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Archive for March, 2012

Save for future reference

That was the subject line of an email I got last week from a friend. The message is below. My friend struggles with bipolar disorder. It’s so hard to watch, because sometimes she is in such despair, and there is nothing I can do to help make it better, make her safer, make it go away. And it’s so unfair that anybody has to suffer like she does, and suffer alone. There is still such a stigma with mental illness, as if you should just be able to shake it off or get over it already. And we don’t talk about it enough. I’m forever encouraging my friend to share her stories more, to educate the people around her, both for the good of the world, and to broaden her support base. Of course, it’s very easy for me to say; I’m not the one having to expose myself.

She sent this message asking me to save it for sometime in the future when she needs to see it again. When things are dark, and hopefully this will help, at least a little. I have encouraged her to start her own blog, anonymously if that’s more comfortable, because she has good stuff to say. In the meantime, I offered mine, so she could feel protected but still share.  Because I think it’s important.

If you think you recognize my friend, maybe you do. Maybe someone around you has similar struggles. But, and perhaps this goes without saying, please don’t say anything to her, based on this post. Cuz, you know, that’s just awkward.

So here’s her message, which I’m saving for later.

__________________________________________________

Almost everything feels good. Or well. Emotionally well, physically well, and maybe even spiritually well, although I don’t favor that word because I think it means something different to everybody.

But the point is, suicide is the furthest thing from my mind right now. And how does that happen?! Can you imagine if I could figure that one out? Why one day (or for several weeks at a time, more accurately) I can think about nothing aside from slicing through my wrists with any available sharp object, and another day, I have future plans and lists of things I want to accomplish in this life? It is the most fucked up thing I’ve ever dealt with or come across in my life that I’ve personally experienced; a hell that I wouldn’t wish on anyone. Sometimes, though, when it’s dark in my head, I wish that hell on EVERYONE because I allow myself to wallow in my pity and want it to not be me. I want people to understand, and sometimes it feels like that could only happen if they had my experience.

It is not that way, today, though. Shorts, tank top, sun, 80 degrees, breeze. But it’s not just the weather. No. There is nothing that can touch my mood today. I don’t even consider whether or not I want to live; I just AM living. And it’s great. I accidentally slipped this morning and allowed myself to think, ‘I am happy.’ It’s like if I allow that, then the darkness that is the suicidal desire will remember that it has forgotten about me, and come looking.

I want to tell that profoundly depressed and suicidal me that there ARE times like these, and thus far, these times have ALWAYS cycled back around. When I’m in that bad place, it never seems like it will ever end, and yet it always does. I can never make myself believe that it will end. I want to die more than anything in the world, and that would be such a waste. My kids need me. My friends and family need and love me, and my death would be such a tragic loss.

I don’t even have advice to those who are unlucky enough to have to support me in this. Personally, I wouldn’t know what to say to me when I’m way out there. I just know that I have to figure out a way to not kill myself when the need arises. This life has too much potential.

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She was the best dog in the whole world.

I know. Everyone probably thinks that about his or her dog. But mine really was. And if you ever spent any time with her, she might have convinced you.

I have always loved dogs. And I think they like me too – most of them, anyway. When I was growing up we had an Irish Setter, Kelly.  She adored my father, knew my mother was the one who really took care of her, and seemed ok with my sister and me. We got her when I was four, and she died when I was 17, doing a nice job filling the house with dog the entire time we were growing up.

College and the years immediately after weren’t the time to have a dog. Too transient. Apartment living and frequent moving. But when I returned to my hometown to settle down, I was on the prowl for a dog. A dog, not a puppy. I had moved in with my mom, and started a new job, and training a puppy wasn’t in the master plan. Thus began Wendy’s Dog Quest. I read the classified ads. Visited the animal shelters. I wasn’t in a hurry. I wanted to find my dog, who I knew was out there.

One day in December 1996, I picked up Peddler’s Post.

“Collie – female, 2 years old, spayed. 260.555.1212”

That was it, that was all it said. But I swear, when I read that ad, I thought to myself “this is it, that’s my dog”. Two years old was perfect. I’ve always liked collies. Good size, nice & fluffy. Who wouldn’t want someone like Lassie around to save the day?  I called the number and spoke to the man (Cleo) who was running the ad. He wasn’t around much to take care of her. He wanted to find a better situation for her.

My dad and boyfriend (now ex-husband) and I drove out to the town where he lived to check things out. The dog that greeted us as we got out of the car was nice enough, but where was the collie? This dog looked like maybe someone in her family tree lived next door to a collie at one point, but calling her a collie was a stretch. But apparently this was the dog we had come to meet: Sylvia. She lived outdoors; I wanted an inside dog. Hmm…wonder how that would fly. She was filthy. A little…not skittish, exactly. Uncertain, maybe. Wary. We gave her a dog biscuit and she took it, but she simply held it in her mouth and kept an eye on things. Was this my dog? “She has friendly eyes,” my dad said.

Cleo told me I could take her, and if it didn’t work out I could bring her back. He’d rather keep looking for the right home for her. Seemed pretty risk free. What the hell, let’s give it a try. I was about to leave town for the holidays, so I arranged to come get her when I returned on New Year’s Eve.

Cleo cried when I came to take her away. I felt horrible. But the truth was, he was saving her life. (We’ll get to that.) And he gave me a bag of kibble. Told me she didn’t really like it, but that what she did like was a little hamburger fried up with some garlic salt. Well sure! No wonder she wasn’t eating the kibble – the dog’s not stupid! (A statement repeated often over the next 11+ years.)

I took her home to Mom’s, but she was a mess. Beyond dirty. Incredibly thick coat of fur since she’d been living outside. And I had no idea what she would do when I took her in the house. So for the first couple of nights we confined her to the garage or the kitchen, until I could get her groomed, and determine if she was housebroken. Mom was a total sport. She never said a word about this previously outdoor dog moving into her house. And you know what? She didn’t have to worry about a thing. We used to joke that when Sylvia came into the house she checked it out and thought to herself, “Heat? Carpet? Hey, I’m doing whatever it takes to keep this gig going.”  And in the blink of an eye, she became an indoor dog. The end.

Some friends came over a day or two later for a game day, and were among the first to fall under Sylvia’s charms. They didn’t object to the shocking pink lipstick in her fur (still hadn’t been to the groomer). And Miss Sylvia Dog was making herself right at home. We loaded our plates with pizza and returned to the living room. A few minutes later, Sylvia strutted in with a slice of pizza dangling from her teeth. You could almost hear her saying, “Hey guys! I’m having some too!” I don’t actually know how she got it since she wasn’t the tallest of dogs, but that was the first and last time she ever took food that wasn’t hers. She didn’t need to be told things twice; smart as a whip, she learned lessons the first time.

A trip to the groomer transformed her. My friend Joe B., who was one of the only people to see her in the “before” state, commented that he never knew a bath could make such a difference. She was beautiful. And soft as all get-out.

About that Cleo saving Sylvia’s life by finding a new home for her thing. I was devastated to discover from the vet that Sylvia had heartworm. This little creature had already stolen my heart and she was going to die. I was relieved to learn that it’s not fatal, but the treatment is difficult, similar to doggie chemo.  Our first three months together were stressful, and Sylvia was terrified of the vet her entire life. But other than scary vet visits, what followed were 11+ years of love and happiness.

Syl in her chair.

Syl-beast was crafty, wily, and stubborn. She was gun-shy, which translated to fear of any loud bang (like, say, a car door slamming), having had firecrackers thrown at her as a puppy (according to Cleo). (Two parentheticals in one sentence. Sometimes I amaze even myself.) She had adorably expressive eyebrows. She was an excellent judge of character. She was skittish about having her tail touched, because it had been broken. She didn’t stick her head out the car window, but liked to just rest the tip of her nose at the edge of the glass. Take in more smells, maybe? She was a finicky eater, and sometimes refused to eat until you sat on the floor and fed her by hand. She peed like a boy dog, lifting her leg to mark trees. She loved to play “chase”, and had awesome fake-out moves. She left dog fur tumbleweeds all over the wood floors. She loved her people, including her extended family of dog-sitting friends. She loved water, not in a jump in and swim way, but in a wade in up to her belly way. She would chomp her teeth in your face in the weirdest, non-aggressive, just making noise kind of way. She loved getting into teeny, tiny spaces, like under or behind a piece of furniture. She loved ice cream. She wouldn’t eat pretzels.  During thunderstorms, she tried to sleep on my head.

And she was soft. The softest dog ever. Seriously. People told me that All The Time. A stranger asked one day if she could pet her, then immediately turned to her husband and said, “You have to pet this dog, I can’t believe how soft she is.

Later in life Sylvia would come to work with me on a fairly regular basis, and she worked her magic there, too. The landlord turned a blind eye to my flagrant lease violation. Jerry the Mailman would get down on the floor to play and hug when she was in the office. Even Mark the FedEx Guy, who was afraid of dogs, would inquire about Sylvia’s welfare. Sales reps from vendors asked about her if she wasn’t present the day they came to call.

And though she lived a long, happy, mostly healthy life, the day came when we lost her: March 25, 2008. It was awful and one of the worst days ever, and I spent two years grieving heavily, but we’re not going to talk about that. Because today is a celebration of Syl-beast. I declared that for all time March 25 shall be Sylvia Day, when we remember the sweet, funny dog who wrapped all who met her around her paw. I was blown away by the number of kind, loving emails and cards I received from friends and family when she died. I reread them all this week, and selected two of my favorite comments to share.

“She was such a sweet dog and a great friend. I’ll miss her too.”

“We all miss her and know if there is a doggie heaven (where the streets are paved with steak and small animals run in slow motion), she’s there.”

I also found a thank you from Animal Care and Control. I had forgotten this, but apparently I donated all her toys that were in good condition. As fate would have it, I received a donation request in the mail last week from Animal Care & Control, the shelter where I found Ruby, my current loving companion and best dog in the world. It seemed appropriate to send them a gift in honor of the Sylvie Girl, so I did.

Happy Sylvia Day. Go hug your fur babies.

Leave lots of DNA evidence

A Facebook friend sent this to me today. If you don’t know why it’s funny, read about four paragraphs down in this post.

AHAHAHAHAHAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAHAHAHAH!!!!!!!!!

Online Dating Preamble

Ok, so preamble suggests this would have come first. Oops, my bad.

After some of the reactions to last weekend’s post, I feel like I need to back up and defend online dating as not being only for suckers (and freaks and douchebags). I truly believe it’s a legitimate vehicle to meet people. I do know people who have met if not their soul mates online, some good, worthwhile, highly datable people that they’ve had significant relationships with. It’s just so much more concentrated than the rest of the world that you encounter a denser pool of freaks. Pun intended with “denser”. 🙂

Dating is a total crapshoot, no matter the method. Most of us spend a lot of time looking for the right partner, online, offline, whatever. Online dating just magnifies it all, good, bad, and crazy. Did I get approached by a lot of nut jobs? Yes. Did I, through the very act of creating profiles, put myself in a position to get approached by a lot of nut jobs? Yes.

In some ways, online dating simplifies everything, and takes away some of that possible sting of rejection, in that we’re all there for the same reason: to meet someone. Theoretically, that should make it easier to strike up a conversation with someone you might be interested in. In a bar, I might be looking to meet someone, but I might be playing wingman for my girlfriend, or I might be there to listen to the band, or I might just be there to have a drink. I might be there for a ton of reasons. Dating website = clear cut. And theoretically you can cut through all the bullshit: I’m looking for a long-term relationship. I’m looking for something casual. I’m creepy and I just want sex.  If you have rigid rules, you can eliminate everyone who smokes, or has blue eyes, or doesn’t want kids.

The problem is people think it’s a silver bullet. There is no secret stable filled with mythical creatures such as unicorns and single, age-appropriate men who are charming and funny and intelligent and have good grammar and are also looking for us. It’s just like the rest of the world, with a bajillion people who are all-wrong for you or might make good friends, and maybe, hopefully, one who you dig and who digs you back. Just like the real world, but within the confines of a dating microcosm. EVERYTHING is magnified, hence the feeling that it’s overrun with crazies.  It’s like setting yourself up on blind dates: chances are, it’s just going to be a good story for your friends, but you never know. 

Online dating does require a lot of time and attention if you’re really in the game. It’s exhausting, which is one reason I took a break. You definitely have to have the right attitude about it: it’s for fun, one vehicle among many in the world, and definitely not magical. 

Not to worry, I’m going to keep on sharing the funny stuff.  But I wanted to make it clear that I think online dating is totally legitimate, safe (if you use common sense), and possibly something I’ll return to someday.  And then will immediately question why. I kid! If you’re participating in the online scene right now, good on ya; you have my empathy. 

We now return you to your regularly scheduled crazy.

The end of an era….or maybe just intermission…

Recently I hid my last remaining “active” online dating profile, marking the end of not quite three years of what can only be described as hilarity (among other things). In fact, there was so much material gathered that I can’t possibly contain it to one post. Additional stories await you.  [Note: I am completely inept, because I continue to get notifications from that last site. I can NOT figure out how to disable/hide/delete my account. WTF?]

I dabbled with four different sites, two free (Plenty of Fish, OKCupid), two pay (Match, Zoosk – which is quasi free). Plenty of Fish was first, so I began referring to all “suitors” as fish. (You’ll see.) I realized the time had come to take a break because I had developed a very bad attitude about the whole thing. I was most successful when I viewed it as a lark. Keep in mind, “success” can only be defined here as loading up on lots and lots and lots (and lots and lots and lots) of ridiculous, crazy, unbelievable, stories for my friends. One pal I think is still mad at me for no longer having absurd adventures to share over lunches. Another told me no one will believe my stories were true. This I promise you: I’m not making any of this up. Everything in this and any future posts happened to me or someone I know. Mostly me. Unless it makes me sound bad. And every grammatically incorrect or incoherent message is verbatim. Believe me, it hurts me more than it hurts you.

Three years, four websites, 192 million emails received, 92 million emails responded to, 86 million emails of my own sent, eleventeen bajillion first dates, and maybe 4 second dates. Two people I might sort of refer to as friends and/or be willing to have a conversation with today. (No offense, fish who might be reading this.) Mostly what I have is a collection of people whose real names I can’t even remember. Fortunately, we have nicknames! When you’re playing the game, you interact with a lot of people, so you have to give them monikers to help keep them straight. Nicknames including, but not limited to:

  •  Fish Tacos
  •  Tad (whose real name I could never remember, and I actually called him this to his face)
  •  Nickelodeon
  •  The Happy Camper (ooh, wait, I didn’t meet him online….)
  •  The Bad Speller
  •  Captain Pea Hater, Esquire
  •  Applebeef
  •  Johio
  •  Dave the Racist (The only person I’ve ever blocked on a dating site or Facebook.)

People had lots of opinions when I ventured into online dating; the most memorable advice I got was from a friend who urged me to “make him kill me in the parking lot”. Um….what now? He elaborated further: if a dude ended up being crazy, do not get in a car and think I could ride around and talk said crazy dude out of harming me – make him kill me right there, in the parking lot. I got it. I prefer not to be murdered, but so noted. I did enjoy this follow up tidbit: leave lots of DNA evidence. Touch things. Maybe lick them. (Don’t be perverted, I’m talking about things like tables in restaurants and windows of cars.) Of course, this did cross my mind when I was on a date with a fish who kept making jokes about where he would hide my body. Cuz that’s funny to joke about with a woman you just met online. He was a real catch, anyway; he said awesome things like, “That’s a big word for a girl to use.”  Go fish.

You would think common sense would take a front seat in this crazy online scene, that perhaps men would go out of their way to make women feel safe and comfortable, given the sometimes scary world we live in. Thus I was astonished to encounter not just one, but two separate fellas who got angry with me because I wouldn’t go to their respective homes for a first meeting. They each assured me they were completely trustworthy. Um. Pass.

Of course, a certain amount of trust and honesty has to play into this. You can be anyone you want to be on the internet, but if the intention is truly to develop a relationship, it’s gotta be real at some point. Hence, I will never understand why people lie in their profiles. The most pervasive distortion of the truth that I found among men’s profiles? Their freakin’ height. As if I won’t notice that I’m actually taller than you are when I meet you? I don’t care how tall you are nearly as much as I care that you’re either lying or delusional. For future reference, any man under 6’ tall is actually 2” shorter than he says he is. At least 2”.

And then there’s the flip side of honesty: Over sharing. Now, I get it, when IS the right time to tell someone you have a foot fetish? Maybe putting it in your profile is appropriate, if you include other worthwhile information about yourself. But I guarantee you, this is not a strong opening email:

“hi, you’re very hot!
do you like your feet massaged and kissed? what size are your feet?
i have a foot fetish. i hope thats ok. Lol”

(LOL. LOL seems to be the thing guys say in an email to make whatever jackass thing they just said, what….a joke in case it’s inappropriate or stupid? If you feel the need to do that, you probably shouldn’t have said it.)

This brings us to a story about my favorite over-sharer, a guy named Jarrod from South Bend. (Amazingly, I remember his actual name, as well as several other players in this story.) We had been emailing back and forth a little, talking about benign topics like music and movies and books. He was engaging and articulate, but something was a little curious. He kept making reference to his “situation” and his “current circumstances”.  Finally I asked what exactly that meant. I got back a very long missive with many details about the prior two years of his life, surrounding a chick he’d met on MySpace named Tonya, a guy she met named Thomas, time spent crashing on his ex-wife Kim’s couch, and on and on, culminating with the revelation that his “current circumstances” were that he was living in a homeless shelter.  A HOMELESS SHELTER. A. Homeless. Shelter. Now, I have to give the guy snaps for having the balls to pursue women given his “situation”. But dude. Perhaps there are more pressing matters to tend to than dating. Bye-bye, Jarrod.

All right, this is starting to feel like The Modern Girl’s Guide to Internet Dating, so we should get into the really crazy. I dug through emails I kept to and from my girlies. Are you ready? Remember, it’s all true.

File under Boys Are Stupid
Email from me to H about a fish I’d been texting with and was considering meeting:
“Seriously…is it too much to ask to meet someone who is sort of normal and sort of attractive and has some personality? Oh yeah, and would also maybe take me to dinner before sending me pictures of his dick? AKA Monday. “

I mean – what? Who thinks it’s a good idea to do that? Send a picture of THAT before we’ve even met? Maybe he should’ve said “LOL” in that message.

File under You Can’t Make This Shit Up
Message from me to H: “I don’t know what on earth caused me to write him back – I think because I am fascinated by glass blowing [which he had listed as his occupation]. Plus, he openly says he does drugs – who says that? So I wrote back and asked him to tell me more about the glass blowing. Here’s his response:”

“I make pipes and sex toys. Please dont judge. It pays well.”

Never Gonna Happen:
“I went to Meijer earlier and ran into a guy I went out with one time last summer. He might be the world’s worst kisser. Of course I crossed paths with him 4 or 5 times while I was in the store. He suggested I call him sometime. Um, yeah. The reason I still have his number in my phone is so I know not to answer if HE ever calls ME.”

Now I’ve Heard Everything

“I’m debbie my S.O. are looking for a friend! someone to fill our lives with. please read the profile. and you like what you read then send a message!if ther are no hang ups about it. let us know if you like to chat. and by your pic i see you have a dog like we do a shellty”

Now I’ve Really Heard Everything
“Dude emailed me on OKCupid. Says he has aspergers, has never had a date, and that there is a form of therapy that would let me get paid for him to feel me up.”
I wish I could find the picture this was in response to
Message from a A-Yo:  “Sha. Zam. Wish I was single. Dude has some nice taste in shoes tho. And, uh, bedding.”
No need to see the actual picture
Um, hi, the KISS tribute band called, they want their singer back.
An example of a thoroughly typical introductory email

“whats up hun how r u today”

Hun, Princess, Dear – these are not appropriate ways to address a woman you have never met and are attempting to woo. Stop it.
The Creepiest Opening Email Ever
I got an email from someone I hadn’t had any communication with previously – no winking, messaging, IMing, etc – first contact:

“Hi,
Were you are at Baan Thai on Friday :)?”

Why yes….I had been at Baan Thai on Friday. I had NEVER interacted with this fish before. How the hell did he know who I was? Gah! Creeper!!! And after I told him yes and asked how/why/what the hell, he said he’d recognized me, and that was the end – never heard from him again – wha???

Honorable Mention, Most Persistent and/or Clueless
Dear Brian6345,
You have now emailed me on two, possibly three or four, different dating websites. Multiple times on most of them. Sometimes twice within the same day. I have never responded, not once. I give you snaps for persistence, but sometimes I question whether you realize you’ve emailed me so many times before.
Please stop or I will be forced to actually send you this. (It bothers me that I split my infinitive there, but seeing as you don’t use punctuation, I doubt you’ll notice.)
Always read the profile closely before responding
I had been emailing with a fish, casually, but he seemed ok. I was in one of my feisty phases, so I asked him if he was a douchebag (I mean, why waste my time?), after which he just stopped writing back. Whatever. So a little over a month later, I got another message from him. I responded, then went back to his profile to refresh my memory.  OMG. It said something that definitely hadn’t been there before. Kind of wish I’d seen it before I wrote him back:

“I have an epic girlfriend, ChestieLaRoux, with whom I am madly in love. She is teaching me the ways of polyamory. She is, in everyway, my match.”

The Wink Phenomenon
On most (maybe all) sites you can “wink” at someone. It’s a semi-lame way to let someone know you’re interested, without putting out too much (or any) effort. Of course, if the person responds by winking, then what? At some point someone has to strike up an actual conversation. Occasionally someone would wink who maybe had potential, and I would respond with a friendly email. I was amazed how many times someone would wink at me and then not respond to my message. After a while, I got a little pissy about it, causing me to draft this message which I never sent to anyone other than Mourtney, my most faithful partner in online dating crime:

Dear Douchebags,
When you wink at me and I follow up by sending you an email, why the fuck don’t you respond? I don’t even really care because I’m sure you’re a douchebag anyway (this just confirms it), but I truly don’t understand. Couldn’t you at least send a quick note saying, “Now that I see you’re intelligent and witty, I can tell you’re way out of my league”?
Must Love….Goats???
Excerpt from a guy I emailed with briefly on Match…..he was articulate, used punctuation, all kinds of good stuff. But um….well, see for yourself. Here’s an excerpt from one of our final messages.

“…on top of THAT, my renter brought her goat over and made the mistake of letting her in the house, now she only wants to be there…not smart on my part but i’m a sucker for animals!!”

I love animals, too. But goat? In house? Dude.
There’s more. Believe me, plenty more. But I’m tired, so let’s take a break for now. 🙂
ps….oh holy crap….spell-check is having a field day with all the horrific fish emails pasted above….

pps….Apparently I say “douchebag” a lot.  Pretty sure I didn’t say it at all before online dating.