Monday, December 31, 2012

New Year's Eve dream...

I had a strange dream this morning.  It started with me trying to decorate several houses.  I was getting frustrated because I didn't have enough of or the right kind of furniture.  So the next thing I know, my husband and I are at some river on a big river boat.  Somehow, I ended up swimming in the water, which was deep green.

Suddenly, I looked up and saw a pair of eyes at the water level.  I suddenly realized I was being stalked by a huge alligator.  I started shouting at the boat, which is full of people.  They yell back at me, but no one helps as the alligator draws closer.  I try to swim away as fast as I can, but the alligator matches my speed.  I woke up just as the alligator was about to attack.

I think all this talk and drama about the ex and her spawn prompted this dream.  Or maybe I've just been watching too much TV.  My father-in-law will probably get my husband's letter today or Wednesday.  I suspect it will create drama in their house, too.  Too bad.

This morning, a woman on the Recovery from Mormonism board wrote a very kind post basically imploring me to cut my husband's kids a break for being jerks.  Believe me, I do understand their position.  I know they are victims of their mother.  I understand that have been lied to, used, and manipulated.  But society will expect them to behave like the adults that they are.  If we don't hold them accountable for their actions now that they are adults, when should we hold them accountable?  Maybe, if someone had ever held their mother accountable, she wouldn't be a 13 year old child in a 45 year old body.

Aside from the fact that it's our duty to hold the kids responsible, another issue has come up repeatedly in my husband's life that makes standing up to his father necessary.  All his life, my husband has been a caretaker and a peacemaker.  He hates strife and will go to great lengths to avoid conflict.  Consequently, he has frequently been at the mercy of arrogant, entitled, abusive people who steamroll him to get their way.

My husband's father is not an abusive person, but he is a bit spineless.  My husband has never stood up to him because he didn't have him around much when he was growing up and he values their relationship.  He got to see him in fits and starts and it was easier to capitulate and get through the weekend or summer break than stand up to his dad and go through unpleasantness.  So he missed out on the normal conflicts that most people go through when they are teenagers.  Standing up to him is terrifying, even though my husband's dad is basically harmless.

As he's gone through life, my husband has run into quite a few bullies.  And every time, he ends up victimized by them because he doesn't nip their behavior in the bud.  Bullies come to expect that they can get what they want from him because he always rolls over.  This time, he's not going to roll over.  This time, he's going to take a stand for what's right.

There may be some initial drama, but I think this is ultimately the only way we can have peace.  Otherwise, we'll always be vigilant, waiting for the next shoe to drop.  There will always be at least a low level of pain with occasional bombshells dropped on us as each new life event my husband's kids experience is flashed at us.  The ex wants us to be engaged, but on the outside.  Really, it is she who should be on the outside of my husband's family.


Saturday, December 29, 2012

2012 was a good year... until December struck

Looking back on 2012, my husband and I had a pretty delightful year.  In February, we took a quick break to Hilton Head, South Carolina for no other reason other than to get away for a few days.  In May, we took our very first hop to Europe and visited Germany, Austria, and Luxembourg.  Over the summer, I went with my husband on a couple of trips to the Hampton Roads area in Virginia and I got to see my parents twice.  In September, we went to North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina and had several lovely days at the beach.  And in November, we took our long anticipated trip to Scotland...

We did a lot of traveling and spent a lot of time together.  Everything seemed to be going great.

Then December struck.  We were suddenly having to deal with MacGregor and his sudden and unexpected decline.  Reading back over some of my blog entries from October, I sure wasn't expecting that he wouldn't see in 2013 with us.  What really is the worst thing is that he was pretty healthy except for the inoperable tumor that was causing him so much pain.  Had we been able to relieve the pain at a reasonable cost, he'd still be with us.

I've really been missing MacGregor.  I haven't been crying every day, but I've just noticed how quiet the house is without him.  I've missed his company.  I've seen his absence turn Zane into a much mellower dog, too.  He's very easy going and relaxed, but I think he needs a friend.

And then we found out about my husband's long lost daughter calling my husband's dad and stepmother.  A lot of people would welcome the contact with a lost relative, I guess.  But we know that if she's suddenly calling after five years of silence, something is up.  Especially since the idiot is planning to go on a Mormon mission in May and that will mean her contact with the grandparents will be short lived.

My husband's psycho ex wife is trying to horn in again.  I have the sense that this is meant to hook my husband's dad and stepmother into her drama.  Once the girl is on her mission, the ex will be the only source of information about her.  And then they will end up kissing her ass again.  She needs something from them... money, shelter, or a sense of power.  Once she gets it from them, they'll be cast aside again.  Too bad they can't figure it out for themselves.

Because we've seen this happen over and over again, we had to make a heartbreaking decision to go no contact with my husband's parents.  My husband sent a letter to that effect, which will probably reach them on New Year's Eve...  happens to be their anniversary.  Maybe they'll get it Wednesday.  In any case, I expect they'll go ballistic and we might get a phone call or nasty email.  Or maybe there will be silence.  If there is, I imagine that wouldn't be the worst thing in the world.

We have to put a stop to the drama.  We have to move on.  It's still not easy, though.  My husband loves his dad and doesn't want to lose the relationship, but he can't be involved with his crazy ex anymore.  So December has sucked... and I'll be ready to see 2013.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

An open letter to my father-in-law...

This post is probably going to be more profane than usual, so if you have delicate sensibilities, you might want to skip it.  And if this post makes you feel like leaving me a derogatory comment, remember that this blog is for me, not you. I'm not looking for advice from the peanut gallery on this one.

Dear Ray,

Three years ago, your son and I visited you and your wife in your home.  We spent two solid days clearing the air with you.  My husband finally had the chance to tell you all about his disastrous marriage to his abusive ex-wife, which unfortunately produced two hateful daughters who have grown up to be completely disrespectful and cruel to their father, their grandmother, and yes, to you and your family.

We left your home thinking you finally understood that the ex is batshit crazy.  While I had a feeling you'd be stupid when it comes to the two girls, we also thought you knew that they've grown up to be hateful and manipulative too.  You saw how their brother turned out, after all.

Ray, five years ago, your two "beloved" granddaughters stopped talking to you for no apparent reason.  They did this even though you and your wife purchased them expensive gifts which went unacknowledged and were probably sold on eBay.  They did this even though you called them wanting to chat with them about their lives, only to be rudely rebuffed.  They did this even though you have repeatedly offered them love and shelter... and even displaced your son on more than one occasion to accommodate them, only to be shunned the way they shunned their dad.

I understand that you are their grandfather and all you ever wanted was a healthy relationship with them.  You have only wanted to love them.  But they have not returned your love.  Loving people don't suddenly stop communicating for no obvious reason.  You and your wife are fools if you think that you can have a relationship with your granddaughters that doesn't include your toxic former daughter-in-law.

In case you've forgotten, shithead #1 and shithead #2 both wrote letters disowning their father back in 2006.  They have steadfastly refused to see or speak to their dad, despite the fact that he was nothing but a loving and supportive father to them.  They refuse to hear his side of the story and will only listen to what their psychotic mother says to them.  You are apparently so stupid that you don't get that these people only want to use you and, if you let them, they will take up residence in your life like a bunch of cockroaches.

It boggles my mind how you came to the conclusion that it was appropriate to tell my husband about his shithead daughter on Christmas Day.  How would YOU like it if your daughter hadn't spoken to you in eight years and a close family member was all elated talking to you about her phone call to them... specifically adding that she had no interest in hearing about YOU, the man who helped give her life?  Did it even occur to you how very hateful that is?

You should be ashamed of yourself, Ray, for tolerating and enabling her bad behavior.  Welcoming her back into your life after she and her mother used you will only reinforce and encourage her to be a little cunt to other people.  Would you want to hear about that shit on Christmas Day, Ray?  Do you realize that you made your son cry?  Thanks a whole fucking lot for once again aiding and abetting that crazy bitch in her constant quest to screw with us!  You get bonus points for the fact that it was the biggest holiday of the year!

Ray, if you insist on having a relationship with these people, we will have no choice but to exclude you from our lives.  You may think that's harsh, and I'll admit that it is.  But we've spent ten years trying to move on.  For most of those years, we tried to maintain a relationship with these idiot girls who can't seem to pull their heads out of their asses and don't seem interested in anyone but themselves.  You refuse to hold them accountable for abusing you and everyone else in their family.  For that reason, we have to hold YOU accountable for allowing them to abuse us through contact with you.

I know you're getting old and you're afraid of dying without talking to your granddaughters again.  Perhaps you should give some thought to whether or not you want to have a relationship with your son.   Your son has never done anything but love and support you.  He has never quit talking to you.  He has never been disrespectful and hateful to you.  I don't understand why you'd rather rekindle abusive relationships with your former grandkids (because legally they very well may be former grandkids)... than your one and ONLY flesh and blood SON!  We are sick and tired of standing by and watching this shit and wallowing in the drama.  If you can't wise up and figure it out, then have a good life and enjoy your time with your granddaughters...  But your life will go on without us in it.

And by the way, shithead #2 can't call you when she's on a Mormon mission, you fucking asshole.  So your reunion with her is likely to be short lived.  And you won't be invited to her wedding, either, unless you plan to become a Mormon.  And even then, she probably won't invite you.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

How Christmas went...

My husband, mother-in-law, and dog were having a perfectly nice Christmas until my husband called his dad.  My father-in-law is a nice man, but he's a bit on the simple side.  That's why it didn't occur to him that it would be hurtful for him to tell my husband about a phone call he got from his long lost 19 year old daughter.

Ex stepdaughter, who may or may not have been legally adopted by her current stepfather, called my husband's dad on Thanksgiving.  She is apparently at BYU on scholarship... and if that's the truth, BYU must not be as competitive a school as they seem.  She doesn't appear to have any intellectual curiosity or critical thinking skills...  On the other hand, I think anyone who believes in Mormonism wholesale must not be much of a critical thinker or intellectually curious.

She also plans to go on a mission.  She told my father-in-law that she was "scared" to call him because she figured he wouldn't want to talk to her.  And really, he shouldn't want to talk to her, since she disowned him five years ago and his son (her father) eight years ago.  But this kid, being her mother's daughter, has no shame and my husband's dad and stepmom have no sense of self-preservation.

My husband, who had been out on the back deck talking to his dad, came back inside in tears.  We had plans to go to my sister's house for dinner.  I was a bit stressed about that, since I knew one of my other sisters would be in attendance and it would probably be tense.  And my brother-in-law enjoys instigating drama.  Fortunately, dinner with my sister went pretty well.  No blood was spilled.

Seems to me, my husband's ex wife is stirring up shit again.  I doubt ex stepdaughter made this phone call of her own accord.  She would have had to get the number from her fucking mother, who causes all this havoc and has a history of stirring up shit during the holidays.  She can't get to us directly, so she gets her kid to call my father-in-law over the holidays, knowing that he'll tell my husband about it when he calls to wish his dad a happy holiday.  She probably meant for him to hear about this over Thanksgiving, but it's so much the better for her that it happened on Christmas.

We talked about this a lot last night and I think my husband is going to have to tell his dad that his former daughters are an off limits topic and if he insists on talking about them, my husband will have to end the phone call.  Meanwhile, I am so tempted to go on that little shit's blog and rip her a new one.  I won't do that, though, because she's narcissistic like her mother is and craves a reaction.  What she deserves is silence.

Other than that, Christmas went reasonably well...  I'm missing my dog, though.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas Eve...

My mother-in-law is here.  She's a lot of fun and it's always a pleasure to have her visit.  I was hoping MacGregor would be around to see her again, since they had a bond.  The last few days have been strange.  Probably one of the strangest things that happened was the dream I had about Justin Bieber.  At my age, I'm not really into Bieber, but I guess I saw him one too many times on TV, because I dreamt he had a new song out called "Oral".  And the video involved him dancing naked.  It was quite disturbing.

I've been thinking a lot about MacGregor, too.  At the same time, I've also been looking for another dog.  It's too quiet in the house and Zane needs a playmate.  So do I...  I need a nice young dog who requires walks.  Zane and I both could stand some exercise.

Last night, Triangle Beagle Rescue posted a short film (and good thing it was short because my internet is sucking hard right now) of two beagles playing.  One was a dog whose photo kind of jumped out at me.  He looks like he could be a good fit.  Unfortunately, I've tried to fill out an application and the Web site's system won't put the first page through.  I sent my information to someone at the rescue, though, so hopefully they'll be able to help me out.

I also bought a thank you card for the vet at NC State who looked after MacGregor.  While I did drop $2500 for diagnostic tests that ultimately brought us bad news, I will never forget how kind and compassionate that vet was when we put our dear MacGregor down.  I figure she probably gets all kinds of responses from her clients when things like this happen.  I'm sure that some people get very upset when specialists can't help them.  I wanted her to have something tangible to let her know that we know she did her best for us.

Anyway... I hope everyone has a nice holiday.  And maybe we can offer a good start to the new year with a new dog.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The house is so quiet now...

In the hours since we lost MacGregor, I have to admit I'm mostly fine.  There were a couple of moments yesterday when I got a bit misty, mainly as I was walking Zane around the yard.  But really, I don't feel too upset about the fact that he died.  It was more distressing to me to watch him suffer.

My husband, on the other hand, was a bit of a wreck when he got home last night.  He said he'd read everything I'd written yesterday (and I wrote a lot because it helps me process things).  He said it was "good writing"... probably because he knew exactly what I was writing about.  He was with me the whole time we had MacGregor and was the recipient of that dog's unique love and affection.  He heard his little noises and big noises... he saw him wag his tail and heard it thump with heavy precision multiple times a day.  He had watched MacGregor move like a sewing machine before he started limping.  I'm sure the things I wrote yesterday on my Epinions tribute brought those memories flooding back, not that they weren't that fresh to start with.

This morning, I got up and got dressed.  I looked on the bed almost expecting MacGregor to be lying there, thumping his tail.  Instead, there was a little lump under the covers where Zane was still snuggled.  We got up and I took Zane out and fed him.  He came trotting to his food and ate it peacefully.  It occurred to me that Zane is so much quieter than MacGregor was.  He's lighter in build, so his movements make little tinkling sounds instead of the heavier thuds that came from MacGregor.  While Zane can be very loud when a stranger comes to the door, he's otherwise not as much into verbalizing as MacGregor was.  He whines quietly when he needs something while MacGregor would bark in his deep, soulful way.

Don't get me wrong.  Zane is his own kind of sweet and awesome.  I love him very much.  It's just that my house is now too quiet.  I need another dog to help fill the void.

I think after Christmas, the hunt for a new furbaby will commence in earnest.  At this point, I've spotted a couple of candidates I like, but the practical side of me is telling me to wait until the Christmas stuff is safely put away.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Farewell MacGregor...

I think deep down I knew this day was coming, even as our local vet encouraged us to get our beloved MacGregor seen by the vets at NC State and even as the high speed NC State vet seemed encouraging as she examined our dog.  I think I'm a fairly pessimistic person anyway, though.  It's that nasty practical streak I inherited from my mother.

In any case, when the neurology resident called at around noon with the results of MacGregor's MRI, I had a feeling the news wouldn't be good.  And it wasn't.  The young veterinary resident explained that MacGregor had a tumor growing very close to his spine and it had invaded his spinal column, making the tumor inoperable.  She offered to send us to oncology to see if they could give him chemo or radiation, but I had done research and determined that those therapies are both expensive and ineffective.  I knew MacGregor was scared and in pain and would rather be with us.

I asked the vet about euthanasia.  She said she could do that for us, too.  I knew she would be able to, but I brought it up because I knew I didn't want to take MacGregor back to the veterinary clinic we've been using and take the chance that he would be euthanized by the vet who had treated him so callously when we were abroad.  I also wanted to spare the other vet, who had bonded with him and seemed so concerned about his welfare.

I didn't want to bring MacGregor home, knowing that the next time we put him in the car, it would be to have him killed.  I also got the sense that the vet at NC State would do her very best to make MacGregor comfortable.

After she gave me the bad news, I told her I would call my husband and we would likely come up to Raleigh to send MacGregor on his way once my husband could break away from work.  He had a very busy day yesterday with a small series of disasters that made it impossible for him to leave early.

I called the vet back to give her a time when we could be there, but she was busy.  She called back a little later and we were able to discuss the icky details.  I explained that we had lost two other beagles before MacGregor, so the business side of putting them down was not unfamiliar to me.  I'm sure on some level that was a relief to her.  I told her that we would have him cremated and we would not take his ashes.  Although I know some people are comforted to have their beloved pet's ashes in an urn, we have to move so frequently that it's not practical.  And since all our homes have been rentals, it makes no sense to scatter the ashes or bury the pets.  Besides, I would rather remember MacGregor alive.

Then the vet asked if we would consent to allowing an autopsy.  I know people don't like to think about autopsies, but if the dog is dead and we're going to be cremating him, I don't see how an autopsy is disrespectful.  How is exploring MacGregor's dead body and possibly gleaning more information more disrespectful than just burning him into ashes?  Besides, if the vets can learn from MacGregor's tumor, maybe they'll be able to help another dog.  While I don't like to think about what they will do to him, I choose to believe that by letting his body be used to teach other vets, we are ultimately showing respect to the dogs who will come after him with the same problem.  I told her I didn't think my husband would mind and he didn't.  Then she told us there would be no charge for the euthanasia or cremation.  I laughed slightly and said that was a first, since both vets who had euthanized our other beagles had charged for both.  She said we'd already spent enough money!

We got to the hospital at a little after 5:00.  The vet brought MacGregor to us.  He looked terrified and bloated from the Prednisone.  The back of his neck was shaved and had obviously been doused in Betadine.  He had a catheter in his left hind leg.  She set him on a fuzzy blue NAP blanket we'd brought for him the day before.  We got down on the floor with him and stroked him for awhile.  He started to relax and his eyes weren't quite so huge and scared after a few minutes.  He wasn't really the funny dog we knew, though.  Being in a hospital and having scary things done was completely foreign to him.  He'd always been a "healthy" dog.

We told him how much we loved him and there were some tears.  And then, when it was time for him to go, the vet sedated him and administered that last injection.  In stark contrast to Flea, the dog who had predeceased him, MacGregor went very quickly and willingly.  Flea had been a fighter whose magnificent beagle body was eaten up with cancer.  MacGregor was a more gentle soul and he was ready to give up this life.

We talked to the vet for a few minutes after the deed was done.  She was comforting when she told us the tumor had been in a place that probably would have defied treatment, even if we'd caught it early.  I remembered that I'd seen him leaning to the left two years ago, but all the vets we'd seen had figured he was arthritic.  Even if they had done x-rays, the tumor would likely not have shown up.

As we were about to leave, I thanked the vet and said I hoped she understood that I hoped I never had to see her again (at least not in a professional capacity).  She laughed.  I asked her if I could give her a hug.  She consented.  And then we left, feeling strangely at peace.

About twenty minutes into the drive home, a song by Rhonda Vincent popped up on my iPod...

"I Will See You Again" is a song about death and how Jesus died to allow us eternal life.  I am not particularly religious, but sometimes I comfort myself with the idea that there's something beyond this life.  My husband once had a near death experience and that has made him less afraid of death.  Every time we've lost a dog, we've gotten a sign of some sort... or maybe we just comfort ourselves with coincidences.  Anyway, that song came on and it was all about how we would see each other again someday.  When my dogs die, they usually do visit in my dreams.  I still get dream visits from the horse I had twenty years ago.

Here are the lyrics to "I Will See You Again".  Even if they're completely based in fantasy and myth, I find comfort in them today...

It was a gathering of some 300 people
In the little church the crowd began to swell
Quite a send off for a simple country farmer
For many loved and knew the old man well

And as his bride of 60 years came forward
She bravely walked to where his body lay
A hush fell over all that stood around her
She smiled through tears as she began to say

I will see you again
For this isn’t the end
You’re my forever friend
And I will see you again

Ever since a simple carpenter from Nazareth
Walked the mountains and the shores of Galilee
Ever since he died and rose again on Easter
Death doesn’t have the same old victory

Tonight I’ll lay my head upon his pillow
And cry until the breaking of the day
But even in the pain of separation
There’s a hope inside my heart that lets me say


Jesus, He made a way
There is coming a day
So I will hold on ‘til then
And I will see you again

I will hold on ‘til then
And I will see you...again.

I made a page for MacGregor on Facebook.  He has an amazing number of fans out there.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The news isn't good...

Well, the vet called a little while ago and told me that MacGregor has a tumor that is invading his spinal column.  It's inoperable.  We could do radiation or chemotherapy, but it's very expensive and not likely to be effective.  So we're most likely going to say goodbye to MacGregor this evening, as soon as my husband can get off work.

Monday, December 17, 2012

MacGregor is now a hospital patient...

So we took MacGregor to NC State this morning and he saw a veterinary neurologist.  She thinks he either has a disc problem or a neural sheath tumor.  Either way, it's likely he'll get surgery.  I paid $2500 so they can do an MRI and other tests to assess his health.  He may come back to us a tripod.

The vet put him on the floor and he actually walked relatively well for her and passed most of her neurological tests.  She says he appears to be in decent health and is probably a good surgical candidate, though they don't know exactly what his problem is.  Either way, at least we'll know.  I just want him to feel better.

It's probably a good thing I was with my husband.  I was the one who brought up finances and both my husband and the vet seemed relieved when I did.  It's going to be a costly endeavor to get him taken care of, but if it ends up buying him more time pain free, it'll be worth it.

On a related note, there was a woman in the waiting room with a therapy dog.  She said he was her dog and in training to help her with her anxiety issues.  Apparently, he's done a lot of good for her.  He was an adorable hound mix with black "eye shadow" and I could tell he was helping her a lot.  It was kind of cool to see that... Maybe even worth $2500.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Shoe ads that send the wrong message...

This morning, my husband and I were eating breakfast.  The television was on in the office and an ad came on featuring two entitled twits who were lamenting that their mom would never understand them. As they were whining, they were opening Christmas presents.  As the boy opened his present, he screamed "Nikes!"  The girl had gotten a stylish pair of ankle boots.  Mom was sitting alone on the couch next to the Christmas tree with a big smile on her face as a flag unrolled that said "Victory".

That ad bugs me for so many reasons.  First off, according to that ad, a mom's knowledge about what kinds of shoes her kids want for Christmas is apparently akin to knowing them as people.  That's a pretty sad statement on family relationships these days.

Secondly, mom is apparently supposed to focus her life on her kids' desires and winning their affection.

And finally, where was dad?  Why wasn't dad involved in this little gift exchange?  Or is dad just not a part of the kids' lives anymore...

A similar ad that annoys me is the one for Build-A-Bear...

Mom talks about how when her daughter really likes something, she puts a star on it.  So in an effort to win over her daughter's love, she takes her to the nearest Build-A-Bear retail outlet and spends a boatload of money on a stuffed animal.  And yeah, daughter likes it so much she puts a star on it... until she finds something she wants more than a fucking stuffed teddy bear.

My thoughts on Newtown, CT...

To be perfectly honest, I wasn't aware of the mass shooting that happened yesterday as it was going on.  I was otherwise engaged.  It wasn't until I glanced at Facebook and noticed all the people commenting about the dead children at the hands of yet another crazed madman that I realized what was going on.

I made an effort not to watch the news too much.  When these kinds of tragedies happen, the media outlets become saturated with "news" about what's going on.  A lot of times, the news outlets get it wrong.  For instance, yesterday they were reporting that Adam Lanza's brother, Ryan, was the one responsible for the carnage at Sandy Hook Elementary School.  It later turned out that Adam worked alone and happened to have his brother's ID on him for some reason.

This morning, a guy I have known since we were in the 3rd grade wrote this...

"Yesterday was a horrible day for America. I feel so sad for the families of that Ct. town and we should all pray for them because they will definitely need a long time to heal as a community. In the aftermath, there has been alot of talk about gun control, police guards, metal detectors and the like. Don't you find it odd that we didn't have those things in schools when we were kids? Hell, when we were in high school I used to keep my shotgun behind the seat in my truck (after hunting in the morning) parked in the parking lot at school. The problem isn't guns or knives or more police needed at school, it is our society changing slowly for the worse. Back then, we were not tolerant of "weirdos". Society as a whole "self policed" them and kept them in line by church, family, and good ole peer pressure. Call it bullying if you like but the mainstream society kept everyone else in line. Nowadays, we bend over backwards at every oportunity to make sure the most obscure fragment of society has "equal representation". Of course this sounds good and the Libs will say "isn't that what our country is about" but I find it ironic that it is what is ripping our country apart. In todays PC environment, we have no choice but to wait until they break some law to take action in fear of being called a bully, bigot, or fear mongerer. We live in a world that is during a time of significant change in our Country. Unfortunately, the change is not for the better."

It occurred to me that back when we were kids, things seemed a lot simpler. We didn't have the Internet. We had cable TV, but we didn't have 24/7 news, except on CNN. CNN didn't really catch on until the mid 80s or so, when we were pre-teens. It's not that violence didn't happen back then; it's that we weren't necessarily going to hear about it right away. And so things seemed safer. Our parents didn't feel like we had to be cooped up in the house, under supervision 24/7. We were left to fend for ourselves and solve our own issues.

But there were bad things in society back then, too. We had divorce, drug abuse, disease, and crime... Kids were harmed back then, though I will admit I don't remember hearing about youngsters going crazy and shooting up schools. I do remember seeing some of my classmates very troubled. I think my generation was among the first where kids were routinely given medications for things like ADD and depression. It's now become more and more common. And, of course, while a lot of kids grew up with parents who both worked or had to be shuttled from one parent's house to the other, it seems like today a lot of kids have parents who have no job at all... or one or both of their parents have checked out of their lives completely.

Another thing that it occurred to me is that today's young people have so much pressure on them to succeed. We had pressure, too, and I remember feeling very scared about the future for so many reasons. Nowadays, we have kids doing incredible things like starting multi-million dollar companies, climbing Mount Everest, or sailing around the world all alone. Sure, it's the rare kid who does these things, but we hear about it on the news, which makes it seem more common. And so, kids who are not so sure of themselves or feel like maybe they can't compete or produce begin to feel hopeless. Maybe they descend into mental illness or develop some false of reality...

I have no idea why Adam Lanza did what he did yesterday. It sounds like he was a very troubled young man with many personal problems that he felt he had to address in a very public, violent, and tragic way. One of my friends actually knows a family who lost their daughter yesterday. She posted a picture from a Christmas card she received just Wednesday of this beautiful angelic blonde child and her older brother. Their smiles are so genuine and serene. They were blissfully unaware of what awaited them.

I always wanted children, but I have to admit that when I see something like this in the news, it makes me feel better not to have them. I have no idea how these people are going to cope with the massive loss... and the surviving children now have to grow up with the memories of yesterday, the darkest day of their childhoods. Or... at least I hope it's the darkest. And I hope what happened yesterday doesn't cause one of those children so much grief and torment that he or she takes a similar path to Adam Lanza's.

Friday, December 14, 2012

MacGregor is a genius...

I'm not trying to turn my blog into a MacGregor news source, but I watched him do something this morning that surprised me.  First off, he was in a pretty good mood this morning at about 5:30am.  He woke me up to let me know he needed to go out.  I took him and Zane out and they did their morning constitutionals.  I brought them back inside, fed them, and gave MacGregor his medications.  Then we went back to bed, where I managed to sleep a couple more hours.

MacGregor was still in a good mood when I got up and got dressed.  I put him on the floor and took him and Zane out again for another dump.  On the way to the door, I noticed he was sort of "surfing" on the slick floor.  He can't seem to get very good traction on the floor and slips as he tries to walk.  Somehow, he figured out that his back legs were more reliable than his front, so he kept the front legs stiff and sort of pushed himself along on the floor.  It was actually pretty cool to watch.  He really always has been our smartest dog.

A few years ago, when he was still very puppyish, he figured out how to move his bed closer to my chair.  He'd put his front legs in the bed and use his back legs to gain leverage and tow the bed closer to where he wanted it to be.  He used to jump up on his crate and look out the windows.  Somehow, he's always been able to figure things out better than the other dogs we've had.

I don't know how much longer he has with us, but it sure is interesting to watch him adapt.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

My husband is home...

Poor MacGregor had a rough morning yesterday because he threw up his Prednisone the night before.  I've come to realize that he needs it to function.  He couldn't really move too well during the night and when it came time for me to get him out of bed, he just kind of laid on his side.  Usually, he'll scramble into a position to make it easy for me to pick him up without hurting him (he's always been our smartest dog).  I ended up having scoot my hand under him and he let out a piercing yelp.  It took two or three times to finally pick him up, but once I did, he stopped crying.

A couple of hours after I gave him his drugs, he was feeling okay enough to crawl out of his bed.  But then sometime in the afternoon, he peed all over the braided wool rug my mom gave me.  It's no big deal, I guess.  She gave it to me a few years ago because it was still in good condition.  It has no sentimental value or anything.  Anyway, I noticed the crappy vinyl flooring under the rug was discolored, so I pulled it out from under the kitchen table and tossed it in the garage.  I read up on floor cleaning and apparently, yellow stains on vinyl flooring can be rectified by exposure to sunlight.

After MacGregor's accident, he went into his crate and rested for a couple of hours.  Then my husband came home and that was enough to lure him out of the crate and into the kitchen, where his tail wagged a mile a minute.  It's very heartwarming to watch dogs reunite with their favorite human.  MacGregor has never liked men much, but he adores my husband and they have a special bond.

MacGregor was much better this morning.  I was a little worried he'd be painful today, but he managed to get into position and onto the floor with no crying.  So that's a good thing.  I was feeling a little depressed yesterday, thinking maybe his problem was hopeless and I was kidding myself with the upcoming vet school appointment.  I guess the best we can do is prepare to hear the worst news.  I don't think that's what will happen.  More than likely, we'll get new or different drugs and perhaps some leads on physical therapy.  As far as I can tell, he's still pretty healthy internally.  He just has trouble walking and is in pain.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Looks like another move might be on the horizon...

I was kind of thinking we wouldn't have to move again, given the fact that we've moved so many times within the past five years.  It's not that I really like North Carolina all that much.  I'm just tired of the whole moving process.

On the other hand, even if we stayed here, I could see moving out of this house.  It has a lot of issues.  Right now, the most pressing one is the wood floor "tenting", which seems to happen when the weather is especially damp.  It's a cheap wood floor and the landlord probably installed it himself (incorrectly), so we have a couple of "speed bumps" in our house.

The kitchen kind of sucks and so do the bathrooms.  On the other hand, we have a nice yard with lots of trees and even a little pond in the back.  We don't have neighbors living close to us.  Those who are near us are nice folks who leave us alone.  Rent is cheap, too... and every time we move, it costs us money.

I like my dentist and optometrist.  However, for obvious reasons, I don't like the vet... and I have yet to see my assigned doctor, but I have a feeling I wouldn't like him either.

So my husband is out of town and he called me last night to ask me how I felt about San Antonio, Texas.  I actually like the place.  His mom lives there and we visited a few years ago.  I hate the idea of a move... and the long ass drive to Texas from North Carolina.  On the other hand, I like the idea of a better place to live and being in a place where there's more to do.   Or... at least a place where there's more for me to do.   I think I'd like to get a life.

Things are still in talks and it may not happen.  This isn't the first time Texas has come up.  We could end up staying here or going somewhere else.  But it's so much fun to speculate, right?

Monday, December 10, 2012

Scotland-- Part 4... Edinburgh

We spent the last four nights of our vacation in Edinburgh, which is a lovely city.  I wish we hadn't been burdened with worry about MacGregor; however, we still really enjoyed the last part of our trip.  We stayed at The Chester Residence, a very nice place that offers serviced apartments to travelers.  We stayed in an enormous one bedroom flat with a kitchen and two bathrooms, both of which had rainfall showers.  

Maybe we should have gone to the castle.  We did get to the parking lot.  But I was feeling so overwhelmed and upset about the dog that we didn't end up touring it.  Here's a nighttime shot.

Instead, we visited the Scotch Whisky experience, The People's Story Museum, The National Museum of Art, and Mary King's Close.  Interspersed with all of these activities, we strolled around and sat in pubs.  

The weather was nice when we were in Edinburgh.  We even had plenty of sun.  In fact, there were times when the sun was so bright I was pretty much blinded by it!  

Compared to everywhere else we visited in Scotland, Edinburgh was very touristy, particularly on The Royal Mile.  There were lots of souvenir shops that sold everything from cashmere scarves to kilts to haggis.  Right now, the city of Edinburgh is building a tram system, which made it very difficult to get around in some areas, especially when I had to pee.

Aside from that, things were winding down in Edinburgh and we were constantly worried about the dog, wondering if we should just end our trip early and come home.  As it turned out, we didn't have to do that, though he probably wouldn't have suffered so much if we had gotten home before we did.  

We really enjoyed Scotland, though.  I could go back again and again...  if there weren't so many other places I wanted to see!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Part 3... Scotland-- Scots are so nice!

When our cruise ended on November 27th, my husband and I took a cab arranged by the Hebridean Princess from Greenock to Edinburgh, about a 50 or 60 mile trip.  The cabbie was very nice.  I think the company Hebridean uses must be well treated.  I think I saw the guy's boss receiving a bottle of scotch from the ship!

Anyway, we ended up using this cab service twice.  The first time was on the 22nd, when our first cruise ended and we needed to find something to do.  The first purser, Charles, arranged for us to visit the Burrell Collection in Glasgow along with Audrey, the hyperactive 90 year old from Cornwall!  She was an adorable lady who has two very active sons who are into extreme travel.  She told us all about them over lunch.  The cab driver presented me with a tartan umbrella at the end of our tour.  I don't know why.  He just insisted that I take it.

The one thing I noticed most about the Scots we ran into is that so many of them were so incredibly nice and hospitable.  When we made a stop in Largs, we had to be escorted past some construction that was going on because they were repairing damage caused by a storm last year.  This young guy came out and asked us where we were from and how we liked Scotland.  We told him we were having a wonderful time and he very sincerely wished us a good time and a warm welcome.

Another thing I noticed is that I really fit in there.  I look very Scottish and more than once, people asked directions of me and my husband.  They backed off when they heard me speak!

Aside from being nice, Scots are also funny.  When we were walking through Edinburgh, we overheard a lot of young people talking to each other.  I can't tell you how many people I overheard using the f word.  Yeah... that's my kind of place!

Sequoias at the Benmore Botanical Gardens near Holy Loch...

A beautiful sunset near Largs.

We passed this while walking through the charming village of Tighnabruaich...

My husband is already talking about visiting Scotland again...  This even though there are so many other places we want to see, including his ancestral homeland of Ireland!

In other news, one week ago, I was sure I was going to have to put MacGregor down.  Today, he almost got off the bed by himself.  He's walking much better and is able to get up on the couch by himself.  He's still not 100% by any means, but his improvement since Wednesday is amazing!  Prednisone is a wonder drug.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Scotland- Part 2 Hebridean Princess

My husband and I arrived at the port at about 5:00pm or so... It was dark, cold, and drizzly and we had to go through security before we were piped aboard tiny Hebridean Princess.  A young lad of about 14 or 15 was shivering outside the port in full Scottish regalia, piping folk tunes as each couple boarded the ship.

My husband and I were shown to our cabin, which was on the lowest deck.  It was one of the cheapest staterooms and lacked windows, but it was still very comfortable.  In fact, of all the places we stayed in Scotland, I think the bed was the most comfortable on the ship.  We were the youngest ones onboard and the only Americans on the first cruise, but everyone we met was active mentally and physically.

On the second cruise, there was one other American couple close to us in age.  But we didn't get much of a chance to bond with them.

Our cruises took us around the isles of Bute, Arran, Sanda, and Kintyre.  On the last night of each cruise, there was a "gala", which entailed black tie dress.  My husband turned heads when he donned his Army dress blues.  I have to admit, he looks especially handsome in that uniform and it's very striking.  There's something transformative about it.

Here's a shot of the Princess from Argyll's Secret Coast.

I took over 1000 photos of wild Scottish nature.  We did a lot of walking, though perhaps my favorite part of the trip was seeing baby seals...


It was interesting interacting with the staff on the ship.  We had a different guide and purser/cruise director for each of the cruises.  Everyone was uniformly excellent, but there were differences in how the guides ran things.  I liked both of the pursers-- the first one, Charles, was a bit stern and more serious than the second one, David, who was just all out fabulous.  I heard that David was the purser when Queen Elizabeth took her first cruise on the Princess.  She enjoyed him so much that she asked for him again when she cruised in 2010.

We had an amazing time...  The only thing that sucked about it was the business with our dog.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Scotland... Part 1- Glasgow

Now that we're sort of past the MacGregor crisis, I figure it's time to write about our trip.  MacGregor is feeling contented today, though he still walks like he's very drunk.  

My husband and I had a wonderful time in Scotland.  I am very glad we didn't end our trip early, because we got to see and do a lot of things we may never have the chance to see and do again.  Scotland is insanely beautiful, even in November.  Yes, there was rain and it was chilly a lot of the time, but the cold was never unbearable.  We did a lot of walking, ate good food, met interesting and kind people, and got an unforgettable taste of the birthplace of some of my ancestors.

Our trip began in Glasgow.  We arrived the afternoon of November 15.  It was cold, dark, and drizzly, but a friendly cab driver collected us and all our luggage and took us as close as he could get to our hotel.  We happened to show up the night Glasgow was putting up Christmas lights, so the road closest to our hotel was blocked off.

The cabbie had a very strong brogue and was very apologetic about letting us out where he did.  He actually did get us pretty close, though we had a little trouble finding the hotel because it was dark and drizzly.  The first night, we went to a Thai restaurant and had a fantastic meal, though we ordered way too much food.  Our hotel had a free mini bar, which included a liquor cabinet with vodka, gin, and whisky.

The second day was our anniversary.  We wandered around Glasgow and visited the Museum of Modern Art.  We didn't know it then, but the museums in Glasgow and Edinburgh are free to visit.  My husband happens to love looking at art and some of the exhibits were very interesting.  One artist had made a huge vagina and dubbed it "The Womb With a View".

There was another fascinating exhibit about a Jewish lesbian who had been a doctor during the Holocaust.  The exhibit used a slide show of a 1970s era Scandinavian Airlines plane, plane sound effects, and the doctor's poignant story about what life was like during that dark time.  Amazingly, she managed to escape Nazi Germany.

The night of our anniversary, we went to a nice restaurant called Rogano's that was within walking distance of our hotel.  The food was outstanding, though our waiter was quite cocky.  He must have been delighted when my husband left him a generous tip on top of the service charge.  It was during that meal that I was first introduced to the heavenly Scottish creation, cullen skink.

The next day, we did some more wandering around Glasgow and when it came time for checking out, we left our bags with the front desk and found a pub, where we proceeded to drink several Scottish cask beers.  I had some fish and chips, too...

Then that afternoon, we hauled our bags to the Glasgow train station and met the coach that would take us to Hebridean Princess, which was waiting for us in the city of Greenock.  My husband, the seatbelt fanatic, was delighted to see the bus was equipped with three point seatbelts and we were requested to wear them.  That would be the only time I'd bother for the next ten days...  

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Good news about MacGregor...

He's been on his new drug regime for less than 24 hours, but we've already seen amazing improvement.  This morning, as I was fixing his breakfast, I was absolutely shocked to hear him scramble from his bed and come into the kitchen, where he ate standing up!  Then, after I'd had the chance to take a photo and a short video of him trying to walk, he went back to his bed and laid down by himself.

I swear, 24 hours ago, I was sure he was better off dead.  I've really learned a lesson.  In my defense, though, our last two dogs died of horrible ailments that were hopelessly incurable.  I think that affects my faith in vets.  Our first dog, CC, had a mycobacterial infection spread by birds.  Our vet had never seen a mycobacterial infection before, so we ended up taking him to a very high powered vet hospital, where everyone greeted us wearing gowns, masks, and gloves.  I think they wanted to keep him around to study him, because mycobacterial infections in dogs are so rare.  But he was in a lot of pain and by the time we got to the high powered hospital, which actually had given us no hope that CC would live, we were out of money and resolve.

Our next dog, Flea, contracted prostate cancer, also rare in dogs.  He was neutered, but not until late in his life.  The vet in Germany, where he was diagnosed, recommended immediate euthanasia.  We didn't put him down, but I spent four months taking care of him and watching him get worse and worse.  He lost so much weight and became so weak and debilitated.  It was heartbreaking, because before he got cancer, he was a magnificent specimen who had a personality like George Jefferson.  Many dogs with prostate cancer die within a month of diagnosis, but Flea was a tremendous fighter.  And he didn't die that long ago...

So when MacGregor seemed so gravely disabled and the vet mentioned tumors, I sort of resigned myself to letting him go rather than getting a second opinion.  That was wrong.

MacGregor on Sunday, right after we picked him up.

MacGregor yesterday, a couple of hours after we gave him some higher powered Prednisone and painkillers.

MacGregor this morning.  He walked to his food bowl all by himself!!!

Later today, he jumped up on the couch by himself.  He's now lying in his bed and seems pretty tired, but his mood is much better.  He seems happy to be alive again.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Interesting turn of events...

We thought today would be MacGregor's last.  He seemed to be in a lot of pain last night.  He panted non-stop and cried when I picked him up.  We were thinking maybe Thursday would be the day we put him down, but last night was so bad, we called our vet and asked for a consultation.

We took MacGregor in and the vet we usually see was there.  She works on Saturdays and, as it turns out, Wednesdays.  I could tell she didn't think today was the day to put MacGregor down and she was very puzzled that the other vet had said MacGregor had a spinal tumor.  She pulled up the x-ray that the other doctor had used to make his diagnosis and said she thinks MacGregor has spondylosis, not cancer.  So now we're going to take him to NC State Vet School to see if anything can be done for him.  Even if it turns out we still have to put him down, at least we'll know we did all we could for him.

The last few days have been very difficult, but this may turn out to be a Christmas miracle.  We'll see.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Ever meet anyone who is so smart they can't relate to anyone else?

My husband and I did on our Scottish cruise...

But before I get into the very entertaining story, here's another MacGregor update.  He's still with us and still in a lot of pain.  Again, I think my husband is having a hard time with the concept of letting him go.  This morning, he took the dogs out for a pee, one at a time of course.  He had tears in his eyes when he brought MacGregor back to bed.  He had put MacGregor on the ground for a pee and the dog cried out in pain.  Once again, I brought up the idea of mercy.  He seemed to agree, then said he was going to pick up new pain relievers for him.  Apparently, the drug the pet resort picked up wasn't the right strength or formula.  Since it was his first day back at work after a long break and I know he wants to be there when we let MacGregor go, I'm not going to be too hard on him.  He and MacGregor have a very special bond.  On the other hand, I am the one who sits with the dog all day.  I don't relish the idea of losing our beloved pet, but I also don't want to draw this out.  It's very hard on all of us.

Anyway... back to the story about the smarty pants on our cruise.  I need to do something to take my mind off my ailing beagle, who is breaking my heart.

On Thanksgiving, our first cruise ended and the ship sent me, my husband, and an adorable elderly lady named Audrey who could outwalk just about everyone on the ship on a little excursion.  When we got back later, it was about time for the new folks to board.  My husband and I had been the only Americans on our first cruise and, at age 40, I was the youngest by far of the passengers.

On the second cruise, there were a few other younger folks, though I think I was still among the youngest.  There was also another American couple.  They were from Pittsburgh.  Of course, some people thought we were them, since the town we live in isn't obviously American like Pittsburgh is and our accents most definitely are American.  

Anyway, when this American couple came onboard, I could tell right off the bat that they were academics.  I wasn't quite sure of their ages, though thanks to a little Internet sleuthing, I eventually found out they were both about my age.  The husband, I think, actually is the same age I am and the wife is two years older.  She wore no makeup.  Her wardrobe was drab, both in terms of color and style.  She wore glasses.  So did he; in fact, his lenses were so think they were like the bottoms of Coke bottles.

It was a little awkward dealing with them.  When you're in a minority situation like being the only four Americans on a ship, you either end up bonding or you stay away from each other.  I wasn't sure if this couple wanted to talk to us or not.  They weren't putting out very receptive vibes.

So on the second night of the second cruise, we were all having dinner.  The other American couple was right in my line of vision.  I happened to notice the wife, her hair neatly pinned up in a chignon, looking intently into her husband's eyes.  Then I noticed what her hand was not so discreetly doing under the table and was pretty shocked.  I averted my eyes.  I never expected to witness such a spectacle on a small, elegant cruise ship that mostly caters to elderly Britons.

Later that night, my husband and I were in the lounge area.  I think I was sipping champagne and my husband was enjoying some scotch whisky.  The nerdy husband showed up, but his wife was conspicuously absent.  He struck up a conversation with my husband and it turned out he'd gone to Princeton University.  He and his wife were going to be moving to Massachusetts, ostensibly because she had a new job.  The more he spoke, the more I realized this guy was super smart.  But though his wife appeared to also be super smart, she wasn't nearly as social.  I didn't see her making an effort to talk to anyone.  Indeed, she started putting a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle together in the ship's library and seemed determined to finish it.

It wasn't until the very last night that she even spoke to me and my husband.  And that happened to be the worst night to talk to me, since I was reeling from the news about MacGregor and confused about what the hell was going on at home.

A couple of days later, as I sat in our apartment in Edinburgh, I decided to do a little Googling and found out the wife was also a Princeton graduate.  She's also both a physician and a PhD.  Apparently, she does medical research in geriatrics.  I started wondering what it would be like to be this woman's patient, given how introverted she appeared to be.  Her husband had been much friendlier and was mingling a bit, while she pretty much kept to herself and seemed completely antisocial.

It's kind of too bad we didn't have the chance to talk, since though I am not MD/PhD material, I do have some training in fields that complement what she does.  And her husband was apparently an English major, which I also was back in the day... at a much less competitive school, of course.

I actually have a lot of super smart friends.  I grew up near the College of William & Mary and actually did some temp work there, which caused me to meet some folks who are definitely not dim bulbs.  The woman I considered my best friend for over 20 years (we've since fallen out of touch) has five degrees and is very intelligent.  But something tells me that if my old friend were to go head to head with the lady who was on our cruise, the MD/PhD would have blown her doors off brainwise.  She just radiated super smarts.  Sadly, all that brain power seems to have caused a severe deficit in her social skills.  I found myself not liking her much, but then once I learned a little more about her, her behavior seemed to make a lot more sense.  I felt empathy instead of animosity.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

We're home...

We got home very late last night, both exhausted, cranky, and worried about our dogs.  This morning, we went to get them and some of the staff who had been looking after MacGregor cried with me and gave me hugs.  One of them said she thought we should get a second opinion.  At first, I agreed with her.  Now I'm thinking maybe that's a selfish thing to do.

MacGregor is in pain and can't walk.  And I just can't imagine how hard treating him would be on him. My husband is very upset and, I think, isn't quite ready to let go.  Truth be told, we will both be a wreck when the time comes.

This is just a horrible situation to be in.

Zane seems to know something's up.  He was delighted to see us, but has now settled into his bed and is taking a nap.  I think he knows his big brother is really ailing.