Tuesday, July 29, 2008


Sunday afternoon, I spoke to Ranger just before he went to work. He was in fairly good spirits, considering all that's going on. His shift is a long 9-10 hours, and usually fairly busy. I might hear from him during his break, and might not.

So, that night, I spoke to him at the end of his shift. He was a little pissed because his relief person didn't show on time. But there was more to it. He had worked himself into a serious depression.

"My mind wandered," he said, in a low, slow monotone. "It went to these things and went in circles. And I'm feeling really bad."

The day before, I'd vented about my frustrations with my mother. The things that happened during this last visit with my sister have really caused some serious damage to my relationship with my mother. I used to talk freely with her about most things. I can't do that anymore. I can't get through a conversation with her without her challenging something I say, pushing me for a deeper explanation or proof of what I'm saying, that will then be judged for validity and subject to her approval. Besides, it's infuriating and makes you feel mistrusted and somehow personally invalid. A good relationship shouldn't work this way. I don't work this way.

She has also decided it's her duty to micromanage my life. I'm damn near 40 years old. I don't need my mother's nose in every nook and cranny of my life. I know what I need to do each day. I know how to take care of my kids. Leave me alone.

So, this is what I vented about to Ranger on Saturday. On Sunday, it became something for him to work himself into a depression over. Okay, it's not even his problem. Not even something he can do anything about. I was just venting to him, as he vents to me, and suddenly it's his issue. It felt like it was being used against me.

He'd also worked himself into a depression over what he wants from our relationship now. I've always been completely up front with him about where my priorities must be, and he's always agreed whole-heartedly. He's said it's something he respects me for. I'm not a mom who rubs boyfriends in my kids' faces. They do not spend the night at my home, and I do not spend the night at their houses. I'm first and foremost a Mom, and my kids will always feel that.

This was not how Ranger's mother was, and he wishes it had been different. Thus, his respect for my decisions.

All of a sudden, sometime Sunday afternoon, this became a problem. He'd decided that if I was at home waiting for him at the end of the day, things would be better for him. But I'm not there, and that's what he wants from our relationship right now, so he became depressed about it.

So, he'd spent the evening obsessing over those two things and had built himself a Great Depression.

My kneejerk reaction? This is not fair. You can't use my problems to create your own hole. You can't use my decisions as a mother against me, either. So, I held my tongue. As I listened to his dragging monotonous wallowing in all of this, I got angry. A hard ball formed in my chest. This wasn't a fair trick to pull on me.

I could tell that it wasn't the ideal time to let 'er rip, though. He wouldn't receive it, and I'd probably say something that I'd regret -- like "Listen, this insistence of yours on being depressed is part of why I'm divorced. I'm NOT DOING THIS AGAIN!"

And that's what gets me. There was nothing wrong. He had to expend energy to get to this state. He had to borrow trouble from me! It felt like a blow below the belt.

"I'd better just go to sleep," he finally said.

"Yeah, you'd better," I said. And that was that for the night.

The next morning, his mood was better. He wanted to buy me lunch, so we met after his morning job (yeah, there's a second one now).

"I'm sorry about my mood last night," he said.

"Yeah, well, that really concerns me," I said. "I mean, you really had to work to get yourself that way."

"I know," he said. "That happens. My brain will lock on to something and just g in circles on it like that. It's only when I'm under stress. I don't handle stressful situations well."

"Yeah, I see," I said. "But what I see is that you stagnate in a situation, and you don't move forward. You hobble yourself and make it impossible for it to get better."

"I know," he said. "When my divorce happened, the doctor put me on medication for this, so I wouldn't just get stuck in being upset. Maybe I need to go on it again, just for a little while."

"I don't know enough about it to tell you, sweetie. But I know I can't drag you through all of this. I can't tell you what you should be doing. I can't keep pushing you. I've done this before...."

"I know you have," he interupted. "And I don't want to make you do that. I don't like taking that medication, though. I don't like the side effects. I don't like how it makes me feel."

"Well, this really concerns me," I reiterated. "Maybe there's an herbal alternative you can try."

He laughed and made some jokes about smoking pot as an "herbal alternative." But I'd made my concerns known, and I hope he's taking me seriously.

This scares the shit out of me, to be blunt. It was my ex-husband's wallowing in himself, working himself into a depressed state where he wouldn't interact with his family, and his choice (yes, choice - a prescription is like a badge of honor for him) to completely depend on medication that led to my divorce. It was Old BF's refusal to take care of his own life and be proactive with his responsibilities and problems that led to the downfall of that relationship.

In so many ways, Ranger loves me how I'd always wanted to be loved. We have an understanding of each other and where we've been, and a respect for that history, that I haven't had before. I love him very much. We're uniquely comfortable with each other. We match. We fit.

But he has to be a partner to me in all things. I can't feel like the only one who can be leaned on. Truth be told, though, I don't know that I have it in me to pull another one along. I can't be the rock for yet another person, without them being a rock for me, too. I'm so tired of being the only strong one. I need a strong arm to hold me sometimes, too. And if Ranger checks out each time stress happens...well, that's scary to me. Looks like another honest conversation is in order.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Today's post #2: Ranger update

You might have noticed in "Medical Update" that I didn't mention Ranger much. He's had another catastrophe and spent the time span of my medical saga completely wallowing in self-pity over it.

Now, I'm not being insensitive. It really is a catastrophe. The Family Services system in his home state have caught up to his new job. They have a 100% garnishment system, meaning that all child support payments are made via wage garnishment. They have received his new employer information and started taking out child support last week.

On Saturday, Ranger received his latest paycheck from the convenience store. It was $34. The child support is being taken out of his check at 95%. They did not adjust the amount for his new, lower-paying job and are taking out the amount due from his higher-paying park ranger job.

To say Ranger panicked would be a gross understatement.

To say he handled it well would be very generous.

See, I'm an action person. Something happens, I allow myself to feel the shock, to be consumed by the emotion...for a time. Then, I look for the solutions. I have to face the reality of what can and can't be done. I admit, I do tend to be a Pollyanna until I hit a wall. I've seen it again and again....if you just communicate with people, they are more likely to work with you.

This is a problem I had with Old BF. He wallowed in a problem until it got bigger or it was too late for whatever solution had existed. For instance, he'd decide to respond to job ads the day before his rent was due. Unless I did it for him. Perfect.

Ranger has a bad habit of playing the "Yes, but..." game. You make a suggestion and he has a whole host of reasons why it won't work, without ever looking into it. Sometimes, he'll settle down and think about it later. Sometimes not.

But with this crisis, time is critical. He learns about this on Saturday. He has a car payment due Monday, a storage payment already due, and rent is two weeks away. Not to mention basics like gas and food. If any time is wasted, he'll end up homeless and without a car pretty damn quick.

I spent Saturday night hearing him tell me there was nothing to be done about it, and all was lost. He wouldn't hear anything else. He was dwelling on one question: "Why is this happening? What did I do wrong to deserve this?"

It's a pointless question. One that even if answered, provides no help or resolution. But this is what he was collapsing into, wallowing in, drowning in. He wouldn't hear me.

Sunday, get a text from him. "I think the best thing is for you to forget about me and my fucked up life."

I snapped. This pissed me off and it hurt me. In his wallowing, he'd decided what was best for me....which would be something that would make his life more miserable and increase the reason for wallowing. It was self-perpetuated wallowing. But it went further than that. Ranger always promised me that I wouldn't have to hurt again, I wouldn't have to worry about cheating, lying men anymore. I was safe. He would make me safe.

And now, he was just throwing me to the wolves. So that he could wallow. I snapped.

I'd had it with "Yes, but...." I'd had it with "Why?" I'd had it with self-pity. And now he was digging it deeper.

I reminded him of his promises to me, and that I'd believed him. I told him I was disturbed to see this side of him, a side without any fight. Any. And no desire to fight for me, but to just let me go to those wolves. He wanted to roll over and just let the worst happen, and he was taking steps to make it worse. And that really bothers me because it put me in the position of telling what he needed to do...and I've been there and didn't want to go back to it.

It should be noted that this is exactly why he's in this boat. He refused to participate in the divorce proceedings, claiming "no contest," because he didn't agree with it. So, all the child support hearings went on without him. The amount was set without his input. And they made it retroactive, so that he owed back child support through the date the divorce papers were filed. You'd think he'd learn from this what just rolling over gets you.

Might as well have bent over.

"So now you're mad," he texted. "Just one more thing I screwed up."

"No," I said. "I'm hurt. And I'm disappointed that you are willing to just do nothing about this."

"I just don't like looking like shit in front of you," he said.

"You only look like shit when you don't fight."

He called later and said he was sorry. He realized he was handling it poorly. The next day, he made the calls he needed to make. He's still being rather passive about it, though, just waiting for calls back instead of calling again to get what he needs. As I said, time is of the essence.

It's hard for me to hold back and not do all the things that need to be done. I learned before what a mistake that is. It won't really help, and sets a bad pattern. I can't go through that again. Ranger needs to find his own fighter in him. It has to be worth it to him. Is it a struggle? Yeah. But his solutions must be his own, not mine.

Today's Post #1: Medical update

Warning: this might be gross. If squeamish, quit reading now. If talking about my lady parts is uncomfortable, then you might wanna quit reading now, too.

So, I went to the urgent care place on Saturday. The young doc (hereafter referred to as Doogie) took a look and said it was something called a Bartholin's Cyst. He decided to cut on me a bit and drain it more. He needed to actually put a drain in it, but didn't have one. He warned me that this kind of thing was tough to numb, but he'd try.

I felt a couple of shots, but then nothing of the first cut. He made "hmmm" noises and told me he wasn't happy with the result. So, he cut more. THAT I felt. I'd warned Doogie that anesthesia wore off quickly on me, but did he listen? Nooooo..... So, OUCH!

"You handled that much better than most people do," the nurse said. WTF?!?!

Doogie set to dressing the wound, told me to keep a gauze pad on it, take baths, take the antibiotic he gave me, and see my regular doctor on Monday. If I couldn't get in to see her then, I was to come back to see Doogie Monday night.

No. Way.

So, I headed home. Oh good Lord, I was in pain! It was 10:30 AM and I was exhausted. I debriefed my mom and Ranger on what happened, then I needed to pee. I could already feel that Doogie's wound dressing was larger than the ping pong ball I'd dealt with a couple of days before. That would have to come off before I could pee. What disturbed me was the sensation that told me I had tape up one side of my ass. Exactly how had he taped this thing?

In the bathroom, I reached down to remove the bandages. And got a surprise. Doogie, in his brilliance, had completely covered and taped shut all the parts I needed to pee. A HUGE wad of gauze and bandages was taped across my lady parts, with tape cross-crossing from the inside of right leg to my left cheek. Lady parts were literally taped closed.

WTF?!?! I mean, really. W. T. F.

So, as I held back peeing, I ripped tape off my lady hairs as carefully but quickly as I could. I pulled tape off my ass. I peeled back layers and layers of bandages. And finally, FINALLY got to relieve myself.

Couldn't freakin' believe it.

On Monday, my doctor wasn't available, but her partner was. Nice doctor. She didn't cut on me. She confirmed it as a Bartholin's Cyst, and referred me to a gyno surgeon. Apparently, this is in a gland and would most likely need to be surgically removed. Brilliant.

Greg texted me while I was at the pharmacy. I told him I'd had a doctor's appointment.

"Your problem is you have a bad case of being hot," he said, giving me a much-needed smile.

So, on Tuesday, I meet Dr #3 in this saga. I tell him the story and he takes a look.

"This isn't a Bartholin's Cyst," he said. He poked at me to show where the Bartholin's gland is. Not near this thing. "This is an abscess, probably starting as just an ingrown hair or something. All the heat and walking in Vegas just aggravated it. A lot."

He explained the best course of treatment. He did not cut on me. And, bless him, he looked again and said, "Do you need something for pain?"

He was the first doctor to ask me that. And I love him for it.

I got some sleep last night, at last. I see him again in a week. My boss is being wonderful and not asking too many questions, and letting me work from home. Whew.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

What doesn't happen in Vegas....

Hang with me, dear Diary....this is gonna be looooong!

Our trip to Vegas started bright and early on Monday, July 14th. Well, not so bright and early. We aimed for 7:00, and left about 10:00. We decided a good breakfast that didn't involve unwrapping the main course while steering with your knees was probably the best option.

A couple of days before, I had an idea that was just too sappy to be believed. I hesitated to share, for fear of looking like the true blue sap I really am. But I was even too big of a sap to keep it too myself, so I shared.

And guess what? Ranger had the same idea already.

So, us saps-in-a-pod executed the sappy idea. We each built a playlist of songs that reminded us of one another. Go ahead, say it.....ewwwww.

If it's any consolation, it would be a source of pissing me off.

We headed out across the varied terrain of southern Utah. I sent a quick "Happy Birthday!" message to Greg, who had been dreading the day because something always bad happens to him on his birthday.

He responded: "It's already gone to shit. My friend broke my bong and didn't tell me about it." I told him I was sorry ab out that, and yes, his friend should have fessed up. Greg managed to spend the rest of the day on the back porch, smoking pot, so he ended up feeling better about the whole thing pretty quickly.

Ranger and I bumped along the backroads and highways, singing along to the music and admiring the scenery. Southern Utah is really astonishing. We finally pulled in to the town Ranger wanted to find on this little side trip -- Hanksville. Looks to me like Hanksville has a gas station with a store built into the side of a mountain, a restaurant, a few trailer homes, and one impressive rock shop.

Yep, a rock shop. Which is why we were there. Ranger led me through the shop, nearby barn, and grounds, showing me exceptional examples of all sorts of stones, gems, fossils, and the like. Amazing. I saw a dinosaur bone as long as a couch. He told me about the owner, an elderly man with amazing stories to tell. He said he was afraid of when the old man died and his kids started dividing up the property.

We went back in the store and Ranger inquired after the owner.

"He passed away back in May," the old woman said. "Kids have the place up for sale. We'll see what happens. They asked me to stay on since I've been here for 30 years."

The asking price? $700,000. You could just see it pain Ranger. He's never wanted so much money, so badly.

We headed off down the road, through a place called Duck Creek. The road wound through the mountains, through beautiful forests, at a glorious temperature of 53 degrees! Loved it. We ran into a little traffic jam, stuck behind a slow-moving family of wild turkeys. A couple of times, we stopped to give right-of-way to deer.

We finally hit the interstate and headed to our accommodations for the night, in Mesquite, Nevada. Ranger had played with the voices on the GPS and we were hearing all of the directions in a female Australian voice.

"Exit right, to Mes-quat."

"What did she say?" I asked.

Ranger was already laughing. "I think we're entering MesQUAT, babe."

As we made the turn, we played one last song from his playlist, and Ranger learns that I can really belt out "Memory" from "Cats" with the best of them. He's surprised, and that makes me smile.

So, in Mesquat, Nevada, we checked into the Casablanca Resort and Casino. I called home to check on my kiddies. Son was seeing the doctor about a football injury he aggravated. Daughter finally (FINALLY) got a birthday card from her dad (nearly a week later) and some money. She was happy to have heard from him.

As I talked, I watched my water-sign Ranger in the pool. More like, in the waterfalls. The water cascaded over him, as he let the road stress dissolve away. He's never happier than when he's in the water.

We changed and went to the hotel's buffet. Which would prove to be a gastronomical mistake. A huge gastronomical mistake.

I'm not a gambler. But walking back through the lobby, we spotted something that gave me the quivers. A Star Wars slot machine.

No kidding. With Yoda sitting on top.

Ranger dragged me away, knowing I'd be unable to resist on my own. And we retired for the night. A restless evening of gut-wrenching indignities, silenced only by the glories of Immodium. I climbed into my soft, cotton wolf-print nightshirt and snuggled into bed with Ranger for a much-needed sleep.

I love sleeping beside Ranger. Our bodies fit perfectly. He makes me feel safe and warm. I just love it. We woke early in the morning and made love until nearly checkout time. I thought of it as the first of many pleasures of this trip...but I would be wrong. It would be the first and last.

Now this might be TMI, but I don't much care. Before leaving on this trip, I was being bothered by what seemed to be a blemish on the "upper labia" portion of my nether-regions. On the very edge of the skin above where I have to pee, to be exact. I know....don't hate me because I'm beautiful.

I told Ranger, hesitant because I didn't want to look deformed or mutated or gross to him. I was embarrassed by it. He held onto me and assured me that no matter what, I was beautiful to him and he'd take care of me. He wanted to know if making love to me would be a problem, and told me that if it was that he was happy to just literally sleep with me.

This would be put to the test.

As we packed up to go, Greg texted me. "Gambling?" he asked.

I told him about the Star Wars machine, but that I was afraid to lose what little money I had.

"Always pain the future is!" he said. Then, "Let go you must, of that which you fear to lose!"

So, in the hotel lobby, I faced my fear. I put my one and only dollar bill into the machine.

Five minutes later, I was less one dollar.

So, when people ask me if I lost in Vegas, I say yes, one dollar. They say that's good! I say, no, I only wagered a dollar!

And so we headed to Las Vegas. We listened to his sappy playlist all day Monday. So, I say, "It's my turn now!"

He says, "Hey! We didn't go through my 162 songs yet!"

162?!?! Okay, he has more music than me. I have 56 songs, but they are just as meaningful to me, and just as meaningful to me that he hears them.

"I don't care!" I say. "We heard yours all day yesterday. I think ten hours is long enough. MY TURN." And I get my turn, for the shorter drive to Las Vegas. What dominates my playlist, though, is how many of the same songs we picked for each other. Gotta love that.

Ranger has been to Vegas many times, so he headed straight for the strip, so he could watch my slack-jawed, small-town girl reaction to the larger than life spectacle that is Vegas.

Everything is just so freakin' HUGE! And at night, it's HUGE with lights and pyrotechnics!

When we get out at the hotel, my door won't close. I checked for the seat belt being caught in it and try again. It shut. A couple of days later, Ranger would discover and break the bad news to me. It wasn't a seat belt in the way. It was my beloved iPod. (It still plays, but the screen is busted.

We check into the hotel, and I start organizing things. I look up to realize it's 3:00. I'm due to hear the keynote speaker (and see my boss) at 4:00. Dang. I change into professional-type clothes, and Ranger and I head out to find the way to the conference. I'm staying at Harrah's, but the conference is next door at the Venetian. Turns out to be about a 15-minute walk. By the time we get there, I realize that little blemish is really bugged by walking. And it's not so little anymore. More like walnut-sized.

So, I find a spot among the HUNDREDS of people at the conference. I listen to our keynote speaker - Steve Wozniak of Apple. He's signing books at the opening reception for the Exhibit Hall, but I don't get in line. Wish I had, but I was starting to be in some serious pain.

Oh, and I met a colleague of South Carolina's. How odd is that? But wait! It gets even more odd.

I get back to Ranger and change clothes for dinner at a really yummy buffet. I even get to take some cotton candy back to the room. Ranger is very sensitive to my pain. He draws a bath for me. Gives me something to sleep in that's soft, made with satin and chiffon. He curls around me in bed, and turns on Season 2 of "Feasting on Asphalt." Gotta love it.

It's a rough night. I can't sleep. I get up early and head to the conference. I have meetings with vendors, conference sessions, a meeting with our sales reps for different products we use, and dinner with yet another vendor. Dinner is weird.

But before dinner time, something else bizarre happens. I'm in the Exhibit Hall, about to leave for a session. Someone catches my eye. Could I possibly see someone I know? I circle around and peek at her name tag.

Sure enough. It's my (get this) high school senior History teacher. From Lubbock, Texas. No freakin' kidding. I stopped her and introduced myself, reminding her of my maiden name. Her eyes went wide and she remembered me. We talked about our lives, and my kids. Suddenly, she realized I graduated in the 80s, and we both feel old. Freakin' unbelievable.

End of the day, I head to dinner with the vendor. We (my boss and I) are meeting the sales rep and the company CEO for drinks and dinner. The restaurant is very nice. VERY nice. I looked it up, thank goodness. I get to the door and give my name. The hostess takes me to where we are gathering in the bar. I round the corner and see....

breasts. An 8-foot painting of a couple apparently having sex, with her breasts prominently featured. I hope I masked my initial shock as we all shook hands and I took a seat, with the painting behind me. I sat down and looked up, to see....

more breasts. The paintings are a theme, apparently.

We make small talk for a half an hour, then we are shown to our table. The CEO comes in late. In the dining room, they place your napkin on your lap for you. There's a wine steward, a bread girl, a bus boy, and a waiter. They all fuss. I'd be more impressed if I weren't so preoccupied with the 8-foot tall paintings of the same couple trying out new positions. The dining room is apparently a breast-free zone, though.

I found it difficult to concentrate on the Italian CEO's spiel while trying to figure out exactly which body part I was seeing where, doing what, in the painting behind him.

When I left the restaurant, I texted Ranger and headed to the Blue Man Theater. No, I didn't get to see the show. I'd been in the Blue Man Store earlier in the day, which is right by where my meetings were. The sales clerk took a liking to me and told me how to make it into the theater lobby at 9:00 to get autographs. Ranger and I were racing to this point, with Ranger bringing the items for my kids to be autographed.

Mission accomplished. Blue smears on a performance-used drum head for Daughter and a baseball cap with a blue hand print on top for Son.

Ranger and I grabbed some dessert and wine. Again, he drew a bath for me, gave me something silky and soft to sleep in, and tucked me into bed. During the day, Ranger had stocked our little fridge with my favorite juice, sodas, and snacks.

But I was alarmed. Walnut-sized had become golf-ball-sized. And getting worse. Dang. Exhausted, worried, and in pain, I was watched over all night.

I dragged myself out of bed, away from Ranger's protective arms, early the next morning for a breakfast meeting. My 15-minute walk was excruciating. Ranger had found another route that took me along the sidewalk on the strip. I hated that. It was longer, hotter, and full of people hawking call girls. Heck, just full of people. Ranger insisted on going that way, but I stuck to my backdoor route. It was quieter, cooler, with less people. And no hookers.

I was distracted during breakfast, talking to the guy who did my job about 2 years ago (and did it badly, I might add). I got some questions answered I'd wondered about. I debriefed my boss on my many meetings. Then, he let me know he'd be disappearing with his wife soon. "See you back home," he said.

I checked out my schedule and called Ranger. "I think I'll be done about 2:00," I told him. "I have a big 'gala' event tonight, but I don't know that I have to be there long."

"How about a nap?" he said. "I can have the air conditioner waiting for you."

I agreed. Before heading back to the hotel, I went to the bathroom. The problem with slick marble floors is that you can't see wet stuff on the floor. As I settled in to do the deed, my foot hit something wet and I slipped. Slamming down on this nasty cyst I was fighting. Guys, I think I have a new appreciation for what it feels like to be racked. Oh dear god, what pain!

In the hotel room, I slipped into something skimpy and cool, and assumed a position on the bed that maximized air circulation to all parts possible. Ranger settled in with me, sitting beside me as we chatted and joked. We laugh A LOT.

He got up to go to the bathroom and stopped. "Punkin," he said. "Were you bleeding before?" He's looking at my nether-regions with concern.

No, I had not been bleeding. My reason for growing concern had ruptured. Ranger was sweet enough to go make a purchase for me I hadn't made in years. Maxi pads.

I did not attend that gala event that night. We stayed in and nursed my problem to a manageable level. Then, we had dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe, where I'd wanted to get something for Son.

At the hotel again, Ranger once again tucked me in and watched over me, with the addition of giving me a hydrocodone to help me sleep through the pain.

The drive home was shorter, without the side trips. I dozed a lot, and Ranger encouraged me to doze as much as possible. He was worried about me. When I was awake, we listened to the rest of his playlist.

I called my doctor. "Get to the urgent care office here tonight," they said.

"What if I'm not there in time?"

"Then get there first thing in the morning," they said. This couldn't wait.

When Ranger's list ran out, I happily turned to mine. Okay, so I couldn't read the screen, but I could sound out the clicks to find it! But he was lukewarm about hearing it. He watched the scenery instead of listening. He didn't react at all to the sweet songs I'd picked out for him. He talked through most of them.

Maybe it was the pain making me a little emotional, but my feelings were hurt. I eventually turned off my list and switched to the 80s channel on XM Radio.

Finally, we got home. Late at night. I dropped off Ranger and his gear. He hugged me and said, "You know, I had a good time anyhow. What didn't happen wasn't important. I just wanted to be with you, and I had you to myself for four nights. That's wonderful to me."

He's very sweet, yes?

I made the painful drive home. My family delighted in their souvenirs. Finally, I crawled into my own bed and slipped into sleep.

My getaway hadn't turned out the way I expected. At all. The aftermath is still to come. Still, as I went to sleep, I had the distinct pang of missing Ranger's presence beside me.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The day has arrived!

First thing in the morning, I'm headed to Vegas. Ranger and I are headed to Vegas, rather. And it couldn't come at a better time.

There's a lot of pressure at work and home right now. Relations are strained with my mother and I. I'm worried about my son and Drama Queen. Thank goodness, he's working 10-hour days all week. That will keep him busy and tired, and when he's tired, he's not social.

Ranger has relented on the Vegas wedding idea. So, this will actually be a trip to relax. Well, when I'm not in the conference. I told Ranger I was sorry I had to work so much during the trip, but his perspective is that it's my work that's making this trip affordable for us, so he doesn't mind.

"If all I got this week was to have you fall asleep in my arms and wake up beside you in the morning, then it would still be a perfect week," he said. Very sweet.

I have vendors coming out of the woodwork to wine and dine me during the conference. That's a new thing for me, since I've not been at one of these conferences before as a "decision-maker" at my college. Ain't it cool?

I've never been to Vegas before. I'm not sure what to expect, but I have Ranger for a guide. I'll update as often as possible, dear Diary. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Love is....

So, there's about 50 million Ziggy cartoons and cross-stitch samplers that complete that sentence. Maybe it's easier to say what love is not?

I've been watching my son and his Drama Queen girlfriend (see July 7th post for details). They are 16, and think they're going on 25. My son has a habit of being attracted to girls who need rescuing. Drama Queen needs rescuing in a major way.

Some background: Drama Queen's parents are divorced. According to her dad, the mom walked out when she was tired of taking care of kids and wanted to just take care of herself. The woman has some issues that sound akin to being bipolar. She's also an actress in the community theater and behaves not quite as mature as her daughter. She's one of these moms who is interested primarily in being her child's friend rather than acting as a parent.

According to the mom, she walked out when her husband rubbed his girlfriend in her face. His married girlfriend who was in a "swinging" situation with her own husband. The three of them have had a "marriage" ceremony. Heebie jeebies, I tell ya. I've met Drama Queen's dad, too. Not a nice guy. Drama Queen's idea of appropriate conversation involves references to blow-up dolls and such, as sex toys and the like are dinner table conversation for the adults in her life.

She lives with her mom now. This is a new thing. Her father agreed to give up custody when someone reported them to the child welfare people and the investigation was not going well for him. Rather than let the investigators dig too deep, he gave up custody. The manner he chose to do this in was to dump Drama Queen and a cardboard box of her stuff in a baseball field parking lot in the rain, and called the mom to go pick her up. Like I said, not a nice guy.

So, Drama Queen works and pays rent to her mother. Her mother has a procession of boyfriends, who she actually agrees to marry and strings them along to get stuff from (like TVs, etc.), then dumps them when something better comes along. It's not unusual for Drama Queen to get a call like this, while at my house:

DQ's Mom: "When are you coming home?"
DQ: "In about an hour. Not long."
DQ's Mom: "Well, my boyfriend is here with me, so don't be in a hurry to get home."

Just fills you with warm fuzzies, doesn't it?

All in all, this is not love. But it's the examples of love that Drama Queen has known. To me, she seems to be looking for a guy to protect her, shelter her, and let her take care of him. She's looking for the qualities a dad should have -- the provider and protector she's never had. Tis need to feel protected is strong, though. Maybe it's because her folks throw things into her life she wishes she was protected from -- the "swinging" lifestyle, her dad's girlfriends, her mom's boyfriends.

But one way or another, that's a strong desire in her. So, she's always coming up with new situations in which she needs to be protected and comforted. By my son.

So far, she's wanted him to protect her from her mom's boyfriends, her dad, her dad's "wife," boys she used to date, girls who don't like her, an alleged convicted rapist working where she worked (Son made her quit and get a new job), Ranger looking at her too much, me (she says I'm scary because I tell her to quit sitting in my son's lap and quit trying to put his hand up her shirt), "fainting" spells (which are more like laying-down spells), nightmares, strange noises in her house, and a host of other daily little things that I'm probably not even completely aware of.

The Damsel in Distress Syndrome is wearing thin at my house. This is not love.

Unfortunately, the male role model he's had all his life is the perfect example of a man who protects and provides for his family above all else. That's my dad, who has stepped in and filled the gaping holes left by my ex in the "example" department. I say "unfortunately" because this plays right into the Damsel in Distress Syndrome, and perpetuates it. His desire to protect her is a facet of love, but taking advantage of that is not.

DQ and my son will be at the same high school next year. Oh boy. Son was excited that they could go to football games and dances and such together. FINALLY! I thought. He'll finally get into his new school and have some fun in high school.

"No," DQ said. "I hate football." Plays and art shows are what interest her. They can go there. Not the stuff he likes, though.

That isn't love, either.

The two of them have about 50 arguments a week. One is forever mad at the other. I think they think turmoil means they're in love. They care enough to hate each other regularly, and then work it out. Nope, that's not love, either.

DQ hangs around our house all the time now. She's never been in a "normal" family situation, and I think she's finding something with us that she's not felt before. We have a three-generation home, since 1996. That's a lot of people working things out to live in the same space for a long time.

My folks have been married for over 40 years. They've worked out the give-and-take, even though they still have bumps in the road. They enjoy each other and really do "foresake all others." That's not something DQ has seen in a grown-up relationship yet. Then there's me, the single mom who has made her kids the bigger priority. DQ hasn't seen that, either. Her dad flaunted girlfriends while still married to her mom, and she never knows who is going to be at the breakfast table in her mom's house. In contrast, I've never had a boyfriend spend the night with my kids in the house, and they don't even meet most of the men I've dated.

With Ranger and me, she sees a new relationship between two people who make an effort to be considerate and respectful of one another. Ranger makes an effort to always take care of me, in all situations, but I am a strong, independent individual. And the reverse is true, too. I don't need to be taken care of. I don't require it. Neither does he. But we do considerate things for each other to ease the daily stresses. We share.

That is love. Well, part of it. Love is a great many things.

We have dinner as a family, at the dining room table. We cook together and eat together. Certainly, we're not perfect. We get on each other's nerves and argue like all families do. But we come out it, forgive, and move on. That is love, too.

So, maybe we can help DQ learn a little of what men and women are to each other when they are truly in love. She has a great interest in converting to our family's religion, too. It's a family-oriented faith, in which the roles of men and women are highly respected. Some of the anti-Mormon crap that's out there will say otherwise, but it's exactly that -- crap.

Maybe she can learn what it means to love and be loved, to respect and be respected....if she truly listens and watches those around her. I do hope so. For everyone's sake.

In the meantime, I need to gently warn Son about this father-figure she's looking for. In romantic relationship, that's certainly not how he wants her to see him. He needs to be strong, but enable her to be strong, too. That is also love.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

A day of awe

Okay, I've been on about this a little lately, here and there, but the day has arrived and I can't let it go without comment.

My daughter is 13 today. When did that happen? I'm astounded. I talked to Ranger about her this morning, and he said, "You know, she really is a great kid." I almost cried because I'm so in awe of her as a human being. She's a spectacular individual, who tries so hard to always do the right thing and be her own person. Her name means "tower of strength," and she shows me that daily.

And she still calls me "Mommy." My heart just swells each time I hear it. I know....I'm a complete sap.

So, I've been remembering how she came into this world. She wasn't supposed to happen. She wasn't supposed to be possible. I had certain "female problems" and my then-husband had his own issues, which combined to make the doctors shake their heads and tell us to consider adoption.

One day, we did. My sister decided being a single parent wasn't in the cards for her and asked us to adopt my nephew. A week later, I was a mommy. We adopted my son when he was 18 months old.

A year later, in 2004, we started considering adopting again, through the Church social services. We went to the temple in Salt Lake City and prayed our hearts out. We prayed for my health, which was wonky at the time. We prayed to know what to do about having more children. We left with the strong impression that I needed to examine all the medications I was on and that yes, we should have another child.

So, I re-evaluated my medical situation. I was able to improve my health and get off a lot of the medications I was on (which had been interacting with each other for bad results). I was feeling a lot better that year. We bought a NordicTrack. I loved that thing (but my ex later got rid of it because he kept falling off of it).

We also started the long red-tape process of adoption. We knew we should have another child, so we thought adoption was our only choice. We got the wheels turning and let our friends know they'd be contacted by social services to give references for us soon.

And then it happened. Or rather, it didn't happen. I missed a period.

Now, my periods were brutal and irregular. But to be so late was unusual. My tiny little optimistic voice in my head spoke to me, and I headed to the store. The checker at Wal-mart gave me the most confused look. I was buying pads, tampons, and a pregnancy test. I didn't care to explain. I was nervous.

I did my little pee-on-the-stick thing, and waited. I'm not good at waiting, but I had a three-year-old in the house, so that sure helps.

All the little lines I wanted to see appeared on the test. I sat down and just about cried. But I squashed the little optimistic voice, though, and knew I had to go to the doctor to confirm this. I packed up my son and went to the urgent care place around the corner. To me, this was urgent!

The doctor came back in the room and said, "Congratulations!" I started to cry.

"You don't know what a big deal this is," I said. "I'm not supposed to be able to do this."

The doctor threw a confused glance at my son, playing obliviously on the floor. I whispered my explanation, about my son's adoption. Realization dawned on the doctor's face, and by the time I left, the entire place was congratulating me.

Of course, my then-husband was overjoyed! We had to contact our friends and tell them not to write those letters of reference. We had to tell social services to take us off the list. I had to call my regular doctor's office and tell them the news. As I waited for the doctor on the line, office workers were picking up the extensions and saying, "Are you serious?!"

I worried a little. Everyone says morning sickness is a good sign. I didn't have it. At all. Later, I'd get nauseous if a had a waistband on me, but no morning sickness. My sister announced she was pregnant about two months later, and was absolutely miserable with morning sickness. She hates me for that to this day!

I saw the doctor when I was about 10 weeks along. I got my first ultrasound look at my little one. She looked like a peanut. Things were going smoothly, except for being quite tired. To be expected, the doctor said. After all, I was chasing an active three-year-old, too.

But the weariness got worse. I'd never felt such profound exhaustion. It was all I could do to get my son's breakfast, turn on PBS, and get out his flip-track train toys. After that, my energy was done. As he built complicated transportation systems on the den floor, and watched Thomas the Tank Engine, I laid on the couch and slept. He'd wake me to show me things and when he was hungry. I'd push myself some days to take him to the zoo or to play at friends' houses. But it took all I had.

At about 26 or 27 weeks, they test for gestational diabetes. That's when the alarms went off. I went on insulin and a new diet immediately. I had to eat tiny meals all day. Ironically, it seemed all I did was eat. And take shots. I discovered that it's really difficult to make your own hand hurt yourself. It grossed out my then-husband, so he'd have to leave the room when I gave myself shots. Wienie.

They took frequent ultrasounds, checking my baby's size. They were having trouble getting my blood sugar under control, so she was growing too fast. It explained why I felt movement from her way early. Now, she was big enough to wedge herself against my bladder. Oh, that's lovely. But I also remember watching the outline of her tiny foot track across my belly. I was in awe, even then.

It was summer, in Texas. Hot. I had two friends who were pregnant with me. People laughed when they saw us together at church, sitting together and fanning ourselves. Oh, it was a miserable summer! I wanted snow cones in the worst way. But they have sugar. "If there were sugar-free flavors, I'd get them for you," my then-husband told me. He was in foodservice sales, so he would know if sugar-free snow cone syrup existed. It apparently didn't. So, I lived with my craving.

One day, the endocrinologist said to me, "If this baby gets over 8 pounds, 10 ounces, I don't want you laboring with her." And he launched into all the terrible things that could happen to me and to her, if I tried to deliver her normally at that size. Scared the crap out of me.

About a month before my due date, she hit that mark. It would be a C-section for me. I actually felt relieved, believe it or not. I didn't worry about her getting hurt now.

Two weeks later, on July 4th, 2005, I started having contractions. That scared me. My blood sugars were still not under control. I went to the hospital, but they sent me home. Not time yet.

The next day, I still was having contractions. My then-husband called the doctor. The doctor said, "Let's let her labor and see what happens." Then-husband relayed that news to me.

What happened next scared the man. I lost it. I freaked. I remembered all the warnings. How could this doctor say to risk it? (I learned later that he was about to go on vacation.) Then-husband turned back to the phone, "Uhm....I don't think that's a very good idea."

"How about early Saturday, then?" the doctor asked. Much better idea.

My folks came to take care of my son Friday night. Saturday morning, I kissed him goodbye as he slept, and we drove to the hospital. I loved walking up to the desk and saying, "I have an appointment to have a baby." As cool as that.

The next couple of hours were a blur. Hospital gown, IV, warm blankets, cold delivery room, epidural. Oh, the epidural. Then-husband went wienie on me there, too. He was trying to soothe me while panicking, so the doctor stepped in and did the soothing for him. Dang, that thing hurt, but it did it's job well.

They took good care of me. I felt the tug of her entering the cold room, entering the world. She was pissed about it, too. She hadn't moved much yet that early morning, so she was probably asleep when she was rudely awakened by the doctor's hands. From warm Mommy to cold world. She made her disapproval known!

The nurse said, "Look at the hair!"

I said, "Is it red?"

"No," she said. "Jet black."

My little one's skin was very dark red. My tactful then-husband turned to the Hispanic doctor and said, "Hey, she looks like she could be yours!" Oh good golly. What an ass.

They weighed her. The diabetes had taken it's toll. Two weeks early, nine and a half pounds.

They bundled her up and handed her to her father, who headed to the nursery with her. "Whoa," I hollered. "Can I see her?" He'd forgotten about me.

So, I finally saw her. She had lots of black, curly hair. I said her name. I said I loved her very much. And then she was taken to the nursery. Where she continued to scream for a long, long time.

On the other side of the nursery window was my son, in his "I'm the Big Brother" t-shirt. My dad was filming him watching his sister and said, "So, what do you think of your new little sister?"

Without missing a beat, he said, "She looks funny. Just like Daddy."

They gave me a large room, with a couch that folded out to a bed. Later that day, I held my baby and watched my son playing on the floor with his new cowboys and indians playset, that I'd bought just for this occasion. See, I have two miracles. The miracle that I got to be my son's mother when I wanted to be so desperately. For 18 months, I felt like his mother, but he wasn't mine. The day I was allowed to me was a miracle day to me. And I have the miracle of having this little baby girl.

Now, she's a young woman. She mature, beautiful, unique. Still with all that curly black hair, too. The last 13 years have not been easy. The beginning of the end of my marriage had already started, but today isn't a time for thinking of that. It's for celebrating her.

And that's what we'll do. So I sign off for today, because I have a lunch date with a really fantastic young lady, who still fills me with awe.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Some Mondays are worse than others....

My Monday isn't so bad. My boss is back from vacation, but he's too busy catching up to spend time bugging me. And I had a great three-day weekend.

On Friday the Fourth, my folks took my kids and my son's girlfriend to the lake at Ridgway. For you movie buffs, that's the town where "True Grit" was filmed. I didn't go boating with them because the sun hates me (long story). So, Ranger and I traveled a little further south to Ouray. I love this town! I've been visiting Ouray since I was a kid. Here's a pic of it -- tiny town that's filled all the available space in this little canyon:

It's called the Switzerland of America. And it's a hoppin' place on the Fourth of July! I think the population doubles then. They have events all day, including a parade, barbecue, fireworks, and the crowd favorite - water fights.

Main Street Restaurant there has old pics of the town. One is from the 1920 4th of July water fights. Not many buildings are around, but people are jamming the edges of the intersection of 6th and Main, with more on top of the bordering buildings.

Today, they do the same thing. They come to watch two-man (or woman!) teams battle it out with fire hoses, until one team lands on their asses. Here's how it looked this year:

If you're near the action, you better bring dry clothes. That water hits HARD and it's COLD! Even if you're a little further back, you'll get wet when they point the hoses up and let the crowd get some rain. COLD rain! After all, the water is from mountain run-off, and they still have snow on their peaks!

Ranger, my son, his drama queen girlfriend, and I stayed for the fireworks. Nothing short of spectacular! They launch them from the mountain, so they go off right overhead (if you're on Main Street).

We left Ouray around 11:00 PM. We were exhausted. Ranger kindly offered to drive, as I was very dozy. My son and Drama Queen fell asleep in the back seat. I was watching the ribbon of tail lights ahead of us on the two-lane highway, starting to nod off, when all of a sudden....

"RANGER!! SLOW DOWN!!" screamed Drama Queen. And I mean SCREAMED. Strip your vocal cords kind of screaming. Then she fell into equally hysterical crying, prompting my son to comfort her.

Two things here. Ranger was not speeding. The traffic was actually moving rather slowly. And the hysterical crying was completely tearless.

Watching her little performance, I was reminded of a fake "fainting" spell she'd had in my kitchen a couple of days ago. She claimed to have fainted and fallen, but I saw her deliberately lay down on the floor before hand. Again, prompting my son to rush to her aid. Then, she asked to stay at our house that night, since her mother was off sleeping at her new boyfriend's house.

As soon as I took her home, she started calling about thinking someone was in her bathroom, making banging noises. Again, wanting my son to rush to her rescue and wanting me to let her sleep at my house.

Not on your life, kiddo. You just might be a psycho Drama Queen.

We got home from fireworks about 1 AM, asleep about 2 AM. I spent the rest of the weekend catching up on sleep, doing laundry, and remembering the far-off days when I'd stay up all night and still be able to take exams in the morning. Where did that go? Dang.

By the time Monday rolled around, I was doing okay. I didn't want to go to work, but that's how Mondays start, right? Ranger called and rubbed it in that he doesn't work today and was still laying in bed.

"You should be here, too," he said.

I groaned. "I know, but I can't. I have a meeting."

"After the meeting?"

I groaned again. I knew how this would go. If I snuggled up to Ranger, even for my lunch hour, I'd never get back to the office. Ranger doesn't know the word "quickie." Not that I mind, but if I want to stay out of the doghouse with my boss, I have to resist!

"No, sweetie, I really can't."

He sighed. "I know. I had to try, though!" And he went back to sleep. I was sooo jealous.

Soon, my phone goes off.

"Hi," says Greg.

"Good morning," I say.

"No, not really. I got some breakfast with my ex and some lady ran a stop sign and hit my van. It's my van but I let my ex use it. Now it's totaled."

"Is everyone all right?" I asked. But I paused. Why did he say that about the van? Unless they've come up with some arrangement, it's her van. It's registered to her (you can get that info in Texas). She drives it. She pays insurance on it. Greg has been lamenting not having a car and walking everywhere. By all appearances, it's not his van.

Another detail come back to me. "Wait, you're speaking to her again? Thought you weren't."

"Everyone's okay, but my back and neck are hurting," he replied. "And I'm not speaking to her really, but she was hungry and broke so I got her something to eat."

I said something about calling the other driver's insurance and seeing a doctor. greg called me back instead of texting.

"Yeah, my neck and fucking back are killing me. My fucking seat belt broke and slammed me into the fucking windshield. Now I'm fucking walking home from the wreck site. My ex's mom picked her up and she just fucking called me because she didn't get a fucking chance to ask me to pay the fucking electric bill before it gets fucking cut off tomorrow because it's still in my fucking name. And I'm so mad I can't stop saying 'fucking'."

"I'm sorry," I said. "I understand being that mad, though. Why don't you call the power company and see if you can get a day or two? Then get that out of your name NOW."

He played a nice little round of "yes, but...." for a few minutes. I let him go off on it. He'd think about it later, when he wasn't so upset.

The last I heard was that he was going to go home and smoke some pot to relax. Then, fortuitously, my phone battery died.

Suddenly, a Monday at same-old-same-old work didn't seem so bad. But I still wished for a nap with Ranger.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008


Today is Ranger's birthday. We'll celebrate this weekend, when he's not working. I think it'll be a nice pick-me-up for him to have this little celebration!

We made love all morning, then I took him to lunch. I gave him a book he's been wanting. You can click on the image below to see more info on it.

He looks at this book every time we pass the bookstore. It combines two of his passions -- rocks and photography. This photographer creates beautiful images from cross-sections of stones. The back of the book has a full explanation of the stone and where it's found. Completely up Ranger's alley!

Next Tuesday is my daughter's birthday. She'll be 13. I can't believe it! She's officially a teenager! I'm still figuring out what to get her. She's a lovely young woman now, and I want her to know I acknowledge her maturity.

She had a brilliant experience last week. We have a great little bookstore downtown, with a very eclectic collection of books and art items. They carry prints, mugs, cards, etc., by one of our favorite artists - Jody Bergsma. One of my favorite prints of hers is to the right here.

We have several of her prints, mostly of wolves and horses. Last week, she visited that bookstore and we were able to get things signed and visit with her. She took a good chunk of time visiting with my daughter about her art. It was a wonderful moment for her! This artist she admires so much actually listened to her and gave her personal advice. It was a stellar moment!

So, Daughter is riding high right now. And I want to make sure her birthday helps carry that feeling!

And she played "double agent" that day, too. I had something I was getting at this store for her, so I asked Ranger to distract her outside. I was also getting him the above-mentioned book, so I asked her to distract him. However, unbeknownst to me, he was getting something for me, and asked her to distract me at the same time.

She thought this was ultimately hilarious.

Six days after Daughter's birthday is Greg's birthday. He is toeing the line at pissing me off about that, though. Remember, I sent him the money last week to buy the golf clubs from his friend. It wasn't much because they were used, but it was still money he didn't otherwise have for something he wanted.

So, yesterday, we're talking in texts about a particularly bad migraine he was having.

"Wish I could do something," I said.

"It's ok. Just send me a killer birthday present and I'll feel better."

"LOL," I said. "I did! Golf clubs, remember?"

"No," he said. "Golf clubs were from me, to me."

I stopped. WTF?? I sent him the money for those! So, I said so.

"No, the money you sent went to pay the bills I couldn't pay after I spent my money on the golf clubs."

Ok. Does that make sense to anyone?? Either way, it was my monetary gift that made his acquisition of the clubs possible.

And do you know what gift he's hinting around at now? A Playstation 3. A four-effing-hundred-dollar gift. WTF (again)??

So, I texted him back and made sure he knew he would NOT be getting that. I'd planned on sending him a package of fun gifts to open. He actually has not had birthday gifts from anyone in 12 years. But I also let him know that my daughter's birthday was soon, too.

"Your baby has to come first," he said. Glad he gets that.

But I'm still pissed.

In any case, I leave for Vegas on Greg's birthday. Ranger and I will have five days together. And he has dropped the Vegas wedding chapel search. On his own. I didn't have to tell him I didn't want to get married yet. He shared his hesitations and I shared mine, and they were remarkably similar. All my wait-and-see kind of doubts aside, it would become a source of hurt with our families. And a source of guilt for us. So, all of this will wait.


Tuesday, July 01, 2008


My house is quiet.

Praise the Lord!

At the same time, I feel guilty for delighting in the quiet. The life my sister and her kids return to is not an easy one. From where I sit, all the signs are there that her sorry-ass husband is cheating on her again. She doesn't want to see it, though. If she found out, she'd have to do something about it, and she feels trapped and without options. She has multiple physical problems (in addition to the nearly-being-electrocuted thing), so her ability to work is limited.

And this jackass won't raise a finger to help her. I'm not talking just that he won't do dishes or take out the trash. I mean, the kind of thing where he just drops trash on the floor where he sits and never wipes up his own spills.

However, he's the father of her kids. And one of those kids has some severe emotional problems. She really questions whether he'd survive a divorce. This poor child walks a fine line daily. You see it in his eyes; he has pretty brown eyes, but they betray a fragility that seems to be teetering on the brink of disaster moment-to-moment. He is the sweetest child, and I often fear for him.

Not that my sister is a stellar mother. That instinct just isn't huge with her. This same fragile child never got a birthday party this year. She promised it, again and again, but it never happened. His birthday is in March. When my mom went to visit a month ago, she discovered his birthday presents in the closet, still wrapped. It was his tenth birthday - a big one for a kid.

That just breaks my heart.

When they left, he put his arms around me and hugged me tight. He wouldn't let go, so I didn't let go either. He was crying. "It's so hard to say goodbye to you," he said, through his tears. Being at my house lets him relax a little, relieving some of the daily stress he puts on himself because he tries so hard to take care of his little sister and his mother.

As they went out the door, my sister hugged me tightly, too. As I held onto her, she started sobbing. "I don't want to go home," she said.

"I know," I said. "Just call if you need anything, okay?" It's the best I can offer, to be her lifeline.

And so she headed home. At the Denver airport, some dumbass at Southwest Airlines wouldn't let her pre-board. I mean, picture this: She sees a woman at the gate for the 6:30 AM flight who is walking with a cane and can't use her right arm (it's in a sling). She has three children with her, ages 12, 10, and 6. All hyperactive. The woman asks to pre-board because this airline doesn't have assigned seats and she's not fit to fight a crowd.

This idiot looks at her and says, "I think you have enough help."

Brilliant. Just brilliant. Someone is going to hear about that.

She gets home. Her son has lost his cell phone, so she calls to replace it. She pays the $50. Ten minutes later, my neighbor comes knocking at my door. She's found my nephew's cell phone at her house. My sister calls to cancel the replacement order, but is told...no way. No refunds.

Then, my sister loads up for the grocery store. She leaves their dogs in the backyard. While she's gone, someone starts shooting off fireworks in her neighborhood. Her little dog freaks and digs out of the yard. He doesn't have tags on his collar. Needless to say, they are sad and worried.

I like that my life is getting back to normal, but I'm nagged with the feeling that my sister's life is just not right. I wish I could do something to make it better. It's hard to see what she and her kids go through, all the time. Yes, she has a bit of that Black Cloud Syndrome, but then there's just her daily challenges. it's a helpless feeling.