Take My Son – Please!!!!

Can a person make an anonymous call to the Child Abuse Hotline to report herself?  I am so tempted.  Not that I have abused my fourteen-year-old son—yet. (Well, unless you consider the abuse I have put him through by making him attend his Zoom classes, do his homework, and refusing to allow him to stay up all night playing X-box and watching TV.) There’s also the discovery and removal from his possession of an M-rated game and an R-rated movie, which constituted a major invasion of his privacy and illegal confiscation of his property. We have even gone so far as to force him to go our church service that is recorded on Saturday, hence endangering his life by exposing him to six other people who are there. But any minute now I may snap. This lack of anywhere to dump him due to the COVID-19 is starting to fray my last nerve.

The child in question stomped into my room the other day after his Zoom literature class and delivered a ten minute diatribe about how “stupid” his homework assignment was and that he didn’t understand it, and why should he have to take these classes in school that he wouldn’t ever use, and he hated everything and everybody.  As it just so happened, I was trying to work on my novel while he opined on the uselessness of literature. I sat and listened until he ran out of steam.

When he finally paused for breath, I said, “Well, what do you think you could do to make this situation better?” Don’t lecture, as it will go in one ear and out the other. Use this as a teachable moment, said my clueless brain.

He didn’t hesitate.  “Burn the stupid books and kill all the stupid writers.”

I burst out laughing, as that solution seemed a tad bit on the extreme side. Kill the writers?  The stupid agents and stupid publishers, maybe, who fail to see the talent of the stupid writers and keep sending stupid rejection notifications, or worse, yet, no notification that the stupid writers ever reached out to the stupid agents and the stupid publishers in the first place; but, even then, I would say that’s a bit of overkill (no pun intended).

Begrudgingly he muttered, “Ask for help?”

Duh!  Why didn’t I think of that?  At least it beat burning the books and killing the writers. So we sat down and went through the story, “The Ransom of Red Chief.” For those unfamiliar with this classic, it is the story of two men who kidnap the son of a prominent businessman and demand a ransom. The tables are turned, however, when the kid in question is an impossible monster who thinks of the whole experience as a great adventure and manages to make the kidnappers’ lives miserable. Then the kid’s father demands the kidnappers pay him for the privilege of bringing the brat home.  I have frequently thought of this story through the years with my son.  Anyone who kidnapped him would certainly pay us to take him back. The assignment of this particular tale couldn’t have been more timely. Or ironic.

This morning, my husband downloaded all the homework assignments that are still missing. Son informed us he had done them all and if they were missing, it was “our fault.”  We are ruining his life and he wishes he lived somewhere else. We have offered to pack his bag, but he always finds an excuse not to leave. (Kind of like the older son who keeps moving back in.)

That’s when I got my bright idea.  If I could just turn myself in to the Child Abuse Hotline, perhaps my son could get his wish. DCF would come and remove this child from our abusive home! The only trick is to report myself while not appearing to come across as though this is really a ploy for recruiting DCF to bail me out from under my responsibility (life sentence) as the mother of my teenager. Hence, anonymity. But then my conscience kicked in. I could never subject other parents to unwittingly taking in my son. Still, if my husband or a good friend turned me in (hint, hint), I wouldn’t complain. I would never even have to know.

~ Pin for Later ~

 

 

 

Teach me Something I don’t know

There is a well-known saying by George Bernard Shaw: Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach. Let me preface this blog by saying I don’t agree with this adage, particularly during the past few weeks when teachers have had to come up with novel ways of getting information into young minds from afar. So, teachers, I have a great deal of respect and gratitude. However, I was reminded of this adage the other day when I was reading through a veterinary journal and came across an article titled Clients driving you nuts? Retrain your brain. Of course this caught my attention, as there isn’t a day goes by that some client doesn’t drive me nuts. But I figure after forty years of practice, I can usually handle it; and I’ve pretty much seen and heard it all.

I don’t believe clients intentionally set out to drive me nuts. People just have their own idiosyncrasies and agendas, which tend to be exacerbated during times of stress. I’m sure the “high-maintenance” owners would never consider themselves to be high-maintenance, just as the clients who interrupt me mid-sentence to take a phone call or change the subject don’t consider themselves rude.  I understand the people who accuse veterinarians of “only caring about the money” are likely worried because of their financial constraints and their concern for their pets. I also know that the words, “I don’t care how much it costs, just fix Fluffy,” literally mean, “I don’t care how much it costs because I’m not going to pay you, anyway.” I can even, somewhat, understand the overly apprehensive client who drops his pet off for surgery, with the warning, “Nothing better happen to my dog,” although this sends my blood pressure through the roof worrying that the unthinkable, unforeseen complication will occur in this particular patient.

Still, I figure I can always use advice when it comes to dealing with difficult clients.  I started reading the article until I read the author bio.  Dr. Jane Doe (named changed), a former practicing veterinarian . . . um, excuse me, but why is Dr. Doe no longer practicing veterinary medicine?  Is it because her clients drove her nuts and she couldn’t take it? Somehow, her credibility took a nosedive in my professional opinion. Sorry, Dr. Doe, but I am on the front lines every day with clients, where I have been for the past forty years.  What do you think you can possibly tell me from your former life in the trenches which I have not already experienced?  And while we’re on the subject, just how long were you in real life practice, Dr. Doe? Hmm?

Dr. Doe proceeds with a long litany of psycho-babble with which to defuse uncomfortable situations, with useful tidbits such as, “awareness of what is happening helps to de-escalate the situation.”  Okay, I am aware that Mr. Jones is yelling at me, his face is an ugly shade of crimson, and the vein in his left temple is throbbing.  Let me stop and think about what Dr. Doe said about this situation.  Oh, yes, this is a fear behavior. (Now I not only have to worry about the fear-biting dog hovering in the corner and peeing on itself, I have to worry about the fear behavior of the owner, too?) Well, I don’t know about Mr. Jones’ fear, but his yelling is sure scaring the heck out of me. Not only am I fearful he is going to grab me by the throat and choke the life out of me, but I’m also fearful he may have a coronary right here in the exam room, and I’ll have to perform CPR on a man who may revive and have a better opportunity to grab my throat now that I’m leaning over him.

Now, what do I do?  Think, think about what Dr. Doe said. Okay, I’m supposed to “remove myself from the drama and take control of the situation by observing the client, silently labeling the client’s fear reaction, and responding without judgement.”  Say what?  I don’t know about Dr. Doe, but I’m making all kinds of judgements here, like how fast can Mr. Jones move around the exam table and can I beat him out the door; could that throbbing blood vessel rupture and spray me with (yikes) human blood; and if worst comes to worst, can I slow him down by throwing my stethoscope at him? I’m also making judgements such as, “I think I’ll refer Mr. Jones to a specialty clinic.  They get paid the big bucks to deal with people like him.”

She finishes with, “This is all about practice.  You won’t get it right the first time, but eventually you’ll be able to choose your responses in any situation.”  Uh huh.  Well, I suggest that since Dr. Doe has it all figured out, she get back into clinical practice where she can put her expertise to the real test.  As for me, my brain is too old to retrain. You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.

~Pin for Later ~

I Want My Adverbs, badly

Since my son is stuck at home learning from Zoom meetings, I tend to overhear what goes on in his classes.  And I’m not just talking about the kid who crunches chips during math or the teacher who had to ask our son to quiet down our cockatiel who was on a merry whistling roll.  In his English class this week they were learning about adverbs. The teacher took the class through many examples of adverbs used in sentences; then for homework, they had to find all the adverbs in sentences in their books and indicate what type of word they modified.

Adverbs, for those of you who have happily (adverb modifying verb) forgotten junior high English, are words that modify verbs, adjectives, or other adverbs. I refuse to go into further explanation because, as all good writers know, using adverbs in our work constitutes a death sentence for ever getting published. As Stephen King said, “The road to hell is paved with adverbs.”

Why, you might ask, are adverbs bad?  Well, according to those in the know (those who tell us struggling writers our writing isn’t good enough), adverbs have the reputation for being “weak” words. It makes me wonder who decided to wage this war against helpless (adverb modifying adjective), grammar words, which are perfectly acceptable when teaching young teenagers to diagram sentences?  If adverbs are so bad, why don’t we just do away with subjecting impressionable young minds to them, altogether, so as not to poison their vocabulary with words which are seen as worthless (adverb modifying adjective), unnecessary clutter? And honestly, who, outside of junior high, diagrams sentences, anyway? Who cares where the adverb goes or what it modifies if it is a useless (adverb modifying adjective), pointless word?

So instead of confusing junior high students’ limited brain bytes with information on how to recognize and use these “weak” words—which they should never use in the first place—why not just tell them, “Never use a word that ends in ‘ly’?” (Can you writers out there believe the teacher actually assigned a whole page of sentences for the students to fill in blanks with appropriate “ly” words?) This would save a whole week of teaching useless adverbs and leave time for teaching something beneficial, such as dangling participles. “And never, ever use the very, very redundant word, ‘very.’” It is a very, unnecessarily, weak word.

Methinks this prejudice against adverbs has gone too far. Why ban a legitimate part of speech?  I love a good adverb.  I greatly love a good adverb.  I seriously love a good adverb. I un-apologetically love a good adverb. I say let’s give adverbs their due!  (Oh, I forgot. Exclamation points are mostly, pretty much, generally, largely, basically off limits, too. But’s that’s a different diatribe.)

Today, my son’s assignment was on phrases—participle phrases, gerund phrases, infinitive phrases, prepositional phrases, and prepositional phrases used as adjectives and adverbs.  What? Who stops to consider what type of phrase was used when reading a good trashy novel? That would totally (oops, adverb modifying verb) spoil the enjoyment of reading for relaxation. “Drat, was that a prepositional phrase used as an adverb or an adjective in that last sentence? Now that’s going to bug me until I figure it out.” One would completely (adverb modifying verb) miss Natasha’s heaving (adjective – that’s acceptable) bosom at the electrifying (also an adjective) tingle of Lance’s hand on her skin. And, seriously (oops, shouldn’t have used that adverb), who, outside of a middle school English teacher knows what a gerund is?  Be honest.  It sounds more like a disease, than a part of speech.  “Doctor, this gerund on my toe hurts like the dickens.”

I suppose this is why I’m not a best-selling author. I don’t know my gerunds from my participles, and furthermore, I don’t care. If I truly (adverb) cared, I would spend more time analyzing grammar in my sentences and less time creating my masterpieces, which would entirely (adverb) defeat the purpose of writing in the first place. (Those last six words were either a participle phrase or a prepositional phrase, I’m not sure which.) Let’s have a contest!  Vote for your choice!

~ Pin for Later ~

 

Pandemic Animal Clinic BINGO!

For the last few weeks, COVID-19 has changed a lot of the ways we do business.  At our animal clinic, we are doing curbside appointments, where we obtain the history from the owners in the car, then take the animal into the clinic for whatever needs to be done. The pet is returned to the owner in the parking lot after examination and treatment. This has created some humorous and frustrating scenarios.  To capitalize on these scenarios (and add a bit of levity to our stressful days), a couple of our employees came up with Curbside Bingo.  I think they got the idea off the internet and added their own touches, but nevertheless, it has been fun to see how many squares we can cross off our bingo cards.  Here are some examples (along with my input):

  1. You trip in the parking lot.
  2. Owner just wants the exam done in the car.
  3. You step in dog poop.
  4. Owner tailgates in the parking lot.
  5. Owner moves car from the time you take the pet into the clinic and you return it, leaving you to search the parking lot for the right car.
  6. Cat is not in a cat carrier.
  7. Owners are out of their cars having a social gathering in the parking lot.
  8. It is raining.
  9. Owner doesn’t answer their cellphone.
  10. Cat pees in the cat carrier.
  11. Owner asks you to collect a “sample” from the car.
  12. The dog repeatedly jumps from the front seat to the back while you try to catch it.
  13. Owner tries to give you their life story in the parking lot. (Extra points if this is under the blazing sun, at noon, while you’re wearing full protective gear.)
  14. Owner will only crack the window to talk to you.
  15. Owner wants curbside service from now on.
  16. Owner honks the horn instead of calling from their cellphone to tell you they’ve arrived.
  17. Owner is gone when you take pet back to the parking lot. (Extra points if they don’t answer their cellphone when you try to call them.)
  18. Owner parks as far away as possible.
  19. Big dog defending his “car territory” tries to eat your face off when you approach.
  20. Owner wearing full PPE and refuses to touch anything you bring to their car.
  21. While talking to an owner in their car, another owner flags you down because their pet hasn’t been seen yet. (Extra points if they are 30 minutes early for their appointment.)
  22. Dog pees or poops on the way into the clinic. (Extra points if you needed a urine sample.)
  23. Owner bangs on the locked door instead of reading the BIG SIGN posted on the door to CALL when they arrive.
  24. Owner waits until the appointment is finished to mention an important piece of information, such as the pet hasn’t eaten for the last five days. (Extra points if the veterinarian who saw the patient just went to lunch.)
  25. And last, but not least, my personal favorite—owner gives you a tip. This hasn’t happened yet (to me, anyway), but we did have one owner who showed up with a gift bag full of CORONA beer, a fruit bowl, and truffles. Can’t beat that!

In all seriousness, we greatly appreciate the tremendous patience and cooperation of our wonderful clients during this topsy-turvy time. You are the best!

~ Pin for Later ~

Help, I’ve Fallen and I Can’t Remember Where I Am!

“Do you have concerns about mild memory loss related to aging?” asks a commercial for a product that is supposed to boost memory support.

Every time this commercial plays, I yell at the television, “I don’t know!  I can’t remember!” Then I giggle hysterically.

I find this amusing. My husband, after being submitted to this exchange every time this commercial airs, no longer does. But that’s okay, because I can’t remember whether he finds it amusing or not, since I have mild memory loss related to aging.  Each time is like the first time for me.  Maybe I need to pick up some memory booster at the pharmacy next time I’m out, provided I can remember the name of the product.  However, with my memory, I will probably walk into the pharmacy and come out with cod liver oil or something else totally unrelated to boosting memory.

Memory loss is nothing new to me.  I can watch reruns and re-read books and be surprised at the endings all over again.  I can see a client in the morning and totally forget who they are when they come back to pick up their pet in the afternoon. I can walk into a store for one item and completely forget what I came to buy, especially if I get distracted by some other product that looks good. Unfortunately, I still remember my kids and everything they have ever done (in excruciating detail) to annoy and embarrass me.

There’s another commercial that’s been around for a while—the “help, I’ve fallen and I can’t get up,” ad for one of those gadgets you can wear around your neck and press if you need help.  I see this one frequently, also.  (At least I think I do.)  This particularly pitiful ad shows poor, vulnerable, elderly people lying helpless on the floor, in the bathtub, and in the park.  And of course there is nothing funny about us elderly people falling.  But in one of those ads, the response for help is answered by a young, gorgeous hunk, who assures the person that “help is on the way.”  Shoot, if that guy would come to my house and pick me up off the floor, I’d fall every day. I wouldn’t even fall; I’d just pretend to fall.  I wonder how long it would take before I was found out.

How about those ads for pre-need funeral expenses? Why would I want to give my hard-earned money to some funeral home now when I can use it to buy memory boosters, wrinkle creams or a help button to summon a hunk?  When I’m dead, I won’t care how much my “arrangements” are.  Let the kids worry about that.  They gave me enough to worry about while I was alive. They also probably drove me to my early grave. Right now I want to live life to its fullest, and that means spending every last penny of my children’s inheritance.  I’m even semi-tempted to sign up for a reverse mortgage so they won’t get the house.

And while we’re talking about wrinkle creams (were we? I can’t remember), why don’t those commercials ever feature models over the age of nineteen?  I want to be able to trust these companies, but by the time I wade through the rows and rows of age-defying creams and gels in the pharmacy section, I get overwhelmed and head off to find memory boosters because I can’t remember whose model looked the best on TV.

I especially don’t understand the commercials for cell phones targeted at seniors.  Who do they think they’re kidding?  We seniors don’t know how to use cell phones. Even if someone showed us how, we’d forget by the next day, unless we remembered to buy memory booster.  Doesn’t matter whether AARP or Medicare endorses these phones or not.

Getting a group of over-sixty-age people to buy into the fact that a product or service really will enhance their lives can be tricky, so I give these advertisers “E” for effort. There are even internet resources on how to market products to Baby Boomers, ie., the elderly.  But let me give the younger generation a piece of advice.  Using the words “baby” and “elderly” together constitute an oxymoron. The words “Baby Boomer,” by very definition, imply perpetual youth, like Peter Pan. That much I can remember.

~ Pin for Later ~

 

 

 

 

What About the Cats

Okay, this coronavirus panic and hoarding has gone far enough.  I’ll admit that, at first, I became somewhat amused at the toilet paper hoarding.  I mean, really, of all the things to panic about, toilet paper?  Do people not realize that toilet paper has only been around for a short time?  According to Wikipedia (so it must be true), “modern commercial toilet paper originated in the 19th century, with a patent for roll-based dispensers being made in 1883.”  So clearly, although nice to have, t.p. is not a necessity.  I figure if worst comes to worst, I have an abundance of rags and a modern washer and dryer, as well as a shower.  As long as the electricity and water hold out I’m good.  If not, there are plenty of magnolia leaves in my yard.

I can even cope with not being able to go anywhere or do anything, although personally, I think it’s a bigger risk walking through Walmart, which is not closed than most of the other places that are.  But since I am pretty much stuck at home, I want to be productive and get some of the chores done that I have been putting off.  So far, I’ve done nothing, but I have good intentions of starting soon. Every time I look at the closets that need cleaned out, it makes me wonder what’s on TV.  My husband and I did plan to pressure wash the moldy fence, but bleach is now unattainable.  Oh well, I tried.  And my good intentions of starting back to the gym any day now are on hold.  It’s just as well.  Every time I walk into the gym with the intention of becoming healthier, I hurt myself.

Anyway, I did venture out to the commissary today.  I should have stayed home as the shelves were bare.  It is interesting to see what items get hoarded during a state of panic, however.  Although toilet paper and paper towels were sold out, there was plenty of soap and shampoo.  I guess people are more concerned with wiping their fannies than washing their bodies, though it occurs to me that washing with soap and water could more than make up for a deficit in toilet paper. The meats were mostly gone, as were the noodles, spaghetti, rice, eggs, and breads.  It was easy to see what brands were the least popular—the ones sitting forlornly on the mostly empty shelves. The trip was not completely for naught, however, as there were plenty of Chips Ahoy and I managed to nab the last four cans of Pringles Light. I needed four because I had a coupon for $1.75 off for four cans. Otherwise, I would not have resorted to being a Pringles hoarder. But we are talking about a coupon for $1.75 off. There was also plenty of Diet Coke, thank goodness.  And Hershey bars.  So I’ll make it through this forced quarantine just fine.

At one point, I spied a woman strolling through the store with a large bundle of Charmin under her arm. Because of the t.p. panic, this set off an irrational, little alarm in my brain and I was tempted to stalk her until she confessed where she got it.  But then, as I was rounding the aisle into the peanut butter section, a store worker came by pulling a huge pallet stocked with Charmin.  The poor worker was attacked like she was feeding pigeons in St. Mark’s square. I barely made it out of that ugly mob with my own pack of Charmin.

Toilet paper aside, however, my blood boiled at what I found on the pet aisle.  Or rather what I didn’t  find.  No kitty litter!  Now it’s bad enough that people are hoarding toilet paper, but as I said, I have rags and water.  But what are my poor cats supposed to do?  They can’t very well use rags. And they balk at water. So, people, I am appealing to you in the interest of all that is fair and reasonable, take all the toilet paper you want, but please do not hoard kitty litter!  My cats and I thank you for your cooperation.

 

~ Pin for Later ~

TO BE OR NOT TO BE—ESSENTIAL

I now have a piece of paper to carry with me as I venture out into the Covid-19 world that says I’m essential. Just in case I get stopped by someone official who might think I’m sneaking out to Walmart to fight for toilet paper or getting my roots done on the black market, I can produce my document verifying my essentiability. (I don’t think that’s a word, but I don’t care.) I am just thankful to be declared essential. My self-esteem is so low from being repeatedly rejected by agents and publishers, I simply don’t think I could handle being declared nonessential on top of everything else. I mean, really, how demoralizing is that? What are nonessential people supposed to do? Vacate the planet to leave resources for essential people?

It reminds me of an old Twilight Zone episode in which people’s usefulness to society was deemed to be obsolete by a panel of self-appointed non-obsoletes. If one was declared obsolete, he/she was to be terminated (in the literal form) from the population. Of course, just as Twilight Zone episodes tend to be, there were some interesting twists and turns in which the main person accusing the other of being obsolete was declared, in the end, to be obsolete, himself. His viewpoint changed radically when faced with his own state of being obsolete.

So, back to the essentials versus the nonessentials. Shouldn’t this designation be politically incorrect or something? I’m not sure I care too much for this discrimination. Where is the outrage from political progressives? Is there enough diversity among the essentials versus the nonessentials? Do we have enough essentials based on minorities, religion, gender, sexual orientation, and ethnicities? If not, we need to fix those ratios before someone hires a nonessential lawyer to sue the essential powers that be who decide these things.

To further cloud the issue, a person can apparently be essential and nonessential at the same time. My essentialness is due to being a veterinarian, not a writer. Nope, as a writer, I am completely nonessential. As a writer, I cannot carry around a “get out of the house free” card stating that my blog is an essential service to all ten people who read it. Nor can I say that venturing out in public in order to chase down people begging them to buy my book is essential—although I could probably make a case for the fact that bored people should have access to my book in order to keep their spirits up while they are stuck at home with nothing to do.

(Available on Amazon, hint, hint, since nonessentials can’t come out to buy it from the trunk of my car.) Dadgummit even Amazon, when I type in my own name and my own book title, asks if I mean by Ellen Cannon! No! Geez, talk about feeling nonessential! Try Barnes and Noble. Maybe they think I’m essential!

But, doggone it, I don’t feel nonessential. Just ask my family. They’ll vouch for my essentialness. Well, maybe not the teenager, but my husband will . . . I think. If not, he can do his own darn laundry!

~ Pin for Later ~