Sunday, December 26, 2010

Fa la la la la la la la f*ck

I read that title somewhere the other day and couldn't get that ditty out of my head, and when I heard the song on our local "all Christmas, all the time" radio station I couldn't help but sing along. What can I say, I'm nothing if not juvenile.

So, for four days now I've worked out on the elliptical for an hour each day. Go me. Although it wasn't because I was hearkening back to my resolution to get rid of that extra weight, it was really because I've been incredibly keyed up recently and if I didn't work out some of the stress I was going to punch something. And the hubs is getting increasingly bitchy about being bruised.

So, I took my frustrations out on the blessed machine. It has been extremely helpful - well, that in combination with vitamin D supplements (apparently it's not uncommon to be afflicted with Seasonal Affective Disorder if you're already depressed). I don't know if I actually have SAD, but it would make sense. And I play a doctor on TV, so I know what I'm talking about.

Christmas was great, the kids got a bunch of stuff that we're having a ton of fun playing with. I had more fun at the husband's family gathering - they aren't currently going through the kind of earth-shattering, life-changing, heartbreaking shit that my family's going through right now. After Christmas day, a day of my dad not speaking much and spending more time napping than interacting, my mom acting like a total doormat (as usual) and my brother being the usual asshole he is every day, I was tired of it all. I came home and cried to the hubs, mainly because it has fallen to me to be the normal, strong one in the family, the one who is supposed to keep it all together, and I've got my own shit to deal with. And whoever it was that thought making ME the normal one was a good idea - they were obviously out of their fucking minds.

Anyway, it was a good Christmas. The kids were great, my sister-in-law complimented our parenting skill, and I've worked out an hour each day for the past four days. Plus I've still got another week of break. I'm determined not to let the funk I've slid into engulf me - I'm going to lunch with some of my best friends tomorrow, and then I'm off for some serious retail therapy. And there will be trips to the dog park and possibly an overnight with just the hubs this week (I hope I hope I hope!). Merry Christmas to all.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Merry christmahanuzaastice

Ah, to be atheist over the holidays.

OK, so the way I look at it, human beings have been celebrating the winter solstice in various cultural ways since the dawn of time. Many of these celebrations had nothing to do with a particular deity. Many did. Here in the land-o-plenty, all of those celebrations have been muddled into the consumerist red and green gimme-gimme that has become our holiday season.

So sure, go ahead and wish me a merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or whatever the hell it is you celebrate, I'm perfectly okay with that. I'm not going to be offended by the fact that you celebrate something different from me. I'm happy that you have a tradition to hold on to at this time of year.

That's really how I look at it. Yes, I'm atheist, which means I don't recognize/believe in a higher power. However, I still celebrate Christmas. Part of that is obviously because if I started telling people I wasn't celebrating Christmas anymore, they wouldn't give me gifts.

I'm kidding. Well, mostly.

I celebrate Christmas for the tradition of it. It's part of our culture. And it's a time ripe for a lesson to my kids. Sure, they get gifts over the holidays, but the way I see it, while the getting is great, the giving is better. So I guess you could say that I don't celebrate Christmas, I celebrate the giving spirit of humanity.

I took my kids shopping to purchase gifts for our school Giving Tree. They each picked out a toy for a child who wouldn't have had one otherwise. We also picked out a ton of food for our school's food drive. And every chance I get, I cram the idea down their throats that we are not entitled to anything in this world - we must work for what we want, and give back when we are given something.

I know that some people look at atheists as being unable to appreciate magic in life. The way I look at it, the magic lies in how people can be so good to one another and by doing one good deed, can set off a chain of events that make a bigger impact.

So this holiday season, pay it forward. Buy the coffee for that person sitting in line behind you. Drop a 20 dollar bill on the floor of the grocery store. Donate coats, hats, scarves, etc. to your local school or shelter. Volunteer your time in a pursuit that interests you. Teach.

And be thankful for what you are given. Whether it was God, Santa or yourself who gave it to you.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

I ADORE my dog.

Maya has been an absolute dream. We picked her up from the airport the night before Thanksgiving and she has been everything that I hoped she would be. She was potty-trained, crate-trained, and knows a command or two. But in addition to that, she is snuggly, relaxed, sweet, lovable, and sooo soft and silky.

She bounds around like a bunny and hops like Tigger. She walks like a dream on the leash - even my two-year-old can walk her. I can take her anywhere with us (and I usually do). She listens to us and only gums things that are lying on the floor. She doesn't eat much and will always be lean and skinny. She also reminds me, in so many little ways, of my Lacey. Lacey was the dog that I used to say looked like a longhaired whippet, and missing her was what caused me to google the breed. Lacey had her faults, but overall, she was my little princess, and Maya, while not replacing her by any means, has certainly done well in her place.

I can't stop recommending this breed to everyone. No one has ever heard of it - I get a lot of "Longhaired whippet? I didn't know they came in longhair," and "She's so beautiful, does she have whippet in her?" Everyone adores her, pets and people alike, and at the dog park she is always making friends with the humans, leaning up against them and licking their hands, asking to be petted.

As I was standing in the shower tonight, having brought her in to the bathroom with me so she didn't get into anything, I started making low "awroo?" doggie noises just to see her cock her head in that quizzical way that is always so cute. She started whining back and making similar noises. As I was contemplating the fact that I was actually talking to my dog, it suddenly occurred to me that we actually have a new family member. The kids adore her, the husband is actually showing signs of liking her, and I've fallen completely in love with her. I've bonded with her in a way that I never did with Max, and whether that's because she reminds me so much of Lacey or because she just fits perfectly with our family and our lifestyle, I have no idea. All I know is, this dog, this breed, is perfect, and I'm so glad I decided to adopt this baby.

For more information on longhaired whippets, and links to her breeder and original owner:
International Longhaired Whippet Club
Aurai Sighthounds (Maya's breeder)
Tova Sighthounds (Maya's mother's original owner)

Sunday, December 5, 2010

I want a tattoo.

I always said that tattoos were not a good idea. Why would you permanently alter your body like that? Especially since skin changes so much over time.

Then I had a very rational conversation with my friend who put it well when she said that each of her tattoos is in a concealed place that only she can see, and each is connected to a particular happy memory, and each time she sees the tattoo it reminds her of that time.

So I'm actually considering it. We stumbled across a Netflix Instant movie tonight called "Modification" which is all about body modification, tattoos, piercings and plastic surgery. It all made me a tad squeamish (you actually get to see a sex-change procedure - which the biology geek in me was squeeing over, but the rational part of me was cringing away from). One of the tattoo artists said something about finding something that speaks to you and of you, and just go for it.

So I did a google images search tonight. The same friend suggested a Harry Potter tattoo, and as much as I love the books, I needed to do a little research to find something that spoke to me. I started with just basic Harry Potter-themed tattoos and couldn't find anything that jumped out at me. So I thought about the characters and objects in the story that I really identify with. Hermione is my own inner nerd, so of course I searched images of her, and got some really gorgeous pictures of Emma Watson. But I'm not going to tattoo someone else's face on my body. So then I searched objects associated with Hermione and got the enchanted coins used for the DA meetings, or her wand, and a few other things, but nothing jumped out at me. Then, on the same site, I found a wiki entry on the founders' artifacts, such as Gryffindor's sword, Hufflepuff's cup, etc. I saw Ravenclaw's diadem and was definitely interested. It's a tiara, first of all, and I adore sparkly things. Second, Ravenclaw is the nerd's sanctuary. Their motto is "Wit beyond measure is man's greatest treasure." And, as the final clincher, I had done one of those "Sorting Hat" quizzes a long time ago and they sorted me into Ravenclaw.

I know, I'm a geek. I wear that hat proudly.

So I did a google images search for Ravenclaw's Diadem. And came up with this.

So now I just need to figure out where to put it.

Saturday, November 27, 2010


So, my son. My son is awesome. He's a super sweet kid with a heart of platinum and is just an amazing kind of person. I don't know what we did right, but that kid is making us look good right about now.

I'm not saying he's always been that way - no, there were times (many, in fact) when my husband and I would just as soon have thrown him out the window as hugged him. (Granted, our windows are three feet off the ground, but still.)

In truth, many of those times were my overreactions to behavior that, let's face it, was perfectly normal for a preschooler. I was depressed, after all, and life was hard to deal with. Add in an extremely stubborn and strong-willed, bright young boy who delighted in pushing buttons and it was a recipe for some screaming and throwing of things. And that wasn't all him.

However, since I got treated and, in part, since he started kindergarten, all of the difficult behaviors and dragging feet and fighting back have completely disappeared. Somehow, my son turned into the angel I always knew was under there, and he shows it to us every single day. When I wake up in the morning, I find that my children are sitting at the kitchen table, with a complete breakfast in front of them - cereal, fruit, glass of milk - and neither my husband nor I fixed it for them. When my daughter wakes up, he immediately runs to her, helps her onto the potty and helps her wipe her butt (now that's love). He is an amazing teacher and problem solver. When my kids get into the (very rare) argument, it's usually because his little sister took something or is sitting in his spot. He'll tell me what she did, I'll tell him to work with her to solve the problem, and almost without fail they work together to fix it.

I mentioned to a friend yesterday that I got the kids that I needed to be the best parent I could be. Yes, I'm lucky - very lucky to have the kids I have, even moreso to have kids who are so helpful, well-behaved and kind and compassionate to each other. I'd like to take credit for it, and in some ways I have definitely encouraged certain behaviors, but after all that my son went through when I was unmedicated, I'm lucky. And he's lucky that I can now be a better mom to him and his sister.

This fall has been my healing season. My son has helped me heal. I look at him and see the kind of person I hope to be. Now - if I could just keep him from eating me out of house and home. :-)

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

If I ruled the Universe

-Nerds would rule the world. Yeah, every adult knows that the Star Wars geek who could program a computer to tie his own shoes in high school is the one who would end up richer than they are. But kids don't realize that shit. Intelligence should be worth a hell of a lot more in the high school world.

-People who make the words "a" and "lot" into one word would be tied to the back of a covered wagon and dragged slowly along the dusty prairie. Slowly, because they need to think about what they did.

-People who drive below the speed limit would have an implant inserted into their eyes that flashes the damned speed limit into their retinas if they maintain it for more than 30 seconds. Seriously, people, I have places to be.

-My house would clean itself. I don't have time and if I want a new house this century I won't be able to pay for a housekeeper. And the kids are useless. Better yet, I'd have a magic wand and by saying "Diffindo" or something, all the crap would go back where it belongs. I think I deserve it, dammit.

-You wouldn't have to wait for things you're REALLY looking forward to. Right now I'm blogging because I have to wait until tonight to pick up my new puppy. And I hate waiting.

-Naptime would last AT LEAST two hours. And I'd get one every day. Including at work.

-My husband and I would just spend all day snuggling together. And maybe part of the day snuggling on the couch with the kids, watching Dirty Jobs or Mythbusters. Nothing else is more important.

-Exercise would be all you need to lose weight. I LIKE exercising. It makes me feel good. But the food thing is the complicated thing. How much, what types, what percentages of daily's all BS. Working my ass off should translate to ASS OFF.

-McDonalds Chicken McNuggets would actually be nutritious.

-Every time Justin Hartley and Tom Welling appear onscreen together on Smallville I would be transported into the show and they would immediately forget whatever they were doing and proceed to be my slaves. Without shirts on. Separately, of course, because ew.

-The damned chainsaw that my neighbor has going right now would die and go to hell. Don't fucking cut down a tree in the middle of my kids' nap, dammit!

-My house would decorate itself. It has been sitting in a state of permanent boring since we moved in. I once said that my house was a study in turn-of-the-century clutter, and while I've ameliorated that in the last two days (NINE bags to Goodwill today) I still don't have any place to put fun things that might be decorative. That and I have kids, which is a bad idea around decorative things. I need a bigger house and older kids.

-Not a single kid would go home to a drunk parent, mentally ill parent, absent parent, uninterested parent, or homeless situation. I see the way these parents affect kids every day and it hurts that I can do so little to change it. At my previous job not a day went by when I didn't want to bring a kid home with me and offer him or her a better life. Now it's more like once a week, but I know those other kids are still out there and I feel so guilty that I left them for an easier situation. I only hope that I made enough of a difference in their lives that they have the motivation to improve them.

-My children would be able to choose their own paths in life and I will be proud of the choices they make. I don't care if they go to Ivy League schools or find prestigious careers - I just want them to be happy and successful in whatever they do.

-Justin Bieber and his stupid hairdo would go away forever.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Julie Andrews, eat your heart out

I'm kind of in the mood to count my blessings, so I decided to list some of the things I enjoy most in life. Now that I can actually enjoy things, it's amazing how happy the little things make me. So here are a few of my favorite things.

1. My light blue king-sized minky blanket from Costco. I lie in bed before going to sleep and pet it. It's softer than any pet I've ever owned, including Lacey, who had some really silky ears. I know, weird, right?

2. My Dansko clogs. I own two pairs. They're like a good husband, utterly dependable and supportive. The ultimate in sensible shoes.

3. My extra-large hoodies. I own two from my previous job and one from my new one. I would live in those things if the weather and my job permitted.

4. Facebook. If only because it provides another outlet for my relentless narcissism.

5. Wellbutrin. Because, well, duh.

6. Prenatal vitamins. Started taking them 7+ years ago when we started TTC originally. They made my hair silky and my nails long and strong. I never stopped taking them. My hairdresser asked me how I keep my hair in such great condition when I flat-iron it every day. I blame the vitamins.

7. Creme-filled chocolates. Not truffles, not nut-filled - the fluffy or creamy creme-filled ones. Or anything chewy. No fruit, though. Fruit does not belong in chocolate. It's an abomination. And don't even get me started on sour crap.

8. My kitchen. The cabinets, floor and table are all this light maple color that I adore. My entire house would be a mix of that color and natural wood if I had anything to say about it.

9. Sarah McLachlan, Jewel, Alanis Morissette, Madonna, Taylor Swift, Carrie Underwood, P!nk, Linkin Park, Lifehouse, and a bunch of other singers/bands who were popular in the 90s. I'm starting to feel old.

10. So You Think You Can Dance. FAVORITE SHOW EVER. My son even watches it with me. I can't stand most reality shows but this one makes me cry at least 4 times a season. The dancing is incredible, and I adore the new format. I miss dance and wish I could still do it like I used to.

11. Harry Potter. J.K. Rowling is my hero. No, scratch that. Hermione is my hero. The little (ok, let's be honest, huge) nerd inside me squees every time she raises her hand.

12. Sourdough breadbowls with beef stew from Costco. Good lord, were those good the other night. I never thought I'd enjoy them that much.

13. Grey's Anatomy and Glee. They're really the only two shows of the fall season that I watch regularly. I would do dirty, dirty things to Eric Dane. And Matthew Morrison, but only if he's singing with his shirt off. Mm.

14. Mythbusters and Dirty Jobs. Because I'm a nerd, and Mike Rowe. 'Nuff said.

15. My distressed jeans from Lane Bryant. I've never found jeans that make my ass look good and still fit my legs. These jeans make me feel hot. Even if I'm just wearing them with my favorite hoodie.

16. Analyzing things. And overanalyzing things. I like to figure things out. And rethink them. And figure how to fix them. It's what I do, it's who I am. It makes me good at what do, mainly because I do it so naturally that in the flow of things I can make changes based on a tiny detail that ends up being a huge learning moment. It's a bitch for most people around me, though. No one wants to be analyzed all the time. It's hard to turn off, though, and I'm a nerd. I like it.

17. My daughter. Words cannot describe her awesomeness. The simple way she says the words, "Okay?" and "All wight" melts my heart. Her constant chatter makes me giggle. Her adoration of her big brother makes me all gooey. She's so bright and shiny and happy all the time that I can't believe she came out of me. I blame the husband.

18. My son. His devotion to his sister is incredible. He kind heart and thoughtfulness are the kinds of qualities that I wish I could embody. He has become an amazing little boy (ok, big boy, he's 6 and is 4 1/2 feet tall and weighs 73 pounds). He wants to please and does everything he can to do so. He reminds me of things I would never have remembered. I look at my children and wonder how I could possibly have created two such amazing creatures. Again, I blame the husband. They couldn't have gotten their selflessness and caring from their narcissistic mother. ;-P

19. My husband. No one else in the world would have the patience to stay by my side through all of my struggles, and put up with my tantrums, fits of rage and breakdowns like he has. He is a saint. And an incredible kisser. And other things too, but we don't need to get into that here. Suffice it to say that he is perfect for me. My missing puzzle piece was found.

20. Me. I know, right? It has taken me 30+ years to like myself. I still don't like many aspects of my personality and my body, but goddammit, I couldn't have surrounded myself with such amazing people if I didn't have a few good qualities. After all that I've been through, all the self-hatred I've lived with, and all the mental beatings I've given myself over the years, I've finally reached a point of peace. Just in time for the holidays.

And with that, I conclude my ode to fun stuff. I think I'll get down and dirty with my next post and share the things that piss me off. Oh, that's gonna be fun!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

My journey

In April of 2008, while I was pregnant with my daughter, I started having a lot of lower back pain and what I thought were contractions. After some monitoring and inconclusive results, I was told to stop working until she was born. No biggie, I had the sick leave, so I took the time off. After a couple of months, more lower back pain but no odd contractions, I made it to my scheduled c-section and all was well.

Then, in December of 2008, the back pain started getting worse, traveling down my leg and making it difficult to stand, sit, lie down or walk. After dealing with it for almost a month, I went to the neurologist. They did an MRI, and found that I had two herniated disks in my low back. I was 20 years ahead of my time, according to the neurologist, and at my weight and BMI, they wanted to avoid surgery at all costs. Then he told me something that would change my life. As I asked about diet and exercise options, the doctor said to me, "Once you're over 100 pounds overweight, your only option is weightloss surgery."

After a deep sinking feeling in my stomach, I proceeded to the anesthesiologist, who gave me a cortisone shot in my back, and since then, barring some low level aching, I've had no recurring symptoms. But I wanted to avoid those at all costs, and seeing as weightloss surgery was "my only option," I went with my husband to a seminar. Once again, the bariatric surgeon said, "Once you're 100 pounds overweight, surgery is your only option."

Now, see, I'm stubborn. And hard-headed. And I REALLY don't like being told what to do. But more than that, I really REALLY don't like being told what I CAN'T do. And when two board-certified physicians tell me I can't lose the weight on my own, all of my "fuck you" instincts go into overdrive. So I started researching. And researching. And I took some serious steps to change my life for the better.

I started with daily exercising. I started off slowly, getting up early in the morning to go walking for 30 minutes or so, making sure to work up a sweat and a heart rate. As the weather got rainy, we got a treadmill, and when the treadmill died, we got an elliptical. I also joined a gym and got into a workout plan involving strength training and cardio.

Then I tackled diet. I researched calorie content and made lists of the foods I ate regularly. I developed lesson plans that helped my students make healthier choices as I was doing the same thing. I looked up my basal metabolic rate so I knew how many calories I should eat each day. I kept a running total on a calculator on my computer and in my head of every single calorie I consumed, minus any burned through exercise.

I attacked this with the fire of a thousand suns. And goddammit, did it ever work. From April until November 2009, I lost 80 pounds. I made it from 284 pounds to 204 pounds, in the span of 8 months. And damn, did it feel good.

But then it started not feeling so good. I started feeling weak, and getting angry. I found that if I exercised and ate 1500 calories a day, my body was going into starvation mode and that, combined with my still-untreated depression, made me psycho. Literally.

All along the way I made little changes and adjustments. The weight came off so fast in the beginning that I was feeling so accomplished and ready to keep going. But after awhile it became obvious that I was doing something wrong. I wasn't the same person I was before I started this. Part of that came from the untreated depression, part of that came from an incredibly stressful and draining work situation, and part of that came from the fact that I was, for all intents and purposes, starving myself. (I know, hard to believe you can do that on 1500 calories a day, isn't it?)

In November of last year I decided to slack off and try eating more. I kept up the exercise but waffled back and forth on the amount of calories I would eat each day, trying to find something that worked. The double-edged sword there was that the weight didn't come off as quickly, and I got real discouraged, real quickly. But I was also dealing with that work situation and the depression.

Somehow, in the past year, I managed to get on medication for depression, get out of a stressful work situation and into a better one, and start treating my husband, children and myself better. I've even kept up the exercise, going to the gym or working on the elliptical 4-6 days a week, and getting very fit and building a ton of muscle (which apparently I do really easily). Unfortunately, during this time, I've also gained back 30 of the pounds that I had originally lost.

The journey that I have been on for the past year and a half - the one that involved pain, struggle, tears, stress, anger, drugs, physical therapy, sweat, and (thank all that is or isn't holy) lots and lots of love - that journey has been one hell of a long and difficult one. I can't even begin to describe what it feels like to be happy again. What it feels like to look at my children and see, not their faults, but their strengths and beauty. What it feels like to actually LIKE myself.

And here I am, still 50 pounds lighter than I was in April of 2009. I can feel my bicep when I flex, I can pull myself up on the monkey bars, and I can do multiple situps. I can jog 3 miles without stopping. I can work out on the elliptical for an hour at the highest incline and resistance. I can play with my kids and have patience with them when they struggle. And I sleep at night.

I have one more hurdle to jump. I still weigh 234 pounds, and according to my trainer, because of my ability to build muscle quickly, my ideal weight is 180 pounds. I won't ever look like a model, but goddammit, I will be strong enough to break those little twigs in half.

So tonight, I'm going to take the first of my last steps on this journey. After changing my whole life, not only for myself but my family, it would be unfair to myself to not continue until I reach that ultimate goal. So tonight, I'm pledging to redouble my efforts to be healthy, to eat better, to exercise well and often, and to get rid of that last 54-pound tire around my waist.

I may be a fat girl. But I will not be defined by my weight. My daughter will know me as a strong girl. One who fought several demons and kicked all of their asses. I'm not just doing it for myself, but for her as well, so she can be inspired to be a better person no matter what life may throw at her.

I hope that my journey has an impact on her, and if nothing else, teaches her that no matter what big squishy raccoons fly into her path, she has the power to wipe off the stain and move on.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Puppies puppies puppies

Summer of 2009, we adopted a dog from the shelter, Max. He was a great dog, about 70 pounds, lab mix, wonderful with the kids and very sweet and lovable. But he was very uncomfortable around men. That was the first sign that something was wrong. He would bark and growl at any man who came near us. He wouldn't do it to kids - he adored kids and would sooner lick them to death than even growl, but men were a no-go. He would even do it to my husband when he got home from work. He never bit anyone, but the barking from such a large dog was quite intimidating.

Then one day, instead of keeping him in his kennel while we were at work, I decided to gate him into the kitchen, thinking he's an adult dog and he probably doesn't need to be confined as much anymore. I came home to the drywall in one corner of the doorframe scratched off the wall. It was a small area, maybe a couple of inches, and I figured he was just trying to figure out how to get the gate down and scratched the wall in the process. So I chalked it up to a mistake and kept putting him in his kennel when we left for work.

Then another day I left with the kids to run to the grocery store for about 20 minutes. I figured I'd leave him the run of the house for that short amount of time since I had left him the day before for an hour or two and he was fine. I came home to our neighbor standing at the window and Max hanging out of it, completely entangled in the miniblinds, the window air conditioner in pieces on the ground outside and Max all bloody. He apparently had tried to get out the window to follow us, entangling himself in the process. He was fine, just a few scratches, but we lost the miniblinds and the air conditioner. I wasn't worried about it, because I figured that he had just stuck his head through the blinds, got stuck, and got more stuck as he tried to get out. So I went back to kenneling him whenever we had to go somewhere.

After a few weeks of kenneling him, I figured we'd try leaving him in the house again. I closed all of our doors but left the gate down so he could wander through the main part of the house but not get into the kids' toys. That day I walked in the house, turned the corner down the hall, and saw a 2-foot wide hole that he had chewed and scratched in our bedroom door.

I grabbed him and took him to his kennel so I could keep him out of the way while I cleaned up. Then, as I put him in there, I realized what he was doing to his kennel. He had chewed and scratched and worried at the edge of the kennel, under the door, so badly that there was a hole 8 inches wide and almost 1 inch across. I knew he was chewing the blankets I would put in there - every time I'd give him a blanket it would end up shredded, literally, within a day or two. We went through 4 blankets in the time that Max was with us.

We had a bad case of separation anxiety.

Now, during this time I had attempted to have my mom be my doggy daycare. That was our deal from the beginning - if we got a dog, she would have him at her house for playdates with her dogs if my husband wasn't home. This was also as her health began to get worse, and she couldn't handle my rambunctious dog as he charged through the house chasing her rambunctious dog. It became obvious that my whole plan for having a dog, one that had been carefully thought out from the beginning, was not working as planned - mainly because the personality of the dog we had chosen was not fitting with our family. Max was too rambunctious to be cared for by my mom when we were at work, he was too nervous around men for me to walk him on the trail, and he was too anxious when we left him alone to not cause damage to our house or himself.

So I made one of the hardest decisions I've ever made - I took him back to the shelter.

I beat myself up over that one, and I still do. Hindsight, however, gives me a little comfort - he wasn't the right dog for our family. And it made me realize a few things. One, we weren't ready for a dog at the time. My husband had grudgingly accepted it, but wasn't at all happy about it and Max's destroying our belongings made him very angry. Two, a shelter dog was not what we needed. I thought I was doing the right thing, adopting a grown mutt and not a puppy, from the shelter and not a breeder, finding one who was sweet and lovable. But the truth was, the few minutes you spend in a room with a dog at the shelter doesn't tell you everything you need to know about a dog. I needed to know more.

Fast forward to a year and a half later. It took me at least a year after Max to start thinking about another dog. It has been almost 5 years since my baby-before-I-had-babies, Lacey, died of cancer, and I knew I couldn't go much longer without another dog. I had already waited 4 years and 2 kids before Max for a reason. I adopted him in the summer when I would have time to train him; I knew I was done having kids and both of them were amazing with animals; I adopted an adult dog because I knew puppies were hard work; plus I had my mom to be my doggy daycare. It seemed like the perfect situation. We just didn't have the perfect dog. So a year after Max, I started thinking about it again.

I did my research. I started looking at different breeds, trying to find one that would fit. I was looking for a laid-back, snuggly, easy-to-train smaller (not small - 20-30 pounds) dog without a lot of hair. I knew it had to have energy for my kids, but also be a couch potato for when I needed to chill in the evenings. It had to travel well and be able to go with us wherever we could take it. And it also had to be ok with being kenneled when we were gone for any length of time.

With a list that specific, I realized I could no longer be looking at a shelter dog. There were too many variables and unknowns. Which was heart-wrenching, honestly, because I have always said I would never own anything but mutts. And it kills me to pay a breeder when I could be saving a life. But our family is ready for a dog, and to be fair to us and the dog, I knew I had to be more careful in our selection.

During my casual looking, someone I knew asked about Lacey, and I described her as a mutt who looked like a longhaired whippet. That sparked something, so I started researching whippets. And then, on a whim, I did a google search on longhaired whippets. Lo an behold, the breed actually exists. They do look a lot like my previous dog (although she was all mutt). I started corresponding with a breeder to learn more about them, and casually asked if they knew of any puppies who might be available in the summer of 2011. She said no, but that they had a litter that would be available in September. I told her I wouldn't be interested because that was the beginning of the school year and I was starting a new job. She said great, no worries, let's keep chatting. So we did. During this time I also chatted with the original owner of the mother, who technically owned the puppies as a condition of the mother's sale. We chatted back and forth as well.

A couple of weeks went by as we corresponded over email, and one day the breeder sent me a message with an idea. Would I be interested in taking one of the puppies if the owner kept her, socialized her, and cared for her until we were ready to take her? I couldn't believe it. I asked what it would entail - she said a deposit and money for her food until we were ready to take her. I asked if she would be willing to keep her until Christmas, when we would have a two week break to transition her, and she said absolutely. I said we'd take her.

I discussed it with my husband to make sure he had complete buy-in. I started a puppy fund to make sure all of the initial and ongoing expenses were covered. I found a dog training facility close to my work, and nailed down my mom and my in-laws for doggy daycare for the days that my husband doesn't work from home.

This time, after doing everything right (hopefully), I'm hoping we have the right dog. I've kept in touch with the breeder and the owner, getting updates and pictures the whole time, so I know what kind of dog I'm getting and what her personality is. She has been incredibly well-socialized and is already housetrained, and partially obedience trained. She adores kids and is a couch potato in the house. Plus she'll only be about 25 pounds full-grown and sheds lightly, if at all.

I'm hoping we did it right this time. Adding a dog to the family is akin to adding a baby to the family, at least in my eyes. Giving up Max was gut-wrenching for me, but I knew it was the right thing to do. I've taken every step I can possibly think of to avoid that, this time. Plus, I'm in a better place as well, able to handle more than I could handle a year or so ago.

I can't wait to welcome Maya to our family. She's the spotted one on the left.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Intensely personal.

Discovered something tonight. Something that explains so much. Something that unfortunately is still affecting my family and is probably the reason we all are the way we are. And sadly, that something is the same thing I thought I had fought and won over: depression.

Although this time, it isn't mine. And this battle to be soon fought isn't my battle. But it's because I fought my own battle that I was able to see what was staring us all in the face for the last 30-odd years.

Over the last 5 or so years, since my son was born, I thought he had a few behavior issues. I thought he was fighting us and being defiant and doing the things he did because he has a stubborn streak - a strong will that he inherited from both of us. My god, did he ever test me. And my god, did I handle it badly sometimes. I failed his tests, many times. When he lashed out, I lashed back. It usually wasn't physical, but my yelling when I was frustrated and angry could be just as damaging as a slap to the rear end that was just a little too hard.

Since I've been happy, he's a different kid. Since I treated my depression and have managed to handle his behavior calmly and rationally, he has literally become an angel. He has made me so proud - his love for his sister, his caring for everyone in general, his amazing and beyond-his-age good behavior in every single situation, in addition to his brilliant verbal skills and desire to help out - in truth, his real personality has come to light. It was always there. I knew it was. But I was too caught up in my own battle within my own head to be able to see what an incredibly wonderful kid he really was.

Someone said to me tonight that with depression, you can't really see how your depression affects everyone around you, and how it changes you, until you get better. Since I've been better, my son is better. It scares me that he could have gotten worse because of me. It's further reason to stay on my medication and stay better.

Last year, in the middle of my darkest time, when I was struggling with my self, my job, my child and even (to a lesser extent because of my wonderful husband) my marriage, I went to a physical therapy appointment. It ended up being a therapy appointment, all right, but not a physical one, as I broke down in sobs and shared with my doctor all of the things I was going through. After listening for 15 minutes, she asked me, "Is there anyone in your family who is drug- or alcohol-addicted?"

It stopped me in my tracks for a second, completely confused as to why she would be asking this. The only thing I could think was that my brother is an alcoholic. But that didn't develop until he was about 19 and I was mostly out of the house. I couldn't figure out why that might affect me. Obviously alcoholism and addiction was something I had never considered.

I told her about my brother, then asked why she had mentioned it. She proceeded to describe herself - a pleaser who judges herself constantly and without mercy. A person who has difficulty having fun. Someone who takes herself very seriously and has difficulty with intimate relationships. Overreacts to changes over which she has no control. Is super responsible and constantly seeks approval and affirmation. Feels that she is different from other people.

She was describing me.

She proceeded to tell me about Al-Anon, the support group for families of addicts and alcoholics, and how she realized that she was that way because of her father and his addiction. Over the past year, since that day, I have been trying to figure out how my brother's alcoholism could have affected me in the same way, and I'd just about dismissed the theory. It didn't make any sense to me.

Until tonight, when I made the connection between my own behavior and my son's behavior. How my erratic behavior, caused by my depression, made my son the way he was. And how, when I got treated, my son became the kid everyone wants to have.

It makes me wonder - if my dad had admitted, all those years ago, and not just admitted but accepted, that he was depressed - would I be different? Would my brother be the alcoholic he is? Would I have put my son through what I did? Would I have been happy? Without drugs?

There were many times, as I was yelling at my son or puffing up and stomping down the hall because I was so enraged, when a little voice at the back of my mind reminded me how much I was acting like my dad. And I hated it. I HATED how I was acting, HATED how angry I was at what I KNEW was an insignificant thing, HATED that I didn't know how to stop reacting the way that I was reacting. But there was also that little voice that whispered, "You act this way because it is what you learned." And I always thought, in answer to that, that I didn't have to act that way just because my dad did. But I guess that voice was a lot quieter than the first one. Because I didn't really hear it until I wasn't depressed anymore.

And it wasn't until tonight that I realized what that voice was trying to tell me - that my dad was depressed too. Which I've known all along but didn't really start thinking until recently, as I put together the pieces of the puzzle that have been sitting in front of my face for so long. The withdrawal from our family as he sat in front of his computer screen in his office for hours on end (we always called it his "hole" when I was a kid), the fact that he never played with me or my brother growing up, the fact that he only seemed happy when he was in charge, the fact that he left my mom for a month for no reason other than the fact that she "didn't pay enough attention" to him. The fact that as my brother's behavior and mental health declined, he got angrier at all of us. And the two times that he left notes intimating that he was going to commit suicide.

The worst part of all this? The fact that he won't admit it. He's old school. He's a control freak who won't accept that he might need to be dependent on anyone else for help. He can't see how his depression affected us. And how it's still affecting my mom.

I'm just hoping that now - now that I've seen this, now that I've had this breakthrough and realize why I am the way I am, and why my family is the way it is - I'm hoping that now I'll have the strength to say what I need to say to him. Because I see that he's not the bad guy in all this. I see that it isn't his fault, because I've been through it myself. I know exactly how that little voice in the back of his mind sounds, and I know what it's like to shut. it. the. hell. up.

I know how much better life can be. I just hope that my realization helps make life a little better for my dad too. Because he's a good man, just as my son is a wonderful kid. And maybe, if he gets help like I did, our family can see what a good man he really is.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Everybody's jumping off a bridge today, why don't you try it?

Ahh, the satisfaction of being well-medicated.

Hi, I'm Marci, and I'm depressed.

You know, it doesn't really feel good to say that. I'm really open about it, mainly because I want people to realize that there's no shame in it. Yes, I need medication to function. Yes, I'm an upper-middle-class white girl from a nice neighborhood who grew up with many privileges. And yes, I realize that people out there have lives that are one hell of a lot worse than mine. But dammit, life is shit sometimes, no matter where you come from. And you get hit with big squishy raccoons sometimes, no matter what kind of car you're driving.

Maybe I just hang out with the wrong people, but it seems like depression is awfully prevalent these days. Probably some side effect of our society or something - I don't know. Isn't that what you're supposed to do, blame society if you don't want to take responsibility for something? Oh wait - sorry, I meant that if you don't take responsibility for something you beg the government to bail you out.

Oops, sorry - my Republican is showing. Quick, say something liberal!, I had fun at that gay pride parade last weekend. Kissed a few girls while I was there too.

So...anyway, depression. Mine started off young - big mean assholes calling me names, not knowing how to fight back, feeling like I was worthless because not everyone liked me, yada yada. Add in a body type that was more Rosie than Milla and my head got all kinds of screwed. Oh yeah, and add in well-meaning parents whose choices ended up making the situation worse, not better. (Hmm...I wonder in which ways I'll screw my own kids up? This is gonna be fun.)

So, long story short, wah wah, life sucks, let's try drugs!

Holy Steve, are drugs a wonderful thing. For the first time in my 30+ years I am HAPPY. And it's only taken me 30+ years.

I'm a bitch. Really and truly, I am. Many people have seen glimpses of this, but most of them think that I'm pretty much only the perky, happy-go-lucky, friendly Marci that I show to people at work. They didn't get to see me at my worst, when I was not only mean to and angry with myself, but also everyone else in my life. My husband is not only the most patient man in the universe, but he is also my hero, and the fact that he puts up with me is a gift that I thank him for profusely. With a lot of sexual favors.

Depression made me a bitch. It made me angry. It made me take every single slight I ever received from anyone and magnify it until I was angry with not only everyone, but also myself. And I took out that anger on my family.

Since the drugs? Well, let's just say that when those big squishy raccoons hit me in the face on occasion, I don't get knocked to the ground and smeared in ichor and intestine. Now, generally I just pull a baby wipe out of my new Miche bag and wipe off the smear on my cheek.

So yeah, depression is rather prevalent these days. But if that means that some government fund is going to make sure that new and better drugs come out to make people like me treat other people better? I'll stand up and say it very loudly. I'm depressed.

Hi, I'm Marci. I used to be depressed. Drugs made me happy.

Snark is a good thing.

Hi there.

How are ya? Feeling good tonight? Good. 'Cause my night sucked like a whore in a cheap hotel room.

Don't get me wrong, today was actually a pretty great day. Exploring on the beach with the little monsters (Gaga will NOT copyright that term if I have anything to say about it), actually accomplishing some cleaning of the human transport vehicles, watching Mythbusters, Dirty Jobs and even a little Hannah Montana with the fam.

But tonight beat me over the head with a dead raccoon. A really squishy one.

See, my mom is sick. And it hurts, a lot. It's not cancer or something fun like that - that might give us hope that it'll go away some day. No, it's a whole slew of conditions that in reality means that she's just going to keep getting worse for a really long time.

Some people in my family aren't dealing with it well. Honestly, I'm really not either - I cope by keeping busy with my job and my family, and trying to invite her along with me wherever I go, as often as I can.

Other people in my family, one in particular, are trying to escape it through avoidance. Because that makes it all go away, right?

I've been accused of lecturing, I've been accused of "shrinking," and despite the fact that this is not going to go away, other people will not accept that the choices they make directly affect the lives and well-being of others. I took it upon myself to tell that to a particular person this evening. And once again, it was as if I took a flying leap into a crowd of moshers - who turned around to look behind them at the guy whose hair was on fire, right as I crashed to the floor.

Have YOU ever felt absolutely, gut-wrenchingly ineffectual? Oh, it's so much fun! It's just like jumping in front of a speeding Yugo after its driver watched a NASCAR race and decided to live the rush.

So I'm sitting here blogging tonight with a sinus headache and that Yugo sitting on my shoulders. I want to make this better. For my mom, for my family, for me. But I can't.

So I snark. And I blog. It's a lot cheaper than therapy.

Welcome. If you're into that sort of thing.

I was inspired by one of my favorite people in the entire world, my friend Sara, to begin blogging. I can't guarantee this will be a regular occurrence. Writing has never been a habit for me. I was always good at it, but when it came to blogging I always felt like I couldn't write about things that really mattered to me because I felt like I had to make everyone happy. In an attempt to get over that, I've introduced Educational Idiocy. It's my platform. MINE. No touchy.

I'll try not to take it personally when someone disagrees with me. I really have to get over that "pleasing everybody" thing and accept the fact that it's ok to have opinions and express them. You know, anonymously. Hi there, cyberworld, I'm Marci and I have the courage to speak out. As long as I'm cloaked in ones and zeros.

Life isn't always happy, but once we all step back from our own shit we can usually see the humor in it. I try to, at least. After the personal journey I've been on, coming from a pretty dark place, I can finally see that light at the end of each dark situation. Maybe something I have to say will make you laugh, maybe something will make you spitting pissed. Please, comment on it. I'll let you know if I give a shit.

Have a great day!