More Life Lessons, In Which The Totally Useless Dog Eats My Son’s Chocolate Birthday Cake, and Lives to Annoy Other Day.


I really didn’t want another dog.

img_3329
Genius Mutt in a box

Y’know that old joke, the one where various people are having a discussion about when life begins (conception, etc), and the old couple has the punchline about life beginning when the kids move out and the dog dies. At this point in my life I’m still not looking forward to when the kids move out,  nor do I want the current canine to croak, but when my previous dog died, I have to admit that I was in no hurry to get her replaced.

I had had my own dogs since my junior year in college. After around 35 years of owning various hounds, arctic breeds, retriever crosses, herding dogs, my 16 year-old Australian Cattle Dog, Maddie, was euthanized on a 4th of July. This was just slightly less than a month before my best friend died after a bout with a cancer caused by the radiation that had cured his previous cancer around 20 years earlier. When Mike died, we had been friends for nearly 4o years.

It’s not an astounding revelation that you don’t get to go back to sixth grade and make another decades-long best friendship. You’re just stuck with that permanent sense of loss that occurs when you realize nothing can ever be the same again.  I will never have a best friend who was around since I was 10. I suppose that this isn’t astounding. We all know it will happen. Everyone gets to this point, some reach it quite early in life.

Mike had just turned 50, and I was just about to do the same.  Plain and simple, I didn’t want another dog. As a veterinarian, I had usually counseled clients to get back into the saddle (more often than not a new pet helps ease the pain of the loss of the old one), and although I had always followed that advice myself, when my best friend died I decided that I was done. I wasn’t in the mood for any more loss. Life brings enough loss without going out and purposely adding to it.

But Jolee bugged me. And bugged me. And then bugged me some more. And went after this the way that only a child who wants a dog can. Then she started finding dogs on PetFinder.com. She worked on my guilt about the divorce. And then I broke. I should’ve known better. I’m a veterinarian, the guy who is on the other side of the exam table when the exasperated parent–usually a mother–comes in and says, “I told them they could have a dog if they would help take care of him!” To which I usually answer, “And you had what evidence to actually believe this claim?”

The truth is that no matter how much kids promise, they are going to fall short. Usually they are going to fall way short. And then they will probably leave for college before the dog dies, which means you’re stuck with the difficulties of caring for the old dog, with his arthritic joints, incontinent bladder, bad eyesight, and failing cognitive abilities. The kids are alright: they do have good intentions. They just have really poor followthrough combined with an inability to accurately assess their desires and capacities. There are a lot of stories about the strong bond between a child and a dog. But no one writes stories about when a child’s interest in the dog gets hijacked for interest in something else (sports, hormone-induced wackiness, cars, music, delinquent behavior. . .) The problem is that it takes forever to say no, but just a few moments of delusion or weakness to say yes. And in general,  parents love to say yes. 

But I’m digressing. This is about my son’s birthday, my dog Kaleb, who is a total maroon, and the chocolate cake.  Every 16 year-old should have a chocolate cake for breakfast on this momentous occasion. Took it out of the refrigerator, put it on the counter, put the 17 candles on (one for good luck), and went upstairs to brush my teeth. Return downstairs, and Genius Mutt is licking the last bits of crumbs off of the floor.

To be continued. . .

We’re Back


Extra point if you know immediately why this picture is here.
Extra point if you know immediately why this picture is here.

We’re back.

We disappear from time to time.

Personal issues of the staff, like divorce, other jobs, and puppies that refuse to housebreak have been keeping the staff occupied.

For example, one of our most reliable writers sent us this note: “The divorce is final, but the parasite shyster plaintiff’s attorney still wants blood, flesh, and, yes, more filthy lucre.”

Life has been rather tough on the Meta-Bug editorial staff since the last post.

The former spouse of the above-mentioned writer has grown even more hostile since the divorce and the last entry, written nearly a year ago. It’s a mystery to us all.  The vast majority of the staff wants to get on with our normal business, but the man-hours required to devote to the very real problems of their personal lives (we realize our workers actually have lives) have left little time (not to mention funds, for we are self-funded) for our team of crack investigative reporters to go out there and get truly interesting and important stories. It seems that some of our staff is just unlucky (flooded basements). Some are overworked. And for the ones going through divorces, well, seems that some folks just can’t let go. They revel in the fight. To this contributor, it appears like refusing to admit that the plate of elephant manure and crushed-up cockroaches you’re eating isn’t actually worse  than the nice bowl of gelato that’s sitting right next to you: “I really like this,” you say. “Now get that fucking fior di latte and stracciatella out of my face before I really lose it.”

However, we did get an editorial out of all of this:

Divorce should not be in the hands of lawyers and judges.

Divorce should not be in the hands of lawyers and judges.

Divorce should not be in the hands of lawyers and judges.

Some day an enlightened public will have to wrest this from the hands of the divorce attorneys, while they kick and scream and predict the death of society. It probably won’t be the death of society, but it will be the end of the world as we know it, and that is more than fine.

Because we are so nosy, we picked up this piece of writing on a crumpled piece of paper from the courthouse floor:

Today I saw a grown man handcuffed in the courtroom because he was unable to pay his child support. He started to cry, but the judge didn’t really care. If what he says was true, then he was paying all the money he had for child support. So who will benefit from his incarceration? The children? I can’t imagine how. The former wife? Well, I’m sure that going to jail and losing his job will enhance his future earning capacity. She may have a need for vendetta, may feel that he has it coming, but she’s probably acting from her worst self, or her only self if she can’t separate herself from this side of her.  I suppose some smug prigs will be satisfied at seeing this man who has no experience with the criminal justice system tossed into jail, satisfying her worser angels. Bully for her…

I saw another guy at the clerk’s desk, he was showing his pay stubs and how they were less then the weekly amount owed on child support. He was from the former Soviet Union, and seeing the machine just turning and churning, regardless of the circumstances, made him feel like he was in Moscow once again.,,

Do the powers that be really think that children can be isolated from the conflict that an adversarial system encourages? In court I heard a lawyer, tell the judge that charges $460/hour. This same judge didn’t flinch, even though he said something about “reasonable lawyer’s fees.” By what I see, this lawyer has absolutely no control over his client, or perhaps he is even encouraging her to continue litigation in order to pad his own wallet. What’s amazing, truly astounding,  is that he probably thinks he’s actually worth it. He doesn’t seem any brighter than the average bear, and I so far a lot of his strategy seems to be throwing lots of motions and paperwork at the process. The other side complains that much  of it is illegible, which means that they need to call him to fix it, and then the cost of the whole deal goes up, since he’s clearly the type of lawyer who doesn’t let a minute of his day go unbilled. The plaintiff’s lawyer seems to be taking the case personally, as he has developed a rather un-lawyerly tendency to lose his temper when talking about the defendant.  He works for a fancy-schmancy (which is two grades higher than merely “fancy”) law firm. I have heard of it. They have very nice offices with good views, glass conference rooms, stocked with all sorts of things with their logo on it, including the napkins that their clients use to wipe the crumbs from their faces. Do these self-congratulatory surroundings improves their ability to win cases for their clients?

NastTweed

TUESDAY TANTRUM: Influenza. Loneliness. Bad business. Vaccinations.


fluI just got a chilling thought.

If I get influenza this winter,

I am fucked. Really fucked. Why? Because I have no friends here. None. If I missed work, someone would call and wonder where I am, but other than that, no one would check up on me. I would have to go to the store and spread my germs, because I wouldn’t have any other way to get food. In addition to the pain of illness would be the added pain of isolation and fear. My 11 year-old daughter would be worried and try to make sure I was OK, but she’s just an 11 year-old who would be in the custody of her mother , Fräulein Schadenfreude, who really hates me and might even take some cruel pleasure in the fact I was alone in my misery. Not that she’s bitter or anything.

I’ve had the flu before. It was debilitating. I was febrile and in pain for a full week. Yeah, sometimes it’s “just the flu”, but at other times it’s the disease that kills around 36,000 Americans per year ( a lot more  Americans than Ebola, West Nile Virus, Eastern Equine Encephalitis  will). Fortunately it’s rare, but other times flut has been the epidemic that has knocked off 3-5% of the world’s population. It’s not the flu—it’s the ‘flu, dumbspeak for influenza.

All in all,I was well cared for. I was at my girlfriend’s mother’s house.  We had driven down to Atlanta for Christmas(see what happens when you date a shiksa!) , and it was my first time meeting the family. I think I made a good first impression.

People with strong connections heal better and are in better general and mental health. Living in isolation is toxic—it can literally shorten your life. What is the worst punishment we can give (short of the death penalty)? Solitary confinement. Lock ‘em up, and let ‘em go nuts.

So winter’s coming up. Whaddaya gonna do?

flu2

First of all, don’t be a moron, and go get your flu shot.

Your immune system is not a muscle. Don’t think that by “stressing” it with exposure to a virus is going to make it stronger.  The flu shot cannot give you the flu, nor will it cause autism, cause narcolepsy, or make you vote for Rick Perry. Unless you are allergic to eggs or religiously opposed( a weak reason, in my humble opinion), there is no reason not to get it. If you are under 50, get the intranasal—it shows better efficacy.

What population needs vaccination the most? School-age children. They run off to the viral exchange facility 5 days out of 7, and they are the super spreaders of the disease. If you want to protect infants and the elderly, it’s better to vaccinate school -age children than vaccinating those groups. I’m not going to argue science with whackos who think that vaccines are poison distributed widely. They can join my raw milk friends and throw a party. Go get your children vaccinated, or you are a parasite worse than Echinococcus multilocularis.

Secondly, don’t go to  work sick.

I worked at a horrible corporate veterinary practice where the manager (where do they find these people? They went through 5 managers in a little over a year. The Company bought into the ridiculous Business School Conceit that if you know how to manage a convenience store you also know how to manage a machine shop or a veterinary practice—the falsity of this claim was demonstrated on a hourly basi, oh how we loved the days when she was off! ) Anyway, as I was saying the manager announced at an office meeting one day that “if anyone is sick and can’t come in to work,  you still have to come in unless you find a replacement.” My response was, “As soon as I hear of anyone coming in with a fever, I’m leaving, and I will recommend that anyone else leave.” I don’t see why the employees should have to do the manager’s job of finding a replacement (other than the manager’s desire to shift the blame off of herself, in addition to  cruelly burdening a sick person with a bad task). And it is sheer lunacy to have sick people come into work. Massachusetts is contemplating a paid sick leave law. Only slavemasters and fools (aka “job creators”) would oppose such a law.

flu3

Thirdly, make sure you’ve got some strong connections.

If you’re sick, you’re going to need friends. If you’re not, they are going to make your life better. Remember: it’s a long winter.

Lazy Sunday–The Week in Pictures


Mille torbidi pensieri mi s’aggiran per la testa se mi salvo in tal tempesta è un prodigio in verità

 

My son pitched 3 innings yesterday and had 6 Ks. I missed it! I was working on  a project long overdue. I’m trying to learn a computer language at the same time so that I don’t have to look for as much outside help next time. That is, assuming that there is a next time.

I’m a bit too verklemmt for any real thinking. So, instead of working on less than a thousand words that I will struggle over, I will dispense the value of 8,000 words. Time-saver.

 

18 cents at the Hanscom Air Force Base Commissary
18 cents at the Hanscom Air Force Base Commissary

 

 

Because children don't already have enough incentive to consume sugary drinks
Because children don’t already have enough incentive to consume sugary drinks
I'm living at the Air Force Inn, Hanscom AFB. It's kind of small. I share it with my cats, Zoot and Dingo. I named them that because I cannot tell them apart.
I’m living at the Air Force Inn, Hanscom AFB. It’s kind of small. I share it with my cats, Zoot and Dingo. I named them that because I cannot tell them apart.
Remember I had to retain the  lawyer? This is where I sent the check from. It's near where I work.
Remember I had to retain the lawyer? This is where I sent the check from. It’s near where I work.
Marmota momax
Marmota momax
Broken guitar I'm going to take apart, and a craft my son made when he was younger. There is a place near our house called Whimsy, where kids can do various types of art, and when he was little there were a lot of birthday parties there. We have a lot of painted dolphins, my son's equivalent of Kandinsky's rider.
Broken guitar I’m going to take apart, and a craft my son made when he was younger. There is a place near our house called Whimsy, where kids can do various types of art, and when he was little there were a lot of birthday parties there. We have a lot of painted dolphins, my son’s equivalent of Kandinsky’s rider.
A very worried patient of mine from last week, prior to undergoing her ovariohysterectomy.
A very worried patient of mine from last week, prior to undergoing her ovariohysterectomy.
Do not consume
Do not consume

La Bruja Continues A Costly–Emotionally and $$–War of Attrition


 

not cute
“Bless you, fair shrew.”        Twelfth Night, Act I, scene iii

 

 

Aren’t we done with this shit?

My friend’s cousin is from the Caribbean,and when she heard stories about the ex she just started referring to her as La Bruja. It wasn’t as if she said, I will call her La Bruja! or, She is really a bruja. Rather, the next time she referred to her it just came out in passing, as in, Is La Bruja watching the kids? There was no question as to who it was.  I rather prefer it to saying her name–one, because I have, alas, grown to dislike her name, and secondly, it seems more descriptive than derogatory.  I never say it around the children. By this point, I’d rather have nothing to do with her and not to have to refer to her at all.

But the need for punishing me in any way possible goes on, no matter the collateral damage.

Today I had to retain a Parent Coordinator–one is specified in our divorce agreement for the purpose of settling disputes concerning the children (there goes my son’s summer camp). You see: last year the kids were with their mother and her family in MA for Thanksgiving. This year, of course, was Dad’s family’s year– they were supposed to be in Chicago (which they look forward to) with my mom, sisters, etc.(whom they love immensely–my nephew is my daughter’s favorite cousin), but the edit that I put in the divorce agreement (the years were reversed )somehow got deleted before the final version. I should have looked closer, but the other edits were in and I must have overlooked it.  A purposeful trick, I’m sure, especially as La Bruja flat-out lied to me, saying the kids were in Chicago last year, as if that couldn’t be verified, as if the children don’t know. Anyway,  she refuses to do the right thing.

My remedy is going to the Parent Coordinator, at $275/hour, and the war of attrition continues. I would rather spend this money on my kid’s summer camp, but I cannot take away my 79 year-old mom’s time with her grandchildren.

Or can I ? What is this about? I hope it’s not about winning, but about the children. Is it about not letting someone get away with a purposely nasty act? Not letting a precedent get set that this won’t be tolerated? Shouldn’t I just suck it up (again!) so that my son can go to camp? Why should he suffer (additionally) for our idiocy (mind you of course, I’m responsible for only 49% of the idiocy)?

The Birthday Party, part 4


DRAFT

 

In spite of being separated for over 2.5 years, being divorced all summer, and the on-spot observation that both my ex-wife and I are better human beings when not in each other’s presence, my daughter wanted to have dinner with both of us. She is 11. I get it. When she took a long time on her birthday wish before blowing out the candles, I could only guess at what she was thinking. She has not held back for a moment on letting us know at every moment what she is thinking and feeling (including reconstructing the former version of the family). She does not wear her heart on her sleeve, but displays it on a large dirigible that is constantly circling overhead.

When she is angry, it’s not much fun, but at other times, when she is feeling generous, compassionate, kind and loving–which is quite often, actually–she is a contagious source of happiness.

So, in a way, even though she can be volatile, doesn’t worry me. I know what she is thinking. I know what she is feeling. And because I know these things, I can (usually) work with what I have with some sort of solid footing. She wants her mom and me–and her brother–together with her on her birthday. I can do that. I can behave, be sociable, and suppress the gunpowder when the ex either intentionally or unintentionally goes to light the fuse, which is easily ignited around here.

My son, on the other hand, is a cipher. In these past 2.5 years of separation and wrangling, he has only said one sentence about the divorce, in an aside to his sister. I have no idea what he is thinking. I do not whether he is angry, sad, OK with it, or–using his most commonly used adjective these days–annoyed.

I made it through the dinner. The ex-little woman made it through dinner (didn’t bat 1.000, but was close). I’m not in the unbiased position to judge my own behavior.

from extension.missouri.edu
from extension.missouri.edu

The Birthday Party, Part 2: But I digress. .


 

 

So now my daughter is in fifth grade, and her birthday is almost upon us, but she has been worrying for at least a month about what we are going to do.

 

nixon birthday

This is tough. No dad wants to disappoint his children, even if when disappointment is inevitable, and even when the disappointment is good for them to boot. (No dear, we are not renting 2 stretch limos for you and your friends, and taking all of you on a whirlwind trip to Disney). Life lessons, you know. (Not that my daughter asked for that, but ya know, expectations higher than reality. Thank goodness we don’t live in Westchester County.)

Moreover, even though I’m divorced and have been living apart from my ex for over 2.5 years, this is yet another occasion where my ex’s and I  embarrassingly pitiful ineptitude  at co-parenting  will become obvious in exquisite detail to not only my children, but (alas) to anyone who ventures within shouting distance (the normal range of her communication) of my ex. Regrettably, she does not have a whispering distance,or even a discreet distance (example: my great embarrassment, with her screaming at me from across the lobby at the Middlesex County Courthouse, not to chastise me for one of my many defects, but just to relay her latest counteroffer; me, walking over,  trying to explain how the other hapless souls there were probably not all that interested in our divorce–except for the parts about Scarlett Johannson being an excellent step-mom–and that even if the others present were  somehow so bored with their own lives as to be interested in our very mundane fights, I did not feel like updating the small percentage of MA who had, impossibly, not heard my ex’s opinion of me, our marriage, our divorce, and my afore-alluded-to shortcomings as a parent, human being, etc. Meanwhile, the lawyers charge while we wait for the judge who is downstairs at, of all things,  a party, welcoming some other very average human being to the bench. So while they eat sheet cake–wait, do judges eat sheet cake, or do they get something nicer, the least he could have done was brought us up a slice, seeing as while he stuffs his cake-hole, we pay the lawyers, his little rush party costing us collectively over $1o a minute,  all the more annoying because nobody really seems to give a shit, the whole idea of containing cost is foreign to these right honourable  gentlefolk. . .)

And like most things, this party discussion will in all likelihood come down to a manner of money. My ex does not let a conversation go by without finding a way to dun me for some expense, from the ridiculous to the even more ridiculous, from the petty to the vengeful (Yes, I did get the house in the divorce, but you should pay for the diseased tree removal because the tree was here while you lived here and if I amortize the benefit you received from its shade, and besides that I would really like to not have to spend all the money if I can get you to shell out something).

Anyway, we weren’t going to spend a  (relative) ton of money on the birthday party this year, most of our disposable income having gone to supporting our legal system (like our health system, the best in the world!). In the end, the ex caves to the kid, and I am left with a few bad choices, the least evil of which is contributing to a birthday party I cannot afford and which even has my daughter a bit nervous due to the social complications.

SO….

Indoor water park, here we come. Or rather, there they go. After last year’s birthday fiasco, I will send my money, but not myself. I will celebrate my daughter’s birthday with her in a less populated venue, with fewer guests and fewer complications, the week before.

Stay tuned for Part 3!

The Birthday Party, part I


from www.shutterstock.com
from http://www.shutterstock.com

Ever since my dog got hit by a car the day before my 20th birthday, the occasion has seemed less than auspicious. After all, if  the magic of your birthday can’t keep your dog from getting hit, how much power does it really have?

When I was a kid, of course, birthdays were magic. By themselves, they turned a day no different on the calendar from any other into the most special day of the year.Did we have to do anything special in those days, other than cover a cake with candles, sing a song, and open up cards from every relative I knew?  I remember that one year we had all my party at the Frontier Inn (of blessed memory), a cowboy-themed hamburger joint, but mostly I remember parties in the house. I remember a lot of pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey, dropping clothespins into milk  bottles (clothespins! milk bottles!), duck-duck-goose, red rover if we could play outside, and then the same games at other kids’ houses. What I don’t remember is coming back from those parties thinking that they were lame, or that the goody bags weren’t good enough, or that the experience wasn’t novel enough. Sure, in time party anxiety crept in–were other people having a good time, was the party a success, but not until late junior high.

At least that’s how I remember it.

My last birthday party, my 50th, was horrid. My best and oldest friend had just died, I wasn’t happy about turning 50, I didn’t like where I was in life, and I sure as hell made it fucking well clear that I DID NOT WANT A FUCKING BIRTHDAY PARTY. But that’s another story.

This story is about my daughter’s forthcoming party, and how difficult it is to plan the damn thing. As a parent, I want her birthdays at this age to still retain that aforementioned magic but it’s getting harder.

On top of it all, there’s even a more than reasonable chance that I won’t have a home to throw the birthday party in.

Rabbi Victor Urecki Responds To My Previous Post On My Jewish Problem(s)


Rabbi Urecki, spiritual leader of Congregation B’nai Jacob in Charleston, WV, responded to my post via Facebook. I have copied it below.

rabbi urecki

“I tend to feel that the problem with our Sunday/Hebrew school education is that it is based on the mistaken notion that religion is passed on by a third party. It isn’t. It is absorbed through experience. Real passionate and regular experience. And like exercise, it is a life long endeavor. Read the David Brooks piece in This weekend’s New York Times. Religion is about doing. And doing AND doing. Most families have other priorities and Sunday school, therefore, becomes two hours of learning about meaningless rituals that have no purpose.

“We educators can explain WHY we do the things we do but only if the home is positively acting on those practices. And making it a cornerstone of their life experiences. Sunday school is boring because we try to get our students to do things their parents are unable or unwilling to experience or practice. Or at least try to understand and practice themselves. Kinda like trying to teach kids the value of good nutrition and yet, their parents take them to McDonald’s or Wendy’s every day. Not sure why I would like to eat healthy either. And then imagine parents eating at those places but telling their kids they can only eat salad for the next couple of years . “Why?” “Because it is good for you. I had to do it when I was your age” “But you don’t now! ” “When you are my age, you can eat whatever you want but for now, eat as your told”. Yep, that oughta work.

“Your piece deserves much more, but  this is the best I can do on the stationary bike this morning! Hope all is well with you and your family!

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