Tuesday, July 26, 2011

I admit it. Bad idea.

I love to clean.  I find it very cathartic.  I take cleaning seriously, so when given a task, watch out....it may take a while to be done right.  Out of all the things that made me a terrible candidate for military service,  getting something CLEAN was not one of them.

I do not live in a germ-free or un-cluttered house.  The many things I pay my psychiatrist and therapist for do not cover OCD.  Lots of people like to arm-chair diagnose me for it, and usually say it with a sneer, but I kind of take pleasure in that.  So fuck 'em.  Our home is comfy and well-lived in.  A good deal of our furniture is hand-me-downs from my mom and dad.  Including one "L" shaped sofa that was custom-made and stuffed with down. 

It is glorious, this sofa.  I have loved it since it came to live with us when I was in high school.  It is fantastic for napping.  It just begs to be a partner in sloth.  It came with far too many pillows, all down-stuffed too.  Not a huge pillow fan, but they do make the sofa look an ad in a home magazine.  A few years back, my parents thought a few extra slip-covers would be great, so they could dress the sofa up for the fall/winter and spring/summer.  Not inexpensive, they realized they needed to protect the investment and got some great covers from Orvis.  Thick, heavy, supposedly "spill proof", and resist that funky smell that comes with having dogs lounge on your furniture.

The covers get washed A LOT here.  Pugs shed like crazy.  I always thought Retrievers were awful, but their shedding is livable.  Pug shedding is something that will keep the Dyson Animal in business for YEARS.  Anyway, Pugs, for as little as they do during a 24 hour period, manage to funk-up my sofa covers but for good!  Two weekends ago I decided the house smelled like an animal shelter, so it was declared that I was going to get busy on some steam cleaning...so gather up your shit and get out of my way.  I spent about 8 hours on a 12 x 6 Oriental rug on my back deck.  The neighbors thought I lost my fucking mind, and were probably ready to shot me on sight for running our steam cleaning for 8 hours...give or take.  I also cleaned all the LL Bean Waterhog Mats (LOVE those things...might outfit the whole house with them!), so the house was smelling pretty darned good after that day.  A deep satisfaction rumbled through me, and has carried me for a little over two weeks.  Showing my rug the love it deserves (after watching bucket after bucket of dank, foul water fill up...also deeply satisfying...in an odd, I probably-shouldn't-talk-about-that-kind-of-way), I have been vacuuming at least every other day.

So when I came home from running my dear fucked-out-of-her-skull-on-pain-meds mother to and fro to the beauty salon (a story for another day), I stepped across the threshold and smelled....dog.  Dirty, rotten, filthy dog.  It didn't occur to me that I was holding a very foul-tempered Cam (two year molars) who needed feeding and a nap ASAP, that Rob was on a conference call in his "office" (our bedroom...the only room that has a bathtub...), or that trying to wash three water-phobic Pugs WITH the assistance of the aforementioned foul-tempered toddler was a bad idea.

I cajoled three nervous, skeptical Pugs up the stairs, while steering Cam and the pack through the bedroom door.  Rob greeted us with a grimace, to which I replied "you won't even hear us...I'll turn on the fan!"

I was two 1.5 Pugs in when it became clear it was a terrible, horrible idea.  Cam has never met a body of water she hasn't immediately loved.  That bathtub is, as far as she is concerned, HERS and hers alone.  So when I hoisted the Pug stupid enough to come to me into the tub, Cam started throwing her leg over the side in earnest.  Bad temper gone, she was all about getting in that tub....Pug intruder be damned.

It have to stop and point out that we use expensive, organic, no-parabens, blah-blah-blah, shampoos and soaps on Cam.  For moms and pops, we get the 50 gallon drum of toxic Head & Shoulders (really, check this out...).  Most of the products we use on Cam could cause eye irritation, but for some odd reason she's never, ever once complained.  So.

I have Dixon (poor, stupid boy) lathered up GOOD with H&S.  I figure, he's an itchy boy (flippin' hot spots...ugh!), the H&S does a good job on his human parents' heads...a match made in heaven.  He's tolerating the indignity pretty well, until Cam sees that the look on his face suggests "this is some BULLSHIT WOMAN!!!!" and goes in for a hug and kiss. 

Another pause in the story to tell you what Dixon hates most in life:  LIPS.  Any sort of lip action coming at him, and he is all "back up off me...I mean it...back up off me!"  He's been known to snap at Cam.  To say she will fully deserve it when he finally does get a little Cam meat, is an understatement (and before you rush to call DCFS...they are supervised and watched constantly.  He's just a slow mover.).  Although lately, I have to give the kid credit, she uses her "gentle hands" a lot more than she used to.

So when Cam leaned in for a smooch, I was too enamored of THE CUTEST BABY ON EARTH to remember Dixon would rather, well, take a bath then be kissed.  He reared back out of my reach and Cam's bear-hug and got in the far corner of the tub.  "FREE AT LAST" must have blasted through his dim mind before he decided to give a good and thorough shaking.  All that H&S foam?  ALL over Cam.  For a kid who loves to roll around naked in a down pour in a muddy vegetable plot, she sure as shit didn't appreciate the dirty, foamy, HAIRY mess Dixon left all over her.  She started hollering and wining.  Nothing new with her attitude lately, so I powered through and got Pug rinsed and semi-dry before I plucked the next sucker into the tub.

Zelda.  I know I am partial, but that Pug is flippin' CUTE.  She is a bitch on wheels, and has eyes only for the men-folk.  Considering she was MY dog when Rob and I got together, it's a slight I am still miffed about.  Rob and I also decided, on a loooong evening fueled by Jim Beam, that Zelda...if she could speak....would have a gravelly voice, a penchant for expensive scotch and cigars, and would more than likely tell anyone who looked at her twice to "fuck off".  But she's just so damn cute.  And feisty, so I looooove her more than anything.  Well, except Rob and Cam....but she's close up there with the humans.  I mean look at this face (which incidentally ALWAYS looks like "These people STARVE me...HELP!!":

It's what has kept her alive, that and being oddly protective of Cam.  Where Dixon likes to offer a toothy reprimand, Zelda is all concern and sweetness.  Never once snapped OR growled...which she does A lot to Dixon and Murphy. 

So once I get her in the tub, she is a ball of energy of trying to get back out of the tub.  Wet and pissed, she retreats to the back corner, and is smarter than her brother.  She sits down.  Which makes it damn hard to wash her, and gives her leverage because I can barely reach her.  With a very loud sigh and snort, from Zelda, I finally get her soaped up, with Cam's siren-song of whine reaching a fever pitch.  I look over to tell Cam for the 542nd time to GET OFF THE DRAIN, KID! and she's rubbing a big old glob of H&S foam directly into her eyes.  Faced with an escape artist and screaming child, my brain does what it normally does: "we can handle both of these!" 

I grab Cam's arm and hand, and use my upper body to block Zelda's escape.  Cam won't stop rubbing her eyes, so I think "flush it out!"...which is what I did.  Cam got a full-on face of the "gentle shower" spray action, which got her attention long enough to stop rubbing.  Which is when the "my mother is murdering me" scream started.  Remember, Rob is on a con-call right outside the door.  I was able to get Zelda rinsed off, and snatched Cam up to see if her eyes had really fallen out.  And she screams louder.  Frantically she starts slapping at my hands, so I set her back in the tub, where she gives me the stink-eye and starts flapping her hands at all the Pug fur stuck to her body.  I assume the eyes are okay, hose her down again and she stops screaming.  Phew.  I realize there is no way in hell I am going to get Murphy washed, so I lock all three Pugs in the bathroom and go to get Cam dressed and down for a much needed nap.  For which the screaming starts again.  I get her down, and go down the stairs to get some water. 

There's Rob sitting at the dining table looking a bit empathetic, but more smug.  I had to go back up there and wash Murphy.  The Pug barely tolerates petting, what do you think a bath does to him?

At least the sofa is now bedecked with two clean covers, and three clean, possibly not all de-soaped, snoring Pugs.  And no, Cam is not blind. 

Monday, July 25, 2011

Okay, I asked for it.

We have dogs.  Two Pugs, to be exact.  A Pug is so dignified and awesome, that we really don't ever refer to them as "dogs".  It's almost offensive to use the "D" word in this house.  Language counts here so it's:  "Fed The Pugs lately?"  "Any Pug need to go outside?"  "PUGS!!!!  Come back here!"  "Pug, why are you so awesome, as to sleep 20 (or more) hours out of 24?!?"  "Girl Pug, if you were any cuter I'd eat you up with a spoon!"

Dixon and Zelda are 8.  Dixon is the handsome lump of black, Zelda is the cutest thing alive (counting my very own baby) and is the fawn on the right.  They seriously do THAT....All.  Day.  Long.  Only exceptions: when food is being prepared or consumed by humans (oh how they LOVE Cam then!); they HAVE to pee/poo or will explode THIS MINUTE (procrastinators have nothing on Pugs); or Mama is running the scary noise maker that will kill us all (vaccuum). 

Truth is I hated all small dogs.  One, because, well, the obvious: small.  Small, in my experience, equals yappy and snappish.  So small and yappy?  With a willingness to bite?  Fuck that.  Two, because a dog should be rough and tumble.  Like a good Retriever.  THAT'S a dog!

Then I met two Pugs.  And fell madly in love with those lovable little goofs.  Snorty, chunky, playful, curious....Pugs.  They belonged to my Division Officer and his family (my time in the Navy), so I got to know those little guys very well, and found out that Pugs aren't like small dogs....they don't yap.  They don't try to extricate the meat from your ankles.  They LOVE people, not just the humans who feed them.  Friendly, out-going, playful, tough, and cute with the bug-eyes and smooshed face.  Still the only small "dog" I like.

Seeing as how y'all probably can count, you might wonder who that third Pug is.  That is Murphy.  Once upon a time, Rob and I were foster parents.  Foster parents to wayward, cast-off, abandoned Pugs.  We fostered 20 Pugs in about 18 months, all went to loving homes.  The organization I volunteered for is fantastic.  They do their due diligence in making sure that Pugs that find their way to us go to appropriate homes, where there will be a forever connection.  Can you imagine being an animal that has been given away (or worse), go to a new home, only to be cast out again?  Right.  So if you ever come into contact with what you think is an over-zealous rescue group, we are that way for very good reason.

Anyway, back to Murphy.  Murph was our last foster.  Number 20.  He came our way right before Christmas in 2009.  I had to travel out of our county to pick him up at a shelter.  Immediately I was struck by his "perfect" Pug face.  He is a handsome, handsome Pug.  Perfect black-mask, wrinkles galore.  And save any comments you think may be funny "A face only a mother could love!" or "looks like it ran into the back of a truck!"...because I have heard them all and really?  They make me want to slap the ever-living shit out of the ignorant mouth who dares to speak it to me.  For reals.

Murphy's looks were exactly what people who love Pugs look for.  In my mind I was already seeing he would be snatched up FAST.  Then they opened the door, and the saddest, most pathetic thing happened.  This little Pug flattened himself to the floor.  I mean, if he could have melted into the floor he would have.  (We would later find out his leg bones are extremely fucked up from either living in a space he couldn't stand up in or from being scared shitless so often they didn't grow right.)  His little tail was wagging furiously, but it was missing over half it's fur.  And it wasn't at all curly like a Pug tail is supposed to be, it was more of a short, bony, slightly curved finger.  And black.  Like it was dead.  The vet tech handed me the leash, and this little Pug didn't move a muscle, except that ugly tail.  I tugged, and he slid across the floor.  It occurred to me that he didn't know what a leash was ( more often than not, most of my fosters had this problem), so I unhooked him and called him to me.  He looked like he wanted to be my friend...big pleading eyes, a nervous chuffing of his beautiful little muzzle.  He army-crawled over to me, not once lifting his belly off that floor.  No way that Pug was walking out of the shelter, so I carried him outside and put him down so he could do his business before the car ride home.  He finally stood up, and zoomed here and there with the energy of a hummingbird.  When he started to bolt I yelled and he dropped smack to the ground, shaking like a leaf.  A thought that ran through my mind on a regular basis when doing my foster work "I fucking hate people".  :(

Got the poor beast loaded up in my car, into Dixon's car seat.  Yes, my Pugs have their own car seats.  Comfy perches to watch the world go by, that also keep them hooked in and safe.  Murphy started crying, flattening himself, and generally looking like I was trying to murder him.  On the way out of the shelter I realized I got to name this little guy.  "Murphy" sprung to mind, and it stuck.

The traumatizing car ride over, Murphy's demeanor didn't improve too much once we got home and he met Dixon and Zelda.  Some curious sniffing, but he would hit the deck as soon as anyone walked within 10 feet of him.  But the tail never stopped it's frantic wag.  This went on for weeks and weeks.  He was also the only Pug I wasn't able to house train.  AT ALL.  For such a little Pug, he had an impressively large bladder and used it to soak my home.  I was used to Pugs peeing in my house, but it wasn't something I ever was able to just shrug off.  I bought stock in Nature's Miracle, and Murphy may have made those people billionaires.

Oddly, not many people expressed an interest in Murph.  Brutally honest about the house training, most people ran for the hills.  Except one.  To this day I wonder what the fuck I was thinking.  The decision actually makes it in to the top ten worst decisions I have ever made.  And so you can see it wasn't a bullshit list, one of those spots is taken up by bankruptcy and slipping out of the handcuffs while being arrested for a DUI.

My mother.  She oohed and aahed over the pitiful little Pug.  She didn't seem to give two shits that he was always in a wet doggie diaper.  My father had passed away a little over 8 months before Murphy came to live with us.  Six months after Pop died, Mom had to vacate their large house and move to a small one bedroom condo.  The big house also housed two standard Poodles.  The loves of Mom's life (she still pines for them).  Four months before I met Murphy I had to call the local Poodle rescue group and have Mom's beloved dogs re-homed.  She was devastated.  I was taking deep, satisfying breaths of relief.  I am crazy about Pugs, not so much about Poodles.  Especially the female.  That dog was straight shit-house-rat-CRAZY.  So when Mom started fawning all over this little Pug, I had a moment (or 1000) weakness.

I talked my rescue coordinator into letting Mom have him.  An ecstatic Mom handed over her check, swearing she'd follow all the advice and promising she'd love him FOREVER.  Mostly she has done what the rescue would want of it's adoptive homes.  He's well-loved, treated like a member of the family, has regular check-ups at the vet, and has an impressive wardrobe of harnesses.

What's lacking?  The Pug still pisses his pants.  And those pants are worn to my house so often, that's why the little fucker is in the photo above.  After 2.5 years, Murphy walks taller.  He is still hand-shy, but doesn't hit the deck as fiercely or as often.  We can touch his belly now, because he keeps it off the ground, mostly.  He still goes completely rigid when held.  Hates being in the car.  And loathes sitting on our laps.  He tolerates petting, but doesn't seem to enjoy it.  He loves to lay on the back of the sofa, and will occasionally pick up a toy (but then has no idea what to do with it).  He has found his "voice" FINALLY after 2 years of being with Mom.  He barks...at men.  Never women.  He still has an adorable face, which is why he is not strung up dead right now.  Mom, against ALL the advice I gave her (and really, what do I know, I only trained 19 Pugs...), and put down piddle pads.  Essentially training Murphy to piss in her house.  On frigid days, rainy days, hot days, oh fuck it...whenever Mom was too lazy to get off her ass, she'd claim Murphy just doesn't like the cold/rain/heat/sun/clouds/grass....WHATEVER.  That's fine if she wants to live with a house-pissing anxious dog.  What drives me absolutely insane is that he spends oh, at least SIXTY percent of his time at MY house.  Pretty much since Mom's surgery back in January, the little pisser has been here.

To make it more fun?  She has ordered me NOT to use the crate with Murph.  You know, the thing that keeps a pissing dog from pissing all over my house.  You can bet that she refuses to believe that a crate is actually a good place for any dog to be.  A safe haven.  A place they can truly call their own.  A restful spot that every Pug I ever fostered learned to appreciate and wander in of their own accord.  I am an idiot, so Mom ignores all of that nonsense.  Anyone want to guess how much time Murphy has been spending inside the forbidden crate? 

I sometimes joke how Cam's whining will drive me back to the bottle.  I fully mean it when I say Murphy is going to make me have to cover up that sobriety date tattooed on my back.

So really, I suppose I have 2.6 Pugs.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

It's been so long.

Life has been barreling down on me lately.  Mostly in good ways, but I am still struggling with my ADHD, meds, and my new favorite feeling:  anxiety! 

My mom is coming along with the new hip, but is back to drinking.  For the most part I am able to let the drinking go.  Perhaps from the anxiety and feeling overwhelmed with taking care of her and my own family, something had to give.  Trying to control in reality and thought, her actions, was just adding way too much shit on top of my normal feelings of powerlessness.  It is what it is, right?

Cam is growing like a weed.  I cannot wait until her 18 month checkup (next month) to see where she is on the growth chart.  The kid is losing the chubbiness of babyhood, and just getting taller by the minute.  She isn't talking, but she still jabbers non-stop when she's awake.  We can make out some phrases..."hi, buddy!"....but still not actual words.  Hard to explain, but I am not worried about her talking any more.  it will come.  She was released from Early Intervention this month...seems she tested at or above age in all areas.  Good to know, but I will miss seeing Cam's OT....great lady with lots of insight.

I joined a local meetup for moms about six weeks ago, and have been throwing myself into it.  I am not a joiner by nature, and normally loathe that type of setup.  Thankfully I gave it the old college try, because I have found a group of women who get my parenting and don't think I am some weird hippie for cloth diapering my kid or judging me for NOT biting Cam back when she bites me for the 10th time in a day.  We get together and have lots of play dates, swap insight into daily problems, discuss books we've read, and just relax knowing there is a roomful of mamas making sure the kids are safe and well-tended.

Two things I am so excited for: foster classes start on August 11th and we just booked a week at the ocean for September.  It's amazing what will happen to your mental health when you have a real vacation to look forward to!  I had actually been dreading the prospect of packing Cam up for a few days, screwing up her schedule, and finding a decent place to go that wouldn't break the bank. 

While I was fretting over a bunch of nonsense, it occurred to me that maybe inviting my mom would be a good idea.  I have been encouraging her to travel for the last two years, and she always makes some excuse why she can't go.  Maybe it was a weak moment, or the realization she is my last parent alive...lol.  Cam loves her Grammie, and let's be honest: free babysitting is nothing to sneeze at.  :D

So, I sent my mom a few links to the very few decent places at the ocean, and she came back with renting a condo in a place we used to stay when I was a kid.  Made a reservation for a 3 night stay...and then Mom says "maybe we should do a week...".  Rob hears this and starts, literally, bouncing in his chair.  I call the resort back and find out that 7 nights is CHEAPER than 3.  FANTASTIC!  Ocean front, pool and baby fun pool outside of our patio.  Quiet beach town.  I was dreading going to the ocean just a few days ago, but now I am beyond excited.  Come on September 10th!!!

I am also beyond excited for our fostering classes to start.  I have been reading every book I can get my hands on that deals with children in the system.  Right now I am reading "One Small Boat" by Kathy Harrison, who also wrote "Another Place at the Table".  Riveting accounts of the day-to-day life of a family dedicated to children who need loving, supportive, helpful homes.  As excited as I am (and Rob too), I am not getting much in the way of support from family or friends.  Thanks to the stereotypes of the shitty foster care horror stories in the news, that's all my friends and family talk about.  My favorite this week: "I know I shouldn't say this....but....I'd hate for Cam to pick up bad habits from some bratty foster kid."  Um.  Well.  Who's to say Cam won't be the one teaching bad habits?  Instead of really angering me (which is my natural fall-back emotion) it just makes me sad that there is a pervasive feeling in our society that the children of foster care are defective and some how at fault.  It's not dissuading me or bringing me down too much, it just makes me that much more motivated to get this training done and do my part.

I just received my third phone call in one hour from my mother.  She's doing well with her PT, but the pain is something she can't seem to get a handle on.  Part of me doesn't believe the pain is all that bad (I know, I am an asshole), so when the third phone call just came in a minute ago, I gritted my teeth when I answered.  "JC?  I almost gave up (the phone rang two times...)...you there?  I just told Conor (my 16 year old nephew) I wasn't sure if I took my pain pill (um, by the sounds of it...you sure did...and THEN SOME) so I took another!  Can you stop at the store and get some fresh basil?  (We had this same convo three times in the last hour)  Are you bringing the baby? (yup, talked about this all three times too)  Did I ask you to bring basil?...."

All I can do is shake my head and laugh.  And I have a whole week to look forward to.  What was I thinking?  LOL

Thursday, July 7, 2011

The payoff.

It's been a rough month.  I am physically and mentally exhausted.  I would give my left arm for a week completely alone at a nice spa.  I might even throw in a couple fingers from my right hand.

To get Cam settled for her nap today, we have a seat in "The Chair", I grab her blanket, "Wubs" , and "Stanley" ( a Black Lab head with blankey body) and read some books.  I feel like I am sitting on a wad of something, turns out to be Stanley.  I pick him up and say "Hey Stan!" and give him a peck on the nose...like I have been doing for months upon months.  Cam snatches him from me and gives him her best baby kiss.  Her first kiss.  Then looks at me and smiles broadly, and snuggles Stan up under her chin and then grunted at me to keep reading.

My heart nearly exploded in delight.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The train wreck comes to a screeching halt. Finally.

 After the Wednesday when my mom was finally told why she was still in the hospital, things didn't improve much.  Being that the lazy piece of shit social worker basically did a drive by of "you had alcoholic withdrawal, here's some info, bye" I was left to piece that puzzle back together for her.  The following day, a much better, more helpful nurse was assigned to Mom, and she told me the on-call doc would come down and talk to her. 

Before the doc showed up, however, the PA who was part of the surgical team stopped in to check out Mom's wound.  I was shocked and kind of proud that Mom drilled her on the alcoholism.  Being that NO other medical professional on that floor would speak to her about it, I was so grateful, even though she gave some bad advice about "cutting back".  Never tell an alcoholic to just cut back.  Never works.

Anyway, I love that PA because she's honest and direct and doesn't screw around.  She gave Mom the low-down:  "even if you drink one glass of wine a day, and you come in for surgery, and go into withdrawals like you did, your body is telling you it NEEDS that drink.  Your body is conditioned to needing that alcohol."
I could have kissed her straight on the lips.  It was ALL I wanted from the hospital staff.  A straight-forward explanation of what happened.  Was it so fucking hard?  Nope.  Poor PA didn't know she was going to be the addictions counselor as well as the one to sign Mom's release papers (from the surgeon).

So when the on-call doc for that floor checked in, and was supposed to be THE one to deliver the speech, he tried to get out of it.  He was in the middle of telling her she was being released when I barged in to say "Um...the alcoholic withdrawals...can we address that?!?"  His response shouldn't have been shocking:  "Um, seems you might want to look at your drinking if you went through withdrawals.  OKAY...so I am releasing you now...."

Say what?!?  At that point I just glared at him, and made a note of his name.  I am still mulling over whether or not I should lodge a complaint against the hospital.  The bit with the social worker is what really galls me.

 After all that went down with my mother and the hospital, I would love to say it got much better when she was transitioned to a physical therapy rehab.  It did not.

The rehab she was sent to was about as grim a place as one could imagine.  Essentially a nursing home, my mother at 68 was the belle of the ball and a whipper snapper to boot.  She was in this place for 9 days, and thankfully her mood was much more calm, relaxed, and generally pleasant.  Seeing as how her roommate was in the advanced stage of Alzheimer's, I am sure Mom had a lot of time to reflect that her situation was a lot more bearable.  She had an EXCELLENT physical therapist there (and not just because she and her husband organically sustain their garden like me...and gave me a brimming bag of worm poo to spread around my tomatoes!) which was the only good thing.  Unfortunately, PT was only once a day for about an hour.  The rest was spent lying in bed listening to other residents scream, moan, cry, and whimper. 

Having to face the reality of what life could look like when Mom gets older (and the dementia sets in) and how we (as a society) have learned to keep the aging body alive, but the mind starts to go....has had a profound impact on me.  That place was like a hellish bus stop on the way to death.  Disgusting food.  Always the smell of urine and feces.  Attendants too jaded and underpaid to give a shit.  And this place?  ONE OF THE BETTER IN OUR REGION. 

So I sprung Mom over holiday weekend, and took her back to her place.  Free at last!  Got her all set up, and then went to enjoy a party with old friends. 

Mom is extremely happy to be home.  I am happy to report that she brings up the withdrawals from time to time, not really wanting to believe it, but I can tell that deep down she knows the score.  I have been able to emotionally detach, for the most part.  I got the name of an addictions counselor, so hopefully she will take the name and make an appointment.  It's all I can really do.  It's been a hellacious 3 weeks.  I am emotionally and physically drained. 

So it's a good thing tonight is Bingo Wednesday.  Game ON.