Jul 21, 2014

Where is Sarah McLachlan When You Need Her?

UPDATE: I received pictures of this poor baby. The quality is blurry because the photographer was a little afraid of getting caught trespassing. I was told the dog is tied to the pipe, with no food, or water beyond what concerned citizens bring to it.

This post isn’t about me (shocking!) It’s about a little dog being abused/neglected in a little town in Michigan, and how the “authorities” don’t want to do anything about it. I’m hoping that social media can do what it sometimes does, and right a wrong.

My friend lives in Alpena, Michigan. I’ve known her, well, pretty much all my life. She is a lover of underdogs, human and otherwise. She’s a special education teacher, mother to two amazing kids, loving wife, and a friend to all animals, large and small.

Every day she drives by a field and sees this poor little dog, neglected in a huge empty field. Every. Day. This poor fur-baby of unknown pedigree has only a plastic house for shelter. In the heat of summer, with nothing to shade it, the temperature of that house must exceed 120 degrees. In winter, I can’t begin to imagine how cold it is.

Every day my friend stops to make sure this little guy has food and water. She’s talked to the so-called owner of this “pet” and he laughs and tells her to move along. The owner knows that no one is going to do anything to him.

I hope that doesn’t stay true.

My friend, this lover of creatures in need, worries about him. She goes and talks to him. She says he wags his tail at her. Her heart breaks. She’s worried about ticks. She’s debated stealing him in the dead of night (a move I encouraged) but personal circumstances (and, unfortunately, morals) prevent her from doing so.

A few days ago, she discovered that another person was as concerned about this little guy as she was. So concerned, she wrote a Letter to the Editor of the Alpena paper in hopes that someone would save this poor animal’s life.  Apparently, no one wants to officially help.

So let’s see if we can change that.

According to the Humane Society of the United States, when you notice an animal suffering from cruelty, abuse, or NEGLECT, you are to notify the police and the proper animal welfare agency.  

Well - it just so happens I know how to Google.

You can call the Alpena County Sheriff's Department at 989-354-9839. Please tell them that you have become aware of a small dog being a victim of extreme neglect, located near 6422 Werth Road in Alpena, Michigan 49707

You can also call the Huron Humane Society at (989) 356-4794 or email them at manager.hhs@frontier.com.

I would also recommend emailing the Humane Society of the United States at this address: crueltyresponse@humanesociety.org and/or calling them at 866-720-2676 Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 11 p.m., or Saturday and Sunday 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern time.

According to the HSUS, law enforcement can get involved.   “The officer may speak with the owner and issue a citation and give the owner a chance to correct the violation.”

“If the neglect or abuse is extreme, a humane agency may take custody of the animals to protect them. The agency will present the case to the prosecutor's office for further evaluation and possible prosecution.”

Please. Do what you can to help. Call the officials whose job it is to serve and protect these animals. This little dog deserves more than to die in a field all alone, especially when there are people in the community willing to take him in and love him.

Don’t make me play the video.

Jul 15, 2014

Chasing Beauty

A friend tagged me in a post today on Facebook. It requested (required, encouraged, obligated...) me to post five pictures of myself in which I felt beautiful. I responded that, while her pictures were indeed beautiful, I would be opting out.

I have never been beautiful. I am not saying that in the coy way some women use in order to garner compliments. I know what I am, and I know what I am not. I am not beautiful.

In thinking about writing this post, I wondered if, in my formative years, I was ever told I was beautiful. If I was, I don’t remember it. But I don’t think so. I seem to recall “cute” - maybe “pretty” - but “beautiful” doesn’t spark any memories for me. It is not as though my mother didn’t know how to say the word, she thought both of her sisters were beautiful. She mentioned one of my friends was beautiful. But me? No. I don’t think that was ever a word connected to me.

My high school friend was (and still is) beautiful. Julee, of the huge, expressive blue eyes, the blond hair, the golden skin. She has this breathy voice that makes everything she says sound sweet, and maybe a little sexy. Growing up, she is what I thought beauty was.

In my 20s, the twosome of Becky and Traci - they were my beauty ideals. Becky is the friend my mom said was beautiful. “So beautiful, she doesn’t seems real” is how my mom described her. Hair like a rain of dark silk, flashing dark eyes, ruby red lips, and skin like porcelain. She looked like a priceless doll. She still does.

Traci was fierce. She has a black belt in karate. Wide greenish eyes, hair drawn tightly back, lips that would put Angelina Jolie’s to shame. She exuded an “I don’t give a shit” attitude behind a facade that was uniquely gorgeous. This was beauty to me.

In my 30s and now, it’s my friend Tammi. She has eyes that are like topaz. Yellow, like a lioness. Who the hell can rock yellow eyes? Hair that has been a rainbow of colors and always manages to be stunning. A wide smile of perfect, white teeth (and she never had braces). And, let’s face facts, the bitch is still a size two after giving birth to three children. She is beautiful.

I’m not. I never have been. The closest I ever came to it was on my wedding day to my kids’ dad. I felt... more than pretty that day. At least for a little while. One time, I asked my then husband what he thought when he saw me walking down the aisle? His response? This man who wrote me poetry and had a heart full of romance took the first time I ever knowingly fished for a bit of romantic prose and replied, “Nice tits.” Eh. So much for that.

It’s strange for me, this concept of beauty. I don’t often tell Claire she is beautiful. Not because I don’t think she is (I do), but because so many people say she looks so much like me, that it leaves me with the queasy feeling I’m calling myself beautiful. So I say she is strong. She is smart. She is kind. And I leave the label of beautiful for special times when I know she feels it herself.

Five pictures. Too many. Too hard. But here’s what I’ve got.

I have a picture with this man. I don’t feel beautiful, but it doesn’t stop him from saying it, every day.

These two children. They’re beautiful and they’re mine.

Okay yes... it’s the 80s. And I’m wearing a hoop skirt. And the whole thing is just too precious for words. But, it was the first time I’d ever really dressed up in my life and I felt like a movie star. So... this. Yup.

Sorry for the poor quality but after the age of 14 I started avoiding having my picture taken.I don’t know if I felt “beautiful” in this picture, but I know I loved how my hair turned it. Yes... I had “the Rachel”. And I rocked it.

These are my Minnesota friends, Tammi and Julie. I never look very good sitting between the two of them, but in this ONE picture I actually held my own. It was an ugly sweater party, so that kind of figures.

I will never be beautiful. But I am funny, smart, strong, and witty. And that’s okay with me.

Jul 7, 2014

What Happens If The Drama IS Your Mama?

Since the 4th of July, I have endured a heated, acrimonious email battle with another mother - complete with insults to my person and my parenting style, and accusations that I am a manipulative instigator.  Why, you ask? Because my 11 year old daughter invited her friend to join her for an honor roll celebration at Great Wolf Lodge.

Crazy, right?

Let’s back track.

For the two months before school got out, Claire was struggling grade-wise, and her honor roll status was in jeopardy.  School is VERY important in this house, and, as I like to say, the kids have ONE job - to succeed in school. They don’t have a ton of assigned chores outside of keeping their rooms cleaned (although they are expected to help when I ask), because I expect them to devote their time and energy to their classwork.

Yes - I know that Claire has the whole incurable brain disease thing working against her, but we have a plan in place to address those difficulties. She wasn’t using the services provided to her and she was doing badly. So badly, that she was grounded for a week from pretty much everything - the first time she had ever been grounded - because of poor performance. After that “Come to Jesus” moment, (miraculously!) Claire was able to bring ALL her grades up by the end of the school year, achieve honor roll, and she also received the President’s Award for Academic Achievement. Hurrah!

Quinn also busted butt this school year. He had a personal goal to achieve the All A honor roll in the last trimester. He ended up missing it by one point - but his dedication to the task was worthy of reward as well.

The reward? Quinn and Claire were each allowed to select a friend to bring with them for an overnight stay at Great Wolf Lodge. Swimming, Magi Quest, fun, and frivolity for all! Claire loves e.v.e.r.y.o.n.e. so choosing just ONE friend to invite was difficult. Finally, she decided to invite Emily, Peter’s daughter. And that’s where things got messy.

See, Peter and his ex have been embroiled in a contentious, acrimonious, litigious, and (IMHO) ridiculous battle for the past 4.5 years. It has been costly, both emotionally and financially, for all parties involved. As much as humanly possible, I try to stay out of it. This is not my battle, nor my drama. However, since his ex has attacked me and my children in both the courtroom and the court of public opinion, I have been forced to defend myself at times. It’s gotten so ugly, my ex-husband has retained legal counsel in order to protect our children and me from her attacks. I mean, we’re talking a whole new level of cray-cray.

Despite all this, the girls, Claire and Emily, are friends. They are only 8 months apart and have several similar interests: WebKinz, loom bracelets, and Animal Jam among them. They frequently “hang out” on the computer, chatting and playing their games. Sometimes the kids will meet at the local playground to hang out in real life. It’s obvious they enjoy one another’s company, so it didn’t surprise me that Claire wanted to invite her as her guest to Great Wolf Lodge. However, knowing how things can go south so fast when dealing with Peter’s ex, I felt that it would be better... safer... if I asked Emily’s mother first, before Claire invited Emily. I sent an email, explaining that Claire had earned a trip to GWL and wanted to invite Emily, and if it would be okay. She replied that it sounded like something Emily would enjoy. Good enough! Claire got to ask Emily, the girls were really excited, and all was well in the world! Yay!


Two days later, at midnight on the 4th of July, I receive a nastygram from Emily’s mother, angry that Quinn and Peter were going to GWL as well, pissed that I hadn’t invited Emily’s younger brother, and informing me that Emily could not go because she was sobbing and guilt stricken because her brother wasn't invited too. Wait... what?

Like I said... the girls being friends gets messy.

See - I look at it like this: There are times where the girls do “something” between friends - a birthday party, a sleepover, a reward celebration - those are situations where Claire is asking to spend time with Emily. When those situations arise, I am the one who communicates with Emily’s mother.  The are other times - a camping trip, a Halloween celebration, a trip to the pool at Crystal Mountain - where it’s visitation with Peter and his kids, and HE makes those arrangements with his ex. To me, this occasion seemed pretty clear - Claire was inviting Emily as her guest for her celebration, the same way Quinn invited his classmate as his guest. It never occurred to me to invite Daniel because this wasn’t parental visitation - this was Claire inviting her friend, who just so happened to be Peter’s daughter.

Through the course of all of this, I found out that Emily’s mother was using Emily as the tool to interrogate my child in order to perpetuate her fight with Peter and me. And that’s where things really became NOT okay with me. Peter’s ex pimped out her own daughter to question mine in order to create a huge, allegedly tear-filled, drama-drenched fight. All so she could deny Emily an opportunity to do something fun with her friend, Claire, and do so under the guise of me being a horrible, cruel, manipulative mother for taking MY son along to the honor roll celebration, but not taking HER son too.

The thing is, I don’t make my children do everything together. They are individuals, and thus need to develop individual friends, interests, and attitudes. They aren’t conjoined twins, they are two separate people, and I treat them that way.  They both do acting classes, but I won’t let them be in the same class. Quinn goes to (and loves) his youth group, and although Claire has begged for months to be able to go too, I won’t let her. That is Quinn’s thing to enjoy, without his annoying little sister tagging along. Heck, I signed them both up for sailing class but Claire is doing the morning one and Quinn the afternoon so they can have some time apart. Quinn has his birthday parties without Claire, and vice versa, and it’s been that way for years. They do family things with each other, like weddings, vacations, etc., and friend things apart. Simple, right?

This just seemed so clear in my head - this was Claire and Quinn inviting their friends, not a blended family outing. It never occurred to me that Peter’s ex would make Daniel out to be some pathetic, excluded victim and Emily would be made to feel like she was a horrible, selfish sister for wanting to go do something fun with her friend. What kind of mother creates those kinds of emotions in their kids?

For 4.5 years I have dealt with this... person... calling me horrible names, spreading lies about me and my family, attacking my children. I have watched her belittle and disparage her children’s father again and again, in public and in private. And have I mentioned the lies? I have had complete strangers come up and tell me the things she has told them about me, my family, my life. And I’ve stayed silent (mostly). But this? This is about screwing over a kid to further her own ridiculous, vindictive, and cruel agenda. I’m disgusted, furious, and appalled.

Six ugly emails later and the result is, the girls’ friendship is irreparably harmed, as Emily’s mother sits, like a fat spider in her web of lies, happy with that result. It’s what she likely wanted all along.  How sad.