Monday, March 31, 2014

An Entirely Pointless Day

Yeah, yeah, the dogs walked & pooped.  But I did nothing of my own besides getting up to be proud of.

Except for this overheard snippet of conversation.

Mother to child-of-unknown-age-and sex:: "No.  All your teachers are grown-ups."


Sunday, March 30, 2014

Mothering Day

I think I need a day off from this blog or from any thought at all, and mostly that is the day I've had.  I'm not pleased about this -- I'd wanted to go to Mass today but I woke up in that anxiety that is like a maze.  At the time, I thought I had to be home at noon, so the 12.15 Mass was out.  It was 8 and I had two hours to walk and feed the dog, shower and get dressed and do some nominal business for the Other Part of My Life.  But when the Horrors are upon me I can't figure that kind of list out.  It feels incredibly stupid in retrospect but then I was so disappointed in myself that I put in more time on the Other Part and then went back to bed for season three of House.

I pretty much intended to post on Facebook that I'd gone fishing until I was looking at the calendar that hangs in my kitchen.  It has both American and form UK dominions marked out and I saw that this is, in England and Ireland, Mothering Sunday.

Mothering Sunday -- how much more I appreciate that than Mother's Day, which, since my mother died and I am childless, makes me feel excluded and less-than.  Lots of people are mothering even if they aren't my mother.  Hell, when I had the flu I could barely grab any covers because Daisy was sleeping snug up against me so tight that I couldn't fit an envelope between us.  She didn't retreat to the couch or to the foot of the bed, frequent spots for her, because she had to take care of me.  Mother me.

Earlier, before I'd looked at the calendar, while lying in bed with House digging out someone's right brain, I thought to myself, I wish I was a little girl today, I wish I knew there would be dinner on the table and that the bills would be paid and that someone would tell me I should get up and do something.  It's ironic, then, to see the holiday.

Over Christmas, I learned -- not from my father, whom I didn't have the nerve to speak to about it -- that there is some misinformation on my birth certificate.  Not only is it my second birth certificate, my adoption certificate, but it lists the delivering doctor incorrectly.  My father, according to one version he told someone else in the family, actually delivered me.

Which means that the first person to hold me was my dad.

I was so blown away by this that I couldn't ask him about it.  Another family member said that when they checked the story with Dad, he had no memory of the things he'd said.  He's 96.  He may have kept that story to himself for 57 years -- is this senility in terms of invention or in terms of repression?  He said some other things about my birth mother as well which fit the little information he's imparted over the years, including an outburst in which he said I was exactly what my birth mother would have -- wanted? expected?  I can't remember now.

(I should add here that how I imagined my adoption to have gone down was always plausible.  The delivering doctor on the birth certificate was one of my father's partners when he was in general practice.)

In a weird way, then, my first post-natal mothering came from my father, who practiced his medicine the way he always did and had and probably counted my toes and made sure I was breathing and then made a decision to call my mother and tell her that a baby girl was available.

Mothering.  It's such a potent word.  Many women go out to brunch because it's Mother's Day but who weren't terribly mothering.  My mom wasn't a convicted motherer for that matter.  I think she was largely done with child raising by the time I was in fourth grade or so. 
But I've had mothering in my life from other people and animals, not all of them female, and I like how the word honors that.

My father is in hale good health so I suppose the next time I visit him I will have to have this Conversation.  When he told the story to another family member he remarked that he didn't want to tell me because I've always been so weird about adoption.  I'm going to have to suck it up and be stoic, which I'm not known for.  And in this case, the crying and emoting I've done have been out of wonder and gladness at the gift that being pulled from my birth mother's body and lifted into the air for the first time, that the first words I heard were probably the announcement that it's a girl and she looks healthy were my dad's.

I hope the people who have mothered me know who they are so that my thanks for doing it resonates.  If you wonder if you're on the list, you probably are.

Thank you.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Playing [or Not Playing] the Oh, Well Game

I'm surprised I'm writing this.

As of Friday morning, it looked like dog gigs could mount up to a nice piece of change, for a change, over the weekend.  A toddler came down with a fever, someone else's plans changed and my chickens aren't hatching.

Oh, well. 

It's simpler not to have to deal with so many dogs, I told myself.  There is a cold stinging rain outside, even better reason not to have an encumbered walking schedule.

That one of those gigs involved my favorite dog -- a dog I may love as much as Daisy -- didn't help, but, oh well.

That not having so many dogs meant I'd have more time was good to myself, even as I felt the overweening disappointment feed my fear and the enervation of a couple of weeks of the Horrors set in to pull my center of gravity right down to irresistible sleepiness.

Oh, well.

See, this is why I'm resisting that book of novenas.  If I dedicate my prayers to getting that gig in the Other Part of My Life and I don't get it, and I know sitting here there is little reason I should, my attempt to find faith will get a hard knock.  I'd been smug for a minute or two about life stepping in to take care of me and that's doubt enough. 

And the reason I slept grandly this afternoon?  Rain.  Not wanting to feel my fear.  Not wanting to avoid my fear with food or cigarettes.  Not seeing any good reason for consciousness. 

I took scant care of the Other Side of My Life and crawled into bed with the third season of House, again.  I can't go back to bed until Daisy dries off and I walk one more dog.  I'm starting, now, to avoid the rosary because, as mindless as the prayers are, they are a dialogue of need and admission of weakness and failure.

And I just want to say, oh, well.  At least I got to nap and rest my brain from the what-ifs.

Damn Lent.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Horrors

I can almost predict the kind of day I'll have by the time I stumble to my coffee in the morning.  Today the Horrors were back, starting with sighing and whining: what do I really want to do today?  Do I have to do what I have to do today?  It's the same thing every damn day.  When I get paid on Friday, how much of my bills will it pay? 

This high-pitched donkey's song goes on for a while as I try to get myself over to the gratitude side.  Thank you for money in the bank.  Thank you for work to do.  Thank you for -- when can I pay that credit card off?  How cold is it outside?  I wish I was writing a novel.  If I just got $12... -- shit.  OK.  Start over.  Thank you for soap and hot water.  Thank you for Daisy...

And so it goes.  My stomach feels like it's about to ripped open and fed to hungry eaglets and I can rate my anxiety by how quickly I switch to gratitude from complaining or calculating.
Usually it calms down when I actually get Daisy out on the street but it starts climbing when I finish my couple of hours for My Other Life and it's coming up on the afternoon walks and I haven't eaten and it's time to do My Life.

Yesterday was a rare day off from the Horrors, which have been mounting through illness and dog crises all winter but they were back in full sail today, including having to stop at my apartment in the middle of the afternoon dogs to have diarrhea.  My mouth was dry, I was shaking, I was tapping my teeth together in lieu of aggressively grinding them, I headed straight for the Klonopin.

I'm wondering if I can make a deal with God: I'll tithe 5% if you get me those two gigs from My Other Life.  But I don't like the idea, right now, of testing him, of being failed by him.  Too much is at stake, including my desire to believe.

So I spent the rest of the dog walks singing that song from A Chorus Line, "I Really Need this Job," and trying not to scheme or apportion money I don't have.  One good thing about being in a period of relative skintness is that scheming is pointless.  I have to give up imagining what bill I'll pay off when and be happy that I've lost the habit of using my credit cards so that even a minimum payment will be a reduction.  In a more sanguine state, I would say this is a blessing.  Today it was a shouted command: Stop thinking....!

Some of it was made worse by having to wash my hair, find some better duds and go to dinner and a lecture on Pope Francis.  My friends just lost their dog gig and no one can feel sorrier for them than I because it's happened so much. Plus I was supposed to watch over the dog they watch over next week so kiss my share goodbye.

The lecture was good but mostly confirmed facts and feelings I had about the Pontiff already.  I stopped afterwards to ask about Francis's Marionist leanings -- I thought he was Marionist in orientation but wanted to be sure before committing myself in writing.  Yes, he is and has her eight-pointed star on his coat-of-arms.
So my observations of his attitude toward Mary and the rosary aren't off base and that's a huge relief in a field of questions that seem impossible to answer. 

I have indigestion now and I'm tired and wired.  Tomorrow I have to do the same damn things I did today.

I hope I'm not held in the claws of anxiety as I do them.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Storm That Wasn't

It was supposed to snow last night.  It didn't but it feels apocalyptic, even in the Bat Cave, with waves of high winds.  When I walked Daisy at 7.30 this morning, there was little traffic on the street and yet I could feel the thrum of Brooklyn coming up through the soles of shoes: traffic on the BQE four or five blocks south of us, the wind, some urban beat, maybe of coffee makers and showers and the thud of the tossing the New York Times on the breakfast table.  I don't know why it feels as if something is ending and I feel less of my usual dread and anxiety than usual.  Perhaps it's the last blast of winter, although the forecast doesn't expect a major shift into spring, either.

Still, I've seen some crocuses and one intrepid tiny daffodil that had closed itself up in sleep again by last night.  Something needs to break.  I hope it isn't me.

I had, of course, every intention of blogging yesterday but there weren't enough hours.  The rosary is becoming a project and I was tracking down a couple of quotes and wanted to read the gospels' accounts of the Passion.  So long blogging!  Since I'm exploring the rosary, I'm using the St. Joseph New American Bible, the "Catholic" version.  I kind of have to.  I was fascinated by the plenteous footnotes and impressed by the admissions that Matthew, for instance, was probably written several generations after Jesus died, that not all of the Letters were written by whom they are ascribed to. 

When one's project has become the subject of sin, it's good to see reason and exegesis poke their heads through the snow of damnation and uncertainty that the topic layers on top of daily living.  The list of things I disagree with in Church teachings and in the Bible could go on for miles, so I'm especially relieved to see actual Catholic scholarship at work.  It gives me hope.

I agreed, almost at the last minute, to go out to dinner with friends whom I share dogs with, also cutting into Car on the Hill time.  I am, needless to say, really glad I did, although at the moment I hand only gotten to the arrest in Matthew after wading through all the end-of-times stuff and had things on my list left to do.  It was probably the most nutritious food -- Thai -- I'd had in a couple of weeks.  We have immediate things in common besides the dogs and I didn't really have enough time to freak out at the thought that I was going out socially.

Is this why I'm so relatively calm today?  One of the things we talked about was whether I should put up dog-wanted posters.  There is a chance that a really good opportunity will come my way in My Other Life, although I think it will be a month or so before I know and when I consider it, I'm not so confident that the employers would want me.  I've been having the Horrors about money.  I have some savings, but they're going to be severely clipped by taxes.  I'm still using Windows XP and memory is running out on my PC.  I desperately need a decent office chair.  I have a book to promote.  I have a kitchen sink I need to have fixed and Daisy needs a check-up.  All of this can hail down on me when I least expect it but last night I was able to talk frankly about my slacker life with people who understand, people I have given dog walking work to and so have helped out financially.

We decided I should wait.  If I take on more dogs and this Other Life gig comes through, I'll either be over-committed or have to drop the dogs I just started being responsible for.  The rosary is beginning to take up more time, which means I'm moving in the direction of writing a proposal.  There are good things to do while waiting out the slim chance of gainful employment elsewhere.  Maybe talking to people who understand these two halves of me -- one has advised me on how to better perform My Other Life -- over spinach and spices is as good as a Klonopin on a cold gusty day.

I also got to howl when another friend called to invite me to a lecture on Pope Francis.  I accepted -- note to world: while I wither in lack of hope, Pope Francis gives me some -- but there was the question of dinner.  Our parish is serving a "Lenten supper" before the lecture and I broke into that song from Funny Girl: "When a goil's incidentals/are no bigger than two lentils/then to me it doesn't spell success..."  We were snorting with the knowledge of exactly what a Lenten supper would me and his wife is opposed to it.  We'll go to the Egyptian place around the corner where we have several matters to discuss, including my friend's wish to go to Utica this summer with our dogs.  His wife is opposed.  I'd go anywhere but Utica, I have to say, is low on my list.  We talked about stalking a Mystery Niece in Paris and he got a Sidney Greenstreet get-up going as his disguise and Daisy and I ended up in fake noses and glasses. 
He knows Paris intimately while I dislike it generally so we began to plan one of those trips that won't happen to Normandy and Fontainbleu and Lourdes...............

So here I am feeling absolutely skint, trying not to freak out about money, with social plans every other day this week.  The Qu gong massage -- dinner last night -- what I know will be a funny dinner and then a hopeful lecture tomorrow -- and I'm, for this while, at least, serene.

Even though I had to dip into my money box to do it.

So I don't know.  I don't know anything today.  I'm not anxious: astonishing.  The Horrors wait somewhere later in the day or not all: a relief.  I have interesting work to do.  I have friends.  I'm sitting here just being and that's OK.

I'm sure the tide will turn with the wind, but that's OK too.


Monday, March 24, 2014

So. Just How MANY Sins Can Dance on the Head of a Pin?

I knew it and I dreaded it.  But it's turned out to be more of a nightmare than I could have predicted.

Being a perpetual screw-up, I've been saying the rosary according to the Mysteries allotted to each day of the week.

Very nice.

Except it's Lent.  I should have been saying the Sorrowful Mysteries every day except for Sunday.



The Sorrowful Mysteries, as you can guess, are about the Passion.  They are also all about the forgiveness of sin.  I don't have this stuff memorized.  I even have to read the Apostles' Creed, which is a little humiliating.  But I have a good guide that breaks the five mysteries of the day down into a sort of playlet.  Every single damn Sorrowful Mystery ends with a version of "have mercy on us and on the whole world," whether it's from the precept of Gethsemene or the crowning of thorns.  In the third mystery, we are told Jesus underwent the crown of thorns "to make reparation for our pride".

I underline my script as I go so I can make notes on what I don't understand or remember or disagree with or, occasionally, am touched by.  There's a lot about picking up our own crosses and stuff that I find genuinely moving but today it seemed to be all sin, all mercy, all the time.  

Kind of like the Military Channel and Hitler.

At the idea that Jesus was mocked, tortured and humiliated for "our pride," I had to pause.  I usually fill in that blanks as "sins," a generic collective noun for stolen gum, gossip, grumpiness and gluttony.  I hadn't thought of filling in the blank with the one specific sin, pride.

So I looked up all the New Testament references to pride and came up with lots of letters from the apostles that admonish us to be humble, not to compare ourselves to others, and to not be "lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy".

The sin of pride, according to Thomas Aquinas, St. Gregory and a few other guys, is the daddy of all the other capital or deadly sins: pride is the separation of man from God and is the wedge in the door for sloth and covetousness, et al.  Bishop Sheen defined it even further, thus humbling me because I didn't really know what "vainglory" means ("ostentatious pride especially in one's achievements;vain display or show: vanity).

If pride is so wedgey,  is it, I wondered, the Original Sin?

The Second Edition of the Catechism of the Catholic Church is not helpful.  It says, "Man, tempted by the devil, let his trust in his Creator die in his heart and, abusing his freedom, disobeyed God's command."

Is disobedience the first human sin?  Greed or curiosity for the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge?  Or the pride that Aquinas describes as that withdrawal of one's fealty from God to the self?

This is the problem with Catholicism: ask one simple question and you will get no definitive answers. 
Worse, the nondefinitive answers will produce a mild anxiety attack because, whether you believe all this or not (and there is so, so much I do not believe), the secular humanism that produced the world we know of democracies, constitutions, human rights, regimes and et cetera is, in fact, based on the Bible, Aquinas, Roman Catholic doctrine and tradition.  And in all that Roman Catholic seething mass is the notion of sin.

The rosary mentions it sin 64 times.

Case in point: my anxiety takes me away from my better self.  I takes me away from the world, from good acts, from God.  Every day is a quest for oblivion and oblivion is the opposite of self, selflessness, and, if you like, God.  I fight my anxiety every time I leave the house or sit down at my computer to do anything more than play a game.  And some of the stuff I do at my computer virtually begs readers to say they love me.

Is anxiety a form of pride, a form of sin?  It may not make me feel superior to others -- in fact, quite, quite the opposite -- but it does make me feel apart, special.

But what is meant by taking up one's own cross if not the faults that are, according to both parts of the rosary and the Catechism, the vestiges of Original Sin?  So am I good to go because I went to the bank today and started looking up stuff the rosary is bringing up?

Which is another problem with Catholicism: you can't trust anybody with information unless it's from the Pontiff's mouth.  I could ask a priest, ask on a discussion board, take a theology class, but the only real answer is in the Catechism and it doesn't give very good answers on this subject.  (If you want to know about in vitro fertilization, however, it's quite explicit: no.)

I'm back to blogging as part of my Lenten promises.  It cuts into my oblivion.  It's a communication from someone who hates answering the phone (I got cussed at for asking to be taken off the wounded veterans' call list today).  And I know the anxiety, Horrors, reclusiveness, depression and agoraphobia are extremely self, rather than other, oriented.  So there's some ecumenical connection here, if you've stayed with me this long and suffer from these maladies as well.   It's not a very far reach from loss of self to loss of God -- and an infinite reach, of course, when one is filled with doubts.  

But the question of what it means to truly desire to lose one's self is pertinent and important, even leaving God out of the question.  It's not, quite, voluntary.  But it can be fought.  And losing self is depriving the world of something valuable.

If you hide your light under a bushel, you'll only succeed in burning the bushel up.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Play Date

I left Brooklyn today.  My friend Nan accompanied me after I'd extolled the virtues of a hole-in-the-ground Qi Gong massage parlor.

Actually I'd been telling her about Qi Dong and pronouncing it for years as Kwee Dong, when in fact it's Qidong and is pronounced Cheekung).  Obviously I've Googled so here is some more information about it.

Qi -- chee or chi -- is the life force that flows through everything in the universe.  Gong -- kung -- means an accomplishment achieved through steady practice.  Qigong itself means cultivating energy for increased health, healing and vitality.  The practice of Qigong can be spiritual, martial or medical; in any of these forms there is emphasis on posture, breathing and focus.  Apparently the movement component is gentle and swaying.

H'mm.  A good thing for a fat fraying old hag to look into.

It was thrilling to go with Nan.  She has a laugh like a Waterford glass and eyes that scrunch up in merriment.  She is wise, compassionate, funny, interested in lots of cool stuff, has the best dress sense of anyone I know.  We have that peculiar relationship of New York -- we're friends without ever doing any friendship things.  I split a bottle of wine with her once several years ago.  We speak about half the mornings when I walk her dog.  She gives good advice and she accepts well-meant advice.

What a rare thing it is to be in a conundrum and take in advice gracefully.  It's a hard thing to do.  And she makes me feel like she feels better for having heard what I say.

Anyone who has visited me in the last ten years and has taken my Chinatown Circuit has gone down these dark narrow stairs and been whisked into a big room with ten or so massage tables.  It's the kind of place my mother would shudder at the thought of entering but it's perfectly safe and sanitary and sane-making.
 It costs about $60 an hour, which is a bargain in New York, and is a very specific massage.  You don't say anything.  There's no point because they're going to do what they do.  They'll find the painful spots on their own because they go to work on pressure points.  Things you didn't know were sore suddenly take your breath away.  My masseur today found stuff in my upper back that made me think I was going to asphixiate on the table, but his breath kind of coached my breath and I learned how to grab some air before he bore down again and I could only exhale.  After he worked on those knots a while, they still hurt but I could breathe through the pressure.

Nan commented afterwards, as we tumbled drunkenly into a cab, that the massage made her body warm up.  My legs were certainly warmer.  It leaves one not so much invigorated as, well, drunk.  All you can do is sigh happily.

Nan had a million other things to do today so we didn't do my Circuit, which includes a couple of stores, lunch, rice pudding and homage to my favorite shoes.  I had forgotten their business card, however, so we had to wander a bit and this is the best place in the city to wander.  We admired some clothes in a shop that wasn't open and we peered in a strange store full of magical things.

I was wishing we had more time to wander and take pictures and have lunch but this is the first time I've done anything social with Nan and I'd had to take a Klonopin this morning just to change money from 50s to 20s and put my shoes on.  It was a first date.  I showed her two of my favorite things and she liked them.  I got out of the Bat Cave, out of bed, ignored the Horrors and spent the money I'd saved for recreation and I don't regret that.  It was always there for fun but I've lost the knack of it.

Maybe we'll do it again.  I now journal after I say the rosary, noting things I don't understand or disagree with or things I'm thinking about as I say it.  The rosary keeps me busy with the mysteries and spiritual gifts and the prayers which aren't very specific.  "Pray for us sinners," "forgive us our trespasses," etc.  I say the rosary in an attempt to open a dialogue and possibly an unselfish one because the prayers are in the second person: it's not just my trespasses that need forgiveness, it ours -- the collective of who knows who?

I've had the Horrors lately.  Money is a looming problem.  That Situation with the dogs where I got myself fired has brought up past firings or bad bosses.  There is a possibility of something good coming down the pike that would resolve the financial worry but I think it's a small chance.  Today I made a poster for dog walking.  And I realized that when I have the Horrors, it's harder to say the rosary, which is all about us and stuff when I'm having fits over me, me, me.  I talk to God when I have the Horrors.  I ask for specific stuff.

So when I finished the rosary this evening, I made a list of the specific things I want.  One of them is hope.  I lost it somewhere and it makes doing things to fight the Horrors really difficult.

But I hope Nan and I go back to Chinatown again and that next time we might have lunch and talk, if not about hope, our dreams and fantasies.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Boo! Corner

Character defect Number 883:

I'm walking Daisy and Emmett.  Daisy is as high strung and unedited as Joan Rivers.  It's quite possible her bark has a Brooklyn accent.  She has something to say about everything, every one and, especially, every dog.

I am told that when she walks with other people, she does not rattle on about Lady Gaga's Vomit Artist or someone's clothing choices.  She saves her bad behavior for me because she knows she'll sleep tight up against me come night, weighting down the blankets and I'll love the weight of her too much to protest.  In other words, she plays me like a violin.

Emmett is also high strung.  He proves to me that dogs do not understand each other's barking because he reacts to Daisy's nattering and demanding by whipping around on his leash, looking for Satan, the Joker, the Yellow Claw.  He is paranoid schizo-affective and not the brightest bulb in the chandelier.  In a split second, a fire hydrant can turn into the Yellow Claw or a man with groceries can sprout horns, a tail and a pitchfork.  Daisy's barking sends him into a frenzy.

Really insecure dogs have a habit of looking back at their possible enemies once they're past them.  I spend a lot of time hiding behind cars with Daisy because she thinks it's fun to bully up to the bulldog, but once the bulldog or, especially, Wheaton terrier has gone by, it's out of sight, out of mind.  Emmett is one of those dogs who keeps looking back, singing and humming his distress that the Bad Bad Dog is only a half a block away.

That being said, there are a couple of rules dog owners and walkers need to abide by.  Walkers tend to do so because we know how our dogs react.  One of them is the right of way.

If I have two dogs and you have one dog, you cross the street.

If I have a big dog and you have a Yorkie, you cross the street.

If I know you and happen to be walking a dog I know will get into a fracas with your dog, or vice versa, and I happen to be near your house, I cross the street.  And vice versa.

Never, when walking a dog, come up behind someone else who is walking a dog.  Cross the street or give fair warning.

So there we are at Joralemon and Hicks Streets, a tight, narrow corner that tends to collect buggies, strollers, mothers and nannies. 
I'm coming up the hill, headed toward a kiddie klatsch.  I have Daisy and Emmett on short leashes because where there are strollers there are Cheerios and sudden hobgoblins.  It's a blind corner, with a hedge to my left.  As we circumvent the kiddie krowd, I see a man with a Kerry blue in what will be my path.  He stops and glares at me.  I stop and reconnoiter my options as he waits.  It's clear that I want to go where he is but he's not budging, he's letting the Kerry's leash remain slack and he's looking at me like I'm scum.  I tell the dogs to follow me into the street and I begin making a big lopsided circle around him as he remains standing and glaring.  I manage to not get us hit by traffic or to allow one of my assholes to bite off a two-year-old's hand and I haul the dogs up onto the sidewalk behind him.

Emmett is humming.  Daisy is not liking the fact that it's a Kerry blue.  She's known two of them and they have bad connotations.  After we're safely six feet away, the man begins to walk and I mutter, rather loudly, "I've got two dogs and you have one and can't help out here, asshole?"

Oooh.  I just love it when I'm right.  I just bathe in my own moment of judgement.  And then I hate myself as much as I hate whoever has just done something rock-stupid with their dog.  Why do I have to turn to sarcasm and name-calling?  Is it possible I could say, "Hey, could you move your dog -- I have two and you're where I want to be?"

No.  Because all my rage of my marginalism comes up in that moment.  I'm wide, my dogs make a wider load yet, we have no rights.  I get so tired of walking in the street because people won't move for a dog, but when someone with a dog doesn't assess the situation and help out -- all my best potty-mouth words bubble to the surface.

It's Saturday.  I'm tired of thinking.  I think, however, that I should think some more.  Find more words, ask more questions, do more research.  But I'm craving oblivion.  Am I due?  I'm sitting here slack-jawed now, all my words used up by the week of blogging, doing My Other Life, carrying on cheerfully when I have the financial horrors.  Feeling like I did at Boo! Corner but unable to make the circle around the guy with the privilege for the sake of my own progress...

Friday, March 21, 2014

Now Trending

for Psychology Today 

Thursday, March 20, 2014

How to Talk

I just texted my best friend who is going through a mean depression.  I could barely see the key pad on my iphone to do it and I gave a big sniff after finishing that felt like I'd inhaled water.

We had a text conversation the night before last in which Friend told me that he is overwhelmed with dread for no reason whatsoever.  He enumerated the wonderful things in his life but said he doesn't shower on weekends and wishes he'd be caught in a big explosion, a clean quick death.

Since then, I've been thinking of what I can say to Friend.  His depression stems from a deep, well-deserved belief that he doesn't deserve the good things he has.  By "well-deserved," I mean he was trained from the day he was born to think himself a burden, a whipping post, the reason for family anger.  This isn't something you can simply go to therapy or take some pills to make go away.  And I knew, without him saying those things, that they are behind his current downward trajectory.  And I respect that trajectory.

I closed that text conversation by saying "Talk to someone.  And talk to me."

It wasn't a bad way to end the dialogue.  It also wasn't the best.

I have my own version of depression.  A lot.  All the time.  It has its own EKG.  Among the things I've learned about talking about it is that there are two responses that are absolute bullshit: "You don't really feel that way" and "But X, Y and Z are so great in your life!"

So I didn't say that.

But I've been looking at the Fatima prayer that concludes each decade of the rosary and it brings him to mind: " us from the fires of hell, lead all souls to Heaven, especially those who have most need of your mercy."  I don't believe in heaven but, of course, I certainly believe in hell because so much of my life feels like it.  And his life certainly feels like it.  I don't know why this prayer resonates for him but it's in a metaphorical way.  "Save him from his hell, lead him to happierness, he has need of mercy and the certainty of solace."  I think that's how it plays out for me.

If I were to say I am praying for him, he'd get it, appreciate it, but where he is -- in the clutches of childhood undeservingness and grief over a huge recent loss -- he would also laugh dryly.  "Yeah, good luck to that, France."

I also know, from the many good things people say to me here and on Facebook and in conversation, that compliments are like tiny and ultimately ineffectual life jackets.  I want them -- I need them -- but they don't, in the end, float me.

Which is not to say that occasionally one doesn't make it through, so please don't stop.

I know that depression, grief, dread are fought from within, that the only things that improve them are time, throwuppy, waiting for a new hope.  Right now, I'm going through The Horrors: I learned last night that another dog will not be returning to my roster because the owner is dying.  How will I live?  Will this new gig come through?  What if?  Should I?  Is Daisy limping?  I can't.

The Horrors at least have concrete actions to take.  Put up the damned dogs wanted posters.  Talk to the pet store owners.  Carry business cards.  Look at and be grateful for your savings.  Do.  The.  Next.  Right.  Thing.  Do It Anyway.

But a severe depression?  I admire the shit out of him for getting up and going to his prestigious job every day.  I'll bet nobody knows what he's going through.  There is a sheer rock face on the Going to the Sun Highway in Glacier Park called the Weeping Wall.  Run-off gushes or dribbles down it all summer long.  That's how functioning in a depression feels: as though the insides are weeping while you smile, have a department meeting, whatever. 

My father would always slow the car w-a-y down so that we could hold our hands out to catch the water.  It was one of my favorite things about the Park.  Still is.

So how do I hold out my hand to catch his run-off which is internal?  This morning I wrote that I was checking to say that some place in my heart is not empty because he is in my world.

One thing I need is to feel part of the fabric of life.  After so much failure with dogs, one of my clients scribbled "Thanks for another good week" on my invoice for his elderly Brittany spaniel.  I'd forgotten the $5 bill I needed to buy cigarettes and toilet paper the other morning and the guy at the counter said, "Don't worry about it.  Never worry about it."  He did that because I go there every day or so and I'm pleasant and funny and teasing and interested to hear that his small business is succeeding.  There are a dozen of these small things that make me feel better because they make me feel known.  

I can almost live without being appreciated.  But known?  That's amazing.

I want to jolly my friend along.  I want to send him the funniest YouTube videos and flowers and --

But I think, when I go to my darkest patches, that what is best is not to bug him too much, to respect his reasons, which I have the responsibility/privilege of knowing, and to occasionally let him know he has made me a better person.  I'm crying as I write this because I love him so much.  He has given me that gift -- of great love, of pain at his pain.

We are both in need of mercy.  Chances are, if you're reading this, you're in need of whatever form of mercy you believe in -- certain, absolute solace -- too.  As a person who believes everyone but me deserves that solace, may you find it.  And as a person who believes it is not her right, may I come to have faith that it is.

We change each other.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Oprah Says

I've been running across this quote I can't find in a quick search before I go walk Honey Bear this morning, something about what can you do today to change who you are in a year.

I'm thinking about it because I'm pulling through some precarious times right now and I've done more than my fair share of hiding from the scariness of that.  But today I got up at 7 and thought to myself with some marvel, "There are a thousand things you could do today.  What do you want to do?"

This is, on further reflection, not a terribly helpful optimism.  Too much choice is as deadly as being condemned to a list of horrid tasks.  The answer is, I don't know.  Most of the things don't match up to that Oprah thing, which got me wondering if Oprah really lives her life that way.  Does she get up every day and do something that will be memorable in a year, that will change her?  Because among the thousand possibilities for me are cleaning my house and going to the grocery store.  Both are driving me nuts but I'm not sure if straightening out some surfaces will change who I am in a year.

But then, Oprah probably doesn't scrub her bathroom floor or keep an eye on dwindling dog biscuits.

One of the things I need to do is push my own social media into some gear or another beyond what I do now.  In fact, this means treating myself as I do My Other Life.  My Other Life takes up prodigious amounts of time as it is.  I am obligated to it.  And now I have to treat myself, my publishing life, as I do My Other Life.

Dangerous ground for someone with the self-esteem of a fly caught in the spider web.

It means, too, admitting I have changed.  I'll have to switch names on my Twitter account, from Eating Ice Cream to plain old Frances Kuffel.  The picture I've used will have to change.  The picture of Eating Ice Cream with My Dog will have to become Love Sick on Facebook.  I'm no longer that book.  The most startling thing in the galley of Love Sick is a page that says "By Frances Kuffel" with three books under it.

I did that?

I got a jpeg of my jacket from my editor yesterday and had a conference call with her, my publicity person at Berkeley and my agent. 

I've done my math and I need to sell 8,000 copies of this book to earn out my advance.  I have a career to redeem.  I'm nervous.  I feel fatter and rustier than I did the hour before that call.

And now the deed is done.  The book is coming out on June 3rd.  The question then is the next book.  This will be the rosary book and I feel like a phony.  But the thing about the rosary is that it's so much about handing off struggle and even faith -- pray for us sinners, thy will be done and, from the Mysteries, "I have come to call sinners, not the just".  I think it's OK to be my kind of phony and say these prayers because I'm not flouting my piety, I'm parading my lack of faith, my questioning Catholicism, my neediness for a friend (or "Friend," as Louisa May Alcott would put it).

Which brings me back to today.  What should I do today?  What will change me in a year?  Will saying the rosary change me?  Will blogging change me?  Will cleaning the bathroom change me?

Maybe, for some of Us, the question is what will change us for the evening.  Crookedly holding to my Lent resolutions of the rosary and blog will make me a little more peaceful tonight, as would a cleaned up shelf or two, and some broccoli in my stomach.  An accumulation of such days would be a good year, a body of work. 

A lot hangs in the balance today, this week.  I've submitted proposals to increase the scope and remuneration of My Other Life.  I've got to set up things from My Other Life as parts of My Life.  Galleys are going out, ideas have been tossed around: Love Sick has set sail and is no longer mine.  Should I go in search of more walks or hang in there to see what happens with the proposals?

What should I eat for dinner?

Monday, March 17, 2014


OK, I missed another day.

Actually, I missed ALL of yesterday.  I was socially, emotionally, tensionly, and somewhat alcoholically hungover.

I can only take so much of humanity before I break out in invisible hives.  The drama of last week was hard on me and Saturday sent me into a tizzy.  I was asked to write proposals to doctor the social media lacks of a couple of entities, a phone call which made me late for a St. Patrick's Day party.  The phone call alone had me shaking but being late, to a party, sent me into a champagne bottle or two.  What should I talk about -- getting fired or this wonderful opportunity or blogging or...

I did talk about those things but what I remember best is a lecture a friend gave on quince.  Apparently quince is always inedible.  There is no ripe stage.  It is used in its rotting stage in a process called maceration, which the dictionary defines as "to cause to become soft or separated into constituent elements by or as if by steeping in fluid".  

Yeah.  Whatever.  Another friend laughed at the word and suggested quince could be made potable by mastication and you can imagine what I suggested what came next and we laughed and laughed.

For a couple of hours.

As I poured myself more champagne.

I rarely drink any more.  To do so would mean drinking alone and, really, I have enough filthy habits, don't I?  So it always waits for a social event held by someone who drinks and you've heard me mention that sort of thing never.  Even so, I don't think I was hung over the way I remember from my bad old days, but I didn't sleep well and I woke with a case of too-much.  Too much interaction, too much shaking anxiety, too much riding on getting my act together to write proposals, too much interaction waiting in blogging and praying and answering the phone.  I slept a lot, watched Hugh Laurie in Wooster and Jeeves, had some pork fried rice and went to sleep early, hoping I'd have more gumption today.

It was looking mighty doubtful in the first 90 minutes of the day.

You can teach old dogs new tricks.  For instance, Daisy, who will be ten in July, began to bark in the living room one morning when I was drinking coffee in the kitchen.  To shut her up, I gave her a cookie.

That's all it took.  Every morning now she starts shrieking for a cookie.  When she comes into the kitchen to do this, it pierces my ears but is, at least, less audible to neighbors.

After taking her morning dump, she managed to dribble a second that she didn't stop for on the way into the building.  I found this out 45 minutes later when I went out to walk another dog.  I posted an apology for the "ick-factor" in the front hall and can only hope my neighbors don't hate me any more than the shrieking/dog-hair-in-dryer already make them hate me.

Then as I was walking the second dog, a kid informed me that my smoking was worse for the dog than for me.  Oh, and that was after some brat in that building decided it would be really fun to ride the elevator dogs use and punch every button.

To finish it all off, I had a forwarded email complaining about something small and stupid in My Other Life.  I spent over half an hour tracking down the exact information and defending myself.  My boss was cool but I could only think the originator of the complaint should maybe get a life.

Which I'm trying to do and that half hour was an essential piece of it.

Thank the Lord that's where One of Those Days ended.  I got my proposals done and got a green light to submit them.  I'm almost breathing.  I'm wearing my one green shirt and about to lie down and breathe some more.

Also, thank the Lord for so much positive support regarding the last couple of posts and of my posting in general.  It is deeply felt and appreciated.

Now I'm going to lie down with Super Poop and consider my next moves.

Saturday, March 15, 2014


Got myself fired from the last blog I wrote.  I woke up yesterday not feeling well and feeling, especially, emotionally drained.  This business of studying my anxiety and studying what happens when I push against it, is wearying and it drops on me once a week like a black cloud that can't produce rain.  When I got the Facebook/text message telling me I was fired, I pretty much fell prey to the vapors.  I apologized, of course.  I hadn't intended to hurt anyone nor did I use names.  But I've seen myself caricatured in former friends' novels and stories and I know as well as anyone how much words can hurt. 

My immediate feelings were regret at hurting people I respect, and outrage at an anonymous reaction to the blog, which I published and you can read if you want.  A long time ago, I decided to vett comments because I was getting sales pitches; by having that option, I sometimes hear from people who want to maintain their privacy.  I didn't close comments to polish anything.

And I guess that led to my third reaction: I am what I am and I choose to write as honestly as I can about it.  I feel so full of fucked-up-ness that almost the only thing I can do is try to make it an asset.  I don't do this anonymously, I don't respond to people anonymously, I take risks.  Sometimes I am harsher than I should be because the writer takes over and calls a dog autistic.  I think I've called myself worse things in print.

I can see why it's hard to be my friend or be related to me.

In thinking about "I am what I am," I thought about the fact that the people involved in this firing don't know that I've pitched in financially to help people I know but have never spoken to when they were at rock bottom, or that I pick up litter or that whatever other stuff I'm not coming up with in the moment that is generous or kind or sweet or paying it forward, a sentiment I believe strongly in.  It became all about the Bad Stuff.  I wanted to claim in public that I have some good stuff, too.  I need to do that for myself.

This morning I asked myself the important question: would I not have posted that blog if I could turn back the clock?


I was startled at that answer.  It made me ask if I would have changed other, worse disruptions I've created and I was equally startled at the no I answered with.  If I have blogged from great pain and it has hurt someone, I was still telling my truth.  If I blew up at someone and was fired as a consequence, looked at honestly, it was time for me to blow up in a hamstrung situation.

If I made a comprehensive list of all my regrets, would I change them?  I have to think maybe not.

What I would change is my reactions to them, the unfortunate tendency I have to harbor regrets and grudges, the weight, literal and metaphorical, of them that I carry.

And I would change how I act on regrets from here on out.

Oddly, one of the friends who dropped unwittingly in to my rescue is someone who, in my mind's eye, swims in such regrets.  This friend is part of the graveyard that my hometown is for me.  There was an Incident.  I have never known how to get past the Incident and all the residual damage it caused.  It happened long ago and I have a hard time separating the living flesh of a relationship from the decay and bones of what can't be revived.

But I badly want to.  I'm going to try.

Sometimes the regrets aren't only about what is dead and should be buried but about the things left for dead that, when time passes, prove to be dynamically alive.

The worst of my fondling of all my regrets is that I leave myself for dead among them.  That is when life happened; this is the elegy.  It's time for me to re-evaluate regret, I think, and recognize that I'm alive.  My future is so terribly uncertain -- I don't want to be a dog walker in Brooklyn and I don't know how not to be.  But I'm breathing, I have a big vocabulary, I have no known mortal diseases.  The most secure of future-oriented persons in the world could be hit by a bus tomorrow: certainty and ambition and desire are only qualifiable, not quantifiable.   I may not have much of these things but I'm not dead.

And I have this post to prove it.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

How Not to Be Rich

The two things I'm proudest of last year are reducing my debt by almost $6000 and writing a short story for a friend who is editing an anthology about booze.  The story is called "How to Be Rich" and features a dog walker.  I don't write many short stories but this was good and I'm pleased with it and, in a way, more excited for it to come out than I am my own book.

Today I was inundated with the opposite: rich people who don't use their wealth in private situations, who substitute wealth, as it were, for personal responsibility.  And it featured a dog walker.

I could smell something awful when I opened the door to pick up two dogs.  The vacuum cleaner was out and I could hear laundry running, so I assumed it was a clean-up situation.  When I went into the living room to leash the second dog, I turned around to see diarrhea all over the floor.  The housekeeper wasn't there but a guy way, working on his laptop six feet away from the mess.  "Uh-oh," I said.  "Someone had an accident."  

"Yeah," he answered.  "I'm gonna clean it up."

"Do you know which dog?"

"I didn't notice," he said, still tapping away.

Um.  How do you not notice which dog leaves a small lake of shit six feet away from you.  I looked again and could tell it was the female dog's (you get to know these things) and, since she was barking like a used car salesman, I figured he would do what he said.  It was 12.30 and the housekeeper was probably at lunch.

I get back and hear him making noises of disgust so I call out as I unleash the dogs, "I'm pretty used to this.  Do you need help?"

He whips by me and says, "I'll call Barbara to tell her to tell Antonia to clean it up.  It's too disgusting."  The door shuts and the apartment is still as a very stinky tomb.

I found bags and paper towels and spray cleaner and wiped it all up, then opened the window to air out the fumes of bleach and poop. 

It made me think about the jackals that I fired last week.  Long before I got pulled down, I'd been having problems with biting when I put the gentle leader on one of them and had suggested a prong collar for the dog.  I sent them information about a wonderful behaviorialist who would work with the dog kindly and playfully -- that dog would have no idea he was being trained and growing self-confidence.  When I quit, I suggested two walkers who have training certificates and had room in their rosters for the dogs.  The last I heard, they had decided to have their adolescent son and baby-sitter walk the dogs.

Both sets of dogs live in buildings that wouldn't accept yuppie money.  These are Old Money buildings, one of them with rules about how many millions of dollars prospective buyers have to have in their bank accounts AFTER buying the apartment, in cash.

There are rich people and there are rich people.  In "How to Be Rich," I wrote about a couple who do it right.  Their money is used personally, to help out individuals.  But today I got to thinking about the people I've met in the 2 Percent who, while they vote liberally, take it for granted that their scared dog will reform himself or that shit will magically lift itself into a bag with a hint of lilac wafting after it.

That the jackals' owners couldn't bestir themselves to pay $20 at the pet store where they buy kibble for a prong collar in the four weeks before I quit is amazing.  That they don't care enough about their dog's fear-based bad and dangerous behavior is heartbreaking as concerns the dog and disregardful of the walker (who is now their son).

That this visitor would depend on the housekeeper to come home from lunch or errands to a trail of crap rather than suck it up and just deal with it astonishes me.  How does he think the 98 Percent deal with an accident?  Why should the housekeeper be left to deal with the most disgusting mess?  Did she sign a contract for cleaning bodily fluids?

Did the guy visiting the house have so little regards for the dogs themselves?  I mean, if you're using a friend or relative's couch to compute on, don't you owe them some responsibility?

Also among the 2 Percent is the rivalry of servants trying to work for them.  There are two walkers who come at the same time to deal with the three dogs, one a puppy in need of a longer walk than the two agoraphobic autistic dogs who aren't really dogs at all.  So you bet I texted Barbara, the owner, that the apartment would be cold and why.  Us servants are in a territorial war over people who don't care what their pets and other servants do and feel.  And I know very well that the buddy to have in the house is the housekeeper as much as the owner.  I wanted Antonia to owe me one.

(To be fair, if Barbara had been home when Antonia was out, she would have cleaned up the mess.  It's the visitor who assumes noblesse oblige I'm complaining about, not the owners.)

Rich people make the Rest of Us do icky things.  Cleaning up poop is the least of it.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Drainage Martinis

Winter will resume its frigid course tonight but we had a cooler, grayer version of yesterday in which to hope and act.  The garbage trucks were out in fleets today and I saw a sanitation inspector pull up to the curb of a neighboring brownstone, one of two derelicts left in a neighborhood whose gentrification has been gentrified several times over.  He was peeking in a box left on the curb, looking bleak, and I said, "You have a job now, with everything under the snow coming to light."  He laughed at what could only be laughable because the sidewalks and gutters were so despicable as the ice receded.  Later I noticed that Hicks Street, except for that house, had had a good cleaning up, and even that brownstone was slightly tidier than in the morning.

My action was to have a pedicure, sorely needed because my toenails were catching in the loose weave of one of my blankets.  Actually, I was verging on looking like a Chinese scholar when I took my socks of and got a good gander of what's been happening since Christmas.  I'd intended to just get them hacked off and maybe varnished but a dog had cancelled, I had 600 pages of Hans K√ľng in hand, so I went for some frosting that is exactly the shade of slightly too-strong Crystal Light Fruit Punch.  (God, I love fruit punch.  Send over some fruit punch, onion rings and a lotta ketchup, wouldja?)

I'm quite proud of myself even though I was so anxious that I forgot to look at the name of the polish, which is half the attraction.  For a while, when I was a Worker Bee, I wore a color called Pepperoni.  It was a good color but it was always a joke when I went it and got re-colored.

Coming home, a man was hacking up ice and sending it skittering to the drains on either side of Love Lane.  He was really whammin' and I laughed and said, "Die!  Die you dirty evil ice and never resurrect yourself again!"  He grinned and said he liked the way I think but I couldn't help looking at these chunks of ice on the grates and thinking of a nearby sushi restaurant that advertises "Tuna Martinis".  Bafflement and repugnance vie every time I walk by.  It seemed to me my neighbor was making Spring Martinis, on the rocks.  Talk about asking for cirrhosis...

Getting that pedicure was a big deal.  Getting my toes dyed was an even bigger deal.  The only person who'll see them while in good condition is me.  I don't expect flip-flops for a good five weeks.

Speaking of drainage, I'm in charge of Emmett, the paranoid schizo-affective for a number of days.  I have noticed that the more highstrung a dog is, the more he pees.  Emmett is about every two standing or stationary objects.  The other thing about schiz-boy is that he looks behind him.

Daisy isn't exactly easy-going on the street.  In fact, she is Joan Rivers with Tourette's Syndrome set on speed dial for suspicion.  But once I get her behind a car (a joke with other walkers when they see me pause behind a car as they pass on the sidewalk with their crews: "What dogs?  I don' see any dogs, do you?") it can be her worst enemy and it's sight out of mind.  If we can't make a get-away, I cinch her to my side and once the dog passes that's it.  End of wackiness.  Not so with Emmett.  He hums, turns back, walks on a forward diagonal of paranoia, whimpers, has to pee on everything, and bounces around like Tigger.

Unlike the jackal who broke my face, however, I can put Emmett on a gentle leader without getting puncture wounds and I can control him well with it.  The worst is that Daisy, who talks for the sake of talking and has never heard of an indoor voice, gets him all riled up and out of control.

Three months out from the pub date of Love Sick.  My agent, editor and publicist need to have a conference call.  Some things my publisher didn't do for me with Angry Fat Girls really hurt my feelings.  I'm saving money to publicize and wonder if I should pull a Joe Kennedy and buy all the copies I can afford.  I wonder if I'm welcome in Seattle and, more importantly, Missoula, or if my publisher can set up signings.

This is a little bit of revenge for me because I've learned a lot from working for the Other Side of My Life. 
Today I went through all the posting sites and copied them down as places to try to get the book a mention.  I need to sit down with someone and brainstorm what I can do, which will essentially tie me to the same places and actions as I do the other half of the day as Dr. Jekyll.  But at least I have some skills, some specific things and places to try, some requests I won't back off on.  I decided, walking home from being declawed, that I might send a free copy of Love Sick to each person who shows a recent proof of purchase for buying Eating Ice Cream with My Dog.  A win-win, albeit an expensive one.  And I have an idea for a web `zine column I need to muster the courage for, which also means reviving my Psychology Today presence.  I'm turning into My Other Self, into Mr. Hyde, but at least it's in my own service.

Anybody got any ideas?

This blog is brought to you by rain.  Had Daisy not been wet when we came in from our walk, I'd have gone back to bed to wallow in the dread of the last season of House.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Spring Follies

So it was an exhausting 64 degrees today.  The weather changed too quickly and I think everybody felt dozy and too hot today.  Never fear: "Vulcan" is coming: is coming.  It will be in the 20s on Thursday.


I did four loads of laundry today.  I got in trouble for leaving hairy machines behind, so I'd been putting it off out of anxiety (leaving the Bat Cave to go downstairs), fear and sloth.  I wiped the machines down with a dark towel to see how much hair I left behind and followed with a Swiffer cloth.  Did my best, folks.  & by the way, can anyone in my building read??  The bottles and cans go in the dumpsters next to the elevator and the paper goes in the cans on the other side and Styrofoam in a box should be removed and placed in the trash before recycling.  Somebody had to straighten that out so forgive me if there are some dog hairs left behind.

I also hauled your packages in.

I'm weary and on edge.  A friend told a story on herself that left her feeling vulnerable and foolish and while I was walking her dog I noticed the Jogger was still stretching and talking on her cell phone outside the St. George apartment building.  When I brought her dog back, I said, "You know, there's a big difference between being an idiot and an asshole."  I described the jogger's belt, which was in the colors of the WWII British Army in North Africa.  It was molded plastic with four or so somewhat grenade-shaped water bottles clasped to it, something like this:

It is an asshole accessory.   You either have to be jogging from Brooklyn to Central Park or have thigh gaps to get away with that.  She had neither.  With her swingy pong tail, light-hearted chatter and one leg braced on a planter, I expected something and she was very plain, verging on unattractive.

Am I being mean?  You betcha.  It was performance art gone wrong, someone who'd looked at too many copies of Self or Women's Health and mistook herself for a model. 

So if my friend was berating herself for a mistake, at least she wasn't play acting some glossy magazine's dictation.

I don't much like joggers.  They often run in twos, which means I an the dogs end up on the street.  If they come up behind me and Daisy on her side, she's like to bark and lash out at being startled.  Joggers have the most terrible sense of personal space of anyone over the age of eight, and because I was late taking Daisy and Honeybear out today, we got to experience the full joy of kids weaving around on their scooters, walking backwards while talking to their Spanish-speaking nannies who were talking on their cell phones instead of telling the kids to watch out, and up to all those assorted high jinx that are fine in Appleton, Wisconsin, where dogs stay in the back yard and old people live in communities but which tears the rights of everyone else apart for their Yuppie Princess Scum privilege. Why can't all children be Jane and Michael Banks following behind Mary Poppins?  Mary would never have a cell phone.

I'm grumpy.  A day of laundry will do that, as will a day when I was overheated.

All of this grumpiness is making me the asshole.  It irks me because my dog in unpredictable and because I so often feel I have no right to walk on the sidewalk with normal-sized people.  I definitely do not envy the jogger's ammo belt but...  I envy something.  I envy the body I once had that could have taken her savings and gone to Amsterdam this spring but is too frightened of airplane seats and walking to attempt it.

But it still doesn't excuse the ammo belt.

And yes, I was obsessed with Mary Poppins as a kid.  The movie came out when I was in 2nd grade and my mother bought me this Mary Poppins dolls that had the chalk painting outfit, including parasol, the traveling outfit, including carpet bag, and the blue-and-white pinstriped nursery outfit.  She was perfection.

God, I'd love to have all my toys back in good condition...

Or be in 2nd grade again, weaving crazily down the sidewalk from the bus stop, on my way home to Sandy and Jet, the dogs who were up for anything...

Monday, March 10, 2014

Excitement on Pierrepont Street

Appropriately out-of-focus, but what can you expect with two dogs on the line?

Today I will not say hello to anyone, I will say, "Snowdrops!"

It can only mean two things: crocuses are coming, as is the ice storm of the century.

But I've always believed the glass was half empty and filled with polio-infected pond scum.

They are also wonderful because I hauled my ass into Key Food after walking a poodle and bought healthy, green food.

But noticed that all the Entemanns are on sale for $2.99.

Only time will tell.

Sunday, March 09, 2014


I get a little obsessed with numbers.  I just went over my bills and it looks as if I won't make my planned-for reduction of $800 on credit cards this month.  This, of course, means I'm a failure.

I'll fall $150 short of that goal unless I make extra payments, which I could but I'm also counting up what I owe for the next month and wondering this, that and another thing.  When will I get paid for My Other Life?  What will I make walking dogs this week?  Does it really matter if I fall short when I will still have reduced every balance, made no new charges and paid everything on time?

That's the deal with being self-employed: you never know.  I saw posters for a dog walker on the street today and it worried me that I don't have plans to do that at present.  What if this Interloper takes the few available dogs?

There are not a "few" dogs.  There are plenty.  But I'm counting. 

Right now everything depends on taxes, which I'm waiting to hear about.  I have some savings.  Those savings, small as they are, have been put carefully together to: 1) pay taxes, 2) buy a new PC, 3) possibly go on book tour if my publisher thinks it advisable, 4) have my medical deductible on-hand, 5) pay veterinarian check-up, 6) travel when I finally feel like I can do that, which also hangs on the next book project.

It's no wonder I like saying the rosary.  I can count.

What's ridiculous in all of this is that I've never been this solvent before.  This hovering at paying off credit cards has definitely roused anxiety: I stopped going out much to save the money and not add to the balances, and it's also an obsession.  I walk dogs thinking not only about what I'll bank at the end of the week but how long it will take me to be out of debt. 

Debt is one of the few things that has kept me going.  What and who will I be without it?  Another anxiety.

And at 8.20 pm when my body says it's only 7.20 pm, it's an anxiety I need to postpone. 

Short post.  Got to...walk Daisy, I guess.  And wonder what the damage of taxes is going to be.  Oh -- I desperately need a plumber, too.  My kitchen sink is hopeless.


Saturday, March 08, 2014

House of House

Forget heroine.  Forget Ben & Jerry's Heath Bar Crunch.  Forget Stoli.  The New Binge is watching an entire season of something in a sitting.  To be really cool, it should be House of Cards.  I'm on 1/3 cool, so it's House.  Or House M.D.  I've gone so far as to get a portable DVD player when the one connected to my TV decided to start saying my disks were unreadable.  I spent the flu too weak to order that portable DVD and too freaked at what a lot of House would do to me in a fever, but as soon as I was well, I ordered one and bought the rest of the seasons and now I rush home or to my bed after I've done my day's stuff to crawl into this small world of the DVD player on my chest and a hyper dose of cynicism.  I can now nominate Hugh Laurie and John Malkovich as the best smirkers ever.

These last couple of weeks I've been really letting myself feel my anxiety.  I've been letting it be the suffocating soggy blanket that it wants to be -- while trying to get on with my obligations anyway.  It's been an experiment because I want to know its true extent as I try some things to work on it.  When I felt like I was in a corset at having to walk the jackal who pulled me down, I decided to fire the gig.  It took two weeks to make the decision, but I'm a slow decision-maker and slow to react except with self-pity to almost everything except my family (sorry, guys: you get the unedited id of me -- on the other hand, you actually get to see and talk to me ever, which nobody can say about me any more: love you).  Is dog anxiety worth it?  What will the anxiety of going to copy posters and hang them up and meet dog owners cost me versus the rickety feeling I have before and after walking the miserable bastard?  It takes me a while to register my fear and then reason it out.  The pain of breaking my face, and my self-pity over the money and the pain were automatic but the reasonable conduct took some time.

Today I woke in a sweat of anxiety.  It wasn't about going out of the house but it was partly about this blog.  For the first time in two weeks, I had time today.  There was my other life to attend to, which I felt resentful of, and there were two outside dog walks, but other than that there was time to do my laundry, pray, write, think -- and I was immobilized.  I've just been chastised for not cleaning the washer/dryer of dog hair (I try, really) and so I've let laundry mountain up.  It's hard enough to get my shit together to go down to the cellar and do it, but now I have to worry about cleaning well enough after.  If that was hard, what was I going to find in the rest of what I had ample time for?

So I walked Daisy and started reading a l-o-n-g New Yorker article about fusion physics.  House actually makes me anxious, too, because I know how the series ends, how bad it gets in the last two seasons and I've worked my way into those seasons.  I also know it continually surprises me and, sometimes, hits close to home.  So I get a little freaked out about the thing I'm supposed to be hiding in.  The best antidote to that is The New Yorker when I get an issue that's interesting but doesn't directly pertain to my life.

But even fusion can go on too long and the nap I craved didn't last that long and so I picked up my nifty little DVD player and watched the first disk of Season Whatever. 

I love the humor of House.  I used to love the medical mysteries but I've heard the same diseases -- taxo-this, lympho-that -- too much now, watched too many "Get a crash cart in here" moments to not be cynical about the medicine.  I stay with it because of House himself, because of Laurie's ability to portray loneliness, gruff unwilling humanity.
It's naked, this man's balled up and ignored need.  Mine is naked here and in my books and, occasionally, when I blow up in my family, but mostly I walk around pretending the need is met, clothed, all grown up and acting like...oh, I don't know.  Self-acceptance, I think.  Because what keeps someone from needing except the hideousness of need and the hideousness of a history of unmet need?

I philosophize.  I didn't mean to.  I meant to claim my place as being One Third Cool because I, too, have an unnecessary piece of electronics and a binge of seasons going on.  I guess I needed to betray myself after all...