Saturday, October 30, 2010

Dog Halloween 2010

Last Saturday was DOG HALLOWEEN!!!! Love. Love. Love.

This year was extra special because it was the Halloween debut of Lena, my parents' puppy. It ended up being just my dad and I with two kids and two dogs. In the future, I would keep the adult to kid/dog ratio to greater than 1 to 2. Maybe it was the umbrellas necessitated by the rain or my insistence on taking pictures of anyone willing to stop, which was pretty much everyone, but it was a little management heavy.

Lena and Sadie went as squirrels. Sadie is an old pro; she practically slips on her own costume. Lena didn't know what to expect. But soon, it was all made clear: just tolerate the squirrel getup and you'll get more scooby snacks than you ever dreamed.

There is Dorothy and the Tin Man with their proud owners. Do you see that freaky Dog Halloween spirit? I'm telling you, it warms my heart.

And you don't even have to match your dog. Maybe you're feeling Pirate and he's feeling Clown. It's all good.

This costume was a game changer for me. Now, I see nothing but possibilities when I look at the baskets of barbies and action figures in the kids' rooms.

Oh, so pretty! I found myself saying that over and over again to some of my fellow dog costume enthusiasts. If you could see the owner's face, you'd see beaming in effect.

This dog obviously thought she was god's gift to Dog Halloween She was looking over at Lena, who was having a momentary barking problem. I wasn't impressed with the witch's attitude.

This owner was pleased with his joke: "It's a wolf in sheep's clothing!" Nice one.

It was almost impossible to get a picture of Lena, who was hyped for the treats. Sadie was more composed; she just wanted to make sure the treat distribution was equitable.

Dog Halloween doesn't have to be fancy.

This costume was in the Good Try category. I think we guessed Microchip, but it was actually Robot.

I would have given this guy a high five if he had a free hand. I think I gave him a thumbs up instead.

About a half hour in, the little dogs were starting to burn out, but the owners were still going strong.

This was another owner who was proud of his joke, even waterproofing his billboard. I found it to be a bit hostile and not really a costume. But that's OK. Dog Halloween is an all-inclusive event.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Slowing Down

I saw my new doctor the day after my last post.

I’ve been taking a high blood pressure med since Violet was born four and a half years ago, and my doctor at the time practically patted herself on the back when she called it “well-controlled with a low dose.” My doctor was about 15 minutes from retirement back then, and she spent a lot of time going off on tangents while I listened politely. She was allergic to scented products, yet for her birthday, her husband always bought her flowery bath bubbles. We shook our heads at those silly people who like to wear perfume, and don’t forget about the hairspray and the body lotions. What is this world coming to? I didn’t mind not being the focus of the appointments because I hate going to the doctor.

I thought maybe I’d go off the blood pressure med after finally losing the baby weight that had become more like preschool pounds (I've lost 36 pounds this year!), but my next doctor warned me that heredity was a big factor, so I shouldn’t get my hopes up. He was my first same-age doctor. He projected the appropriate amount of caring while efficiently running through the appointments. He always had his laptop open for reference, and I did find him to be informative, but I wondered if he could save us some trouble by sending me the links. What sites do doctors look at, anyway?

Due to an insurance change, I had to make an appointment with a new doctor this month, and I wasn’t looking forward to it. I knew something was wrong with my blood pressure - there were signs - and I figured I needed a stronger prescription. Ever since my car exploded, I’ve been feeling . . . off. I mean, I already had my hands full with the demise of my marriage and working as much as I could, but I was sure I was fine. One clue that I wasn’t managing as well as I thought was my hyperactivity. I have not sat still to think or read or watch TV or have a conversation with a friend in a couple months. I often eat standing up. When I’m sitting, I’m working. I take my personal calls while I’m cleaning house or walking breathlessly uphill.

I do like the new doctor. He’s focused and a little socially awkward. He’s one of those people who takes long, silent pauses before answering questions. I recognized the thoughtful look on his face. When Violet’s asthma was out of control, her doctor got the same I’m-considering-all-the-options-maybe-I should-just-send-you-to-the-hospital look. I described the kind of stress I was under. He asked me if I was in any danger. He offered resources. He started to do a psych evaluation then stopped, declaring it unnecessary. At first, he wouldn’t tell me the numbers. The nurse hadn’t either. 180/110. I left the office with the promise to rest and return weekly, a new prescription, and a mandated counseling referral. His prognosis was the numbers would come down with a reduction in stress – he advised me to find more outlets. He described my condition as 50% genes - 50% stress.

Last week’s prescription made me sick. At this week’s check-in, there were more tests and the numbers were still disappointingly high: 180/100. I left with another prescription that makes me tired but not sick. I am resting more. My husband and I are still in the same house, so he is trying to help by cooking healthy dinners and covering the kids in the morning when he can. My appointments have slowed, and I’m on a mission to take breaks, despite the colossal tasks on the horizon – such as finding affordable insurance once the divorce is final. To relax, I sit and read the newspaper in the morning. I lie in bed with the kids at night and talk. I watch TV with my feet up.  I do my work in bed.

The kids are a handful, but they continue to make me smile. They’re my anti-venom. Daisy lost another tooth at school yesterday. When I picked her up, she excitedly made her announcement then switched to a more casual tone to clarify she wasn’t going to “live her whole life based on the tooth fairy.” I guess her friend thought she was making too big of a deal of what must be her sixth lost tooth by now.

Whenever I take a work call at home, Violet asks, “Who’s dat?” She must hear something in my voice because she only wants to know when it’s a work call. Every time I explain how I know the person, she asks, “Is it a boy ol ghoul?” If I say girl, she wants to know her name and whether she wears dresses. If I say boy, she’s usually silent. The other day after a boy call, she added, “Boys aren’t fancy . . . and dere not handsome.” I had to tease her because I know her better than that. Really? You don’t think ANYONE is handsome? Her blushing grin confirmed my suspicions.


Friday, October 15, 2010

Dear Unusual People

As a kid, I learned you could be with my dad anywhere in the world and an unusual person would approach him with a story or request. My mom thought it was because he had a kind and nonjudgmental face. My dad joked he must look like a sucker. I remember thinking maybe it was because he tended to be calm and quiet, especially in public situations, so people felt comfortable.

I have a similar gift. Put me in a public place, and the most mentally unstable person in the area has something to say. Today, I held work appointments in a public meeting spot. I was fully engaged, on a vacation of the mind. After my appointments, I packed up and left the table - relaxed - and a woman approached me, “I want you to know I noticed you sitting over there. I saw you when you first got here, and I was watching you.”

I smiled, wondering where this was going. This type of intro has segued into a heartwarming compliment before, but it has also transitioned into a crappy, condescending interaction.

“I saw you over there, trying to speak. I want you to know you shouldn’t wear skirts. While you’re over there crossing your legs, uncrossing them . . . no one can hear what you’re saying . . . ”

At first, I thought she meant I flashed her underwear. I had noticed her earlier, sitting at a lower level than me. I had seen her staring at the floor, tangled gray-blond hair hanging in her deeply lined face. I had already wondered . . . what happened to her?

But as she told me off, I could smell the alcohol. She was a little too emphatic for the typical let-me-tell-you-how-it-is-sister moment. She walked away in a huff. I turned to be startled by the broad smiles of a table of old guys. In my current state of things, I found the experience to be jarring. I was a little sweaty and trembly for a few.

OK, here’s what I would like to say to the unusual people who feel the need to approach me . . . as much as I like to be open and empathetic, I’ve taken a couple hits recently. I could really use a time-out. I'm sure I’ll be back to smiling blankly and handing over the occasional dollar in no time. Until then, peace.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


Every October since kids, I stress about getting the Halloween decorations up.The kids can literally bug you out of your mind if you don't do it, and I usually insist on cleaning before organizing and directing the kids through the process.

Fortunately, when life gets serious, small things like holiday decorations become ridiculously easy. This weekend, maybe the second time the kids asked about Halloween decorations, I climbed up the ladder to the up-high garage storage to grab the boxes, accidentally dropping one that exploded in spiders and skeletons. The kids loved it.

I gave them complete creative control.

They mostly threw stuff on trees, and man, are they proud. If you look at their faces when they walk by their Halloween Tree, you'll see crazed looks of happiness.

I liked this picture so much that I took my camera with me on a walk tonight. I wanted to see more pretty lights. It really doesn't take much. I was shocked to find there weren't any decorations out yet. Did I not get the memo? In my never exaggerated perspective, I would estimate that in this neightborhood, houses with Halloween decorations usually outnumber houses with Christmas decorations 8 to 1. I walked around for an hour tonight and found only one house with Halloween lights, and it was nothing you'd want to see. I realized . . . we're early!

The kids wanted more after unpacking all the decorations. So Daisy became obsessed with a new vision. She wanted to make a Halloween diorama of The Nightmare Before Christmas. The girls have been on a big Tim Burton kick lately. Violet's current fave is Beetlejuice. If we don't have much time, she fast-forwards to the Day-o song and to when the ghosts are brought to life then get old before your eyes.

But Daisy's fave is Nightmare. As we were working on the diorama, Daisy pointed out a spider a couple feet away, except I didn't know what she was talking about because she said something like, "Look at that little cutie." Oh good god! What is that? The spider? Don't touch it! Don't move! Daisy convinced me to leave it alone until Halloween, even though it's living about six feet from where I sleep. It makes me itchy just thinking about it.

Here is the final piece in all its glory. Daisy dedicated it by announcing that we were "celebrating all of our hardwork and honesty." Might as well.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Keep Your Head Up

This blog has never been about my marriage, and it won’t be about my divorce. At least, not specifically. As much as I am tempted at moments to unleash a few words on the subject, I will save it for my semi-volunteer support group, whether they like it or not.

In a lot of ways, life continues as normal. The other day was Bike-to-School Day for Daisy’s school. I told the kids they could take their scooters. We have never done Bike-to-School Day before, and Daisy was all about it. She loves a school-sponsored event. When I opened my eyes that morning, I realized we needed to leave earlier than normal, so I got straight to making breakfast and lunches. The kids are now very good about getting themselves ready in the morning, but they often need shouts of encouragement to get them through their routine. Not that morning.

They were dressed with combed hair and fresh breath, shoes on, breakfast eaten, hands twitching to grab their scooters before I even had a chance to get dressed. I finished up in the kitchen and went to check on Daisy in the living room.

“Mom! Don’t you know it’s Bike-to-School Day? You have to wear pants!” But why? I had no idea how fun it is to tease your children – and how rule-oriented little girls are. As if. Give me a few minutes. In the meantime, no one take their clothes off – not even a shoe.

I walked alongside the kids as they scootered to school. We were running late, so I spent a lot of time scolding them to “Focus! Focus on your scootering!” It wasn’t a casual ride. But I have to say how proud I am of Daisy. She, like me, isn’t a natural athlete, but I’ve seen her gradually get better on her scooter over the last year. She is gleeful on it now, “Watch me glide!”

The same day happened to be my shift at Violet’s preschool. It’s interesting – and uncomfortable – to see Violet’s developing social skills in action. Last year, the older preschool kids took her under their wing. She would arrive to school to lots of, “Violet, Violet . . . Come over here! Come play with me, Violet!” This year, Violet is one of the older kids, yet she’s on the baby side of preschool. Violet still has her baby belly and her baby cheeks. She sucks her thumb, talks like Baby Bear on Sesame Street, and grabs my chest in front of the other kids.

Violet is challenged in learning how to approach the other kids. In almost every other social situation, she has her big sister for confidence. Not at preschool. There are a couple girls I know Violet wants to be friends with. She tries to play with them. No dice. She tries to talk with them. Not interested. During clean-up time recently, I saw her approach the girls, “It’s cwean up time! Why aren’t you cweaning?”The girls stared at Violet. I happened to be walking by, so I explained, “Those girls already cleaned up.” The girls nodded their heads calmly in unison. Violet stuck her thumb in her mouth, threw herself down on the picnic bench next to her, and exclaimed, “Me no cwean eider.”

I can understand that Violet is the baby of our family and has a few things to work out socially like every other preschooler. I still cringe. I was pushing Violet on the swings at school the other day; one of the aloof girls was being pushed by her own mom on the adjoining swing. Keep in mind, both swings could be categorized as baby swings despite their two distinct styles. Violet made a friendly comment to the aloof girl, and the girl responded, “I’m not a baby. That’s why I’m not using your swing.” Violet put her head down, and my head whipped around to look at the mom who was clearly within hearing distance but choosing not to correct her child. Oh no you didn’t. I told Violet, enunciating loudly and clearly, don’t worry about it. You’re not a baby. The swings are the same. In my mind, it was more like, hey mean girl . . . you’re in a baby swing too AND you’re rude. So is your mama. Violet’s head went back up.

Monday, October 4, 2010


As many of our friends and relatives know, my husband and I are in the beginning stages of a divorce. It was only one week ago that we had The Talk. I’m at peace with the direction things are heading, but this has been the longest week of my life.

On Wednesday, I headed over the hill for a rare morning work appointment. Spacey with mental processing, I distractedly powered through my work then headed home. I had just passed the last freeway exit before getting on the mountain when I heard a loud clicking sound. I realized the sound was coming from my car when I lost power a couple seconds later, and suddenly there was black smoke everywhere. I saw a gap in traffic to my right and crossed the slow lane to the right shoulder.

When I stopped the car, I sat there for a moment in shock. I realized the engine was on fire. I grabbed my bags and got out and away from the car quickly. When I looked back, there were flames on top of the hood. Someone in a passing car yelled for me to keep moving, and I did, but I kept turning back to decipher what was happening. I will never forget the image of the family station wagon going up in flames three days after I asked my husband for a divorce.

The front of the car exploded. I called 911 with shaking hands. I called different people to get the kids covered. I tried to reach my husband. I cried as I watched the car burn.

Several people pulled over. A man pulled over a little ways up the freeway and walked back with his fire extinguisher. He emptied it on the car fire and nearby grassy area and left. There was no effect on the car fire, but he may have prevented it from spreading to the dry vegetation. A man in a minivan pulled over to exchange wows and get the story. A woman in a Porsche pulled over to ask me if she could take me somewhere. I imagined jumping in the car with her. Where would I go? I told her I’d better stay there. She told me it was just a car. I nodded and told her to be careful as she left.

Two fire trucks and three CHP motorcycles showed. One of the CHP officers quizzed me on what could have caused it. One of the fire fighters chimed in. They told me it must have been the repair work from about six months ago. They seemed confident in their assessment, but all I could think about was . . . hey, I think my car just burned down. They reminded me I was lucky it didn't happen on the mountain and that my kids weren't in the car and that I wasn't hurt.

The tow truck showed up as the fire was being put out. It felt like 110 degrees on the pavement, and the police told the tow truck driver to scrape the melted tires off the road with a shovel. The driver was bummed. As I waited, I realized I had my camera.

I waited in the air-conditioned tow truck cab while the driver finished up. I had belongings from the car, including kid car seats piled around me. I don’t remember exactly what I said to the driver when he got in, but I think I got personal there for a second. He lectured me on the importance of a good insurance policy.

The car is totaled. It’s over.