Sunday, August 15, 2010

Heaven on Earth - exploring with the pack

This was Ammo’s life two months ago. My heart broke for him, but since my life has been a teensy bit complicated lately, I wasn’t sure I had the energy for a rescue. My killer manipulative skills being what they are, I e-mailed a photo of Ammo at the shelter to a dog loving friend with the sad story of Ammo’s life in hell. Enter said friend and an accomplice who decreed that Ammo would be a group project. And so I adopted him, and Uncle M and Auntie S pitched in with the care, training, and rehab of a very frightened dog.

This morning; uncaged and off-leash.

Hey Scud! What's this???

Mmmmmmmm...dead stuff! Wonder if Mom will let me roll in it?

Scud: "So did you get to pee on enough stuff, buddy?”
Ammo: “Yeah, but I still got some left for the floor when we get home.”

Hey thanks, Mom, Uncle M, and Auntie S!
This is so much better than a cage!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Dentists in Hell, July 2009

A little gem from the files while I try to come up with something profound to say about spirituality.

I have been sick with some vile illness and toothache for six days. Never one to suffer alone, I have decided to share with you, my friends, the saga of my personal hell. (And just in case red flags are waving in the back of your mind – no, I am NOT a drama queen. I am SICK, damn it!)

July 15, 2009
8:00 am: Typical day at work. Meetings, lectures, therapy sessions.

9:30 am: Toothache. What?! Toothache? Shit.

10:15 am: This fricking tooth is getting worse by the minute. No! No toothache! Consider immediate retreat into denial, which I do very well. However, if I ignore it, I will probably wake up in the middle of the night begging God to allow me to die. Or I can go to my dentist, Dr. “Mengele” (name changed to protect myself from a lawsuit) in which case he will laugh at me, tease me by tapping on said tooth with sharp objects that have nothing to do with diagnosis/treatment, and cheerfully give me whatever bad news is pending. (This is the same tooth that he put a terribly matched crown on 6 years ago – and when I complained, he said “Well no big deal, it’s in the back.” Yes he really said that, and I don’t want to hear any blah, blah, blah about assertiveness, when having him do it over would result in more ridicule and painful payback with aforementioned dental instruments of torture.)

This is a problem. Because I? Am afraid of dental procedures in general, and any dentist who does not cater to this with sympathy and prodigious amounts of drugs is simply unacceptable. Foot massages and aromatherapy would be a bonus and guarantee my undying loyalty. “But" you say,” there must be more than one dentist in your town – go somewhere else!” *Note to city dwellers: Small town = less heat at night, less traffic 24/7, everyone knows your name at the bank, grocery store, post office, hell everywhere. And… small towns mean socializing with most people seen professionally – Dr. Mengele and wife instigated wine tasting parties which involve good wine and food which Husband and I have participated in and even hosted. Awkward to say the least if I bailed on his dental practice and then ran into him at one of said soirees.

12:00 pm: Whining to Dagney about toothache and dentist dilemma. She tells me to ditch Dr. “Angel of Death” and switch to Dr. Competent, whose office is run by his wife, an effusive South American who is said to be very kind and helpful. (Not that Dr. Mengele’s wife isn’t kind and helpful, and his hygienists are so much fun that getting my teeth cleaned is almost something to look forward to, but really, Dr. M is an ass, and there is only so much one can take.)

12:01 pm: I realize that I have hated Dr. M for years; he is a barely competent dentist and a self-absorbed, poorly social skilled ass (seriously)! He brags about his condo in *location redacted for purposes of avoiding said lawsuit*, boat in *redacted at the advice of my attorney*, and AIRPLANE which he flies to *freaking redacted yet again*!!! (While casually prescribing another crown, I might add). And the only reason I have not changed dentists sooner is that this is such a small town; within minutes of switching dentists people will be cornering me in Safeway wondering why I made such a drastic move knowing that everyone will be talking about it, and I will have to drop out of the wine-tasting group (priorities, people, priorities!). And then…I have an epiphany. Nothing will piss that man off more than to know that not only have I abandoned his passive-aggressive ship; I have defected to his arch-enemy, Dr. Competent (Dr. M trash-talks Dr. Competent whenever he is not making inappropriate jokes about drilling the wrong tooth, bragging about the sailfish he caught last week in *redacted*, or telling me to stop whining when I say something hurts)! The elation associated with this may or may not have anything to do with my own passive-aggressiveness, but flipping off the man with the dead shark eyes while he has sharp things in my mouth has its own dangers.

4:30 pm: Met by the solicitous dentist's wife and warmly welcomed to Dr. Competent’s practice. Much fussing, clucking and generally sucking up to me later, I meet Dr. C, who (and I cannot stress this enough) CAREFULLY examines the offending tooth with his wife at my side patting my arm. This pleases me. Have I mentioned that I am a total wuss at the dentist? After x-rays and examination, Dr. C pronounces “root canal” and prescribes two antibiotics (“one for the bugs that need air, and one for the bugs that don’t”). A bit condescending since I did take biology and understand the concept of bacteria and stuff, but he redeems himself immediately by prescribing Vicoden for the pain. I think I’m going to like this man. Appointment for Monday for root canal and new (matching) crown.

6:30 pm: Vicoden bliss.

Day Two
5:30 am: Up for work, determined to bravely withstand pain without drugs while at work, because really? Opiates and counseling drug addicts SO do not mix.

6:00 am: Suddenly dizzy and alternately freezing and sweating. All this from a tooth? I mean, come on!

6:05 am: Having taken temperature, call in sick. Wondering if the troublesome tooth has poisoned my entire body. A new variation of the plague has been going around work. This does not bode well.

6:06 am: Sound asleep

7:20am: Awakened by tiny little trolls with jackhammers destroying my mouth. More of my friend Vic and antibiotics, then back to sleep.

9:15 am: Glass of water, collapse on couch.

3:00 pm: Wake up with dried drool on cheek couch. See??? I told you I was sick!

3:12 pm: Glass of milk and more antibiotics.

3:40 pm: Scattering animals and furniture as I race for the bathroom, I think, “Antibiotics my ass!” (No pun intended) More like Hiroshima!

5:00 pm: Feel like something scraped off the bottom of a shoe. Console myself by planting crops and trees in Farmville on Facebook.

5:05 pm: Check crops

5:10 pm: check crops again, urge them to grow faster.

5:11 pm: Decide to plant strawberries because they can be harvested in 4 hours, thereby earning more coins

5:12 pm: Wonder if I should get the MasterCard out and buy more coins so I can get some pigs and a barn for the farm. Shut laptop down in rare moment of insight.

6:07 pm: Headache, nausea, dead tired. More Vicoden. For pain, but also because a Jason Mraz song is ricocheting around in my head.

6:29 pm: Asleep

6:00 am: Bleh - still sick. Text my lovely and overworked co-worker April to let her know that I am dying.

6:15 am: My hair hurts. I take more Vicoden and go back to bed.

12:00 pm: Awake. Still sick, and to add insult to injury, I still have that Jason Mraz song stuck in my head.

1:00 pm: Obsessing about my crops again. Plant more strawberries and consider another apple tree. Decide to take another nap.

3:27 pm: Awakened by Scud breathing vileness in my face. And I thought I was nauseated before!

4:00 – 7:00: Several (as in about 40) more high speed trips to bathroom. Animals are getting skittish. Jason Mraz “I’m Yours” is still playing in the background. What on earth made me download that stupid song in the first place???

7:05: Dizziness ensues, bed follows.

Woke from a nap with a perfectly vertical crease through my left eye and down my cheek from sleeping on my face to avoid noxious Scud breath. While napping, kitty purred prettily at my feet until her inner Lucifer awoke and she bit my ankle. *Note: Cats can surf ceiling fans.

Another sick day, excuse me I mean one more of only ten, count ‘em ten PTO days. Annnnnd, another new record! 6 1/2 hours of DVR’d crime shows in one sitting! Except for unpredictable sprints for the bathroom. If I could get satellite TV in the bathroom I’d give up on the couch and nap in the tub. Nauseated, exhausted, and headachy. No real sustenance in three days – if husband doesn’t come home soon, I shall starve to death. I mean, even when I’m not sick I’m so lazy that I’ll eat popcorn for days before I go to Safeway. When I’m sick and there is no food in the house, I simply don’t eat. One would think that this would reduce trips to le john. One would be wrong. Slept the other 4 hours before I went to bed. On the upside, the tooth is no longer a lesson in agony. Only mildly achy. This means the nuclear antibiotics are working, but I miss the Vicoden (woo woo) and consider taking it anyway. Mentally reviewing what I know about opiate addiction, I opt for ibuprofen. Damn it.

Husband is finally home! Hooray! I will not die alone!

Husband: “What do you need, honey?”
Me: “Sympathy…”
Husband: “Anything I can get you instead…?” Contemplating a crying jag, I remember that I’m married to a man who licks his wounds and growls at compassion (this is the same guy who drove himself to the doctor’s office in a standard transmission car with a shattered wrist after falling from the barn rafters. Apparently 911 is for pussies – who knew?).

In his defense, he goes to Safeway on Sunday (preferred grocery shopping day of retirement community in Wickenburg) and suffers the blue hairs and developmentally disabled checker on the express checkout aisle in order to provide me with provisions before going on another trip tomorrow. (I’m all for hiring the differently-abled, but one would think that “express” would equal “speed” wouldn’t one?) I have my first nutritious meal in days.

We watch “Gran Torino.” Husband chortles merrily at the racial epithets and ethnic slurs. My culturally competent and diversity-loving self looks the other way while I guiltily titter at said slurs. (I mean after all, it IS Clint Eastwood!)

Harvest eggplant and potatoes. Have enough coins to buy four fence panels, but not a gate. I just know the sheep are going to eat the potatoes I just planted! God, do I ever need to get back to work...
Tomorrow – root canal.

I arrive bleary and early for my root canal appointment, armed with my iPod loaded with ass-kicking rock-n-roll to neutralize the sounds of dental drill violence in my mouth (and that F*&%ing Jason Mraz). Once ensconced in the death chair by the dental assistant, draped in a bib and decked out in cool shades, the gracious dentist's wife appears at my side (and I swear I am not making this up) to anoint me with lavender essential oil, “for relaxation, sweetheart.” Aromatherapy! If they throw in a foot massage I might go home and break another tooth! (Not really.) Dr. Mengele, you are SO history!!! I dance on your snarky and sociopathic professional grave! And pffft! on your wine tastings. Why would I want to socialize with a man who can’t match tooth enamel anyway?

After the “procedure”, which DID NOT HURT ONE BIT, I call my MD and make an appointment to find out what the hell else is wrong with me (besides that my upper lip is hanging down past my chin). If April has to face eight families alone next week she will either kill me or die trying to do it alone. Neither is an acceptable outcome. April is what makes my job doable, what with all of the (ahem) distressed families and residents, and (ahem) disturbed people who run my place of employment. My top priorities for the week are: A) haircut tomorrow regardless of how sick I am. If I am going to die I want to look good; B) get a drug for whatever else this is that ails me (and that cannot be used by terrorists to take over a country by trapping all residents in the bathroom); C) kill Jason Mraz.

4:00 pm: Just returned from trip to MD. And ironically? Every single non-tooth-related symptom I have had is directly related to the chemical warfare quality drugs that I was prescribed for my tooth! Can you say “side effects?” I knew you could! Dr. C prescribed a “cannon to kill a fly” according to the MD. Resolution? Stop taking napalm, start taking probiotics, and all should be well in Sandy-land within a couple of days. All that PTO wasted? Doing the dental shuffle for this? I might move to the big city after all! I hear there are very good dentists in Ahwatukee…

Sunday, August 8, 2010

None of us can save ourselves

“None of us can ever save ourselves; we are the instruments of one another’s salvation, and only by the hope that we give to others do we lift ourselves out of the darkness and into the light.”
Dean Koontz

No time like the present to begin trying to figure out what spirituality means. I have to admit right up front that I really have no idea what I’m talking about, but I’m pretty sure that the voices in my head have some good ideas, so here we go…

In my mind, spirituality is about three things: 1) Connection to others: 2) Awareness of meaning and purpose in life; and, 3) Connection to a greater power. In this post I’m going to talk about connection to others as a form of spirituality.

This concept has been clamoring around in my head for so long that it’s more of a color than a sound. It has been taking on shades and hues for nearly twenty years, but particularly in the past five. If you asked me to assign it a color, I couldn’t. I’m weird, but not that weird.

As a species, we seem to be hardwired to need others. Sure there are true hermits, but they are relatively rare and usually fit a schizo-something category in the DSM-IV-TR. I would argue however, that if that is the case, then someone early in their life so deeply damaged them on a spiritual level that they have become pathologically avoidant. Our need for others is glaringly apparent if you’re paying attention. We join clubs, play team sports (including computer games with people all over the planet we do not know), have friends, and date, marry and have kids despite evidence that the process is at least as painful as it is joyful. And hormones can’t get all of the credit; that’s about propagation of the species, not about the need to not be alone.

A new concept of spirituality as horizontal (between people) rather than vertical (between me and God) began to crystallize after my lifelong best friend Becky died in a plane crash five years ago, and I realized that there was no way that her death could possibly make sense in the context of what I believed spiritually. I’m not going to lie; part of my soul went AWOL when Becky died. I had more questions for God than a four-year-old at bedtime, and I. GOT. NO. ANSWERS.

When she was gone I was bereft until I realized that I was still connected to her, that I still needed her. And the only answer I got came from in me, not from God. I realized that I loved her, needed her, and was connected to her spiritually because I saw myself in her. I have a friend who wrote this about human connection as spirituality (and I think he’s freaking brilliant because he agrees with me): “At the most basic level, ignoring the universe, we all need to be able to see ourselves as connected to and part of the human race … As social creatures we derive our sense of belonging from being connected to others and knowing that we are connected. Overcoming all of the barriers to compassion and understanding is only possible when a measure of spirituality has been attained…we are connected to another when we see in the other person, our own humanity.”

So in essence, true spirituality began for me when curiosity struck a deal with the desire to abide by terms brokered by my religious background. Thinking outside the box became not merely allowed, but advisable. And so my journey began…

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Beauty Pageant hell, Circa 2003

A little gem from the 2003 Diary of a Mad Pageant Mom. Pageants are indeed their own circle of hell, at least for me...


Arrived in Laughlin yesterday. I believe I've found the armpit of the earth. It's kind of like Las Vegas' redneck cousin, which is VERY sad when I think about it.

Can you say "cheese fest?" This event comes complete with smarmy emcees and satin banners. If I hear the word "prestigious" one more time as it applies to their "fabulous awards", I'll attack someone with a scepter. Prestigious?! I ask you, have you ever heard of the Cinderella scholarship program? Prestigious to whom?

I have seen the devil - and she puts mascara on her four year old daughter. I have no idea what motivates that. The prizes aren't that great. A few hundred dollars won't begin to cover the cost of therapy that these kids will require. Between the cigarette smoke from the casino (yep, a wholesome "scholarship pageant" in a casino) and the hairspray cloud, I might need an iron lung by the end of the week.

Daughter did her interview with the judges today. The girls were supposed to wear business attire, so said daughter chose a tailored lemon yellow skirt suit with turquoise and pink flowers on it. And turquoise and lime stiletto sandals. And she looked fabulous. All of the other girls - I'm not making this up - had on cookie cutter polyester suits in subdued colors with low heeled pumps. It was definitely a daughter moment. She said the judges are great, two of them are guys who are "SO HOT", but sadly, also gay. Which probably means she'll win after a few days of "girlfriend" chats about shoes.....

Off to bed. Another fabulous day awaits.

DAYS 2&3

I've discovered that estrogen can be toxic in large doses. 130 girls and 130 Moms, its hormone overload! Side effects include an insane desire to laugh at inappropriate moments and a severe allergy to cheese.

One of the emcees did a "special number" at dinner. He personified the smarmy lounge singer. It made my teeth hurt and kind of spoiled my appetite, which was unfortunate because the meals are good. I don't know where they got these people.

Laughlin and Bullhead City are a real treat. Anyone who complains about Wickenburg should be sentenced to a week here. The punishment could include an evening at Don Laughlin's Riverside Resort, where the average patron age is 82, and the atmosphere is totally white trash. Bullhead City has a Carl's Jr. and a Sonic which is the ONLY thing about it that's better than Wickenburg.

Talent competition was yesterday, and hysteria was high. I watched most of the teens and all of the adults. Some of them were very good, and some not so very good, to put it kindly. Out of the entire group of about 70 total, only a few were frighteningly thin. One of the contestants has cerebral palsy, and "sang" along to a tape of "Hero." She got a standing ovation, and it was the first moment of admiration I've had for the pageant industry. I saw a Mom in the hall coaching a 5 year old on how to look adorably embarrassed if she messed up. (Clasp hands by left hip, pivot on left toe, tilt chin down and head to the left, flutter eyelashes and say "oops!") Frozen smiles abound. Their cheeks must hurt. Genuineness is a detriment I guess. I saw about 5 of the talent competitors who looked like they were having a really good time. Said daughter was one of them. She sang her heart out and did a fantastic job.

Today's event is called "Casual Wear." The girls and ladies appear on stage, introduce themselves and model a 'casual' outfit. No one was casual, in mood or outfit. Lots of teeth and hair and very dressy outfits. "Hi I'm Susie Smith from beautiful scenic Yuma. I'm 16 years old, with a 4.0 GPA and a junior at Yuma High in the fall. I'm an accomplished dancer, pianist, figure skater, rodeo queen, and singer. In my spare time I teach handicapped children and train rescue dogs for Himalayan disasters. My real passions are acting and medicine so someday you'll be able to say "Oh my gosh! My plastic surgeon is starring in Overachievers on Broadway!!!" (You think I'm kidding, don't you?)

Note to self: check with Disney Corporation's legal department. Cinderella copyright infringement appears rampant.

Day 4 – Party Wear. Can't wait.

Day 4
Every day has a theme party of some sort, and today it was “Western Hoedown.” Isn’t that just precious? I told one of the other Moms that I thought “ho down” was a 911 call in Harlem. Not only did she not laugh, she glared at me. I’m considering spiking the lemonade with Valium – these people need to relax!

Today’s competition was “party wear.” Sounds fairly simple, but instead it was a fashion show of every prom dress ever conceived. (Except for duct tape. No one wore a gown made out of duct tape.) Pastel chiffon and skirts the size of Rhode Island were the uniform of the day. Some of the girls had obviously been to a sale at David’s Bridal Shop, and were decked out in white with hand beading and Austrian lace. So of course Said daughter wore skintight black satin with a train. She was the only contestant in black and really stood out. (Hard to imagine, isn’t it?)

I found out today that many of the contestants brought hair and makeup people and talent coaches. I truly do not understand when the most you can win is a set of luggage, a cruise, a trip to Disneyworld, $500 cash and a $400 college scholarship. You could buy all of that and save money considering what you’d spend preparing for and participating in the pageant.

Day 5
Today is the Grand Finals and I am so excited! The other Moms and I met for a quick pump up session this morning, and those women are SO inspirational! They were kind enough to critique said daughter’s makeup and clothing and hair and I’m so grateful for the input! I can’t imagine how I missed out on the Cinderella Pageant Family all of these years. The girls could have been participating since they were 3! But I am so grateful that I have at last discovered this source of self-esteem for me and for said daughter.

Just kidding! You thought I had been drinking the pageant kool-aid didn’t you?

Grand finals began with a “fabulous opening show” which consisted of 120 girls dressed in their party wear and 4 smarmy emcees arranging themselves all over the stage. One category at a time, a double elimination was performed. They called out a top ten in every category except women, which had a top 5. Then one category at a time they eliminated all but top three, based on the judge’s scores over the past 4 days. Thus began the routine…all contestants hold hands and wish that the others were dead while the emcee calls out the top 5 or three names. Those remaining in each category change into “casual wear” and introduce themselves, then perform their talent. I saw a six year old – and I am not making this up - dance in a skimpy red costume to “Hot Hot Hot.” She shimmied and shook, ran her hands down her body repeatedly, and winked at the audience when the lyrics were suggestive. Her facial expressions and dance were so obviously coached that I mentally awarded her the “Stepford Child” trophy. The “tot” category got interviewed by the head Pageant Nazi who asked the darlings questions about their families. One said that her Daddy took care of everybody in the family. When PN asked the darling child who took care of Daddy, Scott leaned over and whispered “Bubbles, the Laughlin hooker.” I cracked up and hooted, which earned me dirty looks from all of those who were taking it seriously.

The final finals featured the top 3 holding hands, and waiting to hear who would be the winner and who would be the runners up. (TJ the emcee repeatedly informed us that 1st runner up is an extremely important position, for she will have to step into the magical Cinderella slippers should the winner not be able to perform her duties, or should nude pictures of her be discovered on the internet.) As the names were called, hands flew to mouths, tears shot from eyes, and one contestant actually fell to her knees and bawled when she was announced winner.

Said daughter was eliminated in the first round, she didn’t make it into the top 3. Honestly, I was disappointed, but not for the reasons you might think. I did not want her to win. As my friend Debra pointed out, said daughter does not need the self-esteem boost, she already has enough confidence for a third world country. Also, the prestigious crown carries with it a contract that says the winner will travel at her own expense to ribbon cuttings at car washes and video stores all over the great state of Arizona. No thank you. I was disappointed because she’s my girl, and I hate to see her disappointed. The disappointment was overcome with relief though, and didn’t last very long. Said daughter knew all along that the judges were looking for tall, blonde, conservative, demure girls and women. She doesn’t fit any of those categories, and I have to admire her for not trying to conform. She dyed her hair black the week before the pageant, for Pete’s sake. The only concession she made was to tone her eye makeup down from 5 shades of black to 2. Individuals really need not apply. At the awards banquet, she was awarded “best model,” an honor that carried with it a plastic trophy and the knowledge that the judges recognized her poise. There were awards given for two hours. No one goes home empty handed. After each award was announced, a taped fanfare was played that culminated in a choir singing “Cinnnnnderelllllaaaaaaa!” The banquet also featured the emcee gang doing an ensemble number that sent the resort staff running for the kitchen.

Now that it’s over, the only question I have is “where is my plastic and rhinestone crown?” I put up with the crap all week, and all I got out of it was a watch that I bought at The Watchman store (over 1million watches sold!) in the casino.

Spiritually bonded with the couch

It's been raining all day, and I am having issues with motivation. I'm forced to choose between a leaning tower of laundry, a suitcase to unpack, paperwork to do, blogging, a pint of Haagen Dazs, and DVR crime shows. Guess what healthy life choices I made? Normally I don't multitask well, but ice cream, blog, and TV are surprisingly easy to do all at once. If I can get Ammo to move his hairy butt farther down the couch, I might even take a nap. Seriously? I'm so lazy I make make comatose look difficult. Don't try this at home, folks...

Who says there's no ice cream in hell?