December 2007


We’re back from our holiday weekend and struggling to get back in the swing of things. We went to NC to visit JP’s family for the holiday weekend, and it was great even if it did mean a five-hour drive each way with JP’s dad chain-smoking cigars out his window while I shivered in the backseat.

Saturday, we spent the day doing last minute Christmas shopping and getting ready for our trip. We had parked the poor, damaged scooter in The Spot, where it was awaiting a visit from the insurance adjuster. When we came out to load the car, we were shocked to see this:

I know it’s dark, but if you look carefully, you’ll see that a car is parked diagonally across a walkway protruding into our parking spot. Not only is it clearly parked outside of any legitimate parking space, it is also very close to hitting the scooter. What you may not be able to see in the photo is that there were three actual spaces available surrounding these two vehicles. This was not a case of someone cramming into a made-up space because there was nothing else available. This was clearly a threat because we were parked in The Spot. The car is does not belong to Ms. Hatfield, but I can only assume this is the guest she warned us would be arriving in her last letter.

I took a couple of photos for proof, and Ms. Hatfield came out of her condo and glared at me as I did so. Then I went over to the home owners association office, but of course it was the weekend, and therefore no one was in the office. We did speak to the gate keeper (yes, we live in a gated community) but he was little to no help. And by this point we were running late and needed to go.

So I held onto the photos and we headed North for a fun-filled weekend in a land where they’ve never heard of the internet, the nearest movie theater is 23 miles away and closed on Christmas Eve, and fast food restaurants proudly boast signs like this:

Also, I don’t know what exactly went awry, but Christmas dinner was so bad we had to sneak out later and go to Waffle House (which appeared to be the only restaurant open in the entire state). When food from WAFFLE HOUSE is better than Christmas dinner, you have a serious problem.

When we arrived home on Tuesday night, the scooter was not where we left it. Yes, you read that correctly. We froze for a moment, thinking that it was stolen. Then we turned around and saw it SITTING ON THE SIDEWALK BY OUR HOUSE.

Someone (ie Ms. Hatfield and her cronies) physically removed it from the spot where it was parked legally and placed it on the sidewalk so they could have The Spot. Aside from the fact that WHAT?! YOU CANNOT DO THAT! I’m am even more upset because a scooter is not like a bicycle. You cannot just roll it where you want it. It is a machine that turns off and the handlebars lock. That means, in order to move it, you need to turn it on. If you don’t, you can cause serious damage to the steering mechanisms. And, given the fact the it was in an accident on Friday and insurance adjuster still had not examined it at that time, we certainly didn’t need someone messing with it. I was absolutely livid. Lucky for Ms. Hatfield, she was not home when we got there. Had she been, I’m scared of what I might have done.

What we DID do, was call the cops and make a report. The cop who came out was a total jerk and basically told us that unless we can prove that it is damaged and that we know who damaged it, he was not getting involved. While I do understand that, I also know that I wanted a record of this incident because her actions are escalating.

Today I called the HOA office and talked to YET ANOTHER person. I told the whole story and assured her that all of this information is documented and on file in her office. And I informed her that I had called the police, and I will continue calling the police if this harassment continues. She was utterly appalled (as they always are) and promised to resolve the situation immediately (as they always do). She also promised to call me back and let me know what steps have been taken to resolve the situation.

As yet, I’ve not received a call from her. Shocking.

Waiting for the punchline? Me too.

JP’s daily commute takes her down arguably the busiest street in Atlanta at the height of rush hour traffic. It’s an exercise in frustration, and this morning was worse than most thanks to the (much-needed) rain that doused the city last night.

It would have been annoying, but far from memorable, were it not for the priest who darted into traffic. He was not in a crosswalk and was crossing against the light. And he ran out with no warning, causing the man in the car in front of her to slam on his breaks. JP slammed on her breaks as well, but it was not enough, thanks to the wet roads.

Her scooter slammed into the back of the car and she went over the handlebars, bruising her stomach and pinning her leg between the bike and the car. Thankfully, she is (mostly) fine. The cop, who was very nice and assured her that the circumstances and weather conditions would convince the judge to reduce the “following too closely” ticket he was required to issue, wanted her to go to the hospital and get checked out, but she didn’t feel it was necessary. I agreed with her, under the condition that she stay with me all day so I can observe her in case she gets worse and needs to go to the Emergency Room. She is resting peacefully now with her leg elevated and a new copy of US Weekly to entertain her. She’s bruised and uncomfortable and shaken, but it could have been much, much worse. I think I’m actually more shaken than she is at this point. She just announced that she was feeling fine and wanted to run a Christmas errand without me. At which point, I broke down and began sobbing because I was scared to let her out of my sight.

The other car received only minor damages (some scuffing and a broken tail light). The scooter sustained some pretty serious damage, but we have comprehensive insurance that should cover all of the repairs. If only my nerves could be repaired as easily.

Meanwhile, you might be asking yourself what became of that man of the cloth. When he heard the screeching of tires of blacktop and saw the collision, did he run to their aid? You might assume that he would be the first to offer assistance and comfort to the young woman laying on the ground, not just because he caused the accident but also because it is his job — no, his “calling” — to care for people as his savior once cared for them . If so, you would be wrong. Because that man of god? He bolted.

Even as people yelled for him to come back, he ran as far and fast as he could with no apparent thought for those who were injured. His only concern seemed to be staying out of trouble. How do you like those family values?

Last night, on our way to dinner, JP and I passed yet another car sporting a “Jesus is the Reason for the Season” bumper sticker. Once I finished throwing up in my mouth, I started ranting about how much I hate that slogan. Now you can be privy to my grievances as well. Lucky you.

I am SO SICK of hearing Christians talk about “taking back” Christmas or “protecting” Christmas. No one is trying to cancel Christmas. And, ironically, most of these so-called Christmas traditions that these Christians are so adamant about protecting and preserving, were not theirs to begin with — they were appropriated from other religions and cultures. Decorating trees, hanging mistletoe and ivy, lighting the yule log, exchanging gifts…all of those traditions were appropriated from other winter holiday festivals. Yet Christians freak out when cities or institutions decide to rename their Christmas tress “holiday trees” in an attempt to be inclusive. I could choke on the irony.

The thing is, I have nothing against Christmas. I don’t even mind the Christian aspects of the holiday. I don’t shriek in horror when I spot the baby Jesus. I just hate the Christians who don’t want to share. Those who think it’s THEIR holiday and anyone who doesn’t see things their way is STEALING it or RUINING it. Those who want to boycott stores whose signs say “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas” or who rend their clothing at the thought of a city-sponsored Nativity set being taken down. They don’t want equality. They want special rights and privileges.

All of that ill-informed presumption is summed up nicely in a cute little rhyming phrase: “Jesus is the reason for the season.”

Everytime I see one of those sticker or pins, I want to scream. No. No he is NOT the reason for the season. He certainly is not the reason for these holiday traditions. Nor he isn’t the reason for the “season” — that’s thanks to the tilt of the earth’s axis. Last night, when I was ranting about this, I told JP that I wanted to make my own sticker one that said, “The earth’s axis is the reason for the season.”

Apparently I’m not the only one to think up that snippy comeback. Today one of my favorite authors and bloggers posted this graphic on his website. It made my day season.

Two rival pieces of junk mail received today.

What’s that? You thought my neighborhood feud was over? Ha.

Things have been pretty quiet on that front, due mostly to the fact that we haven’t been parking in The Spot. Not because we’ve caved to their demands, but because they are retired and home 24/7 and never leave the spot, whereas Jamie and I have jobs and friends and A LIFE and therefore do not have time to sit sentry over a PARKING SPOT.

As established in our last meeting with the Home Owners Association manager, there is plenty of parking for everyone, and there was never a question of people not being able to park in the lot. The only issue was certain people wanting to claim specific spots. And even though we’ve continued to park both our vehicles in front of the building, there has been plenty of room for everyone.

But then yesterday, we parked in The Spot. And not 12 hours later, we received this note:

“The residents of this building will be entertaining and having friends and family for Xmas. You are occupying two spaces in front. We are all asking you to park your motor scooter in the overflow at the side of your building as suggested by management”

The note was signed by Ms. Hatfield and two of her cronies. Please note her emphasis on ALL, which I find ironic since there are six units that share this parking lot and only three signatures. Apparently, in her world 1+1+1=6.

Also, please note that she have given up arguing that there is not enough room for everyone who lives there when we park both our vehicles. That (lie) obviously wasn’t working for her, so she had to come up with something else. Now we are supposed to move our vehicle and park elsewhere so that her GUESTS can part there. It’s an ironic argument from someone who has argued in the past that the overflow parking area is supposed to be for guests and only residents should be able to park in front of the building. And it’s not like she gave a specific date when she’d be needing extra parking because she was hosting a party. Apparently we are supposed to park elsewhere for the entirety of the holiday season because it is possible that AT SOME POINT she is going to have a guest who would like to park in front of the building. What I want to know is, why should her guest be given priority over a resident who pays HOA dues? And if it’s SO important that her guests receive the prime parking spots (rather than park in the overflow area, which was created for OVERFLOW parking like GUESTS) then why can’t she move HER car?

The whole things is utterly ridiculous. This morning I took the new note (along with all previous correspondence between us, her and the HOA) to the HOA office and asked to speak to the manager, only to find out that she is no longer employed there. I admit, I’m not sad to see her go. She definitely could have handled this better the first time around. If she had never sent out the last memo, this old biddy wouldn’t think she has the power to tell us to abide by something “suggested by management”. The interim-manager I spoke to was appalled by all of this. He also knew exactly who I was talking about, because they have caused problems in the past. He has assured me that he will be speaking with them today and resolving this matter.

Somehow I don’t think this is the last we’ll hear of it.

* Thanks to everyone who has shared their pet stories. I REALLY appreciate it. We’re still not ready to rush into anything, but I’m feeling better and better about the prospect of finding Winston a sibling. It seems like the consensus is that it may take a little while, but he WILL adjust and probably will be happier for it.

*My body has finally succumbed to the millions of germs surrounding me. For the past two weeks, every single person I come into regular contact with has been sick with the cold from hell. I was holding up pretty well at first, but eventually it was too much to bear and now I sound like a dying freight train: wheezing, hacking and sniffing incessantly. I am zapped of all energy and spend my days fantasizing about sleep and my nights — unfortunately — wheezing and hacking. It is only Wednesday, and I am dying for the weekend.

* Yesterday I actually opened up the dusty old file on my hard drive containing my novel. It’s almost exactly half done, and I haven’t touched it in at least six months because I had edited and edited and edited the first half so much that it was all a blur. I was at the point where everything seemed wrong and it seemed impossible to fix. Amazingly, when I read it yesterday, I loved it. There were a few structural issues that were easy enough to fix, and a few snippets of dialog or narration that needed tweaking. But overall, it was fine. Apparently I just needed a little perspective. Now that all of that is handled, I’m ready to get to work on the second half. I know what is going to happen. I just need to buckle down and write it.

is a little sister?

Maybe?

Or maybe what he really wants is for us NOT to get him a little sister?

I’m so confused. For months and months, JP and I have been talking about getting a second dog. We both want one. And it seems like the transition from one dog to two would not be nearly as hard as getting the first dog. After all, we already have to feed/walk/bathe/entertain one dog. And MAYBE if we had two dogs, they would entertain each other and give us a rest every once in awhile.

But on the other hand…poor Beastie is not the most social when it comes to other dogs. He LOVES people and will gladly frolic or cuddle with anyone who looks his direction. And he likes other dogs. When he sees them, he gets all wiggly and waggly and prances all around. But as soon as they get close, it’s a different story. As soon as they get within a six-foot radius, his tail tucks between his legs, his ears flatten against his head, and he runs for cover behind my legs. He’s not truly scared, just incredibly submissive. He WANTS to play, he’s just too nervous.

I’ve spent years trying to socialize him. He’s gone to obedience school, doggie playdates, dog parks, etc. And although he definitely warms up to specific dogs after repeated exposure, he’s never gotten past his timidity. I’ve come to accept that this is just his nature, and there is no cure to be had. And I count my blessings in that regard, because I’d much rather he be super submissive than super dominant and/or aggressive.

So then I start thinking, maybe if it was not just a random dog, maybe if it was a dog he lived with 24-7, then he would not be scared. And then he would be able to play and have fun. Maybe having a little sister would be the best thing that ever happened to him.

But maybe not. Maybe he would stay timid and scared. Maybe he would hate having his home invaded by another dog. Maybe he would be uncomfortable in his own home. Maybe he would feel betrayed.

I just don’t know what to do. I know JP desperately wants another dog. She wants to experience the puppy stage, which she missed with the Beastie, because I adopted him when I was single. And I want so much to experience that with her. If we didn’t already have a dog, there would be no question of getting a puppy right now. We would have already done it.

Right now, I’m leaning heavily toward to the “get a new puppy” camp. But I’m so unsure, so confused about what is the right decision. And I have to wonder: if the decision to get a second pet is this difficult, how do couples ever decide to have a second child?

Any thoughts, stories, advice about adding a second dog to a family greatly appreciated.

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