Monday, April 30, 2007

When the phone rings in the middle of the night

Maybe it's best just not to answer it.

Mark called to tell Justin that the next step is putting her on a ventilator. She's stable now, but if she deteriorates--that's according to the nurse. The doctor will call Justin on his cell as soon as he's done with rounds. Mark... Justin...

so I called my mom.

"Oh Lord hear my prayer, oh Lord hear my prayer, when I call, answer me..." It's part of the liturgy that's playing in my head. But what to pray for? And is it when I call? Or when He calls?

Sweet Jesus.

When the next phone call is either your stepfather or your mother's doctor and you just took an Ambien two hours ago, I guess you answer the phone and try to follow along. Like Justin said as he dialed the hospital's phone number, "This is surreal."

Sunday, April 29, 2007

HW, DNR, ICU, ETC.

Just when I was planning my next update while I ironed Justin's white coat and cleaned some stuff up after we got home from the hospital where is mom is, the phone rang.

No one but telemarketers and our parents have our home phone number.

So, original thought: We're home. Justin is doing his homework to prepare for his first day of his pediatric outpatient rotation--orientation in the morning and the pediatric cardiology ward in the afternoon (can you imagine anything more sad? besides ped's oncology?)--and I'm doing what I can to help him, which of course is just be housewife-ish. Today we've spent as much time as he can stand talking about Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) and Advanced Healthcare Directives. As far as I gather, Mark is Toni's power of attorney and they have had long discussions about what she would want should such a situation arise. (Yes, I am ever so slightly curious as to whether these discussions took place before all the accidents or during the more lucid moments between the year-round Easter greetings.) She does not have a DNR--which means doctors should use extraordinary measures to keep her alive. Like if her heart were to suddenly fail they should restart it. However, if she is going to have to breathe on a vent or be fed with a feeding tube for the rest of her life then she does not want that. This is what I understand to be true, based on Justin's relaying of information to me. (How does a daughter-in-law discuss these things with anyone but her husband?)

But as far as I have observed in our nearly five years of marriage her quality of life has deteriorated so far that I have to wonder if she could have this conversation today what her preference would be. I mean, if a resuscitation will bring her only as far back to life as she was on, say Monday when she saw two doctors who couldn't explain why on her own she can't walk, eat, read, write... etc., is that what she'd want? There are moments when the answer is so clear to me. We put our pets to sleep when they start to suffer, why do we force humans to soldier on as if they were going to get much further than where they already are? But then I think of the times she smiles at Justin or Mark, or makes a joke and grins because she knows she's made us laugh and I can sort of see why they would want to keep her around.

It's so much harder, I'll bet, to let go of someone you've loved for so long. So much easier to see that that person is still fully present, somewhere inside the shell of the body--present and watching and loving and responding in the way that she can. How could you decide to stop that goofy grin, even if you do have to help her in and out of her wheelchair throughout the day?

Then Mark called. On our house phone. Justin said the words, "oh my God," "I'm sorry, Mark," and "ICU."

Stomach dropping words.

I stood in the doorway of his office and watched him until he waved his fingers at me, and then I moved away quietly. Apparently her blood gas level dropped back down to 60--which is where it was when we brought her into the hospital. It's supposed to be in the 90s, I think. Mark's mom, who takes care of Toni despite her age, her hip surgery and now the use of an oxygen tank has better blood gas levels than that.

Driving back up now is not an option, but Mark is back at the hospital and she is getting shuttled from room to room (apparently not in the ICU, though she was moved for a bit... he just called again...). Tomorrow is a necessary day for Justin to attend class, but Tuesday there is lecture and his usual primary care physician clinic, so maybe we'll go up again, depending on the status of things. Someone can take notes for him.

Justin and I filled out Advanced Directives, chose our people, are the people for our friend. After Terry Schiavo most of the nation gave at least a passing thought to their passing lifetime. I am Justin's first person; he is mine.

But what on earth would we do?

(The phone rings again...)

"OK. OK good." This I can handle.

What do I want? I think of the number of times Justin has been near death, and how glad I am to have him here and functioning and am glad they did whatever they did to keep him going when he lost his foot and when he has that bone infection and when and when and when....

Maybe I'd rather die than live like Toni, but maybe not. She was proud to see him graduate from college, to get married, to be in medical school. When I was taking care of Justin during the bone infection he was less a burden than he was my beloved. I want him to live forever.

They're discussing DNR stuff again, it's not so great. "Even a little CPR... I agree... Yeah..."


As the daughter-in-law who never got to meet the real Toni, it's easy for me to ask whether extraordinary efforts to keep the status quo are worth it. But if it were me.... if I were the patient or the wife or the daughter of the patient...

I really don't know what I would do. I suppose this is a conversation we should all have with our next of kin. I suppose this is something I should really consider and write about and maybe even make clear and legal however one does that.

When someone this close is dying or even close... it's like the dying is everywhere.

Quick update: the doctor's had the DNR conversation with Mark. Basically, they're not going to go above and beyond to save her life, they'll do the minimal. He made it clear to them that she doesn't want to continue on the way she is "living." There won't be machines to breathe for her. There won't be machines to feed her. There could be CPR, but I don't think there will be shocks to restart her heart if it stops.

What a strange phrase. Her heart is in Justin's insistence on a certain brand of olive oil because that's what she used to cook with, in Mark's description of how she made risotto, in everyone's memory (but mine) of a feisty woman.

Justin and I don't completely understand what Mark's explanation of the situation is, but she's in some mid-level between ICU and the Respiratory Care Unit; she's being monitored closely.

I think either way we're going up on Monday night or Tuesday morning.

Sweet Jesus, what's a girl to do?

Justin and I just contemplated Ambien again tonight. How does a boy sleep when he's just told his stepfather that he agrees using "heroic" measures to keep his mother alive is a bad idea? But he has to be up in six and a half hours to go to school. We voted for sleep.

"But what if something bad happens?" he said.

"If anything that bad happens that we're driving to LA again, I'm calling someone else to drive us. We won't be in any condition to drive anyway."

"Yeah. You're right."

Good night folks. Sleep well and tell someone you love them.

Handling Hospitals

Justin's medical school training may not help me when I have a common cold, a very low grade fever, or a funky-looking reaction to a bug bite ("I hope you feel better tomorrow," is one of his oft used lines). However, it helped him do enough tests (looking like a surfer-doctor making a house call, with his casual T-shirt and shorts and his black leather doctor's bag that our best friend gave him when he started medical school) to determine that it was time to take his mother to the Emergency Room this morning.

Her breath counts and heartbeats per minute were double the normal rate and though her blood pressure was normal, which is good, she would not open her eyes, speak, hold herself up, eat or drink, and he couldn't hear her lungs work because she wouldn't take a deep breath when he asked. Non-responsive.

So he and Mark put her in the mini-van, and I followed in our car. The doctors took her right into triage and then put her in an ER bed because a woman who's almost falling out of her wheelchair gets head of line privileges over all the multi-generational families waiting for someone or another in their clan to be seen. Justin and Mark ended up sitting at Toni's bedside while the doctors drained her lungs, put her on oxygen (low blood oxygen levels), gave her an IV to hydrate and nourish her (yesterday all she drank was 8 oz. of orange juice and 4 oz. of water over the period of the whole day, plus three bites of pizza; I think that's the pattern of the last week) and ran various blood tests. Her CT Scan has been moved up from tomorrow to today (hopefully) and she'll be admitted to the hospital and put in a bed.

Meanwhile, because I wanted to put one of the fast-running, loud-screaming younger members of those waiting-room clans into the hospital as an example to the others of what happens when children create unnecessary havoc in the waiting room of a hospital Emergency Room, I decided to wait outside where there were a couple of picnic tables and benches. Turned out to be the designated smoking area.

I'm "home" now--at my parents' house waiting for the call that will tell me it's time to pick Justin up from the hospital or his mom's house. I have a feeling if Mark has anything to do with it, I'll be getting him from the hospital--when they admit her, Mark is going to want to stay with her. "What if she wakes up in the middle of the night, and I'm not there?" he asked.

It would be crazy for anyone to ever doubt the man's love and devotion to this woman who has been in a wheelchair for more than six years.

My mom and dad of course wanted to do something to help and they only live about ten miles south of Justin's family. Fortunately, I came up with the idea of bringing food to the house. Justin doesn't even want to make conversation of any sort with me right now; I think in-laws or any more people would drive him over the edge. He doesn't want to answer any questions and he doesn't want to have to take in any more information.

Since last night we've been doing this holding-it-together-relatively-quiet-holding-our-breath-just-a-little-bit thing. It's probably healthy. We're so used to the hospital routine that it's kind of undramatic for us. The first few times there were tears and worries. This time we just planned to drive up, took our Ambien so we'd sleep through the night and then got going in the morning. This time, when he finally called me from the hospital room while I was outside I point-blank said, "Does she have a DNR or advanced directive signed?" He told me that Mark has power of attorney and that he thought so. I told him he should ask Mark now, while she's stable, just in case something happened--to be prepared. We spoke as though we were discussing whether we had any leftover pizza in the fridge. When he called me again over an hour later and came out of the building to get them some lunch we continued the conversation--the choice is something about not keeping her on a vent, but trying to revive her if necessary because she's stable now.

Brandon and I talked--Brandon is Justin's best friend and first advanced directive person after me. Brandon's wife Oakley's mom also has cancer. He said because I had called earlier and left Oakz a message telling her where we were and what we were doing, since we were in the neighborhood. When I called back he answered and said, "Do you still need rescuing?"

"This isn't the sort of thing I can be rescued from. Unless of course we can throw up the cards and trade-in our mothers-in-law."

"Nah, mine's not any better than yours."

I laughed. "That's true. I was thinking maybe we both could get new ones."

Gallows humor--we were both starting to laugh pretty hard. Then he started repeating it all to Oakz.

"I'll see your cancer and raise you a stroke," he said.

"Nope, I got you on that one too--she's probably had a stroke."

"Well, it's worse for Oakley because she is so far away;" her mom is in Thailand.

"Naw, it's worse for Justin because he's in San Diego and she's in LA--there's still distance but seeing her doesn't really help. I'd give you the second or third world doctors, but we've got the ghetto doctors and terrible medical insurance problem in this country."

"Yeah--we've got witch doctors and you've got bad doctors."

I retold the story to Justin over a burrito from Super Mex, and he seemed to appreciate it as much as Oakley's silence indicated from the other side of the phone. Maybe in the future Brandon and I will keep our mother-in-law jokes between us. Some people complain because their mothers-in-law like to take them shopping at unfashionable stores or call too much.

Mine can't dial the phone herself, and for a while when we called her she'd say, "Happy Easter," no matter what month it was.

My mom wanted to know what kind of food to take over to their house and I said, "Hell if I know."

Statistically Speaking

Justin should be dead right now. Or in jail. Or a drug addict. Or an alcoholic. Or a high school drop out. Or a high school graduate FULL STOP. Or domestically violent. Or anything but what he is.

Medical and educational professionals have told him so.

But he is none of those things. In fact, right now, my wonderful, protective, caring husband is sleeping so that he can drive us to Long Beach, where we will visit his ailing mother and the rest of the family that lives with and takes care of her. Maybe we'll visit my parents too, perhaps have one or two beers, talk a little politics, play a board game if he and my mom are really lucky. After that, he'll drive me home, letting me sleep, which I will fight so I can keep him company, but we both know that by Irvine at best I'll be out and he'll be listening to talk radio to keep himself awake. Tomorrow he will start his last rotation of his third year of medical school--pediatrics, where the kids will love him because he will explain things to them (if they're young he'll quite possibly even act things out--like pretend to be a blood cell or a germ or whatever it is that needs explaining--or if they're pre-teens or teenagers he'll talk to them like they are adults until they understand; he will be on their side and they will know it. They're parents will bear witness and be comforted and spoken with as well, but the patient--the "child" will be sometimes more present in his eyes than in the eyes of the parents). Then he will come home and we will eat the dinner he made in the Crock Pot (yesterday--it's been bizarre around here lately), he'll study, we'll maybe watch some TV or have some talking-time and then he'll go to sleep and we'll start all over again the next day.

Justin is anything but a statistic, though I bet he has a lot of statistics memorized--his mind is a vault for numbers.

But yesterday, his step dad called to tell him that his mom hasn't spoken since Tuesday. It's not likely by her decision--if she had her choice she'd be bossing everyone around, cracking bawdy jokes and calling Justin at least once a week. If she had her choice "those people" (her mother-in-law and sister-in-law) would not be living in her house. Instead, they are force feeding her (just this week), helping her in and out of her wheelchair as necessary and fighting to get her to do some of her physical therapy.

Justin's mom was hit by a mac truck when she was stopped at a stop light in her car. She's got some fused vertebrae and brain injury--the single parent who put herself through college and became an engineer of some sort while he let himself into the house after school and ate TV dinners often and had to do his homework before playing with friends suddenly couldn't even add simple numbers. A little later, before he went to the River to visit his friends he stopped by and his mom and step dad told him she'd started feeling dizzy and walking into the walls and stuff. He, then a partial-foot amputee so medically retired US Marine and former EMT, told her she HAD to go to the hospital or he would take her there when he got back.

They went. She had a brain tumor. A big one. Statistically, a kind of cancer more commonly found in young children. She had to have surgery. I don't remember the statistics on survival or recovery rates for the youngsters, but since then she has been in a wheel chair with serious deficits in motor skills, speech, cognitive abilities and life functions. Enter the in-laws.

Her young husband still calls her "sweetheart" and "babe." But they used to go dancing and she used to be a photographer. She used to keep an immaculate house (I've been told) and be an excellent cook. She likes me well enough now, but Justin says she probably would have liked me then too; even though she never liked any of the women he brought home. (We all know I'm a serious upgrade though. Those were the accidental women. Oops. Another bad judgement call. And then they were gone.) Now he uses those terms of endearment to get her to turn in her wheelchair and look at people instead of Animal Planet or the Discovery Channel or whatever random show has been turned on while the other women of the house do whatever it is they do. He chooses quite restaurants so she can hear better, and translates if we don't understand her speech. He cuts up her meal in fork size bites and asks for her drinks in short cups so that she won't spill because of her tremoring hands.

You can tell he still loves her--they hold hands and smile goofy smiles at each other.

But for almost a week it's been force feeding and no words. There were two days last year where she did not speak and the doctors said maybe it was because she had a cold too. But this is day six. Sometimes the magical presence of her son inspires her--so we go, our plans to finish cleaning the house and get him ready for the pediatric rotation and go to church, then have lunch, then have me work at Mo's are suddenly changed.

We're used to these changes. These phone calls. My shoulders clench while he talks in the other room. I know bad news is coming when he gets that serious voice. Maybe it's the aging mother-in-law who has had hip surgery and smokes like a chimney while she plays games on the computer set up for her in the kitchen... but without her who would take care of his mom. Maybe it's his mom: fallen out of her wheel chair or the bed and broken another bone, needing a surgery for a shunt to drain fluid from her brain, having a chest cold which is even worse for her because she has to work pretty hard to swallow down the right side instead of inhaling her food and drink. There's a thickener they use in liquids to help her with that.

So we go.

Statistically speaking, people who have these surgeries and then radiation and chemo do not end up like she has ended up. But maybe they have better medical insurance and better doctors or start from a better place.

Whatever it is, Justin says it's taken the spark out of her. She used to be so driven and now she doesn't care. Who would? But also, they've taken the part of the brain that creates will and messed with it.

What is a woman to do? And her son? And daughter in law?

I can only imagine how frustrating this trip will be for Justin, who has held it together remarkably well this time no tears just matter of fact and just Friday took his neurology shelf exam. He's taking his medical equipment with him, he'll run some test, but not the ones he wants to run because he doesn't have access to hospital equipment for her. And then what will he do with the information? He can diagnose, he can think of treatments, but her doctors...


I am calm (though we both knew last night was an Ambien night). I don't do medical care taking well. I don't even do medical observing well. There house is a very quiet place for me, too.

Statistically speaking, her doctors are exactly what you would get in a place where a son should be everything he is not.

Statistically speaking the world is trapped in its orbit and nothing much changes.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Workaholics Anonymous

I could be the President of the organization, but no one would show up because we'd all be at work.

You can take the workaholic out of the job, but you can't take the workaholic out of the worker.

*sigh*

I'm hoping to learn the same lesson faster this time, so that I don't have to make the same mistake twice. You know, like that thing I think they say in alcoholics anonymous about insanity being when a person does the same thing over and over again, each time hoping for a different result.

I told ya'll I got hired to do modeling and to edit a magazine the same week I started hostessing at one of the busiest restaurants in town, right? Plus I still walk a dog (three starting tomorrow), mystery shop and do my art/photography thing.

Well, it turns out having four or five or six bosses isn't a great idea. There's some churchy saying about having too many masters, or serving too many masters or something like that, but all I've got to say is, "Holy God. What have I gotten myself into?"

All of the bosses said they were glad I had other work as well, since the jobs are all part time. Some are more part time than others--for instance, I'm not going to pay rent or even food bills on walking dogs, unless we start eating top ramen a lot, and that's just not in the cards of 32 year old married people. I could do a lot more modelling and that would be decent money, but I'd need to balance it with a decent amount of yoga, because my body gets a bit cranky about staying in one position for three hours ("body face this way, head turn that way. OK, now move your hand down a little, and put your leg over there. Yeah, like that. You OK? Good."). Seriously.

And of course I LOVE the editing job. The place I work in has a great vibe--nothing like a newsroom, more like a peaceful zen garden art studio candle store where pets are welcome. And then there's the bit about the words and the photos and art and stuff--which of course I groove on like nobody's business.

Then there's the restaurant job, which I also love. It's very high energy, the people I work with and the people who go there are fun, I like serving everyone and helping people and socializing, and I like keeping everything clean and nice for everyone. It's a very smiley bubbly hyper huggable time.

What's a girl to do?

G'night kids.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

A Test of the Emergency Living System

Holy God.

I lost my day planner.

I brought it with me when I went to run some errands because I am waiting for a couple of calls to schedule jobs for next week. My new day planner is the size of a regular college ruled spiral bound single subject notebook. It gives me the ability to see the whole year at a glance, plus each week at a glance, plus room to write in activities for each half-hour and then some blank space at the bottom of each day for notes. Plus a column for notes and emails and phone numbers, on the far right, at the end of each week.

Yes, I do use all of its features.


Yes, I did sit on the Barnes & Noble floor a couple of weeks after Christmas (when calendars are on sale) and sort through their variety of sizes and colors and styles of planners before I finally settled on MY planner after about an hour of deliberation.

So, I was driving home from Target when I looked over at my purse on the passenger seat and thought, "Where's my Day Planner?"

I looked under the 8x10 headshots of Fiona that I had just picked up, I looked on the backseat, I remembered that my Target bag was in the trunk. Figuring I just might have to go back to Target to search for it, I pulled over and checked the bags in the trunk. Then I made the around-the-block U-turn required to return to the packed parking lot. My heart was racing; my blood pressure must have been up. But I was concentrating on staying calm, on appearing calm, on being calm.

I looked where I had left my cart. Of course, with literally hundreds of people constantly coming and going I had no idea if my particular red cart was still there. Then I retraced my steps to the second bank of cash registers and waited while my cashier dealt with a customer whose credit card was not working. I kept circling her booth, checking to see if maybe she'd found it and stashed it away. The girl who was next in line seemed nervous that I might take even more time than the no-credit couple and their baby.

It wasn't there.

I retraced my steps through the accessories and socks to the pharmacy and bath and beauty area, where I had had to lift my cart to get out of people's way several times. Maybe it had fallen. Maybe someone had just put it on a shelf so I could find it when I came looking for it. I worked on taking slow deep breaths and let my eyes flit around the shelves while I walked as slowly and normally as possible.

I wonder what people look like when they're about to shoplift.

I wonder if the Target managers train their employees to look for people like me.

Having revisited all of the aisles I cruised the first time, I finally went to guest services and waited. (I had told myself on the way into the store that I had to believe in the goodness of people. That no one would steal someone else's day planner. That it had my phone number in it, so surely someone could call me and give it back. Of course, while I searched I managed to begin thinking that some people actually would steal a day planner. Especially one as cool as mine. They could rip out the old days and use the rest of the year and no one would ever know that they were Thieves of Time.)

It was my turn at Guest Services. "Can I help you?" The ponytailed girl wearing a red vest asked me.

"I hope so. Did anyone turn in a blue day planner," I said it as if I'd been holding my breath for minutes and I outlined the size and shape with my fingers.

She turned and started walking to the back of the room, "Yeah, I think so."

"Oh, thank God!" Again, more air than necessary for ordinary conversation and a bigger smile than usually displayed at the returns and exchanges counter of a Big Box Store.

"Have a good day!" she said.

"I will! Now that I know what to do next! I don't know what I would have done. Thank you so much!" I walked out of the store hugging the book to my chest and congratulating myself for not completely flipping out, though part way through my search I had thought, "Now, this would not be a bad time for an anti-anxiety pill. But I'm doing OK. Just keep breathing." I didn't even have to start counting (a cognitive behavioral therapy calming strategy) or anything!

Then, in the parking lot, I couldn't find my car.

Friday, April 06, 2007

A Whole New World....

A new fantastic point of view..."

(I forget the rest of the words, but there's a Disney theme song playing in my head right now.)

Good Friday greetings, everyone. The Lord be with you.

That said, I'm pondering this new life that I have chosen for now. Though Justin says I am "making significantly less money than I was when I was a teacher" (imagine that!), I wonder if spiritually I am actually meeting my needs. Here's what I mean:

I am the Editor of Vision Magazine. Thus far, that means I get to write, take photographs, work with writers and their stories, choose books, music and other products to review, and maintain my own hours during the week. I can work from home and go to the office for meetings and "office hours" as necessary. In many ways the job is similar to being the Adviser of The Falconer at Torrey Pines High School. However, at Vision, I get to be creative instead of guiding the creative minds of other people. I get to write. I do the work, to create art, instead of just suggesting ways to improve it. Both are important, but being the Editor speaks to my need to create something meaningful in a different way than teaching did. Plus, the work environment consists of three women, a dog, three offices and a bathroom I can use whether or not the kids are between classes. Also, we can burn incense and light candles and play music. These are the features of a beautiful life.

I am a hostess at Urban Mo's. Working at Mo's fulfills my need to do very high energy work while multi-tasking and meeting the needs of hundreds of other people. It is a very social environment. My co-workers and most of our guests share a saucy, dry, quick-witted sense of humor, we laugh and joke and play even while we do surprisingly physically demanding work. I love working there, and I am also glad that I don't have to do it every day. I don't have that kind of energy yet. The balance of Mo's zooming energy against the mentally stimulating yet Zen-like energy at Vision is perfect for me. I get to be two totally different people yet myself in one day.

I walk Chewy and sometimes two other neighborhood dogs. Chewy greets me with such abandon and joy that he can barely hold still long enough for me to put his little doggie harness on his chest. Because I walk Chewy, each weekday I have the opportunity to experience unconditional puppy love, breathe the fresh air of San Diego and be alone with my thoughts--which are always moved into positive space because I've got this dog next to me who actually smiles the whole time we are together as he explores the neighborhood from the vantage point of zero to twelve inches above the earth. Chewy gives me free and peaceful time.

I am an art model. This gives me kinesthetic creativity as I choose poses that will give the artists something interesting to create. And then, during the long poses I have seriously meditative time. In the rest of my life I have a very hard time sitting still. Even while watching a movie or sitting in a church pew, I am constantly shifting and fidgeting while my mind shifts to and from the intended object of my attention. But when I model, I am perfectly still except for the rise and fall of my breath and the blink of my eyelids. In this stillness I can quiet my mind as well. Yes, thoughts of the day and memories of the past and plans for the future drift by, but I practice mindfulness and watch them go. It's easy to do while I keep even my eyes focused on one spot. As a model, I am creative and meditative. It is an interesting combination of physically and mentally demanding work that delivers another kind of peace.

OK. I still have the jobs of taking care of myself and Justin and the apartment... but given the above jobs and my gigs as a photographer and painter I have to get going now... I am taking someone's headshots this morning.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

I have the ability to say "No!"

In cog they always told us "no" is a complete sentence.

I'd cock my head in confusion and look at them like a puppy who'd been told to carry a ball in its paws. Huh? I don't have opposable thumbs. How would I do that?

But yesterday I quit my job.

OK. I had to work on it for a couple of days, and I really just transferred it to a friend instead of leaving the guy in a lurch, but the important thing is that today I did not have to walk Dakota.

Yes, I know what some of you are thiSave as Draftnking. I LOVE Dakota. We had great times together, and sometimes went on really long walks downtown San Diego to Seaport Village and The Midway and through Martin Luther King, Jr., Park and around Petco Park. But that was back when I did not have four other jobs and she was sometimes my only obligation of the day. It was more like getting paid to exercise and explore my city while I thought about life and also had the benefit of unconditional puppy-love. Now, walking Dakota is a task that falls in the middle of the day (read: at the beginning or end of any art modeling shift) and takes way more energy and time than I can afford to spend.

When I told the guy on Friday that I didn't know how much longer I'd be able to walk her because I got hired for four other jobs in the span of four days and was feeling overwhelmed, he talked me into staying. Sadly, he used this logic: "you can walk her any time. She can hold her pee for 13 hours. I don't care, I just don't want to have to go through the hassle of looking for another dog walker. And she likes you so much. And my girlfriend (he sometimes calls her a fiance, I don't know what's up with that) trusts you. Dakota is fine sitting in the kennel until you get here."

So I said I'd give him two weeks notice. Then when Dakota and I got outside I called Justin and was reminded that I was supposed to actually quit. (Which I WAS going to do, if it weren't for him being there. I had a piece of paper and was going to write a note. I was going to do it the wimpy way.)

But Monday, I brought my friend with me to meet Dakota and the "dad" was there again and they were all comfortable with the situation and so today I get to stay home.

Yay! I learned to say "no."

And I'll get better at it. I also don't let people at Mo's walk all over me just because I'm the new girl.

Look everyone! It's Olaina with self-esteem and she's taking care of herself. It's like maybe I'm putting my own needs before other people's needs and wants. Maybe I'm making taking care of myself a priority--maybe I'm taking my own advice.

Cool, huh.