(Today is my mom’s birthday. Happy Birthday, Mom! Love you!)

Some days it occurs to me that the one of the most prominent reasons I have a job right now is because people screw up. Some large components of what I do include calling people to tell them their accounts are past due; calling truckers when they get impatient and leave a warehouse without picking up what they said they’d pick up; and calling warehouse representatives when they forget to enter one of our orders into their system. I literally spend most of the day cleaning up after people’s mistakes, whether intentional or unintentional. I expect others to make mistakes. It’s my job.

Oh, how I miss optimism. Tonight on the phone D and I were talking about a couple of friends we have who are such amazing optimists that we love being around them. My brother is one of these people, as well as my dear friend AA, and also D’s roommate T. They are funny, positive, encouraging people. Friend AA has such a beautiful sense of fun — she is my favorite person with whom to go on adventures, and we have been on many… Ireland, Northern Ireland, London, New Mexico, Los Angeles (before I lived here), and Los Angeles (after I moved here). We have many great stories, including the one where I jumped in front of a moving vehicle in Northern Ireland to save a puppy from being brutally smushed right in front of several children. (She and I are both crazy dog-lovers though, and it likely would have scarred us as much as it would have scarred them… I choose not to acknowledge what might have happened to me if the car had not stopped. Thankfully the good people of Carryduff do not drive like the people of Los Angeles.) I like to tell the one about how it was her idea that we tell all our friends that we met Prince William in front of Buckingham Palace, and we even got to shake his hand. Friend AA is always making stuff up like this, and I love it. We totally convinced several friends that this actually happened, that a Member of the Royal Family reached through the wrought iron fence of Buckingham Palace and touched our little American palms. And not just any Member of the Royal Family… the MRFILK… the member of the Royal Family that we’d like to, um, kiss?

ANYWAY, friend AA and I have been trying to call each other unsuccessfully for the past several weeks, and I would just like to make it known, all across the internet, that I MISS MY FRIEND!!!!!! I LOVE HER AND I NEED HER! I HATE TIME CHANGES AND THAT 10 p.m. HERE IS MIDNIGHT THERE AND WE ARE BORING WORKING GIRLS NOW WHO NEED OUR BEAUTY SLEEP!

My brother is one of the most amazing fathers I’ve ever met, and I think I always knew he would be because he was so good to me when we were growing up. We had so many imaginative adventures together, playing in our bedrooms and in our backyard. Most brothers would be the cause of so many tears (and he did cause some… I seem to remember being quite upset when he first started calling me Annie Wanny), but he mostly was the one who made every effort to make me laugh when I was upset. And when we were teenagers, we were good friends. We played in a coffee shop band together. We talked about stuff on the way home from school and showed each other good music. He wrote a song that I sang in his wedding to my dear sister-in-law. Their kids are a couple of the most important things in the world to me.

It is good, within this difficult past year, to think about the people who tend to carry me. I do not talk to many of them often, but just being sure of them, knowing that they exist, is very comforting. God is planting some pretty great friendships for me here too. Yesterday friend K and her roommate J met up with me at this fantastic little coffee shop. We talked about boys and beliefs. We talked about wedding dresses, even though none of us are getting married any time in the near future. I do not remember how the conversation started, just that it was very comforting for me, a girl who tends to be very cynical about love. I miss believing in romance. I miss wishing for magic. Oh, I do remember how the conversation started. I said that if I ever get married, I want to either make the dress or buy an elegant but inexpensive one and then buy some really fabulous designer shoes to wear with it. It will be my one chance to have diamonds on the soles of my shoes.

Two days ago I got together with D and his brother G, G’s girlfriend N, and D’s roommate T, and we had a little writing workshop. It was so beautiful to hear the brilliance and the creative struggle, and to know that others experience the same thing. It was lovely to hear their words, to share some laughs and some nods of the head, to give out some encouragement and ask questions. We all walked away feeling energized and hopeful, and it was lovely. What great fellowship. What a lovely little taste of church.

Isn’t it so very good for us pessimists to have the optimists in our lives who restore our hope? I am sad that my dog died last week. I acknowledge that this move to California has been one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I miss home, and I miss my family every day. But there are new friends here, too, and relationships that are just waiting for their moment to blossom. And it just occurred to me that the people that I mentioned above — friend AA and my brother and his family — have all come out to visit me since I moved here. I have great people here like D and his friends, who have graciously welcomed me into their lives, and the friends I’ve made through my small group. I need to find a church that I love, but that will come. Best friend L is just a plane ride away, up the coast in San Francisco. And I get to see her next month too. Really, what do I have to complain about? A little sadness here, a little disappointment there, but all-in-all, things are pretty damn good. I am making a point to think back on all the doors God opened to get me to L.A., and I’m sorry for being such a sour-pants lately about all the struggles. Every time I think about the positives, I remember that He found the most perfect home for my beloved cat Francis the week before I left Arkansas. This may not seem like a big deal to everyone else, but I had been praying for weeks. I couldn’t imagine a better home for Francis. Incidentally, she now belongs to Friend AA’s parents.

I was supposed to come here. My own mother told me that, even though she didn’t want me to move so far away. The doors opened, and I walked through them. There is hope here, even though my hopeful people are so hard to catch up with sometimes. I am going to go now, and write on my bathroom mirror these words: “Please remember that the cat has a home.”

Everyone is a-Dyin’

September 27, 2008

Paul Newman died.

Sad.

Mendacity, Big Daddy! Mendacity!

At about 8 p.m., my mom called me to tell me that this afternoon, she and my dad had to put my childhood dog, Keai, to sleep.

When I was a little girl, I wanted to believe with all of me that dogs went to heaven. We had two dogs, Meili, who belonged to my brother, and Keai, who was mine. I loved our dogs enough to wish that they had souls. Mom told me, “If you need your dogs in heaven, they’ll be there.” I convinced myself that they would be.

This past week has been the hardest week I’ve experienced since moving to California. D and I have had some intense discussions; work has been overwhelming; I’ve made a decision that I want to pursue writing as a career, but I have anxiety attacks every time I try to write; I’m homesick; finances continue to be a roller coaster; and lately I feel this tremendous isolation from everyone and everything. This aspect of my current state of being spurred many of those tough discussions with D.

Now, Keai is dead. It seems a fititng end to my week of the most intense adulthood moments I’ve ever experienced. Perhaps the last chunk of my childhood died too. Forgive the typos. I’m having trouble keeping my eyes dry tonight.

I was 12 the night Keai came home with me for the first time. I’d been anticipating the moment for years. We went to a farm where they raised Shar-Pei puppies, and I chose her out of several puppies from two different litters. Her ears curled up on the tips, and she had green eyes. She was about as big as a hiking boot. She had a wrinkle right in the middle of her forehead that looked sort of like a Mohawk, and my brother and I found the distinguishing wrinkles on our dogs’ heads quite fascinating to the imagination. Meili had a wrinkle on her head that was shaped sort of like a square bowl, with a shallow cavern in the middle. He once told me quite solemnly, while pointing at the cavern, “This is where the mommy dog kissed her.” Keai very quickly gained the reputation of being reptillian. She would bite at anything that came near her face, so when Alan and I were fighting, we’d pick her up, and thrust her at one another. Whenever she got close to one of us, she’d bite at us. We called her an alligator. She also had the longest tongue I’ve ever seen. Sometimes we’d taunt her, holding her back and holding something tantalizing in front of her face to see how far her tongue would reach. We called her Frog Dog.

Tonight D tried to comfort me by telling me, “It sounds like Keai was a really great dog.” I started crying really hard and said, “No, she was a terrible dog, a really, really terrible dog.” I told him how she was impossible to potty train, how she never listened, how she ruined the carpet in our old house, chewed things up, tried to dig holes in the bottoms of all the doors by scratching and banging like a maniac, dug a hole in every piece of furniture we owned, and once she even tried to chew her way through a chain-link fence. She broke all her teeth and had to have stitches in her gums. She fought with Meili, to the degree that we had to keep them separated for most of their lives. Keai was a real bitch.

She paced and whined in the middle of the night, had severe separation anxiety, and toward the end of her life, she lost control of her bladder and peed. A lot. In my parents’ bed.

When we left the house to go anywhere, we had to secure the building for departure. My dad had to put up a gate with a lock on it in front of the door to his auto repair shop (my family lives in an apartment above the shop), because Keai learned how to open the door and would carrouse in the back with the cars. We were afraid she’d OD on anti-freeze. We had to strategically open certain doors, and strategically close others, and stack kitchen, chairs, books, etc. on top of all padded seating areas so Keai wouldn’t dig holes.

Why did we go to such trouble? People who do not love dogs will not understand. Like my dog, I am a terrible, terrible person who has a tendency to love things I shouldn’t and put my hope in things that are irreversably flawed. We knew she would never listen, never learn, never grow up. Meili was such a good, obedient, sweet dog. Keai was a monster, absorbed in her own head and her own doggie world. It was like she was even completely unaware of pain. When she broke the living room window with her head, cutting a gaping, bloody gash in her forehead, she didn’t even notice. If allowed to continue chewing through that chain-link fence, she likely would have worn her face off and not even realized it until she tried to eat.

But I loved her. I loved her so much because I was a shy, quiet girl with severe self-esteem issues. At a time when I was afraid to be who I was with other people, I could be myself with her. We were both in our own little worlds, were both irreversably flawed. I was allowed to be silly and funny with her. I dressed her up and cuddled with her and kissed her and hugged her as much as I wanted. Some days when I felt so isolated from other people, so frustrated with my own timidity and the blockades it built in my quest to make friends and find acceptance, she was just there, waiting for me. I loved her mostly because she was mine. It was my job to love her.

She was a tangibility of how much my parents provided for me, how much they wanted to give my dreams a little kiosk in reality’s mall. They promised her to me when I was young. When I was 12, they let me choose her. I still remember the guilt I felt when they handed over $300 for her, a lot of money to a 12-year-old.

When I left for college, my parents took responsibility for both Meili and Keai, and when Meili died two years ago, I was fortunate enough to be home and with my parents when we had to make the decision to alleviate her pain and lose her. Mom, Dad, and I cried together and we touched her and spoke to her after Dad lifted her and set her on that sterile table. She couldn’t hear us — she’d lost her hearing years before that — but we spoke to her anyway, more for our own benefit than hers. Dr. Warling gave her that final shot — just like he’d given her her first shots fifteen years before, when she was only six weeks old — the first shots to preserve her life, and the last one to end it. I felt the life melt from her body. She slid down on the table, her breathing slowed, and then there was a body there. I was the one who pushed her eye lids closed when her eyes no longer held her. I usually can’t handle being in the same room with dead things, but I kissed her head where the mommy dog kissed her and pressed my face into her fur. I have only seen my dad cry a few times in my life: when his brother died, when my mother’s father died, when i left for college, and on that day, when Meili left us.

Mom told me on the phone tonight that they were both crying when Keai had to go, and that they just wished someone at the vet clinic would tell them they were doing the right thing. As much as it kills me that I couldn’t be there to hold her while she passed, she knew we loved her. I loved her because she was mine, and my parents loved her because I am theirs.

More Talk of Dreams…

September 14, 2008

It seems as though releasing that one dream has given me the permission to think of others. I may be taking a hiatus from blogging for a while. I may be focusing my efforts on something larger for a time. I hope that I will have a chance to keep up with girlfromthenorthcountry while I pursue this other project, but with how much it’s stressing me out tonight, I can’t make any promises. I promise to tell you more later. For now, blogging will likely be sporadic. Have a great week, friends. Catch you later.