Once upon a time, in a land far away where stretch marks and lack of sleep were only the stuff of sc-fi inspired fairy tales, I used to be a reporter. It was my dream (okay, my consolation prize, but I’ll get to that in a minute) and not six weeks after graduating from the University of Detroit Mercy, I was hired as City Editor for The Mirror Of Berkley and Huntington Woods in Michigan.

Don’t get too excited. The title sounds super fancy, but it was a loaded one with a pretty measly paycheck. The Mirror office served as the hub for all the Mirror publications, including Royal Oak, Ferndale, Clawson, and my new little neck of Oakland County. And each paper had its own editor…which meant we did all the city council and school board meetings, wrote up the features on the bazillion kids making Eagle Scout and new business features, made nice with the police chiefs to get the best scoops on the police beats, wrote the majority of our own stories, assigned the one photographer we all shared, dummied our own papers, and proofed each other’s pages before calling it done and starting the whole process all over again.

It was crazy, but I loved it. Even after I moved on to another city paper in Northville, I still got that macabre rush reporters don’t always admit to when covering murder trials (Jessica Seabold and Florence Unger were the two biggest, but the papers I worked at aren’t in business anymore so you’ll just have to take me at my word) or stepping over pools of blood at car accident scenes while waiting for comments from the Chief and scrounging up witnesses willing to talk. Even as I was thinking “front page!” I was reigning in my own emotions in an effort to objectively capture the voices of those who mattered.

I hadn’t grown up wanting to be a reporter. Hell, I only chose Communications as my major when I got to college because I’m a math idiot and I figured I’d eventually figure something out since the department kind of served as the umbrella for what would have been separate English, Journalism, and Public Relations departments at larger universities. And after only a few months and not one high school byline to my name, I decided I was going to become a reporter. My name started appearing in the college paper, and I was just counting the days until someone recognized my literary genius and asked me to write a book.

That’s how it all started. With dreams of a book. I was eight when I decided I was going to become an author after reading one by Gordon Kormon and learning that he was published at 13 after an English assignment had a teacher wondering how he got so lucky to have gotten this kid named Gordon in his class (Or at least, that’s how I remember it). That gave me five years to hone my skills. I figured I had plenty of time.

Long story short, I had my first midlife crisis at 14. My writer’s ego was in fine shape, but the skills needed to accompany it were sorely lacking. I wrote essays about everything and showed them to my friends before hiding them away. I wrote children’s books that I thought were spectacular and were anything but. (The first was called “Crashing in the Backyard of the White House. No, I’m not making that up.) And as clueless as I am was I still was as certain that I was going to become a real writer one day as I was that I was never going to be crowned Homecoming Queen.

My bright idea when I got to college was that if I got a job as a reporter that it would at least give me a steady paycheck until I hit the big time. I had it all laid out: Step One–small time local paper, Step Two–Detroit News or Free Press, Step Three–start freelancing articles to the glossy mags, Step Four–and then just wait for someone to ask me to write a book.

Great plan. The execution sucked.

Step One was rocky. I was eventually fired by a rather evil-gnomish looking editor for refusing to use off the record information from a trusted source, got even when my side of the story had the Unemployment offices ordering my former employer to pay me for being idiots, and waited tables while waiting patiently for an editor at one of the big Detroit Newspapers to notice me and my wondrous clips.

Someone eventually noticed. But Step Two was even rockier because I didn’t get my dream job as a reporter. So I patiently did my editorial assistant duties (and occasionally got a writer’s high with my own byline) as I waited for someone to notice me, give me a raise, new title, and the ability to focus on stories (so someone else could notice me and ask me to write a book.)

But before any of that could happen, I got pregnant, put on bed rest at six months, quit after my maternity leave was up (because I had spent those eight weeks doing the math and realizing I wasn’t making enough to pay for daycare, gas, and lunch) and decided to try Step Two and a Half: Get my bylines in the local parenting magazines in order to have the cajones (and know how) to approach the glossies (which would eventually lead to someone noticing me and asking me to write a book.)

I never made it to Step Three. Bottom line? I sucked at the business-end of freelancing. While I may have been able to write the hell out of a feature article, I never bothered querying new markets, or was able to balance taking care of Buttercup and getting my taxes done on time.

Besides, by then I had realized that even though I thrived on deadlines and lived to write, I wasn’t writing what I wanted. I’d been so busy working on my back-up plan so I could afford to wait to be noticed while writing a book that I didn’t have the time or the energy to even get a Chapter One at the top of a new document on the screen.

I was burned out and I hadn’t even started. And no one had noticed me and asked me to write that book yet, so I said “to hell with it” and just went ahead and started.

(Hey, I got tired of waiting)

The funniest part about the whole thing is that until a few months ago, I never comfortably used the term “writer” to describe myself. I was a “reporter”. Or a “freelancer.” Then, for a little while, just a “wife and mom” while I came to terms with getting off my ass and finally making my own dreams come true. The binders I have stuffed full of clips? That was just proof I let my fear of doing what I wanted get lost in the shuffle. Because I wasn’t really a writer, at least not the way I had defined it so long ago, if I didn’t have my name on a shelf at Borders.

Maybe it was the first #writerwednesday mention on Twitter. Maybe it was Chapter 8 of Baby F(Ph)at. Maybe it was the fact that I finally pulled my head out of my ass.

I was eight when I decided to become a writer. And I was 31 when I finally realized that I had been all along.

 

There I am in line at the grocery store when I see it. Octomom’s cover story on Star Magazine. She’s in a bikini, looking pretty sweet for a woman who gave birth to eight babies a year ago. In a red bikini and trying too hard to look like the sexy siren she’s not, she claims to have lose the 150 pounds the good old-fashioned way; no doctors, surgery, or tucks for her….oh no, siree!

As much as I cringe every time I hear her name or any detail about this Jon & Kate Wanna-be, I’m more than a little pissed that my fat ass is still trying to cram in the time to work out, clean my house, write, spend quality time with one child, and still cling to my last working nerve while Octomom is flaunting her decent looking curves for the world to see.

According to this article, she’s got three live-in nannies and friends sometimes take one child for days at a time to help lighten her load. Sure. Great. Awesome.

Whatever.

Whether or not her claims to a surgery-free new bod are true or not really doesn’t matter. It’s sour grapes, either way, because The Mom who Everyone Loves to Hate just showed me up.

I wonder if this is how football teams that don’t utterly suck feel like when the Detroit Lions make the news because they actually won a game.

 

I answered the phone. And all is not lost.

Our dog named Cat still has a chance. And we’re holding on to hope.

According to the IMG00221-20100126-1531vet, Cat has Chylothorax disease, which is extremely rare in dogs. Options are limited, he says, but she may be able to pull through. Right now she’s at my feet while I type, unaware that I’m gonna be shoving more pills down her throat in a few minutes to fight infection and help with inflammation. And Friday we return to the vet for her chest cavity to be drained of fluid build-up once again.

It might seem like we are only buying time. And maybe we are. But we’re using that time to get educated. I refuse to blindly agree to euthanasia when/if the option is presented without doing my own homework. And so far, we’re dissecting one comment from the vet who examined Cat that I doubt he paid much attention to.

Turns out, Cat is the 6th animal (3 dogs and 2 cats, I believe) who has been treated for Chylothorax in his office in the last eight weeks. From research and conversations with friends in the industry, we know that this is a crazy-big number for one doctor to be seeing in a lifetime, let alone such a short time-span. And since Chylothorax can sometimes be the result of a fungal infection, we’re going all Nancy Drew and concluding that she contracted Valley Fever, which resulted in her present condition.

I’ll have an answer in a week. Maybe we’re wrong. But if we’re right, there’s more hope because we know how to proceed.

I read a book once by a self-published author about her quest to save her cancerous dog’s life. The book sucked. It was badly written and well, that’s probably why it was self-published, but all I could think as I read page after page telling of cross-country flights on her husband’s private plane to specialists for expensive treatments and resting in their “mountain home,” was that she was loaded beyond belief. There was no way in hell I’d ever utter the words “cost is not an issue” to save a pet’s life.

Must be nice, right?

But as painful as the book was to read from a writer’s perspective, there was no denying the author’s love for her friend. She moved heaven and earth to do what she could for that dog.

I wish I had a private plane. Because then, cost wouldn’t be an issue.

My bank account isn’t big enough to get God’s attention for a temporary celestial relocation, but that’s okay. We’ve got hope. And for now, that’s enough.

 

It’s been a while since I posted a poem from my children’s book, Roy G. Biv. But lo and behold, the term keeps popping up in my blog searches from visitors, so I thought I’d pick another favorite to share.

Who knows…maybe one day I’ll be able to share with you that the collection dreamed itself into a real-life book.  For now, I’ll just share what I’ve got.

Violet and Violet

Violet the Crayon is
Very proud

For a flower was named in
Her honor

Violet the Flower is
Even prouder

For she knows the crayon was named
After the Flower

 

It’s been a few days and all the ideas for what I could blog about today (my PCOS research, the famous expert doctor I’d love to see but  can’t afford, how I never get shit done on The Husband’s days off, Buttercup and her tile snow-angels because we live in the desert and imagination is key if you wanna make one) but it all went out the window today when the Veterinarian looked at me with sad eyes and told me my dog has a very slim chance of surviving.

Her name is Catherine the Great and she’s an angel of a Rottweiler. At 6 and a half, Cat’s permanently etched herself into our hearts, and cemented her place in Buttercup’s history as The Dog Who Helped Her Learn to Stand.

When Buttercup was 10 months old and getting brave enough to explore the world on two feet, she would crawl up to our then 90-pound Rottie and grab on to the folds in Cat’s skin, as if securing herself on a cliff like a rock climber, and slowly hoist herself up. Cat would just sit quietly on her belly, turning her head to seek approval as Buttercup gained confidence with each pull. All she asked for was praise and acknowledgment that she was being a good girl before sighing contentedly and placing herPicture 2116 head back on the floor between her paws, happy to be mothering my baby.

We’ve always been conscientious about our dogs and vet care, so when my mother reported to me that Cat fell asleep standing up last night and woke up only after her legs gave out on her, I high-tailed it into the vet’s today for what I hoped would be a simple and easily treatable condition.

But her labored breathing changed everything. An ex-ray showed only 25 percent lung capacity. The rest of her chest cavity is filled with fluid.

I don’t have all the medical terms straight in my head. I can only explain that Cat pranced back into the exam room like a brand new dog after the vet drew 8 huge syringes of fluid from her body, not only providing her great relief, but allowing for adequate testing.

She weighs 78 pounds.

I’m waiting for the call tomorrow. Either it’s a miracle, or it’s a death sentence.

I don’t want to answer the phone.

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