Thursday, July 31, 2008

The Customer is Often a Jerk


I was checking a woman into the hotel, and she handed me her Visa credit card. Then she asked, "Now, if I want to put the last night on a different card, what would be the best way to go about doing that?"

I had to think about it for a moment, because there are a few ways to go about doing that, and I couldn't remember the best way. In an act of 'pondering, I placed the tip of the edge of the corner of her card to the bottom on my chin, and said "hmm..."

"I'm sorry," she said, "But are you touching my credit card to your germ-y face?"

I was stunned. I looked at her disgusted face, and I removed the tip of the edge of the corner of her card from the bottom of my chin. I said,

"Oh, I'm sorry, I wasn't thinking. Oh... and uh oh... it looks like I accidentally touched it with my filthy fingers, too."

In other words, Go Dig Yourself A Hole.


Saturday, July 26, 2008


I was reading through some old stuff and found these last two little pieces about Max, Pete's bird... thought I'd post em. They actually go before "Animal Hospital Walls," but oh well. The bird is dead. Chronology doesn't matter so much anymore.



Max is Pete's Cockateil that he's had since he was 12 years old, after his dad accidentally killed Max 1 by leaving the blanket over his cage while the family vacationed. Birds don't eat in the dark, so Max 1 starved himself in a dark cage. The story of Max 1 is very tragic, but Pete's dad made up for it by buying Max 2, who looks just like Max 1 but turned out to be a girl. Maxine is her full name. She reaped the benefits of her predecessor's demise and was taken on the family vacations.

About two months ago, Pete noticed a small growth on her left wing. She'd had one before, but it had fallen off shortly after it developed. This one did not fall off. It grew to the size of a jelly bean - and not like the yummy little Jelly Belly kind, but like the big, sugary, nasty kind that grandmas set out around Christmas. It surpassed the size of the Christmas jelly bean, and then Pete got nervous. He researched bird tumors online. Most of the forums said to take her to the vet. Others explained that it would be highly unlikely for a bird of her age to make it through any kind of surgery. Another suggested that he tie off the growth and let it die, which he did. The growth turned dark by that night, and shortly after Max began pecking at it. Max now looks like a warrior that has barely survived battle. The left side of her face is coated in dry blood, and her growth is inexplicable. Pete cleans her off as best as he can and he continues to tie off the growth because it is dying. Unfortunately, Max may as well.

Pete dressed for work tonight in my favorite pinstripe button-down and blue tie. I asked him if he was Okay, and he said Not really. Then he asked me to take his picture with Max. We closed the closet doors for a basic background, and he carefully extracted Max from her cage. Lifting his finger level to his face, he positioned her so that her good side faced the camera and he smiled. It was a proud, sad smile: a man and his bird. He smiled again, a tender smile, and I took that picture too. I said, One more, and this time he couldn't lift the corners of his mouth very high. He looked at Max, and I captured that sweet exchange. And then he started to cry. He put Max back in her cage and I held him while we cried together. I tried to wrap my arms around both the 12 year old boy that picked Max out in a pet store and the 24 year old man that now is worried that she's suffering and that he's not doing the right thing.

I prayed and thanked Jesus for seeing the small parts of our life, and asked him to alleviate any pain that Max may be feeling. I asked for wisdom as to whether or not we should put her down tomorrow, which I know is all Pete will be thinking about while he works tonight.I promised to call him at work if anything happens, and I told him to be at peace. Max is now huddled in the corner of her cage, sleeping, I hope. And even though I never wanted this bird in the first place, and even though I know she has never liked me, I wish with all of my heart that I could mend her and give her back to Pete.

See? I would say. All better, now.


I took off my boots and ran upstairs to the sound of Max's wings flopping in her cage. She was tossing as if some invisible force was throwing punches and beating the shit out of her. Her head craned back into an unnatural arch and then she suddenly stopped, panting. I called Pete to tell him that Max had seizure, but he walked in the door before he could pick up.

Pete sat with Max, his bird of 12 years, as she continued to have seizures in ten minute intervals. I couldn't watch, but I returned upstairs now and then to put my arms around him as scratched the back of her neck with his fingertip. After about forty-five minutes he looked at me and said, "I guess I should kill her."I looked at Max and her bloody tumor; she was shivering slightly and looked scared. I looked at Pete and his full, watery eyes. He looked scared, too. I called animal hospitals, but the only one open past six didn't accept birds. I googled terms like: "most humane way to kill a bird" and kept clicking, hoping to find something that didn't suggest cutting off her head.

Finally I called the pet store in Chicago that Max came from, and talked to a bird expert named Julie. She suggested that we put Max in a box, tie up the box, and place her in a freezer. The cold would drop her body temperature so drastically that she would quickly fall asleep, and die shorty after.

The only box I could find around the right size was a Victoria's Secret gift box leftover from a wedding shower. It was a little big, so we lined one side with a bag of frozen peas, then laid one sheet of paper towel along the bottom. We put on our shoes and coats, and Pete grabbed his wallet. With a last goodbye, we placed her frail bird body into the pink coffin, tied it with a ribbon, and placed her on the bottom shelf of the freezer. We ran down to our car, and went out to eat with our friends as planned.

Two hours later, I was giving our friends a tour of our apartment. I came back downstairs and gave Pete a hug and asked how he was doing. He hugged me back and said uncertainly, "Well. Max is still with us. " I lurched out of his arms and covered my open mouth. "Yeah," he said, "I opened the box, and she peaked her head out as if to say, 'Hi. Can I come out of the freezer, now?'"

Max is now sitting in her cage and responds with a whistle whenever Pete says her name. The tumor is still there, and so is the fear that her seizures will start up again. But as far as I can tell, the freezer cured our bird.

The freezer cured our bird.

We put our bird in the freezer.

We placed Max in a lingire box, tied it with a satin ribbon, and set her on the bottom shelf.

"It shouldn't take very long," Julie said. "Her body should fall asleep within ten minutes, and shortly after, she will die. This is probably the least traumatic way to handle it."

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Joker Devotional

Every time the Joker was on screen, my insides were thrilled. I found myself moving my tongue briskly in my mouth, just to see how he did it. He must have practiced that one trait for days; I hadn't nearly perfected it by the end of the two and a half hour film.

The Joker was the reason I loved and hated the film. Without him, it wouldn't have had much depth. But the depth that he provided was one I wasn't willing to take in; I left feeling more compelled by darkness than by any shred or subliminal theme of goodness. I left feeling like goodness was the surface, simple cover up for the greater reality of evil.

There was one monologue in particular, near the end, when the Joker is talking about chaos. I remember the essence of it, if not a few direct quotes:

No one is fearful of anything that fits into the plan, "even if the plan is terrible." If it were announced that a truck of soldiers was going to blow up tomorrow, you wouldn't panic. There would be no chaos, because it fits into 'the plan.' But threaten "one little mayor..." and suddenly there is chaos. Because things aren't going according to plan.

This is why I hated the movie: the personification of pure evil was the most clear thinking and insightful character. Because he's right.

My fears all revolve around those things that are out of my control. I don't truly fear things like failure, because I feel like failure and success are within my control; I would regret failure, but I do not fear it. The things that I fear: death of a loved one, physical pain, being tied down and tickled, my own death.... these are the things that I can't control.

The Joker only confirmed what I already knew, even before I sat to watch The Dark Knight.

To release myself from fear is to release my control. And when I truly submit myself to the Lord and His will, I am free of the chaos waiting just outside my own plan.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Getting the Love You Want

As I was checking in an elderly couple at the hotel, the gentleman glanced at my book laying down on the counter. "So," he asked kindly, "are you getting the love that you want?" He was referencing the title.

This would have been somewhat embarrassing, but I was actually able to tell him that I in fact am getting the love that I want. "My husband and I are taking a marriage class," I explained, "and this is the book it's based on."

"A marriage class?" His wife asked. "Well isn't that wonderful, dear." She looked at her husband. "John, isn't that wonderful?"

Before Pete and I married, we read a lot of books about marriage and we talked a lot about our relationship. Regardless of how in love and perhaps blind we were, a rational part of us wanted to make sure we covered all of our bases so that we wouldn't make a terrible, binding mistake. It was exhausting being so passionately in love while remaining open to the possibility of breaking it off and seeing other people.

Once we finally got married, it was like a huge weight had been lifted. The decision had been made. And for once, it was nice just to be in a relationship without constantly having to analyze it and weigh it and discuss it. So we didn't read any books, and we didn't talk with any older or wiser couples. We just ate breakfast and went to work and watched movies and had a lot of sex. Bliss.

Now, about a year and a half later, it's time to start discussing our relationship again. We're taking a class with our church based on the New York Times bestseller, Getting the Love You Want. Each class starts with a "romantic interlude," which this week entailed of whispering to your spouse a memory from the first time you made love. Pete whispered so quietly there that I could barely hear him myself. I think I caught, "You looked beautiful, and it was kind of complicated."

Next we watch videos of Hendrix and Helen, who are married, but maintain several separate professional last names. Helen has so many last names that I can only assume she kept her mother's, her father's, and her ex-husband's, but chose not to take Hendrix's. Hendrix and Helen both are prototypes of male and female psychologists, in that he has glasses and a beard and she has an unruly head of curls. They sit in opposite chairs and they demonstrate the Couple's Dialogue.

The Couple's Dialogue has three parts: mirroring, validating, and empathizing. I will now demonstrate a dialogue that Pete and I practiced with at class.

Joy: I would like to tell you about a dream that I had last night.

Pete: What you are telling me is that you had a dream last night which you want to tell me about. Did I get that right?

Joy: Yes. I had a dream last night that I was eating breakfast with Abraham Lincoln, and he was just now leaving office in 2008.

Pete: So, in this dream, you were eating breakfast with Abraham Lincoln. It struck you as odd that he was leaving office in 2008.

Joy: Almost. It didn't strike me as odd in the actual dream. But I think that it is odd now that I am consciously thinking about it.

Pete: So Abraham Lincoln was leaving office in 2008, but this did not seem odd in the dream. Did I catch that?

Joy: Yes.

Pete: Is there more?

Joy: Yes. In the dream, I asked Abraham Lincoln what he was planning to do after he left office, and he said that he was going to move to New Zealand because their stock market was good, as well as the weather.

Pete: In your dream Abraham Lincoln conveyed his plans to you, which were to move to New Zealand because of the better stock market and climate. Is that right?

Joy: Yes.

Pete: Is there more?

Joy: Well... now that you ask... I'm remembering that I had a hard time falling asleep last night. And at some point I thought that maybe I should take a sleeping pill. Thinking about sleeping pills made me think about that commercial with Abraham Lincoln and the groundhog who are missing from people's dreams because these people can't sleep. So I think that's why I had a dream about Abraham Lincoln.

Pete: If I'm getting this right, you thought about Abraham Lincoln before you went to sleep, and you think that may be the reason that you had a dream about him.

Joy: Yes. Also, I think that I couldn't fall asleep last night because I took that long nap. So maybe I should cut back on naps and just depend on a good night's sleep.

Pete: Is there any more?

Joy: No.

After Pete summarizes the conversation in whole, he asks, "Did I get all of that?" And then I say, "Yes, I think so."

Joy: Yes, I think so.

Pete: Well, I think that makes a lot of sense that you would dream about Abraham Lincoln after thinking about him. And I also think it is valid that you may have slept poorly because you took a nap. I feel your dilemma, because I think I sometimes don't sleep as well because of the naps that I take. If you want to try skipping your naps, I'd be happy to help you in any way that I can.


So, basically, the Couple's Dialogue is a great tool to make sure that the one partner feels respected and heard-out before the other partner tries to either defend him or herself or offer solutions. It is also a great tool to drive you a little crazy.

Of course, what it is actually good for is providing structure around heated discussions. "I would like to tell you about a dream I had last night" is one thing; "I would like to tell you about how you made a complete fool of me in front of everyone" is another. It takes great patience to parrot back, "So what you're saying is that you felt as though I was being a jerk to you and trying to expose you in front of everyone," instead of saying, "Honey, you got this all wrong; it was a joke." You can always just wait until there is no more, and say, "I would like to have a dialogue about why I think that you should lighten up a little."

Helen, Hendrix and Abraham Lincoln aside, it feels really good to be back in our groove, analyzing and fine-tuning our relationship. Marital bliss can get a little boring. Sometimes you need to throw in some couple's dialogue to spice things up.

- January 08

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Intellectual Vanity

Often when I read mindless entertainment like The Devil Wears Prada, I find myself folding the cover back when in public. I do not do this with titles like Les Miserables or The Corrections.


Clean House

Whenever I clean a room, a small part of me believes that I've really done it this time, that the room will stay in a perpetual state of clean.


Dream Lives

I always love when I show up in someone else's dreams. It makes me feel like I'm secretly living extra lives.