Bad habits

It’s been a few days since I posted, and for good reason. I’ve only been near a computer for 3 days out of the last 7, and  have experienced what I believe to  be the beginnings of computer withdrawal symptoms.

The perpetrator of my torment was my dog, albeit indirectly. It was her aforementioned illness and subsequent relapse that dragged me away from my cyber cocoon and off the island to seek urgent veterinarian assistance. As  I didn’t take my laptop with me, I negated any chance of a cyber-fix for the  few days that was I camped out at my father’s place – who just happens to live right next door to the vet.

It started out okay. My dog was examined and I was told that she would need surgery as soon as possible – but not on that day. It would have to be the day after because the vet had a full schedule. There was really no point in going all the way home with a sick dog and coming all the way back again, so I decided to stay with dad and bring her in early the next morning. One night with dad would be no problem.

The following day dragged as I waited for her surgery to be over so we could go home. By the afternoon I was pacing the floor, not only with anxiety, but to take my mind off my emails, my forums, my Internet banking and my database work. I accessed my forums and checked the net on my mobile, but it was slow and wasn’t quite like tapping away like a demented ferret on my keyboard. I went to the news agency and bought myself a couple of computer magazines to see me through. I sat through a couple of old Clint Eastwood westerns with dad to take the edge off.

At the end of the day the vet rang. She wanted to keep my dog in overnight. I refused. I wanted her with me rather than be unattended overnight in the surgery, I wanted to go home. We negotiated. As long as I stayed close by and brought her in first thing in the morning, she would release my dog into my care. Close by meant dad’s place.

By this time dad was starting to get a bit toey. He wasn’t used to having visitors, especially with 3 dogs in tow. I was almost tempted to purchase another laptop and get a prepaid modem – until I got the vet bill, which was more than 2 laptops. It would have been very tempting, however, to immerse myself in my cyber world again to save me from another black-and-white movie viewing that evening, that’s for sure.

I greeted the last day of my stay with a sense of relief and expectation. Relief that my dog was all right and we were going home. Expectation of a much-anticipated reunion with all the buttons and gadgetry that I could lay my hands on in my home office. The day dragged yet again, as I missed the first barge back to the island and had to wait two hours until the next one. I twiddled my thumbs and sat through another black and white with dad.

When I finally walked in the door, cleaned up, fed 3 dogs and medicated 1, fed myself, and showered – I was too tired to even push 1 button on the clock radio, let alone a few buttons on the computer. I went to bed and slept about 14 hours, missing my cyber connection yet another day.

When I finally made it to the keyboard on the 5th day I took a deep breath. I felt a thrill when I pressed the on button and my screen came to life.  It was at that moment that I realised that I had a habit. I guess I should be grateful I don’t drink or smoke.

A wee story

I had to take one of my dogs to the vets a couple of weeks ago for what appeared to be her second bout of cystitis in as many months. She certainly wasn’t very well, and the vet wasted no time in getting her urinalysis done, blood tests, antibiotics, and painkillers organised. All at great cost too, I might add.

I asked the vet why it was that my dog appeared to have exactly the same thing that she had not so long ago, considering I had followed all the instructions and pumped those expensive antibiotics down her throat for 2 weeks.  The vet wasn’t sure, but she asked me to put my dog on a different course of antibiotics for two weeks and bring her back before they were finished with a sample, to make sure that they were working this time.

A sample? What kind of sample?

It was, of course, my dog’s urine sample. I looked at the vet disbelievingly. Wasn’t that what I paid these people all this money for? To gather pet pee among other things? How the hell was I going to get my dog’s urine sample? She doesn’t pee on command you know, and she certainly doesn’t know how to pee in any kind of pee-holding receptacle.

I thought about it when I left the vet’s and consulted the expert – my mother – who actually came up with an idea that had some merit.

An old plastic empty margarine or butter container.

I could cut one down with a pair of scissors, so it would resemble a small tray, and it would be small enough to slide right on in underneath my dog before she knew what was happening. Ingenious!

As it turned out, my dad had a stack of them hidden up in his cupboard for a rainy day. And that day was today. I was in margarine container heaven. I took two home with me, just in case.

Now all I had to do was pick my moment.

A couple of days before the vet’s appointment, I started to follow her around, but she became suspicious and wouldn’t do anything in front of me. She got to the point where she would sneak off to do her business so that I wouldn’t stalk her.

The night before the vet’s appointment, I was getting a little desperate. I filled my pockets with doggie treats and coaxed her out into the front yard. I even let her go out of the front yard to her favourite ‘sniffing’ tree that she loved so much. She followed the trail of treats and headed outside. I held onto the tray with anticipation. It was now or never.

I coaxed her, I praised her, I yelled at her, and finally I begged her, but she just kept on sniffing. And sniffing some more.

Right. That was it. The vet could get the damn sample herself.

I was just about to herd her back inside when she started to squat. If I hadn’t turned around I would have missed it. I tried to move as quickly as I could without causing her alarm as I swept the tray out out my pocket and underneath her tail end.

She nearly jumped a metre in fright to get away from me. I just managed to hold onto the darn thing as she shot away from me, through the gate and up the stairs.

I looked down at the tray. It was all over my hand, but it was also all over the bottom of the tray. It was at this point that I silently thanked my husband and his ‘never-know-what-you-might-need-em-for’ bulk sterile glove purchase some months ago. I had all the necessary equipment for urine collection. I also had all the urine.

I managed to transfer the hard-won sample into a more secure sterile sealed container that my father also had a stash of. Don’t ask.

I put this in another sealed container and put it in the fridge and covered it up. I might know that pee is  on the shelf next to the milk, but I don’t want to see it until tomorrow.

It took me an hour to coax my traumatised dog out from under the bed.

Kids

My mother rang me this afternoon. ‘I’m really worried about him. He hasn’t rung me for 3 days. Have you heard from him?’

She was, of course, referring to her only grandson, and my only son, Trent. And no, I hadn’t heard from him for a few days. Which was unusual for him, as he liked to keep in touch.

My mother continued, her voice getting higher and faster. ‘He rang me 3 days ago, but he hasn’t rung me since. He usually rings me every afternoon. I’m really worried about him.’

I wasn’t overly worried about him at that point, as he could sometimes run out of phone and Internet credit, but I decided to ring him on his mobile, because even if he didn’t have credit, he could answer my calls.

I called at around 3 pm, but there was no answer. I tried another half a dozen times at half-hour intervals, but he wasn’t picking up. By about 8 pm I was getting a bit concerned. My mother rang again.

‘Have you heard anything? Has he picked up his phone? I think I might take a drive over there to see if he’s okay.’ By this time Mum was in a frenzy, an she was fast whipping me into one as well. It had just started to rain, and Mum couldn’t see too well in the dark when she was driving.

‘Don’t worry about it Mum, I will come and get you and we will both go over there and see if he is okay. I will have to get myself organised.’ I put down the phone and sighed. I live on an island. It was raining harder, and the ferry would only run until 11 pm. There was little chance I would get back home in time to get the last ferry. I would have to pack myself, my things, my medications and the dogs and stay at Dad’s place for the night.

I raced around the house like a banshee. I had a quick shower and got dressed, made sure that everything was locked up and I had everything. I was breaking out in a sweat from exertion and anxiety. At best my son would  be okay and had left his phone at home while he went to his friends place to watch movies. At worst he was lying in a ditch somewhere bleeding, hurt. I was getting as paranoid as my mother.

I rang my mother just before I walked out the door. ‘I’ll be on the 9 pm ferry. I’ll get the dogs in the car on the mainland and I’ll come and pick you up.’

‘Do you think that you should be coming over in the pouring rain? Maybe he’s okay and we could go tomorrow morning.’ She was having second thoughts. She knows what I drive like when I’m agitated. ‘Try ringing him again to see if he answers.’

So I rang him. I had nothing to lose.

‘Hello?’ It was my son.

‘Where the hell have you been? I’ve been ringing you all day!’

‘What do you mean? I’m alright. I’ve been at a friend’s place.’

By this time I was beyond agitation. I had my mother on the landline in one ear, and my son in the other ear on my mobile. ‘Your grandmother and I were just about to drive over there! Your grandmother has been having a heart attack!’ I could vaguely hear mum in my right ear as I listened to my son in the other. She was ranting something about how she wasn’t that worried at all. Yeah, right.

‘I didn’t have any credit on my phone or the Internet. I didn’t think about it. Besides, I don’t need to check in every 24 hours do I?’ Now he was bordering on belligerence.

‘Don’t get too smart with me boy, we were just worried about you.’ I could hear my mother agreeing on the other line. I had to get rid of one of these phones. My brain was splitting in half. ‘Goodnight Trent, I will talk to you tomorrow.’

Now we could all relax. My mother went back to her laptop solitaire, and I unpacked my stuff and made myself a cup of tea. Tea fixes everything around here.

I wound down after a while. My son was just being normal. Which was a miracle in itself, considering a few years ago I thought that he might be dead by now. Of course we were overprotective. It had taken us a long time to get to this point. My son is a schizophrenic, and life has not been very easy for him. We nearly lost him a few times when he lost faith that he would ever feel close to normal again.

He’s doing okay now. He’s independent and he’s having a life. A bit too independent sometimes.

It makes my heart glad.

Words

I have a fascination with words, particularly where they come from. The English language has a long and interesting history, constantly in flux through the ages. The English language that is used these days has little in common with the proper English terms used in England over 200 years ago. We take on variables from other languages, and have built the English language into what it is today. English language definitely didn’t start of as English, or anything that we would understand in the 21st century.

I also have a fascination for weird words and swear words. It intrigues me how something so expressive and as basic as the f-word came to be. It’s origins remain reasonably obscure, but some say that the word started as an acronym. The story goes that in England, the crime of rape was ‘Forced Unlawful Carnal Knowledge’ and part of the punishment for that particular crime was that an abbreviation of the crime would be branded on the perpetrator’s head. The rest is history, so they say. It’s amazing what I can find on the Internet when I look hard enough.

And what about the c-word? It’s bandied about now so much these days it’s even got a mention in the dictionary. According to my Internet resources, there could be many origins for this now famous expletive – one from an old Germanic word ‘kunton.’  A rather amusing history to this word, if you are so inclined to go there, is in the English middle ages, where both Oxford and London boasted districts called ‘Gropecunte Lane’ in reference to some of the ladies that worked there. The names have been changed, of course, and have faded into obscurity, although the Bank of England is now located smack bang in the old London district. Makes you wonder eh?

I’ve enjoyed the stories of some of the origins of the so-called acronym SHIT. Once again, the origins of this word are obscure and it is likely to have been derived from an old English word ‘scite’, which morphed into ‘schitte.’ I rather like the historical story, which is entirely believable and, if you weren’t involved in it at the time, amusing. The story begins back in the olden days (again), when everything was transported by ship. Manure was often transported in this way. When packed below deck on board dry, it was fine. Once inevitably affected by seawater when packed low, it fermented and produce a by-product – methane. There was enough methane build up below decks to produce quite a sizeable blast if some hapless soul went below with anything resembling a naked flame, as they did back then so that they could see. It was said that several ships were destroyed before the penny dropped. After that, manure was stamped S.H.I.T. –  ‘Ship High In Transit’ – to avoid the ravages of bottom-deck seawater and, therefore, remain dry. Heady stuff indeed, literally. And a much better story. My husband, a seaman, swears by it.

What about ‘crap?’ – as if I hadn’t had enough of bodily functions for a while. The word has links to the middle-English ‘chaff,’ and can mean a lot of different things nowadays in different languages. In America ‘crap’ is an obsolete term for money, the origin of the term ‘craps game’ perhaps. The term ‘crapulence’ comes from the Latin meaning of ‘being drunk.’ Go figure. I rather like the other story, which is entirely plausible, about a Victorian plumber named Thomas Crapper who set himself up as a sanitary engineer in the 1800s. Contrary to popular opinion, he did not invent the world’s first flushing toilet, but he promoted toilets to no end by extolling the idea of sanitary flushing in his business. Imagine that! Makes me kind of glad that I have a rather normal surname.

I could go on, but I won’t. You get the idea. Language is a complex issue, that’s for sure, but there’s definitely some humour in it, and quirkiness if you care to look.

Friends

I went out to lunch with a few friends the other day. Doesn’t sound like anything out of the ordinary, but to me, it was important.

Having friends is important to me. Not because I want to be popular or I need to have a lot of friends to make myself feel good about me, but because any friendships that I am likely to have in my life generally mean something, and are not superfluous.

My husband is my best friend, of course. I believe that above anything else in a relationship of such longevity, friendship counts above all else. Our relationship is not perfect, that’s for sure, but it’s interesting.

My lunch friends are important to me in other ways. These are people that I once worked with for many years. We enjoy each other’s company and we have many things in common. Our get-togethers are a mutually beneficial arrangement for  catching up with the gossip, staying in touch, and enjoying a good social outing. It’s good for my soul. As I live on an island, I can get quite isolated at times, particularly as my husband works away. These ladies know this, and I thank their caring spirits for making the effort for me.

I don’t come by my friends easily, or quickly. I have always been a person who prefers not to be part of the ‘in crowd,’ and was never invited in anyway. I’ve always been a little different. Part of me wanted in, but the other part not really liking it once I got there. I have found that it’s not always good to be like everyone else, to ‘fit in.’  It can do your head in. Over the years I have made peace with the differences, because this is what makes me who I am. I am a little odd, a little eccentric and creative, with a few strange ideas. I don’t invite people into my space willy-nilly. It takes consideration, deliberation, and a little self-projection.

Having said all that, I am quite open to meeting people and sharing ideas and knowledge without encroaching on too much personal space. Just because I don’t fancy having 150 friends on Facebook doesn’t make me a social pariah.

I have less genuine friends, however, than you can count on two hands, but my friendships are valuable, and all enrich my life in some way.

With the advent of new technology, it has become possible to form closer bonds with my established friends, and create one or two new ones. In the last few months, I have been lucky enough to meet a like-minded person studying in the same course as I am, and we are now communicating across thousands of miles of time and space, using computer video links, emails, and forums. It has been a major undertaking for me, as creating a new friendship takes time, patience and balance, to get it right.

I’m in no hurry, and the dye has been cast before me. I am lucky enough right now to be able to enrich my life a little more, share experiences and travel alongside another willing co-conspirator up the street of serendipity for a time to see what happens.

I’m looking forward to a place where we can look back down the miles and say, ‘do you remember when we…?’

Life, or something like it

I come from a family of eccentrics. That’s probably a nice way of putting it. I have a few loose screws in my family closet.

I’ve managed to survive it all though, even if I do have my quirks and idiosyncrasies. I’ve been known to count the socks in the draw occasionally to make sure the washing machine hasn’t eaten them all, and checked the front door 4 or 5 times to make sure it’s locked before I go out. I have shades of OCD in my habits, but nothing that I can’t keep a lid on. Anxiety can be a problem, but then, when you live in a body that has no pituitary and produces no cortisol – the stress hormone – anxiety will be a part of the condition rather than the end result.

I have a reasonably normal life, despite my family history.  I hold no grudge towards a familial genetic predisposition towards madness. My endocrine illness, however, is entirely left field and no other known living or dead relative can lay claim to a brain tumour or a subsequently rare medical condition. I should feel rather special, but I’d rather have more eccentricities than you can poke a stick at than a brain tumour any day.

I consider myself lucky enough to have lived my life with these people though. It has allowed me to see that there are no guarantees in life in how you are going to turn out, and has exacerbated just how ridiculous the myth of normalcy really is.

I had an interesting childhood, that’s for sure. Nothing too crazy, but just enough left wing to make me realise that I was always going to be different. My father never stood still. He was constantly on the go, and had many conversations about many different things. He was hard to keep up with. He was constantly talking and shifting from foot to foot ceaselessly. He never concentrated on anything that didn’t interest him for long though. He excelled at sports, good times, drinking, and impatience. He has never grown out of it, and never grown up. Today he would be diagnosed as having attention deficit disorder. He also had a couple of older relatives that he’s picked up a few tips from.

My brother was a different beast. He played on his own, he talked to himself. He was so smart he could remember entire pages of documents on recall. He  had a few friends but remained happy with his own company, becoming increasingly paranoid over the years. Sometimes he would be outrageously manic and in your face, other times he would be fully immersed in a deep depression. You never knew where you stood. My brother was diagnosed a manic-depressive. He leads a reasonably normal life and holds down a job. As long as nobody bothers him, he is fine.

My grandmother, who came to live with us when I was 6 years old, was a strange mixture of daftness and clarity when the mood suited her. She liked to have a punt on the horses, and could pick a winner at a hundred paces, but she would store the milk in the cupboards and the sugar in the fridge. She washed the floor with green cordial sugar concentrate one day because she thought it was disinfectant. There was no clue in her feet sticking to the floor at all. It took us a week to get the ants out of the place.

My mother was reasonably normal, but I’m pretty sure that she has had little joy over the years and carries the scars of a painful childhood inside. I have never seen my mother cry, but I have seen her take great pleasure in outwitting my father in their later years, who is no match for her quick intellect.

My son, bless his loving nature and good heart, has been diagnosed with schizophrenia. It was distressing at first, but not surprising. We have gotten through it and now he manages his illness successfully. More successfully perhaps than any of his predecessors have handled their mental maladies. Throughout it all he has retained the family dry wit and buys himself T-shirts that proclaim to the world that ‘his voices have better ideas than he does.’

Me? Well I manage to find solace in the fact that there is more suffering and mental anguish in the world than I have been privy to in my lifetime. I am luckier than some, not so lucky as others.  I may not see the bright side of every situation, but I’m not meant to. I can look at the world without expecting or wanting sameness and saneness. I see the irony, the bizarre and the quirkiness that I have become used to, and I’m more comfortable with that.

There is no truth in the normalcy of life or living the societal dream, because a dream is based on what is normal for one life at a time and how it is experienced.

An ironic 24 hours

There are many advantages to having an island address; beaches close by, wildlife, community spirit, no urban sprawl, and peace and quiet whenever I want it.

There are also, at times, disadvantages and downright inconveniences, when the mood suits.

The last 24 hours have been a serious pain in my resolve to stay well and truly out of the rat-race, and stop being a rat.

It all started out well enough. I managed to get in a few hours of study and a couple of cups of tea on the veranda before one of my dogs started throwing up on the kitchen floor. She then staggered into the lounge room and fell onto the floor, shaking uncontrollable.

Naturally, I thought the worst and followed this up with a frantic phone call to my veterinarian on the mainland and booked an appointment for as soon as possible, basically as soon as I could get myself and my dogs off the island and onto the barge.

I locked up the house and packed my gear, the dogs and myself into the car in record time. It didn’t matter how fast I moved though, I still had to endure a rocky 20-minute hair-raising ride in a gale-force swell with a sick dog vomiting all over the back seat.

By the time I made it to the vets, I was feeling a little ill myself, which was exacerbated when I received the bill. It’s amazing just how much cystitis, a low-grade fever, painkillers, and  a course of antibiotics can cost.

I stayed at my father’s place on the mainland for dinner, which was not far away from the vets. It was only after we had cleaned up the car, packed the dogs in, and gotten down to the ferry terminal that I realised that I didn’t have my dog’s antibiotic medication.

We returned to dad’s house and found nothing. We searched the bags and the cars and found nothing. We went back down to the car park and found nothing. I found a green ant’s nest in the dark however, when I stood on it and stirred up about 50 of the nasty little stingers, that then proceeded to bite me all over my left foot and up my leg.

In an effort to get away from the ants, my mother and I sprinted towards the car. As my mother dived into the front seat, she slipped, and the containers full of dog food that she had hold of, flew all over her, me, and the interior of the car. Then it started raining.

My mother and I looked at each other. We both had dog food dripping from our hair. It was in our laps and all over the floor. My leg was stinging and my umbrella was in the other car. My mother started laughing. I looked at her and I laughed too. What else could I do? It was either laugh or go over the edge.

I decided to abandon the idea of getting back to the island that night, and had a sleepover at Dad’s house with the dogs. The next day I picked up the medication from the vets, which incidentally they had forgotten to give to me the night before.

Thank god for my mother, who could see the funny side of something that didn’t appear to be funny at the time. Once again, she has proven to me that there is humour, or a good side, to be found in what might seem to be a dark moment, if you look hard enough, or are warped enough.

I hope some of that has rubbed off on me.