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Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Hitting Bottom

When the Mama of the family doesn't feel up to shopping regularly, household staples can sometimes run a little low. Take, for example, bathroom tissue, or if you prefer, toilet paper. We haven't run out; just low. So low that each of our bathrooms was on its last roll. On the um . . . roll. Holder. Or so I thought. When I went to put something away in LG's bathroom, I made an unexpected discovery.

My sensitive, compassionate, insightful daughter clearly has the capacity to turn into Little Miss I'm-Looking-Out-for-Number-One (and maybe for #2 as well). Look what she had in her bathroom cupboard:

it's MINE

I can see it now. If WTF isn't vanquished soon, we'll have our own freakin' reality show around here. SURVIVOR: FAIRCHILD HOUSE. LG will definitely have the edge.

file under: &Family &Can't Make This Stuff Up

Sunday, November 26, 2006

thanksgiving bouquet closeup

Sunday Post ~ "Not what we say about our blessings, but how we use them, is the true measure of our thanksgiving." -- W. T. Purkiser

Psalm 118:1

I love this quote. I think I could use a daily reminder, not so much to count my blessings -- that, I do -- but to use them well. Sometimes I do OK. I was blessed to feel well enough to go to my niece's wedding, at which she blessed me with the bouquet pictured here (and on Thanksgiving), one of her centerpieces. I enjoyed it so much, and was so thankful for the circumstances surrounding it, that I thought it the perfect symbol to use in my Thanksgiving "thank you" to all of you.

Yesterday I was blessed to feel well enough, for long enough, to enjoy a delightful afternoon with the beautiful mrtl and her has-to-be-beautiful-'cause-she-looks-just-like-mama daughter, Bug, who are visiting family here from Alaska. A movie, a couple of spins on a carousel, coffee, ice cream, a little conversation, a little kid-watching, a trip to Build-a-Bear, a lot of hugs (thanks to all who sent proxy hugs via mrtl, she did deliver). And Bug gifted me with, shall we say, a rodent's derriere, attached to a smartly dressed rest-of-a-rodent. Truly a blessed day, for which I am thankful. Using the memories of that blessing to inspire much thankfulness today.

All this blessing-talk and mrtl-talk calls to mind a little thing that mrtl and I have had going. mrtl has opined, a time or two, about religious types telling people "have a blessed day." Not one of her favorite things to hear. So I say it to her when the spirit moves me, just to be ornery. It's not something I say to anyone but mrtl. Some time ago, conversation about that expression prompted me to tell mrtl about a woman I know on whose answering machine is the greeting, "The Jesus in me loves the Jesus in you." I think I know what she means by that. But what if the caller has no Jesus in them? Indeed, doesn't want any Jesus in them? And do those of us who claim Jesus-in-residence only love others who claim the same? I thought a more fitting, indeed, more Christ-like greeting would be, "The Jesus in me loves the hell outta you." mrtl liked that one better, too. So that's what's on my answering machine (OK, now I'm just messing with you).

Friday, November 24, 2006

Nuttin' Much

I was never a big "Friends" (the TV show) fan, but I do remember the Thanksgiving episode in which Phoebe accuses Joey of wearing her maternity pants, and he says something like, "They were your maternity pants. Now, they're my Thanksgiving pants!" On the way to my SIL's for the festivities, I realized that I had made a grievous Thanksgiving error. I was wearing jeans fresh out of the dryer. Newly washed jeans are NOT proper Thanksgiving pants. They didn't really slow me down much, though.

Napkin ring

Watching the Macy's Thanksgiving parade:

LG: Look, it's Mr. Peanut, riding in the Nutmobile!

Susie: Aw, I wanted to ride in the Nutmobile!

Jif: I thought Michael Richards was riding in the Nutmobile this year.


There's an idea. Every year at this time, we should have a national election to determine who has proven himself or herself most worthy of a ride in the Nutmobile.

So, tell me, did you make or observe any grievous Thanksgiving errors? And who would've gotten your vote for Distinguished Nutmobile Passenger this year?

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Thankful for . . .

thanksgiving bouquet

Recently in comments here, Ortizzle allowed that she was "one more drop in the ocean of friends" wishing me well. That didn't sit right with me. First of all, there aren't enough of y'all to make an ocean. You'd be a puddle. A very inviting puddle -- like, to a preschooler with new rubber boots -- but still, a puddle, and you're more than that. I said you're more like a bouquet, in which every flower truly does make a difference. So here you are, in a Thanksgiving bouquet. I thank you for stopping by here, sharing observations, insights, laughs, suggestions, prayers, wishes, vibes, encouragements and other things that defy categorization. Thank you for continuing to visit me even while I continue to suck at visiting you. May you and yours have a very happy celebration of Thanksgiving. Giving thanks to God for you, and hugging you in my heart.

(Please pardon my taking liberties with nicknames and alphabetizalysis. I think I got everybody who's been here from the time WTF Disease began until about 7 a.m. this morning. I hope.)

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Turkey Farm Redux

According to SiteMeter, most of the new visitors to "What Was I Thinking?" in the last couple of days have come here searching for turkey tips. And I think someone has even picked up last year's turkey post and distributed it in a mass email, which is kind of flattering. After last week's WTF-ishness, I wanted to post something lighter and more fun this week. I really can't do better than to rely on my little friends from last year. So, this is an "encore" post. I hope it still tickles you if you're an old-timer here, and hope it helps you with your holiday preparations if you're new :)

turkey farm

Across the hall from my office is what I believed to be a daycare center. Turns out, it is some sort of work-release program for 3- and 4-year-olds, from which they operate a turkey farm. As you can imagine, it's been a busy place this week. I've dealt with a turkey or two in my day, so I thought I'd take a moment to offer some last-minute turkey selection guidance, with a little help from my turkey-raising friends across the hall.

Do look for:

good bird

A plump, confident bird that will look you right in the eye. All parts should be . . . "in the ballpark," so to speak.


visually challenged turkey

A bird that appears intoxicated, or just effin' goofy. You don't want that.

inverted bird

The upside-down turkey, with crossed legs and shifty eyes. May also exhibit a paranoid demeanor. This bird will NOT digest easily.

ingrown turkey

Watch for the inbred turkey. Its feathers and legs tend to grow inward. Also be leery of turkeys with excessive glue or other miscellaneous white liquids dripping from their beaks. You just don't know where a turkey like this has been.

afflicted turkey

This is the "WTF" turkey. Any bird that elicits, as your first response, a startled "WTF?!" is to be avoided. Just say no.

Happy shopping, cooking, cleaning, eating, visiting, stressing (no, not happy stressing; just don't do it!) to each of you.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Hate the Sin, Love the Sinner?

On the way home from church yesterday, LG says to me, "Isn't it funny how someone can do something that you really hate, and they keep doing that thing that you hate, and they won't stop, but even though you hate the things they do, you can never really hate the person?"

"That's true . . ." What on earth is she thinking of . . . she's had no bad love relationships . . . no drug-addicted siblings . . . mygosh, she is wise beyond her years . . .

Turns out Biscuit is the "person" she was thinking of. "We hate how he rubs his ears on the front of the couch," she explained, "and he won't stop no matter what we do, but we still love him."

I knew that pets teach kids about responsibility. I never saw quite so clearly how much they can teach about interpersonal relationships.

(Plus, I'm telling you this to say, "Isn't my kid amazing?" :)

Sunday, November 19, 2006


Sunday Post ~ "Life is not easy for any of us. But what of that? We must have perseverance and above all confidence in ourselves. We must believe that we are gifted for something and that this thing must be attained." -- Marie Curie

I Corinthians 12:4-6
I Cornithians 15:58

file under: &Sunday Post

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Wish I Didn't Know Now What I Didn't Know Then

I've tried to write this one a few times, but it's too hard. I need to scale back my aspirations. I started trying to do a history of all the symptoms that have appeared, disappeared, taken root, morphed, etc., to try to tell you WTF WTF is, but it overwhelms me and it would bore you to tears or worse. So I'm thinking I'll break it down into a few (or more) snapshots, random thoughts, just to give you a flavor of what my body, mind, spirit are going through.

Back then. When I said I was taking a break from blogging, except for Sundays, I expected that I would see a doc or two, have a test or two, take a pill or two, and get back to normal. That's not how it has played out, though. Many docs, many tests, not many pills, and I haven't seen normal in over a year, now, including the kidney stones that started last October. I have come back to blogging, when I can, because I enjoy it. And because there are very many things that I enjoy that I can no longer do. This, I can. Sometimes. So, I do. When I can.

Every day. The symptoms in what the New Rollogists call "the muscles of speech and swallowing" are the worst. I can swallow. That's the good news. I haven't swallowed without effort and/or extreme awareness since May. And that's wrong. We're not supposed to be aware of every swallow. It's supposed to be automatic, or autonomic. Take a moment to thank your Creator for your amazing, fully functioning autonomic nervous system. It's truly miraculous. And when it goes wacky, it's truly frightening. There are daily, sometimes constant, muscle contractions and contortions in my throat and tongue. Sometimes my tongue thinks it's in the circus. You see how Michael J. Fox's muscles do their own damned thing when he's trying to be relaxed? My tongue aspires to be Michael J. Fox. It nearly drives me out of my mind. My throat, my tongue, get tired, painful. There are medications I could take, but they don't know what's wrong with me yet, and the symptoms are complex enough as it is. Any meds that might help come with nasty side effects that might further complicate diagnosis. So for now, no meds. And the other thing that threatens daily to make me lose my mind is the feeling that I am being strangled. Always, except when I am asleep, there is the sensation of something choking me. As though WTF is a monster whose hands are always at my throat. I also feel (and this makes me sound psychotic, but I've got papers saying that I'm not) like my entire throat and upper chest are concrete -- very hard, very heavy, very oppressed.

Some days. The above leads to slurred speech. I hate that a lot. And it scares me. And it limits what I can and will do. At least for now. Also some days, there is muscle weakness. Mostly in my legs, now. And it has changed. It was once mainly my knees buckling. Now, it's either a weakness (like when you've had the flu for a week) or a stiffness, like a Frankenstein walk.

Knock on wood. There are some things that appeared over the summer that are very rarely an issue these days. My hands freezing into claws. That hardly ever happens now. I still get very tired around 8 p.m., and fall into a deep sleep for about an hour. But before, I was getting fatigued to the point of being immobile a couple of times a day. And also in the summer, I had difficulty waking. After a good night's sleep, my eyes would open, but it was as though I were drugged -- couldn't focus, couldn't move, couldn't speak, for many minutes. It was as though I had to fight through a fog to come back to consciousness. I really thought I was dying then. And that would have been OK with me.

Something I understand now. How and why people with chronic, debilitating illnesses become suicidal. I'm not saying that I am. I'm not. But I do understand.

An odd thing to ponder. The neurologist said to me at my last appointment that I need to consider how far I want to go -- how painful, how invasive of tests do I want to do -- to pursue confirmation of a diagnostic label that I can't do anything about anyway. In other words, do I really want to know if I have something that will only get worse and can't be treated? Or is it better to do what I'm doing, day by day, telling myself, "I have a really weird feeling in my throat and I'm walking funny today," and leave it at that. Some people that I've told what the neurologist said think it was horrible of him. I really don't. I don't think he has the best bedside manner, and if I am going to need a neurologist long-term, he may not be the one I stick with. But I think there is some sense in asking myself the question he raised. I don't have an answer yet.

What I wish I hadn't had to find out. I had no idea that there are so many illnesses, serious illnesses, for which there are no diagnostic tests. I did not know that there are so many illnesses for which there is no treatment. I didn't know, really, that in this time, in this country, many, many people are very ill and no one knows what's wrong with them. For years. Or forever. I didn't know how many people, particularly people with neurological symptoms, are misdiagnosed, and given wrong meds, powerful, heavy-duty wrong meds, for years.

And I know some things about physicians, at least about the ones I've seen, that I didn't know before. They don't do well with not knowing. They sometimes even become angry, disrespectful to me, because my symptoms, or at least the progression of my symptoms, is atypical, not textbook. I suppose dealing with people's mental health, I have a much more flexible mindset when it comes to diagnosing and treating. I fully expect each and every person to fall outside the "textbook." When that happens, I don't feel it's any reflection on my skill or my competence. M.D.s seem to struggle with that. I have done enough research of my own to know that WTF is not an easy, cut-and-dried diagnosis. It's quite challenging. I don't get offended or upset in any way with a doctor who says, "I don't know." What does distress me are those who accuse me of . . . I'm not even sure what. Of being dishonest about my symptoms, or my history, or my medications? Of wasting their time? And those who scold me for having symptoms that don't "belong" together. I have said more than once, there is nothing that would please me more (aside from just being well) than to have symptoms that are right there on page 1 of a first year textbook. I didn't choose WTF. It chose me.

I also didn't know that I would be so alone in my quest for a diagnosis. If a client comes to me and I really don't understand what is wrong with them, I accept that, having accepted them as a client, I have accepted the responsibility for doing my damnedest to find out what is wrong. I haven't had that experience with an M.D. yet. (Well, the ENT seemed to put a little extra effort in for a time.) I have come to realize that I alone am asking people, searching the internet all the time. The doctors I've seen attend to me when I am sitting in front of them. They are not trying to find out what is wrong when I am not there. They don't have to live in this rebellious body. I do. And I'm not a doctor, or even someone with a very scientific mind. It's a struggle, trying to get myself a medical education on my own. Even when I find something online, or when one of you sends me something, I haven't yet been able to get one of my docs to read it. They say they will. But a week or two later, when I say, "What did you think..." they didn't read it "yet." This confounds me. I have no understanding of this.

Not all bad. There was one doc, a gastroenterologist who (when I told him that when all the tests started coming back normal, I went to a psychiatrist to see if I were nuts) said to me, "We may never find out what's wrong with you; that doesn't mean you're nuts, that just means we're too stupid to know what's wrong with you. On the other hand, even if you are nuts, that doesn't mean you're not really sick, too." I liked him.

So WTF IS WTF? I don't know. "They" don't know. I've had many blood tests, scans, scopes, a biopsy. The only thing that has been identified is a vitamin D deficiency. So I take supplements. A vitamin D deficiency does not account for symptoms, other than just generally feeling lousy. I've been tested for lyme, lupus, myasthenia gravis . . . other things that I don't know about. I have alluded here, one day, to a 3-letter illness that I really don't want to have. I'm not superstitious; it's just that I hate that illness, hate the thought of it so much that I don't want to say its name here. You know that my last name begins with F. On the telephone, F and S sound very much alike. I'm always having to say, "As in 'Frank,' or as in 'Sam,'" to clarify which letter I'm saying, over the phone. The New Rollogist said to me "Your symptoms are consistent with A.L.F." Well, that's not exactly what he said, but that's how I think of it now. An alien. He went on to say then, and he has a couple of times since then, that although the collection of symptoms are consistent with ALF, the progression of them would be very atypical for ALF. And for this reason, he says he is 99% sure I do not have ALF. He then always goes on to say that, "Of course, everyone is different, and everyone progresses in a different way." 99% should be good enough. I mean, you would think, wouldn't you? It doesn't completely leave my mind, though. I think because he listed some other things that he is 100% certain I don't have.

There's no test for ALF. It is, he says, a "time will tell" diagnosis. When you've ruled out everything else and your symptoms continue, worsen . . . there comes a time when it's very clear that you have ALF. Or that ALF has you.

Of all the possibilities, rare, common, treatable, untreatable, chronic . . . ALF is the one that I pray not to have. You don't get to stick around very long if you have that. There are exceptions. But not many. So, just say no to ALF:


The first time the New Rollogist talked about it, he said, "But you can't have that, because I've already diagnosed one person with that today, and I refuse to do more than one a day." That was kind of oddly reassuring. And I was relieved as Jif drove me home. But then I cried and cried. Because even though he was saying I probably didn't have it, someone did. Someone had learned that very day that he or she did. And no one should. It's a horrible [fill in expletive of your choice]. I've learned about lots of horrible things that no one should have, but some people do.

So, again, WTF IS WTF? It could be a neurological disorder that is difficult to diagnose; or, more specifically, for which there are no tests, just observation of symptoms. ALF is one of them; there are many others, I've learned. It could be an autoimmune disorder. Next week I see a Room-at-All-ogist, who will tell me if there's any room at all for considering autoimmune possibilities. It's a 3-hour appointment! WTF, indeed. But maybe he'll come up with something. I have heard that he has some sort of illness that was difficult to diagnose. Maybe that will help him help me, you know? I'm hopeful. What else? It could be something in the MS family. MS can be extremely hard to diagnose. It could still be a viral thing, that they haven't hit upon the right test for. Someone sent me info about CNP: calcifying nanoparticles. That makes a lot of sense to me, but some docs don't even believe they exist, and I haven't gotten any of mine to read about it yet. Another theory: WTF really started after I had the lithotripsy for the kidney stones. Almost immediately after. I can't believe that's coincidence. The medical types all dismiss it as coincidence. All I know is, aside from the kidney stones, I was healthy before the lithotripsy. It could be psychiatric. I could be nuts. As I said, I went to some people to find out if I'm nuts. They say no, or at least not in any way that could do to me what's been done to me. Nuts would be nice. I know what to do about nuts. I don't know what to do about WTF. And it could be something, or a collection of things, that no one in my medical world has encountered yet. The more people I talk to, the more shocked and saddened I am to learn of people who have "things" for which they never get an explanation.

I can't live like this. That's what I said when it became clear that the choking/strangling would be my constant companion. Yet, whaddya know, here I am doing just that. It is really, really tough. I've learned that humans can live with all sorts of things, even worse things than what I'm living with, even things that they really think they can't. I still don't want to. Even though I know now that I can. I still want this to stop.

Work. My private practice is basically defunct. The one it took me years to build. I can't even think about that. Remember when I told y'all how hard it is for a therapist in private practice to "call in sick"? I couldn't do that any more. And I told you how hard it is to fully attend to another person when I have a stuffy nose. Imagine when there is a monster trying to strangle me. I couldn't do it anymore. The word "devastating" comes to mind. BUT. I still work at the agency a few hours a week. I have two clients, and I have three graduate students that I supervise. As far as they know, I have a weird kind of sore throat that I have lots of doctors' appointments for. And that's not untrue, technically. One of my students, an older woman, flat-out asked me last week if I have ALF. I told her everything I've told you here, pretty much. My boss and colleagues have been AMAZING. So supportive, so patient with my absences and my lack of energy. God bless them.

I wasn't always like this. When I started blogging, it was all supposed to be fun. And funny. I NEVER wanted to be this serious or this personal. That changed last January. It's not what I wanted; but I am thankful to have had this outlet.

It is difficult for me to be so different. I am not friendly. Anymore. People who meet me now wouldn't think I'm friendly. Or witty. Or even smart. I don't have much to say. It's too difficult. I do isolate myself. Again, talking is difficult much of the time. And it's especially difficult to keep saying, "Yes, still sick; no, still don't know what it is." People get tired of hearing that. So they stop asking. And then they just stop calling, because that's what they want to ask, but they're tired of asking, and they know I'm tired of answering. I hope I get back to myself again some time. Soon.

There's more. Especially about family. But this is enough for now. I'm a little bit pathetic today. That symptom comes and goes. I'll be OK. Feel a little bit sorry for me for just a minute, but then go back to whatever you normally feel for me :) I feel very thankful for you. Please keep praying.

A CLARIFICATION: Apparently another symptom of WTF Disease is the tendency to make obscure references in blog posts. I didn't mean to confuse anyone, although I see from comments that I have. What I am calling "ALF" isn't the fuzzy alien or a liver disease. It's this. I just don't want to say its name here (I know, I'm being weird) and I don't want people who are looking for info about it to end up here. They have enough going on without chasing false leads.

file under: &WTF Disease &Partial Nudity

Sunday, November 12, 2006

it's good

Sunday Post ~ "Any concern too small to be turned into a prayer is too small to be made into a burden." -- Corrie Ten Boom

If you've been around here much, you know that I'm pretty big on prayer. Prayer has many meanings, from very simple to very complex. I tend toward simple. It means talking to God. And I do it constantly. About life and death. About lost case files and good parking spots. About blog friends, IRL friends, people on the news. I do believe God cares about everything that we care about, because that's how much God cares about us. The way good parents care about what's important to their children. I went to the wedding. It was incredibly beautiful, and meaningful. Lots of tears, all around. And while I sat at a table late in the evening, with people I love, I thought of you all. I thought that I felt well enough to sit there (and I even danced twice!) because hundreds of people had prayed, were praying, that I could be there. I became aware on Friday that there's a prayer group in a prison in Virginia who pray for me; and a church in Texas, and one in Arkansas. I don't have any understanding of why WTF isn't gone yet; for whatever reason, it's not time. But for some reason, I was granted reprieve enough over the weekend to go to a lovely wedding, and to visit with family, and even walk a lot on Saturday at a museum. So I have no complaints (until the next time I start complaining).

Thank you for helping me go to Stacey's wedding.

Philippians 1:2-3

file under: &Sunday Post &WTF Disease

Friday, November 10, 2006

Biscuit Friday ~ Extreme Makeover: Dog Edition

Here's the "Before." Note the obstruction of the eyeholes:

Biscuit before

And the "Before" rearview. Note the obstruction of the . . . well, note the obstruction. However, it is not as alarming as it may first appear:


It's a leaf. I was so relieved:


Now all holes are unobstructed. The Dog Wash got a little carried away with the clippers, but it grows back. This is Biscuit's "I support the troops" haircut, in honor of Veteran's Day:


Now that Biscuit is all shined up, he has places to go. He's going to spend the weekend with some friends. Actually, with the people who found him, wandering in a state park a few years ago, and who inflicted gave him to us. And the reason Biscuit is going away is because we're going away, too.

Insert fervent prayers that I feel well enough to go away and stay away until Sunday.

My niece is getting married tonight, and I am doing my darnedest to pull my WTF-afflicted self together and go to Delaware for the weekend. I really REALLY want to go, and to be able to stay at the wedding and the reception, and visit with family on Saturday, some of whom I haven't seen in years. I figure if I can hold it together until the reception, even if WTF acts up, I won't be the first person to stagger or talk funny at a wedding reception. So please do crank up the prayers that I get to do this, because dammit, I REALLY WANT TO! Thank you :)

So . . . for those of you who attend the Church of the Sunday Post, our services will be delayed until late Sunday afternoon. So you can sleep in :) I was going to get a post ready and have a faithful parishioner publish it for me, but then I started thinking, maybe I'll get to take some new and interesting pix while I'm away, PLUS, I'm not thinking about much other than please, God, let me go to Stacey's wedding.

So, that's my plan. I'm choosing to have faith that it will happen, so I will see you good people, and the bad dog, on Sunday. Have a good one, friends.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

What's Your Sign?

Election Day is here. It is very important to carefully consider your options, and to vote. I encourage you to approach this civic responsibility in a serious, mature manner. Even if there is a sign like this one in your neighbor's yard:


Would you put this sign in your yard?

Would you vote for this man?

Just what kind of man do you think he is?

What do you think he wants to judge? (I don't think I would want to be judged by this man.)

Do you think he has a vanity license plate?

If he wins, what will the headline say? "Titman Comes Out on Top"? What if he loses? "Titman Sags at Polls"?

I don't know, I'm just askin' . . .

(I'm Susie Fairchild, and I approved this message.)

file under: &Can't Make This Stuff Up

Sunday, November 05, 2006



upsidedown trees

Sunday Post ~

"How do I change?
If I feel depressed I will sing.
If I feel sad I will laugh.
If I feel ill I will double my labour.
If I feel fear I will plunge ahead.
If I feel inferior I will wear new garments.
If I feel uncertain I will raise my voice.
If I feel poverty I will think of wealth to come.
If I feel incompetent I will think of past success.
If I feel insignificant I will remember my goals.
Today I will be the master of my emotions." -- Og Mandino

Isaiah 61:1-3
Philippians 4:8

file under: &Sunday Post

Thursday, November 02, 2006

". . . a knack for pissing off the blind . . . "

My sister, Eclectic, wrote a lovely post about a moment in the grocery store parking lot when she was moved to try to help a fellow shopper who appeared to need some assistance. And it prompted me to remember a couple of times when I, too, have felt moved to help my fellow fellow. But it hasn't always gone well. Indeed, as I commented on Eclectic's site, I seem to have a knack for pissing off the blind.

The first time I became aware of this tendency was back in college. I was sitting in the student union at a table in the vending/snack area. Snacking, probably. And I saw a student approaching a soda machine. He was heavily laden with books, and he wore dark glasses and carried a white cane. The cane swayed and bounced ahead of him as he approached the vending area. I wondered for a brief second how a blind person could get the flavor of soda he wanted. And probably within that same second, I decided that . . . he probably couldn't. And being someone who knows how devastating it can be to sip Pepsi when you were craving Coke, I went over to offer the benefit of my considerable sighted soda selecting experience.

"Hi, how you doing? May I get that soda for you?"

"What?!" he snapped at me.

"Your drink. Could I help you out with the machine?"

"You think I can't get my own fucking soda? You think I need YOUR help to get a g*%dam# drink out of a machine? WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN ALL MY LIFE?"

You don't smack a blind man, Susie. "I am sorry. I didn't intend to offend you." And I went back to my table to watch.

And it was quite a show. He put his money in the machine. Sure enough, he did not need my help. He pushed a button. Sho' nuff. He got the can out of the bin. Sho' nuff. He popped the top. He took a sip . . .

"Son of a BITCH!" His cane located a trash can next to the machines, and he hurled the one-sipped soda into it.

He very efficiently, very competently purchased another soda. He popped the top. He took a sip . . .

"Motherfucker!" And BAM! Into the trash can.

Two more. The fourth time he got the drink he wanted. Still scratching my head over that one.

Then there was the time, years later, I was in downtown Baltimore, at a continuing education seminar for therapists. There was a psychologist sitting behind me, with her seeing-eye dog. She was a delightful little mutt, looked like mostly Corgi, but probably something bigger, too. Sandy-colored, sturdy-looking dog. Her tag said her name was Dammit. Cute. I knew better than to distract her from her duties, so I only talked to her when she was lying under the table, not being asked to do anything work-related. I struck up a conversation with her human, mostly about Dammit, but also about the seminar, work, and such.

When the time came to take a break for refreshments, I saw that the psychologist would do just fine going to the tea table and getting what she needed. Plus, I had learned my lesson about helping blind people get drinks. But what about Dammit? I said to my new friend, "May I get Dammit a bowl of water, while we're having our drinks?"

"What are you insinuating?"

"Uh . . . that she might be thirsty, too? I just meant I'd be happy to go find a bowl to give her a drink . . ."

"I've been taking very good care of my animal for years. I find it insulting that you would think I would deprive her of water . . . "

Deep breath. "It's obvious that you take very good care of her. Well, let me know if . . . "

She "hmphed" and that was that.

The day went on. We had lunch. Afternoon break approached. Dammit had no water. And dammit, I was raised such that . . . well, during my childhood, the closest thing to a religious belief that I was aware of my father having was that YOU ALWAYS PROVIDED FRESH DRINKING WATER FOR YOUR ANIMALS. Nothing made my Dad angrier than for the dogs and cat not to have water. That is still very much ingrained in me. I couldn't stand that dog not having access to water, all day. I had to try again.

"I didn't mean to offend you before . . . but I was wondering . . . do you think Dammit is thirsty now? It's no trouble at all . . . " And this time, Dr. Dammitsmom was ready to tell me the real deal.

"Did you see what it's like outside this hotel?"

I thought for a moment. "It's very busy, a LOT of traffic . . . "

"Right. And did you see any grass? Any place that a dog would want to pee?"

No, I hadn't. And I got it. She was concerned that she couldn't take Dammit out if she needed to go, so she was trying to prevent her from having to go. "You are so right. You'd have to go a ways to find some grass for her. Listen. Let's give her some water, and a few minutes later, I'll run her right down the street to some grass." I waited for her to decapitate me with her cane.

But she didn't. Her care for her dog was greater than her misplaced pride. "You're sure you wouldn't mind . . ."

"Are you KIDDING me? I get to get outta this place for a few minutes and walk a sweet dog? You'd be doing ME a favor!" So that's what happened. That was one thirsty bitch, too.

I know about whatever that gene is that prevents a person from asking for, or even accepting help, when it's offered. That has always been a dominant gene, for me. But it's changing. Because it has to. A couple of days ago I talked to a friend on the phone. A lot of it was about what a wreck my house is. And that I have to get it picked up before I'll even let anyone come in to clean it. She suggested to me that I make a list of the things that I am willing to let other people do. And keep it right by the phone so that when someone says, "Can I do anything?" I can say, "Well, it would help me out if . . ." Because a lot of people really do mean it when they say they'd like to help.

Yesterday I went to Cool School to pick up the work that LG had missed this week. I also needed to pick up wrapping paper, candy, etc., that she had sold for a fundraiser. I thought I could manage to get the work. I had serious doubts about the box of fundraiser products. I was having difficulty with both talking and walking yesterday. After I signed in at the office as a visitor, I saw a mom in the hallway that I knew from Girl Scouts. And I asked her for help. She knew that I've been dealing with something, didn't know what (as I don't know what), but at least I didn't have to start from the beginning with her. I asked her if she would help me get the fundraiser order. She would. And she did. I carried LG's assignments and this other mom carried the box of overpriced giftwrap and cheap sales awards, and we got to my car. I thanked her thoroughly, adding, "You were a Godsend. I may have been able to make it alone, but it would have been a lot more difficult, and I would have been a lot more anxious . . . " Then I gave her the arms-outstretched, fingers waggling, universal symbol for "C'mere, you, and getchoo a great big hug," and she did. And I really was, and am, thankful.

And if you're blind, I really don't ever mean to piss you off.

file under: &Can't Make This Stuff Up &WTF Disease