Tuesday, November 25, 2008

We've been saying for months....

....that Daughter needs a dog.

The neighbor has her watch their dog when they are out of town. Daughter is in heaven, taking her for walks, feeding her, and playing with her. "She needs a dog," says my mother.

We went to see "Bolt in 3D" on Friday. She sat by Ranger and made "I love dogs" noises the whole time. "She needs a dog," says Ranger.

"She needs a dog," says Son.

"She needs a dog," says Drama Queen.

"Over my dead body," says my dad. He's sure the hassle will become his. He gets mad when we bring it up. "No dogs."

I miss having a dog. I miss my Labrador.

Yesterday, I woke up nauseous. I stayed home. Son wouldn't get out of bed, so I needed to be there to keep an eye on him anyhow. My mother took Daughter to school and promptly came home again. Her back was hurting badly.

I'm slowly getting ready in my bathroom, and I can hear getting-ready sounds from my folks' bathroom downstairs. Then I hear a god-awful racket.

A dog crying in pain. I think it's the dog next door, until my mother calls up to me. "Can you come help me? There's a dog stuck in our fence."

On one side of our house is a low fence. About hip-high on me. Looks like this pooch was trying to jump into our yard and her paw got stuck between the slats. As we approached, she freaked out. Desperately afraid of us. Growling and yelping, she yanked her foot free and ran to the neighbor's front fence.

She stayed there, close to where she could see and hear their dog in their yard. She was dirty and thin. She was pale in color, through the dirt, and a Labrador mix. We could see the ridges of her spine and ribs. If we stepped close to her, she'd bark and start to run away. We backed off.

No lost dog signs in the area. My mother called all the shelters. No one has been looking for a Labrador. We could take her to the no-kill shelter. "We don't have room today, but will in a couple of days," the woman said. "It's going to be 20 degrees tonight, though. Can you hang on to her until then? I don't want the pound to get her and she could freeze."

Okay, we developed a plan. Maybe if we fed her, she'd stick around in our yard until they had room for her. My dad would have a cow and a half, but we can't just leave her and not try.

My mom took a bowl of water, but the dog started barking when you got about 15 feet from her. She set the bowl down there. I ran and bought a small bag of food. We put some in a pie tin and set it by the water. She came close, but still barked. She wanted that food. We backed off and she scarfed it down. Poor thing was literally starving.

Next, we opened that little gate and set the food inside there. We backed off and she scarfed that food, too. She watched us, snarling as she ate if we got close. I was able to shut the gate. From the inside, though, she got a foothold and jumped the little fence.

I put a blanket by our porch, in a sheltered area, and moved the food and water there. I went in the house. A few minutes later, I checked. Much of the food was gone, but the gate had closed itself. She was at the neighbor's fence again. She watched me as I opened the gate and propped it open with a big rock.

As I placed the rock, I could see her approaching cautiously. She stretched her neck to sniff the rock. Then, she licked my hand.

I talked sweet to her and walked back to the food tin. She followed. I sat on the porch. She sat at my feet, and she let me pet her. A lot. When I moved, she followed. I'm a dog whisperer. Always have been. What can I say?

I called my mother to come out. She sat down and the dog approached her, too. We could both now pet her. She stuck close to us. This is the pic I took at that moment.

You can see how skinny she is.

The shelter called back. "We decided we can go ahead and take her," the woman said. So, we started trying to figure out how to get her in the car. I asked for Son's help, and explained what had happened.

"Can we just keep her?" he asked.

My mother stopped. "I don't want to take her to the shelter," she said. I didn't, either. But how on earth could we get around my dad? Oh, he'd be piiiissssed.

I had to call him. It had to be me. So, I did. I started explaining.

"Oh crap," he said. He knew where I was heading with this.

"We've talked," I said. "We've worked out dividing the chores and the schedule and how to do this."

"If it was up to me, I'd say no," he said. "But it sounds like I've been outvoted."

"We get a vote?" I said, laughing. He laughed, too. We couldn't believe it. He gave in.

And it was done. We have a dog.

Her name is Matsi. It's a Blackfoot word, meaning "sweet and brave." And she just hit the doggie jackpot.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Small update

I've noticed in the last few weeks that South Carolina's Facebook page is featuring his ex-wife more frequently. The last conversation I had on the phone with him, though, he said, "We've decided we're definitely not getting back together. That's done." I can understand that. It was a bitter breakup for him, since it was the result of her infidelity.

Then, he was all hot and heavy to see me at the conference....but canceled quickly. Yes, I know -- budget cuts. But you gotta wonder now....

His Facebook "relationship" status changed to "In a relationship." Last week. (Okay, so I'm slow to notice these things!)

I asked about it, since he wasn't volunteering any information. You see this coming?

Yep. He's trying to get back together with his ex-wife. Not the smartest of moves, in my humble opinion. But if that floats his boat and makes him happy, then so be it.

He said he's not completely sure about it, but she wants to try, so he will, too. I told him to be careful and be happy. He hasn't replied.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

When people drink....

....they do stupid crap.

I know. Earth-shattering revelation, isn't it?

Some of the key players and impressive drinkers weren't at this year's conference. I missed them because they are wonderful characters in my life, and I only get to see them once a year. One guy drinks Guinness like it's water, but I've never seen him drunk. I identify with that. Big Celt from New Jersey and all-around nice guy.

Each year at this conference, there's a particular woman who is always in his shadow. I've never seen him acknowledge her, but she's glued to him. Interesting because I just learned she's married. I spent a little more time with her this year, at our meals and excursions. We'll call her Shelly. I don't know if she deliberately keeps her wits about her when the Big Celt is there, but she really cut loose this year, like I haven't seen before. Frankly, she scared me.

Then there was Mark. He's the one I danced with when we all went out last year, and the one who was so happy to see me this year. The one who said "You're so cool!" about my presentation. The one who is married.

And I also had a roommate this year. My co-presenter. She's an eternal optimist. We took a wrong turn and ended up in scary East St Louis. Know what she said? "Hey! I've been to Illinois now!" She's a good friend. We have a great time together. We'll call her Candi.

So, I spent Friday evening at Union Station in St. Louis. Cool place. Wonderful architecture that's been restored where the hotel is. The rest has been converted to shops and restaurants. I was feeling great. Presentations were over. They were a smashing success. I'd been referred to as an "expert" in my field. I was riding pretty dang high.

Candi and I went shopping. I actually found a Texas Tech tie for Son. It's a really nice one, too! He told me he wouldn't wear a C3PO and R2D2 tie, so I went with Texas Tech. Candi said, "Save it for Christmas!" No way. This thing will actually make him look forward to going to church each week! You can click the image here to see the pattern.

(Which reminds me. How 'bout them Red Raiders?! My alma mater is doing well! Someone at the conference asked if I used to be in Texas. I said I was at Texas Tech, and one of the men nearby turned around and said, "Now, THEY are playin' some football!" Oh yeah.)

Anyhow, we made our way to the Hard Rock for dinner. It had been pre-arranged through the conference. Many of us were already there, so finding a table in our area wasn't easy. We found an empty one, and were soon joined by Mark and Shelly. We checked out the drink menu. I wanted to take home a Hurricane glass, so I got a Long Island Tea in one. Mark got something...blue. Very blue. It reminded him of what we had at the bar last year. But when it got there, he didn't like it. So, it became mine.

Shelly ordered something to drink, too, but it seemed she'd been at it already. We noticed one pal was missing from the gathering. I knew why. It was our friend's 40th birthday and she was celebrating with her husband.

"It's a BIG birthday for her," Shelly said, rolling her eyes and emphasizing BIG. Now, I don't know how old Shelly is, but she obviously considered 40 to be old. I mean old.

I let a grin spread across my face. Not only was she about to stick her foot in it with me, but I knew Candi's age. She looks about 17, but she's 46. "A BIG brithday, huh?"

Shelly nodded and whispered, conspiratorially. "Yes, she's forty." And she curled her lip when she said it. Curled her lip.

"Ah," I said. "I did that in August."

She about crapped her pants, I swear.

"No way!" she said, eyes wide. "You can't be 40!"

Candi was smiling. "Yeah, I did that six years ago."

Shelly about fell in the floor. Mark was laughing his ass off.

Candi was telling Shelly about her teenagers, and about mine. Mark leaned over to me and whispered. "I turned 40 in July." Poor fella wanted to hide it from Shelly. I raised my drink to him and he was happy with that reaction.

So, I'm shopping in the Hard Rock store. I find out I've earned a $20 credit that I can use on my member card there, and here's comes Mark. He's holding a highball glass. A blue liquid is in it. No ice.

"Here," he says, holding it out to me. "Drink this. I don't like it."

"Blue isn't your friend," I said, taking the glass. "It looks like toilet bowl cleaner." The cashier giggled.

Shelly rounds the corner and shouts, "Let me have one more sip!" She takes one, gives it back to me, and says, "Woo hoo! That's strong!" I messed with her by drinking it down in one swallow. It tasted like Kool-Aid. Strong, my ass.

We made a brief, very chilly stop at the base of the Arch. Many people ran up and down the stairs under the Arch. Me and my bad knee admired the moon, and took this pic. It was a lovely night, chilly and all.

I understand that a large group went out drinking after we got back from our excursion. Being the party animal that I am, I put on my new pink-and-black cotton jammies and went to bed. I couldn't get my Internet access to work right. Oh, maybe we watched TV. Woo hoo.

Candi and I woke up for breakfast and went back to sleep. We were still full from dinner the night before. Ugh. And I knew what was going to happen to me that day. I imagine it's like Dr. Jekyll felt when he knew he'd turn into Mr. Hyde. The transformation started as soon as I looked at the clocked.

The countdown started. The silent auction would close in four hours.

Soon enough, I showered and made my way downstairs. Found a cup of "Refresh" tea. I could see the doors to the auction room. It was calling to me. Once I put my name on an item, I become a woman obsessed. The thing is, if someone outbids me, then I must outbid them. It's dangerous. I might even have decided that I don't want something anymore, and I have to fight the compulsion to outbid.

I'm not usually such a competitive monster. But give me a silent auction, and I'm a mess.

People were teasing me. "I'm going to go put one more dollar on everything," one man said. Another actually did that on one item, just to watch me sweat. Nice. One lady tried to be a serious competitor with me, but I got the better of her.

There at the end, all my conversations went like this:

"No! I got outbid!"
"I'm sorry."

"Do you really want that?"
"Yes. I'm sorry."

"What are you going to do with that pen?"
"I'm sorry."

"Are you serious?"
"I'm sorry."

"I'm sorry."

As it was, I came out of it with way too much stuff. But do you know what I thought about all the way home? The one item I didn't get. It hurts. Still.

So, I got stuff for everyone back home. A shirt from Ole Miss for Ranger. Golf balls, pocket knife, and hat for Son. Hoodie and two stuffed animals for Daughter. Even some socks and a travel mug for Drama Queen. And a cool hoodie for me. Which saved my ass the next day, when Candi wanted to go to the Arch and Busch Stadium when it's 30 degrees outside.

Now I'm broke.

We had lunch. Closed the conference. Said goodbye to old and new friends. Promised to email, to keep in touch. We do okay at that.

I keep having moments of nervousness. I'm now in charge of a Board committee. All on my own. I hope I do as good of a job as my former co-chair. I've volunteered for a Best Practices committee. I have one more year on the Board, so I need to run for election again.

It'll be okay. That's my new mantra.

Candi and I loaded up in the rental car with Not-So-Nice Faculty Person. We'll call her Jane. Even with Ranger's GPS thing, it took us an hour to get to Union Station. Damn road construction. See, Jane had stayed at the hotel instead of going with us the night before, so we revisited it for her. Candi wanted to show her the architecture. She wanted to see the shops, too. And that's what we did. Marveled at old buildings and shopped. I decided that something from the Budweiser shop probably wouldn't be a great souvenir in my Mormon household. Ah well.

It was cold outside. We crossed the street to get some refreshment at Maggie O'Brien's Irish Pub. That made me smile. It's an authentic place, with a pic of Grandma Maggie by the door. Gotta love it. I had an Irish Coffee. A strong Irish Coffee. Even the coffee part was strong. Yow. Irish Coffee and toasted ravioli. It was a good afternoon.

Getting back was much easier. Jane was still scowling and folding her arms. Candi looked at me and said, "You know, should a Catholic and a Mormon be getting along so well?" We laughed.

Jane was confused. "You're a Mormon?" she asked Candi. She shook her head and Jane got more confused.

"I didn't say I'm a good one," I answered. That made Jane laugh.

I called Mark and found out where the remaining conference-people were. We made plans to meet up for dinner later. They were all watching the LSU-Alabama game at Ozzie's. when Candi, Jane and I got there, the game was over and everyone on the LSU side needed to drown some sorrows.

Part of the group went to the Mexican restaurant. Part went to the Sushi restaurant. Jane folded her arms, scowled and said, "I don't like Mexican food and I already had Sushi." See, the hotel is in a complex with four restaurants, a night club, and a jazz club. No one was wandering far.

"We'll stay here," said Candi. She wanted to get done and go pack. She ended up having an enlightening evening, once Jane had a few glasses of wine. Wow. Been there with Jane, and "Wow" is all I can say.

I went to the sushi place with Shelly and Mark. I haven't had sushi before, but I'm an adventurous eater. Shelly, not so much. She went for the martinis. She took a sip of mine and didn't like them, so yay for me! I had something called a Flirtini and a Pomegranate martini. Gotta love that.

And gotta love sushi. Dang, that was good stuff. I really liked the eel. No kidding. Mark bought and I told him I'd make it up to him by getting his drinks at the next place we went. Deal.

Shelly was a raving idiot, though. She'd had a couple of martinis and a shot of saki. She called her nine-year-old daughter to say goodnight, then talked to her husband. "Are you drunk?" he asked. I can only imagine what she sounded like to her daughter. Kinda scary.

We wandered to the Mexican place and found the LSU people, and a few other. I sat and chatted with the new president about where I live. Her brother used to teach here. He died right before I started my new job. And I watched Mark and Shelly have a few shots of tequila, with some couple they met at the bar. Yikes.

Then, we were off to the Jazz Club. It was two-for-one cover, so Mark covered me. I had no cash. We all found a table, including Shelly's boss. He was worried about her. He needed to go pack and sleep, but he didn't want to leave her alone. He told Mark to keep an eye on her and make sure she's okay. Mark promised. The boss made him promise again before leaving. And he called a few minutes later, to make sure.

And I think he had cause to worry. I think he put the fox in charge of the hen house.

Shelly ordered a drink. Mark gave the waitress a recipe for the blue drink he had in Utah last year. It's called an AMF...short for "Adios, Mother Fucker." Which is what Shelly started shouting at the top of her lungs when she heard Mark order. Dang, that little woman has some big lungs. So, I ordered one, too.

I had to laugh when the drinks came. Mark sipped his blue drink and said, "I don't think I like that." Cracked me up. Predictable. He finished it, though.

Shelly saw the couple from the restaurant bar and went to say hello. On the way, she introduced herself to every table. A drunk woman introducing herself to every stranger at a bar. What a great idea....

Mark looked at me and said. "So, you've had as much to drink as Shelly has," he said, exaggerating. "So, why aren't you acting like a lunatic?"

"I don't," I said. "I've never been drunk."


"Yes, seriously."

He smiled big and rubbed his hands together.

"Oh, no, you don't!" I said. He just laughed.

Shelly had been gone too long. She was still standing by that couple, so Mark went to check on her. He brought her back to the table and sat her down.

"Shots," he said. "They were doing shots." He turned around and she was gone again.

Before he could ask, I pointed. On the stage, about six inches from the frontman's nose was Shelly.

Mark went to retrieve her again.

She was protesting when he sat her down again. "I jush wanned him to play shum rock 'n' roll!"

It's a jazz club. But they took pity on the poor drunk girl and played "Jailhouse Rock." She danced in her seat. Mark seized my hand and we danced to it. Great fun!

We returned to the table to find Shelly telling the new president-elect that she (the president-elect) would have a hangover in the morning. The woman was stone cold sober. It was time for me to go pack and sleep.

I made my way back to my room to find Candi had fallen asleep reading, with the TV on. I changed into my jammies and hauled out the suitcase. Candi woke up and we chatted about the enlightening time she'd had with Jane. I told her about Shelly. My phone rang.

"Hey, we're going to my room to watch YouTube," said Mark, too loud. Too drunk. I could hear Shelly laughing hysterically in the background. "Wanna come?"

"Uhm...no, I think I'm going to pack and sleep," I said.

"No! You have to come to my room and hang out with us."


"Shelly and me. We got some drinks, too."

Does this sound like as bad of an idea to you as it sounded to me?"

"Wait!" he hollered. "We'll come to your room! What's your room number?"

"No," I said. "Don't do that. Candi is asleep already." Candi gave me one of those what-you-talkin'-about-Willis looks.

"We'll wake her up! What's your room number?"

"I'm not telling you. She doesn't want you to wake her up."

"Okay, we'll just knock on all of them. Are you on the fourth floor?"

"No, I'm not. Don't knock on anything!"

And he gave up. They headed to his room, and God knows what.

The next day, after the nice lady at the airline counter didn't charge me for my 56-pound suitcase, Candi said to me, "I wonder if Shelly woke up in time this morning?"

I laughed. "I wonder where Shelly woke up this morning."

And we headed home and back to normality.

I gotta find a sushi place around here.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

How do you eat something like this?


It's bigger than my hand.

This is a "Mint Kissed Whoopie Pie." But it's not a pie. It's two big chocolate cookie, with whipped cream and peppermint squished betwee.

Bigger than my hand.

Oh, I think I'm gonna be sick just looking at it....

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

A conferencing we will go....

I've been out of town and terribly neglectful, dear Diary. It's been a traveling whirlwind, but I'm beginning to settle down. Time to blog :o)

Every Fall, I go to the same conference. I have since 2003. This is my sixth year there. I serve on the Board. I'm Chair of a Committee, and just volunteered for another one. I met South Carolina there last year. I love this conference. The personal and professional contacts are incredible. Simply love it.

This year, attendance was down. A bunch of people went through last-minute budget cuts. Including South Carolina, as I mentioned. I missed a lot of people, but still enjoyed those who were there.

I've presented sessions at each of these conferences, since 2003. Someone came up to me this time and told me they still use the handout we gave in the first session I did for them. That's a nice warm-fuzzy! This year, though, I really wanted to fly under the radar. No presentations. No nervousness. No stress. I let the proposal deadline pass.

Two weeks later, my phone rings.

"Blogget," says a familiar, authoritative voice from the organization having the conference. He's been with this group since the beginning. "The Conference Committee noticed you didn't submit a proposal this year. Do you plan on doing that?"

"Uhm...no," I mumbled. I felt my short flight under the radar coming to an end.

"Would you consider it, please? I have topic ideas for you. I'll even help, if you need it."

Sigh. Ok. I agreed. I'm such a sucker. Then, do you know what I did?

I volunteered for two of them. Two. What's wrong with me? I mean, really.

The first one was based on an idea the man who called me had. See, I published a journal article last year, on a topic I'd once presented on. I gathered a panel of others who have done the same, and we had a discussion about it. The PowerPoint had five slides. Pretty easy and informative, too.

The second one was all me. It was Jedi-themed. I went nuts with the media. Audio and video. Made my own background. I got a faculty member to go and present with me, so that helped. We gave away Star Wars toys. Our presider gave us lightsabers. How cool is that? Mine is above my monitor at work now, with my Darth Vader head. See?

Smashed that one out of the park, lemme tell ya.

Before we started, the guy presenting next door comes to me. "I wanted to come to yours, but they scheduled me at the same time," he said. "I just had to come say....You're so cool!"

Yep, we were identifying the dorks pretty fast. This is the same guy I danced with last year, who greeted me at the opening reception this year and said, "It's really nice to see you again. I mean really." And he wiggled his brows for emphasis. Yep. Dork. He's married.

The first night, a bunch of us had dinner at Ozzie's (owned by baseball great, Ozzie Smith). Two of my faculty members actually came with me, and one went to dinner with us that night. We had a long table of happy people. This faculty member walked in with her arms crossed and her scowl in place. She's hard to please.

She sat down at the opposite end of the table from me. Soon, I went to make introductions. "It's okay!" said an old friend. "We've all met. We're having a good time! We're taking good care of her!" And sure enough, the wine was flowing and a good time was being had by all.

I watched her during the conference. Each session, she sat scowling, arms and legs crossed. The last night, she told my other faculty person, "This is the rudest conference I've ever been to." Uhm, no, sweetie. You were the rudest person at the conference. I watched them try.

The general theme of the conference was "Route 66." The opening reception was decorated pretty cute, with St. Louis and Route 66 stuff. The host school was a university in Illinois, so some of their people drove up with spouses to help them set up. The Nice Faculty person (my roomie) and I arrived and found a seat. We were joined by Gossip Gal and her husband. Remember her? The one who gossiped about South Carolina and her coworker? I learned something about her at this conference.

She really and truly is a complete moron.

And she looks like Droopy Dog. See the pic? Yep. Years of frowning, I think. You laugh, but I'm not kidding!

Anyhow, she picked up this cute St Louis postcard that was on the table and said, "What is this? Why do we have these? I don't get it."

No, really. On the 12th floor of a building in the middle of St Louis, she doesn't get why we have St Louis postcards.

Right before the conference starts, we have an annual face-to-face Board meeting. All the others are via phone, but this one is in person. On the agenda each time is to decide where the proceeds from the silent auction will be donated. We've donated to Hurricane Katrina Relief and the families of the miners killed in Utah, in past years. We opened the discussion for suggestions.

Gossip Gal piped up. She's from the host school. "I think the money should go back to our school. We're not making enough on this conference."

[insert crickets chirping]

Wow. She really missed the boat on the brains AND common sense. I repeat: Moron. Just in case you couldn't tell how I feel about her.

After knocking the presentations out of the proverbial park, I went on about my very relieved and much happier business.

I got a little concerned when one of my favorite people pulled me aside. "I have to talk to you about something," she said. So, I got serious. Turns out, they've pegged me as an "expert." They want me on a panel to professionally evaluate their university's distance learning courses. Me. An "expert." Woo hoo!!

Ranger is already making plans to go with me, and show me some things in Nevada and California. And I repeat: Woo hoo!

When I told my folks, my mother turned to my dad and said, "She's making a name for herself, dear." Is that what I've done? Really? Gotta love that.

I attended the remaining sessions, engaged in each discussion along the way. I was a force to be reckoned with this time. I also attended the silent auction. Okay, so attended isn't the right word.

I circled like a shark. I obsessed. I apologized, but still outbid those who seemed to want to challenge me. Silent auctions bring out this horrible competitive side of me. I've been known to stand beside a competing bidder (or even a potentially competitive bidder) and say, "No. No. No." like it's a chant. I've talked people out of stuffed animals by convincing them it's a choking hazard. I'm awful. I say so up front, when the doors open. Everyone is fairly warned.

And after six years of this, I have a reputation to uphold. And each year brings a new packing challenge for the return trip. Last year was easy; I drove. This year, I flew, and they're charging for additional bags. Crap.

For the record, I got it all in one bag. One 56 pound bag.

So, I'm explaining to someone why the Wolfpack Wolf (University of Nevada at Reno) must go home with me. It's for my daughter. She needs one on her bed. We love wolves! You should see all my wolf stuff.....

beep! beep! beep!

It's my cell. I actually have a Picture Mail. The subject line says, "What size do you wear?" and the picture is....

...wolf slippers.

I couldn't have asked for a better timed piece of evidence, concerning my wolf obsession. Who else would wear such a thing?

Uhm...Ranger. He got a matching pair.

During the last session of the conference, I'm sitting in a big discussion meeting about college distance learning. I'm in front of the speaker, but it's about lunch time. I'm starving because I slept through breakfast.

I check the time on my phone.

Dang, the screen is dirty. Let's clean that.

On my pants leg. It catches the seam and...

wheeeee! Off it skitters across the floor.

I'm sitting between Nice Faculty, who is trying not to laugh her damn fool head off at me, and the speaker, and the new president of this organization. And I have to retrieve my phone from across the floor. Brilliant.

So, I do. Trying to duck and dodge and keep out of the way as best I can. I finally make it back to my seat. Crawl back into it. The new president has written me a note and is sliding it across the table to me.

Oh no, I think. Here is comes. The reprimand. Well, the new prez is my friend. Maybe she won't be bad on me. So, I open the note with a little embarrassment and trepidation. It says....

"U R a dork."

I smiled proudly.

And that about sums it up.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

A little song, a little dance....

...Drama Queen's head on a lance. I really chewed her ass out on Halloween.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. The last week has been rough with Son. He's been pleasant enough to me, but he's spiraling apart, I think.

The problem is that Son doesn't handle the stress of school very well. We do okay at the beginning of the school year, but around Spring Break time, he's starting to lose it. The stress hits and he gets angry, moody, and difficult. He starts hating certain teachers and not doing the school work, which gets him in trouble, and the vicious circle continues. He gets discouraged. I have trouble getting him to school. Now, we have a new thing. He just starts ditching classes.

As I said, this usually starts around Spring Break. The trouble is that only one quarter of the school year has passed now, and he's already hit this point. And beyond. It's gotten much, much worse. I've been seeing some signs of depression now. I mean clinical depression. It's really bad.

But here's the thing. Remember, Son is my adopted child. His birth mother is my sister. He is aware that my sister has depression problems. He knows nothing of his biological father. I do, but I won't share this information until he's an adult. One of the things I'm not sharing is that his paternal grandmother committed suicide. His biological father was discharged from the Navy after suicide attempts. You can see why I'm hesitant to talk about this and plant that seed in his thinking.

And his mood swings are getting bad. Especially with his grandmother. He will scream and curse at her one minute, then be pleasant and "happy-go-lucky" the next. His school day drives him up the wall. "I could get the work done if they'd just shut up," he says. "I understand and they just keep talking and talking. Shut up so I can do some work!" He's very angry most of the time.

If there's one thing I know, it's distance education. Homeschooling is becoming a real possibility with him. He likes the idea. It suits his learning style. And it avoids a truancy problem, which is screaming up on us.

So, the education issue I can handle. The depression and mood swings, not so much. We went to the doctor. On Halloween afternoon. We went in really hoping to get some answers and help with his moods. The doctor asked him a bunch of questions, and Son mentioned that he had trouble sleeping.

"You could have insomnia," the doctor said. She gave him some things to read about helping you sleep without drugs. "Let's get your sleep in order and then see how your depression does." Sounds reasonable, especially since Son is currently set against taking any medication. But I think Son expected more from the doctor, more on the depression front. So, he left a little disappointed and not sure focusing on the sleep problems was the best idea.

But the evening could be salvaged. When the doctor asked what things he looked forward to, what he did that made him happy, he said, "Watching Texas Tech play football, and watching Ghost Hunters."

I had no idea he loved those two things so much. He'd been talking for two weeks about the 7-hour live Ghost Hunters on Halloween. He wanted snacks for it. He talked about giving out candy to trick-or-treaters. He was excited!

So, we got home. Drama Queen came over. I was going to meet Ranger for dinner, then watch Ghost Hunters with him. We'd all been planning this for a couple of weeks.

I'm headed down the road, nearly to Ranger's house. My phone rings. It's my mom, stressed to the gills.

"Can you come home?" she said. "Pick up Ranger and just come home. Son and DQ are arguing and it's getting bad. I don't know what to do."

Apparently, DQ announced that she wanted Son to take her trick-or-treating. He hates this. He thinks that going door to door for candy when you're old enough to hold a job is stupid. And he's been planning on this thing for weeks. He's so excited.

But no. DQ wants to trick-or-treat. Or go to a movie. Anything that's NOT what he wanted to do. My mother tries to talk to her.

"Son has had a hard day," she says.

"I've had a hard day, too," says DQ.

"But he's really been looking forward to this. He's been talking about it all week."

"I don't really like that show," says DQ. Yeah, right. She's been watching it every Wednesday night, and NOW she doesn't like it. Right. The thing he's been looking forward to is due to start in 10 minutes, and she's changing her story. Genius.

DQ goes to talk to Son, and starts yelling at him. My mother called me. I called Ranger.

"Our plans just got turned upside down," I said.

"What's wrong?" he asked. I explained.

"So, do you mind coming to the house with me until I figure out what's going on?"

"Babe, I don't mind at all. I just want to be with you. But I wish you weren't under so much stress." He paused. "I had something planned for you. Can I tell you what it was?"

I agreed that he could. Then, as he described the evening he had planned. After dinner, he would have two things ready for me. A container of warm water, scented with bath salts, and my favorite lotion warmed up. And Ghost Hunters on the TV in the bedroom.

I was to undress after dinner, and stretch out on the bed. As I watched Ghost Hunters, he would soak a washcloth in the warm, scented water and wash me, from head to toe. Then, he'd massage me with my lotion, until the stress was melted away.

It was so sweet. And so ruined. I started to cry. I pulled up to his house for a moment, and he held me while I cried as much as I'd let myself. Then, he got his car and followed me home.

At home, I went straight to the argument. They were staring at each other, angry. I said, "Okay. My plans are now to sit on this couch and wait for you two to cut this crap out. I'm giving you a few minutes to figure out what's going on now, and let me know. I'm not sitting here all night."

Ranger sat on the couch, talking to my folks. My mother was visibly relieved that I was there. The minutes tick by. I'm getting pissed. I head back to Son and DQ. At least the hollering has stopped.

They've made peace. He's just told her what the doctor said. I walk in and she says to him, "See, I told you your doctor is a quack." Then to me, "There's no way he has insomnia."

I lost it.

"Our doctor is certainly NOT a quack. She's doing the best she can with what he told her. She's listening to him and trying to help. I don't appreciate you undermining the help he's getting."

DQ is frozen, glaring at me. See, she has an agenda. She wants Son to see her psychiatrist, and only her psychiatrist.

"Furthermore, I'm sick of waiting around for you all to get your act together."

"We want to rent a movie," she says.

"Oh really? And watch it where? I hope you're not planning on using the TV because I've been planning on watching Ghost Hunters, and I'm not letting you hijack more of my evening. These are plans that we've had for weeks, and now it's changing and I'm not sure why."

Son is pointing at DQ behind her back.

"But I've had it. You've hijacked enough of my time tonight."

DQ is texting. She looks up. "It doesn't matter now," she says in her best drama voice. "My mother is coming to pick me up now."

"Fine," I said. "Son, do you want to have dinner with Ranger and I?" He said yes. We waited for DQ to leave and the three of us went to dinner.

Son's mood improved almost as soon as she left. Ranger opened up to him over dinner about his own depression problems, just after his ex filed for divorce. He explained the medication he'd been on to get through that time. Son listened. They threw ice at each other. It was a good time.

We went home. We watched Ghost Hunters. We gave candy to little children. Son got his evening, as he'd wanted it, but without DQ. And you know what? He didn't miss her....or rather, her drama.

Later on, Son looked up some things about insomnia. Guess what he found out! There's several types of insomnia. And his symptoms match one of them. Not such a quack after all. Shut up, DQ.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

South Carolina update

I head to my conference in St. Louis on Wednesday. This is the one where I met South Carolina last year, and that he asked if I'd be interested in adjoining rooms this year. 'Tis not to be. Last week, his budget got cut by $500,ooo. No travel. No conference.

He's bummed. He sent me a message the other day, saying, "I'm so bummed! Who is going to spend the late nights listening to music with you? Not that hand-sanitizer guy!"

Okay, so he G-Rated that because it was a public message. And the hand-sanitizer guy is my old boss, who is rather OCD about germs. He also attends this conference. But you get the point. SC is bummed. So am I, but it gets me off the hook for some awkward situations!

I'll miss seeing him. We do have an "understanding," of sorts. But my heart belongs to Ranger, and I don't want to jeopardize that.