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I’m becoming my mother June 16, 2008

Filed under: home,meow!,NaBloPoMo — airingdirtylaundry @ 9:54 pm

My father gave my mother (before they were a mother and a father, and before they were even married)  a pomeranian puppy named Teddy.  The dog lived for a long time, well into my childhood, and eventually had to be put to sleep.

My mother was a mess.  Crying jags, mood swings, you name it.  At one point, she went to a local painter (that had done a beautiful painting of my grandparent’s house a few years before) and had a portrait of the dog painted from an old picture.  It was a BIG and EXPENSIVE portrait and it hung for years at the end of the hallway–right next to my bedroom door.  The only thing that bothered me about the painting (other than feeling like the dog’s eyes were following me) was that there were no pictures of me or my brother in the house, but yet there was a big picture of a dead dog.

One summer (I was either 12 or 13), we “acquired” a dog named Marshmallow, a beautiful husky.  The dog’s owners were customers at my father’s garage and brought the dog along in the back of their truck.  Marshmallow kept jumping out of the truck and seemed to want to stay with us.  After this happened a bunch of times, the dog’s owners asked my father if we wanted to just keep the dog, and my mother, animal lover that she was, immediately piped in and said yes.

Months later, Marshmallow bit a neighborhood kid.  We let Marshamallow run free because he didn’t like to be on a leash or chain and he was a very mild-mannered dog.  The kid who got bit was a little brat who was provoking the dog, but my father put his foot down and said that we had to get rid of the dog before we got sued.  My mother put an ad in the paper.  “Free dog to good home.”  A squirrely-looking man in a pickup truck showed up to take Marshamallow and said he had a farm where Marshamallow would run free and chase bunny rabbits for the rest of his long long life.

Weeks later, my mother still had a bad feeling about that guy.  We had his name, so she pulled out the phone book by calling every single number listed under his last name trying to find a relative of his that would lead her to him.  If only we had the internet at pur fingertips then, it may have been a lot easier.  We living in the country.  Everyone was related to just about everyone else in the area, and this guy had a fairly common last name.  We eventually found out that he didn’t have a farm.  And he didn’t live where he said he did.  My mother and I spent the summer canvassing the countryside, playing detective and tracked down the man who picked up the dog.  It turns out that the man went around picking up free animals and then sold them to animal labs for drug testing.  By the time we got that far in our detective work, Marshmallow was dead.

My mother had a nervous breakdown.  As a teenager, it scared me to death to witness it.  I remember thinking “this is all because of a DOG.”  Sure, I love animals too.  Sure, I think animal testing is cruel.  Sure, Marshmallow was a great dog and fun to play with.  But I saw animals die all the time.  Even at such a tender, self-absorbed age, I realized that there was a circle of life.  That those pigs across the street that squealed horribly when they were being slaughtered ended up as the bacon I ate for breakfast.  That even though I was heartbroken when my first cat Cookie died, the pain would slowly heal and become less severe.  Pets could be loved and you can get attached to them, but in the end they’re just pets.

I didn’t understand my mother’s reaction at the time, and looking back today, I still struggle with it.  I swore long ago that as attached I would become to an animal, I would be able to let it go when it’s time came.  I’m actually kind of proud of how well I handled Giz’s death.  Mike and I knew that the time would come eventually, but I was determined that she wouldn’t suffer.  She had such a long life.  What I like to think was a happy life.  She’s the best pet I’ve ever had and probably the best one I’ll ever have.  She didn’t deserve to suffer.  When I saw that she was struggling to, well, just be herself, it made it easier to tell the vet to put her to sleep.  She wouldn’t have lived through the night anyhow, and if she did it would have been after being poked and prodded and stuck with all kinds of needles by strangers.

Sure, I cried.  I was an emotional train wreck to begin with that day.  Sure, I miss her.  Two weeks later, I still open the door when I come home from work, expecting her to be there. 

When we were waiting at the vet, I told Mike that we were getting Giz cremated individually.  I’ve put animals to sleep before and have always just done the group cremation.  I always thought it was kind of creepy to keep ashes of the deceased around the house, on display.  Anyhow, Mike didn’t argue.  He agreed that Giz was a one-of-a-kind cat and just shouldn’t be chucked in the furnace with other animals.

I went to pick up her ashes last Wednesday.  I wasn’t sure what to expect.  A little Chinese take-out box with a Ziploc baggy of ashes in it?  Instead, it was a beautiful wooden box with a brass nameplate on top bearing her name and “2008” on it:

giz's ashes

The box doesn’t lock, it just latches.  Inside are her ashes and a certificate of cremation.



I had already ordered a small stone with her name on it because our intention was to bury her ashes in the garden and put the marker on top.  But I can’t bury this box.  I just can’t.  We discussed it I think we’ll bury the ashes only, and use the box to put mementos of her in it–pictures, a piece of her favorite blanket, etc.  Even though she only lived in this house just shy of two years, it will always be her home.

Giz, sleeping on Mike's chest

It was then that I realized that I’m becoming my mother (minus the nervous breakdown).  This box is to me what Teddy’s painting was to her.

And I think I’m OK with that.




Gizzy June 2, 2008

Filed under: home,meow!,NaBloPoMo — airingdirtylaundry @ 11:35 pm


I’ve written about Giz many times before.  Even if you’re not a cat lover, or an animal lover, I’m sure you can at least appreciate how much others get attached to their pets.

Tonight, Mike and I had to take Giz to the animal hospital and have her put to sleep.  She was down to 3.5 pounds, wasn’t eating as much as she had been, and tonight she wasn’t able to support her own weight and walk on her own.

We knew it was time.  She was somewhere around 20 years old.  Despite her many health problems throughout the years, this is the first time she looked uncomfortable.  In pain.  We knew it was the humane thing to do, but it didn’t make it easier. 

I had just told her last week that that it would be easier for me to handle her eventual passing; that I was more prepared then than I ever would be.  I was 10 weeks pregnant.  And here we are, only a week later, and I lost the baby and the cat within 12 hours of each other.  Needless to say, today was an emotional day.

I came home earlier this evening without my child.  I came home half an hour ago without the cat that has been part of my life since she was a kitten.  NaBloPoMo’s theme this month is not treating me very well so far.

It may be awhile until my next blog post.  I need to find something happy to write about.  I need something good to happen.  I think we’re due for it.

Thank you for all of your kind words, comments, and emails over the past few days.  I greatly appreciate your support and concern.  Thank you.


Home June 1, 2008

Filed under: home,NaBloPoMo — airingdirtylaundry @ 11:57 pm

NaBloPoMo’s theme this month is “home.”  Perfect.  It’s been a long weekend.  A rough weekend.  A weekend of tears, of sadness, of regret. 

I can’t wait to be back home tomorrow night.  

Even though we spent this weekend everywhere but home.  Away from all of the reminders.  There are too many memories here at home right now.  It’s all too fresh.  A baby name book.  A pregnancy journal and baby scrapbook that my dad brought me when he came to visit last weekend.  Pregnancy yoga DVDs.  The tickets to the musical Wicked that I ordered for Mike for Father’s Day.

But tomorrow, I’ll need the comfort of my home.  Of my husband.  And his love.  Somehow, we’ll get through this.  We’ve been through a lot of things, some by ourselves and some together.  We’re stronger than this.  It’s just going to take us a little bit of time to realize that.


Books I read so far this year March 31, 2008

Filed under: a month of lists,books — airingdirtylaundry @ 10:57 am

I love to read.  This year has been a heavy reading year for me so far, between being sick and then being snow/ice-bound.  Once summer comes, the book-reading volume diminishes somewhat.

  • The Time Traveler’s Wife–Audrey Niffenegger
  • Stone Cold–David Baldacci
  • Me Talk Pretty One Day–David Sedaris
  • Outlander–Diana Gabaldon
  • Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim–David Sedaris
  • The Closers–Michael Connelly
  • The Lovely Bones–Alice Sebold
  • Dragonfly in Amber–Diana Gabaldon
  • The Tenth Circle–Jodi Picoult
  • Stalemate–Iris Johansen
  • Where the Heart Is–Billie Letts
  • American Psycho–Bret Easton Ellis
  • Jack & Jill–James Patterson
  • A Simple Plan–Scott Smith
  • No One to Trust–Iris Johansen
  • Voyager–Diana Gabaldon
  • The Divide–Nicholas Evans
  • Atonement–Ian McEwan
  • The Brethren–John Grisham
  • A Thousand Splendid Suns–Khaled Hosseini
  • Water for Elephants–Sara Gruen
  • Marley & Me–John Grogan
  • Beautiful Lies–Lisa Unger
  • Playground–Jennifer Saginor
  • The Shape Shifter–Tony Hillerman
  • The Fuck-Up–Arthur Nersesian
  • The 6th Target–James Patterson
  • Hypocrite in a Pouffy White Dress–Susan Jane Gilman
  • Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, Indian and Indonesia–Elizabeth Gilbert
  • The Innocent Man–John Grisham

That’s it.  My last list for March’s NaBloPoMo.  It was fun!


Seven things . . . March 23, 2008

Filed under: a month of lists,secrets — airingdirtylaundry @ 10:07 pm

My bloggy friend TheAngelForever tagged me for a meme, so I’m back from my hiatus!  And I am definitely counting this as a list for NaBloPoMo.

The rules:

1. Link to your tagger and post these rules on your blog.
2. Share 7 facts about yourself on your blog, some random, some weird.
3. Tag 7 people at the end of your post by leaving their names as well as links to their blogs.
4. Let them know they are tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

Here we go . . .

1.  I love to read.  I’m completely addicted to goodreads, and rely on it a lot for suggestions on what to read and also to keep track of what I’ve read.  I also just joined bookmooch, which is a great way to exchange books you don’t want anymore for those that you want to read.  I mailed out 8 books on Friday, received one on Saturday, and there are 12 more making their way to me.  That should keep me busy for awhile!

2.  I have a lot of house-related projects planned for this summer:  paint our bedroom, the spare bedroom and all of the bathrooms; have the light fixtures switched out and ceiling fans put in (as soon as my electrician brother comes to visit!); have a deck put on (this one’s planned for next month assuming the weather cooperates.  We’re not doing it ourselves–we just have to write the check 🙂  Definitely have to leave this one to the professionals!); decorate the sitting room that’s off of our bedroom to be a “sports room” for Mike.

3. I have eaten more candy today than I’ve eaten in the past year.  BUT, I did run 4 miles this morning.  So I’m even, right?  RIGHT?  I’m back on the wagon tomorrow.

4. I’m currently involved in a situation at work that is tearing me apart.  Hopefully it should all be over on Wednesday.  It’s one big moral dilemma for me, a power play by an executive, and a lot of pressure all around.  I can’t wait until it’s over with.

5.  Mike and I met in college.  His roommate was dating my roommate, and everyone in both apartments started hanging out a lot.  After meeting Mike only a few times, I was at a party at his house.  I was one of the few sober people there.  I headed down the stairs to the bathroom, and Mike was coming up the stairs.  He said to me, “You want to kiss me, don’t you?”  I headed back up the stairs, told my roommates what a jerk he was, and stormed out of there.  We eventually became friends, obviously, but I thought he was a pompous @ss for at least a few weeks.

6. I just planned a trip to Vegas with 3 friends.  We’re going in August, when it’s going to be about 9 million degrees, but I’m looking forward to it.  I can’t beleive I’m going back to Vegas!

7.  After trying for quite some time, I thought this past month would be the month that Mike and I conceived.  It just SEEMED like it would happen.  It didn’t.  That blows.

OK, that’s it!  I’m too lazy to tag anyone, so do it if you’d like!  I’m going to bed, even though I had a 3 hour nap today.  Ahhh, I love lazy holidays . . . .


Taking a little vacation March 21, 2008

Filed under: a month of lists,daily grind — airingdirtylaundry @ 11:33 am

I kind of lost my enthusiam for the NaBloPoMo lists.  It was fun.  Sometimes it was challenging.  Sometimes I fudged things by posting my grocery list, for goodness snakes (all credit for that phrase goes directly to Mike).

But it’s time for a short break.  I have trials and tribulations at work that are causing me to hyperventiliate and making me want to just curl up in a little ball in the corner and rock myself to sleep.  So I’m taking a hiatus from the list-making since all of my brain power(precious little that there is) is already spoken for. 

Sometimes it’s difficult for me to post every day, and since I’m the one who was enforcing that rule, I’m going to end it.  It’s about time I put my foot down.

I do have one more list that I’m working on, but I think I’ll save that one for closer to the end of the month. Oh goody goody.


Amazed or appalled? March 18, 2008

Filed under: a month of lists — airingdirtylaundry @ 11:40 am

I can’t tell if I’m intrigued by these things or if I’m disgusted by them . . .

  • Kindle.  Can anything really replace the feeling of a hefty literary classic (or a trashy romance novel) in your hand?  I think not.  But at the same time, it would cut down on school kids carrying too many books in their backpacks . . .
  • MousePen.  A 21st century Etch-a-Sketch?  For adults?  No shaking required . . .
  • Electronic Monopoly.   Just isn’t the same without paper money.  How am I supposed to pretend I’m filthy rich if I can’t spread the money out and roll around in it naked?  TMI?  Yeah, I thought so.
  • A place for you to put your banana(s).   Really?  A banana hammock?  Am I the only one who thinks this is funny?

Next on my reading list March 17, 2008

Filed under: a month of lists,books — airingdirtylaundry @ 9:30 am

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m an avid reader. Sometimes I get to the point that I feel overwhelmed with books to read. There’s so much I want to read about, so many authors I like, so many books that I own that I haven’t read yet. Definitely self-inflicted pressures, but I can’t help thinking about what I’m going to read next. Here’s the 10 that are on my mental to-read list:

Drums of Autumn–Diana Gabaldon
Memoirs of a Geisha–Arthur Golden
Duma Key–Stephen King
Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil–John Berendt
My Sister’s Keeper–Jodi Picoult
Paint It Black–Janet Fitch
Schulz and Peanuts: A Biography–David Michaelis
Serpent on the Rock–Kurt Eichenwald
The Complete Maus–Art Spiegelman
The Satanic Verses–Salman Rushdie


Movies March 16, 2008

Filed under: a month of lists,movies — airingdirtylaundry @ 3:02 pm

I’m not a true movie buff.  I’d much rather curl up with a good book and lose myself in a story that way.  And I have trouble sitting still through a movie at home–I always end up on the laptop or doing something else and barely pay attention to the movie.  And don’t even suggest going to a theatre.  Blech.  Noisy teenagers, cell phones ringing (even though there was a reminder to turn them OFF!), floors sticky with spilled soda and gum, exhorbitant prices.  Torture.  or maybe I’m just getting old . . . .

Anyhow, here’s my list.  These are ones that I can pay attention to, make Mike stop when he tries to flip right past them when they’re on TV, and can recognize the actor’s lines.  Once again, no particular order.

  • Prince of Tides
  • Catch Me If You Can
  • Save the Last Dance
  • Rocky Horror Picture Show
  • The Wall (Pink Floyd)
  • Castaway
  • That Thing You Do
  • Ocean’s Eleven
  • The Thomas Crown Affair
  • Heathers
  • Shawshank Redemption
  • Office Space

Pets March 15, 2008

Filed under: a month of lists,meow! — airingdirtylaundry @ 8:06 am

I guess the correct title of this post should be “family pets.”  These are the pets I grew up with, cared for, loved, and in some cases had to make some difficult decisions regarding. 

  • Teddy–a pomeranian that my father bought for my mother before I was born.  Teddy was around for a large portion of my childhood.  Although to this day I’m still a little bitter that my mother had a painting done of the dog after his death.  That painting hung in our house for years, even though there were no pictures of me or my brother.
  • Cookie and Whitey.  My mother hated cats.  So what was the only thing I wanted for my 8th birthday?  A cat.  My parents got two so that they could play with each other, and I oh-so-graciously gave the unlucky black one (named Whitey) to my brother.  I named mine Cookie because there was a Vietnamese girl in my class at school who had a younger sister named Cookie and I thought that was just the most fantastic name ever.  A few years later, Cookie and Whitey got tragically hit by cars on separate occasions and were secretly disposed of by my parents “ran away.”
  • Sarge–a mutt that we bought as a puppy with the intention of making him into a guard dog for my father’s garage.  He was supposed to be a border collie.  Instead, he was just a mutt.  I was so excited because I got to hold him on the drive home the night we got him.  We found out the hard way that Sarge got VERY carsick.  It was a long ride.
  • Blaze–a retired barrel racer.  My mother boarded him at a stable not far from our house, but when they stopped boarding horses, we had no choice but to have a 2-stall barn built behind our house.  I was so excited.  Every little girl wants a horsey, right?  I found out quickly enough how much effort it took to clean up after the horse, unload sawdust from the truck, sling bales of hay, etc.  Unfortunately, Blaze got his hoof caught on the fence, tore a tendon and never recovered fully.  My mom had to have him put to sleep.  If you’ve never felt the tremors from a horse hitting the ground 100 yards away from you, consider yourself lucky.  I still remember how it felt.
  • Peppermint.  One day when my mom was at the hairdresser’s–who ran her shop out of her house–I saw the perfect cat.  She had long hair and was gray and white striped.  Her name was Peppermint.  I fawned all over her. Before my mother had a chance to give “the look” to the hairdresser, the unsuspecting woman casually mentioned that she wanted to give the cat away because they had just gotten a dog and the two didn’t get along, but she hadn’t yet found a good home.  I wore my mother down over the hour or so it took for her perm, and we went home with a cat.  She turned out to be the craziest cat.  Peppermint sat in the windows and meowed.  On the few occasions she was allowed in the house, she sat on a chair at the kitchen table.  My mother swore that the cat thought she was a human.  About two months after we got her, Peppermint gave birth to one kitten (just one!) in my window sill.  She wouldn’t take care of it and even though we tried to feed it with an eye dropper, it died a few weeks later.  Not too long after that, Peppermint went to the vet one day and never came home.
  • Heidi–a pomeranian mutt mix that we got at the Humane Society. 
  • Rocky–a stray that ended up on our doorstep looing for food and ended up staying cat we “acquired.”  He got hit by a car (seriously, people in that neighborhood needed to slow the hell down) and then frozen in a snowbank.  We had quite a surprise when the snow melted.
  • Bridgit.  Even though my mother couldn’t stand cats, she also couldn’t stand to see an animal in distress.  One day my parents were taking a walk and there was a cat stuck on an island in the middle of a fairly wide but shallow creek.  They saw it as they walked over the bridge and ended up rescuing it and taking it home.  My mother named her “Bridgit” because it looked like someone “bridged it” by tossing it over the railing.  Odd sense of humor my family has. 
  • Marshmallow.  A beautiful husky that friends of my dad’s gave to us after the dog kept jumping out of their truck when they were leaving my dad’s garage.  Marshmallow clearly wanted to stay with us, and the guys who let us have him had a farm with dozens of dogs running around so they didn’t mind parting with him.  But Marshmallow ended up biting a neighbor kid (who was a brat and was viciously tormenting the dog and deserved to have his butt nipped), and my parents thought that it would be best to give him away to a good home before the kid’s family sued us.  A seemingly nice man who said he had a farm came to pick up Marshmallow in his truck after we placed an ad in the newspaper.  Weeks later, it was still bugging her that something was just “off” about that man.  We tracked him down (there was no farm by the way) and to make a long story short it turns out that he sold dogs to animal labs.  By the time we traced Marshmallow down (after a full summer of legwork, going door-to-door and posting flyers everywhere throughout the county), it was too late.  My mother had a nervous breakdown not long after that.
  • Giz–a stray from the farm across the street.  After my mother died, Mike and I brought Giz home with us.  She’s our “baby.”
  • Scruffy. My parents ended up keeping two of Giz’s kittens (and then promptly got her fixed), one of which was Scruffy.  She was halfway between being short-haired and long-haired, but some patches of her hair were longer than others.  She was a scruffy little kitten (hence the name) but as a full-grown cat she was absolutely beautiful.  When my brother moved to Delaware, he took Scruffy with him.  She ended up running away.  I don’t think she liked the beach, although you’d think she’d be excited to have a giant litter box.
  • Wrigley–the other cat we kept from Giz’s litter.  I brought Wrigley back to Pittsburgh with me the fall after I graduated from college.  Maybe it’s because I lived by myself at the time and she wasn’t used to a lot of noise or commotion, but she was definitely a “scaredy cat”–afraid of everything and everyone.  We had to have her put to sleep when she was only 7 years old because her kidneys failed, and it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do.  She was the first pet that had been all mine.  And that was the first time that I had to make the decision all by myself to have an animal put down.
  • Guinness.  Scruffy had had a litter of kittens that were severely deformed (hello, inbreeding!) and almost all of them ended up dead.  Some died on their own. Some Scruffy dropped off of a table in our basement to break their necks–I think she knew they had problems.  My father drowned some of them (which I didn’t find out until years later and it still makes me angry), although he said he cried the whole time and would never be able to do that again.  The one survivor of the litter was Guinness.  She made the trek back to Pittsburgh, too, to live with me.  She was only a few weeks old at the time and was so tiny that she fit in the palm of my hand.  She’s been called “little kitty” ever since.  The only visible deformity she has is a broken tail, but from the beginning she’s been my “problem child.”  She fell out of a third-story window when she was a few months old and broke her leg.  After a few weeks in a hot pink cast, I took her back to the vet to get her fixed.  When I took her home, the vet had said that she’d be lethargic from the anesthesia.  Within 2 hours of being home, she was jumping up on windowsills and running around like crazy.  She ended up tearing open her stitches and ended up at an emergency vet to have her stomach stapled and a cone put on her head.  She was always a shy, timid cat around other people, but after Wrigley was put to sleep, she started to come out of her shell.  She turned 10 years old last fall and is just now getting to the point that she’s able to tolerate being in the same room with anyone other than Mike and me. 

So that’s it, except for the miscellaneous goldfish that I won at the county fair over the years and the 5 baby snakes I had in college.  The goldfish never lived very long.  And the snakes?  They escaped one day and before I could get them, they crawled into the ductwork and were never seen again.  I’m still friends with my college roommate, but she still hasn’t fully forgiven me for that one.