Sunday, July 26, 2009

Recycling: July 2007

I wrote this two years ago this month. I think I'll write a new one this year. Much has happened since then...

A few things I've learned in my (almost) 28 years. Some from personal experience, some from observation. I may have stolen some of these, but that doesn't mean they aren't true. Feel free to add to the list.

People who preface a majority of their statements with "honestly"—usually aren't.

Mass quantities of alcohol should not be consumed right before you end a relationship.

A good mother can tenderly hold your hair back while you vomit while at the same time berating you for coming home piss drunk.

If you think he's cheating, he probably is.

Sometimes love means taking a leap of faith and working out the details on the other side.

People who lie to you will lie about you.

Get both sides to a story before beginning a witch hunt.

It is possible—though by no means easy—to salvage a strong friendship from a failed relationship.

If a friend tells you everyone's secrets, she's telling yours, too.

People who enjoy the drama of being miserable deserve to be miserable.

It's a small world…especially in West Tennessee.

If you both truly want a good relationship, you will have one.

Usually it's better to be lonely than to have friends of convenience.

Some people can be convinced of anything, to the point that entire portions of their lives are fabricated by other people.

Trust first impressions, but only if based on both fact and intuition.

No one is THAT happy.

Few things in life are harder than role reversal between parents and children.

It takes two people to nurture a friendship. It is rarely the fault of just one person when it fails.

"Rock bottom" makes a poor foundation. Grab a limb on the way down.

Age doesn't matter in friendship, but it will in a relationship. It just may take a couple of decades before you notice.

Your soul mate should be your biggest fan, not just your biggest groupie. (metaphorically speaking… for most of you)

True friendships don't end, they just go on hiatus.

You'll never know whose life you'll touch, so try to touch them all.

Friends, like car keys, are often found in the most unlikely places.

Do not underestimate the power of angry tears over angry words.

Laughing while talking is often a sign of nervousness and sometimes a sign of dishonesty.

Humility is best served with a big bowl of cheese dip.

Be cautious with whom you discuss your marriage. Avoid those who tear down your spouse. Cherish those who aren't afraid to point our your faults, too.

Writing can be better and cheaper than therapy.

Dogs have the ability to understand our feelings better than we do.

If you have to convince yourself that you like it, you don't like it.

There isn't necessarily someone out there for everyone, romantically speaking. If you're lucky enough to find your "one"… Don't. Let. Go.

Recycling: Meeting Kit (Originally from May 5, 2006)

John and I decided to go out and eat tonight... much as we do, um, every night. As we were pulling into the shopping center where there are several restaurants, we see a small black man in a wheelchair. He's using his feet to push himself backward up the hill toward the main road. He isn't using his hands and is swerving into traffic. People are driving around him. They stare and point, but no one stops to help or even rolls down the window to ask him if he's okay. It's obvious that this man does not belong in the middle of the street. He is lost or confused or both.

As we drive past him, I turn around to see his face. Immediately, I know that something is wrong with him. I insist that we stop. John pulls into the O'Charleys parking lot. I kick out of my flip-flops and walk barefoot up the grassy slope to the main drive.

I call out to the man across the street, asking him if he's okay.

"I don't know," he says.

I ask him his name. I hear something that sounds like Kit or Kip, but with the traffic I can't tell for sure. I go with Kit.

"Well, Kit, I want you to sit still. I'm going to come over there and get you."

I run across the street when traffic lets up. When I get to Kit, I take a good look at him and try to assess the situation. He is dressed in clean clothes and does not smell. I assume he's not homeless. Kit is not well, though. The whites of Kit's eyes are a dark yellow and look very milky. One eye slopes off to the side, half of his iris hides behind the edge of his socket. His other eye doesn't seem to focus very much. Kit has some type of dermatological condition that causes large knots and bumps on his face, neck and arms. His feet are turned in and slightly curled up.

When most people see someone like Kit, they do one of two things: immediately avert their eyes or they stare.

I will not lie to you. I was taken aback by Kit's appearance. Even a bit repulsed at first.

Regardless, I leaned over and put my hand on his arm.

"Kit, what are you doing out here by yourself?"

His voice is soft but clear, slow and childlike.

"I'm trying to get to the bus stop by the gas station."

"Well, pick up your feet and let me push you, okay? I'm afraid some drunk person may run over you leaving the restaurant."

I roll Kit back down the hill and into the parking lot at O'Charleys. By now, John has parked the car and joined me. I tell him that Kit needs to get to the bus stop. John walks up to the street to find out exactly where it is.

Meanwhile, I talk to Kit. Kit tells me he took the bus across town because he "needed a trip" and wanted to get something to eat. He'd just left White Castle and was trying to make it back to the bus stop. He knew he was headed in the right direction, but the cars were getting in his way.

He doesn't seem to realize he had been in danger.

John finds the bus stop in front of the gas station. We end up having to push Kit down the main street after all because the parking lots are divided by fences. Once we get to the bus stop, Kit gives John a few dollars and asks him to buy him a lighter.

As Kit smokes the cigarette he had stored behind his ear, I ask him questions.

He says he lives alone, though I don't understand how he can possibly care for himself. Since he smells clean, I assume someone bathes him.

His mother, father and siblings also live in the city. They check on him now and then.

He used to take the bus over here all the time but "things have changed."

He loves double cheese Slyders from White Castle. The single burgers "tease him."

His father is from Somerville, a town not far from my hometown of Henderson.

He's smoked since he was eleven, which he estimates was about 25 years ago.

As we talk, John and I noticed a large surgical scar through the closely cropped hair on the back of his head. We don't ask about it and can only wonder what happened to Kit. Was he always like this? Did he have surgery to try and "fix" him? Was he in an accident?

Another man waiting for the bus tells us he'll wait with Kit if we need to go. I thank him but politely refuse. I suppose my faith in fellow man was running a bit low at the moment after watching so many people pass Kit by on the street. I am not about to leave him alone.

The bus finally arrives. I panic a little because I don't see a wheelchair lift. Kit assures me there is one. He tells us to stand back and wait. Sure enough, the lift comes out from under the steps.

Kit tells us to have a good night. I tell him to be careful. We wave goodbye and the bus pulls away.

We met Kit hours ago, and I still can't get him off my mind. Why wouldn't anyone help him? It's not that they didn't notice him--they had to go AROUND him to avoid hitting him. I watched both white people and black people keep driving. Was it a fear of the color of his skin? Or perhaps a fear of his condition? All I had to do was speak to him and I knew he wasn't dangerous. Why were we the only ones who seemed to care?

Some people might consider me foolish. I jumped out of my car and approached a stranger who could have been crazy or dangerous. My philosophy is this: God, fate, karma--whatever you believe in--surely you will be kept safe when you reach out to help a fellow human being. Now, I realize this isn't always true. A lot of good people have died trying to save someone else. But if it is my time to go, at least I have the peace that I was trying to do something unselfish.

I'm not telling you about this because I want a pat on the back. I am no saint, no Samaritan.

I am writing about this because my heart is at the same time breaking and boiling over.

As cliche as it sounds, we live in dangerous times. There are plenty of people who will take advantage of kindness or charity. But we can't forget the many, many people who truly need our help.

By all means, be cautious and careful. But don't be so afraid that you won't reach out to someone who is obviously in danger or need.

You don't have to save the world. You don't have to save even one life.

Just do what little you can do. Don't ever look back and wonder what you could have done to help. Look back and say, "I did what I could do."

There comes a time in all of our lives when we are at the mercy of strangers. Strive to be the stranger you'd hope to meet in your time of need.

Recycling: Easter 2006

I came across this picture while visiting my mother last weekend. It was taken almost 25 years ago on an Easter morning. I wasn't even three years old yet. Look how excited I was about my little Easter basket. I didn't know how to play checkers and Lord knows I didn't need the candy, but that little basket was obviously like a pot of gold to me.

Not much has changed since that picture. My parents still have that terrible floor and paneling (though it no longer reflects light as it did here). My hair is still wild, I still spend a lot of time in my pajamas and my mouth is perpetually open (I'm sure I was talking, even as the picture was snapped). And thankfully, I still get this excited over what some might deem insignificant events. Messages in my Inbox. Waking up to find out I have 30 more minutes to sleep. The end of a long day. The beginnings of a friendship.

I hope that I can look back in 25 years and still feel my heart go "hippity hop" at the little things. Holding my husband's hand. A phone call from my children. The gift of another birthday.

I hope that I can still find joy in a cheap basket full of candy and board games.
If I can, then my life will have been well lived.

Recycling: Open Letter to Media (Originally from January 2006)

So I’m driving to work this morning, and “The Bob and Tom Show” takes a commercial break. I flip through the stations, hoping to find some listening pleasure for the last few minutes of my commute. One station is delivering the news, something I try not to listen to anymore in the morning. Though it may render me ignorant as far as the ol’ water cooler is concerned, at least I won’t start my day in a total funk. I pause on this particular station, though, because something the newscaster says piques my interest. It’s some “feel good” piece of news. I’m not sure what it was to be honest, which doesn’t matter anyway. The bit I wanted to hear ends, though, and stupid me doesn’t change the station. Suddenly, I’m hearing how the police have been dragging some body of water in search of a little boy and his pregnant, 19-year-old babysitter who have been missing for a month. It’s too late to change the station. I’ve already heard too much. Sadly, though, it’s not only the news that bothers me. It’s the voice delivering the news. This woman is talking about the disappearance of these people like she’s narrating the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade. You can hear her smiling.

"Ms. Parker and the boy were last seen on November 6t. And Bob, here comes the Garfield balloon! I just love that darn cat!"

I know people comment, complain and bitch about this frequently, but I should get my turn, too. I’ve been sitting on this for awhile.

While home for Christmas, a Memphis television anchor segued from a “Santa Watch 2005” update to “Elderly couple killed in fire” without missing a beat or changing his tone. And to top it off, this was how he chose to report this story:

"It won’t be a Merry Christmas for one family this year. An elderly Millington couple suffered a horrendous death this morning when a fire destroyed their home."

Yes, sir, we know it won’t be a Merry Christmas for the family who lost their loved ones. Thank you for confirming our suspicions. And I never realized that dying in a fire constitutes “horrendous death.” I needed that clarified, too. Now I can eat my figgy pudding in peace.

Seriously, fuck you.

But you know what possibly bothers me worse than the people who report tragedies with a smile? The ones who pretend to be so grave and serious. I saw it a lot after Hurricane Katrina. While I have to admit that there were several reporters who truly seemed affected by what they were seeing around them (Anderson Cooper and surprisingly Shepard Smith), many might as well have written “Gimme an Emmy” across their heads in permanent marker. It was nothing but a performance for them, a contest to see who could act the most devastated or horrified. I sat there waiting for violins to play in the background to play "Nearer My God to Thee."

Cut out the dramatic bullshit. Think about what you’re reading. Think about the people who are affected. These aren’t just words on a teleprompter. They represent lives. If you’re going to show emotion, make sure it’s appropriate. And real.

A family of four is killed by a drunk driver? Don’t talk about their “horrendous deaths” or “twisted bodies” (I’ve actually heard that one). Show some respect. Solemnity is called for, not theatrics.

A man admits to raping neighborhood children? You should be shot if you smile. At the very least, you should be locked in a room with him. Think about those children before you open your mouth. Hell, show some anger if you want. Make your viewers and listeners angry with you, not at you.

A community raises $500,000 for a cancer patient’s medical bills? NOW smile! Rejoice! Celebrate!

You’re reporting stories about people to people. Connect with your audience. Don’t be afraid to let a story affect you. You may be surprised at your ratings.

But no fake sympathy. No gruesome imagery.

Respect the dead. And those they leave behind.

The evening news is not a reality show. It’s reality. The least you can do is be real.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Recycling: The XBOX Saga (2005)

This won't mean much to any of you, but I have to put it on here to save it. I wrote this in St. Louis to chronicle our Microsoft misery.

The XBOX Saga: Part One
So, I've been on the phone all day trying to track down an XBOX 360 for John. We should have reserved one MONTHS ago, but he wasn't sure he wanted one at the time. Now, it's the only thing he wants (obviously, since they cost eleventy trillion dollars).

They go on sale at midnight tonight. We've talked to every Wal-Mart in a 68 mile radius. They all have 10-20, but most of them have already been put on layaway. One place had a few that weren't spoken for, but the line was already crazy long.

So now it's on to Plan B. Sam's opens at 7:00 in the morning. They have 19. Usually, the 7:00 open time is only for business memberships. We've been told they're letting everyone in AND we've been told they're only letting business people in. I've tried to cover my bases. I'm going to be there around 5:00. A girl I work with is bringing her business membership card and meeting me. The first 19 people get a ticket to go in and buy the XBOX. SURELY, there won't be 19 people in line at 5 AM! I'm about to go to bed, though, so that I can get out there bright and early. Wait, I mean dark and early. Dark, cold and early.

Gee, I must love that boy more that I thought

Anywho, the saga continues tomorrow. I'll post again after I get to work. If you don't hear from me, I froze to death in the parking lot. Or got mugged. Or fell asleep and got trampled.

The XBOX Saga, Part II: The Passion of the Sam's
After a fitful night of dreaming about waiting in line and running through stores (fruitlessly) looking for an XBOX, I awake to the sweet sound of John’s alarm. 4:00 A.M. Rise and shine, Valentine. I manage to pull myself out of bed and shower without drowning. I bundle myself up like a modern Nanook the Eskimo (or whatever they like to be called now) and make my way to the local Sam’s Club in the hope of procuring the hallowed XBOX 360.

I pull in sometime between 4:30 and 5:00 to discover a line has already formed outside of the entrance. I do a quick count of heads (thirteen) and giddily (is that a word?) swing my car into the nearest open space. I know that Sam’s has 19 XBOX bundles inside. It appears that fate likes me. She really, really likes me.

I start talking to those in line (as I’m prone to doing) and discover that I am (alas) not number 14. A group of guys in the front have left to get food, asking their friend to “save their spots.” My philosophy is that if you’re going to wait in line, you wait in line. Period. Suffer with the rest of us. The woman in front of me says that only three guys left. I con my still slumbering mind into doing some quick calculations. Okay, that puts me at number 17. No sweat.

Time passes. A guy in line reveals that he has been sleeping in his car in the Sam’s parking lot since 1:00 AM. Another guy says that his buddy is in line at Best Buy with at least 40 other people. John shows up to keep me company. He doesn’t bring breakfast because McDonalds in Ballwin don’t open until 6:00. Go figure.

Suddenly, a car pulls into the parking lot carrying not three, but FOUR strapping young men bearing food. It seems that they have added one to their party while on their journey. The line in front of me suddenly grows longer. Can it be? I’m now number 18?? My palms begin to sweat. I look at John who is counting the line to himself.

It tell him it’s okay. We’re still number 18. I wonder, though, how many more spaces are being saved in the line? Then I wonder what it’s really like in jail…

A gentleman exits the building and makes his way toward the line. He has little slips of paper in his hands. He informs us that he’s going to pass out numbers to the first 19 so that we can all go home or sit in our car until the store opens. He makes his way down the line, finally coming to a stop in front of me. I think of all the bad things I’ve done, wondering if karma is about to kick me in the proverbial balls at last. Please, please, let me have an XBOX. It’s all John wants for Christmas.

“Here you go, ma’am. Number 17.”

17? I’m 17? I jump up and down. I hug John. I almost hug the guy with the tickets. I’m acting like the fat woman on The Price is Right!!! I’m as happy as the kid in that movie who finally got a Red Rider BB Gun. It's the fucking Golden Ticket!!! And it’s not even MY gift!

John and I take our ticket and head to Uncle Bill’s Pancake House for a celebratory feast (or some hash browns). It’s almost six and we’re both exhausted. But it’s worth it. It’s worth the short night of sleep and braving the elements just to see his face on Christmas morning.

Oh, who am I kidding. He’ll have this thing out of the box by the end of the night.

Still, it’s shaping up to be a happy holidays.

The XBOX Saga Continues (and hopefully ends)

Of all of the XBOX 360s in the world, I buy the one that has issues. John will never let me forget it, either. A sample conversation from the last few days.

John: I love you

Amber: I love you, too.

John: Then why did you buy me a broken XBOX?

It’s not actually broken. It’s just not functioning properly. I guess this tends to happen when stuff like this first comes out. Working out the kinks, you know?

He’d had the thing for about 24 hours when it started freezing up. Plus, it won’t let me play one of my games from the old XBOX that is supposed to be compatible. John called Microsoft. They sent him a box to ship it back in and said they’d take care of it. I just hope it’s back by Christmas. I have to have something to wrap and put under the tree. He’s promised to act surprised.

I have to admit, though, from what I’ve seen it’s pretty cool. The old games like Halo 2 don’t look different of course, but the new games (he got Madden ’06) look great. And I loathe football. The players don’t look generic. They actually look like the players. Like Peyton Manning? He’s looks as goofy as he does on TV! (cue hate mail)

Anywho, he’s very happy with his new toy which makes me happy.

The XBOX Saga: Return of the XBOX (aka I HATE DHL)

When we last left the XBOX was broken. We don't feel bad, though. So were many, many other consoles. In fact, some guy is suing Microsoft for putting out a faulty product in an attempt to beat Sony and Nintendo to the punch. It's total bullshit since all he has to do is send it back for a new one. Microsoft even pays for shipping.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

I had mentioned in the last installment that MS had sent us a box in which we were to return the console. The box would ONLY hold the console, nothing else. Store that somewhere. You'll need it later.

We pack up the console and fill out the shipping label. Then I drive over to the nearest DHL dropoff station, which happens to be in Office Depot or Max or one of those stores.

I'm going to stop here and make something known. I. HATE. DHL. I only used them because I had no choice. They're MS's "preferred" carrier. I'm convinced that the entire DHL company is run by semi-retarded baboons (no offense to baboons or retards). And since it seems that DHL will put a drop-off in any business that asks for a kiosk, the chances of dealing with someone who doesn't give two shits about your package are up there in the "Very Probable" status. On top of that, their drivers are complete idiots. Many of them aren't even DHL employees; they're independent contractors. But let's back up a few more steps...

Earlier this year, John ordered something from Dell. DHL claimed they delivered it, but it wasn't left at our door or at our clubhouse. John calls Dell and they GRACIOUSLY send him another. Fast forward a few days. Suddenly, the DHL guy is at our door with the ORIGINAL package. It seems it somehow got "left in his truck" despite the fact that he logged it in as delivered.

Strike One.

Back to my story, I'm at the DHL counter talking to this teenage girl who probably chews gum for a hobby. She takes my package and shipping label, hands me my copy of the label and tells me she'll take care of it. I point out that there is an old packing label on the box. She once again says she'll take care of it.

So the next day, I go home for lunch. I walk up the stairs and LO AND BEHOLD in front of my apartment is... THE XBOX! The very XBOX that I dropped off not 12 hours earlier. There is NO shipping label on the box besides the old one with OUR address on it. On top of that, it's about 14 degrees! Boys and girls, what does the little label on electronics say? Do not expose to extreme cold or heat.

So the DHL man has left a $500 package on my DOORSTEP in the FREEZING COLD, a package that should already be labeled DELIVERED in the system and should be impossible to deliver back to us!!!

Strike Two.

I call Office Whatever and ask to talk to the DHL rep. The woman tells me that the girl who helped me will be in later in the evening and I should come by and get this worked out. She also tells me that it's POLICY to attach the label in the PRESENCE of the customer.

So I got to visit the Gum Chewer. It went something like this:

"You watched me attach the label."

"Um, no, I didn't. You told me it would be taken care of."

"Well, the label must have fallen off."

"It's a sticker. It doesn't just 'fall off.'"

"Well, then one of the other packages must have rubbed it off."

"According to your manager, only two packages went out yesterday. Try again."

Strike Three.

Doesn't this girl know I taught high school? I can smell the bullshit on her! So she finally gets a packaging slip out and prepares my package. I pray over the package and, just for good measure, I lay hands on Gum Chewer.

A few days pass. John calls Microsoft to make sure the package got there. According to DHL, it did. According to MS, they have no idea where it is. By the way, Microsoft also hires baboons who are only slightly less semi-retarded. Every time John called, no one seemed to be able to tell him the status on his XBOX or even if it was there! One girl even cancelled his original work order and started a new one. You'd think Bill Gates with all of his money would AT LEAST find some chimps to work for him. Or better yet, something that doesn't fling poo. Dolphins maybe.

After a few weeks, we finally get news that the XBOX is on its way. The problem is that DHL interprets "Overnight" as "When the hell ever." They shipped it to the wrong place!

That would be Strike Four if it even mattered anymore.

Anywho...finally, we got it back on Monday. The drone that delivered it could obviously read on a 1st grade level because he left the package at the clubhouse as the note on the door asked.
The system seems to be working just fine now. They sent us a whole new console. In fact, they sent us EXTRA stuff. Remember how I said earlier that the original box only fit the console? That means we weren't expected to send back everything, only the console. Well, they sent us a complete system: a wireless controller, remote, HD cords, power source. All of it. Finally, some sliver around our cloud!

So this is the end of the XBOX saga... I'm buying the two-year warranty just in case, though.

Merry Christmas everyone!


We are currently on our FOURTH XBOX in as many years. The 2nd one ALSO broke and had to be sent back. They sent a third one that had to be repaired in 2007. The third one recently got the RED RING OF DEATH (nerd talk for the XBOX is FINISHED) and we had to buy a FOURTH one because it was out of warranty.

I hate you Microsoft.

Recycled from April 2004

I wrote this for my students during my 3rd year of teaching. I'm afraid I've lost some of this passion and it breaks my heart. I want to be this teacher again, the teacher who's not afraid to pour her heart out to her kids so that they don't doubt my love for them. I've gotten jaded and I don't like it.

A love poem
April 2004

They laughed when I told them I was moving to the city

Me, a barefoot girl raised on bluegrass and biscuits
In a town where everyone knew my momma
And everyone loved my daddy

They laughed at the thought of me in this new foreign place,
my native tongue cut out by those who do not speak as I.

I endured their laughter and pitied their ignorance of what they could not understand.

I was meant for more than this small town.

Three summers have passed since I arrived in the rain, my belongings as soaked as my mother’s face when she said goodbye.

I made my home in a new place, a place where doors are locked tightly, where lives are lost nightly, where the old scars run deeply and prices rise steeply, where spirits are broken and truth is not spoken.

This place on the muddy River.

A new place where I am the minority.

A new place where I am not totally—at ease.

A new place that I now call—my home.

Sometimes I visit that small town that cradled me, enabled me, made a fable of both me and my childhood dreams and hopes.

The people there do not laugh now, but shake their collective heads in pity and sad respect.

And bewilderment.

And wonder.

And hate.

They do not understand why I would go somewhere so dark—dark alleys, dark deeds, dark skin.

They cannot fathom what I hear in my head, the whisper that tells me I must not stop, I cannot stop, I will not stop until the light of enlightenment shines in your eyes, until you embrace reality forget all the lies, until I can finally make you realize

That this life that you call a life does not have to be.

That you can’t all be stars but you all can shine.

That you may not have a mansion but you can have a home.

That my face may be white by my heart is red like yours and it breaks with each choice you make.

No, I must not stop, I cannot stop, I will not stop.

Not until those who love me question my priorities and curse the day I passed into this place of learning.

Not until I’ve lost countless nights of sleep worrying where you are and wondering what you’ll be.

Not until every ounce of blood and sweat and tears has fallen on this dirty floor and I scream and cry and grind my teeth from exhaustion

Not until you learn, until you learn poetry and prose, the new and the old, the one about the roads, the road less traveled and the road worn by many travelers before you.

Until you learn that you must take that road less traveled if you every wish to truly live.

The people of my small town do not understand why I care, how I can care for those who often care not for me, how I can love this culture that is not my own.

How I can love children whom I didn’t bear—

who may not know how to love me in return.

And it is I who pity the people in that small town, for they can never understand the fuel that lights my fire

To see a light in the eyes of one who finally understands, who forms a plan, who becomes a man

To see grace in the face of another who sees, who finally believes, who meets her needs

This desire to dry your tears and ease your fears to make you understand that I am not in front of you because I have to be but because I want to be.

That as much as I love this language I speak and putting pen to paper until I’m free, I love you more.

No money can buy the feeling inside, no title can make me prouder more than that title of educator, instructor…teacher.

No, I must not stop, I cannot stop, I will not stop.

Not until I make you understand.

They laughed when I told them I was movin’ to the city.
Away from the bluegrass and biscuits and momma and daddy
And everything I had ever known.
They laughed when I told them I was movin’ to the city.

But I am laughing now.

Recycled from November 9, 2005

I wrote this after moving to St. Louis. Fall is always a hard time of the year for me, but this was an especially bad season because I was extremely lonely. I eventually made two or three friends, but I spent the first few months very lonely and quite depressed. Reading this now, I am so thankful for the people God has placed in my life. It's been a long time since I had a truly lonely day.

Autumn is never easy for me. Oddly enough, it's both my favorite season and my saddest season. I look forward to watching the leaves turn and the weather growing colder. Every year, though, I can feel those old melancholy feelings sneaking up on me toward the middle of October.

This time of year holds both tender and bitter memories for me. Both seem to bring their own brand of sadness. This season will be particularly harder this year as I continue to adjust to my new city and new way of life. It's lonely here; I haven't been lonely in a very long time. I keep thinking back to my first semester at Union, before I met Rachel, Scott, Brandy and all of the other people whom I grew to love so deeply. Those four months were some of the lowest in my life. I had never felt so out of place. By Thanksgiving I had decided I'd transfer for 2nd semester, even if my parents cut me off completely. I didn't care. Luckily, that December I met the people I would call my own.

But this isn't college. I can't "transfer" out of my life. I try to keep myself busy, but I once again feel that I don't belong here. John tries his best to make me feel better, but he can only spend so much time with me. He's always so busy with work and preparing his seminar. My writing workshop, the only place I feel at ease around people, ended last night, which has put me in a terrible funk today. I have acquaintances who are friends of John but no one of my own. I spend most of my time on the phone with Jenny and Momma. Is it asking too much to want a friend? Someone I can go to a movie with? Or go have drinks with after a hard day? Why do I feel like such an alien here? Am I so different from these people?

I spent four years of college living within spitting distance of my best friends. Then I moved to Memphis and worked with my friends there. I was surrounded by my students who were my life. Suddenly, I don't even have someone to hang out with for half an hour. I mean, don't get me wrong, I love going out with John. We have a great time together. But he can't be with me every moment. And it's not good for us to spend ALL of our time together. Plus, I need a girl I can talk to about... well, girl stuff.

I crave camaraderie, a sense of belonging.

My favorite yellow tree, the one I see driving to work in the morning, is almost bare. I feel like my palette is empty, too. I'm not colorful anymore.

I'm actually looking forward to winter.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Subtle Changes

Please bear with me. This will probably be long. And while it may seem like it's all about the death of a family dog, that is just the beginning...

Last weekend, my parents' fifteen-year-old lab/husky mix, Prissy, woke them up in the middle of the night. Over the past year or so, her health has slowly deteriorated. She couldn't hear well. She could no longer control her bowels. She was stiff. However, she still had a hearty appetite and retained her sunny disposition and playfulness (at least what her body would allow). We weren't sure she'd survive the winter, but she did. However, we were sure the blistering days we've experienced so far this summer would be too much for her. Mom and Dad kept the back porch watered down and kept a box fan running to keep her cool. On Saturday night, though, she began crying because she could not get up. My parents helped her up and spent most of the night tending to her and consoling her. On Sunday, Mom called to tell me that Prissy was very sick and that on Monday she would need to go to the vet, this time not to be treated but to bring an end to her pain. Sunday night was worse, with Mom spending much of the night on the porch, petting Prissy and
talking to her.

Black Dog by Amy Godwin

On Monday morning, I called Mom and told her I would come down to help in any way. Any of you who know me very well know how I am about dogs. I generally prefer their company over the company of people, and I consider my two dogs to be as much a part of my family as any human relative. I knew the task before me would be difficult since not only would I be dealing with the death of a dog but also my mother's sadness. As I drove down, I prayed out loud for God to give me strength and peace.

When I arrived at my parents' house, mom was outside sitting with Prissy. Mom had given her some Vicodin to ease her pain and help her rest. Prissy couldn't get up or even roll over, but she still had her doggy smile.

Dad had started a grave down by the woods and asked me to go and look at it to see if it was wide enough. I found the grave--only about six inches deep--and it was only wide and long enough for a small dog. I didn't ask Dad to dig any more. He's been to the ER several times in recent years after passing out. They've never found a reason for this, but I figured digging a grave in the June heat couldn't be good for him, especially since he's 77 now. My friend Vaughn came to help me dig (though he moved a lot more dirt than I could). The ground was hard and full of roots, but we managed to dig a hole both deep and large enough to hold what would be the remains of our Prissy.

Mom put a tarp in the back of my Highlander because I couldn't stand the thought of her sliding around in the back of the pickup. Since she couldn't walk and we were afraid we'd hurt her or drop her if we picked her up, we had to place a sheet under her and carry her to the car. As Dad and I prepared to leave, Mom cried said goodbye to Prissy. I said a silent prayer again for strength. Seeing my mother cry devastates me, and at that exact moment, I needed to hold myself together for the drive to South Jackson.

I had forgotten how much Prissy doesn't like cars. Couple that with her fear and pain, and the ride to the vet was excruciating. She cried and moaned which made me cry. Since she can't hear much, nothing we said comforted her. Dad asked if I wanted to pull over and let him drive so that I could climb into the back with her. I knew, though, if I sat that close to her I would completely lose all composure. I hated to seem cold, but I knew I wouldn't be able to follow through with what we had to do if I sat with her. So I drove. I drove and I tried to talk about anything besides what we were doing.

We arrived at the vet and I filled out the necessary paperwork. I guess I had blocked out how expensive it is to have a pet put to sleep. It almost seems cruel that some people have financial stress added to the emotional stress of losing a pet. Though the money wasn't an issue on Monday, several years ago I had to have a stray puppy we picked up put down because we didn't have money for parvo treatments (John was in school and I was teaching). I remember wondering what WE would have to sacrifice to pay for euthanizing the puppy, which in turn made me feel like the most selfish person ever.

A vet tech carried Prissy inside and placed her on the table in an exam room. I sat with her while we waited on the vet. I was holding everything in, not wanting to cry and scare her. I talked to her and told her she was a good dog and that she was going to be okay. When the vet came in, though, I couldn't help it. As he very kindly explained the procedure I started crying. He asked us if we needed more time with her. I shook my head, knowing I had to get out of the room. I kissed my fingers and touched her face. I promised her, "You won't hurt any more."

Dad stayed with her since I couldn't and I didn't want her to be alone. It all took less than two minutes. When he came out, he told me that she closed her eyes immediately after the injection and that it was very peaceful. I began to text message furiously, anything to take my mind off of what had just happened a few feet away behind the door of exam room #2.

They wrapped her body and placed it in a box. The techs put her body in my car and we began the drive home. When we got there, dad wanted to sit and rest for awhile but I insisted that he get up and help me get her down to the grave. Knowing she was in my car made me anxious. I needed it to be done. We carried her down to the edge of the woods and placed her in the grave. We started to shovel dirt. In less than a minute, Dad was flushed. I told him to go inside, that I would finish. He put his shovel down and walked to the house.

I spent the next little while burying one of the sweetest dogs I've ever met. Thinking about it now, I can't believe I did it, that I did ANY of it. I obsess over stray dogs I see walking down the side of the road, worrying for miles that they will get hit by a car. I'm not sure how I held up as well as I did through the death and burial of a beautiful dog.

It's been two days now. I'm sad about Prissy, but I'm thankful she had a long life and that she did not have to suffer long. What has stuck with me and perhaps haunted me is the role reversals I experienced that day.

I've always accused my mother of being over-protective, but it's not something I mind so much to be honest. Not only has she tried to protect me from danger, she has also tried to protect me from sadness and heartache. My mother is one of the most empathetic people I've ever met, and she doesn't like to see people hurt--especially her children. When I told her I would come and take care of things with Prissy, she agreed. Don't get me wrong, I didn't offer to do it because I thought she'd refuse and I wouldn't have to follow through. I wanted her to let me handle it. She is so emotionally taxed by my grandparents that I just couldn't let her bear this burden, too. But when she agreed, I was surprised. I was ready to insist, but it wasn't necessary. I've had to take care of my mother physically in the past, but never emotionally. I've never had to step up and protect her from experiencing any more sadness. And while I'm not the least bit hesitant to do it, it was a reminder that both my mother and I are getting older.

Monday was also a reminder that my father--my strong, protective father--is not a young man anymore. He is not frail by any means, but he is not able to perform the physical work he once could. When he put down his shovel, I watched him walk toward the house, still with a slight limp even after having both knees replaced. At my insistence, my father had stopped working to return to the house, leaving me alone to bury Prissy. As I shoveled dirt back into the grave, I found myself worrying about my dad's health, both physical and mental. I suddenly assumed the role of a parent, hoping that he takes care of himself and doesn't do anything to push himself too hard. Though part of me still feels like Daddy's little girl, the other part of me feels like I should be protecting him. It's not a feeling I like but it is one I must accept.

I am blessed with wonderful, loving parents, but I am not fortunate enough to have parents as young as some of my friends. I am 30. My father is 77; my mother, 62. Every visit to my grandparents is sad and scary, watching time rob them of their minds and often their dignity. I pray that my parents remain healthy, both physically and mentally. It's not that I'm afraid of the physical commitment a child must make to take care of ailing parents, though I know how grueling it can be. I just can't bear the thought of my father not knowing who I am or my mother becoming a totally different person. But it is not for us to decide our fate in our last years and I pray that God will once again make me strong and give me peace. I pray that I can be the daughter that my mother has been to her parents, never giving up even when it would be easier and possibly less painful to walk away.

On Monday, I buried a dog. But I also buried a small piece of me, the little girl me that I still cling to.

I think I'm officially an adult now.

And I want to go back.