Blogs Are Stupid

Doesn't anyone believe in Dear Diary anymore? What happened to the joy of putting actual pen to paper? And why does every ordinary Jane and John think they can write well enough to burden the world with their scribblings? It’s a mystery that badly needs solving. My first entry contains my thoughts about blogging and will set your expectations. The rest will probably be stream of consciousness garbage, much like you’ll find on any other blog. Perhaps we will both come away enlightened.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Wheels of Justice Turn Slooooooooooooowly

Nearly three weeks after I was attacked, my dog saga continues.

After animal control failed to take measures that were, in my opinion, necessary to resolve the matter, I decided that I was not satisfied with the outcome. They issued a citation, but because I was not seriously injured, the dogs were not removed. Had the bite broken the skin, the dogs would have been taken immediately.

I said I was not hurt in the incident, but to my surprise, I found later that night as I undressed for bed, that I had a large bruise on my hip where the dog had bitten me. I knew he had bitten me, but I never felt any pain and assumed it was not serious. Husband says it's because gallons of adrenaline were coursing through my veins at the time.

Still it seems weird that I felt nothing. Once, Husband got a little too friendly with a dog we knew to be vicious, and the stupid beast nearly eviscerated him. He had a bruise so dark it was almost black from his hip to his nipple and I assure you, he knew he had been bitten.

It was then that I really understood that I had to follow through and get those dogs removed from the neighborhood.

A week and a half later I finally got a letter from the dog owner. It was not terribly sincere. He assured me that he had taken steps to reinforce the gate and that they are now keeping the animals in a kennel in the back yard when they are not at home. But there are still a number of ways they could get loose and roam freely about the neighborhood. I am not comfortable with vicious dogs here, period.

The HOA is taking this matter very seriously. In fact, it was the President who suggested to the dog owner that they might want to make some kind of gesture of apology.

The HOA board feels the dog must go, and explained to the dog owners that if, in the course of their investigaion, (they have to have all their legal ducks in a row) they determine that the dogs are vicious, they would have to be removed per the covenants, which stipulate that no such animals will be allowed to reside in the neighborhood.

Instead of remorse, embarassment, or chagrin, the dog owner demonstrated anger and denial. She said the smaller of the two dogs is afraid of his own shadow and while the other dog might behave aggressively at times, he would never attack anyone. It was implied that I overreacted, or that my hysteria caused me to misinterpret the dog's intentions. The wife stated unequivocally that if the dogs go, they go.

Well, then....don't let the door hitcha where the good Lord splitcha.

I have owned dogs myself and I have been charged by dogs plenty of times. I know enough to realize that most of the time, a dog is all bark and no bite. I was not initially afraid of the dogs, though I was startled because I had head phones on. It was only when I realized they meant business (which took all of two or three seconds) that I became afraid. I was afraid because I had nothing with which to protect myself, and I screamed because I knew that I had to get someone to hear me and come to my aid or I would be, quite literally, dogmeat. I was screaming loudly, but I was not screaming hysterically.

Someone told the woman that I said to the dog "BAD DOG, GO HOME", which suggested to her that I was not prostrate in the jaws of the slavering beast and thus, my account must have been somewhat exaggerated. I did say that to the dog, because I thought nobody had heard me screaming, and I remembered that a strong, authoritative tone will sometimes cause an aggressive dog to back down.

Does that sound like the the thought process of a hysterical person?

At any turns out that the witness, my knight in shining er...rake, had already decided to persue the matter whether I went forward with it or not. He has contacted an attorney for advice on the matter. Needless to say, he is very willing to corroborate my account as well as the fact that three other attacks took place. In fact, he told me that not ten minutes after my attack, a woman (a friend of the dog owner, it turns out) went to the door of that same house and was also attacked. He and his rake had to escort her back to her vehicle.

It also turns out that Mr. Witness has raised German Shepherds for many years and is somewhat of an expert on their behavior. He himself had to get rid of a dog that snapped at one of his children. He said you never give a dog that will bite a second chance.

The dog owner wrote a nearly illiterate letter to the HOA President explaining how the dogs have been around their toddler (!!!!!) who pulls it's tail, their young nephews (!!!!) and various friends' children (!!!!!) and never behaved aggressively. She states that they have never before had any complaints about aggressive behavior in any of the places they have lived.

To quote: "I'm not sure why my dogs would behave aggressively towards Ms. Antagonist".

This is to demonstrate that my veracity as the victim is surely in question. And perhaps I am reading more into the statement than is altogether wise, but I sort of felt that I was being accused of some kind of mischief which provoked the attack.

Anyway...the HOA president feels that with Mr. Witness's testimony and that of the other victim, whose name and address he was able to provide, we have more than enough to warrant legal eviction of the animals.

I feel kind of bad, but you know what? This is not an issue of petty revenge, though I will tell you that today, I went out walking for the first time since the attacks armed with a very stout stick. And still, I was afraid. I startled at every little sound. And that made me angry.

Still, it's not about that. It's about public safety. I can name five houses in very close proximity that have small children. My own son often plays outside at the house directly accross the street. Well, he did. I have not allowed him to go over there since that day.

There is a very fragile looking gentleman who uses a cane and walks at a snail's pace living adjacent to this house. He is so frail that I wonder how much time he has left every time I see him. I shudder to think what might have happened if those dogs had happned upon him or a small child instead of me.

I don't understand the attitude of the dog owner. I happened to see her in her yard while I was out walking today and she was very, very, young. If I had to guess I would say early twenty-ish. I remember myself at that age and I wonder if I would have been as obstinate and selfish. I think everyone is pretty self-absorbed in their twenties and yet...I don't think I would have put my fondness for an animal above the welfare of a human being.

I think I would have been truly horrified if my pet had caused someone pain and/or distress and would have done everything possible to set matters right.

And I can't understand how she can watch her child frolic with a dog that could almost swallow him whole, knowing that it has bitten.

Truly, it gives me goosebumps.

But the real crux of the matter is this (and Mr. Witness expressed the same feelings): If I do not do everything I can to make sure that this danger is removed from our neighborhood, I would be directly to blame if it should happen again. And it's entirely possible that if it DOES happen again, it will have much more disastrous consequences.

I can't live with that. I can't believe anybody could.

Evil Afoot

SIGH. There must be a dearth of lost souls to pray for these days.

I subscribe to the mailing list for each of the boys' PTSA. They're pretty good about only using mass emails for relevant information and I usually only get one a week, sometimes not even that many.

The PTSA President at the Middle School is a friend of mine. Our boys have played baseball together for years, and I served on the PTSA under her when she was President at the elementary school.

She is a very, very sweet person. But she's very high strung. Normally high strung women annoy me, and I avoid them like the plauge. But she is the kind of person who is so genuinely nice and selfless that I can't hold it against her. She is a Christian, and she knows I am not a Christian, but so far, this has not impacted our friendship in any significant way.

Yesterday I got a mass emailing from her about The Golden Compass. In case you didn't know, it was sent from Satan to corrupt our children and bend them to his evil purpose. Or something like that.

I found it highly inappropriate and presumptuous. I provided my email to receive information about school issues, not to be subjected to hyper religious handwringing.

But I let it go. Because it's not worth being branded as Satan's concubine, and because I know she really means well. She really does think that seeing the movie will put our childrens' immortal souls at risk. And that worries her. A lot.

I deleted it and thought no more about it. But I opened my email this morning to find a veritable FLOOD of indignant exclamation and postulation. The entire fricking PTSA and all those on the mailing list were roiling with outrage. Which is fine. Be outraged. I don't really care.

But fer the love of Mike Brady don't REPLY TO ALL when you express just how outraged you are. I am getting literally, hundreds of emails about this very serious crisis.

Now I have to unsubscribe until all this blows over and resubscribe at a later date. Not only that, I have to weed through all these stupid emails to make sure I haven't missed something important in all the dogmatic melee.

Honestly, I don't know what this particular movie is about. But there are plenty of movies that I find offensive; those with gratuitous violence, those that objectify women, those that promote and/or glorify mysogeny, misanthropy, racism, classism, hedonism. There are movies that make me wonder about why someone felt compelled to make such a movie. There are movies that make me wonder at the depths of depravity to which the human psyche is capable of sinking.

My solution to that is very simple. I don't go see them.

People, if you find this movie morally and/or religiously offensive, DON'T GO SEE IT.

Also, have people not figured out that the best way to guarantee the success of a book or movie is to make a big fat stink about it? Do they not realize they are only lining Satan's pockets by whipping the public into such a fervor?

It's been that way since Hester Prynne, folks. No, since Adam and Eve. But the scarlet letter upon her breast only served to remind people of fornication every single time they saw it. The church, seeking to humiliate and examplify, only made people hornier than they already were, and more likely to commit a moral indiscretion.

Nothing has changed. Nothing makes people want to do something more than having the church or it's followers deem it to be sinful.

And then, of course, there is the fact that it's only a movie. For the life of me I cannot understand why people get all up in arms about fairy tales and flights of fancy. And I cannot understand why Christians need to find evil in such things when there is plenty of very real evil lurking around every corner.

I almost feel compelled to take my children to see it just on general principle; to demonstrate that I will not be swayed or cowed by religious hysteria and fear mongering. And that I will not let my children miss out on the very little magic that is left in this world for fear of an imagined and exaggerated evil.

Here's an interesting article about the movie.

I wonder if those who live outside the bible belt have to put up with this kind of crap.

And my friend? Sigh...I don't know. She thinks she is doing a good thing. I can't fault her for that. But I don't want to be on the receiving end of her brand of altruism. Unfortunately, there is no way to tell her without sounding truculent, judgemental and defensive.

So I will let it go. Just like I can choose not read a book or see a movie, I can choose not to be pandered to.

Please feel free to share your thoughts on this issue, whether you are Christian or agnostic or atheirs. I'm genuinely interested in any and all points of view.

Monday, October 29, 2007

For Sale Or Rent

One 38 year old multi-para uterus. Cheap.

I'm carrying around some excess baggage these days. Not to be indelicate,'s my uterus. I'm done with it, you see.

The human body, unfortunately, does not recognize that parts of it have become obsolete or extraneous. And so, my ovaries keep plugging away, releasing eggs that will never grow into babies, and my uterus keeps preparing to receive that tiny little granule of DNA each month. It doesn't seem to understand that never again will it cushion and noursish that tiny spark of life within it's lush walls.

Which would all be well and good except that suddenly, my periods have become a torrent of agony and inconvenience. Literally. I know that's normal as a woman approaches her 40's, and I know that some women have dealt with difficult periods all their lives.

But for most of my life, periods have been more like apostrophes; incidental little things that didn't make much difference in my life one way or another.

I was a late bloomer. I didn't have my first period until I was 16, though of course I pretended that I had much earlier. I guess I felt like some kind of genetic freak because I hadn't menstruated yet. So I went to great lengths to make the charade believable. I faked cramps. I excused myself often from class, making a big show of checking my handbag and then taking it with me. I complained bitterly about "the curse" of womanhood.

What a goon.

When I did finally have my period, it was somewhat anticlimactic. My best friend and I were lunching at a fast food restaurant. When I went to use the bathroom, I was surprised and elated to find tiny red blossoms of uterine effluvia dotting my underwear. I purchased a tampon from the vending machine, and that was that.

Henceforth, my cycles were infrequent and very very light. Even into my childbearing years, I would sometimes only ovulate once or twice a year. That was just fine with me.

Until I wanted babies. And then I realized that my reproductive system wasn't really in optimal condition for conceiving.

Nevertheless, I did conceive after only three months of trying. But because of the infrequency of my periods, I didn't realize I had been so lucky until I was almost done with my first trimester. I was 10 weeks pregnant before it occurred to me that the extreme fatigue I was feeling might be something more than the natural consequences of our carefree but frenetic childess lifestyle.

Don't hate me, but, finding out so late, combined with the fact that Pre-Pubescent One was six weeks early, meant that I was really only pregnant, as far as I knew, for six months. I found out in late September, and he was born in early April.

It took a little longer to get pregnant with Diminutive One. Breastfeeding Pre-Pubescent one had stopped my periods altogether and once he was weaned, it took a while for my body to get the message that the baby factory was open for business once again.

When I did finally get pregnant three years after Pre-Pubescent One was born, I suffered an early miscarriage. I was devastated. It wasn't so much losing a baby, although of course it saddened me. But it was very early and I knew that my body had rejected the pregnancy for a good reason. I was able to be mostly philosophical about it. My real worry was that it would take another three years to get pregnant.

The miscarriage occurred on September 30th, 1997. December 9th I found out that I was pregnant again. Very pregnant. Nine weeks pregnant. Do the math. It just doesn't work.

Nobody really understood how that happened. The doctors theorized that the pregnancy had been a twin pregnancy, and that was somewhat supported by the fact that Diminutive One was born weighing over 9lbs. Building on that theory and calculating from the date of the miscarried pregnancy, I would have carried him 44 weeks. That seemed unlikely, as he did not display any of the typical signs of post maturity, nor did the placenta.

It was a true mystery.

I think it's more likely that my wonky system spit out another egg unexpectedly very shortly after the miscarriage. But who knows?

About that time, my younger sister started trying to get pregnant with a profoundly disheartening lack of success. It was ultimately discovered that she suffers from PCOS, a very complex disorder that results in varying degrees of infertility. She almost never had periods, which meant she almost never ovulated. In addition, she had a bicornuate uterus, which further complicated matters.

She eventually had three beatiful children, including a set of twins, so her story has a happy ending.

I began to suspect that I suffered from a milder form of this disorder, but since I could conceive, and I was really pretty happy with the infrequent nature of my periods, I never really persued a diagnosis.

So there's my reproductive history.

Perhaps you can understand then, how disconcerting it is for me to now be experiencing excruciatingly heavy and prolonged periods, debilitating cramps, blinding migraines, and terrible backaches. And, in an even crueler twist of fate, my periods have become cursedly regular. Every month without fail, for the first time in my life. It figures.

Sometimes, I can't even leave the house on the first couple days of my period because I have to change so frequently. In Chicago this summer, while dining at the Russian Tea House, I had a terrible accident that resulted in a very embarassing mess, even though I was heavily protected.

I've had enough.

I always thought I would be terribly saddened if I could no longer create and harbor life, even if I had no plans to do so. Just knowing I could seemed very important. As the years have passed, it's become markedly less so, much to my surprise. I suppose I have moved into a different phase in my life, and am no longer defined by my reproductive abilities.

I still love babies. Oh how I love them. I love the way they smell, I love the way they sound, I love the way they feel and warm and boneless in my arms.

But now when I see them, more often than not my first reaction is "Gosh, he/she is so cute, but I bet Mom's not getting any sleep.", or something of the sort. That raging baby fever has cooled to a tepid appreciation of a beautiful biological process that I no longer have an interest in perpetuating. I'm happy to leave it to younger women with more energy.

So I'm thinking...

Ablation? It's a strong possibility. Less extreme than a hysterectomy with a much faster recovery time. But that doesn't guarantee periods will stop, and the procedure carries some fairly scary risks.

Hysterectomy? Well, that would be optimal, but frankly, I don't relish the thought of my uterus being yanked out through the ole baby chute. I'm somewhat surgery phobic, but in addition, I don't think hysterectomies are usually offered as an elective procedure.

Too bad I can't just give it to someone who needs it. It's my ovaries that have caused all the problems, the container is in perfect condition. It grows big healthy babies. Pre-Pubescent One at six weeks premature, weighed 6 lbs. Had he been full term, it's likely he would have been 10 pounds or more.

Wait. Maybe that's not a ringing endorsement. Let's just say it grows strong healthy babies.

So, if you need it, let me know. Maybe we can work something out.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Not A Drop to Drink

I think Bub and Pie might be right. I'm not quite ready to throw in the towel. So until I figure out what I'm going to do, I'm just going to ramble on as per usual. Thank you to everyone for your kind and insightful comments. They really did help. A lot. And not just because you stroked my ego six ways from Sunday, though I can't dispute that it was thoroughly enjoyable. I especially appreciated hearing from the folks I didn't know were reading. Nice to meetcha!

So anyway.

Some of you may know that Georgia is in trouble.

Gross mismanagement by the Army Corps of Engineers (though they are not the only governmental body at fault in this debacle) and persistent drought conditions have resulted in a serious water deficit. Our lakes, rivers and tributaries are drying up and though estimates vary, the long and short of it is, that very soon, we will be out of water.

That's pretty flippin scary.

I'll be the first to admit that I have always taken water for granted. I use my dishwasher, washing machine, and shower without giving a second thought to how much water I'm using or where it's coming from.

At least, I did.

However, I have always been conscious of certain wasteful practices. I don't run the dishwasher unless it's full and I don't wash single articles of clothing. I adjust the water level in the washer apppropriately. We turn off the water when we brush our teeth.

But now that it's clear we are running out of water, I have been very conscious of every, single drop. Unfortunately, it's sadly apparent that conservation efforts now will do little to arrest or even slow the fatal drain on our state's resources.

So let's think about that. In three months (give or take) 5 million people could be without water. That's not an exaggeration, that's not an embellishment, that's not paranoia. It's a fact.

Some of you may wonder how that happened. We Georgians wonder as well. It's a complex problem that goes beyond a woeful lack of rain. A lot of us had no idea that the Army Corps of Engineers was releasing 5 million gallons a day downstream to preserve an endangered species of mussel.

Let's look at the logic of that.

We have a 3 major lakes that are rapidly going dry. We have 5 million people who rely on those lakes for water. We have persistent drought conditions and a serious rain deficit that is the worst it's been since 1931.

And yet...we did not go to drought level 4 (no outdoor watering) until a month ago. Many people saw the writing on the wall and started conserving water a long time ago, but not enough of us to make any significant difference.

And every day, 5 million gallons are being released to protect mussels. These mussels are a cash crop you see. And the economic implications should that crop fail, are widely lamented by those who rely on those profits for their livelihood.

Of course. The almighty dollar speaks again. Screw people. In the worst case scenario, a lack of water would create an almost unsatiable market and the potential for ridiculous profits. So not releasing the water would be the least economically advantageous thing to do. Either way, capitalism benefits while people suffer. It's a frightening prospect.

Probably most distressing of all is the fact that Florida and Alabama, where these mussels live and whose inhabitants are reaping the benefits of our benevolence, are not practicing conservation methods.

So again....a city with 5 million people is perilously close to being without potable water. What will this mean for us?

Simply put, disaster.

In fact, the governor, Sonny Perdue, asked Bush to declare Georgia a disaster site, but that was somewhat eclipsed in the national news by the fires in California.

This drought is not a recent thing. It has been going on for years. So why haven't we been researching alternative water sources, water purification methods, building desalination facilities, and implementing strict conservation protocols YEARS ago??

I don't know. What I do know, is that it's freaking me right the flock out.

Now, I tend to be pretty blase about disaster doomsaying. The whole Y2k thing? I didn't buy so much as a can of soup. Husband, who is an IT professional, assured me it was bunk, and I believed him. He was right, of course. It was somewhat plausible bunk, but bunk nonetheless.

I don't keep a disaster preparedness kit, we have no evacuation plan. I call it the "ostrich defense". If I don't think about it, it won't happen. I don't watch disaster movies because they threaten the fine rainbow filmed bubble of my denial.

But this...this has got me scared. And if you live in Georgia, it's a threat you should take seriously as well. I have started storing water, which makes me feel at once foolish and empowered. Sheepish, but safe.

I'm buying cheap drinking water in 2 gallong plastic jugs from the grocery store, and saving tap water for household needs. But even doing that I wonder if all this storing that's going on isn't causing a greater drain on the already ailing lakes.

But we have to have water. And if it really does run out, the cost of bottled water will skyrocket. If we have to import water from other states (there is talk of buying water from Lake Michigan) the cost to transport, treat and store it will make tap water astronomically expensive as well. People will be fighting each other in the streets for water.

Recommendations vary, but sources say that you should store some water for every person in your family, regardless of where you live, or what the current conditions are. FEMA recommends a one week supply of at least one gallon of water per person per day. That doesn't seem like much, especially in our situation where it's unclear if or when relief will come. I'm shooting for two gallons per person per day and I hope to amass at least a couple of week's worth.

I've been doing a lot of reading about the issue of storing water and what I've found is that you should not use milk and orange juice jugs for drinking water storage because even if they are cleaned and sterilized carefully, food borne organisms could taint the water stored in them.

You can purchase food grade storage containers from army surplus or outdoor equipment stores, which is what FEMA recommends for storing tap water. You can ensure freshness by adding 1/8 tsp. chlorine bleach to each gallon that you store. It is not harmful to drink in such small amounts and will discourage the growth of bacteria.

I am using disinfected milk and orange juice jugs to store the filtered and purified tap water we will use for washing, flushing toilets, and watering the animals. If it comes to that.

I keep telling myself I am being silly, but myself doesn't want to listen. What myself wants to do is pile gallon upon gallon of water to the ceiling and then gaze at it with smug satisfaction.

And I find myself trying to quench a thirst that isn't really there, which is terribly disconcerting.

Perhaps instead of being reactionary, I am being naieve.

Our society has become comfortably blind to the prospect of disaster. Katrina hasn't changed that. The World Trade Center attacks haven't changed that. Tsunamis and tornadoes and floods and drought haven't changed that. Because those are things that happen to other people. We treat those who plan for the unthinkable as lunatics and accuse them of borrowing trouble. We call them Nervous Nellies and secretly question their grip on reality.

But are they really all that crazy? No. They are simply practicing common sense.

So I suppose what it comes down to is that my common sense has won out over embarassment and denial. And the wall of water grows ever higher.

Here's a hot stock might be the time to invest in Aquafina.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Introspection. Meta. Prolix.

Well, my parents are gone, and my house is my own again. That's a good thing and a bad thing. I'm lonely here.

I have lots and lots of acquaintances, but I have no close woman friends. The truth is, I don't trust other women easily and I find it difficult to bare my soul the way that other women seem to find so effortless. The reciprocity that is expected of a bosom buddy is difficult for me to give. It's totally my own thing, but it's a real thing. I can't just throw my self into friendship the way so many women seem to do because I am protective of and stingy with with my feelings and my secrets.

The exception to that is my relationship with my mother and my sister, who live 900 miles away.

So anyway....

I have to tell you, that I have not missed blogging. At times, blogging seems like an obligation that is just too difficult to live up to. And I have realized just exactly how much time I have wasted blogging, and trying to reciprocate with comments. And still it seems that I don't garner nearly the traffic that some do, despite my efforts. I try not to let that matter, but sometimes it's disheartening.

Here's an admission I have not had the courage to divulge until really BOTHERS me when good writing (I'm not referring to my own. There are lots of bloggers who are phenomenal writers who don't get nearly the number of comments I think they should) is overlooked for poop posts and one liners. I have tried not to let it.

I have tried to tell myself that it isn't about the number of comments, but how meaningful they are. And truly, I have some of the best commenters around. The insight and information that has been shared in my comments have been very gratifying to me. But still it bothers me...for myself, and for the other writers who pour their heart and soul into their writing only to be collectively ignored.

Is it simple jealousy? Honestly, I don't think so.

It's just another instance wherein popularity trumps quality and it rankles me. I've been dealing with it since the first grade when Heather Harmon pointed out that the fur on the hood of my jacket was fake. This of course, rendered me wholly unsuitable for their exacting standards, and thus, I watched day after day as they skipped rope, cat cradled their yarn and hopped over their lemon twists in a tightly huddled little group.

The blogosphere has some really great aspects to it, and I've felt truly privileged to witness them. I've found writers, artists, philanthropists, volunteers, and parents championing their children with special needs. I've met people I might never have spoken to in real life (Christians) who were willing to share their thoughts and feelings without making me feel like an inferior wretch. I've watched as people gathered around a woman losing her husband to cancer offer support and solace; people who never even laid eyes on either of them. I've watched people rally in support of a little boy with a terrible disease; giving selflessly of their time and their money. I've met a woman who works tirelessly to give the homeless a chance at fixing their broken lives.

So it isn't all cliquism and snarkiness. But there's enough that it reminds me time and time again why I don't put more effort into ingratiating myself with certain groups; bloggers, women, even writers. It's always the same. The power trippers and the prom queens position themselves strategically and everyone else is at the mercy of their petty whims.

Where am I going with this??

SIGH. of my favorite writers has decided to close up shop. And I find myself thinking that maybe it's time for me as well. I did this last year...or tried to, and I just couldn't make the break. I caved after two weeks. How pathetic is that?

And, on a more practical note, it's AMAZING how much I have gotten done, even with houseguests, when I wasn't held captive to the allure of the blogosphere. If I really focused my time and energy, I could finish my book and maybe even get it published. It's not that implausible to think that I could, if I really worked at it.

But I don't, because the rewards of blogging are more immediate. And it's terribly, terribly seductive. I suppose that means I'm not self-motivated and that I need tons of external gratification to get anything done. And maybe that means that I can't focus my energies long enough to finish a book. But I won't know as long as I remain gridlocked in the endless circle of obligation that is blogging.

This is not a declaration of any sort. I don't know what I'm going to do. I'm really just thinking aloud, I suppose. Maybe I'm wanting exhortations to stay. Maybe I'm wanting encouragement to go. Maybe I just wanted to get it all off my chest.

Food for thought. Right?

ADDENDUM: In my hurried verbal disgorgement, I forgot to say that part of my frustration is that I always considered blogging to be about writing. The fact that I'm letting it be more than that is disturbing to me. Though blogging has helped me find my voice and reawaken my passion for writing, it has also had the adverse affect of influencing my writing in a more commercial sense. I don't want to be commercial. I want to be true to the vision I have for myself and my writing. But that seems to have gotten lost. Maybe what I need is just to find it again.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Intercourse Discourse

(Originally posted 03/06. This is a perfect example of why kids give you grey hair.)

Despite being somewhat impoverished, my childhood was near idyllic in many ways. I grew up in that golden era when AIDS was yet unheard of, the only gangs to speak of had names like "The Rainbow Rollers", and Adam Walsh was just another anonymous American kid. We roamed free until dark, when we would straggle back home, dirty, exhausted and ravenous...but happy in that oblivious way that only kids can be. My parents were loving, vigilant, and wholly committed to giving us a good life and a stable home.

However...that carefree era was also the "we don't talk about that" era. As such, most of what I learned about sex came from my Dad's purloined Mickey Spillane novels and the schoolyard rumor mill. If I hadn't read Are you There God, It's Me Margaret I might have been convinced I was dying of some horrible, nameless "down there" disease when I began menstruating. But, thus informed, and armed with an "It's GREAT to be a Woman" starter kit that I got in the fifth grade, I ventured forth into womanhood with very little fanfare or acknowledgement other than the mysterious appearance of a box of Kotex in the bathroom cabinet.

When I began having sex at 17, I took myself down to Planned Parenthood and endured my first pelvic exam alone, scared to death my Mom would find out. Taboo subject that it was, I don't know how or why I had the presence of mind to procure some birth control, but I thank heaven that I did. I never told her, though part of me hoped desperately that she would somehow discover my secret, and we could talk about it at last. She never did.

When I had children of my own I vowed it would be different. I resolved to be open, honest and matter of fact with my kids about sex, and I resolved that they would always know they could talk to me about anything and everything.

That has proven to be easier said than done.

I tend to overthink things a bit, and the whole sex issue is no exception. From the time my oldest was an infant, I started planning what I would say and how. I ran through endless scenarios in my head. I practiced dialogue and feigning nonchalance. I was as prepared as I could be, and I was confident that when the time came, I would pull it off with aplomb. I would not choke. I would be as cool as a cucumber. I would.

Unfortunately, no amount of preparation can innoculate you against the shock of your piercingly innocent 7 year old child asking out of a clear blue sky..."So Mom...what IS sex anyway?" Everything I had rehearsed fled from my brain in a torrent of panic and denial, and I said something like...."Yurg."

Mercifully, I was able to gather my wits about me and make a pretty convincing show of being perfectly at ease while we discussed the basics of intercourse and insemination. Yurg indeed.

Fast forward a couple years, and I've got this down pat. I've covered just about everything there is to cover, except for nocturnal emissions, which I'm leaving to the parent who has actually experienced this phenomenon. I figure we've got a little time yet anyway, though I'm sure it will sneak up on us the way that first winsome inquiry did. I expect to be sniffing sheets before too long. So, thinking myself quite progressive and experienced, I relaxed a bit and did not worry quite so much about the inevitable moment when my younger child seeks enlightenment.

And still I was caught completely off gaurd.

In the van on the way home from a baseball game last evening, the talk was all about batting averages, RBIs and optically challenged umpires. Suddenly, with no warning whatsoever, my sweet blue eyed diminutive one decided the time was right to start laying the groundwork for some intercourse discourse.

"Hey Mom, I heard some ladies get their stomach cut open to get the baby out."

"Ummmm...(don't say Yurg, don't say Yurg)...yes, that's true. It's called a C-section."

"Does it hurt?"

"Yes, I imagine it does."

"You don't know?"

"No, I didn't have a C-section, honey."

"Well then how did I get out?"


"You came out my vagina."

Stunned silence ensued. I bit my lips to keep from filling the chasm with gory details he might not yet want or need. Many moments passed. My husband and I looked at one other, blinking and bemused, while the pre-pubescent one snickered at the word "vagina". Finally he spoke.

"I sure wish I didn't ask that."

Me to buddy, me too. More silence, and then...

"I'm glad I'm not a girl."

Me too buddy. Meeeeeeeeeeee too.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Enter the Cocksure Cowboy

(Originally posted 08/36. Reposted at the suggestion of one of my readers. It is one of my favorite life stories. It makes good fodder for a bodice ripping romance novel doesn't it?)

The other day, Bub And Pie had a great post about the currencies of marriage titled "If Conversation be the Food of Love, Talk On." And recently, a friend recommended "The Five Love Languages" by Gary Chapman.

It got me to thinking about my own experience with conversation and how it led to my marriage. I haven't yet read the book, but I can already tell you that he left one out. Conversation. Like Bub and Pie, conversation is definitely love currency for me.

1992 was one hell of a year. I had ended a 6 year relationship after finding out that my fiancee was sleeping with my best friend, the wife of his best friend. Yes, it was all very dramatic, and I'll write about it another time. For a while I pushed the heartache away by engaging in a series of superficial and short-lived relationships. But it wasn't what I really wanted. What I really wanted was a husband. A life partner. A best friend.

I began seeing a guy that I thought might fit that bill. He was tall and handsome and he was a decent fella. He treated me like a princess. He had a good job, and was smart with his money. He was ten years older than me, and I thought his maturity would make him more likely to commit to a serious and possibly life-long relationship. I was right, as it turns out, and he was ready to marry me after a very short courtship.

For a while, it was good. The mating dance was fresh and exciting. We went to clubs and parties, we went to the movies, we went to sporting events and concerts. But what we didn't do was talk. As we began to settle into the less frenetic lifestyle of a steady relationship, the lack of substance in our relationship became painfully clear.

To me, that is.

We would eat an entire meal without exchanging more than two or three words. He would rise from the table, kiss me, thank me for a great meal, help me clean up, and then retire to the couch where we would sit side by side in front of the television unspeaking for several hours until one of us had to go home.

I would be seething with resentment at having been ignored all evening while he was happy and content, satisfied with no longer having to make idle conversation to win me over. He considered good conversation a tool for wooing, not a necessary component of a healthy and satisfying relationship. He was glad to set it aside in exchange for what he thought of as companionable silence.

Oh, I tried. Time and time again. But after a hard and stressful day at work, the last thing he wanted to do was debate politics, or discuss world events, or even opine on literature, music or film. Fair enough. But he anaesthetized himself with televised sports, while I sat beside him in resentful silence and it just wasn't enough anymore.

Things came to a head when we took a weekend trip to the beach. On the 7 hour drive home, we spoke only to express the need to stop for food, drink or restrooms. He had no idea that I was deeply troubled by it. I ended things with him two days after we returned. He was taken completely by surprise because he thought everything was fine, better than fine. He thought things were pretty peachy.

Even after I explained it to him, he just didn't get it. His inability to understand my need to connect to him through conversation led him to believe that there was another reason for the break-up. Eventually he convinced himself that I wanted to go back to my fiancee, and sadly, we parted on acrimonious terms. It wasn't how I wanted things to end, and I regret that I wasn't more outspoken about my needs before things deteriorated so badly. I doubt it would have changed things, but perhaps it wouldn't have been such a shock to him when the relationship went sour.

I realized that I had not really given myself enough time after ending my engagement, and resolved to enjoy my freedom and autonomy for a while. And, since I was still harboring a lot of lingering distrust of men in general, that wasn't a difficult resolution to stick to.

Until the night I met Husband.

I was at a country western dance club (I live in the South, gimme a break) with some girlfriends, trying not to look available. I could usually dissuade any prospective suiters with a glower, but occasionally some cocksure cowboy would swagger up anyway, and ask me to dance. Husband was one such brave soul. He was undaunted by my inhospitable body language and sat himself down next to me one night to shout an invitation to dance in my ear.

I refused him, politely. I gave my standard response about having just gotten out of a relationship that had ended badly. He gave a me a funny half smile...a sardonic little smirk that I now see often on the face of my youngest child. He told me he understood because his fiancee had recently died. There was no drama or self-pity in his statement. It was straightforward and matter of fact, and I was completely taken aback.

I wondered if he was bullshitting me. But I've met a lot of sleazy guys in joints like that, and he just didn't strike me as a liar. He had an honest face. Unsure how to respond, I mumbled something suitably polite about being sorry for his loss. He took advantage of my discomfiture to coax my phone number out of me. It was the one and only time I ever gave my phone number to a guy in a bar.

The following day, the cold I had been nursing took a turn for the worse and I became seriously ill. I ended up confined to bed for over a week. He called me on Monday night to ask me to dinner. I explained that I was sick, glad to have a valid reason to decline. I sounded as bad as I felt, so he accepted my explanation.

Then we began to talk. And talk. And talk. Before I realized it, two hours had passed. I began to lose my voice and he apologized for keeping me on the phone for so long. He asked if he could call again tomorrow night. I told him I would like that, and to my surprise, I meant it.

He called me every night that week and every night we talked just as long as we had that first night. He asked me if I had medicine, soup, kleenex...he offered to bring me anything I needed or drive me to the doctor. Aside from my roommate, who was wrapped up in her own life, I had nobody. I was 900 miles from my home and family, which he knew from our first conversation. I declined, not wanting him to see me looking like such a piteous wretch. Now that he's seen me give birth that seems kind of silly, but we were all young and single once, so I suspect you can relate.

At the end of that week, I realized I was in love with a guy I had only met once. We had never even gone on a date. I was in love with a guy who could talk. He had thoughts, opinions, ideas... and he could express them intelligently, even if he did inject a little redneck speak now and then.

He was sensitive, and not afraid to let it show. He told me about his fiancee and he cried while he described his shock and grief. I cried with him. They were engaged to be married and had just purchased a home together. Three weeks before Christmas, she died suddenly at work when an aneurysm in her heart burst. She was 20 years old. I was terribly sad for him, and sad that someone so young had lost her life. But despite the undeniably tragic nature of her death, I couldn't be sad about where it had led him. To me.

When I was better, he invited me over to dinner. He made lasagne and salad and garlic bread and bought expensive wine. We didn't do much talking that night.

Two weeks later, I moved in. Six months later he gave me a ring. A year later we were married. 14 years later, we have two children and a really satisfying life together. And we still talk. When I wonder why we have made it when so many of our friends have already divorced, some of them multiple times...I always come back to the same answer...because we talk.

We've had our ups and downs of course. Our marriage isn't perfect by any stretch of the imagination. He isn't perfect, as some women assert. I am not perfect either. But we have the same currency and we use it to deal with all the complications, big and small, that arise when two strong minded people join together in wedded bliss and then procreate.

There's a song by Garth Brooks that to this day brings tears to my eyes. It's called Unanswered Prayers.

Once, I would have done anything...anything to have my fiancee and his loyalty back. I prayed, I schemed, I even planned in detail, the murder of my former friend. At one point, I was probably crazy enough to carry out that plan. I was literally, out of my mind with heartbreak. But some vestige of sanity remained and I walked away with my prayers unanswered, my life as I knew it in pieces, but holding my head high.

Thank God for unanswered prayers. Thank God for that Cocksure Cowboy. And thank God for a currency in which we can count ourselves ridiculously wealthy. Talking always has and always will get us through.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Me, Myself and I.

Originally posted 12/06. I'm not really known in the blog world for being funny, but I can be sometimes, I think. I like this post because it's a little different from my usual stuff. I think it shows a different side of me.

Today I went on a blind date. With a girl. A girl blogger.

In some ways, I think meeting other women is even more angst inspiring than meeting men ever was. I always knew how to dress (provocatively), how to act (ditto) and what to talk about (them) to win men over. Men were really pretty easy, because generally speaking, they are simple creatures at heart and because their expectations tend to be less lofty than those of women.

Men expect nothing, and are pleasantly surprised when things go well. Women expect everything, and end up pissed off and bitter when things go wrong.

If you're not butt ugly and and demonstrate even mild interest in them, Men are usually happy to continue spending time with you, even if you have nothing in common with one another.

But women...well, we all know that women are just...really...insane complicated.

So though I was really looking forward to meeting this person, I was also weirdly nervous about it.

Here's what transpired in my bathroom this morning:

Me: What are we going to wear? Everything makes us look fat.

Myself: We are fat.

I: We could wear the black pants. They still fit, and black is slimming.

Myself: Veto.

I: What's wrong with the black pants?

Myself: They're too dressy.

Me: SO?

Myself: It will look like we're trying too hard.

Me: We are trying too hard. We're a woman. It's what we do.

Myself: Riiiiight. But we don't need to look desperate.

I: What about the boot cut jeans with heels and a casual sweater?

Myself: I'm cool with that.

Me: Yep. The jeans are hip. The sweater covers our jelly belly.

I: Okay, jeans and sweater it is.

Myself: Right, but...we're not wearing that lipstick are we?

Me: What's wrong with this lipstick? We like it.

Myself: looks kind of...inflate-a-date.

Me: WHAT? It does not.

I: It kinda does.

Myself: I'm just sayin..women generally despise other women who look like whores.

Me: Wearing bold lipstick does not make us look like a whore. It's daring. And it signifies self confidence.

Myself: Right. It signifies that we're a self-confident whore.

I: I wouldn't go that far. It is kind of Courtney Love with "Hole" though.

Me: Fine, what about "Earthen Suede"? It's very sedate.

Myself: Works for me.

I: Me too.

Me: Ummmm, maybe we should consider driving Husband's car.

Myself: Why?

Me: Well, the van is so..."suburban soccer Mom who defines herself by her children's accomplishments".

I: And that would be

Me: Our children play baseball.

I: You don't say.

Myself: Yeah, and whatever happened to not apologizing for our choices?

Me: We are so not apologizing for our choices.

Myself: Oh, right, my mistake. We're denying them altogether. Way to go Betty Friedan.

I: It does seem kind of disingenuous.

Me: FINE. We'll take the van.

Myself: Fine.

I: Fine.

Me: Okay. Are we ready?

Myself: I think so.

I: Ready as we'll ever be.

Me: Wait...

Myself: What now?

Me: We're all agreed that we steer clear of politics, gay marriage and abortion, right?

I: Right.


Me: Right???

Myself(sighing): FINE.

Me: And let's watch the F bomb, okay?

I: Right. And blasphemy.

Myself: Blasphemy?

Me: Like, we shouldn't say "Jesus Christ".

Myself: Oh...right. What about "Sonuvabitch"?

Me: It's right up there with the F word.

Myself: Okay Pollyanna, can we go now?

Me: Yes. Let's go.

I: I just wish we had a sexy cell phone. This one is so...utilitarian.

Me, Myself: I.....

I: Alright, alright. But can we ask Husband for one for Christmas?

Myself: I thought we agreed we were asking for a Treadmill.

Me: Umm, no, we're asking for the leatherbound edition of "Persuasion" by Jane Austen.

Myself: Okay, we never agreed to that....

So, umm, turned out that I needn't have worried. The woman that I met was incredibly warm, and friendly, and genuine. She used the F word twice. Not that I was counting. Really. I was so at ease with ther that I might have said "Jesus Christ" a time or two.

So why do we do this to ourselves? Why are we so concerned about what other women will think of us? I think it's because so many of us are lonely. We may have lots of friends and acquaintances, but we want so badly to connect with other women in a meaningful way that we're willing to sacrifice ourselves on a superficial level to accomplish that.

But the truth is, *I* don't really care what color lipstick someone wears, or how much they weigh, or how they style their hair. I don't even care if they have different ideals, as long as I believe they are trying to live their best life. And I think most of us are...trying to live our best life.

So was really and truly a pleasure to meet you. Thank you so much for making time, even though your little ones weren't feeling well. And I hope we can do it again sometime soon. You don't even have to wear lipstick. :?)

Monday, October 22, 2007

A Legacy Revealed

(Originally posted 05/06. It's one of my favorites, but not one of my high profile pieces. I hope you enjoy it.)

I am the Mother of boys. Only boys.

Most of the time, this suits me just fine. I have little patience for female histrionics, melodrama and backbiting whether it be from girls or grown women.

But I cried when it was revealed by a ghostly image in a dimly lit room, that my first child was a boy. I had no brothers and boy children were a mystery to me. I felt completely at ease with the thought of mothering girl children, but I was gripped by the fear that I would be woefully inept at raising a boy. That fear evaporated of course, the moment he was laid on my breast, tiny and squalling and covered in my blood.

I would learn.

Years later it's funny to reflect on that. I can't imagine life with girls. I can't imagine life without boys. We do pretty well my men and me.

But because of gender differences, it's hard to see myself in my boy children and sometimes it makes me feel a little melancholy. I would have liked a girl to remind myself of me. I would have loved to hear people say that she is my spit and image as they say about my youngest son and my husband. Or that she is a little Mommy like I was at that age. Or that she can't keep her nose out of a book. For that reason, I sometimes really miss the girl child that I will never have.

Late the other night as I sat in front of the computer bleary eyed; really too tired to write, but determined to take advantage of the rare moment of absolute peace and quiet, my youngest son stole down the steps and timidly called out to me.


I was annoyed at having my solitude disrupted. With ill-concealed impatience, I snapped at him.


There was a moment of silence, during which I assume, he was contemplating whether it was prudent to continue.

"Ummmm, Mom, I can't sleep. Can I come down and talk to you?"

I softened a little. I've been an insomniac for years and I can relate to the torture of lying in bed unable to sleep; body willing, but mind awhirl.

"Come on down and tell me about it." I called.

He traipsed down the stairs and appeared before me squinting in the lamplight, blonde hair sticking up in riotous disarrary. Toothless and freckled, and wearing only his tighty whities, he was a sight that rendered me completely incapable of holding onto my irritation.

I pulled him onto my lap, ignoring the fact that his legs dangled nearly to the floor. Since we were alone, his dignity was not affronted and he did not resist, but settled against me with satisfying bonelessness.

"What is it Diminutive One?" I asked as I tried to smooth the peaks and whorls in his hair.

He sighed heavily, and replied, "Well...I've been thinking about my story...."

He'd been working dilligently for weeks on a very detailed story chronicling the adventures of a valiant Knight and his evil nemesis.

"I keep thinking of things I want to write and I'm afraid I won't remember them in the morning. I feel like I want to write them down right now. I'll never be able to sleep if I don't."

In that moment, I saw myself in my son. I felt connected to him. I saw that some part of me would live on. I imagined a nameless faceless young descendant far in the future, earnestly scribbling his or her first story. I imagine someone saying to her with fondness..."You know...your great great grandmother B.A was a writer."

I hugged him hard enough to make him grunt, and said,

"Go work on your story. You have 30 minutes."

He grinned and scampered off, mindful of every second. And when I tucked him in thirty minutes later, his eyes drifted quickly shut, his mind at ease; divested of the words that burgeon within him unbidden.

That's my boy.

Sunday, October 21, 2007


My parents are here from Wisconsin.

I love my parents. I love having them here. I wish with all my heart and soul that I had not, as an ignorant hot headed eighteen year old, decided to move 900 miles away. I would do anything to get back there.

But anyway....I relish every moment with them, so I will not be blogging this week. I may repost some stuff. I never know if I should do that or not. I want my readers to keep coming back, but I don't want you to roll your eyes when you see some tired old post that I think is really awesome that maybe everybody else thinks is mediocre at best.

Any thoughts on that? Let's vote.

Should I recycle this week? If so, which post would you nominate to be recycle worthy, if any?

Friday, October 19, 2007

Little Boy Lost, Revisited

My sister has very vivid dreams and can always recount them in great detail. She's always telling me about some crazy dream she had and it always amazes me how much she can recall.

I don't dream a lot, and when I do, my dreams are somewhat hazy and amorphous. They leave me almost the instant I'm awake. Every once in a while I have a vivid nightmare, but the only thing that really stays with me is the starkly realistic terror. The boogeymen that populate my dreams are rarely able to penetrate my waking hours with their darkness.

Even my sex dreams tend to be anonymous and focus usually on an act rather than a person, which can, at times, be disappointing. I'd love a somnolent romp with George Clooney or Hugh Laurie.

Once or twice, I've had dreams so horrific that they stayed with me for years. Almost without exception, they have been about the death of someone I love. Once, during a time when Pre-Pubescent One was experiencing sexual harassment at the hands of a troubled peer, I dreamt that he had been sexually brutalized by a huge, slavering fiend. I doubt I'll ever forget that one.

Last night I had one of those dreams.

I'm exhausted and a little stressed about getting everything ready for my parents' visit. My mother is chronically ill, and I worry about her health and comfort while she's here. I worry about her being worried that she won't be able to do something we want to do because of her physical limitations. I worry about having enough oxygen on hand and getting more if we run out. It's silly, because she copes very well day to day. She works, she grocery shops, she babysits my neices and nephews. But still, I worry.

So I think my state of mind probably contributed to my troubled sleep. But apparently, I am also far more worried about Little Boy Lost than I realized, because it was he that walked the landscape of my dreams last night.

And it was so damn REAL.

I can still, this morning, remember the heart pounding terror at finding him in a crumpled heap in his front yard, beaten and bloody. I can remember how my hands shook as I dialed 911. I can hear the blood gurgling in his throat as he whispered "Coming. He's coming."

Here's how it went:

I was driving down the road, marvelling at the pleasantly cool temperatures, savoring the way the friendly sunshine kissed my skin through the windows of the van and enjoying the rustle of leaves in the gentle autumn wind.

I turned onto the main road in the neighborhood, rummaging in my purse with one hand as I did so, trying to find my sunglasses.

I looked up and saw what appeared to be a heap of clothing lying near the mailbox in the weed choked yard of Cory's house. Huh. Typical. I snorted with irritation.

But then the heap of clothing moved, and I noticed blond hair glinting in the sun. I realized, with sick horror, that it was a person lying there, a child.

I stopped the van, jumped out and rushed over to the forlorn little heap. I was very much afraid of what I would find. I knelt down and saw that a hood covered the face of whomever it was lying there. With a trembling hand (I can still feel the way my hand shook) I pulled it away.

I gasped and felt tears spring immediately to my eyes. The face beneath the hood was a hideous caricature of humanity. Swollen, bloody, blackened with bruises, the nose crushed, the lips split. It was only the blonde hair and the single, frightened, imploring blue eye that sparked recognition.

"Cory! Oh my God, Cory. What happened to you?"

"Hit me." His voice was weak, his breath shallow. It scared me badly.

"Who? With what?"


"A kid?"

He didn't answer me.

"Cory! A kid?"

But he wouldn't say anymore and I assumed he was unconscious. I reached for my cell phone to call 911, but realized that it was still in the van. Though I didn't know if he could hear me or not, I told him I had to go get my cell phone and would be right back.

"NO!" he said. Though his voice was barely a whisper, the panic was evident. His hand shot out and gripped mine, hard. "Coming. He's coming."

"Cory, I've got to call an ambulance. I'll be right back. I promise."

I dashed madly to the van, grabbed my phone and dashed back. My heart was pounding harder than I thought possible, but not from the exertion. I was scared out of my mind that this kid was going to die right there in front of me before the ambulance arrived.

"Cory, hold on, hon. Be strong. I'm going to get some help."

"He's coming."

"There's nobody here but me. It's okay."

The words had scarcely left my mouth when the front door to the house exploded outward and a large man with a baseball bat in his hand lumbered down the steps.

The bat was bloody.

"CORY!" He bellowed. "You little sumbitch! I TOLD you to cook some goddamn supper! You worthless little piece of shit. I'll teach you to disobey me, boy!"

The man bore down on us with frightening speed. It was obvious that he was drunk, but even so, he moved with terrifying swiftness.

I screamed at him to stop. I begged him not to hit Cory anymore.

"He's just a little boy!" I sobbed.

"Shut up bitch. Don't you tell me how to raise my kids. It's time he learned who's boss."

He raised the bat above his head and Cory screamed. It was the scream of a creature in mortal terror. I threw myself over Cory and when the bat came down upon my back it felt as if every vertebrae had been shattered. It was so horribly real. I can still remember the bony crunch, the deep sickening thud that reverberated through my whole body. I felt myself battered and bludgeoned and carried away on a tide of pain.

I screamed and screamed. And then I woke up. My screams were not echoing through the house, because in reality, I was shrieking in a thin, hoarse whisper.

It was a long time before I went back to sleep and when I did, it was the tentative sleep of one who fears their subconscious.

That dream really rattled me.

To be fair, I have no reason to suspect that Cory's stepfather is a drunk or that he is capable of violence. As far as I know, his only brand of abuse is simple neglect.

Maybe the violence is a metaphor for something. I just don't know. And I don't know why I would dream about him. I'm really not very savvy when it comes to dream interpretation or the symbolism therein.

I haven't even seen the kid since summer, except for the brief encounter at the park.

Clearly, he has gotten under my skin in some respect. I hate to think that I have another kid to worry about. I really have all I can handle worrying about my own two.

Great. Just great.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Mad Rantings Precipitated By Cleaning Induced Psychosis

I am in an absolute frenzy of cleaning.

I used to keep an immaculate house, even when I had small children. But after 13 years, frankly, I'm tired. And it all seems so pointless. Floors get muddied again. Toilets get crapped in again. Ceiling fans, knick knacks and fixtures get coated in dust again.

And nobody cares. Nope. I think it's safe to say that my home could be condemned and still my family would be blisffully ignorant to the fact that they are living in a toxic waste dump.

So I became pretty apathetic about cleaning. And it was pretty easy for me to lower my standards, because I don't derive any particular sense of satisfaction from cleaning, partially because it's never done. How can anyone feel satisfied with something that will just have to done over again?

I'm still very neat and organized because clutter bugs me. When my home is cluttered, I just can't think. I'm sure there's some sort of psychology there. I have baskets, bins, folders, and files for everything.

But the day to day stuff has really slipped.

I used to vacuum daily, now it's sometimes weeks. I used to dust weekly, now it's sometimes months. I used to detail everything monthly, now it's sometimes years. parents are coming to visit on Friday.

I really didn't intend to do deep cleaning, because this weeks has been hellaciously busy, and honestly, my Mom doesn't care. And it would be her I would be cleaning for. My Dad has that peculiar blindness to filth that most 1950's husbands have. But she just wants to see us and spend time with the boys. I would never worry that she was judging my worthiness as a woman, wife or mother because my house is dirty.

And I stopped judging my own worthiness by my ability as a housewife when I stopped feeling that I had to justify my decision to stay home. Suffice it to say, that I am not defined by my domestic status.

But the thing about cleaning leads to more cleaning. And once I started, I became truly horrified about how far I had let things go.

Now, my home is still perfectly sanitary. The cat boxes are cleaned daily, the appliances, table and counters are wiped down after every meal, and though I went on strike and refused to clean the boys' bathroom any more (what? *I* don't pee on the floor...why should I clean it up?), the other two are clean enough that I wouldn't be embarassed to let a guest use them.

I swiffer up the more disgusting messes that seem to occur daily and I don't let dirty dishes accumulate. That's one of my pet peeves. My fridge doesn't have anything in it that can't be identified (another pet peeve) and the fingerprint problem is pretty much under control.

And because my house is neat, I can effect the illusion of clean without too much effort if we need to admit guests.

But ohhhhhh, the dust. The cobwebs. The sneaky, sticky grimy dirt that hides in places you don't think to clean regularly. And the curtains, the blinds, Dear God the windows.

I think blinds were a plague sent by Satan to torment housewives. So is carpeting.

If there is anything nastier than carpet, I don't know what it is. I used to steam clean our wonderfully well thought out (not by me, previous owners) white Berber regularly, but again, the sheer magnitude of the task of keeping that stupid carpet clean overwhelmed me and I gave up.

So I steam cleaned all the carpets and furniture and the water that I discarded was absolutely disgusting. And I'm sure there is still all kinds of nasty stuff lurking deep beneath that the steam cleaner didn't reach, breeding, sporing, spreading...((shudder)). If ever there was a perfect system for catching and retaining disease bearing organisms, carpet is it. Our next home will have NO carpet, anywhere.

If you have children, do not, under any circumstances, go look at the uderside of your kitchen table right now. Do not look at the chairs, particularly on the underside of the chair back where you always grasp it to pull it away from the table. Don't do it unless you have a couple hours to spend with a bucket of Lysol and a toothbrush.

Do not pull your child's bed away from the wall. Because if you do, you will find boogers cemented there. I think your kid would never do something like that, but trust me, they would and they do. Do you have any idea how difficult it is to remove petrified boogers without doing serious damage to the paint and underlying drywall? It's nearly impossible. I have found that an exacto knife is somewhat helpful and truly, chiselling away at dried boogers is great for building upper arm strength.

Also, don't look at the doorknobs and the surrounding real estate in any room that your child uses regularly. Gag. Do not, I repeat, do not look under the beds. There will be things under there that defy description, and then you will be forced to crawl under there with rubber gloves, a face mask, and a salad tongs to extract them.

So anyway...I've been cleaning from morning til night for the past three days, and my offspring, surprisingly, are noticing.

After last Christmas I declared war and removed everything from the Dining room, which has served as the playroom for 11 years. I ruthlessly discarded everything that was broken, missing pieces, had too many pieces, or just pissed me off. What was left was trundled up to Diminutive One's room and for the first time since we bought the house, the Dining Room had room for actual Dining type furniture.

Unfortunately, it has stood empty for the last year because funds have been lacking and because I am picky. I don't buy cheap furniture because I intend for it to last. My sister in law has had three living room suites in the last 14 years. Three. And at least two bedroom suites.

But surprsingly, I digress.

So...I went to Big Lots yesterday (Big Lots, how do I love thee???) and bought household crap that we've been needing forever. Throw rugs, towels, bath mats, some new kitchen accessories like napkin and paper towel holders. And I bought a couple non-essential items to class up the place.

Diminutive One said to me this morning, "Wow, Mom, you've been working so hard to make the house look nice. I like all the new stuff you bought. You should buy some furniture for the dining room now."

"I'd love to babe, but it's just not a priority right now."

"I wish I could buy you a Dining Room set."

"You do?"

"Yeah. You always buy us stuff and not stuff you need. HEY! When I'm 15, I can get a job. I can buy you stuff then." Pause. "Do you think you can wait that long?"

"Yeah. But you shouldn't buy me stuff. You should buy yourself stuff while your money is still your own."


"I mean, someday you'll have to pay bills and buy your kids clothes and food, and you won't be able to buy whatever you want. There's only a short period of time in everybody's life when they can be selfish with their money. You should take advantage of that."

"Oh. Hmmm. Well...if I really wanted to buy you stuff, would you let me?"


He went away looking satisfied. And it was kind of a bittersweet moment for me. I remember wanting to buy my Mom and Dad stuff they never could afford for themselves, and I realized that my child had reached that age of awareness. He's growing up and seeing the world through glasses that are a little less rosy. I'm proud, but sad. That carefree innocence is so very fleeting, but I guess, along with it, comes a little bit of altruism and selflessness. It touched me deeply.

And yannow? It almost makes up for the boogers on the wall.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

So About That Health Care Post....

(You know, the one I had planned to post the day of the dog attack?)

Some of you know that the health care crisis here in America is one of my hot button issues. I am fortunate that the drugs my children take are not necessary to sustain life. But they are necessary to maintain a certain quality of life.

At one point, we had to fight our insurance company tooth and nail to cover a twice daily dose of Strattera for our oldest son. This dose was arrived at through much trial and error, which was closely supervised by not one, but two doctors; his pediatrician and his psychiatrist.

And yet, our insurance company denied us coverage because the "standard" dose of Strattera is once daily. They would cover a once daily dose of 80mg, but they would not cover a twice daily dose of 40mg. OR, we could get 60 pills, but we would have to pay two copays. Does this make sense to you?

Well it makes perfect sense if the bottom line is your main priority.

And that's where the problem lies. Capitalism and Health Care are two entities whose interests are at cross purposes, and as such, creates a gross conflict of interest.

When you start talking about socialized medicine, people get nervous. And, you know what? I get that. I understand that people are nervous about putting decisions as personal and far reaching as those regarding our health, maybe our lives, into the hands of bureaurocrats. And I realize that socialized medicine is not the perfect solution to this problem.

But it is a solution.

Right now in the United States the percentage of uninsured Americans is at an all time high. Premiums are climbing and employer sponsored coverage is decreasing along with the number covered procedures, services and pharmaceuticals.

There are chronically ill people who are choosing between food and medicine. There are people with fatal illnesses who are having to choose life saving treatments over providing for their children, or vice versa.

And that is just wrong. That is worse than wrong. That's criminal.

According to this article, 1 in 10 cancer patients is unable to provide basic necessities for their families. 1 in 12 made the decision to delay or forego treatment because it was too costly.

How costly is too costly?

The prescription drug Zofran, which is an antiemetic, and sometimes the only thing that keeps cancer patients from wasting away to nothing during the numerous and brutal rounds of chemotherapy, costs $42 per pill. Per. Pill. Most cancer patients take it at 8 or 12 hour intervals in the days following chemotherapy.

Herceptin, a relatively new drug in the cancer arsenal, and one of the few that is effective against inflammatory breast cancer, costs $48,000 for the recommended year of treatment. Wholesale.

Avastin, which is primarily used to treat colorectal cancer can cost up to $50,000. If used to treat breast and lung cancer, the cost can double because of increased dosing needs.

Why are these drugs so costly??

Drug development is expensive and the companies developing them are not government sponsored. That means that they must foot the bill for development costs, testing, and marketing as well as turn a profit to keep shareholders happy.'s that word "profit" that mucks everything up. It should never be about profit. It should be about keeping healthy people healthy and making sick people well. Period.

Most startling of all, there is currently no accountability holding these drug companies to ethical pricing practices. One company, Genentech, raised the price of their drug Tarceva by 30% when they realized it was more effective than preliminary testing indicated, and thus, more sought after by patients.

That's just one example among many of why healthcare costs are skyrocketing and more and more Americans are going without basic medical care. But it clearly illustrates why Capitalism and Health care should not be joint endeavors.

We won the fight regarding our son's medicine. Now we are fighting a different battle. Our insurance company only wants to cover 12 visits annually to Diminutive One's therapist. But she feels that for now, once weekly is optimum to track his progress, monitor his moods, (which can be affected by his medication) and make sure that he's not experiencing any co-morbid conditions, which are very common with these types of disorders.

So let's recap. Our son's doctor, who has a degree in psychology and who has specialized in this subset of disorders for 25 years, feels he should go weekly. But our insurance company, who has never met Diminutive One, nor reviewed his medical records, feels once a month is adequate.

But we are lucky. We can afford basic health care for our children. Well checks, vaccinations, office visits when they are sick, medicine when they need it and two tonsillectomies for different reasons, but both equally necessary. But they wouldn't have died without the tonsillectomies. They won't die without Strattera or Concerta. They won't get Tuberculosis, Measles, Mumps, Rubella, Whooping Cough, Polio or Scarlet Fever.

There are some people who cannot say the same for their children.

And that's why it makes me so freaking frustrated when people vote down bills like the Children's Health Care Bill.

I know socialized medicine is scary. Socialized anything is scary. And people are afraid bills like these are a foot in the door for governmental micromanaging of our health care choices. They see it as yet another freedom in danger of being curtailed.

But make no mistake...this is not just an issue for the poor or underprivileged. There are lots of families out there who would be devastated if they had to bankroll treatment for a life threatening disease, a debilitating accident, or a chronic illness.

Think about it. That's you and that's me.

But're doing well, right? You have a nice house, two cars, some luxuries like cable and internet and dinner out a few times a week. And you have some savings right? A couple hundred? One or two thousand? Five? Ten? Twenty?

If you had cancer you could blow through twenty thousand in a month. And then what?

You can't work. How do you pay your mortgage? How do you feed your kids? How do you keep the lights, gas and water turned on?

This is an issue that affects all of us. And it's not about giving up control because we never really had any anyway. It's about taking it away from the insurance and drug companies who are getting rich at our expense and putting it back into the hands of doctors.

Yes, there will be some red tape. There will be some micromanagement. There always is, isn't there? It's just a part of life.

But what's more important? Choice and convenience? Or coverage?

For some, any coverage is better than what they have now, which is, nothing. Maybe you can still afford your premiums and your increasing co-pays. I can, but it's getting harder and harder. Combined, our prescriptions cost around $240 a month. And we don't have many. That's one for each of the boys, Restasis and 2 migraine meds for me. The co-pay on the boys meds and my Restasis is $60.

The median household income in the United States is $46,326. Though we are a one income family, our income is substantially higher. And yet sometimes it's a struggle even for us.

But, we can give up family movie night. We can give up frappucinos and lunch out and lawn care service. We could go without pest control, but here in the South, I'd do almost anything to pay my beloved Orkin man. He's my saviour.

But a lot of people can't. For a lot of people, $240 a month would be simply impossible. And for a lot of people, there's simply nothing left to give up. I said, it's not a perfect solution, but it is a solution. Or at least, the beginnings of one. It's a foundation, if nothing else. A place to start.

And in the absence of anything else, I think it's our best bet for the 16.5% of Americans who are uninsured. That's roughly 37 million and it doesn't include those who are not naturalized citizens. We can add another 10 million right there.

And a whopping 9% of the uninsured are children.

Is that acceptable to you? Would it be if one of those children were your own?

For me? No contest.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Little Boy Lost

When one first enters the weird and wonderful realm of parenting, one tends to have a somewhat romanticized view of children. They are sweet, innocent, miraculous, pure. They are the best part of us. They are a blank canvas upon which all our hopes and dreams are writ large.

And when they are small, that is a perception that remains mostly unchallenged. Because even the most undesirable behavior can usually be attributed to something like missing a nap, too much sugar or sensory overload. We excuse it because we can rationalize it.

But then they get a little bit older and we begin to realize that not every kid is the precious gift we have idealized them to be. For me, kids were somewhat sacrosanct in many respects. I always wanted them and when I got them, my life was enriched in a way I could never have foreseen. So for a long time, I felt really badly when I encountered a kid that I just couldn't like.

But, parenting also provides some insight into the fact that kids are of course, human, and as such, they are not perfect. Not every kid fits the soft focus Hallmark vision we have of them.

So I got over feeling badly when I realized that my insincts were often correct. Kids that strike you as sneaky probably really are doing something behind your back. I stopped trying to smile and pretend I liked the sneaky kid. The potty mouth kid. The torment the pets kid. And they usually get the message loud and clear.

We've developed an understanding, these kids and I. You can come over here kid, but I've got your number. Don't think you're pulling one over on me. And I've never had much trouble out of them. Our house is kind of the hang out house, and nobody wants to be left out. So over here they mind their p's and q's for the most part, where they might not otherwise.

This past summer, one such kid became kind of a thorn in my side. It's a long and ugly story and I won't go into all of it. I'll just say that he seemed to take particular delight in baiting Diminutive One. When Diminutive One finally had enough and retaliated, he would, the nervy little creep, come to me and tell me oh so earnestly about how he was doing nothing at all and Diminutive One just socked him one.

But I watch, which is, I guess, not somethig to which he is accustomed. I think he's used to going through life mostly unnoticed and I think he's spent a lot of time and effort perfecting the art of flying under the radar. But he quickly found out that I wasn't buying what he was selling. And from there it just escalated. He made our summer somewhat miserable.

Mostly he was just annoying, but I found out via the neighborhood grapevine after an incident at the pool wherein someone jammed a ball into an intake vent and nearly blew up the pump motor, (it wasn't him, but suspicion lay heavily on his doorstep until the perpetrator was caught) that he was also criminal. He had been caught breaking into a vacant home here in the neighborhood and also had a string of other petty crimes such as shoplifting and vandalism to his credit.

So my boys were told to stay away from him and I told him to stay away from my boys. Every once in a while he would turn up at our door and inquire "Does your Mom still hate me?"

Hate him? No. I didn't hate him. But I did dislike him a great deal.

He is a few years older than Pre-Pubescent One, and so, his overatures were only made in times of desperation, which were blessedly few.

Later in the summer the HOA president, to whom I had mentioned our troubles with the kid, told me that his mother was a drug addict who had been in and out of jail (mostly in) for much of the past five years. His older brother was on house arrest for drug related charges. His stepfather was not often around and when he was, he did not concern himself with the welfare or whereabouts of his stepsons.

Against my will, the skin crawling dislike turned to pity. It wasn't something I was comfortable with, pitying this kid. I liked it better when I could dislike him without apology. It was so much less complicated.

How does a kid even have a chance with a life like that?

Near the end of the summer, Pre-Pubescent One came home one day looking somewhat dismayed.

"Well guess what?" he said. "Cory's Mom died."

He looked a little rattled. He doesn't deal with death well, and someone's Mom dying hits a little too close to home for him.

"Are you sure, honey? How do you know?"

"There were all these cars and stuff at his house and a hearse. I asked him what happened and he said his Mom died."

"Do you know how?"

Pre-Pubescent One shrugged. "Emphysema or something."

Or something.

The grapevine confirmed that the woman had indeed died, but the consensus seemed to be that it was drug related. Whatever the cause, she was dead, and a kid was without his mother. It made me sad to think of, because even a crappy drug addicted jailbird of a Mother is a Mother. I'm sure he loved her.

Later that same week I saw him riding a bicycle that was far too small for him in slow circles in front of his house. His blonde hair, which had been an unruly mop hanging nearly to his shoulders, had been clumsily shorn close to his head. His shoulders, which had always been straight and tall with affected arrogance, slumped terribly. There was no animation in his face, not even the trademark smirk that I had so often longed to wipe from it.

I felt that uncomfortable pity again. I wondered who was looking after him. I wondered if he was eating Ramen noodles for breakfast and watching MTV into the early morning hours. I wondered if he had anybody at all to comfort him.

I didn't see him again until yesterday. I thought they might have moved away, because the once ramshackle house began to look somewhat improved. New shutters appeared, then a new front door. The waist high grass had been mowed and some effort had been made to prune the bushes that had grown out of control along the perimeter of the yard.

It was a beautiful day here in Georgia. It was the kind of day on which a person simply cannot stay indoors, so we took our boys hiking at a nearby State Park. We stopped at the visitors center to get a trail guide and use the restrooms. While we were there, Pre-Pubescent One elbowed me discreetly.

"Hey Mom, there's Cory."

Diminutive One let out a snort of disgust. "Why would they let him in here?"

"It's a public park, DUH. Anybody can come here." replied Pre-Pubescent One.

I watched with interest. He was with a group of boys roughly the same age as he. They all sported crew cuts and they were all dressed in jean or shorts and light flannel shirts. Two men in military fatigues were handing out compasses, maps, and canteens. I tried to listen to what the instructor was saying, but my boys were anxious to be off.

We had to pass the group to get to the mouth of the trail and as we did, Cory's eye caught mine. I know he had seen us walking to the small building where the restrooms were located, but both he and my boys had feigned unawareness. The boys were not eager to engage him, and he, I assumed, was not eager to have someone witnessing his situation, whatever it was.

But instead of looking away as I expected him to, he smiled. And it wasn't that knowing smirk that had so annoyed me time and time again. It wasn't a cat that ate the canary smile. It wasn't meant to ingratiate or deceive.

It was an honest and genuine smile.

I smiled back and raised my hand in a small, inconspicuous wave. He raised his hand slightly at waist height in return and then turned back to the instructor.

I thought he looked relaxed and happy. I'm not sure I've ever seen him without that caculating wariness. I don't think I've ever seen him ungaurded. He a kid. Not a criminal or a vandal or a miscreant. Just a kid.

Was it military school or boot camp? Was it one of those tough love things? Or was it merely a wildnerness training exercise, meant to keep him from wandering the streets aimlessly in search of trouble? I don't know. But whatever the seems like someone is maybe looking out for him at last.

Good luck kid. I really hope you make it.

I hope from now on, the doors you've found shut in your face are held wide open in welcome.

Will mine be? Yeah. I think so.

Saturday, October 13, 2007


If you've been reading my blog for any length of time, you know that I'm a huge bibliophile. I would buy books before food if I didn't have kids. I would buy books before just about anything.

Sometimes, I don't even want to read them, I just want to have them. Because someday I might need to know something about embalming. And coffee table books? Please. They are like crack to me.

Even though I purge periodically (and it causes me great pain to part with books, even those I didn't particularly enjoy) because we have limited space, I still have far too many books to store properly. I have several large moving boxes in the garage full of books. They are too heavy to move, so they have been sitting there for years. I really have no idea what is in them anymore.

I couldn't part with any of my boys' books either. I adore children's books that are cleverly written or have beautiful illustrations and there were only a few that I could actually bring myself to give away. I collect vintage children's books and have several that I dearly loved as a child; most notably, "Miss Suzie" and "Never Tease a Weasel".

So anyway. Yeah. I'm hardcore. It's a sickness, really.

Today I was at the grocery store trying to spend as few dollars as possible to feed us until Monday, which is payday. With the accident and several other unexpected expenses, it's been close.

And what should I happen to spy in the greeting card/magazine/literary aisle? The long awaited sequel to one of my favorite books of all time Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett.

I gasped and plucked it off the shelf. I felt a mixture of longing and trepidation as I caressed the slick dustjacket and savored the delicious heaviness in my hand. Sequels are always a crap shoot. They are either transcendantly satisfying, or surpassingly disappointing.

The cover price of World Without End was $26.95.

$26.95 buys a lot of Beenie Weenie and Chef Boy Ar Dee. But dear Lord how I wanted that book. I hesitated a moment and then, with a pang of guilt, placed it gently in the front of the cart where it was cradled by the pliant leather of my ridiculously large and floppy handbag.

I wheeled that book all over the store like a cherished infant. I appreciated the pleasing cover art. I skimmed the forward several times, hoping to dissuade myself. I studied the author's picture, looking for wisdom in his bemused gaze.

As I travelled through the store, more and more items found their way into my cart. Oh yes, we need orange juice. Goodness, I forgot we're out of butter. Oh my God, they make birthday cake ice cream? Hmmm...dill relish 2 for $3? That's a good deal and we go through it like crazy. Oh and...SIGH...Pre-Pubescent One needs poster board and Diminutive One needs a new composition book because his fell under the bus.

As my mental tally reached the meagre limit of our distressed checking account, I was forced to admit that the book had to go back on the shelf.

Two days. Two days until payday and then I can go back and buy it.

But I want it nooooooowwwww!

I coud hear the petulance echoing inside my head. But adults aren't allowed to throw I want it nows. And so, I took it back to the shelf and placed it in the neat row with its companions.

I remembered back to the days when my money was my own. I started earning when I was just 10 years old. First it was a paper route, then babysitting, then a job cashiering at Shopko. I could spend my money on designer jeans, swatches, albums and eyeshadow. I never gave a second thought to what anybody else needed, or what bills had to paid. It was all about what I wanted.

And I thought to myself that sometimes being a grown up blows chunks.

And then I felt guilty. Because I can buy food. I can buy dill relish that's 2 for $3, even though we don't really need two. It's tight this week, but not always. And I know we'll make it okay.

And I wondered what it would be like to wander these aisles and not be able to afford ice cream and dill relish.

That. Would blow chunks.

And suddenly, the longing is gone. The book is nothing because I can buy Chef Boy Ar Dee if I need to.

Funny how perspective comes out of nowhere sometimes.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Damn. Somebody Really Is Trying To Tell Me Something


I had a great post all ready for today. It was about health care, which, some of you know, is one of my hot button issues.

But instead, I'm going to rant about being attacked by dogs yesterday. Because I'm really pissed off.

Fall has FINALLY come, which means, temperatures have finally dropped below 80 degrees. Yesterday was an absolutely beautiful day; sunny, but breezy and cool. I decided, instead of doing my usual in home work out in front of the television, to take a walk. I was really enjoying the weather, grooving to my walking tunes, and enjoying life in general.

I was so incredibly buoyed by the nice weather. Summer can be interminably long and terribly oppressive for me. I'm a transplant to the South and even after 20 years, I have not acclimated.

Because I had headphones on, I didn't immediately realize that I was being attacked. It wasn't until the dog was mere inches from of me that I saw him. He was a very large Shepherd mix and there was a smaller dog of similar color and parentage on his heels. His hackles were up, he was barking in a very menacing manner. He was not simply issuing a warning. He intended to hurt me and his cohort was similarly inclined.

I was frightened, but I did manage to remember not to run. I knew he would take me down if I did that. He circled me, growling and barking. I had absolutely nothing with which to defend myself and I realized that my only chance was to scream loud enough that someone might hear me and come to help.

So I did. I have never screamed that loud or that long in my life. I screamed and screamed. I felt like a pure fool standing there in the street screaming like a girl, but it was the only thing I could do. The big dog went behind me and the smaller dog took position in front of me. In complete terror I realized that they were working in tandem to subdue their

The big dog attacked me from behind. He bit me on the hip, and then circled for another pass. I didn't feel any pain, so I assumed that I wasn't badly hurt. Later I realized that so much adrenaline was coursing through my veins that I could have been hit by a bus and not felt anything.

Clearly, standing there screaming wasn't goiing to help. It was 2:00 in the afternoon and most people in the neighborhood were at work.

The dog readied for another attack. I could see the tension in his haunches as his muscles bunched and he prepared to launch himself at me. I could see his slavering jaws working up and down as he barked, and the hair standing up in a stiff ridge along his back.

I decided to switch tactics. I stood my ground and said in the meanest voice I could muster, "NO NO! BAD DOG! YOU GO HOME!" He backed off a bit and I felt quite proud of myself. But then I realized the dog wasn't cowed by me, but by the man that had come out of the house behind me weilding a rake and shouting.

"Get the hell out of here, you lousy fleabitten piece of shit!" the man hollered, brandishing his rake.

The dogs ran. And I suddenly felt as if I might faint, throw up, or both. I realized then that I had been in fear for my life.

"Are you hurt?" the man asked.

I assured him I wasn't, and thanked him profusely for coming to my rescue. He was MAD. He told me that the same dog had attacked another woman a couple weeks ago, while she was out walking her own dog. He said he wished he had had his gun handy. He saw the whole thing from his window, including when the dog bit me.

"I'd have shot those damned mongrels without a second thought." he said.

He was very dignified looking. His hair was silver and he wore a pair of bi-focals low on his nose. He was dressed in a black button down shirt, black and grey houndstooth patterned slacks, and black loafers. I later found out that he is a professor at the local college and that certainly fit with his appearnace.

He went to investigate where the dogs had gone. It turned out that they had retreated to their fenced back yard. The gate was standing wide open and nobody appeared to be home. Neither he nor I wanted to approach the house to shut the gate or knock on the door. He advised me to call animal control and offered to walk me home. I declined his offer, but thanked him again.

I hurried home to call animal control. The elementary school bus was due to arrive and one of the stops was right at the corner where I was attacked. I was extremely worried that a child might be hurt. After 2:30, the neighborhood is crawling with kids of every size.

Animal control said that I was the "next priority". The officer was at a vet in the neighborhing town and would be over when he was finished there. I told the dispatcher calmly, but firmly, that that was not acceptable. There were vicious dogs loose in a neighborhood and children were at risk. He said the officer would be there as soon as he could.

TWO HOURS later the animal control officer had still not arrived. While I was waiting I had contacted our HOA president to inquire about any vicious animal clauses in our covenants.

In my opinion, a dog that will attack a person completely unprovoked has no place in an urban neighborhood, fence or no fence. I was not in this dog's yard. I was not anywhere near his yard. I was not doing anything threatening. I was simply walking.

I called animal control again. I explained the situation again. I made it clear that I was not happy it was taking so long when there was very real danger. He apologized, explained that they were short handed and contacted the officer in the field to see when he would be getting here. Turns out, there was some kind of miscommunication, and he had never gotten the original call. Ididots. Don't you think such a call would warrant some kind of priority or red flag?

HELLO. Vicious dogs running loose. Send help.

I was peeved.

Finally he arrived. I explained what happened and then we went to the home where the dogs had come from. There was a car in the driveway, the gate was now closed and CHILDREN'S toys could be seen in the open garage. The dogs there matched my description and when he approached, the dog did behave aggressively toward the officer. However, as he noted, he was in the dogs' territory, so aggressive behavior was not necessarily an indication of viciousness.

My witness was not at home and as it turned out, the woman at the house was only the grandmother, not the homeowner. He issued a citation and that was that.

That. Was That.

Had the bite broken the skin, the dog would have been removed immediately. But since I only had a bruise, they couldn't and wouldn't.

So in other words, an animal has to hurt somebody before it can be removed, even though it has repeatedly demonstrated aggressive behavior. Does that make any kind of sense to you??

I am very angry. I'm not sure what to do next, but I will not let this go. The HOA president was horrified and upset and assured me that there were covenants to that effect, but of course, they are not without their caveats. There is protocol that has to be followed.

I got nothing from the homeowners, though my name, address and phone number were on the citation. No word of apology, no offers of recompense. Nothing.

This is unacceptable. Dangerous animals have more rights than my children and those in the neighborhood? Don't get me wrong...I love animals. I really, really do. But I also have a healthy appreciation for the fact that they are, above all, animals. People have a tendency to project human thoughts and emotions onto them, but the fact is, that they are just animals. Predators.

I won't walk outside again without being armed with something. A stick. Mace. A cattleprod would be good. And that's wrong.

I shouldn't fear for my life in my own backyard.

Post Script: I called the HOA president, explained that Animal Control had been issued a citation and that I did not find that an acceptable resolution. I told her I was considering writing a letter to the homeowners asking them to voluntarily to remove the dog, and if they were unwilling to comply, to proceed with legal action.

This isn't a matter of revenge. But there are small children that live and play right next door. My sons play at the house accross the street. The bus stops at that corner every day. Also, there is a very frail man with a cane who walks there daily. If I don't do everything I can to take care of this problem and a child is hurt, or god forbid killed, I could never live with myself.

Anyway, the HOA president is taking this very seriously. She did some calling around and found out that there have been not one, but two previous attacks. Why those individuals did not contact animal control is beyond my understanding. But, she is going to contact them personally tomorrow and ask them to write a statement. She will also contact my witness and ask him to write a statement. I know he will be willing.

Then, they will approach the homeowners, explain that because of the number and severity of the attacks the dogs will have to removed as per our HOA covenants. If they will not comply, the HOA will begin legal proceedings.

The HOA president has been wonderful and she expressed disbelief and outrage that the owners have not contacted us to apologize.

Mrs. Chicky..I do know that if he wanted to hurt me he would have. That little bite was just a warning. But I also know that he was preparing to launch a second attack and goodness knows what he would have done. My witness expressed the belief that the dog had deadly intent as well.

Thanks to everyone for your kind words and well wishes. At this point, I'm over the panic and just pissed as hell.