Monday, March 29, 2010

Woman's Best Friend

I've said for years that, although I love dogs, I'll take a cat any day. You can leave a cat with a bowls full of water and food and a clean litter pan and take off for a week...and you don't have to walk them. So, I don't know what I was thinking (or if I even was) when I answered an add on Craigslist for a give-away Siberian Husky.

My son bought a 10-wk-old white and tan Husky that he brought for a visit and, naturally, I fell in love in love with it. My son's working on enlisting in the Navy, so I told him that if he went in, I'd keep his pup for him until he returned. I believe that offer set me on the path to being a dog-owner. A couple of my daughters extended my son the same offer...and I started paying more attention to pet classified ads.

I am now the proud owner of a 1½-yr-old, pure white, female Siberian Husky who I've named Zöe. She'd been rescued by the guy I got her from and terribly neglected by the first owner. I was so happy the day I looked out my window and realized that I could no longer see her ribs.

Zöe is absolutely the best-natured dog you can imagine. She is a Husky, though, which means that she likes to RUN...and if she gets away unknowingly she won't be sticking around the yard. She's escaped the confines of the yard three times. Let me tell you, a free dog can get expensive real fast, and I haven't been extravagant. She's chewed through a canvas collar, canvas leash, and a harness so far, and now has a chain tether in the yard.

Zöe is a wonderful companion. She is calm and mellow when inside or outside on her own, but loves to run and play, too. If I want to go away on an excursion that I can't include her in, kenneling costs will just have to be a part of the trip budget. All-in-all, I'm very happy with my decision to adopt her.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Four Legs Are More Sturdy Than Three.

Back in 1987, after being fired from a bookkeeping position that I really wasn't qualified for and wasn't good at, I decided that I needed to get an education. I enrolled at South Dakota State University; my youngest daughter was born during finals my first semester. I started out with the intention of becoming a teacher because they have the best work schedules for mothers, and I love kids. A year or so later I decided that I really should do what I want to do for me, and switched to pre-law. Time passed, I had my son, separated from and divorced my husband. Along the way I decided that I should do what I love, and changed my major to theater. One semester of that was more than enough of the politics involved in the theater department and I was back to being lost.

One evening I heard the campus radio station call for DJs. I couldn't make the meeting, so called the number given. I was given three CDs to proof for profanity. I trained one night on a Blues show and the next week was given the show permanently. I was really good at being a DJ and felt that I'd found my calling. I changed my major to Mass Communications. I held that show for five-and-a-half years and developed a devout following, but never marketed myself and eventually just fell away from the position. I still believe that I will 'make my fortune' doing what I've been told all my life I do too much of: talking.

Some semesters I attended full-time, some I worked part-time and went to school part-time, some I just worked. My study habits never really improved over high school and I was a poor student, never finishing my degree. One of my biggest issues was that I was always torn between being a mother or having a career. I always wanted deeply to focus exclusively on both. Yes, I realize the contradiction of that statement, but it's totally accurate...and that's my problem.

In the end of 1995, my ex-husband sued me for custody of our four children (I had no legal rights to the oldest, who lived mostly with him). I retained custody, but as a result of the battle I realized that I would be in Brookings until my children were grown. I wasn't about to have latch-key kids for barely over minimum wage, which is what I'd have made in commercial radio in Brookings. I had a good friend who was a daycare provider, I'd babysat in my home before, and it was at that point that I decided to start a daycare in my home.

In 2003 I returned to the work-world in preparation for my eventual 'emancipation' once my youngest graduated. Actually, though, I was tired of being a three-year-old all day and needed more intellectual stimulation. Being a single parent, I had kids who needed me at home in the evenings and daycare was pretty isolating for me. OK, in all honesty I had every Wednesday night and every-other weekend to myself while the kids were with their dad. But I spent that time in the bar shooting pool ("She was pretty good, too" - to quote Morphine, my favorite band.

To be completely honest, I could have become involved civicaly while the kids were at home. I just had no interest in Brookings civicaly. Plus, I was one hot chic, even though I was thirty-something. Despite having had four kids, I had a knock-out figure and I enjoyed the reaction that I got from the young men at the bar. I also liked kicking ass at the pool tables.

So, I worked a few different jobs and finally transitioned to Sioux Falls just after my baby boy finished school. After two years, I started a daycare in my home again, which I'm very happy with. I've learned to treat my daycare as a business, which I was not doing before (when I pretty much shot myself in the foot, as I've done many times, in many respects). Although I don't plan to do daycare forever (and have many dreams, as you'll see) it works well for now and the next several years. And I still love kids.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Background - Third Leg (and a long one)

The city where I lived in Upstate New York, Elmira, then had a population of about 40,000, although it's down to 30,000 in 2000). Elmira is a river city located about ½ way across the long southern New York State/Pennsylvania border. Geographically, the area is spectacular. located in the foothills of the Adirondack Mountains. When kids wanted to joy-ride, we went to places like Harris Hill, the self-proclaimed glider soaring-capital of the world.

We arrived in South Dakota to the small upper-Midwest town of White (1970 population: about 800), where we stayed with Jay, my biological father. You want to talk about a culture shock. I moved from lovely mountain foothills to farm fields as far as the eye can see. White is about 14 miles from Brookings, and you can literally see one city's water tower from the other city. The biggest hill between the two being the bridge over Interstate 29. After 2 weeks, we moved to Brookings (population: 16,000). I was ecstatic...but not for long.

We arrived in South Dakota only two weeks prior to the start of the school-year. My older brother, Jimmy, had decided that he wouldn't be returning to high school and started looking for a job. I soon learned that most of the kids in Brookings had attended school together since kindergarten. At first, this was wonderful, as I got lots of attention as The New Girl from New York. But it wasn't long before the novelty of me wore off and I was just plain lost. The kids who I met were nice enough, but I didn't really know anyone (in school or out), and I was miserable. After two weeks, I decided that I, too, would work to support the family instead of going to school, and my mother didn't object. I got a job as a waitress...and after three months decided school wasn't so bad, after all.

This time around at the high school I met a whole different crowd of kids. Coming in half-way through the school year, the first kids I met were the ones sitting outside the office; no wonder I fell in with the party crowd. I had no direction or guidance, had no idea what it was I was desperate for, lived for the weekend parties, and continued to care little about academia. I wasn't very assertive as an adolescent and so just stumbled along, eventually dropping out of school just before semester exams in my senior year.

I got a job at a local factory testing electronic components for pop machines. You can imagine how stimulating that was. This was my first job outside of babysitting, and I hated it. I sat for eight hours each day manually adjusting the four metal prongs on relay devices. One day, on my lunch break, I walked to the near-by park, sat on the little foot-bridge, and cried. I never went back. I remember getting yelled at for 'not doing anything' but sleep all day after that; I was lazy and wasting my life. Looking back, I'm sure I was suffering from a pattern of depression that would stay with me for years,if not decades.

My mother was suffering from her own demons at that time. My younger brothers and sister were sent to live with Dad in Missouri. At 18, being sent away was not a consideration for me, so I was put out with my older brother. We rented a sparsely furnished one bedroom apartment. There's a big part of me that would love to be able to go back to that time and place. Oh, the changes I would make to my life. Famous last words, ay? A friend tipped me off to a secretary position open at the local gravel pit, which I applied for and was given. About a month later I moved in with the mechanic, who became my husband a year after that.

Now you know my path to adulthood. The next fourteen years was more of the same stumbling along. My ex-husband had a daughter when I met him. We had two more daughters in the next four years, a daughter four years later, and a son shortly after that. I was with my husband for fourteen years. We separated in 1990, continued the back-and-forth on-again-off-again trends of our marriage for another three years, divorcing late in 1991 and ultimately severing our relationship permanently in June of 1993. I think I'm safe in saying that we both hope we haven't scarred our children too deeply.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Day 2...A Little More Background

I was conceived, I'm told (by my mother, and we women sometimes know these things), in Spirit Lake, Iowa. My parents were moving from Troy, NY, where my father had just finished a degree, to LA, where my father would attend UCLA. They were driving cross-country with my brother, a teething 8-month-old. They made it as far as Spirit Lake where it was mutually decided that the baby wasn't going another mile in the car except to an airport. My mother was not pregnant when they left New York, and was by the time she got to L.A. I was born the next March, 1961.

My parents divorced when I was six months old. Mother moved the children back to Long Island where she married her high school sweetheart who, when I was 4, legally adopted my brother and I. He has been Dad to me since. Mom and Dad gave us a brother and sister and, after a move Upstate, another brother. In 1973 Mom and Dad divorced.

Back in California, my biological father also remarried, had two more sons, and redivorced. As it turned out, he had always regretted the decision to give up his first two children (as had his wife). He and two friends made a trip east in the summer of '73 and Jo had decided to look up his children. He learned of Mom and Dad's divorce from Dad's brother. Before contacting us, he called Dad for permission. And so it was that one quiet afternoon in October of 1973 I answered a call for my mother from "an old friend, Jack, from California" (Weren't all Johns nick-named Jack in the 60s?). Once Mom and Dad divorced, I was no longer forbidden from discussing my parentage and knew exactly who Jack was. I've had two fathers since.

By 1977, Dad had left New York for a job in Missouri. Mom, who had always been a stay-at-home mother, was tired of living on public assistance and could only see one way out. She sold everything that we had, bought an old station wagon, had a huge box built and bracketed to the top of the car for the few possessions we kept, packed the car with the five kids, two dogs, a cat, and five kittens, and hit the road back to California, where you don't have to pay heat bills or buy winter coats. After two days on the road and a day of being stranded on the side of the Interstate just outside Chicago, Mom realized that she didn't have the money it would take to get to California. Knowing someone in Brookings, South Dakota (a friend, 'Jack', from California), Mom decided to go there. Brookings is a mere 3 hours drive from Spirit Lake, Iowa. Thus, I was conceived in Spirit Lake, IA, born in L.A., raised in New York, and wound up stuck a stone's throw from where I first started.

Brookings is a pretty little "Tree-City, USA" city...but we couldn't have got a more opposite climate from Southern California's. Instead of no winter coats or heat bills, we learned what wind-chills and sun-dogs are. Instead of picturesque, gentle snowfalls, we were introduced to the horizontal snow of three-day-blizzards and sub-zero temperatures; instead of no school when it gets all the way down to 17º, we learned of 'plug-ins' for your car's engine and "winter survival kits" for your car's trunk.

To be continued...