Tuesday, April 22, 2008

A New Low

Today I was sent over the proverbial edge; whether I was pushed or jumped of my own free will is still up for debate. So just who did I unleash my fury upon? - the librarian of course. . I know, sad but true; it's definitely a new low for me.

It all began last Thursday. Everyone was sick, so in order just to have something fun to look forward to, we planned a little library trip. I gathered up all the old library books from our house, and dropped them on the counter when we got there. Little Jimmy and I then proceeded with the fun part: picking out the books. This time, we had a theme: books about dogs. We found a number of fun stories with dogs in them, and nonfictions actually about dogs. When we got to the checkout counter, we probably had ten to twelve books including a couple of books on tape.

The librarian scanned our card and after a few seconds commented, "OK, you've got an $11.40 fine on here and a number of books checked out. I can't let you check out any items until this fine is paid." I felt sort of like a criminal being handcuffed. "Em. . . I just returned a bunch of books, so I'd assume those are the books you're missing." I answered as calmly as possible. After some research, the woman concluded that all the books had been returned with the exception of one. "We're still missing 'Stagestruck.'" she noted. "Ya, they rechecked that one out for me last time in the hopes that I could find it, but it seems to be lost." (In all reality I kind of think I accidentally returned that book to a library in the county we just moved from. )"Can you just note that in the file? the book is lost and I'll replace it, but I'd like to not keep incurring late fees on it." I asked.

The librarian then requested a form of payment. "All of our books are overdue because we've been gone for the last couple of weeks with a death in the immediate family" I shared. The librarian nodded as she began writing in their ledger and processing my debit card payment; obviously she could care less as to why the books were late. At that point, Kyla had already tried to throw herself from her stroller at least a dozen times, and I was rather flustered. As soon as she handed my debit card back to me, I just decided it was time to go, and we wouldn't be checking out any books. I then left the building, little Jimmy screaming the whole way out "I wanted those books!".

You can imagine my disgust when yesterday, I received a letter in the mail stating that I needed to return the book "Stagestruck" as it was incurring a late fee. Just wanting to set the record straight I called the library today and explained how the book had been lost, and how I just needed them to note that the book would be replaced, but to please quit charging the late fee. The woman agreed up to the point that I said I'd be replacing the book; it was then that she transferred me to someone whom she claimed was a little more experienced.

"How can I help you?" the second woman asked, pretending she hadn't been standing there coaching the newbie librarian on how to handle my request. I repeated the whole story again to which she responded, "We can mark the book as missing, but it'll be a $20 fee to replace it."
"Oh, I'll be replacing it myself."
"The book needs to be in excellent condition, and the exact same book - you know, right?" she questioned with a hint of annoyance.
"Ya, it was the hardback version, wasn't it?" I asked accommodating her.
"Yes, and there's also a $6 restocking fee." she said poignantly.
And that was it. . . That was the point where I was thrown over the edge. . or where I jumped over the edge. It was almost like my brain was on overload. Here I was doing all I could to work with them and keep my cool, and then she had to throw that out there. Somewhere deep in the recesses of my mind there was a short circuit and then a full on power outage; Danielle had left the building, and the new commander and chief was not nearly so nice.

After a lengthy pause I threw out there, "You all don't have too many Friends of the Library do you?"
"Excuse me?" the librarian questioned, probably not believing her ears.
"Ya," I said, "you all probably don't have too many Friends of the Library, do you? Because this just doesn't seem to be very friendly. Here we've just moved to the area, and I really am getting the sense that I'm being nickeled and dimed - oh, but I guess that's how you're paying for that nice new library that's being built."
"No, ma'am. That's not how it works." the woman answered quickly.
"Are you kidding me about that $6 restocking fee? I mean, that's almost an hour of work at minimum wage. Are you telling me that it'll take an entire hour for someone to label and stock a brand new book? Cause that's really hard to believe. I've donated lots of books to the library, but if I'd known it was costing them that kind of money just to get the books on the shelf, I wouldn't have bothered. You know, we've always been people to frequent the library; we've loved our libraries, but then again, our libraries would actually send us a notice either before we incurred a late fee or not long thereafter just to remind us to get the books in - and here I was charged $11.40 in late fees? Further, the books were returned late because of a death in the family - it wasn't my plan to get them back late. We just moved here, remember? And these are our first experiences with your library. It's almost doesn't even seem worth it."
"What do you want us to do, ma'am?" the librarian asked evenly, despite my tirade.
"Well, for starters, I don't feel that was right that I was charged that $11.40."
"I see on our records that you've already paid that. I'm going to cancel the fee for the other book."
"Oh, OK. Thank you. . . Thank you." I responded, completely shocked.

And then we hung up. And then I cried. Really, who reams out a librarian. WHO? Me. (On par with "Who throws a shoe????") I've definitely reached a new low in life. But further, why was I even ever brought to that point where I lost my cool. I know the last few weeks have been stressful, and I know I'm on edge, but shouldn't the library be something of a respite? A community service? Something to help educate and enlighten those seeking knowledge?

Now I'm embarrassed to even go back there. Who knows what sorts of comments are written up under my name (probably something like: "Look out for this one!" or "Don't let this girl's temper intimidate you!"). Oh well, just add the library people to my running list of persons whom I've recently incriminated myself in front of.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

You Bashful Boy. . .

For some strange reason, this song has been reverberating through my mind. I've enjoyed gracing my husband with my singing talent as I tell him "You're the Poetry Man, you bashful boy." Somehow, I think he's more disturbed by my serenading than flattered by it. This song just makes me want to linger - which could be why it's 12:30 and I'm still in my bed clothes and looking like some sort of a vagrant; it's days like this I ponder the depth of the damage I'm inflicting upon my children.

As a side note, I somehow visualize Jeff Lisech, our Alaskan immigrant, blast from the past friend, as the guitarist with the glasses. And on the keyboard is Katie doing a little bee-bop-de-bop as she tickles the old ivories. As for the smoke rising in the background of the stage. . .well, we'll leave that to your imagination (personally I'd say it appears that there was a bit too much Taco Bell consumed prior to this performance).

Saturday, April 19, 2008

PigPen and I, Kindred Spirits

It certainly hasn't been the best week on record for me. The kids have been sick, I've showered no more than three times all told, and I've incriminated myself to a number of individuals whom I will be forced to have continued dealings with. In general, I feel kind of like PigPen on the Peanuts Gang - just sort of walking around in a cloud of my own dirt and dust - both literally and figuratively. The atrocities of the week all seemed to culminate yesterday in one big mess-fest.

Really, the days sort of blended together with no real definitive ending and beginning point for Thursday and Friday. Between Kyla and Jimmy, we were up all night - every 45 minutes to an hour, calming Kyla's cries, taking Jimmy's temperature or administering medicines to whomever happened to be making the most fuss at any given moment (the squeaky wheel gets the grease!). In my state of complete and total disillusionment that night, I actually remember thinking to myself, "Gee, it's not so bad not getting any sleep. At least I can know that should I get Kyla and/or Jimmy down, I can go back to bed myself - at least for a few minutes."

The last time I remember looking at the clock, it was 4:45 AM - and then there were two and a half glorious hours of uninterrupted sleep (at least from what I can recall). . . But at 7:15, I awoke with a start realizing we were all late. Jim had approximately zero minutes before he needed to be driving to work in order to not be late, and I had 20 minutes to get myself and the kids around (this included clothing, medicines and breakfast for the kids, and at least clothing for myself). I also needed to haul the dog's crate into the back of the van and get him loaded up for his vet visit (yes, we adopted a new dog - more on that later).

I managed to achieve loading all individuals into the van in a reasonably timely period. If I sped just a little, we'd arrive at the vet at the scheduled 8:30 deadline to have Bear checked in to be fixed. Because we'd adopted the dog in another county, he had to be fixed in that same county; thus, the extensive drive first thing in the morning. I felt quite accomplished pulling into the vet's office at 8:30 on the dot, having navigated far from my normal stomping grounds. Now, I know this isn't really technically the thing to do, but given the circumstances, I felt it would be wise to leave the kids in the car with the doors locked and a stern lecture on strangers while I ran in and dropped the dog off. Attempting to simply write my name while, Bear, our 65 pound puppy, heaved on his leash in an effort to fully inspect every other animal in the waiting room, was quite a task in and of itself. "You can have a seat and fill out this paperwork, front and back" the receptionist informed me . "I thought I could just drop him off?" I questioned the innocent woman with a hint of annoyance. "No, you'll need to meet with the vet and the technicians first."

Protesting audibly against this vet's office located centrally in the middle of nowhere, I drug Bear back to the car where I managed to get Jimmy out and Kyla seated in her stroller. Bear then led the way in a run, pulling both myself and Kyla in her stroller, back to the office. I then sat down and attempted to fill out the paperwork with the kids parked next to me, and Bear continuing to try to with all his might to inspect the premises. "Is this really necessary? I mean, you want my driver's license number and all? We don't live here, so I can reassure you that I'll never be back." I commented wryly to the receptionist.
"Yes, ma'am. We need all the information for our records. And we're out of rabies tags, so we'll have to . . "
"I'm NOT coming here again to pick up a rabies tag!" I snapped at the woman.
"Yes, that's what I was getting to; we'll just mail it to you."
OK - ya, I felt like an idiot. "No need to shoot the messenger" I tried to reason with myself.

After about twenty minutes, when I had calmed down some and was even beginning to accept my new roll as "Bear's strangler" while throwing out a few monotone commands to Jimmy to keep him in order, we were called back. Upon meeting the technicians, we were informed that Bear had a temperature of 103 and could not have the surgery. He was given an antibiotic shot, a ten day round of oral antibiotics, and some ointment for his runny eyes.

This was just great; Bear had caught the same virus my kids had. The technicians insisted that it's impossible for viruses to jump between various species, but I beg to differ! Bear had the exact same symptoms as my kids: green snot (as evidenced by the numerous, dried, algae-green colored markings in front of our door where Bear sleeps), fever, pink eye, and a cough. I don't know if I was more horrified by the fact that our "family illness" now included a dog too, or the fact that I was going to have to return and again face the receptionist whom I'd told we'd never be back.

Standing in line for another ten minutes, again wrestling my dog whilst robotically correcting my son, I actually began talking to myself - aloud. Sadly, I've found when in difficult situations, I actually talk out loud to myself as a means of coping - sort of talking myself through the given issue (yes, I'm considering getting treated for this). "I've been standing here for ten minutes. This is ridiculous. Overbooked and under-scheduled - that's what this place is; they've scheduled way too many appointments, and now look at this mess!". I noted various individuals in the crowded waiting room periodically glancing my way, clearly wondering if I'd actually lost my marbles. One elderly woman who kept sympathetically glancing at me eventually stepped aside and offered that I go ahead. When I got to the counter and turned over my $60, though I knew better, I commented to the receptionist "Shouldn't the shelter be paying for this?! Here they've sold me a sick dog, and now I have to pay for it. I don't even want a sick dog - I've already got two sick children." She gave the standard answer which I fully anticipated, but another man up there, obviously a bit triggered by my situation spoke up, "You know, there's a lemon law. I don't know if it applies in this situation, but you should be able to get your money back. That's just not legal." I had no comment for the man because his suggestion was even more bizarre than my own twisted reasoning at that point.

Eventually we were headed home. I was glad to have everyone loaded in and to be done with the vet. . . at least for today. On the drive home we listened, yet again, to the "Cars" story on CD - a recent gift to Jimmy which had become the bane of my driving experiences. Still I couldn't complain; I was no longer corralling three different individuals through a medical visit, and anything seemed easy compared to that. (As a side note, just to give an idea of how remote this place was, I actually passed a dead wildcat on the side of the road. . . Yes, I turned around and drove past again just to make sure my eyes weren't deceiving me.)

Upon arriving home, I had about an hour to get everyone ready before our next appointment for Jimmy with the ear, nose and throat doctor. This appointment was originally scheduled for several weeks down the road, but after taking both kids into their pediatrician on Wednesday, each with pink eye, the doctor informed me that Jimmy had a ton of fluid in his ears. "Geeze! What is up with your kids!" the doctor exclaimed as I stood their crying. And then he looked in Kyla's ears and informed me that one of her surgically implanted tubes was clogged and her eardrum was bulging. "Can you guys try to make the ENT get us in sooner" I requested pathetically. Sure enough, they got us scheduled quickly. It's truly amazing what a little waterworks at the doctor's office will do.

When we got back from the vet, I hastily fed and medicated everyone - Jimmy, Kyla, and now Bear too. I even had time to empty a few garbage bins; somehow though, while emptying Kyla's diaper pale I managed a lovely display of grace, and fully tripped on the pale bruising my shin. It was really classic; I'm sure had anyone seen, it would've made their day. Annoyed, I realized my clumsiness could be in part due to the fact that I'd missed my morning coffee. I grabbed some cold coffee from the fridge and loaded up Jimmy and Kyla for part two of our day.

The ENT's office was very nice, and really quite quick. I found out they'd scheduled us over their lunch in order to squeeze us in so quickly - a courtesy for which I am extraordinarily grateful. After gathering some info, the doctor decided to test little Jimmy's hearing since I had told him it was quite bad. While the technician was testing my son, him in a little soundproof room and her on the other side of a glass giving instructions to him through speakers, my shin began throbbing where I'd tripped over the diaper pale. I sort of zoned out as I rocked Kyla and held her paci in her mouth to keep her quiet so the technician could easily perform her tests. Somehow, I must have been gazing at the computer screen, because the technician stopped her testing and looked square at me, "Ma'am, I'm going to have to ask you to have a seat over here." she said pointing to the chairs on the other side of the room. Obviously I looked like the type who would violate patient privacy - wanting to know every patient who'd ever seen this ENT, because that would be truly valuable information to me!

It was once I sat down that I realized how terrible I looked, at least from the waist down; my zipper was down, and there was a large blob of white crusty stuff (yogurt that had spilled when I cleaned out some of the junk in the van between appointments earlier) and several purple marker lines on my skirt; definitely looking classy - and I hadn't even looked in a mirror to glean all of this! Eventually the hearing test was over, and everyone concluded that, lo and behold, Jimmy's mom was actually right, and he did have some pretty serious hearing loss. Long and short of it, Jimmy is scheduled to have surgery in a couple of weeks to have his adenoids out, and to have tubes put in his ears. At that point, his hearing should return, and he should have far fewer infections (so I've been told).

After leaving the doctor's office, we headed to Wal-Mart to pick up a cake for Kyla's 1st birthday, which actually is today. Still, you know how Wal-Mart is, you go in to pick up a few things and leave with a cart full. It was after unloading the cart and placing Kyla, still neatly packaged in her car seat, back into the car, that I realized we'd left without paying for an item. It was a $5 item, and at this point, I have to say that I was willing to be considered a criminal as there was no way I was going back into that store for any reason.

By the time we got home, it was about 4:00. Jimmy oddly went to his room and laid down on the floor. It then dawned on me that I hadn't given him any fever medicine in a while and figured he was probably a bit overdue for some. I got my nifty little fever scanner, and was appalled at the reading: 105. I ran to the kitchen and hastily poured some Motrin and grabbed an ice pack and some wash cloths. This was just great - the perfect ending to a day like this; I could totally see my son going into febrile seizures. Fortunately, the Motrin worked and a few minutes later it was down to 104, and eventually 102 etc.

I'd like to say the day ended there, but after dinner and getting the kids to bed, the night continued just as the one before it had, with one day blending together with the next. Monday is Kyla's ENT appointment where they'll hopefully be able to unclog her ear tube so she can sleep a bit more peaceably. As for Jimmy, his fever continued through the night with us administering fever reducers every three hours.

Kyla's first birthday party set for today was canceled. It seems kind of sad, but we'll do it later when we're all feeling better. Despite the non-stop poop we're facing, I'm really holding out hope that at some point it will get easier. The cloud of dirt and dust around us will settle, and much to my own satisfaction as well as all those whom I have dealings with, I'll get a shower every single day.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Reverse Psychology

Everyone reading this should be by this point fully aware of the snot situation in our household. For those of you unfamiliar with this issue, let's just say there's been non-stop snot for, oh. . . THE LAST 9 MONTHS or so! (By the way, I finally decided this is an issue, and have scheduled with an ear, nose and throat pediatrician.) Anyway, fast forward to tonight. Little Jimmy was enjoying helping me make pizza for dinner; I gave him a little piece of dough to play with which he promptly lost. After dinner while cleaning up, big Jim came across two things: 1.) Little Jimmy's snotty nose (again), which he immediately requested he wipe right away, and 2.) The piece of dough Little Jimmy had lost. The end result was a sort of reverse psychology lesson in the importance of blowing your nose.

(If video does not play, click on title of blog: "Reverse Psychology". . . And if that still doesn't work, copy and paste the link below. . obviously I'm a bit technologically challenged.)

Monday, April 14, 2008

Whistlin' Dixie

When it rains, it pours. If there wasn't enough grief facing our family already, last Monday gave us further reason to be sad. Exactly one week after my father-in-law's passing, our new little lab pup was hit by a car.

Dixie was a very recent addition to our family, and we adored her. I had been hesitant about getting a dog as they can be a lot of work; nevertheless, I felt a dog would be good not only for our little boy to grow up with, but also as sort of a fierce looking obstacle for any would-be intruder to our new residence. Conveniently, a close friend of mine had recently taken in two new lab-rott pups from her brother who's dog had a litter. Already having a full grown dog, the addition of the two new puppies created a sort of dog anarchy at her place. When I expressed my interest in getting a dog, she offered one of her new ones, and I gladly accepted. Bringing Dixie home that Friday, we knew she was perfect - and I mean that, absolutely perfect. She was a one-in-a-million kind of a dog. She was about five months old and had the sweetest temperament: eager to please, calm, neat, quiet, gentle and most importantly, fun. As quickly as Dixie took to our family, I took to her that much quicker. I commented to my husband the day after we got her that I was surprised at how quickly I'd fallen completely in love with her.

Just three days after we had adopted Dixie we got the call about my father-in-law and loaded up the whole family, Dixie included, to gather with other family members. We weren't sure how long we'd be gone, but we knew we wanted Dixie with us. Over the coming week, she was a source of comfort and delight. Various friends and family were amazed at our kind and bright little dog. Everyone loved watching Dixie play with Jimmy and Kyla. A cousin commented that Dixie sort of "herded" Kyla - playfully directing her by nuzzling her; Kyla would squeal in laughter at Dixie's attention. The lower level of mom's house can make a full circle, and it was a fun game for Dixie and Kyla to play a slow yet lively game of chase as they circled the house, spreading a little bit of joy to every room they passed through.

A week after bringing Dixie to my mother-in-law's house, we decided we needed to run home to gather a few extra belongings. Jim was headed to work that morning, so we left early from mom's house so he could get his truck from our house and still get to work on time. It was still dark, and Dixie was running around with my brother-in-law's dog, Abby. We could here them barking intermittently, but couldn't see them. We didn't have time to search the three acres for them, so after calling and whistling for a few minutes, I gave up and hopped in the car with my husband and kids. Mom followed us up to the road and made sure to close the gate behind us. She looked very nervous about having not found the dogs, and looking back, I'd say she had a sixth sense about the whole thing. Though we told her the dogs would be fine and that they were somewhere on the property, she insisted that she'd keep looking until she had found them.

We weren't twenty minutes up the road when we got the call from Mom stating that she'd found Dixie on the road, just in front of the driveway. She had searched and searched for the dogs, and had found Abby, but after she still couldn't find Dixie she decided she and her sister would head out in the car to hunt for her; it was then that she came upon Dixie, already dead. I assume Dixie had responded to my calls and whistles a bit late, and when she saw our van leaving, attempted to follow us, squeezing under the gate.

My heart ached for my mom; to lose her husband one week, and the new family pet the next week was a cruel twist of fate. And worse yet was that she had to be the one to find her. I tried to tell her it was alright, and it was just a dog after all, but her response through tears was "But she was a special dog." And that is a true statement, Dixie was a special little dog.

I was also rather disgusted with whoever hit her. She was quite large for a puppy - as big as many full grown labs - so I'm sure whoever hit her noticed what they'd done. I can also even understand mistakenly hitting a dog, but couldn't someone have stopped? Had anyone stopped, they would have surely heard Mom and Aunt Kae calling for Dixie, and could have been mature enough to deliver the news. No, whoever hit Dixie didn't care - just another dent in the fender for them. Shame on those people who take no responsibility for their actions, even if they are mistakes. Dad would have never raised a human being so ignoble.

Though her death is far overshadowed by our Dad's, we still do miss our Dixie Dog. She was a wonderful pet while she was here. Providing vast amounts of comfort when we needed it most, Dixie will never be forgotten.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

We'll Be Missing You

It was two weeks ago yesterday we shared a toast with my in-laws. "Cheers! To a happy life - and growing families!"; my brother-in-law and his wife had recently welcomed a new baby into their lives, and we had adopted a lab pup. My in-laws had driven over an hour to our new home for the express purpose of helping us to complete the installation of a fence surrounding our property for our new doggy. Dad helped Jim outside while I went for a jog with Kyla, and Mom took little Jimmy to hunt for some garage sales (per little Jimmy's request). Mom and Jimmy arrived back with a few garage sale finds and a bag of various ice cream treats which we all promptly savored. Although it was just a little family work day, it was beautiful - truly a happy time in life.

No one had any inkling that only two days later, while playing basketball on his lunch break, Dad would die of a heart attack. The news was hard to even fathom at first as Dad had always been extremely active and busy - never one to enjoy sitting around for long. Despite our shock, while hugging and weeping with family in the ER, the reality of it all began to set in.

The next week or more was a whirlwind of activity. Making funeral arrangements, trying to remember everyone who should be notified and receiving guests. To say that it was overwhelming would be an understatement. Most of the time we were all so busy fielding phone calls or making them, we didn't have a whole lot of time to connect with the sad reality facing us.
Still there were some quiet moments shared together where we, our closest family and friends, shared warm memories and tears.

Dad was a fun person to be around. There always seemed to be this energy about him - definitely a magnetic personality. He always had something fun to say: most frequently something to encourage, something to bring a smile to your face, or some useful bit of information to help out. There were a few rather humorous occasions wherein his useful tidbits of info, to the untrained ear, could seem rather abrupt; but to those of us who knew him best, it was a great point of humor to tease that Nanny was speaking through him (Nanny was his mom, frequently blunt and notably rough around the edges). Dad was one of those people determined to see the best in every situation - an eternal optimist. He pulled himself from a cruel and violent childhood, to the life he chose - a life filled with compassion and understanding. I've oftentimes marveled at how he had become such a kind individual, having been raised under such trying circumstances.

We grieve not only for our own loss, but for the loss others feel. We grieve for mom, widowed at only 56, having lost her life partner and best friend. We grieve for all the grandkids from the oldest ones who will have the most memories of their Grandpa and be forced to accept his departure, to the youngest, little Miss Payton Grace, who arrived early enough for Grandpa to see her, but who will never experience his hugs and kisses. We grieve for our own children who have seemingly been shortchanged on a wonderful Grandpa. We grieve that Dad's influence in our lives will now be limited only to experiences we've had in the past with him - memories we hope will be recalled when we most need them. We grieve the loss of a wonderful man. Husband. Father. Grandfather. Brother. Friend.

Although this tragic loss weighs heavily upon our hearts, we know this was not a chance happening. While we can feel confident and sure of our lives and the choices we make, the reality is no one knows what lies beyond the present moment. Dad oftentimes would comment "Lord willing, I'll. . ." do such and such; he always seemed very aware of his own mortality. Though we cannot see "the big picture," our Father does, and he knew before Dad's conception exactly how many days and breaths he would have. It's encouraging to me to know that life is not just a collection of random events, it's a plan; we are not left alone, but rather we are led in this journey of life.

Dear Dad, We miss you, but we are so glad for the time we could share with you. What a wonderful influence you've had on our lives. Thank you for all the love and patience you showed to us. You were a wonderful father. We'll love you as long as we live, and there will always be a special place in our hearts for you.