and it was my birthday. He was a present, and the conversation ran thusly:

My Mom: What do you want for your birthday?
Leslie: A cat.
My Mom (in a THICK Texas accent): How’my gunna GET YOU a cat?
Leslie: Mommmmmm….. I just want you to send me the money for the adoption fee.
My mom: Oh. I didn’t think of that.

He’s a Norwegian Forest Cat, a relative of the Maine Coon, so he is huge until you put him in the bathtub. Then it looks like you shrank him. I didn’t have to bathe him that often, but like all kittens, he had to be washed off every once in a while with Ivory dish soap to keep off fleas because he wasn’t old enough for repellents. It made him tolerant of baths as an adult, which was handy in case he threw up on himself. Getting vomit out of his fur would have been a ghastly adventure otherwise. OMG. So much hair. So much gathered in the drain that Dana and I could have made a facsimile.

With the hair exception, he was so incredibly low maintenance, I could use him as a pillow or an ottoman. You could hold him upside down and backwards and he’d still just be like, careful…. there’s a beverage here, man. He was the perfect cat for me, because I’m definitely into cats that don’t really give a shit about anything in a slacker-type way.

You wouldn’t say he was dumb, but you might want to stop by and water him three times a week, bless his heart.

-Molly Ivins

I am certain that one day, I will pick out an equal underachiever, but it is best I don’t have a pet right now. I get enough love from Lincoln and Daisy, Sam’s dogs. Lincoln is a pit bull and Dodger’s Jeff Lebowski equivalent (once he’s sniffed you out and made sure you’re cool). Daisy is your BBD (basic black dog), one of the most well-behaved and trustworthy dogs I’ve ever met.

In our house, there are also other dogs, I just see Lincoln and Daisy the most often. Hayat and Mike also have two dogs, Pixie and Sadie. We also have a rotating cast of relatives’ dogs. So I have no shortage of pet love in my life, and the best thing about it is having no responsibility. I need to be able to take care of myself before I add somepet else’s.

Although I will say that I would prefer having a cat to a dog, even though I am actually more of a dog person. It’s just that cats are so much less work. I’ve only had a puppy once in my life, and never again. I learned that I need to adopt dogs that already come fully housetrained. Besides, fewer people adopt older dogs, so I think they’re more grateful.

Additionally, not to condemn people who like purebreds, I would never buy one…….. even from a highly respected breeder. There are just too many homeless pets out there for me to consider it. Yes, they come with behavioral baggage. So does their owner. I’m in no place to judge. I pity the woman who eventually “adopts” me already. But at the very least, I will not micturate on the rug.

The Snowman Cometh (with Apologies to Eugene O’Neill)

I know it’s hard to tell with a still picture, but it’s really coming down out there… and forecasted to continue. We may actually get some accumulation. I am excited about this, because there is nothing I love more than newfallen snow (when I’m dressed for it). Walking around in the pristine white brings me so much joy. I only hate snow after it’s been on the ground for a few days and ranges from grey to black with tire tracks and dripping oil. Although, if I had to choose, I believe the dogs love it more than me… which reminds me of an old Sam story………….20171209_110711

My roommate, Samantha, has parents where one is Methodist and one is Druze, but does not claim any religion for herself. So, a couple of years ago when the snow was very deep, Sam shouted at her dog, “come on, Daisy. Time to part it like Jesus.” I started laughing so hard that tears came to my eyes and said, “ummm, that was Moses.” She just laughed and said, “whatever.” Of course, this is the same person that when, years ago, I got a “Share a Coke with Mark” bottle and joked that all I needed now were Matthew, Luke, and John, has been calling me Mark ever since. In fact, I think that since then she’s forgotten my actual name. I dig it. Fits in with the theme….. Auna calls me “Hipster Jesus.” Being nicknamed after a Gospel writer doesn’t seem like much of a demotion. After all, he was a writer. 😛

I am caught between two ideas right now. One is that I am still in my jammies- cute ones, so that I at least look marginally dressed- and I have two shows to catch up on. The first is Doc Martin, and the second is The Crown. I was going to start with The Crown, but Doc Martin is just so damn funny, and I could use some funny in my life.

The other idea is that there’s just so much to do and see in the snow, and I have the clothes to be very, very, very warm while I’m out. I could go to downtown Silver Spring and ice skate, or I could go to Zoo Lights, or I could just walk around my neighborhood and see who’s already on the ball with the Christmas decorations. The one drawback to this is that it is actively snowing, and when snow gets on my glasses, I can’t see anything, anyway. You would think that an umbrella would help. Not so much. Snow generally blows sideways. Before I make my decision, I will check and see if Zoo Lights is a recurring thing, or if it is only today. The best time to do all this stuff is after the snow has stopped, there’s a satisfying crunch under your feet, and the weather is cold & clear…. perhaps not clear, because it’s usually overcast even when it’s not snowing, but you get my drift (see what I did there?). I am waiting with baited breath to see what happens this winter, because sometimes we get a few inches a couple of times, and sometimes the heavens open up and dump everything they’ve got. Winter before last, it was over a foot and a half deep. Everyone had a different name for it:

  • Snowpocalypse Now
  • Snowtorious B.I.G.
  • Thanks, Snowbama
  • Enforced Captivity
  • Working Without Pants -or- Working Under the Covers (IT doesn’t DO snow days.)

If we do get The Big One,™ I will work out more than I have all year, because it’s more strenuous to lift your knees that high while walking…. because you can either walk on the unplowed sidewalks, or take your chances on the street. I choose knee/ass deep snow rather than getting hit by a driver who thinks they have this snow driving thing down (they don’t). Everyone thinks they’re a friggin’ expert until they spin out, because thinking you’re an expert generally leads to driving way too fast for the condition at hand…. and I have yet to see anyone chain up on a back road. My general rule is “go around me, moron.” I’ll either see them further down the road fishtailed into a snowdrift or being told by the police that maybe they should control their speed. Of course you can get a speeding ticket while going the speed limit when snow is blowing sideways…. or worse, the snow has melted and it’s still cold AF, so there’s black ice everywhere.

The safest way to get around in all this mess is public transportation, because generally, if you’re going to be in an accident, the city bus is going to “win….” and a good bit of the Metro is inside, which is even safer. Plus, with everyone wanting to run their own heaters in their own cars on their way at every possible opportunity, parking is even harder than normal.

Speaking of driving, though, I had a funny Uber moment yesterday. The Uber driver always checks to make sure he/she has the right destination, and I told him I was going to the mall. He said, “in DC? With all the monuments?” I laughed and said, “no… I’m not going to The Mall, I’m going to a mall.” I was in an Uber pool, and the teens in the back laughed and said, “No! In Silver Spring!” I bought all my clothes, got my bag of coffee (finally) and managed to get out of Whole Foods for less than $50. Beat that with a stick.

I even remembered to get more eggnog….. because I’m in my jammies.

Cute ones.

On Pets

There are people working on the roof this morning. It’s excruciating, all the pounding, because it seems to pulse with my sinus headache. At least they are marching in step. I’ve already taken my Zyrtec and Sudafed PE this morning, and it’s still not helping, so now that I’m on my third cup of coffee in a mug that holds four cups, I might consider a Benadryl kicker. I find that treating the allergy is better for me than treating the congestion…. treating the root of the problem rather than the symptom. I also need to take a shower and clean my room…. the former because the water will wash away whatever’s making me bloom, and the latter being that I am most allergic to dust. I had one of those tests where they put 25 allergens on your skin to see how you react (smaller than most- I think some tests are up to 75 different ones). Dust overtook six other samples. The best thing was learning once and for all that I am not allergic to dogs or cats… I just thought I was…. probably because dog and cat hair on the floor attracts dust bunnies.

I do not have any pets, but the family I live with has a number of dogs. I think “we” have four of our own, and a rotating cast of visitors. In this house, we are not cat people, and I am somewhat grateful. Though I love cats, I do not love the smell or the mess of a litter box. When I lived alone and had Asher, I bought disposable litter pans by the dozen and just threw them out every other day or so, because scooping a permanent one made me so sick to my stomach. So far, the only pet I have had complete and total success with is fish. I can keep a goldfish alive for years, and it makes me happy to pay five cents for a goldfish and watch it grow to mini-koi. In order to do this, the setup is expensive, but once setup is done, you can make an environment that sustains itself.

Oh, now I am on my soapbox, because I’ve come across something about which I’m truly knowledgeable.

The biggest mistake that people make with goldfish is that they don’t change the water enough. Goldfish are nasty. Gorgeous, but nasty. Their ammonia levels get really high, really quick, which is why it is inadvisable to keep them in a bowl…. unless you want to change the water almost every day. If you are going to keep goldfish, splurge on the most expensive filter for your aquarium that you can afford. If you just buy a ten-gallon kit, the filter it comes with will not turn the water over fast enough if you have more than one goldfish in the tank…. and by “turn it over,” I mean the amount of time it takes for the entire ten gallons to be refreshed by activated charcoal. I generally buy a 20-gallon filter for a 10-gallon tank if there are goldfish involved. You still need to change about a third to a half of the water every four weeks, roughly, but you’ll thank yourself if you buy a Python. Before you buy one, though, make sure you know how far your aquarium is from a water source so you get the right length. There are adapters for every water source- kitchen sink, bathroom sink, outdoor hose, etc. I also take the fish out when I’m cleaning the aquarium so that the fish aren’t barraged by chlorinated water. Although, since the chemical that takes out the chlorine works instantly, it’s not that big a problem if you don’t. It’s just my preference.

The best part about buying “feeder fish” is that you can’t tell whether the goldfish is exotic when it’s that small. So, I’ve paid five cents for black moors, pearlscales, etc. You just have to keep them alive long enough to find out. 🙂

The only time I’ve ever encountered true problems is when a tank gets ich. I have not once had any luck with treating it. I just do everything I can to prevent it. The treatment is expensive and might as well say “does not work” right on the label. Believe me when I tell you this is true; I’ve kept goldfish most of my life and am not inexperienced in the slightest. It spreads so quickly that even isolating the one fish that has it doesn’t make any difference. By the time you see the white spots, it’s game over for the whole tank…. which is why I buy five cent fish. If your tank gets ich, and you’ve had the fish long enough that losing the tank will be emotionally damaging (and I do mean it…. so much work goes into keeping these fish alive that it’s hard to watch them die after two years), try the treatment and see if your fish respond to it… but I’m betting dollars to donuts that they won’t.

If your entire tank dies, the only solution is to go back to the beginning. Start with an empty tank, even taking out the gravel and running water through it (I use a colander). Make sure the plastic plants are clean as well. Scrub the hell out of the walls and bottom of the tank with one of those yellow sponges that has the green layer on top. Never, ever, ever use soap. Even if you think you’ve gotten it all out, the molecules you can’t see will still kill the fish. Once you’re sure the tank has gone back to zero, replace the gravel and plants and plug everything back in. Then, let the tank run for at least two weeks before you add more fish. Some experts say that you only need to wait 24 hours to let the temperature stabilize, but I think this is unwise for goldfish. It takes time for the healthy bacteria to grow. Once you’ve had six or seven weeks with fish in the tank, a bottom feeder is also helpful, like a cory catfish. You want to wait until there’s enough for them to eat.

Also, aquarium size is directly proportional to how long goldfish will live. The smallest rule is one inch of fish (excluding their tails) per gallon of water. Also, goldfish will grow to the size of the tank they’re in. My rule is generally three goldfish in a 20 gallon tank, because I want all of them to be yuuuuge. 🙂

Lastly, don’t put a goldfish in a desktop aquarium. Just don’t. If you only have a one or two gallon tank, one betta is more than sufficient. I named my betta “Tester.” It also helps if you play Aqua for them. Bad puns, I’ll see myself out……