Monday, July 27, 2009

Giving in.

Within the next week, I will know whether or not I have a full-time (salaried!) position at a gym here in Houston. I'm still in disbelief. I was enjoying being the aerobics nomad, teaching at 6 different gyms while I expelled the toxins that were put in my system by the corporate job I had.

So that got me to thinking about what set me off on this path of eschewing that corporate life for a new one. What can make someone give up $55,000 a year (at least) in income? Especially when that person was raised in a family that never had enough money?

The answer is....a confluence of forces. I think that if you have a "good enough" job, where you're pulling down the money to cover your liabilities and you're not emotionally compromised at the end of the day, you're in a good place. But when that "good enough job" turns into the vehicle that is driving you to depression, rage, and is time to go.

Had I not left it so long, I could have organized a proper job search and found another corporate job that I would have liked more (at least temporarily). The pseudo-flexibility offered by my old employer, and deep friendships of offshore and onshore associates kept me rooted there.

One day, driving to the office became too much. I actually envisioned driving my car into a tree to keep me from going into the office. As someone who has had accidents eerily similar to is definitely a red flag of warning.

But...ah, the tipping point. Not often are we as people able to identify that turning, that tipping point.

I can.

It was having my husband's wonderful, brilliant aunt and uncle die in a head on automobile collision the day after our wedding. These individuals were the most conscientious and precise people that I have ever met. But no matter how extensive you plan something....some elderly asshole who shouldn't still have a license can always cross the median and end your life.

And alter the lives of anyone that ever loved you. Tragedy like this radiates out like an earthquake, there is an intense epicenter of grief, destruction, and tragedy to those immediately affected, but there are aftershocks that shake the most remote of friends and family.

I hate this stupid corporate phrase. But their death reminded me that "at the end of the day", we have control over nothing.

I have always been really sensitive to random life upheavals. This is because I am a control freak. I think if I can control everything, I can mitigate any potential damage that may come. Despite the fact our home sustained minimal damage from Hurricane Ike, that whole experience jacked with my emotions.

So you can imagine how something like the death of beloved family members the day after our wedding...and considering they'd never have been in Austin if not for Chris and I....can screw with your mind.

However, I cannot credit this death alone with why I left my old job. I think one of the first red flags became apparent when I was writing a shitload of queries and doing a lot of systems testing one evening at work, and my iPod Shuffle chose to play "Dogs" by Pink Floyd.

Talk about timing.

Here are the lyrics to that song:

"You gotta be crazy, you gotta have a real need
You gotta sleep on your toes, and when you're on the street
You gotta be able to pick out the easy meat with your eyes closed
And then moving in silently, down wind and out of sight
You gotta strike when the moment is right without thinking.

And after a while, you can work on points for style
Like the club tie, and the firm handshake
A certain look in the eye, and an easy smile
You have to be trusted by the people that you lie to
So that when they turn their backs on you
Youll get the chance to put the knife in.

You gotta keep one eye looking over your shoulder
You know its going to get harder, and harder, and harder as you get older
And in the end you'll pack, fly down south
Hide your head in the sand
Just another sad old man
All alone and dying of cancer.

And when you lose control, youll reap the harvest that you've sown
And as the fear grows, the bad blood slows and turns to stone
And its too late to lose the weight you used to need to throw around
So have a good drown, as you go down alone
Dragged down by the stone.

I gotta admit that Im a little bit confused
Sometimes it seems to me as if Im just being used
Gotta stay awake, gotta try and shake of this creeping malaise
If I dont stand my own ground, how can I find my way out of this maze?

Deaf, dumb, and blind, you just keep on pretending
That everyone's expendable and no-one had a real friend
And it seems to you the thing to do would be to isolate the winner
And you believe at heart, everyone's a killer.

Who was born in a house full of pain
Who was trained not to spit in the fan
Who was told what to do by the man
Who was broken by trained personnel
Who was fitted with collar and chain
Who was given a seat in the stand
Who was breaking away from the pack
Who was only a stranger at home
Who was ground down in the end
Who was found dead on the phone
Who was dragged down by the stone."

I had to pause my iPod to catch my breath. C'mon now. I had spent 4 years at The University of Texas. You really, really think this is the first time I thought deeply about Pink Floyd lyrics??

And yet. Something resonated in me while I pounded away at debugging SQL and updating test plans. I think the part that got me was the final four lines:

"Who was only a stranger at home
Who was ground down in the end
Who was found dead on the phone
Who was dragged down by the stone."

I knew I was the "stranger at home". I don't think I was any longer the person my husband met in college. Part of that was the natural progession of life, the other part was that this job had given me this darkness and cynicism I never had in college. Don't get me wrong...I was always cynical about politicians and loved nothing more than a convincing conspiriacy theory back then. But that to me is typical of anyone coming from the suburbs into a "real" city.

I was "ground down". Thank god I had kept up my aerobics teaching jobs. I think that the BDNF (brain derived neurotropic factor) and the empirically proven boost to mood from exercise had kept me active enough to remain moderately functional.

The last part that really resonated me was "dragged down by the stone".

Whatever your "stone" is, it can drag you under. Mine was my current job. And other things. But primarily that job.

So it was time, to cut the rope that adhered the stone to my neck.

I had this bizarre moment of clarity when I was chatting with the night desk attendant at 24 Hour Fitness when I checked in for my 5:30 AM class.

He asked me, as he always does, how I am doing at 5:19 in the morning as I race in to start my 5:30AM class. And I tell him I'm still waking up, and ask him how he is doing.

And he says, "Great. Better 6 feet over than 6 feet under."

I stood there a little bewildered (in part due to the time of day), but then fully processed what he said. You can read that response as hopeful or cynical.

Confucius say..."read it as hopeful".

Friday, July 24, 2009

You know you own a golden retriever when...

1.) You have had to google the following:
--"are frogs poisonous to dogs"
--"are dragonflies poisonous to dogs"
--"best plants for families with dogs"

2.) They have a set play area. We call ours "The Octagon" ala' UFC. If you say "Octagon" and point, they move into that area to play fight. In the fall, they will be outside for any rumbles. Too hot right now.

3.) They have a lot of commands you will not see on "The Dog Whisperer". In my family, these commands include:
--"Bugger off!"
--"No bite pecker!"
--"Head out of ice maker!"

4.) Any toy marketed as "indestructible" is quickly proven not to be.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

"Music mix the bourgeoisie and the rebels..."

Yeah, can't believe I just quoted Madonna in a blog post about music. I like her music just fine, but she likely doesn't even rate in my Top 100 artists. When I was choosing a title for this posting, that was the quote that came to mind, and it was awfully apt. I suppose now because I am the bourgeoisie and I have always fancied myself a rebel.

Music has always been an intregal part of my life. It comforted me as an adolescent, when I was miserable and suffering from the hell that is female teenagehood. I danced, so it informed and cultivated my performances. I love live music concerts, and even in 8th grade (back before the internet was cool--I know, impossible to remember) I had a Geocities site dedicated to Dallas Live Music.

In high school, I worked at the Barnes and Noble in Richardson in the music section initially. Once the managers figured out that I actually read books, unlike a lot of the staff, I was ripped out of the music section and stuck onto the "book floor". (My stint in the Barnes and Noble cafe' is another story...for another post.)

In Austin, I left work at the B&N across from the University to work at "FYE", aka "The music store in the mall formerly known as Camelot". Only because they paid $1-2 more an hour. That B&N across from UT had me exposed to a lot of neat people--law students, Antonio Banderas, and Dennis Lehane (whose agent tried to verbally abuse me, but he intervened, so he's a good guy in my book).

Even today, I go to every concert that I can afford. I love festivals, despite the heat and cost. Some of my favorite memories are from Austin City Limits Festival a couple of years ago.

So those are my music credentials. My point is--music is and has been important to me.
Conventional wisdom would be that a love of music fades as you age--it's no longer a pre-eminent way to access your emotions and express them.


I am an absolute iTunes junkie. In the past few years, I've purchased over a thousand songs. I just looked in my "Purchased" iTunes folder, lest you think I was exaggerating. Part of it is because I teach cycling classes to white suburbans, and I have to bulk up my stores of music that will not get me fired and that they will like. The other part is that I'm an addict and really shouldn't be allowed in a room with iTunes unsupervised.

So back to what inspired me to write this post. I had just come home from teaching 3 aerobics classes (one in the 100+ degree heat) and was absolutely exhausted. Yet, as is the way with chores, there were things to be done. Outside. I can handle indoor chores, but outside, at mid-day in this record heat? Sheyyyatttt.

So I sighed. I picked up one of my iPods. I have two--one that contains my master collection, and another, more portable unit, that allows me to run/walk the dogs with it. I put the iPod on shuffle.
I went out back intending to only clean up the dog shit in advance of the mowers arriving tomorrow. So I executed that.

While dancing.

I figure, most of our fence is tall, excepting the part that runs adjacent to the garage. Minimal chance of neighbors seeing me. So why not have fun?

When Beastie Boys or Prince is on, even if you're picking up shit in the sweltering Texas heat, somehow that makes it better.

Once I'd completed that task, M.I.A. came on my iPod. I figured, "Hell, I'm out here and sweaty, why not do all the yard chores". So while my iPod cycled through Green Day, Queen, System of a Down, Spank Rock, and Metallica, I took care of all of the yard chores, often while singing (quietly?) and dancing when I thought no one could see me.

Not only did I pick up shit. I watered trees. I watered my herb garden. (Not THAT type of herb, cilantro and basil!) Most importantly.

I even trimmed two of these evil, twisty, pain in the ass trees.
If you were wondering, that's their actual name. You can call them that at any garden store and people will know what you mean.
We have two of these monstrosities out in front of the house, flanking the front door. When you're as short as I am (under 5 feet), trimming these beasts is a feat. So I can't reach far away from my body and trim the higher boughs.

And these trees need trimming badly. One of them had grown a generous bulbous head at the top of it which leaves it looking entirely phallic. It was so egregiously phallic that you didn't have to be Beavis and Butthead or a 12 year old boy to think it was hilarious.

I have to stand on my tip toes, wield the hedge clippers at a 90 degree angle from the ground, and hack away like a maniac. And while I do so, this frigging tree/bush/monster rains down nettles that fall all over my hair, and straight up down my cleavage. It itches like the bejesus!

But, with Nine Inch Nails on the iPod, despite the heat--and the itch--I'm having fun.

And that is the power of music.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009


Our rescue pup has suffered from skin irritation and a staph infection since we got her. She is on the mend now with her antibiotics and the topical cream we're putting on her, but we really thought she could use a bath with this special hydrocortisone wash.

As you can see here, her tummy and little chest is woefully bald and she's missing the feathering your normally see in goldens between their knees and toes and their elbows and paws. We still think she's beautiful, of course.

Dante actually came to us with his coat in a similar condition, due to him having an advanced case of heartworms. With a lot of petting, brushing, and worship from his fan club, he now has feathering so fantastic we've actually been stopped while walking for people to comment on it. I can only hope we'll be so lucky with Shelley once she's healthy.

So, back to the story. It's now bath time. I had to wait for my husband to come home from work, knowing that this would be a two-person job. We suspected that she liked water (unlike Dante) since every time we water the trees, she sticks her face into the sprinkler and drinks mightily.

We were not prepared for HOW MUCH she likes water. We started her off with just a mist, then a stronger spray, with her cavorting around the spray, jumping up to bite it, and running into the yard and rolling around in the grass (thankfully avoiding the landmines).

So we get her lathered up and she decides she would like the spend the rest of bath time and drying off time on her back. She was just languishing under the spray and the massage of the medicine onto her tummy. Truly adorable.

But this post is titled "Frogger". Before the bath, we put Shelley outside and got Dante settled inside with a peanut butter kong. As we walk outside, this thing comes FLYING into the house and sticks itself to the cabinet.

It was the creature we have taken to referring to as "That F---ing Frog" around these parts. My dogs STALK frogs, and the last thing I need is to take one of them to the emergency vet for dining on French cuisine, right?? This frog is always stuck somewhere prominently outside, just out of their reach, and they hop, whine and obsess over it while it remains stuck, paralyzed in fear.

Or hell, for all I know it could be more than one frog. It could be a whole colony of them. It doesn't matter, it had invaded the house. We got very creative in its capture, capturing it on the wall with gladware, then sliding it to the edge of the wall where we could slide the lid over the top.

Believe it or not, this was the second solution Chris proposed. Any large bugs in the house, he just vacuums up. I would not allow that cruelty to occur to this frog, who is surely more sentient than a roach.

After capture, Chris was gone for about 10 minutes, finding the right neighbor's yard to drop the frog off in. At least...that's just what he said he was doing.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Thick as Thieves

What a whirlwind couple of days. Dante and Shelley play basically non-stop. I've not made any progress in the book I'm reading nor in cleaning out the Tivo because I watch them play all day long.

And if things get suspiciously quiet, I have to go search for them and make sure they're actually sleeping and not scheming.

They play the funniest game with their bones. Sometimes Dante will growl at her to back off of his bone-chewing, which she dutifully does. But about 9 times out of 10, he lets her have the bone and gets another. Then, he'll want it back and steal it from her. And so it goes. It seems to be good natured and neither of them is possessive of the bone.

I was brave this morning and saddled them both up for a walk. I had to fit Shelley's gentle lead to her, which made Dante furious. Guess he thought I wasn't going to take him for a walk too. I had to put him in the bedroom because he was barking and jumping on me (something he never does). So after I got her fitted up and him set, I set off.

I was so impressed at how good she was on the walk--most Goldens pull like sled dogs. (Hence why the Gentle Lead). I let Dante's leash out slightly longer than hers, so he could feel like the leader of the pack. They were both so good on the walk that I was able to hold both leashes in one hand. Now, we didn't run into any other dogs or wildlife indigenous to the area, such as boar and deer, so that will be our true test.

Tomorrow we go to our vet to get her checked out. Her previous family seemed to keep her up on all of her shots and heartworm meds, but I'd feel better if my vet looked at her. I also want to run how we've been letting the dominance games go between her and Dante by the vet and make sure it's kosher. It's nothing that's not on The Dog Whisperer, but I'd like a professional's opinion to make sure we're on the right track.