Sunday, September 30, 2012

Run Away!

I tend to peruse the Utah mugshots online.  The sheriff's department and local newspaper maintain a frequently updated database, and I like to wander through every few days.  Mostly looking for in-laws, but also curious as to the number of meth arrests and how many of my old high school party buds are still skidding along with no sign of growing up.  Yeah, there's one old high school pal who's in those shots two or three times a month--public intox, over and over.  It's very sad to see.  Doesn't look so much like "Key's Hunny" now. 

Today, I came across one of those really scary ones--a guy with tattoos all over his face.  I remember studying that sort of thing in college, discussing the social "disconnect" that often accompanies that sort of drastic self-alteration.  Reading the description of his "distinguishing marks," I see that, in addition to the freaky tribal thing he has on his face, he has swastikas tattooed somewhere less visible.  Reading further, I see that he was picked up for a series of offenses, including drugs, avoiding apprehension, driving on a revoked license, a slew of failures to appear, and a firearm charge.  Mr. Scary Guy, do me a favor, wouldja?  Get those swastikas tattooed on your face so I know to run like hell when I see you.  Please?

My hands are really rather bad this morning.  It's funny, I didn't realize at first--not until I went outside to water the new grass (which is sprouting for now, but I refuse to get excited) and fiddled with the sprayer.  I realized that my fingers didn't just hurt, they were almost unwilling to bend enough to grasp the sprayer tightly.  That eased as soon as I forced the issue and flexed the fingers a few times, but it was a surprise. 

The work crews have been outside since 7 am, cleaning the pavement on the street for the work they'll be doing tomorrow and Tuesday.  That's two days we'll have to find somewhere else to park.  Yay!  Lucky them, I was already up that early.  Otherwise, I'd have stormed downstairs, whipped that door open and . . . glared.  For a minute.  Then closed the door and groused to the dog about it.  Yeah, I'm a scary one, huh?

New bumper stickers came last night--a new Obama sticker and a Human Rights Campaign sticker.  Our car is starting to look like one of THOSE cars.  You know the ones, they resemble nothing so much as a well-worn valise covered in travel decals? 

Oh, and there's the sun!  I think I'll go outside, mow the patch of grass, and listen to my birdies!

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Fall Again

So, it's been over a year since we moved here from Utah.  Northern Virginia (or NOVA, as we locals call it) is amazing, nasty rat children not withstanding.  Our concern over the longevity of the car has kept us closer to home than I would like, but we've still visited amazing places like Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Mason Neck State Park (ticks!), Virginia Beach, Washington DC more times than I can count, both Air and Space Museums (DC and Dulles/Chantilly), and other mundane-seeming but actually really cool places like Wegmans (both in Fairfax and in Gainesville), the dog parks in Vint Hill and Reston, an amazing little bakery in Arlington (, and a cheap little greasy spoon in Manassas with surprisingly good diner food and perhaps more than a few flies in the summer (

Things aren't how I would have them if I had the power to make it all wonderful. The kids in this neighborhood are scary and unpleasant (they've taken to stalking our boy on his Play Station Network and ridiculing him--we only just figured out today that he can block them), and the money situation is always tight, but, all in all, here is absolutely better than Utah.  The constant blooming of trees and plants, the greenness, the amazing sound of cicadas and frogs in the night (spring peepers!  Tree frogs!  Leopard frogs!), the astounding array of birds (including our hoped-for cardinals), and the way that wind actually cools you off.  Not like the hot desert blasts of Utah summers.  Here is absolutely better, even if it's not yet perfect.

Sadly, there has been one really bad thing--I'm gaining weight.  Pretty quickly.  I have got to find that place in my head again or I'm going to totally blow this, and I'm not sure my health can take that again. 

Anyway, here are some pictures of our beautiful new world.  Love!

The REAL Zombie Apocalypse

So, hubby and I were driving the other night when the subject turned to methamphetamine.  It's a personal subject with us--see, his younger sister is a "tweaker," has been screwing up her family and devastating her young children for years now.  Her (sometimes) husband (the kids' father) is also a meth addict.  At one point, they ditched their two younger boys with us for an afternoon of babysitting that panned into six months, with us having the boys Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, and hubby's older sister caring for them through the school week.  SIX MONTHS, and at no point did this creature so much as THANK us, let alone apologize for being such an irresponsible bucket of puke.  While her hapless junkie husband consented to relinquishing custody, the sister refused--see, she was selling her foodstamps for drug money, and no way she was giving up those kids. 

Oh, plus, of course, according to HER, she didn't have a problem.  It was everyone else.  Landlords who want to be paid?  Mean, unfair.  Family members who expect her to be responsible, to care for her kids?  Hateful meanies who are trying to make her look bad.  Friends who tell her to get it together and stop neglecting her kids?  Jealous, spiteful, out to get her.  And bosses who expect her to actually show up for work?  Assholes who have it out for her.

After six months of having nothing to do with her kids, she showed up, demanding them back.  Social Services was no help--see, they could only step in if she HAD the kids.  So long as the kids were with US and hubby's GOOD sister, they weren't in danger.  No danger, no intervention from Social Services.  Long story short, she got her kids back.

Immediately, she moved to the most devastatingly awful part of town.  Shared her living quarters with a number of men, with one in particular inspiring terror in her kids.  Was he abusing them?  Almost certainly, but the boys would clam up when questioned.  Understand the boys weren't the only victims here--she has a daughter, too.  A daughter who stayed with her aunt, who refused to move back in with the tweaker. 

Did Social Services finally (with a lot of prodding) step in?  Indeed, and what a mess.  The rental property (which was hammered, like every property she's ground through in the past five years or so) was so littered with drugs, so contaminated by meth use and production, that they had to throw away all the boys' toys and clothes.  The boys themselves tested positive for meth because the air was so thick with it.  A few months later?  Her husband was busted for trying to sell meth to a cop at a local hardware store.  A few months after that?  She was busted, yet again, and opted to go into rehab. 

As a result, she's had increasingly frequent visits with the kids, and I think it's a terrible idea.  These kids are so messed up already, they have totally adopted her "everything is everyone else's fault" viewpoint, to the point that they blame US (the good sister and my husband and me) for their mother's inability to take care of them.  They will hear no ill of her, they insist that she bought them all the toys and clothes they have.  It's wrenching to hear, especially from the oldest, the girl, who is torn right down the middle because, on the one hand, she knows all about her mother, even knows that her mother has traded sex for drugs.  She was witness to much of it.  But on the other hand?  On the other hand, she wants her mommy to love her, she wants the family she is never going to have.  So, while she does appreciate what her aunt has done for her, she still crawls to her mom and begs for affection.  It's devastating to watch.

The kids are still with the aunt, and they're doing okay.  The boys still have wowser speech problems--at eight and six, they're still very difficult to understand.  That had improved markedly during the six months they were with us, but the time back with their mother completely undid any progress.  The boys are also quite stunted in their growth--they're tiny for their age.  At our Christmas party year before last, the younger boy, who was five at the time, was smaller than our friend's three year old girl.  Even with these problems, they're doing okay--except that their mother will almost certainly soon be asking for them back.  And Social Services has a bad habit of handing kids back because, gosh, we need to preserve the family at all costs.  This isn't the first time their mother has "gotten clean."  It is almost definitely not going to be the last time, either.  You see, her idea of "clean" involves a lot of prescribed meds for everything from PTSD to ADHD.  Last time she ditched meth, she spent years eating prozac, xanax, zoloft, and lortabs (for chronic whatever).  So my hopes for her long-term recovery are pretty low. 

Anyway, back to the meth discussion on the drive.  I was talking about how much more dangerous I think meth is than other drugs like heroin or cocaine, because meth is so cheap.  It is so accessible.  Any idiot with 20 bucks can walk into Walmart and assemble the ingredients.  Heck, a recent news story detailed a guy walking through Walmart MAKING meth as he walked using the "shake and bake" method. Plus, the havoc this crap wreaks on dopamine receptors in the brain is permanent--you don't quit meth and things go back to normal.  No, you've fried things out forever.  This stuff makes cocaine look like candy, and it makes going clean and staying that way a Herculean effort.  The affordability, the ease of production?  Make the problem of meth a huge one that grows by leaps and bounds every day.  My husband shook his head and said, "Tweakers--maybe THAT'S the zombie apocalypse, huh?"

Maybe it is.

Oh, and real quick, I want to say that hubby's sister and her foodstamp selling?  Not a reflection on the vast majority of foodstamp recipients, and not a judgment call on folks who receive foodstamps.  If a family is struggling to put food on the table, I am all for giving them a hand.  People in America shouldn't be hungry.  Period.  And so you know, she was busted at it, and she was punished. 

Friday, September 28, 2012

Thunderstorms and Rude

So, we were headed to Wegmans last night, the every pay-period shopping disaster (though it was far less disastrous last night than usual--maybe we can stop dropping a grand a month on groceries, huh?).  As we were leaving the house, we noticed that the lightning was pretty wonderful.  As we got out onto Sudley and headed toward Wegmans (a 20 mile drive), the weather really ticked up.  The lightning was everywhere--no one direction, but rather the entire bowl of the sky lighting up from all directions, with each flash coming directly on the heels of the last, no break. 

And, strangely, no thunder.

Many of the strikes were quite vehement and angry--three, four, sometimes five strikes straight to the ground in the same general area.  Think Tom Cruise's take on War of the Worlds.  It was amazing.  And then the rain started!

The wind picked up first, buffeted us about, and then the clouds burst.  More rain than I have ever seen.  Truly.  It wasn't like drops anymore, it was like water being poured from a bucket.  It hit the road so hard that it bounced back up and made a mist so thick we couldn't see the ground.  The water fell so heavily that each lightning flash reflected back and made it seem we were in a blue cloud.  We think we may have been hit--there was a loud BANG on the top of the car, and a simultaneous blinding flash.  Could have been a branch falling, but no scratches or dents on the roof, and no sound of anything rolling off the back.  Who knows?  Either way, it was exciting.

After shopping (I made some poor choices, diet-wise--what else is new?  I'm down 180, back up 35 of that), we came home and I hopped on Facebook while Tommy made his and Sean's pizza.  Made the mistake of visiting a thread posted by a rather intense vegan on my list--this one going after folks who are overweight with heavy kids.  She, of course, prefaced the thread with "Now, I'm not one to engage in fat-shaming . . ."  Right.  One of her friends posted something like, "Who would ever want to look like that or even LIVE like that?" 

I've struggled with my weight all my life.  I've lost and regained an entire (U-12, of of course) AYSO soccer team's-worth of weight.  Thanks for, once again, letting me know that being heavy is so awful, so disgusting, so sickening that you can't even imagine WANTING to live like me. 

That was good for a half-hour's cry.  Thanks, lady.

Still waiting for a call back from the PCP's office about those x-rays.  No news is good news?  Or no?

Hubby's working overtime in the city tomorrow.  Thank you, Tom.  Love.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Afraid of Drugs

You know, as a teen, I did more than my share of dabbling with drugs.  In fact, you could say I was something of an expert when it came to various chemical recreational endeavors.  That's not a brag--nothing brag-worthy about being a stoner.  Not a brag, but a statement of fact.

Ironic that now, in my late forties, I'm scared to death to take even prescription medications.  I resisted taking medication for my arrhythmia for ten years for fear that it would make it worse, that taking a beta-blocker would create a second, competing arrhythmia.  While the beta-blocker has improved the situation, it hasn't solved it, and I'm too afraid of the medication to suggest upping my dosage.  So I put up with "improved, but not eradicated."

Months ago, I was suffering a pesky, irritating, increasingly scary pain in my neck and jaw.  Scary because I have a strong family history of thyroid cancer.  Went to the ENT, and he checked me out, then wrote it off as anxiety.  He prescribed Metaxalone, aka Skelaxin.  I haven't taken even one.  Which is convenient, because my PCP just suggested prescribing that very thing for my back pain.  I told her not to bother, I had a full, untouched script at home.  So she sent me home with a script for some NSAID for my hands and elbow.  I've taken one.  Didn't work any better than a couple of ibuprofen, so I'm not likely to use these pills, either.

Speaking of unused scripts, I also have a dozen or so oxycodones from my disastrous back injury two years ago.  A script for 30, I still have a dozen?  Like I said, I fear taking drugs.  I still haven't decided if that's a virtue or a vice.

On a totally unrelated note, the HOA's yard work guys came through today--blasted my new grass seed with their blowers.  We've been struggling to get that front lawn to fill in for six months now, no joy.  A couple of times, the grass seed has sprouted, all green and promising, only to die.  If this round is unsuccessful, I guess we'll have to try testing the soil and maybe adding lime.  It's very frustrating--we're on a super-tight budget, and we've dropped well over a hundred bucks on multiple attempts with seed, fertilizer, etc.  The back yard, which has much more compacted, clay-like soil, has come along nicely, it looks quite lush.  Of course, it gets sun all day.  The front?  Shade all day because of the flowering pear.  If this doesn't work, I'm tempted to throw in a shade-hardy ground cover.  The HOA may not like that, though.

On the bright side, my mums are just ramping up to go crazy!  We bought them late last fall, felt sure they'd died over the winter, but WOW, have they come back!  I think I'll pop in a picture!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Crybaby Cry

So, more on the physical stuff I mentioned the other day--I've been struggling with pain in my right elbow and arm, plus my fingers and, for a few days, the palm of my right hand.  Sometimes the pain is pretty much gone, other times it's loud and proud.  It can come and go in the space of hours, with devastating pain (the elbow) almost disappearing with just an Advil or two.  The hands gig is new, but that elbow?  That rat bastard's been hurting me on and off (mostly on) since last September.  That's a year ago.  It seemed to be a result of packing and moving, and it took seven months to clear up.  While the range of motion never returned, the pain went away for a few months. 

Until a couple of weeks ago.

That pain came back with such a vengeance I wound up lying awake, crying from it.  Wound up at the doctor, spitting out another copay we can't afford.  The verdict?  ANA and Sedimentation Rate tests are normal.  RA Turbid/RA Factor?  Ever so slightly elevated--normal is 0-13.9, I'm at 14.3.  I mentioned the pain I've had (again, since moving last September) in my back, between and beneath my shoulder blades.  She ordered an x-ray.  We'll see what that says.  She recommended physical therapy, but my insurance wants a hefty chunk per session, so that's not happening any time soon.  She recommended a rheumatologist, but that's going to wait until the x-rays are back.  As I have a history of squamous cell carcinoma (two years ago, smack on my face), gastric ulcers, an irregular heartbeat (I take Metoprolol for that), and am diabetic, the odds of finding a medical/pharmaceutical solution are slim.  I have started taking fish oil, curcumin, and a combination of glucosamine, chondroiton, and MSM.  Yes, there has been an improvement--not much, and I understand that these things, while often reducing the need for pain medication, probably don't do much for inflammation.  But needing fewer NSAIDs means less hurt to my stomach, my heart, and my kidneys.  And that's certainly worth something.

So, on the subject of crying, I was cruising through the morning news stories and found a gem about how 70% of women with chronic ailments like arthritis wind up divorced.  Often because of the physical deformity that can result, and also because of the loss of mobility and inability to perform tasks they used to be capable of.  I thought about bowling the other night, how I sat and watched while my husband and son bowled.  I didn't dare try because my elbow and hands are so achy.  I had a good time, but sitting here thinking about it, I burst into tears.  One more thing wrong with me. 

No, I don't think Tommy's going to hightail it, but it's still an unbearably sad thought.  Imagine being crippled by arthritis and then having the one person who should always be there for you say, "So long--too much hassle, and damn, your hands look scary!"

Tailbone has taken to hurting again.  Because there always has to be something new and exciting.

On a happier note, we got our boy uniformed and paid up for his Hapkido.  He's very happy.

Monday, September 24, 2012

It Ain't All Fairy Tales

I was just blundering through the Huffington Post, reading this and that while I wait for my husband to be done with a tele-meeting so we can drive out to Clifton for my latest round of x-rays (thoracic spine this time). While blundering, I came across a story about rekindled love. A sweet tale of a couple who fell in love as kids, drifted apart, only to be reunited 40 years later. Nice, huh?

Made me want to scream.

You see, my Mom found herself in a like situation. After being divorced for 36 years (and alone that whole time), she was contacted by an old flame. An old flame I didn't even know was an old flame. I had known Ned all my life, he'd been the father of playmates, the husband of Ellen (a wonderful lady who was never anything but kind to me). It turns out there was so much more to it than that.

Where to start? Many years ago (in 1950, to be precise), my Mother and Ned began dating. She was 16, he was 15, and one of them was desperately in love. It wasn't her. After months of playing couple, my mother stepped out with another guy. Ned was devastated. When that didn't work out, Ned pursued her again, and again, they were a couple. And again, she stepped out him. This time?

She got pregnant. Or at least that's how the story goes--she's changed that story repeatedly, and refuses to give anything solid enough for us to track down this mythic sibling she claims was adopted (sometimes by family members, sometimes by strangers, sometimes in Pennsylvania, sometimes in Florida). After the alleged birth of my alleged half-brother, she once again wound up with Ned, who was desperate to marry her. She took his ring, headed to Philadelphia for nursing school, and promptly married my dad. Who is not Ned.

Then comes the twisted, sad part. Or part of it, anyway. My Mom and Dad split up in 1976, after 17 years of marriage. I was 11. After that, my Mother and I spent every summer back on the east coast--renting a car, driving up as far as Maine or Nova Scotia, then spending a couple of weeks in our hometown--also Ned's hometown. I knew Ned--he was the husband of sweet Ellen, the dad of the kids I loved to play with. We would go over to their house and Ellen would feed us and so sincerely inquire about everything in our lives.

And she must have been terrified.

You see, Ned, years later, confessed that he married Ellen because he couldn't have what he wanted. He "settled," and always carried a torch for my mother. The really sad thing? He got the better woman with Ellen--by far! He got a woman true and loving, a woman able to really embrace and adore without a price. I don't mean to diss my Mom, because I do love her, but she is powerfully flawed. She is given to pettiness, meanness, and rank, inherent dishonesty. She's immature and wants so much for people to see her as impressive or noteworthy. Poor Ellen would smile and welcome us, feed us, care for us, and all the while she had to have known that he'd have left her in an instant, had my Mother said the word.

Poor Ellen. I had no idea. I never would have been party to that, had I known. My heart breaks for her still, and she's been dead for years now.

So, anyway, that's the past. Fast-forward 30 years. Ellen is dead, and Ned sends a Christmas card (as Ellen did every year). My Mom, on a whim, calls him. And it's ON! They start calling once, then twice, then four or more times a week. They exchange pictures of the kids and grandkids, he starts sending sad little gifts. My Mom starts ending phone calls with, "Love you, babe--can't wait to talk to you again!" Isn't that sweet? Isn't love grand?

No. No, it's not, because she didn't mean it. Any of it. She didn't love him, she wasn't hauling about some torch for him after nearly sixty years. No, she was just playing. Sadly, he wasn't.

After a few months of this, he started making "let's get together" noises. See, I think my Mom thought this game was safe because he was over 2,000 miles away. But Ned makes a good living, he can afford airfare. And, in fact, did. Now the phone calls were ending with, "Love you, babe--can't wait to see you!" Except, of course, she could wait. Forever. She was horrified that he was coming, and increasingly angry about it. He gave her months warning, and yet she never once said, "Ned, I don't feel good about this." No, she just strung him along.

A few weeks before he came out, she hung up with the customary, "Love you, Baby--so excited!" She then looked at me and said, "This is a terrible idea." I cried, "Are you kidding me? What are you doing? Cancel!" She started to blame Ned, but I cut her off, said, "Whoa, no way--you're giving him every reinforcing thing, you're telling him you want to see him, that you love him, that you're so excited you've wet yourself, and now you're mad at HIM because he can't tell YOU'RE a liar?" In a rare show of honesty, she admitted that she'd led him on because it was thrilling to be desired, to be adored. It was the last flash of honesty on the subject--after that, all of it, everything, was (according to her) Ned's fault.

By the time Ned arrived, my Mom was in an utter tizzy. I'd had a good friend do her hair for her, really gotten on her to bathe (which has been a problem for years), and even arranged a small trip for them--up to Jackson Hole, Yellowstone, a rodeo, etc. Just to give them something to do, something other than sitting together in her house and staring uncomfortably. Also to give her the opportunity to sort of play western tour guide to his eastern boy, since she so likes to show off and seem knowledgeable. I still can't believe I bothered.

From the moment my sister and Mom picked Ned up at the airport, she was sullen and silent. My sister had to carry the conversation all the way home. Ned was jovial and boisterous, my mother withdrawn and near-surly. The mini-vacation? An utter flop. She wouldn't talk, so he, sensing her discomfort, talked more loudly, more boisterously, and more intimately. You know, reaching back 60 years for "inside" jokes and the like. He didn't want to travel--he just wanted to be with her, mapping out their life together.

Oh, what a mess!

When they came back, she shuffled him off to stay with my sister. That poor man. She would come over for dinner ONLY because we insisted--she was not going to leave him sitting at my sister's for a week without seeing him! What did he do? He tried to be helpful around my sister's place, he cried a lot, though he tried to hide it, and he was amazingly kind to me, my husband and son, and my sister and her kids. That poor man.

Within moments of his boarding his plane, my Mom did exactly what I knew she would--she piled every ounce of blame for everything onto him. How did I know? Because it's what she's done all her life. Within a day, he was no longer Ned, he was "that prick." He tried to call, and she refused to pick up the phone. The one time she did, she was so distant and nasty that he never called back. Eventually, he wrote her a heartfelt (and barely legible) letter, saying, in effect, that he wasn't sure what had happened, but that she was just not at all what he thought she would be, she didn't even seem to be the same person he remembered or the woman who had been so affectionate on the phone. He said that he was sorry if something he had said or done had caused her to behave that way.

She exploded. That bastard! That asshole!

And me? I exploded right back. I chewed her to a nub, I told her that I would never, ever tolerate listening to her tear him down again. Period.

I admit, it wasn't just about Ned (though that was most of it). It was also about the possibility of getting her into a situation where she's loved, taken care of, and financially secure. She was teetering on the brink when Ned came out. My husband and I were paying half her property taxes and buying all her groceries, and yet she was still faltering. She was so deep in debt, it was unbailable. She had cashed out her retirement (they forced her to retire at 75 because, as a nurse, her skills were slipping along with her hygiene, which made her dangerous), paid down most of her credit cards, and then proceeded to max them all again within a year. Her pension isn't great, but between that and her Social Security, she's got around $2,500 a month. Not bad for a woman whose mortgage is only $500 a month. But she craves entertainment, and, for her, that means taking my sister and her kids out to eat restaurant meals three or more times a week. There goes almost six hundred bucks a month. This went on for years as she collapsed into financial ruin, and no amount of pleading with her or with my sister would put a stop to it. She wouldn't stop because she's old and spoiled and doesn't really "get" things, and my sister wouldn't stop because--well, because why stop a good thing? Life with Ned would have solved it all. She could have sold that rattrap house, paid off her bills (or at least most of them), moved in with Ned in her hometown, and lived the life she wants. See, Ned goes out for breakfast most mornings, likes to have a nice dinner out a few nights a week, and a few times a year he heads down to Atlantic City for a nice gambling weekend. He spends his days doing puzzles and watching MASH and taking long drives. In other words, he's the man of her dreams.

Not long after the heartbreaking Ned fiasco, my mother filed for bankruptcy. Any dream she may have had of living out her last years comfortably is gone. Any dream she may have had about moving back to her hometown is gone. She is broke, in a falling-to-bits house, with a car that is disintegrating. She is sad, bitter, and knows that she blew her last hope. Yes, she knows it, she's not stupid. She's may be unreasonable, and she's definitely petty and immature, but she's not stupid. And my heart?

Oh, it breaks for her. I cried and cried when we moved away. That was a year ago, and I still cry. I call her three or four times a week, have my boy call her twice a week, and my sister does see her pretty much every day, takes her shopping (and out for those damnable meals she still can't afford), but fact is, at the end of the day, she is alone. She didn't have to be, but she is. She's going to die that way. So is Ned, for that matter.

It's really not all fairy tales. If it were, the happy endings wouldn't be worthy of Huff Po human interest pieces, huh?

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Hapkido and Misfit Children

So, even though we absolutely cannot afford it, we've enrolled our boy in Hapkido.  He did a few years of martial arts when younger, and he was really quite taken with it.  This is three nights a week, and I'm pleased with the lack of edge and attitude from the Master/Sensei.  I'm not getting the "badass" vibe you often get off martial arts places.  That's good--we're not after badass.  We're after self-confidence, improved concentration, and an ability to effectively defend himself.  That there are four or five other teens in Hapkido is good, too.

Speaking of self-defense, it would appear that all the friendships on the street are over for him.  The one household that still had much to do with him (though he was the "friend of last resort") has become suspect.  DJ, the younger of the two boys, has taken to spending all his free time with the animal-killing, lie-telling, thieving kids across the street.  You know, the ones not permitted in our house because they steal and tell big, whopper, dangerous lies?  He only comes to our door in their presence now--always late/after dark, and always asking if our boy can come outside to "hang out."  That child has NEVER asked if Sean can come out--he's always come here and asked to come IN so they can play video games or Nerf.  But suddenly he wants Sean outside in the presence of the rat kids and Armen.  No way.  Our boy feels certain it's a trap, and I agree--they've gotten bold enough that they stand down the street and chant his name, ridiculing and hassling him.  I think they're looking to get him outside and alone in the dark and possibly do him harm.

Oh, and speaking of the rat kids, the cops were on the street last night.  Four cop cars, all in front of their house.  After a few minutes, they went to the end of the circle and parked in front of DJ's house.  We're thinking maybe Armen is in trouble--after all, he's already got a record at 13 years old, he and the rat kids are bad for being out and about at 1 am, his parents and all older siblings are drug addicts (and his mother's a prostitute, to boot), and he's the only kid around here who hangs out at both the rat kids's and DJ's.  Can't be sure, but if it turned out he'd gotten up to something awful, no one here would be surprised. 

And one more "speaking of"--speaking of getting up to something awful, I think we're going to have to install a security camera outside.  We feel pretty sure that, if we put up our extensive Halloween decorations, those kids will tear them to bits.  They're just that type.  So, if we can't afford the camera (I found a good one for $160), we're going to have to wait and put up our decorations on Halloween night.  Which is sad.  But the alternative is having our stuff bashed to hell by the neighborhood rats. 


Friday, September 21, 2012

Danged Foreigners!

So, hubby had a bit of a "to-do" at work yesterday--or after work, actually. A coworker is moving on to another agency, and they were throwing a farewell party. The problem with farewell parties in Washington DC is that they sometimes wind you up missing your bus. Catching a later bus. Which fails to connect you in time with your homebound conveyance. So, instead of being home at 7 pm (or even catching the 7:18 from Falls Church), my husband wasn't going to be home until well after 10 pm.

Until Akim.

Akim, who is new to the area, was also stuck at the bus stop. Upon learning that he was in for another couple of hours wait, he called his wife to pick him up. He then approached my husband and offered him a ride.

Just like that. Just that easy, Akim from Western Africa gave my family two hours we wouldn't have had. Gave us dinner at an almost decent hour, gave us time to catch a documentary on Netflix, gave my husband a little more time to sleep last night. He and his family gave my husband conversation and warmth and kindness. They asked nothing in return.

Danged foreigners, bringing their kind ways to our society! Nasty immigrants, spreading their "lend a hand" ideology! We laugh, but there really is a strong anti-immigrant/anti-foreigner vibe in this country, and it's shameful. My grandparents were immigrants, and they, too, were greeted with finger-pointing and scapegoating. Damned Irish! Dirty Italians!

While Akim's English was impeccable (accented, but wonderful), many immigrants do struggle with learning English. Hey, it's a hard language to learn! Instead of pointing fingers and wearing nasty t-shirts with snotty "This is America, Speak English" slogans, why not volunteer at an ESL language center? Why not tutor an immigrant in reading and writing? I know, being a mean-spirited asshole is easier, but is it really more rewarding? If you think immigrants are a problem, step up and help them be Americans. That involves lending a hand, not patrolling a border with a shotgun.

Anyway, I've meandered a bit here. Just wanted to say THANK YOU to Akim and his family. You rocked our world!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Yeast and Arthritis--who knew?

So, I've been struggling with joint pain the last couple of months--until Sunday night, it was nothing devastating, just a little sore and stiff in the hands, along with my usual plantar fasciitis.  Until Saturday, when the elbow that hurt for seven straight months (and then stopped hurting, though the range of motion never returned) started hurting again.  Biggly.  By Sunday night, it hurt so bad I only managed to sleep for two hours, and those weren't in a row.

As it turns out, I spent more time Sunday night crying than I did sleeping.  So I made a doctor's appointment Monday morning.  My usual doc is out (which isn't a bad thing, I guess--she is the lady who missed the mass back in January), so I saw another in the office. 

Before leaving for the appointment, I popped a couple ibuoprofen.  That halved the pain in less than an hour.  Wish I'd taken that rather than the oxycodone the night before.  The oxy did nothing.

I requested a few blood tests to look for things like rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.  They called back this morning--negative on all but the RA, which came back slightly elevated.  They recommended I see a rheumatologist. 

Being me, I decided to read up on the RA test, see what, exactly, it does.  Imagine my surprise when every link that came up mentioned a relationship between untreated Candida and RA.  See, I've been battling a yeast for a few months now, without a lot of success.  Figured it was a diabetes thing.  Honestly, I haven't really been applying myself--it's not a severe infection, so I tend to use the skin cream when it's irritating me, and then slack off when the symptoms subside.  I know, stupid.

So now I'm left wondering--should I see the rheumatologist, or should I go back to my primary care and be tested for the candida and get an oral med to knock it out?  Money is, of course, always an issue--if I go back to my primary care and they say there's no yeast, then I still have to cough up the 25 bucks for that office visit plus the 35 bucks for the rheumatologist.  Plus I have to have a thoracic spine x-ray next week.  And I already coughed up one copay this week.  Urgh.

On a not at all bright side, no joy on the Foreign Service gig for hubby.  He passed the exam, no trouble, but the PNQs hung him up.  Not unusual, I guess, seems most have to go through this 2-3 times.  We're looking at learning a foreign language to improve his points.  Something hyper-super-critical like Arabic, Hindi, or the like.  He's liking Russian, but that's only critical, not super-critical.  Fewer points.  Our boy is pretty seriously bummed--he wants out of this neighborhood and away from these toxic, animal-killing kids as soon as humanly possible.  I don't blame him.

Blowing the diet, gaining weight.  I need to stop.  Right now.  I see it happening, and I need to turn it around.  I can't go back to the constant back pain and misery.  Please.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Anal Glands, huh?

I've had dogs all my life.  And while I've heard of anal glands, and I've read up on how to drain them and how to identify signs that a dog is having anal gland issues, fact is, not one of my dogs has ever had an obvious anal gland problem.  No butt scraping and dragging, no . . . anything.  I've had dogs live as long as 16+ years, and never once had their anal glands drained.  I'm not sure what that means.  Perhaps I've just lucked out.

Today is Charlie's first time to be professionally groomed.  In fact, it's the first time any dog I've ever owned has been professionally groomed.  I hand strip/pluck his back, so they'll only be doing legs, butt, head, feet (including claws) and, yes, anal glands.  Have fun with that Charlie!  I'll be sure to post before and after pictures.

Of Charlie's head, not his anal glands.

They've had our poor, excitable boy for over three hours now.  I hope he's not giving them grief.  I hope they didn't cut his ear off.

Charlie will be one year old on the fourh of October.  We've been here for a year and a week.  Seems only yesterday.

And they just called--off we go to get our Charlie-dog!

Charlie, pre-grooming

Charlie, post-grooming

Honestly?  Not all that much of a difference, and a little choppy around the face.  But his claws look better, his ears look neater, and his anal glands have been handled by someone other than me.  The groomers said he was very well-behaved, polite, and stood perfectly for him, even with face and nails.  What a good boy, he got a new Kong toy for being such a sweetie!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Scared in the USA

So I'm hanging on Facebook the other day, taking part in a bit of a political discussion on a friend's wall. He's stumping for President Obama, I'm agreeing with him, and in comes a friend of his who's backing Romney. We're discussing wage inequality and the gender gap in pay, and she pipes up with, "I guess I've been lucky--I've never been paid less than a man in the same job, so I have no reason not to vote Romney/Ryan."

What? Are you serious? Are you stupid? You don't think (and you're probably wrong) that you've ever been directly affected by a grossly unfair, sexist trend and therefore you're going to vote for the guys who don't give two spits about it? Who support polices that forward it? Really?

Well, let's toss that silly Voting Rights Act, then, because I've never been black and denied the right to vote. If it doesn’t affect me, who cares, right?

This woman saw nothing "off" about her position. She absolutely failed to recognize the impact wage inequality has on ALL of us, not just the women being underpaid. She couldn't comprehend why she should care, why she should, in any way, concern herself with the problems of others.

Is she typical? Is this considered good or right? I'm serious--have we slid that far, sunk that low? I know that "I got mine, screw all y'all" has been a growing trend since the early 80s, but surely we can do better than that.

Surely we WANT to. Don't we?

It seems we, as a nation, disconnected somewhere along the line. We went from "man on the moon/Roe vs Wade/human rights champions of the world" to something smaller. Greedier. We've become a nation where the loudest are the ones calling for a richer rich, a poorer poor, and a non-existent immigrant population to blame for all ills. I know we can't all have fallen so far. We can't have all given up on that dream of peace and fairness.

So where are we? And when did we stop putting ourselves in the shoes of our fellow men and women?

We're facing an historic election. We're faced with a clear choice. And for the first time in my life, I am scared. Scared to death. For the first time in my life, I can actually foresee a world where I have less freedom, fewer opportunities, fewer rights, and a markedly limited vision for my future, and for that of my son. And my niece?


What can I do about it? Vote. It's really all I can do. I can vote, I can encourage my friends to vote, my family, YOU. I can make sure I'm registered to vote (, I can make sure that my state hasn't passed some restrictive, “keep the poor and elderly away come election day” voter ID law, and I can figure out what I need to exercise my right to vote, should it turn out they have (

I believe in America, but, as more and more people hop on the "if it doesn't affect me, it doesn't matter" train, I'm finding it harder and harder to believe in Americans. Help me out with that. Inform yourself, seek your news and information from several sources on all sides of the political spectrum. Speak intelligently, don't encourage or tolerate obfuscation and slander. And for goodness sake, choose your candidate based upon his or her words, actions, vision, and character rather than looks, race, wealth, or religion.