I’ve had my dog Ginny since September 1, 2004. She’s almost 10 years old. She’s been kind of spoiled. We bought a house with an entirely fenced yard so she and the kids could play. She’s an indoor dog. She likes climate control. She likes food at 7pm. She likes stealing Cheerios and cookies.
Today Rich went to the store and didn’t know Ginny was out in the yard. He left the double driveway gate open so he could pull his truck back in easier.
I went to the window about 45 minutes after he’d left, and I saw the gate open. I ran outside and started yelling. Ginny didn’t come.
I went inside and told Livvie and Jonas to behave. I went back outside and walked the yard calling her. Over and over I called her. She didn’t come.
I went back inside and called her in case I’d been an idiot and missed her. She didn’t come.
I bundled up the kids and threw them in my car. I rolled down the windows and drove around the neighborhood calling her. I scanned the road, and I scanned the ditches. Livvie sobbed in the backseat. Jonas laughed because he had no idea what was going on, and Mommy yelling “Ginny” out the windows was hilarious. The more he laughed the more Livvie sobbed. I was doing about 5 mph with my hazards on. There was no sign of her.
I came home, and I called the microchip company. I put out an alert on Facebook. I called a local vet, and I called two neighbors. Rich came home. He got back in his truck and went out to look.
He didn’t find her.
When he came back I told him to stay, I was going out. I’d heard dogs barking. I’d heard dogs barking a, “Get the fuck out of here, you don’t belong,” bark. If you’ve lived with a dog long enough you know the sound of that bark. So I got in the car and drove off in that direction. I drove down a road pretty close to ours and prayed I wouldn’t get shot at. Everyone who was outdoors- I asked. Nope. No dog.
I started home. I’d been thinking that I’d seen one of the neighborhood dogs near our fence earlier, so I went to find her human. She’s a stray, more or less. The guy across the road takes care of her pretty well, but she refuses to belong to anyone. I asked him where she goes when she runs. He said she stays on our road or in his yard. I told him I’d be walking his yard. He said he’d go, too (he wasn’t home).
So I got back in my car and drove to his house. Pulled into the driveway. Got out of the car and heard the barking. He pulled into his second driveway. I started walking, and when I got near the far back of his property I saw the two barking dogs, in their fence, way off through the woods. I watched where their eyes were, and I saw my dog’s head down in a gully. I said, “I’m here!” Her ears went up, and I said, “I’m here! Stay there! I’m here!” Her tail started going over the top of her head. Wags. Loads of wags.
She couldn’t get out of that gully. The growth was insane down there. Brambles, weeds, bushes. She couldn’t figure out where to put her feet. I walked down, and as I got to her she laid down at my feet. I told her I had her. Asked her to follow me. She couldn’t. So I looked up the hill, looked at her, and lifted her.
And she let me.
See, the big deal isn’t that I carried a 65 pound dog up a steep hill through thorns and bushes and choking weeds by myself. The big deal is that a 65 pound dog who isn’t used to being lifted let me do it and carry her with unsure footing up that hill.
And when I got her to the top and set her down she tried to run, and I said, “STOP.” and she did. And then I pointed to the car and said, “Over there.” She ran to the car and waited for me to open the door. And when we got inside I threw my arms around her and cried my eyes out finally.
Because I was a rock until I found her. I didn’t know how I would find her, in what shape I would find her, but I knew I would find her. It was my job to find her. Not some animal control officer, not some idiot with an idea to take her home. And it wasn’t Rich’s job to find her. It really wasn’t.
The day I took her home from the shelter she was terrified to get in my truck. I lifted her and put her inside, and she was never afraid to get in my car again.
I lifted her again today. I had her. I found her. And I brought her home to a little girl who cried buckets on seeing her.
The dumbass is asleep at my feet after eating dinner. She wanted to go back out earlier, and when I said no Livvie asked, “Is she grounded?” I told her yes. For now she is grounded. There will be no yard time without us in the yard. Her dumbass is most assuredly grounded.
But her dumbass is safe, and warm, and fed.
And I love her.
I haven’t lived in New Jersey for 17 years.
The last time I was home was 2004. Summer. A brief visit, I drove home and drove back within a few days. Then crazy-life happened. Poverty. Marriage. Children who hated being in the car.
A week ago I was driving home from the grocery store after picking up my daughter from school, and she was starting to drift to sleep in the back seat. I saw it in the rear-view mirror, and I looked over my shoulder to check. Yes, her head kept dropping to her shoulder. I thought, Yes. Here we go. We can go home soon.
And then Sandy happened.
For years I’d been thinking that I couldn’t wait for my kids to see and learn the places I spent a lot of time growing up. Long Beach Island. Wildwood. Seaside Heights. As a 21 year old I’d often get a bug and just hop in my car at night, get on The White Horse Pike, and drive down to Atlantic City alone just to walk the boards and get a lemonade. The smell of the Shore was a call, all of the time, and I’d open the windows so I could smell it before I even got there.
My dad took me onto Barnegat Bay every summer to catch crab. The smell.
Monday night people in Philadelphia could smell the Shore.
I sat and watched, I couldn’t not watch, as I waited and worried and wondered if my mom, pretty much on the Delaware, would be safe. She was fine. Mom was fine. I took a breath, and then I extended my concern out from mine. The homes. The businesses. The land itself.
I wanted my children to see what I had seen, and they never will. It’s gone. I will never be able to stand my kids on a specific spot in Seaside Heights and say, “This is where Grandpop told me I didn’t have to go into the haunted house.”
Because I can still see the vista in front of me at that moment. I’d eaten some green beans that day, but I don’t know why. I know that I stood on the boards, and if you had stood me there two weeks ago I’d have said, “Right here.” I can still see it all in front of me.
I can see all of them.
I can see staring at my feet in the dark on the boardwalk in Ocean City as the ocean washed under the boards during high tide, and we were on our way to visit friends of my parents who had a restaurant there. The ocean was under my feet.
I can hear, while walking the surf, “Ice cream!! Fudgie Wudgies!!!” from the dudes who sold cold things to hot people.
I can remember the size of the beach in Wildwood, and how the lack of beach in Ocean City was due to the sand ending up in Wildwood. Wear shoes to cross that beach. The sand was hot and large before you got to the water.
I remember, very small, being in the surf in Ocean City, and a wave knocked me down. As I got up another one hit me, and another one, and I couldn’t stand. The water was pounding me into the sand, and suddenly I was in the air, and my Uncle Jack had me lifted and free. And at that moment I loved him more than kittens. Or my dad.
I remember crabbing and fishing for flounder off of LBI on the day of Live Aid, and while my friend Lisa and I had originally protested, that day of being on the water was a thousand times more fun than sitting in front of the TV.
I remember my Great-Uncle Herb people watching on the boardwalk of Atlantic City. He loved to people watch. Resorts was new, then. It was all new. Casinos? Really?
I could spend hours in each.
Anyone else remember when Brigantine Castle got washed out to sea?
My heart hurts terribly for the people who have lost everything. In the long run, all I have lost, personally, is the ability to stand my children in a spot and say, “I was here, once.” Or twice. Or a hundred times.
But I am warm, and I am fed, and my TV is yacking at me to buy a new Honda while I type this. Tonight I will sleep in my bed with my husband and know that tomorrow I will get up and do the Saturday thing.
Someday I will take my kids down the shore, and they will build their own memories. I will see new places and new things. Because it will be back. It will.
Please give what you can, if you can. My mom always said that for the most part it seemed like NJ was protected from the worst weather. That time seems to be over.
My heart is with my home.
Piled around me are composition books, folders, scissors, and a Sharpie to write with. Later I will pack a lunch before I go to bed. The clothes are already set out.
Tomorrow my daughter starts kindergarten.
I don’t know if you know this, you might, but I’m not a baby person. I like other people’s babies okay as long as I can give them back, and I always could. I always told my mother that I really wasn’t into kids until they could have a conversation with me. Real ones. I wasn’t lying.
Child conversations are the best things ever. Babies? Babies are cute, and there have been a few that even I wanted to nom up just from overwhelming cuteness, but as far as hanging out 24/7? Babies just don’t do it for me.
My daughter. Almost 6 years ago I held her and thought, “What do I do?” There were bad times and good times. She made me laugh from the get go. She was incredibly cute after the newborn thing went away, and as she started to talk at two and a half, and then she started talking back. And while I loved her every second there have been times I didn’t like her much. She’s been terrible to her little brother very often, she’s lipped back at her father and myself recently…
And there have been a few times where when she lipped back I thought, “Nice. Very good.”
And then I sent her to her room.
Kids have to push back in order to pull away. I know it. Everyone knows it. It’s just-
She’s learning from me. And I am very good at being flip. I do it even in jest, she picks up on it, and it gets filed away with everything else she stores for later. That’s a bunch of stuff. But the flip? She hasn’t yet learned that it’s fine in some situations and not in others. She just lets loose. And recently I have been very impressed.
That’s a good thing. Because I was bullied.
Starting school has worried me constantly since she started growing a personality. The day she announced to all of Target, “I’m a DOOFUS!!” happily, with no care in the world, I started to panic a bit.
We use that term as an endearment in our house. Because each of us, no exception, is a doofus.
But, she is a doofus. And while we all think that’s great, she’s going to get around other kids, and they just might not. Because I’ve been there. And being there sucked. So over the last year I’ve been, I think, too hard on her at times.
“You can’t do that.”
“Because it’s mean. And people don’t like mean people. They’re afraid of them, but they don’t like them. And you want people to like you, right?”
And each and every time I’ve thought, and Rich has reminded me, that siblings do these things to each other, but I don’t want her going in unprepared. I want her to recognize mean. The worst thing anyone ever really called me in the lower grades was Braniac, and it was nasty. Can you imagine? My child, who is smart, funny, and totally a people (other than me) pleaser might get mocked for the same.
At the same time I answered every question that she asked me. We’ve talked at length recently about death, dying, and burial practices. We’ve discussed hunting for food versus killing other human beings due to anger. This morning she told me that she never wanted to swim with a whale shark because it might swallow her, and I told her it absolutely would not and showed her a Youtube video of humans swimming with them. She then informed me that someday she wants to swim with a whale shark.
We’ve looked at the surface of Mars and discussed its topography. She wants to know if it’s sand or dirt. Where’s the water? Can we put people there?
Did dinosaurs eat people? Oh, how long ago? That’s a long time.
She’s sat in the back of the car and said, “Vultures have to eat, too, but that poor deer.”
We’ve built fairy houses, and I’ve watched her become addicted to drawing. She draws scenes and action. No more houses with trees for her. I’ve taped together comic books. She tells me that she wants to grow up and do a Hello Kitty cartoon when she’s an animator. She wants to rock and roll.
She’s leaving just as she’s becoming interesting, and I have to just watch.
She’s going to do fine. Me? I’m going to miss her terribly now. Even though we butt heads constantly, and she keeps growing a bigger backbone, I have to be grateful that she finally has that backbone and smile tomorrow. Kiss her goodbye. Tell her to have a great day.
And ALWAYS have her back when she needs it. Because she will.
I am ashamed of our government. I am ashamed of our political process. I am ashamed of the stories our media uses to present us to the world as a nation. I am ashamed of how we seem to behave as a people. I am ashamed of our business leaders and of our church leaders.
I am ashamed of all of that.
I am not ashamed to be an American (United Statesian just doesn’t roll off the tongue).
We are not who the media shows you. We are not who gets elected. We barely elect them in the first place. We are people who get up, go to work in whatever fashion, and just try to make it through each day without catastrophe. We have heroes and we have villains. Mostly we have small heroes. You just never hear about them.
This was all today’s news.
We have people fighting every day for what’s right, and we have people fighting every day for what they THINK is right. I’m forty-one, and I’m pretty sure I know that The Golden Rule is right. But regardless of what everyone else thinks, we do have passionate people. We are a nation full of morons, geniuses, and genius-morons. We are also full of average people who do anything they can when they can to make things better. Most people in this country are selfish in that they take care of their own before they try to take care of others. Some people are just plain selfish.
We are a country full of the best and the worst that humanity has to offer, and sometimes one or the other wins out. It never seems to be a happy medium, but people still strive for that happiness. A place where things are good, tensions are low, and waking up in the morning doesn’t cause bowel cramps due to stress.
We are stressed, but we’ve been through far worse. We need to remember. There is some shit going down right now, but our nation has been through worse. We can do it. We might be spoiled and surly at times, but when push comes to shove we CAN support each other.
And we do. We just rarely hear about it.
The media would have you believe that the United States is a failure as a society. Everything is going to hell. I disagree. Oh yeah, there’s a bunch of stuff that IS going to hell, but every day I see people (my immediate neighbors are not counted here) living by The Golden Rule. I see people offering help with groceries. I see people stepping back and letting people go through doors ahead of them. I see people smiling at each other for no good reason, and I see people speaking to each other in stressful situations to let each other know they’ve been there, or just that they’re being thought of. I am not counting the Internet there. I am an eavesdropper, and I see this stuff all of the time. I’m proud of all of these people who do small things every day to make things easier for those around them.
I am also proud of the fact that at least right now, at this time in 2012, I can call my government representatives a bunch of douchebag jackwagons and tell them they should all go suck ostrich eggs and have no fear of someone banging down my door in two hours.
I am proud to be called an American. I am proud, even with the crap, of the country I live in.
I know that as a nation of immigrants and their descendants, which we all are if we’re not 100% native, we’re still young. We’re not even teenagers on the world stage. And we can do better. We will do better. We might not see it, and it will sadden the hell out of us who live in this time to take three steps forward and a step back, but as a nation we will do better. If there’s one thing I have faith in- it’s the fact that shame and anger can spur people to great things.
Those who come after us are going to do great things. Because they’re watching closely right now.
Talk to your kids. Talk to the young’uns around you. Show them The Golden Rule as often as you can. None of us is perfect.
I am an optimist. I am a grump, but I am an optimist, and I see to shining sea. We are better than this.
Happy Independence Day- and remember- without it we might not have the ability to behave as well or as poorly as we choose.
Please choose wisely.
When I really, really want to see a movie I usually avoid all reviews beforehand. I don’t want to go in with my mind twisted and looking for things.
In the case of Pixar’s BRAVE I’m so glad I read only one positive one.
Today Livvie and I went to the movies. We don’t go often because her brother is a menace at the theater, we learned that during WINNIE THE POOH, so I had to wait due to Rich’s work schedule. We saw the non-3D version at 1130 in the morning. She’s been beside herself for days. She was so stoked about the character Merida that she begged for a backpack and lunch bag for kindergarten. I wasn’t sure how she’d react. The movie is PG, and with good reason.
When we got home today I read some reviews, and I have to say- I beg to differ.
I read reviews and comments calling Merida’s father, King Fergus, a stereotypical Dumb Dad. Nope. Fergus is a good-natured doofus, it’s true. But there is nothing dumb about that man. Not ever. If being a fan of lowbrow humor makes a person dumb- I will surrender my useless extra IQ points. Fergus is delightful. He knows himself, he knows his daughter, and he loves life and having fun. He’s also crazy in love with his wife.
His wife. Imagine that. A fairy-tale type story with both parents around.
I read reviews stating that this movie got overly simplistic. Again- I disagree.
Every single movie we watch Livvie will say, “Is that the bad guy?” and I say yes. There is almost always a bad guy in “kids” movies. During our viewing today she didn’t ask that question once. Not ever. Because, spoiler alert, there is no bad guy. Nowhere is there a classic bad guy that creates the conflict. There’s just conflict. Supernatural-messy conflict eventually, but holy crap people. This is a kids’ movie with no bad guy. Using the bad guy to create conflict is the most simplistic storytelling in the history of ever. In BRAVE‘s plot the characters create their own conflict, and my five year old daughter noticed it enough to not even bother asking about it.
I also read that it’s a shame that once again the female protagonist is a princess, and blah blah-
Yeah. I get that. I do. My cynical part says, “Merchandising.” It does. Do Pixar’s writer’s start with merchandising on their minds? I don’t know. I do know that there are things called archetypes, and Pixar turned this one on its ass. And maybe, just maybe, that was one of the points?
As a mom I want to tell you what I saw.
I saw a mother who loved her children and her husband, who was overwhelmed at times with the responsibilities of being the queen, NOT, I might add, a position she married into. I will not spoil. Pay attention when you go. I saw a mother who didn’t understand her daughter because she was so different from how she was raised. I saw a mother who was frustrated beyond anything because her daughter wouldn’t conform to society’s demands, and that scared her for her child’s future. Scared her to the point of being over the top. A mother whose main complaint was that her daughter just wouldn’t listen to her.
I saw a husband who, although technically king, tried his best to abide by the mores common to the time. I saw him adore his wife AND his daughter, different though they may be. I saw him do his job as best he could while still having as much fun as possible because frankly, being king kind of sucks.
I saw a daughter who in trying so hard to be herself mucked up everything and then fought to repair it, loving both of her parents the whole time. I saw her learning about who she was by learning who her mother really was. Understanding. Growing up.
I saw a family.
I also saw a kickass movie with no bad guys. So did my kid. She did comment, “Merida’s mom is really upset,” at one point. No judgment. No assigning of anything.
To me that’s a success.
Life is messy. We all screw up. If we had bad guys to blame everything on (no matter how hard we try) things would be a lot easier to swallow. But in life most of us make our own mistakes and have to fix them. If we do, great. If not, well, we need to do better next time. No matter what.
I want to take away from this film that it was the first time my daughter started to think deeply about what she was seeing. In the end I really hope I remember three things:
One- While watching she leaned against me and said, “I’m so happy I’m here at the movies with you, Mom.” I told her I was happy to be with her, too.
Two- After the movie she looked at the mess left behind by the people who sat next to us and said, “They’re not taking care of the planet very well…”
Three- Near the end of the movie she turned to shift in her seat and saw the projector. It was one of the only times she spoke during the film. “What’s that?” I looked. “The projector.” “What does it do?” “Shhh I’ll tell you after the movie.” During the credits I explained the projector. She saw the image in the window, the beam of light shining to the screen, and the dust motes in that beam. She said, “It’s so beautiful.”
And it was.
Next time you go to the movies take a moment to look back at that beam of light telling you a story. Doesn’t matter what story, really. Just take a moment to look at how wonderful it all is.
The movies are magical. And as far as I’m concerned, this movie was a masterpiece.
but remember that it is always better to be wise than to be smart.”
In this post lies somewhat of a mom-brag and also an American Human rant. Be warned.
I don’t know when it happened. I’d like to blame the current culture that celebrates ignorance over intelligence, and a majority government that calls schooled people “elitests,” but I’d be lying. Because I was mocked for my intelligence way before this shit all went down.
My daughter is smart. She’s wicked smart. She does dumb things, unwise things if you will, but that’s part and parcel of being a kid. We all did those things, right? I mean, I can write you a list about three feet long of all of the stupid shit I did as a kid. Add adulthood and we’d probably stretch a mile. But smarts? I had ‘em. I was talking about bullying with my mom today, and I told her that the one thing that never bothered me was if someone called me stupid. I’d just cock my head like, “Try again.” I knew I wasn’t stupid. You could call me ugly, and you could call me poor, but don’t call me stupid. And not in the Otto way from A Fish Called Wanda. I was hardly stupid.
My daughter is hardly stupid.
The thing is, I take that shit for granted now. She didn’t really speak until she was 28 months old, but since then she’s been making up for lost time, and she has questions about EVERYTHING. And I answer them to the best of my ability. If I don’t have the answer we Google. She talks like a little, verbose, elderly person from days of yore, and it tickles me, and I’ve thought- “When she gets to school they’re going to kill her.”
“They” being other kids.
Because I know, believe me I know, kids are cruel.
Today she had her kindergarten assessment. They “test” them and figure out which classes to place them, and I was nervous. Not because I thought she’d do badly. Because I thought, “Oh crap. So it begins.”
Today the kindergarten teacher who “tested” my daughter came back with her and laughed. She said, “I show them the alphabet and point to letters and ask them which ones they are. Every kid says, “A, B, C…” Livvie was saying, “That’s an A. That’s a B. This is a C… That’s a K- it comes before L… she wouldn’t stop using full sentences.”
And I was embarrassed.
I had a flash of embarrassment that my kid was well spoken.
I said, “Yeah, well, she talked late and she’s not stopped since- heh heh…”
But it gets worse.
We toured the school after. We walked up the kindergarten/first grade wing, and an open room had lights on. Livvie poked her head in, saw a teacher, and withdrew. The teacher called out- “Are you starting kindergarten this year?” Livvie popped back in and said, “Yeah! Hey! You decorated your room like outer space!” The teacher said, “Yes…” Livvie said, “That’s Earth!!” and pointed. The teacher said, “It is.” I said, “She wants to go to Mars.” The teacher said, “I do, too. You know, I think someday we’ll send a rocket to Mars, right?” and Livvie said, “Yeah! And I’m going!” and as we turned I heard the teacher say, “I hope I get her this year.”
What the HELL. My kid came home and told me she wished she’d been asked to do math. She only had to count. She told me she was asked to count and got to 100 before the teacher told her to move along. I spent so many damn years being an under-achiever so people would quit fucking with me that I almost don’t have a frame of reference for this anymore.
I am ashamed. I am terribly ashamed. I am ashamed at every time I “dumbed” down my language in conversation- local dialect not withstanding- and I am heartily ashamed at every single time I played stupid so I wouldn’t hurt someone’s feelings. I am ashamed that I ever stopped going to school because my passion wouldn’t pay. I am horrified over every time I ever acted like a dumbass in front of a man I liked because being too smart wasn’t sexy. Wisdom? Sex knows nothing from wisdom- but I’d pulled out twenty-dollar words and been never called.
Screw all of that.
Today Livvie was high as a kite over how well she did and how approving her teacher was. I remember that. I remember the thrill of knowing something. I remember the thrill of learning. All I can do right now is try to foster that thrill. I don’t want her to lose it.
I might have an ally.
Before her assessment today she was coloring with two children in the library. The older sister was coloring, and the younger brother who was oh-so-cute and registering for kindergarten said to Livvie, “What color crayons would you like? Or would you rather have markers?”
They sat on the same chair until it was his turn.
Never be afraid to show your learning. Never. No matter what.
Don’t be afraid to learn. Ever.
Happy Third Birthday, Dude.
Three years ago they told me you were about to die, and they needed to send me to the OR to get you out safely. And they did. And I knew you’d be trouble because our whole family is screwy, but I didn’t know we’d have actual issues. Real ones. Issues that will probably need professional help.
And it doesn’t matter.
You are a beautiful boy, pretty, even, and when I’ve looked at you I’ve shot forward ten years to when the girls will be calling the house asking for you, and I’ll tell them to go away because you’re doing your homework. You will, right? You won’t be me?
And because the world is such, that you are beautiful and will be a lady killer with those eyes and that face, everything will work out for you, right? Because ain’t that America? Looks work first? Personality, which you have tons of, shoehorns in?
On May 18th I’m taking you and your horses to the doctor. You have issues beyond the usual. The grimaces, the face squinching, the growling, the sudden yells that have no discernible catalyst, the pageant wave, the shoulder jerks, all of the rest…
Kids can be mean. Kids WILL be mean. It’s what they do. No, I don’t really understand why on an emotional level. But I know, right now, that if anyone can show the world that they are beyond their troubles- you can.
You stubborn, funny, loving little man.
This was not something I ever considered. We still hope you’re just a weird kid, because all kids are weird. But if this comes to pass-
We ALL have your back. And once your big sister gets her jealous head out of her ass she’ll be your greatest ally.
Because she loves you.
We all do.
I watch you with the herd over at the horse farm, and I know what you need now. You’re so relaxed over there. So calm. No jerking. No squinching. No yelling.
We’re staying here, in this immediate area, for you. And we don’t even mind.
Those horses, on that perfect farm, know that you need them. They know they should care for you. They know you adore them. They think you’re pretty cool, too.
And you are. You always will be.
Just quit trying to break your neck diving off the sofa, okay?
Happy Birthday, Jonas.
We love you.