Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Update for a Tuesday Evening

Thanks to everyone who wished Daisy a speedy healing. You guys are the best. Her nose is finally on the mend, and now looks much less like strawberry pie filling and more like your everyday, run-of-the-mill scab. Sure, you could play Frisbee with this scab, maybe even shellac it and serve a turkey dinner on it this Thanksgiving, but it’s a scab nonetheless. No more of this weeping, oozing, bleeding stuff.

The bad news is that given her frequent head-shaking and ear-scratching, she may now have an ear infection. And given the compulsive chewing and licking of her paws, she may also have an allergy or two to boot. In fact, the vet suggested last week that her nose issue could have begun as a severe allergic reaction to any number of items: pollen, an insect bite or two, dust mites, something she ate, watching a few minutes of According to Jim, and on and on. Ugh. So it’s back to the animal hospital later this week for further clarification, just to be safe. (There are several veterinarians employed by this particular facility, so we don’t always get the guy with the Joe Pesci bedside manner.)

I also spent more on natural foods, canine supplements, and healing potions in the last few days than I care to admit. Apparently, one of the reasons I was put on this earth was to prove the adage, “There’s a sucker born every minute!” And I’ll be damned if I don’t get the most mileage from MY minute.

Also, I decorated for Halloween. I know, I know, it’s not even October yet. But I may actually have what is known in some socially-adept circles as “plans” for each of the next four weekends. And THEN when would I have time to arrange my gourds and teeny orange lights in an approximation of non-suckage?

Besides, I’m not the only Halloweenie in the neighborhood. I’m just the only one without an inflatable Frankenstein billowing on the lawn.

Did I mention we get over 100 trick-or-treaters every year? We become a chocolate dispensing MACHINE on Halloween. So with all of those visitors, I’d be risking an egging without some kind of spooky décor. And since our new siding just may be installed by then, I really want to avoid that.

In other news, I spoke with my editor (briefly) last week. Riding with Larry Resnick IS moving to Random House. But until our next conversation (scheduled for the end of this week), I won’t know more about the timeline or format. SOOOO…mystery only partially solved. But things look hopeful. I’ll keep you posted on the developments. As long as I haven’t had hip replacement surgery or started mainlining Celebrex by the time the book comes out, I’ll be happy.

And finally, my take on the slew of movies we’ve rented in the past week or two.

The Ringer: better than I thought it would be. I don’t know if I should be embarrassed to admit this. Probably.

Friends with Money: rent this movie tonight, but only if you enjoy witty, entertaining social commentary with a relatively happy ending. Otherwise, avoid.

Hard Candy: suitable for bonfires. Or perhaps an experiment involving the microwave.

Poseidon: Get ready to break it down Crow T. Robot style. (Or Tom Servo, if he was your favorite.)

RV: better than I thought it would be. Again, I’m conflicted about admitting this publicly.

Um, Hollywood movie people? Please make some good films soon. PLEASE.

Well, there is the next Christopher Guest flick. That's worth waiting for.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006


It started Sunday morning. Having stayed up late the night before, J and I decided to sleep in as long as our bodies would remain horizontal. I remember thinking at one point (perhaps upon realizing that my Grandma had probably been awake for five hours by then) that Gee, isn’t it great that Daisy likes to sleep in, too? She never jumps on the bed at 6:30 to demand I let her out when there's still dew on the lawn!

Daisy, for those of you unfamiliar, is my four year-old Cairn Terrier. She was brought home after Marley, my first attempt at owning a Cairn, broke my heart by dying of kidney failure at 12 weeks of age in the summer of 2002. Daisy can shake the snot out of a stuffed devil and makes the strangest gurgles and whines while chewing a purple rubber shoe that lost its squeaker long ago. She’s also a champion barker: at the ringing telephone, at dogs walking by on the sidewalk, at squirrels with the temerity to scramble through our backyard, at human sneezes, at the call signal for our local public radio station.

But her sweet side makes up for it all. She’s my buddy, and never fails to crack me up with her nightly sprints around the house, her “nyum-nyum-nyum” growl when she’s annoyed, the way she play-bows before a single piece of kibble on the rug, dancing around it before burying it in the couch cushions.

Did I mention she can throw a tennis ball back at you? No small feat for someone lacking opposable thumbs!

When I finally came downstairs on Sunday Daisy sidled up next to me as usual, hoping I’d drop a bit of cereal on the floor. I noticed that she had a cut on the bridge of her nose. Upon closer inspection, I spotted several raised blisters across the top of her muzzle. I figured she must have simply gotten into something in the night—maybe she’d been bitten by a spider, or perhaps she was exhibiting a severe allergic response to some weeds she’d been sniffing and rooting around in during our walk late the night before. Either way, I was confident it would clear up by the end of the day. She's a terrier! Terriers are tough!

I was wrong. By Sunday night her upper nose was a swollen, bleeding mess. She was lethargic, looking at me as if to say: just make it stop. So like the good little hypochondriac that I am, I got online to see if I could determine what the problem might be.

What an interstellar mistake. By the end of the night I was sobbing, determined that she had an autoimmune disease that would require lifelong, painful treatments and we’d have to say good-bye to her long before we should. I wondered how I could come home from work if she wasn’t there to greet me at the door, wagging her tail and flopping onto her back for a reunion belly-rub. I could visualize the empty, quiet house, her untouched basket of toys in the corner, the fact that I'd probably still find doghair on the furniture, maybe a long-lost chunk of rawhide wedged behind the fridge even years after she was gone--talk about your recipe for an intense crying jag. Good god it can suck to have an overactive, worry-prone imagination.

After reaching nothing but a busy signal for an hour at my vet on Monday morning, we actually got a break: a ten o’clock appointment had cancelled—could we be there in fifteen minutes?

Daisy’s nose was even worse by then: the ulcerated mass of lesions had swollen dramatically. She was lethargic, lacking even the energy to bark at the grumbling coffee maker. I didn’t want to be “that owner,” but I decided to bring with us to the vet a printout describing the autoimmune disease I feared most, with the name of the condition (pemphigus foliaceus), key descriptive symptoms (ulcerated lesions across the bridge of the nose), and age of onset (four years of age. Good lord, Daisy’s four years of age!) highlighted in yellow. So I folded that printout and brought it in with us, because two hours of online research certainly trumps years of veterinary training.

After a long wait in the exam room, the vet whisked Daisy back into the bowels of the facility to shave her nose, which must have been quite the ordeal, given Daisy's general hatred of all things vet-like. (Also, we could hear her yelping down the hall.) He then prescribed some antibiotic ointment and pills and was hustling us out of there when I spoke up, “Um, I know it probably drives you nuts when people try to diagnose their pets' illnesses on the Internet, but you don’t suppose she’s got an autoimmune disease, do you? Her symptoms are a pretty good match.”

He shook his head, futzing with some paperwork at the counter. “Let’s see what the antibiotics do. Half a pill daily, and put that cream on her nose twice a day. It should clear thing up in no time. Come back in ten days for a follow-up if it’s not healing.”

Ten days? my mind echoed. Ten days of wrestling my dog twice a day to rub salve on the raw wound above her nose? Ten days of watching her suffer, of trying to keep her from scratching her healing wound?

“What can we do to keep her from scratching it? Should she get one of those collars?”

The vet acted as if I’d told him a knock-knock joke he’d already heard a thousand times. “She’d be miserable in one. The cream should help with the itching.”

Daisy was looking pretty miserable without one, but I chalked that up to the whole nose-shaving experience.

On the way home, I was optimistic. We had ointment! We had bug-fighting pills! I would order natural supplements and make her a homemade dinner! Staph infection, begone!!

Unfortunately, it’s now late Tuesday night, and while she’s peppier than she was yesterday, her nose is still a raw, bumpy, oozing mess.

I’d say it was pretty gross if she wasn’t my dog. I guess in that respect I think I can relate to parents. I mean, who cares about a little icky thing like vomit when the health of your child is at stake?

She’s sleeping at my feet right now with a white lifeguard nose and dream-twitches. I’m hoping that she recovers, and that we’re not looking at a shortened lifetime of steroid treatments and pain and tests and vet visits. The Internet is full of heartbreaking stories of animals in similar situations. I’m hoping she recovers because I think she’s got a lot of house sprints left in her, and a lot more barking at squirrels to do. And I’m just not ready to say good-bye.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Things to do this weekend. Regis Philbin not included.

Every fall I get ants in my pants about getting off my lazy ass (which took root on my lawn chair quite nicely in the hot summer weather) and actually participating in life. You know, going to events! Engaging in activities! Making craft items from empty soda bottles, glitter, and felt!

Based on conversations with similarly antsy-friends and family members, I’m guessing that you too may have an urge to enjoy some Autumn activities. Perhaps you’re jonesing to visit an orchard and go on a hayride while crunching away on a wasp-infested caramel apple. Maybe you want to savor the last warm days of the year with a color-infused drive through Local Scenery of Note (argument with significant other included). Or you could just be looking for new ways to distract yourself from ever having to balance your checkbook again.

I’m here to help.

First, you could check out this film project in production. Click on “In Production” and then “Don’t miss the amazing story of Valen Sheriff!” Valen graciously read an early draft of Riding with Larry Resnick to make sure I wasn’t totally full of crap. (The main character of my novel, like Valen, has Polycystic Kidney Disease. I don’t. Hence, our connection.) Not only is Valen inspiring as hell, she’s also incredibly sweet and so pretty it’s almost alarming. The kind of alarming that makes you want to run out and get plastic surgery, liposuction on your pooch, and a complete personality lift even though you've never even had a professional manicure in your life.

Anyway, I'm looking forward to the film. Moving on to more film-oriented goodness, check out this Pittsburgh-based web series that’s way better than whatever you’re doing at work right now. It's called Something to be Desired, and according to them, it's like Friends, only funny. That made me laugh, so I knew I had to check it out. I did. I was entertained. Thanks to cast member Erik Schark for the tip! Bejeweled? You are being officially tossed to the curb in favor of something more interesting. (I was going to do a cutesy play on the title, but I thought it might trigger your gag reflex.)

Want to buy some soy candles that stink like punkins? Check out Pure Integrity or Rosegirls Candles. No, their candles don’t actually stink. They’re actually quite delicious-smelling. So delicious that after smelling Rosegirls’ Brown Sugar & Chestnuts my mouth watered and I almost licked my fingers. Plus, it turned out that I live in the same city as Rosegirls, so they delivered them right to my front door. For free! I received free sample candles from both companies, too. Did you hear that? FREE!!! I’m in smelly wax-heaven.

Want to read some funny shit? Well, since you won’t find it here, check out the writings of Laura House (I especially enjoyed "Jesus in L.A.") and Jill Soloway. Sir Awesome's Review Revue is worth a perusal. The To-Do List is pretty good, too.

As for activities that require you to bathe and get out of your computer chair, I might not be of much help unless you live in Wisconsin, where the beer flows through the streets like … um, beer, until the cheese binds it up. This weekend, if you’re in Wisconsin, you can help me organize our garage. Or you could go to the mid-September Oktoberfest in Chippewa Falls for some polka, or Fall-O-Rama in Waupaca, or Green County Cheese Days in Monroe, or Food for Thought in Madison or Pumpkin Fest in Ripon or the Whooping Crane Festival in Necedah or the Wine & Harvest Festival in Cedarburg. There are probably some nature hikes and shit happening somewhere, too. Nationwide, you could join any of the Walks to Cure PKD. Or you could just stay home and watch Angels with Dirty Faces on TCM Saturday night.

I’m ashamed to admit that I typed that to see what kind of Google searches would lead people to this site.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

It’s Tuesday Already?

First, a poor excuse for an update on my last post. I still don’t know much more about what happened across the street last Wednesday. I haven’t seen our neighbors’ grandson, which unsettles me, but I also haven’t seen any relevant fire call or death notices in the paper. *shudder* The adults have been around, and nobody seems particularly distressed or out of sorts, which is a good sign, I suppose. But we’re not exactly dealing with well-balanced individuals here. So I’ll have to touch base with some of my friends in social services and the local police department to see if any light can be shed. (We civil servants travel in packs. And our name is Legion…)

On to the rest of the circus. Saturday my best friend and I attended the Wausau Art Festival, which was much more of an actual Festival With Capital Letters than we’d anticipated. We had no idea where to park or where the main festivities were happening. So we had to play lemmings for a while, following the rest of the herd toward the hum of electricity and voices. Luckily, we didn’t end up at a Baptist revival but at a place that served glorious fried foodstuffs and meat products on sticks and caramel apples and enough cotton candy to induce twitching until Yom Kippur.

The day was a success: clear skies, sun, moderately-priced yet fun home décor, live music, dozens of talented artists displaying their work, and I think I already mentioned the fried foodstuffs. So I should have known that the night would be a smashing disappointment.

The night actually culminated with my decision to never again patronize one of the major grocery stores in my city. But it began with something that seemed like a good idea at the time: hey, let’s make Bloody Marys! But we don’t want to go to a bar and order a Bloody Mary like a normal person. Mostly because we feel fat, our outfits might lead one to believe that Phil Collins’ “Don’t Care Any More” is our closet’s National Anthem, and our hair smells and looks like vomit on a school bus. So let’s make Bloody Marys in the comfort of our own home!

Since we didn’t have any of the key ingredients (the first sign of a bad idea), I had to leave the comfort of my home to seek them out in the community. So off I zipped to a local grocery store to buy tomato juice, vodka, garlic, Tabasco sauce, pickles, olives, celery salt, and celery. (We already had Worcester sauce. You know, to season all the dead animals I don’t eat.)

And guess what? The store was OUT OF CELERY. What kind of grocery store is out of celery? A grocery store that hates vegetables and the people who eat them, that’s what kind. And guess what else? I had to stand in line* behind the entire population of Houston, which had conspired to drive to Wisconsin to stock up on a month’s worth of groceries that very night at this particular store. So I got in line with my basket of Bloody Mary fixings, an eternity of space, time, and annoyance stretching between me and delicious, spicy intoxication.

But what was this? An empty check-out lane right next to this Soviet-era bread line? My heart soared as it did when I discovered I’d lost five pounds from the flu last winter. I left my place in line with a bounce in my step, dancing my way to the empty check-out lane. I was giddy with excitement. How could this lane be empty? I chuckled to myself at the failure of my fellow shoppers’ powers of observation. Ha! Ha! Silly sheeple, I thought. I scoff at your willingness to trade valuable time and energy for an evening shifting your weight back and forth as you wait in line to pay for your Lunchables and Captain Crunch.

And then I saw the sign. “Alcohol-free lane.” The clerk smirked as my smile fell off my face and the lightness fled my step. I peered into the gaping maw of disappointment. So THIS is how it feels to be a Packer fan this season!

By the time I left the store, I’d witnessed an irrational argument between the man in line behind me and a clerk over this “alcohol-free” lane policy. I’d also grown eligible to collect Social Security and developed four new age spots, cankles, mild arthritis, high blood pressure, and inexplicably, restless leg syndrome. I have much to ask my doctor about.

So how were the Bloody Marys? Well, take my advice. Don’t add creamy horseradish, extra lemon, or lime-flavored pickles to your concoction. Just stick to the basics.

Later this week: fun things to do, see, taste, smell, or hear this fall. They have nothing to do with Regis Philbin, I promise.

*Is it “on line” or “in line?” Have I just fallen victim to another Wisconsinism?

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Another Quiet Night in the Neighborhood

I was all set to write a new blog entry about my Labor Day weekend and the effect autumn has on my wallet and the local soy-based candle industry, but then….excitement. Danger. Horror. And finally, an anticlimactic but relief-filled denouement.

Yes folks, it’s that time of year again. The time when you’re relaxing at home on the couch after a long day of work, watching a late night comedy special on HBO or perhaps a B-flick about humanoids from the black lagoon, when it begins.

You hear sirens.

You see four firetrucks. And two ambulances.

They are parking in front of your house.

Police cruisers screech to a stop, blocking the intersection across from your house and splashing red lights through your living room. In fact, everything is bathed in red strobelights. For a minute you believe your new garage is aflame. Maybe the vandals have struck again…this time, with arson! Then worry churns in your gut. Is it your elderly neighbor Wes?

And other neighbors, perhaps just strangers on their way home from dinner at the restaurant down the street, still bearing the remains of their fried dinners in small Styrofoam boxes, plop down on your corner lot retaining wall or congregate in front of your porch for the best view.

Because another awful event has swung to town, and it’s arrived on your doorstep. Almost one year ago to the day, it was a police standoff. Tonight, although the details are very sketchy (the fire trucks and ambulances are still parked around my house as I write this), it seems our new neighbors have had a small house fire.

The worst, the most shocking and gut-kicking thing, was watching a fire fighter carry our neighbor’s infant grandson out of the house to the ambulance parked in front of our porch.

The baby wasn’t moving.

As I watched that firefighter gently, almost reverently, carrying the silent, tiny baby down a sidewalk I’d swept only hours earlier, I felt a subterranean level of fear I’ve rarely felt. Thankfully, I heard that the baby is going to be alright. I wish I knew more about what happened, but that will have to wait until I read tomorrow’s paper.

So my light-hearted blog entry will be delayed. But this is certainly a good reminder to check your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, and hug your family twice.