Another Level of Childhood Crumbles

Awaking to a crisp late winter’s morn I find myself sitting at the kitchen table. Glancing out the window I stare serenely at the unique flora and fauna that only exists in Australia. I sip my bracing cup of tea courage and ever so slowly, begin contemplating the days plans. Enveloped in my cocoon of  tea, chilly air and beautiful Birds of Paradise flowers I am lulled into a sense of peace and harmony.

Hearing my daughter call out from the kids computer, “Oh, I’m sorry, did I teabag you?” careens rather viciously into my thought process and pulls me by the earlobe back into my true world.

Blinking stupidly, I pull myself up to my full height and march with righteous indignation to the kids computer desk and swiftly gear up the parental machine.  I sincerely believe I hear ONWARD CHRISTIAN SOLDIERS! blaring behind me. Only three sips down on my tea;  however this is not something that can wait for chemical-induced sanity. “ I beg your pardon!?!?!?  Children do not speak like that in MY house.  Have you lost your mind?! Do you even know what that means!?”

My castigation met with timid curiosity.  “Um, I’m sorry….was that bad?  I didn’t know.  I’m sorry. I saw someone say it in the game”  Crud. the indignant anger oozes out of me like black clouds floating away.  She didn’t know what she was saying.

Don’t roll your eyes at me.  I know what the general masses are thinking, “SAP!  Of course she knew, she’s LYING to you!”  Please, just stop right there.  This is not my first rodeo, Cupcake.  I do not have endless trust in my children, particularly this kid.  No, she lies when it makes more sense to tell the truth.  She lies with style and a near poetic grace.

No, I believe in her honesty because when I did explain what tea bagging means her wails of disgust ricocheted throughout the house.

“Why would anyone do that?!?!? That is sooo disgusting!”, she cried.

Sweet Bleedin’ Jesus, it is too early in the morning for such a deep philosophical discussion about the finite differences between men and women.  I am in no mental position to have an in-depth conversation right now. So I stick to the highlights and quickly inform her about men and women.  “Yes, boys do find tea bagging entertaining.  Boys are weird.  You know this because I’ve told you this often. This is not news” I countered with bored desperation.  “Listen Sweetie, I don’t tell you these pearls of wisdom to make up funny stories.  They are different from us.  I’m not saying better or worse, but they are in fact, different. Accept it now and while I won’t lie and say that Life will get easier; it will be tolerable.”

The “over the eye glasses” look she gave me was exactly like the one I gave my mother when she explained the Facts of Life to me.  Horror, disgust, apprehension and more than a little disdain. Speaking slowly and succinctly,  (I know this technique.  It’s the same one I use with people who attempt to educate me on politics, health food plans and the dangers of icky vaccines. I must admit, I’m genuinely impressed with her ability to display such an intense level animosity and disgust, all the while pretending to seek clarity.  All this at the age of eleven? Perhaps she’s more my daughter than I thought?)  she says to me, “Are you seriously telling me that boys dangle their boy bits at their enemies faces because it entertains them?”

I return the volley in the same speed but I just can’t generate the equal level of derision. Not at this time of the morning. “No Baby, sometimes they do it to their friends too.”

At that point I ran up the flag and retreated, eager to put the entire unfortunate moment behind me.  In interests of full honesty, I must admit that it did feel uncomfortable to return to drinking tea after that conversation, but I decided it was time to be the grown up. The tea was cooling, the other kids were rising and my Zen moment was officially shot to Hell.  I needed whatever fortitude I could manage in a few seconds.  A few minutes later I heard a loud grunt from the computer table, “Stupid lag!” an angry shove of the chair and storming of feet into the next room.

Yes Girl, you’ll be a woman soon.

Dressing the Part

I have been at my daughters’ school more in the last ten days then I have been in the past three years.  All good stuff, no Mummy Mafia nonsense.  If I stick to my older girl’s classroom it’s okay, too much time in my youngest one’s room and the glares and nose-tipping up starts.

My oldest studied the Australian Government last term.  Since both Australia and the US once belonged to the same country I thought it might be interesting for the kids to learn about the US Government and how it works.  How it works on paper that is, no comments about the dysfunctional situation of the last twenty years.

When I arrived to talk in Connor’s class I decided that I should represent politics in the manner that I cared about.  So I wore this shirt.

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It’s a political comment for sure and it represents me.  It’s as political as I care to be these days.  I felt it worked.

My talk went well enough that the teacher for the other Year 6 class contacted me and asked me to come back and speak in HIS class.  Whoa.  Not expecting that at all.  This created a fashion dilemma though as I felt it would be gauche and decidely not fashion-forward for me to wear the same shirt within a week.  After much soul-searching and wardrobe review I selected this pearl.

Whatever Texas

It doesn’t mean much diddly squat in Australia, but mark my words, back in the US this is a barn burner!  Families will go to war with each other over this shirt.  After my talk one boy asked me if I truly believed that Texas was the best state and if all the other states were useless.  I told him bluntly, “I can tell you truthfully, with the possible exception of Ohio, all states have something to offer.”  Sadly, the class didn’t grasp the meaning of this statement as Pittsburgh Steelers fans are far and few in between here, however it made me feel good.

After this lightening fast dip into the teaching world….and an even faster dip out of said world, I was informed that my presence was requested at the next school assembly. It seems I am to be given a token of the schools gratitude and esteem: being called up on stage to receive an actual major award.  No sarcasm here in any form, I was stunned that this would be deemed worthy.  It does lead me to an all important question though.

What could I possibly wear?

Here were the first few choices.

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I think we all understand that this is the obvious choice.  It succinctly proclaims my status as a Star Wars enthusiast, while celebrating the multiple levels of my sovereignty.  Plus it is cool!  Sadly, it is technically still winter here and while I won’t say it’s cold, it most assuredly is not sleeveless t-shirt weather. Perhaps I will have to continue the streak of awesome school work into the coming warmer months.

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I used to wear this one when I worked the school canteen.  It helpful when trying to not be snowed by an 8 year old trying to score free food. One of my first t-shirt purchases from Thinkgeek.com

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This is actually Ted’s shirt.  His favorite in fact.  It’s in weekly wearing rotation right now, so there’s no way I could take it today as I’m not doing laundry quick enough to get it back in the closet.  Truthfully,  I’m not seriously considering it, as it’s a little too snarky for the occasion and I am genuinely grateful.  But it does make a honest statement about my personality. I bought this for Ted from Thinkgeek.com when he was having trouble from PM types making constant demands on his time.  His entire Dev team loves it.  He even wears it when he interviews potential employees.  I think THAT says a lot about HIS personality.

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Nothing really to do with school, kids or government, but by God, truer words have never been spoken. I received this as a present from Ted and the kids.  Pretty sure it came from Thinkgeek.com.

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I like this because it’s educational and it’s about science.  Heavy metals.  Were you aware of all the heavy metal elements?  Well, now you can have a shirt that lists them in excellent, headbanging fonts..  I have Thinkgeek.com to thank for this gem.

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My shirt of disambiguation also from surprise, surprise,  Thinkgeek. I’m starting to see a trend here with my clothing purchases.  All parents need this shirt.  You think you can’t tire of saying the word no? Trust me, by the end of the 4000th time in a single day, your throat starts to hurt a bit.  Save yourself some time and throat ache and just buy this shirt.

In the end, I fear that I have to remember that my daughters would be in the audience – one anyway, the other is off on a school trip, so I will cave in to the elitist conformity brigade and will wear a normal boring outfit.  Sigh.  I am ashamed.

Don’t EVER say I didn’t do anything for you Kids.  This cost my rebel soul a fair bit.

Utopian Phone

Modern Tech-wise I am an unholy hybrid of Apple and Android. Specifically, I speak iTunes like a native, Mac like an Ugly American, PC like a 4th year high school foreign language student and Android like an over-worked mother who’s still traumatized by watching every episode of Dora the Explorer at least three times.
¿Cuál fue tu parte favorita, Boots? “The end Dora, my favorite part is the end.”
I enjoy quite a few aspects of the modern tech world and despise just as many.  I’m sadly immature in that regards. I like what I like, hate what I don’t understand, and pine for what I want most of all. Gimme what I want now and just as quickly take away what I don’t want. So there.

This intolerant attitude is causing me a fair amount of grief right now. A long time iPhone devotee, I switched to Android a few months ago. I was fed up with Apple’s stagnant mantra of “This is what you need and if we provide it in a way you don’t like, that’s your fault!” As my maturity level dropped I found my self regularly swearing, “You are not the boss of me!”  Well, that phrase plus a handful more expressive ones. I may be acting juvenile, but I am still me.

In an attempt to teach Apple a lesson in customer service I wandered over to the Droid side of the smart phone aisle. I found The Sony Xperia Compact. It ticked all the boxes I needed that Apple refused to give me. First, it was small. I already have a tablet for video watching and app use. I need something small that I can hold in my hand and lose in my purse. Also, expandable memory. This is extremely important to me because I am like Sybil with my interests and I need different things to have readily available. My audiobooks are my current drug. I listen to them every moment I’m alone in my car and I get bored quickly so I keep 5 or 6 books on at all times.

If you aren’t aware of audiobook files, allow me to explain. It’s basically a folder with a metric ton of .mp3 files. So a folder of songs. The bigger the book, the larger the file. I listen to the Outlander book series and they grow in chapter size equal to the size of their fan base since the television show came out. These suckers are huge. I need lots of memory. If I’m honest, I really enjoy being able to add to memory on my phone since in real life my memory is fading pathetically. I have no control over that, but my golly I can increase my phone’s memory. Eh, it works for me.

So here I am with new spiffy, expandable memory and waterproof phone. Almost six months in and I hate it with a fiery passion. Sure, I can expand the memory, but sheesh, micro memory cards are expensive. I bought the super intense awesome film screen protectors so I wouldn’t need a case. The phone was a cool jade color which of course I wanted to show off.  Great huh?  Yes, it was until the phone was a part of my normal day and got dropped a several hundred times. Front was great and took the impact like a champion. The back? Shattered like a young girls dreams. Why the hell is the back made of glass? Chunks of teal glass were collecting in my purse, cutting my fingers so I bought an El Cheapo Crapo rubber case for $3 off of Ebay. No problem. Phone is now a nasty Pepto Bismol shade of pink but fine. No more glass in my fingers I can live without the cool trendy color.

I have an older car with no AUX port ( I know, right? What is this 2006?) So I use a cassette player with a cable that plugs into my phone and all it good. Except now with the new case to keep glass from escaping the plug doesn’t go into the phone port. I have to pull the case away to plug in the phone. My level of annoyance is creeping up but I refuse to be THAT PERSON, who bitches about the problem caused by the solution I decided on. I am going to make this work. Damn it.

A few days later…..two to be exact… While attempting to plug my phone into the car I noticed that the case it stuck on the phone. Digging deep and channeling my forfathers for strength, I rip the case back apart so I can plug in the cassette cable. That’s when I see the minuscule green door that had covered the power port had been ripped off and was now lying on the floor. Without this magical minuscule door the phone can not be sealed and that makes it no longer waterproof. Being waterproof was one of main selling points as my iPhone 5 died because Damn Dog got out of the pool and dripped on it, killing it horribly before my very eyes.

Now I have a phone I can’t afford to max out on memory size the back and oh goody, now the front screen are smashed because I am incapable of holding onto a phone and it’s not waterproof. I am not happy. I am swearing every time I pick this thing up. 18 months to go left on the contract and I am ready to set fire to it.

I have to find and download extra apps that help me get music and other files from iTunes to my phone, I can not get the notifications to work – I either get messages two or three days after they are sent or JOY, Not at all!  For some ridiculous reason known only to the geekiest of geeks,  my cool message alert: Eric Idle announcing, “And Now for Something Completely Different” blares out not once, but two times. Turn the volume down you say? Not that simple my friend, not that simple.  Which one? The phone volume? The Ringtone volume? Perhaps the Audio files volume? I don’t know which one is being used when I hit the snazzy button to turn down the sound. Usually I am just turning the phone off, clearly not realizing it which leaves me to miss calls or texts. This leads to headaches and profoundly obscene words. PROFOUNDLY. I curse like a trooper. I am not exaggerating.

Apple, Google, God, Yahweh or the Easter Bunny, whichever one of you is listening. Please cut us normal tech-interested, but not tech-obsessed people a break. I like the smart phones, I do. But I don’t need one the size of a tablet. It needs to be small so it fit in my hand. Let me have a simple one button set up to create a wi-fi hotspot for my tablet to use the internet. I want to be able to transfer files EASILY DAMN IT from my PC to my phone to tablet and back. I DON’T GIVE A FLYING RATS TUSH how it happens. I just want it to do it. Don’t bother making apps to explain it to me, I don’t care. I have a limited amount of memory right now and I have to use it for figuring out the hell I get back and for from my kids’ school and when the next damn note is due back to a teacher. I am not wasting it on the internal workings and code of a mobile phone.

I want expandable memory that is cheap! I want to add any damn file I want, whether it’s bought from Apple, Google Play or Manny’s House of Ill-Gotten Gaines. For the love of all that is holy, do not make the back out of something breakable, are you insane? What person thought this was a good idea? Find them and put them in time out. They did a very bad thing.

Most people will scoff at my little Utopian dream. Apple and Google working together? Sniffing the kids glue again, are we?  No I am not. Learned years ago that stuff is just nasty. What I am doing is dreaming.  I can hope that someday, somewhere little Apple boys and Google girls can play together and create a better world. In the world I will be able to shout from the mountain tops,

“Free at last! Thank God Almighty, Yahweh and Easter Bunny, I am free at last!”

Voice in My Head

Unexpectedly, there was a moment of quiet.  Somehow in the roar of the day a tiny window of silence opened, creating a serene setting of peace and dare I say it…harmony.

I stood still, simply allowing the absence of noise envelope me.  I was lucky, this time I had a good fifteen seconds before the ominous knocking started.  Fifteen seconds of feeling nothing at all was a gift from the heavens to be savored.  Unfortunately this gift was temporary and the knocking got louder and angrier.  A life time of experience that has taught me not to ignore the knocking. It’s best to get it over with as quickly as possible and then hopefully the recovery process can start.

“Yes, I’m here.” I said to the sound and like many times before, the voice began crooning in my ear.  “Of course you’re there, idiot.  Where else could you possibly be? Traveling somewhere exotic again?” came a calm, condescending and also clearly annoyed voice.  It was more annoyed than usual.  Something was up. This was not the regular chastising voice.  I was in for it.

“Did you simply not notice that you have received yet another notification encouraging you to write?  Perhaps you’ve been waiting for an engraved invitation to grace the masses with your poetic prose?”  Drip, drip, drip came the sarcasm from the voice inside my head.

Ah yes, my writing.  My seven year old blog which I have ignored these past three months, that was the problem.  I haven’t been able to write a word lately.  Everything just rings false as soon as I try. I’ve given it up as a bad job.

“Yes, ahem,  I saw the notice from WordPress and also from a few friends on Facebook.  I’ve seen it.  But you know that things have been rough lately.  I haven’t written anything since we put Holly down. There has just been too much going on.  I’m not funny when I’m sad.” I countered bravely, but we both knew I was already faltering.  The phrase LIAR hurtled through my brain like a flame exploding through a tunnel.  “You have been posting all kinds of drivel on Facebook and Twitter.  You even got involved with that silly fight on the moms group online.  You have lots to say, you’re just too much of a coward and weakling to say it!” my inner monologue howled at me.  This voice never bothers with flowery communication and goes straight for the killing shot every chance possible.

Trying to keep calm and hoping to control the conversation, I attempted to list what I felt were solid reasons for not writing anymore.  “You know that my son got hurt.  It was awful..” Interrupting the voice said, “Yeah, HE got hurt.  Not you.  What about all those hours in the hospital you played The Room and didn’t write anything?  Loser.”

Smarting, I tried again. “We lost Holly.”  I could hear the snorting, “Yes, a cat.  You lost a cat.  Haven’t you read stories about people loosing limbs and then climbing mountains?  What about the stories of kids with cancer who get up and sing and dance?  You lost a kitten.  Big deal”

“It was a big deal!  I never said her death was more important than people suffering from cancer.  It hurt to watch her die, can’t I be sad about watching a 7 month old kitten die?”

“Wah, wah, wah. You’re weak. You’re crying over a cat that you only had a few months and ignoring a blog you’ve written on for years. You’re always sad about something.  Your friends are right, you complain all the time.”  “Who said that?!?!” I demanded.  “Snort, who doesn’t say it is the better question.” came the bored reply.

“You know what, you suck!”  I cried.  “You are the worst inner voice ever.  All around the internet there are jackasses who say whatever they want.  They foist the most ridiculous and ludicrous ideas on the planet and spout their filth it to the heavens.  Why?  They have nothing inside their heads telling them to be quiet.  There are no voices inside their head telling them how mind numbing their opinions are.  Why don’t you ever, EVER tell me I’m great?!  Hell, I’d settle for once just telling me I’m not so horrible.”

“Now, now, shhhh…lets not be so sensitive. I’m only saying these things to get your mind back on track.  You just said it yourself.  Those morons have nothing inside their heads. So of course there is nothing telling them to stop.  No need to shoot the messenger.” Suddenly the voice was kinder, almost soothing. Desperate to stop feeling attacked, I almost fell for the lulling tone.

“After all, it’s not my fault you think you’re only funny when you rant about something. Perhaps you’re just concerned that you have no talent anyway.  You can’t honestly think that impressing your friends, college sorority sisters and your mom’s high school friend with your online writing is actually an accomplishment!”

Ah yes, there’s the knockout punch.  Kindness followed by an uppercut of “just telling it like it is”.  Pffffftttt.   I should never forget with whom I’m dealing. No one has ever said anything to me more vicious than what I say to myself.

Enough.  I open my eyes and look around for some chaos to grab me.  Ah good.  Damn Dog is throwing up on the carpet again.  Back to reality.

Life does continue.  My son is doing much better and on Tuesday, we brought home a new kitten and her name is Echo. She’s not sick and hopefully we will have years with her.  I am working on telling my inner demons to shove it and maybe, just maybe I can find my writing voice again.

In the meantime, can we just have science working on a way to transfer inner demons to the people who need them the most?  I think the people who started the “Keep Calm and whatever on” posters and the annoying K family from from California would be a good place to start.

Death and Life

When our kitten Holly was six months or so old we learned that she was horribly ill. She began walking with a wobbly rear end. University of Google said it was a neurological illness with the layman friendly name of Wobbly Cat Syndrome. That didn’t seem too bad. We have a kitten with special needs. Lucky she found us because we are a family filled with special needs. Need a little extra help with something? Line forms to the rear, Sweetie. We have jackets and a team song.  Welcome to the club.

Time moved on and Holly started having trouble using the litter box. Annoying to be sure, but I have had toddlers in my life before; this isn’t fatal. Next we tried to get her de-sexed and the vet wouldn’t do the procedure because of the wobbling….could be something more serious, he said. Let’s get some history on her, he said. The vet then called the rescue when adopted her from and that’s when we learned the ugly truth.  We now heard that all her littermates haddied from Feline Infectious Perionitus- known as FIP.  Her brothers and sisters all died within a few weeks of birth. The foster mom didn’t want to worry me because Holly lived and seemed fine. She didn’t know that there are some cases of FIP that don’t just show until 6-9 months of age. She didn’t realise that the chances of a mother cat transmitting FIP to all but one kitten in utero is next to nil. A nice person, but she didn’t know.

Again University of Google was called on deck and I learned far more than I ever wanted to know about this wretched disease.  The worst thing I learned was that it was fatal. Sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly.  Fatal though, always fatal. Nothing left to do but watch, wait, and see what symptoms developed and treat them as they come until the end.

Being the mature responsible adult I am, I ignored this new development completely. A kitten dying in my house? Dying right in front of my children? Nope. My battle-weiry brain was putting up with none of this crap. Buried on the back burner underneath a pile of Life’s woes,  the tidbit of horror was shelved. There it stayed because I simply was not going to deal with this. 

Last month a tidal wave of calamitous events began.  My son shattered his leg and we lived for a week in the hospital. Just as it looked like he was starting to recover we were hit again.  My husband called me as I was next to my sons sick bed to tell me that Holly had fallen and that he was on his way to the vet. Since we were already dividing up duties, that meant my girls had to go along to the vet and hear every word about Holly, FIP and what kind of death was coming.

Ignoring the hot mess was abruptly removed from our list of options. Death was coming and it was coming quickly.  It could be days or weeks now, but it was coming and we all knew it. 

Death is not a pleasant house guest. Death is a rotton bastard that sits in the corner and eavesdrops on every conversation. He shadows every aspect of your life. Every time you try to plan ahead, Death is there laughing at you; loudly erasing your plans off the calendar. Death makes you angry. You see Death every damn day, hiding in every room you enter and you say horrible things that  of course, you don’t mean. “Won’t you just die already! I have so much to do! I don’t have time to deal with this also!”  Death then giggles when the guilt of saying those awful things eats you alive. Death agrees that you are a selfish, evil bastard. 

Death doesn’t stay forever though. Death reaches the end and Death decide when enough is enough. Holly had another seizure, this leaving her unable to walk or hold her head up. She stopped eating and drinking. I signed my girls out of school early and along with my son we spent the afternoon with her. We carried her into the yard so she could smell flowers and tickle her nose with the grass. She got to hiss at Sasha one last time.

Death rode shotgun with me later in the day as I dove Holly to the vet. I held her wrapped up in a towel against my chest while Death jeered at me that I would cause an accident. I’m ashamed to say that I didn’t care. I just wanted to feel her heartbeat against my chest as long as I could. Death sat next to me in the waiting room as an elderly couple with an annoying yip dog tried to talk to me about my poor sick puss.  I was so rude. I told them she was sick and I snapped that I was there to put her down. They were nice people, just trying to make conversation, but Death was right there, tapping his watch. Reminding me that time was slipping away. I had no time to be polite.

I’m not sure when it happened, but at some point Death seemed to be working with me, rather than against me.  It must have been Death that helped me walk into the treatment room because my legs were shaking far too much to move under my own power. God knows I couldn’t carry Holly in by myself. In the treatment room though, this is where Death took over for me. I would never have stood by and watched someone inject a lethal dose of drug to stop the beating heart of an eight month old kitten.  I couldn’t possibly have held her little frightened face, making sure the last thing she saw was my face telling her that the pain was stopping now and just how sorry I was. Death was there and he spirited her away right in front of my eyes.

Then it was over. The unwelcome guest and the special needs kitten were gone. The vet asked if I wanted a few minutes with her but I couldn’t see the point, Holly was gone. I left her with the blanket I carried her in. Simple minded me, I didn’t want her to be cold while laying on the stainless steel table. I’m rolling my eyes as I type this.  I ran to car and sobbed stupidly as I drove home.

Death and Life go together. You can not have one without the other. Death is both feared and welcomed. I am glad this beautiful creature isn’t suffering anymore but a part of my soul died with her.  Just a part though, the rest is still alive.  That’s because now that Death is gone, his soul mate Life is back.  Life is here, demanding that the laundry get done and that homework is completed. Life wants dinner made and movies watched. Life is throwing Monty cat and Damn Dog in my face, reminding me that they are still here. As I type this,  Monty is lying on my arm, pawing at my face. He’s hungry and its breakfast time. Life goes on.