I'm Baaaaaaack......

Oh my friends.  It has been too long.  Once again, I've been absent from blogland for an extended period, and once again I come back to you ready to take on the virtual world!  I will refrain from making any promises about writing more regularly, since we all know that's very rarely the case, at least not for very long.  I will say, though, that this most recent absence was due solely to the fact of my unemployment for the past nine months.

Curious, you say, since you haven't written for 18 months.

Fine.  For a while I was just slacking.  And by slacking I mean gardening the shit out of it.  And painting.  So really not so much slacking as focusing my creative energies elsewhere.  While recovering from a traumatic surgery.  And then I enrolled in what has turned out to be an incredibly rigorous stenography program, while working full time and raising a teenager and still gardening and cooking my bounty and - not to be outdone by my former self - moving.  You know, it was summer after all - time for my gypsy caravan to roll out, as usual.  Actually, I loved my former house.  It had a gigantic garden, plenty of space, super rad neighbors, and a rooftop deck with a 360-degree view of the mountains and valley.  I would never have moved except that the landlord decided to sell it and I had to.  This ended up working out in my favor though, because the cherry on the sundae of my blissful life came when I lost my job a month before having to move.

Bummer, you are thinking, quite empathetically.

Thanks.  It was, for about an hour.  And then I realized that I would be fine financially on the 60% of my salary I would receive from unemployment (especially since I was moving to a house with lower rent and utilities).  To say nothing of the absolute fact that it would be better for me, for the well-being of my body and soul, to forge down this new and, admittedly, daunting path than to draw another breath of the stuffy, toxic, forced-air in that Old Boys Club ever again.  And in fact, I mean no sarcasm in the bit about the sundae.  Being unemployed was one of the best times of my adult life.  I was able to pack up and negotiate my move without much stress, I focused a ton of time and energy on school, on growing my garden and canning food, and preparing most all of the rest of our food from scratch for the next nine months.  I was for the first time able to greet my daughter when she came home from school, attend events at her school which are always, unfathomably, scheduled in the middle of a weekday.  I did my grocery shopping during the week, when there is no one at the store.  I walked my dog all over Sugarhouse and took him for hikes throughout the summer.  I went to coffee with my friend Nora once a week and chatted and laughed and cried about life.  I flew home and spent a week visiting my family and lounging with my best girlfriends at Ariel's farm this summer, spent another week with my fam at Christmas, and then spent the rest of this tragically short winter skiing my little heart out.  And if all of that weren't idyllic enough, out of the ether (ok, the internet), came the man of my dreams -- or rather, a man I couldn't have dreamt up if I tried -- with whom I have fallen completely and totally in love.

Hang on, you say.  That's awesome and all, but if you didn't have a job, and had so many cool and interesting things happening, why weren't you finally writing more?

You make a valid point.

However, shortly after losing my job and getting a realistic feel for the present job market (read: expansive vacuum where job opportunities used to be), I figured that for the sake of obtaining future employment, I might be better off hiding salty chelle (rambles on) from the prying eyes of prospective employers.  We do get a bit raunchy around here after all.

My mother was ecstatic.

Oh Michelle, she sighed.  Good!  I can't tell you how happy I am to hear you say that.  The last thing you need is for some employer to decide they want to hire you, and then do an internet search for your name -- they do that now, you know.  They really do, I read an article about it, and then they were talking all about it on the Today's Show the other day.

I know, Mom.

No -- now listen.  They do that kind of thing all the time.  You should have heard all of what they were saying on the Today's Show.  And, you know, I can just see an employer searching you and finding your disgusting blog with all of its foul language and stories about vaginas and god-knows-what.  It's just terrible.  You'll never get a job!

Ahhh, Mom.  Ever the optimist.  This is my mother though, and I'm quite used to it.  I'm sure at this point in the conversation she became inordinately exasperated with me because I was laughing, which is generally how these conversations go.  My mother is the original rambler-on; I suppose the apple didn't fall terribly far.  The difference between us though is that she rambles herself up into a fit of high-pitched tones and worry-bordering-on-anxiety until she's just beside herself, and I am not much of a worrier at all.  This also worries her.

But, as is sometimes the case, my mom was right.  Or, well, she was correct in that the possibility did exist for my blog to become a problematic factor in my search for work, especially in this weirdo religious town.  The rest is just a lot of wasted energy from my perspective.  So to my mother's great relief, I put the thing on lockdown for a while, vowing to open 'er back up just as soon as I obtained secure employment.  In other words: now.  (Hi, Mom!)

Well why didn't you just do more writing while you were unemployed and had the time?  Even if your blog wasn't public, you could post stories and people would eventually see them once you went back online.

Ok.  You got me.  To this line of reasoning I have no good excuse except that writing on the blog isn't nearly as fun when I know I don't have an audience.  I say that in all honesty, while at the same time feeling like mostly I only do this for myself.  Writing stories, rambling on -- it's an outlet.  My brain spins and spins and it helps to get some of it out.  And frankly, I'm now on paragraph way-too-fucking-many of what was initially supposed to just be a short "hello" to you readers out there, and I can't imagine that anyone other than maybe a few very close friends, and my mom, would actually want to read so much useless drivel about my small little life.  But I suppose that's one of the fundamental questions for artists.  Do we create to share something with the world, or do we create because we need to, because it helps us to process, to think, to feel, to calm down, to get it out, to heal?  I think it's probably a bit of both.  For me, although I had the time to write more on my blog, I just didn't.  Maybe I was calm enough in my newly low-stress life of copious amounts of TIME that my brain stopped spinning and spinning for a little while.  All I know is that the drive wasn't there, so I didn't do it.

And now the drive is back, just about the time when my free time has run out.  Although making myriad promises to myself about never going back to work for a law firm, and creating a life in which I make a living doing something that truly makes me happy, and pouring myself headlong into school so that I could finish my program before running out of money, amongst others, I am once again working as a legal secretary at a law firm.  And though I certainly don't love spending 40 precious hours of my week engaged in activities that have almost nothing to do with my actual life aside from funding it, I most assuredly do love my new job.  By some mysterious alignment of the fates, I have found myself employed by a small firm that shares my values.  It is a diverse mix of people, mostly non-Utahns from what I can gather, and mostly of a decidedly left-leaning socio-political bent.  The firm won't buy any supplies from Wal-Mart or its affiliates.  They give considerable time and money to support public radio and various other community partners.  They don't have a lot of HR policies, but seem to rather favor the approach of providing everyone with a really great place to work, with ample time for their own lives and families, so that they are more productive when they are at work and choose to do the right thing.  They are flexible and friendly and everyone from the president of the firm to the receptionist intermingles in the kitchen at lunch and talks about the news and does crosswords and laughs a lot.  And they take this up another notch every Friday afternoon at the "wine and scotch party," which is basically just anyone who wants to join hanging out in the kitchen from about 5:00 p.m. onward, drinking wine and scotch.  I don't know how fun this gets or how late it goes as I haven't had the opportunity to stay yet, despite much prodding from the other partygoers.

My particular position is just busy enough to keep the days full and interesting, but not so much that I feel stressed out.  I work with a team of tight-knit, intelligent, funny and super nice people.  Today was an asskicker of a day, the kind of day where I did not use the restroom even once, despite having to pee from lunchtime until I made it home at 6:00.  My eyes were tired and my brain was full after 8 hours editing two separate 50-page memos that were both due today.  I was busy, to say the least.  But I was not harried or stressed, I was never once yelled at, and I was genuinely thanked for my assistance throughout the course of the day.  It doesn't really sound like rocket science, but you might be surprised how rare this kind of environment is in the legal world.

I'm happy there.  And yet, still, every evening without fail, while driving or biking myself home from work, I have the conversation with myself that goes pretty much like this:  What the hell am I doing?  To which I very rarely have an answer.  A bit of a one-sided conversation, really.  But it is hard trying to work and do school and raise my kid and run a household.  Usually during these "conversations" it's 6:00 and I have class in an hour and dinner to make and the dog needs a walk and I'm pretty sure I need to rewash those towels in the washer and we're out of something vital like milk or tampons and I'm still not even home.  For the first week of these homeward bound discussions with myself, I cried.  After three and a half weeks, the crying has subsided into a sigh and a resolve to just keep going.

I saw a quote the other day that read, "Don't cry because it's over.  Smile because it happened."  And I hesitate to even write it here because it is admittedly corny and kind of lame, but it was exactly what I needed to hear.   The last nine months of unemployment have been incredibly enjoyable, and now that I'm working, I miss my unemployed life.  I miss drinking my tea on the patio, doing homework in the mornings, making myself breakfast, doing whatever I wanted to do with myself each day, feeling very present with my thoughts and emotions and intentions, and, mostly, just having a break from the last 14 years of my crazy busy life of kid/work/school every single day.  It was like a giant vacation from the reality I've known all of my adult years.  The transition back to a completely full plate has been huge and hard.  Less difficult, however, than I was imagining it would be, which I attribute mostly to the fact that I don't wake up and dread going to work.  In fact, I enjoy the work and the people I work with to the point of actually looking forward to the day.  Not necessarily at 6:47 a.m. when the alarm goes off, which is by far the most trying part of this whole transition, the getting up early.  But by the time I'm out of the shower, I'm surprisingly fine with going in for another day of work.

For now, I'm smiling that the last nine months happened.  I had a break from my real life, I became legions healthier, I fell in love.  It was a gift, and I treasured it while I was lucky enough to live it.  Being grateful for something you no longer possess is not the easiest thing in the world, but I'm finding it's a good exercise for my emotional health.  This, combined with gratitude for my good fortune in finding such a fantastic job, helps me in those moments when I long for a day at home alone making pickles and listening to music.

Not to mention friends, a new job means (1) the blog is back online, and (2) I am now actually venturing out into the world of people much more regularly, which only serves to stoke the creative fire that lights up the pages here at salty chelle.  Oh yeah, and we're not poor anymore.

Welcome back everyone.


31? Meh.

Two days into my 31st year today.  Yep.  Meh.  I feel like I should care more about my birthday, or the passage of my corporeal being through time and space, all the while scurrying about by land and sea (mostly land), changing, learning, loving, working, stressing, checking shit out, growing things, cooking things, flying down the hills on a bike in the early mornings, sweating balls on the way back up in the late afternoons, sleeping, laughing, nagging at the kid to do some chores, cracking the whip! as I like to say...  You know, the journey.  It's a journey, and I'm on it.  And it's actually pretty cool these days.  Things aren't perfect, but I have, as of late, found myself better suited to enjoying the trip.


Line of the Day: That's what she said.

I was recently moved to a new position at my firm.  It was a lateral move, and I was kind of equally thrilled and bummed out at the change.  I was happy to get out of a situation that was not working at ALL, but sad to leave my friends on the 13th floor for my new spot on 11 (known to those on 13 as "the dungeon").

Turns out, I really like the 11th floor.  It is not nearly the dark and loathsome place I imagined it to be.  There are lots more people down there, most of whom are younger attorneys - overworked and underpaid, just about my own age, sleep-deprived from night after long night at the office spent busting their asses in the hopes of eventually making partner.  My inclination would be to assume they're miserable, but they are surprisingly fun, funny, and playful folks.  Perhaps because the office has begun to feel like home, they find opportunities in between drafting giant briefs, rushing to meet deadlines and putting out daily fires to take their shoes off, toss a ball around, pull pranks on each other, crack jokes and eat copious amounts of fun-size candy.  I have a hard time fathoming this reality, and thank my lucky stars every day that I decided against going to law school.

But anyway, here I am, on the funky 11th floor where the general sense of irreverance is a welcome change from the norm in this oft-bristly, buttoned-up town.  The line of the day comes from my cube-neighbor, a 50-something-ish woman who routinely delivers sexually ambiguous one-liners, talks louder than anyone I've ever met, and once, when my boss, Tim, asked her if his occasional foul-language offended her, replied, "Oh sweetie, I used to be the madam at a titty bar - nothing offends me!"

This afternoon, Tim comes out of his office to get something off of this woman's printer.  Whatever he printed wasn't there waiting for him though, and he started fooling with the buttons and asking what was up.  A short conversation ensued between the two of them as they tried to figure out the source of the problem.  Now, I wasn't completely tuned-in to the dialogue, but something was said about the paper trays, and apparently, the bottom tray was out of paper.  Tim was attempting to load more paper in there, but screwing it up somehow.  At which point, Karen delivers today's line of the day:

Well honey, when my bottom's empty, you just need to shove it in harder.


Line of the Day: Fatalism

A friend was discussing her one major dream for her life with me this evening.  You know, that perfect vision that you have where you're living exactly the kind of life you want to be living.  Making money doing something you love.  The whole deal.  And then she followed up a recitation of all her fears about making this dream a reality with what is today's line of the day:

So I've decided there's no way I can do it.  I'm not going to be able to.  However, I've also decided that it is the only thing that will ever really make me happy.

Well, I said, there's not a whole lot I can say to that.  Sounds like you're pretty much fucked. 


The World Is Insane

So I wrote this in very early May, 2010, less than two weeks after the Deep Horizon explosion on April 20.  Honestly, that was the news event that made me tune back into the news, and the world.  I never posted this, and just found it in the edit queue.  Enjoy!

Does it seem this way to anyone else right now? I'm not typically a doomsday alarmist on a grandiose scale, I don't think the sky is falling or the end of the world is nigh. I'm a bigger picture girl, I majored in earth science (way back when), I tend towards a general sense of calm and serenity that comes from thinking in geologic time. I cannot help but notice (or in some instances, I concede, create) interconnectedness between past, present and future. Mine is a worldview glimpsed through a sort of wide-angle lens.

That said, shit is crazy right now!

Often, the news overwhelms me, makes me feel sad and powerless. I won't go so far as to say "hopeless" because - despite a secret desire to be darker, more brooding, more tortured and creative - that's very rarely the case. I'm a buoyant soul by nature. A ridiculous optimist. And so the news can get me down and seep in and threaten my sunshine and lollipops. And nobody wants to see that. So, sometimes I take a breather. I don't read the news, I don't listen to NPR for a while, I pop in a CD when Amy Goodman comes on the radio, you know the drill. Just sort of check out and focus in on a more personal level. And sometimes just check out.

But lately, what with springtime and sunshine and some progress on the raising-a-thirteen-year-old-daughter front, and upcoming move to my dream house, and little sprouting seedlings in my garden and soul-shaking emotional progress I've made in the past year and the ever-surprising, always-wonderful, consistently-funny, brilliant, special man I've recently met (yeah I'm gushing, I know) --- lately, I've been feeling pretty good. And like maybe it was time to check back in with world.

And oh sweet Jeebus it's kinda wild out there. The planet is shaking and erupting and flooding. Since the beginning of the year, we've seen devastating earthquakes in China, Haiti, Chile, Japan, Baja - and that's just the first few that come to mind. Just today, that unpronounceable Icelandic volcano blew FOUR AND A HALF MILES into the air, creating a massive ash cloud 1,000 miles long and 700 miles wide. Torrential rains in the southeastern part of this country have left 20 people dead in Tennessee and most of beloved Nashville underwater. Upwards of 250,000 gallons of oil per day (and likely more  than that, realistically) spews from the ocean floor into the Gulf of Mexico - and has been for almost two weeks - causing what could quite possibly be one of the biggest environmental disasters in human history. Citizens in Greece took to the streets, staging what were at first peaceful protests and have now turned into outright riots, in the face of austerity measures and an IMF quasi-bailout of the country's hobbled economic system. These measures (read: loans) will require years of sacrifice in Greece of the sort that will drastically change the economic climate of the country and the day-to-day reality for most of it's citizens. And then there's the whole looming catastrophic global economic breakdown... Oh, and the passage of SB1070, the mind-numbingly heinous anti-immigration law in Arizona that essentially legalizes racial profiling in that state. I mean, shouldn't it be clear when even Gov. Bob McDonnell - a man who recently decided to declare April "Confederate History Month" in his state of Virginia - announces his own misgivings about the bill, namely that it might not be "necessarily helpful to democracy," that something is very, very wrong indeed?

Oh yeah, and this guy married his cat.

And here's where I'd give you a witty sentence or two in summation, maybe bringing things back 'round full circle, but honestly I have no idea what to say.  I've been singing along to music in my car for a few weeks, spending my time online checking my gmail, reading my horoscope, dare I admit it? on Facebook...blissfully unaware of the madness raging outside my little cocoon of self-absorbed ruminations.  Right now a part of me definitely just wants to crawl back in.  I know I won't - I couldn't if I tried.  I'm frozen in awe, sort of terrified, and curious.


Hi. Do you have a dog named Rascal?

Oh yes, I have a dog named Rascal.  And he escaped four days in a row this week from our new house.  Which was really not awesome at all, except the whole saga makes for a bit of a good story.  

We just moved, and I'm guessing he's a little freaked out by the move, Elise being gone, and who knows what else that's swimming around in that little doggie brain of his.  At first I wasn't too surprised, as he has always been a fairly adept escape artist, and tends to find the routes to freedom in each new home we move to.  (Which, granted, has been a lot.  I have lived in Salt Lake exactly three years and am now in my fifth house here.  Long story).  In fact, Rascal was given his name by the family that owned his mom and raised him for the first eight weeks of his life, due to his propensity even as a tiny little guy to escape from all manner of baby gates and fences erected to keep the puppies in certain areas of the house and yard.  When I got him at 8 weeks, I quickly found that the name was more than apt, so I kept it.  For five years this dog has been sleuthing out all paths away from our new homes, and I then secure those paths and keep him around, which is where I like him.  This week, however, he was more committed to his doggie mission than I have ever seen before.    

Mug shot


Rascal's first big escape happened Wednesday.  We moved into this place on Saturday, and I suspect he would have escaped as early as Monday (when I went to work and left him for the first time) except that my friend Janie and her puppy were around and Rascal was happily distracted.  When they left town Wednesday morning, I left the backdoor open for Rascal, so he would have free reign of the house and the giant backyard.  It didn't occur to me that he could jump the fence on the side of the house, as it is pretty tall.  But, it is also made of chicken wire, so he simply bent it in half and jumped right on over and out to blissful doggie freedom.  Thankfully, people in Salt Lake are incredibly, unfathomably nice, and Rascal happened upon the best of the best of the good-samaritan-dog-lovers in the Avenues.  On day one, he was rescued by Josh, arguably my favorite of all the happy, helpful people I dealt with this week, at 2nd Ave & T Street - a full 15 blocks from our house.

I was at work, in the middle of a huge and urgent project, when I get a call from an unfamiliar local number on my cell.  I don't usually answer the cell at work, but I'm having surgery this coming Monday (see "My Alien Spawn," below) and waiting on the call from the hospital to register me for the surgery and telling me what time to show up.  So, this week I'm answering all such unknown local calls on the cell.

"Hello?" I answer, while shuffling stacks of exhibits at my desk.

"Hi.  Do you have a dog named Rascal?"

Shit.  "Yes, why?"

"Well, I have him here with me.  I was walking my dog and he came out from this yard and came over to play with my dog.  I thought he lived there, but then we kept going and he just came along with us on our walk for the next couple of blocks.  Then I realized he was sort of on his own and checked his tag.  So you're on 2nd Avenue?  I can just take him to your house if you want - I'm at 2nd and T right now."

Oh God.  I explain to Josh that I no longer live on 2nd, that I now live 15 blocks from where he's at, and in my work insanity I ask if he's willing to take Rascal to my new house, to which he happily agrees.  I'm sort of shocked that I even asked, but I was desperate.  I'm also THRILLED that he is willing to do it.

"Sure, I'll just put him in my car and drive him up there."

"Are you sure?  I mean, I can come and get him too."

"No, really.  We're just on our morning walk, you're working.  He's a great dog, it's no problem."

I explain that he is saving my life, ask his name, tell him my address and to stick Rascal in the house and shut the back door, thereby locking him fully inside the house.

Josh takes care of everything, and reports back with a text message.

Hey...You (didn't get your name;) Rascal is safe and sound - though obviously disappointed.  He seemed to escape by a towel over a wire fence.  CLASSIC prison movie escape.  Very Steve McQueen.  He and Killian had a good time.  :)

Ok, so not only is this guy awesome, he is also hilarious, and made what was an exceptionally shitty morning much, much brighter.  I text back to thank him and ask for his address, so I can drop off something to say thanks.

Just saying his escape was borderline outdated.  SO 1963.  No need to bring something, maybe we'll run into you both at Lindsay Gardens dog park some time.  PS: tell the Cooker King he's always welcome on our morning walk (provided he realizes a return home is mandatory).  

Fabulous.  Just loved this guy.  Not only did he save my big fella - and for those of you who don't know and/or couldn't tell from the photo above, Rascal is a BIG dog.  Like comes up to your waist, just shy of Great Dane size kind of big.  And though he looks like a friendly muppet, there are loads of strangers who would be understandably hesitant to approach and deal with such a giant beast of an animal.

Lucky for me, there were at least three more strangers who were willing to get close enough to him to check his tag and call me at work on Thursday and Friday.  And again on Saturday, as I was headed out to my friend Bonnie's baby shower.  I still can't get over how unbelievably kind my neighbors are in this town.  It is a fantastic and fortunate thing, too, considering Rascal's unwavering commitment to his campaign to free himself from our new home.


Thursday, I should admit, was probably my fault.  I left the backdoor open again.  I hate trapping a big dog in a house.  Granted, it's a big house, but still... dogs need to be outside, sniffing and peeing and barking at squirrels and such.  So, I reinforced the fence where he had bent it down the day before, put some tall stuff in front of it, and had a serious talk with Rascal about his behavior.  He acted like he was listening, but apparently he was not.  After I left for work, he deftly pushed the stuff in front of the fence away and bent it down again, jumping over and out for another day on the town.  Luckily, he was found by yet another dog-loving good samaritan who again called me at work.  Thinking it was the hospital, I answered.

"Hi.  Do you have a dog named Rascal?"

God DAMN it!  

Thankfully, this guy was at the park a block away from my house, and was nice enough to take Rascal home too.  Like Josh, he brought Rascal around to the open back door and locked him inside the house for me.  He texted to report all was well.

All set, Rascal's back home!  He's inside and back door's locked.

Well, at least if I have to deal with annoying dog issues, I'm lucky enough to encounter good-natured, helpful people that are willing to TAKE MY DOG HOME FOR ME.  Who does that??  It's a kind of bittersweet good fortune I guess.  Though better than a $300 visit to bail him out of doggie jail, by far.


So naturally Rascal lost his backyard privileges on Friday, and was securely locked in the house as I left for work.  Friday was my last day at work for two weeks, as I was set for surgery on Monday and two weeks of recovery time.  Additionally, I am being moved to a new spot in my firm when I return to work, which meant Friday would be a full day of training the new gal taking my spot, cleaning out my desk, setting up out-of-office voice- and e-mail messages, and tying up loose ends.  So, I needed the peace of mind of knowing my dog would be safe - albeit bored - in my house.

But, as we all know, where there's a will, there's a way.  And true to form, Rascal found a way.  Around 9:30 a.m. on Friday I get another call on my cell while training my replacement at work.  "Hang on," I say to her as I reach for the phone, "I have to get this."  Thinking, rather optimistically I suppose, that this was, finally, the call from the hospital, I answer.


"Hi.  Do you have a dog named Rascal?"


"Oh, really, because I have a dog here and this is the number on his tag."

"Yeah, sorry, I have a dog named Rascal.  I just can't believe he got out!"

Anita, Friday's good-samaritan-of-the-day, informed me that she had my dog in her neighbor's backyard at 8th & H, which she was watering while they were out of town.  Rascal came barreling into the yard in pursuit of a cat and she grabbed him.

"Has he been missing long?  He was really thirsty."

"No.  I just left for work an hour ago."

I tell her the business about the moving, and now daily-escapes, and how I really thought I had this situation nipped in the bud when I left for work today and LOCKED HIM IN THE HOUSE.  I mean, come on, he's a smart dog and kind of a freak of nature, but I wouldn't call him exceptionally gifted or anything.  Either way, she needed me to come and pick him up.  So, I left my replacement-in-training at work and ran to pick up my asshole dog, contemplating the whole way how on earth he managed to free himself from the house without miraculously growing a set of thumbs and then using them to open the front door.

When we got home, the doors were shut and I didn't see any immediate evidence of his escape.  The only clue was that I had forgotten to lock the front door.  Maybe it blew open?  As I was nearly certain my house had not been broken into - though it can be hard to tell a few days after moving when giant chunks of your life remain strewn about your house, half out of boxes, sitting in front of the cabinets and bookshelves that will be their eventual homes - this was the only thought that came to mind.  Except the front door is the original, solid-oak behemoth that requires two hands and a bracing of one's feet before yanking back with serious force in order to open the thing up.  It doesn't blow open.  Ever.  I returned to work frustrated bordering on stressed-out.

An hour and a half later, I drove back home to meet the Qwest repair guy, who came to fix whatever the hell was wrong with the phone line at the house that was keeping me from having any internet connection whatsoever for a week.  I was getting bitter about that.  Mind you, I have been sick for weeks, can't eat much, have zero energy, and just moved into a house that needs shittons of work that I have increasingly found I am completely incapable of doing myself.  (I'll spare you the story of how, in a simple attempt to turn on a spigot outside in the garden, I found a labyrinth of pipes in the garage with EIGHT on/off knobs; two main shut off handles officially covered in some sort of faded, indecipherable yellow warning stickers; two more on/off knobs on the ceiling, and three little electrical hub/knob things that each spew out tangles of colored wires that disappear into the back of a plastic box, whose little door opens to reveal an intimidating panel of programming buttons for a sprinkler system.  I cried that night.)


I get home and meet the Qwest guy at his truck.  He's getting something out of the back, and I wait for him on the sidewalk.  When he comes around the truck to meet me, he briefly but thoroughly scares the crap out of me.  He has these giant swaths of bright white zinc-oxide smeared across his cheeks making him look like a painted warrior, or a reeeeally creepy clown.  Turns out he's just a strange dude who professes to like dogs but is probably lying, as he seems really scared when we get to the front door.

"Can you go put him outside, or shut him in another room please?" the Qwest guy snips at me.

"He's really nice.  He'll just give you a sniff and leave you alone," I assure him.

"Yeah, they're all 'really nice' until you end up in the ER getting stitches and a shot."

Good lord.  

"No really, he's never bit anyone, he's a super sweet dog."

But the Qwest guy refuses to come in the house until I put the dog somewhere else.  So, I stick him outside and assure Doug (Qwest Guy finally introduced himself) that the coast is clear.  While Doug does his thing, I rifle through paperwork on my desk and kill time looking out on my garden from the living room window.  Which is when I notice a window screen wedged between the rows of corn.  I also notice that the window I'm staring out of has no screen.  So, that solves the point of egress puzzle anyway.  I feel a bit better about this; knowing the escape routes is the first step in securing them.

And then Rascal lopes right out through the garden below me to the front yard, having escaped from his banishment to the backyard.  Oh, the fun never stops.  I run out and call him back, and he meets me on the front porch and follows me in.  Doug is in the kitchen and is immediately unhappy with this.  But now it's my turn to get testy.

"Listen, I can't put him outside because he runs away.  We just moved, he's freaked out.  I've got to keep him in here, but he's a nice dog, he'll leave you alone."

As if on cue, Rascal then comes over to Doug, gives him a sniff and wags his tail, then goes and plops down on the dining room floor.  Doug gives a harumph and sighs, but seems pacified.  He proceeds to snap at Rascal a few more times when Rascal walks into the room, and is generally pretty rude and unhelpful.

Turns out - big surprise - that Doug cannot fix what's wrong with my telephone line, and needs me to put in an order for either another service call, wherein a Qwest person could come out and spend what would "likely be hours" (at $85.00/hour) investigating the whereabouts of the trouble in my main line, or put in an order for a new phone jack - a quick and simple fix costing a flat rate of $99.  I choose the latter, schedule it for the next day and shut all of the windows in the house before leaving my crazy dog and going back to work yet again.


Saturday morning I awake to a knock on the door from a new Qwest Guy who has come to install a new jack and, thankfully, has a remarkably normal looking face.  (What a rude awakening it might have been to stumble sleepy-eyed to the door at 8:00 a.m. to find another scary clown with a tool belt!)  This guy is friendly, nice to my dog, and makes fun of Doug's warpaint while cheerfully and quickly installing the new jack and hooking up my modem.  Voila!  Wireless internet is up and running, and I still have plenty of time to get ready for my friend Bonnie's baby shower.  I'm in good spirits, having finally solved at least one of the many issues around this giant problem-riddled house, and I depart with the confidence that I can go out and share a delicious brunch with some wonderful women and know that I have now definitely closed off all possible doggie-exits.  Ah....  With a big sigh of relief I grab the presents and head out to pick up balloons for the shower and the fancy-pants cake I ordered from Mrs. Backer's.  (Side note: WOW!  Mrs. Backer's makes a goddamn gorgeous and tasty cake!  It was my first time.  Uber spendy though, so be forewarned should you think of ordering one.  But for a special occasion if you can afford it, it's the way to go.)

Upon leaving Mrs. Backers, cake in hand, my cell phone rings.  I miss the call before I can dig the thing out of my purse.  By the time I feel it in the depths, a very cheerful man has left me a voicemail.

Hi, my name's Bart [something-or-other] and I have your dog Rascal here.  My wife and I are out front with our kids and he just came over to play.  [Bart chuckles, and I hear the sounds of his children squealing with delight and Rascal barking.]  He's here with us in front of our house at [address just around the corner from mine] and he's just fine.  So just come on over and grab him, or give me a call if you need directions, or want me to meet you somewhere or something.  We're happy to help however we can!  Thanks! 

First off, I'm a time-challenged girl, always have been.  Though I've made significant progress in this department in the past year, my successes are recent enough that I still feel excited and proud of myself when I'm on time, not to mention when I find I even have a few minutes to spare.  Saturday, well-adjusted on-time gal that I am these days, shower goodies in hand, I am four blocks from the restaurant and have a solid 12 minutes to spare.  I had been thinking:  Nice work self!  After listening to Bart's voicemail, this thought quickly changes to:  Fuck me.  This now ruins my promptness for the shower and goddamnit! I know I shut and locked both doors and all of the windows.  The garage door is definitely shut.  How the hell did this dog manage to thwart my efforts once again?!?

Second of all:  Only in Salt Lake are people really this ridiculously, genuinely nice.  I'm from the midwest, and people are pretty friendly there, real helpful and down-to-earth folk.  But this kind of thing rarely happened in St. Louis, and by "rarely" I think I can safely say never.  Thank you friendly Salt Lakers, truly, for being the best neighbors a single gal with an insane dog could ever hope for.

And Bart Something-or-Other and his uber-cute wife and gaggle of adopted children were maybe the sweetest people ever.  They are outside doing yardwork as a family when I pull up, and Rascal is sort of hopping and galloping around the kids and playing with them in the yard.  Everyone is laughing, enjoying Rascal, and they greet me with giant smiles and warm hello's when I get out of the car.

"Oh, what a GREAT dog you have!  We just love him!"

Yeah.  He's real great.  Easy enough to love until he's your charge and has you running all over the neighborhood every single day bailing him out of trouble.  I gave them the rundown on the Rascal saga of the week, and they offered to help anytime, however they could, and promised to keep an eye out for him now that we're neighbors.  I moved the cake and helium balloons to the front seat, making room to load Rascal up in the back.

"He can come over and play with us anytime!" Bart assured me as I drove off and left him and his adorable family waving goodbye to Rascal from the curb.

Thankfully, we weren't far from home and I had enough time to put him back inside and look around to ascertain his exit strategy and, hopefully, barricade it.  This time it wasn't too hard to find.  Though I had shut the matching living room windows (the left of which he escaped through the day before), I either didn't shut the right window enough, or the dog is smarter than I thought and managed to open the window further with his nose.  Either that, or finally grew that set of thumbs.  (Go-Go Gadget!)  After opening the window to a suitable height, he then jumped THROUGH the screen, which though it remained attached to the house, suffered a fatal, Rascal-sized blowout.  Now it is essentially just a frame with tattered, triangular-shaped pieces of screen jutting outward in perpetual salute to the Wasatch Range.  

So, here we are.  If I leave the house now, it is with both doors and all windows securely shut and locked.  I have instituted "perimeter checks" before walking out the door.  I now have two screens requiring replacement in this house, and a dog that looks at me as if I'm punishing him every time I leave him alone.  Maybe if I ever get the fence fixed, I can start allowing him at least the use of his doggie door and subsequent backyard access when he's alone.  In the meantime though, I'm praying the temperate weather continues.  And contemplating a call to the dog whisperer...


My Alien Spawn...

Hello dear readers!  Are any of you still with me?  I was doing pretty good for a minute there, blogging more regularly as per my new year's resolution for 2010.  And now another month has gone by with nothing new from yours truly (though I have a bunch of unfinished posts in the draft queue that I should go back and post one of these days).  My apologies to you all.  And to me.  For a gal who would really like to be writing for a living, I sure haven't been doing a whole lot of writing.

I've been a little distracted.  Perhaps you noticed in more recent posts my mention of things really happening for me lately, that my life was firing on all cylinders and improving in wholly new and beautiful ways.  Which was true.  And still is true.  But, all good things must come to an end, and my whirlwind ride at the top of the wheel of fortune seems to be through for the time being.

For the last few months, my typical response to the question "How's it going?" has been something along the lines of, "Everything is just going great these days!  Except for some stomach problems, I really have nothing to complain about."  Well, it turns out the stomach problems became more and more severe - and frequent - until finally requiring some medical attention.   So a couple of weeks ago I went to a doctor - which was, aside from regular visits to Planned Parenthood, my first conventional doctor's appointment in the three years since I've lived in Utah - to get checked out.  After an ultrasound, we learned that my stomach problems were not the result of gallbladder issues, as the doc had suspected, but rather due to a cyst on my spleen roughly the size of a tennis ball.  

So that was a total surprise.  I had never even heard of anyone having a spleen cyst (or splenic cyst, as they're referred to in the medical community) before.  I've since learned that they're somewhat rare, especially in developed countries.  In developing countries they're seen more often as the result of a common parasite.  In the US and Europe, people with splenic cysts are typically either born with them, or develop them after an injury or trauma to that part of the body.  So far, the doctors I've seen seem to think mine is probably a developmental cyst (that I was born with), or that I've at least had for quite some time due to its size and other qualities I won't bore you with here.  Doesn't much matter at this point, either way the fucker needs to come out.

The good news is that splenic cysts are almost always benign, and mine shows no characteristics of malignancy.   The bad news is that the cyst is at the very top of my spleen.  The spleen, I've learned, is sort of shaped like a pickle, or a bratwurst, and hangs out in the left side of your abdomen wedged between your diaphragm, stomach, left kidney, and the upper intestine.  The top of the spleen is - I think, but I could for sure be wrong here - is above the stomach and just below the left rib cage.  So anyway, the bad news is that because my cyst is up at the top of my spleen, it is much more difficult to get to.  The gastroenterolgy specialist I saw last week seemed fairly certain that I would have to have a complete splenectomy.  This is not good news.  While you can live without a spleen, it puts you at increased risk for immune system deficiencies and getting sick more often.  Apparently, if my spleen is removed, I'll have to spend at least six months on some hardcore antibiotics, and get immunized every year for pneumonia, flu, and possibly some other nasty viruses.

For a young and healthy person such as myself, I can probably still live a good, long life sans spleen.  And the gastro doc did say not to take her word as the final authority.  "I'm not a surgeon," she said, "and that's a question for a surgeon."

At this point, I'm just trying to get through life one day at a time.  I'm not overcome with worry and fear like I was upon first finding out about this situation, but the stomach problems seem to get worse with each passing day and I'm pretty miserable most of the time.  For now, I'm waiting to meet with my surgeon for a consult on the 15th, and keeping my fingers crossed that the gastroenterologist's prediction of total splenectomy doesn't come to fruition.

So there you go readers.  Probably a lot more information than you ever cared to read about splenic cysts and my personal health.  But I feel I owe you an explanation for the deadening silence in blogland.  This is heavier stuff than I like to post over here, saltychelle having been created as an exhibition of all the strange and funny stories I witness in my day-to-day life.  These days though, I have been neither observant enough to notice much of the entertaining business of my day-to-day, nor feeling physically well or creatively inspired enough to sit down and write them on the blog.

Keep your fingers crossed, say a prayer for me, send your positive vibes out into the universe - whatever it is that works for you.  I appreciate any help I can get these days.