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Back into the fray: The puppy chronicles Day 1

Since the week following Yuna’s passing, we’ve been scouring online for a new dog to adopt. Our home has felt so empty without a dog in the house, and even though our beloved friends have been bringing by their awesome little pup, it’s just not enough.¬† Our requirements are pretty straightforward. No human or dog aggression, no food/toy/treat possessiveness, and no senior dogs…yet. The biggest, of course, is that the dog would have to be very good with kids. We saw a bunch online that looked like they might fit the bill, but many were with rescue organizations who charge ~$400 for adoption. Considering the bills we’re still paying off from both Sophie and Yuna, that’s pretty steep. We turned to local shelters, as their fees are much more reasonable, though the dogs tend to be more stressed due to the environment. After a few false starts, we went down to a local shelter and met a dog they called Cornmuffin. Terrible friggin name, I know, but the dude there said they run outta names every so often and just pick ridiculous shit. He’s what appears to be a shepherd mix, about 40 lbs, and is about 1.5 – 2 years old. He came out sniffing around the room and investigating everything, but when someone started to pet him he instantly stopped and stood still. Even the kids, who were really excited, would pet him and he’d just drop to his back for belly rubs. He was such a sweet boy that we filled out an application, and yesterday we got approved and I brought home our newest little bundle of furry joy!

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Driving home from the shelter

Meet Egon, our newest little ghostbuster. I brought him home yesterday during a snow day, while my mother-in-law watched the kids. After a little while, I suddenly realized how much I’d forgotten about having a “puppy”. While he’s technically past that phase, we gotta work with some of the puppy things with him. For one, he’s not trained with commands. I mean, he does know sit with limited success, but stuff like ‘come’ and ‘no’ are things he needs work on. He pulls hard on the leash, and perhaps the hardest will be his ‘marking’. He doesn’t appear to be housebroken, but instead of emptying he marks areas with a couple of squirts. I brought him outside and he eliminated both ways so I thought I was good. Then he came back inside and peed on the floor ten minutes later. We also have to crate train him, which will probably be a chore since he seems terrified of his crate. I’m not sure if he fears that we’ll abandon him or something, since he was found as a stray and we don’t know what his history is. Lastly, he appears to be somewhat of an escape artist. He can jump nearly my height, and when I went to bring my fighting gear to the car this morning he blew past me and ran out the front door. I was actively trying to keep him back, too, it just wasn’t enough. So we’ve got some training to do. Oh, one more thing, so we put him in his crate last night and he whined and barked like mad. So I brought the crate into our bedroom, and once the lights were out he did it again. I woke up and read online that the best course of action, if he’s indeed whining because he wants out and not cuz he needs to go potty, is to just ignore him. Dude, it’s after midnight, the Lish and I both have work, this is not the best plan! Thankfully, Lish came to the rescue. EARPLUGS! Slept like the fucking dead after that.

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belly rubs please!

Apart from that, though, he’s awesome! He always wants some love, spent the night on the couch with me playing video games (he lost, gotta teach him those combos!), and he’s amazing with the kids. They can easily approach him and play or pet him, and he loves every second of it. This is the first dog that actually played with the kids in earnest. Yuna would if we were involved, but only then. Sophie and Sully only really played tug games, and we discouraged that with the kids since we like having their arms attached firmly to their bodies. Egon, on the other hand, loves it, and they adore him already. His happy demeanor, puppy energy, and goofy play make him perfect with them. I’m hoping that once he settles in, we can socialize him more with other dogs and get him ready for a new friend.

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oh, HAI!

In the meantime, we’ve got work to do. Before we even think about bringing in another dog, we need to make sure we’ve addressed the major issues. Housebreaking him, teaching him to come and to stop doing things, and being polite on a leash are the main focuses. The realization of all this hit me hard. I didn’t realize how truly lucky we were with Yuna. Never accidents in the house, always great with commands, she was just a terror on the leash and bad with other dogs. I never had to worry she was in another room doing something she shouldn’t be, and never had to worry that she’d run out the front door. She’d just stare at the open door like it was a portal to hell or something. Anyways, because of all this my anxiety launched into the stratosphere today. I’m concerned about how long it’ll take, about him getting into the pool when I’m not home to get him out, about my mother-in-law being able to cope with him when she’s home with the kids, etc. I know it’ll be ok, I’m just fucking mental and don’t handle big changes as well as I should. Lucky for me, this big change is so goddamn adorable, and lets me snuggle with him. Onward towards this new adventure!

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The wee beast loves giving belly rubs!

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He sits up like a little dingo!

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Oh hai dad, I’m snugglin with the mom

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He’s a snuggler

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Egon and Peanutty, finalizing a deal…

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It’s very difficult to work from home like this, Egon…

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In Memoriam of that crazy Fish

This is extremely difficult for me right now. I apologize in advance if this does not flow well, as I know there will be many stops and starts born from the need to step away when the emotions are too much. There will also be various updates done as I remember more and more, but for now this needs to be done.

Two days ago, on February 24th 2018, we had to say goodbye to the first dog we ever lived with together. Yuna Saphira Fishy Swah was 11 years old, and was with us since she was a few months old. This entire situation gutted us because it was all so fast. Last week, she was totally fine. She ate, ran, played, and was her normal fishy self. Then, earlier in the week, she started acting off. She stopped eating as much, then stopped eating completely. She was lethargic and seemed to have a little difficulty breathing. We took her to the vet, and he did some blood work and x-rays. The x-rays showed a haze around her, which they determined to be fluid surrounding her body cavity. When the blood work came back the following day, he called us in to say that some thing looked off, and he wanted to do an ultrasound and analyze the fluid in her. He said it could just be something like pancreatitis, or it could be some form of cancer. The fluid analysis would tell the tale. She ate a can of food at the vet that day, Thursday, and things looked up. We tried giving her another can that night, but she wasn’t into it. The next day we were away, and when we got home at night she was still not eating and still very much not herself. Saturday morning, the Lish had to run a morning errand, and I went to pick up the kids from their grandparents. Around noon, Lish called to tell me she got home and Yuna was noticeably worse. Her breathing was labored, and her belly was more swollen due to fluid buildup. She called the vet, who gave us the bad news. Stomach cancer. That’s why she didn’t want to eat, and it was also causing the fluid build up. Due to the type of cancer, there wasn’t really anything he could do. I rushed home with the kids in tow to say goodbye. Our vet took us in right away, even though they were closed for the day and he had a personal doctor’s appointment that he had to cancel so he could see us. We held her, loved her, talked to her, and cried. He gave her the sedative to make her sleep, but she fought and stayed awake until the very end. I kept eye contact with her until her last, and saw her leave this world. The dam broke, the waves of sorrow, anger, frustration, and loss pounded into me, devastating me inside with every surge. The sheer disbelief, the thoughts of “how could this happen?”. I hadn’t taken it too seriously earlier because she never really got sick, and she was always filled with such boundless puppy joy and energy. How could such a perfectly bright shining star of love, kindness, happiness, and cheer be snuffed out like the flame of a candle. Now, I’m left with an emptiness, a hollowness in my heart where part of me is missing.

We left the vet’s office, and came home to an empty house for the first time. It felt wrong, awful, and alien. We gathered up her things to put them away, out of sight. I brought the crates, bowls, and food mat down to the basement. I came up to find the Lish outside, sitting in the light rain. She was clutching Yuna’s toys and crying in earnest. I joined her. We wept openly for out lost baby, our little swah. We came back in some time later and tried to get ourselves centered and distracted. We called some of our friends to make them aware of what happened. They offered to come by, but we said we’d be ok. They all came by anyway, bringing love, comfort snacks, and even dinner. Those who brought us dinner weren’t planning on staying because they had their little dog with them, and didn’t want to upset us by bringing her in. I asked them to bring her in, and it was just what we needed. The love of our friends, and their dog’s crazy puppy energy, brought some life back into our home, even if only for a few hours. We’re thankful to have such great people in our lives. The next day was difficult. I’m reminded of her absence at every turn, and I’m constantly needing to catch myself from calling out to her. I imagine seeing her every time I look at the couch or peer out into the backyard. I feel the absence of her presence when I’m in my office, and when I use the bathroom, since she’d exploit such occasions to get constant love and pets from her ‘captive audience’. I sat in my office for a time, holding her rope (aptly named, Ropey), and crying.

Yuna!

Our first time laying eyes on her, in her cage at the shelter.

Yuna was our first dog together. Lish and I both had dogs growing up, and when we moved into our first house we were finally able to adopt a dog. We went to the North Shore Animal League and decided to give a puppy a home. We saw a bunch of adorable pups, but our hearts were stolen by this lanky mantle puppy cowering in the back of her cage. We took her out, and she was this little bundle of love, giving us endless kisses without being at all mouthy. We were smitten, and decided that she was the one. I had to leave briefly to drive our friend home, and while I was away, the Lish found an older dog who stole her heart as well. We adopted them both. The older dog we named Cosmo, after Cher’s character’s father from the movie Moonstruck. The beautiful puppy we named Yuna, after the beautiful summoner from Final Fantasy X, since she summoned love and happiness everywhere she went. We took them home and got them all set up. We decided to crate train Yuna, but she was too small for the small size crate we bought, so we had to put a cooler and some boxes in there to use up the space. She was a brilliant dog. House trained and crate trained in a few days. We later took her to obedience lessons, where she learned pretty well. If we said “Yuna, come” she’d always come running.

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The spot on her back looks like the Narcissus from the movie Alien.

She started developing an issue where she’d chase her tail. It became a problem, and she’d just chase all the time and bark while doing so. We took her to specialist after specialist, and eventually she broke free of it because we got Sophie. The two would run and play, and it broke the cycle. She never had an issue chasing ever again, even though eventually the two started getting into actual fights and needed to be kept separate. Still, I do think they had a bond, and Yuna was different after Sophie died. Anyways, I’m getting off track here. Too many breaks.

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Fssssssssshhhhh!

Her name. You now know her name, as listed in the first paragraph, but here’s the explanation of everything after Yuna. First, before any other nicknames, she received her alter ego name. As I said before, Yuna was a licker. She licked everyone, and loved giving kisses. Even when she was a puppy, she’d pause mid-lick with her tongue on your hand or face, almost as if she was too tired to keep it going. She became known as The Lazy Licker, and she did that right until the end. Soon after getting her, we saw the movie Eragon and his dragon reminded us of Yuna when the dragon was young. We then started calling her Yuna Saphira. Fast forward a bit, and Lish jokingly called her Yuna fish, cuz it sounded like tuna fish. The name stuck, and we started referring to her as Fish. Yes, we had a dog named Fish… Finally, there was a joke Lish told that went something like this: “What do you call a fish with no eyes?” “Fssssshhhhh”. We would call Yuna by saying Fsssshhhhhh, and she’d come running like mad cuz that was usually playtime. We had so many great times with her, I literally can’t list them all. I will, however, give some highlights.

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Best buds having a nap.

First, I’ll talk about her temperament. Yuna, while not really a fan of other dogs after the incident with Sophie, was the best dog with people and children. She never once showed any sort of aggression towards anyone, and was always there to comfort, play, and lick. She always wanted to be close, to lay on people, to pet, and to lick your face. When we first had her, we slept upstairs while the dogs slept downstairs. The first of us to wake up would go downstairs to let her out, and then call upstairs “incoming!”. The remaining person in bed had a brief couple of seconds to cover up while hearing the approaching thunder of her running up the stairs, just before that crazy fish jumped on the bed and proceeded to lick their face. She was always ready to play when it was playtime, snuggle when it was couch time, and comfort us when we were going through something.

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Looking dignified with Ropey.

She would eviscerate any toy we gave her, even those deemed virtually indestructible. Only a few over the years were durable enough to survive. We have video of her gutting her “indestructible alligator” after maybe 5-10 minutes of play. Still, she loved her toys. As a puppy, her favorite was her “heave a beaver”, but eventually her love of Ropey and Pheasant outshined them all. She did eventually have one toy that she never truly gutted, which we called her lovey. She took it with her around the house, but didn’t shred it like the others. This was only a recent thing, though. She also had horrible separation anxiety, and would shred any bed or blanket we put in her crate when we left the house. The leftovers were referred to as remnants when we’d find them around the house.

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Fuckin’ A right, Dad…Fuckin’ A!!!

We’ll miss her “voice” in the house as well. We’re the sort of people who talk for our animals, and have full on conversations. Sometimes it’s short, like me looking down at her by the back door and saying “What’s up, little Fish?”, only to respond in her voice with “Dad. Gotta shit. Crowning right now.”. Another would be me trying to chase her down, and her taunting me by saying “Dad, you’re too slow…you need two more legs!”. Sometimes it’s longer talks, usually when Lish questions something she does and I respond in her voice. Then there’s the occasional “Damn Right!”, or “Fuckin A right, Mom/Dad!”, after which we’d tell her to watch her language, to which she’d respond “Fuck yeah, on it!”. She’d also ‘refer’ to herself as supardafish, cuz she’s very supaaaar, and incredibly da-fish. I know, we’re fuckin’ weird, but you already knew that since you read this shit. Besides, we’re damn near 2k words in this post already, so if you’re still reading you’ve probably already lost your mind anyways and this crap seems normal.

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Goddamnit, Dad, don’t just sit there, they’re invading again!!! TO ARMS….errr, PAWS!!!!

Yuna was also the only dog we had that watched TV. She would keep an eye on it for any time an animal would appear on the screen, at which time she would jump off the couch, run up to the TV, and bark her head off at “those fuckers” on screen trying to invade the house through the magic window in the living room.

 

 

 

She’d also play this lovely game called “attack the victim”. If the kids were chasing me around the house, or if it was me chasing the Lish, Yuna would get involved. Instead of going after the attacker and protecting, she’d attack the victim, jumping up and trying to play while slowing them down. This tactic worked to her advantage, as a slowed playful human was easier to lick in the face.

There were the little things she did. Her on my lap while I ate at the dinner table, which we called “that mysterious warmth”. Her licking us on the back of the knee when we’d get out of the shower. Hearing the Beast giggle and laugh in the bathroom after a shower because “Yuna just licked my tushy”.

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I’ve got that weird warmth on my leg again…so strange…

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A boy and his dog.

A huge thing I’m gonna miss is her with the Peanutty. He always loved her, but in the past 2 years or so he really connected with her. He’d always want to be close to her, give her love, cover her with a blanket, or play with her. It was very much an instance of “a boy and his dog”. When Lish’s mom would stay over, Yuna would sleep in bed with her, but we’d often find Yuna in Peanutty’s bed in the morning. She’d leave the room with Lish’s mom and go into Peanutty’s room and climb into bed with him. He was absolutely devastated when this all went down, and yesterday was peppered with random breakdowns on his end as well.

 

So now we have an empty house. No little feet padding around the carpet, or clicking on the hardwood. No little head nudging my arm for love, or resting her head on my lap while I ate. No beautiful soulful eyes looking up at me while I give love and scratchies on the head. No more hearing the children giggling maniacally because she’s licking their faces, which would get more and more vigorous the more they laughed. No 50 lbs of puppy energy jumping on the bed and rooting around to find my face and deliver massive slobber attacks, tail wagging more and more furiously the longer it goes on. No barking at the TV. No climbing over the Lish on the couch so she could lay down between us while we watched TV. No more fighting with Ropey or Pheasant. No more ‘Damn Right’. No more attacking the victim. No more snuggling together in bed at night when the Lish was away for the weekend. I just walk in the house now and call out, with only my echo to greet me. At night I just go bed, and don’t give her goodnight kisses and whisper “g’night little feet” to her before shutting her crate. I’ll never kiss her tiny head or ears again, never hug her again, never smell her paws or play ‘kiss ya last’. My heart is just fucking broken, and the waves just keep coming. I’m still mostly in shock, and I think it’s because if I were to let the emotions happen I’d have a full blown panic attack and be a complete mess.

I miss you, my little angel. You were my puppy, my friend, my companion, my heart, my dog, the best little fish ever, and I don’t know how the fuck I can live without you. My life feels broken and wrong. I don’t want this reality now, because the world was a far better place with you in it. You mean so very much to me, my little pup, and I hope the feeling was mutual. I hope you were happy, and that we gave you a good life with us. We certainly tried. I don’t want this all to be true, and I hate that I’ll never hold you again. I love you, always and forever, my little baby fish. You will always be in my heart, until the day I die, and nobody else will ever be the fish.

IN MEMORIAM

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Adoption day

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Puppy naps on the dad

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Fish and Peanutty, love at first sight

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“I licked his face good, he’s awake now…”

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Those eyes…

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Big yawn!

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Waiting to go outside!

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They napped often

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Gaming is a family function

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Naptime

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She was always close by

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I’m seeing a trend

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My children

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“Come on, throw the ball!”

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“forget the ball, tired now”

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Hey fish, there’s the squirrel that talked shit about you!

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Helping me with arcade work

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Fish, I’d like my arm back please…

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I can haz chicken?

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My smiling fish

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couch snuggles!

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Best friend hugs

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Lickies in the mouth for fish!

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She looks like she wants pictures of Spiderman

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Little fish on the couch

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Christmas snuggle puppy

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Fish and Monster

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Here I come!!!

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Fish and the man

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Here comes the lick!

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The amazing bouncing fish

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She loved running in the snow

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Can I help you

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Seriously, who sleeps sitting up?!

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Just some besties snuggling, nothing to see here

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Stumpy, Yuna’s squirrel arch-nemesis, taunts her from outside.

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Lazy licker strikes again

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I’m seeing a trend with these two

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Come in, meet the missus

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Mom, I’m moving in with fish

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Many nights spent with my buddy on the couch

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Fish and the beast, chillin

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Staying close to the beast outside.

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Lounging in the sun together

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oh, hi there fish!

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My favorite toy is in here, somewhere…

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What?!

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Excuse me, fish, that’s MY bed!

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Dignified AF

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Laaaaaaazy licker!

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Smooch attack on the dad!

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….and I’m spent

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Get in, we’re going to 7/11 for snacks!

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Belly rubs, please

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Poor lil fish and her tiny head

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love my girl

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So pretty

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Everyone loves that swa

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“I’m comin’, mom!”

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No one’s the fish…

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Goodbye my baby girl….We love you

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In memory of the old guard

That old unfamiliar feeling…

For those who know me, they’re aware that I’m a bit mental. I have absolute shit self esteem, a horrible self image, extreme difficulty recognizing any of my accomplishments, impostor syndrome, etc. Although this sounds really awful, it’s actually weird inside my head. I’ll explain.

So, deep down, it’s not that I don’t realize I’ve done something good. I’m not blind or daft, I know a good thing when I see it. The problems I have are how I deal with such things in conversation. For example, if I played a gig with my band, and I performed really well, I’ll know it and feel proud of it. However, were someone to say as much to me, I’d thank them and be ‘meh’ about it. If they were to press, I’d nitpick the shit out of it and explain why it was a crap performance. If it was actually exceptional, I’d say it was pure luck, and I’m normally not that good. I’m shit at taking compliments, but deep down I’m actually able to see their perspective and agree on some level. I just can’t fully acknowledge it. This causes me to be of two minds about things and have weird swings, where I’ll be all “I’m total fucking garbage at this” one minute, and “I’m better than this performance” the next.

Much of this stems from shit that happened when I was growing up. Being told you’re shit at everything, being picked last all the time, being called stupid and ugly by literally everyone around you, it all adds up. The result, and the crux of it I think, is that I learned that my opinion on things relating to myself cannot be trusted, and the opinion of those around me is what matters. This changed when I got older, of course, but by that time I matched my opinions to that of the people in my youth, and thus became my worst enemy. Now, when someone compliments me, I feel that they must be wrong because I’m this monstrous, worthless piece of shit, as evidenced by years of people telling me so. I weigh new information on the scales of the past, and tend to not take any of the counterweights off. Let’s face it, all bullshit aside, I did some horrible things in my life, and acted horribly towards friends and family who didn’t deserve it. On some level, I feel undeserving of both friends and family, and on another level I want people to prove me wrong and argue that I AM worth caring about. Like I said, it’s messy in there.

This all adds to my anxiety and depression. I don’t dare believe that I’m actually worth a damn, since the second someone says anything to the contrary I’ll immediately fall back on old habits. After all, what’s a few years of good things said when put up against decades of bad. A simple, and crushing, example of this has to do with my looks. When I was a kid, other kids and some in my family would say that I looked like the character Rocky from the movie Mask. If you’ve never heard of it, google it. This has been said to me by various people over the course of my entire lifetime. The most recent was a coworker who said it, someone who has no connection to my past whatsoever. Now, regardless of what the amazing Lish has tried to beat into my head, I hear that and can’t help but think that this MUST have relevance, since so many unrelated people made the exact same comparison. When I look in the mirror, that’s what I see. Now, people could tell me the opposite until they were blue in the face, and maybe it’d have a slight effect after a few years, but the second I hear that comparison again it’ll all come crashing back down. It’s a vicious cycle of getting my hopes up, only to be reminded of what I truly am and where I belong.

I say all this because right now, my hopes are up a bit. This is a direct result of my burgeoning fighting career in the SCA. When I started out, I asked a local fighter who was helping me learn if I was where I should be, skill-wise, considering how long I’ve been in armor, or if I was beyond or behind that. I honestly felt like I was doing really well, and thought he might say on par or better. It was a stupid fishing trip where I was trying to find reasons to believe. He said I was behind, and it was kind of a kick in the guts. I don’t blame him for saying it, I asked for his honest opinion and he gave it. I kept at it, though, cuz I wanted the experiences of fighting at Pennsic and in a tourney. Since then, people have been nothing but encouraging. Even though I don’t feel like I’m getting it fast enough or consistently enough, people I respect are helping to keep me aloft. I’ve spoken with veteran fighters who have said flattering and encouraging things about not only my fighting, but my views and actions regarding the virtues of the fighting community, some going so far as to say that I’m way ahead of the game in that respect. Even so, repeating that publicly like this makes me feel like a right arrogant cunt, so full of myself because of what his friends say to him. Don’t get me wrong, my lizard brain tries to write a lot of this stuff off, as I’ve mentioned before. Thoughts like “oh they’re just saying that so I don’t lose heart”, or imagining them saying “he needs these little lies/embellishments every so often because he’s got shit self esteem”, or perhaps thinking that it’s being said so I stay in armor to fill the ranks.

The weird thing is, though, that some of the good talk is starting to stick. It’s growing roots, and it’s a feeling I can’t remember ever feeling before. I doubt everything good, by nature, and feel like it’s just a matter of time before people realize I’m not worth the time and just bail. But this is almost in defiance of that doubt. I wonder what will happen the next time someone tells me I’m garbage at this. I wonder how far down that blow will knock me. Will it be to the ground? To my knees? Will I just take it and still stand? Or can I hope to dodge or block the shot and come back swinging? I can’t say for sure, but the effect this community has had on me is really starting to take shape. An example would be the Unbelts Facebook group. I was made an admin of the group before the creator left (he got knighted, so no longer an unbelt), mainly cuz I’m online all day and was very active in the group. I had a short discussion with the other admins, who told me that as an admin of the group, people will likely see me as being in a leadership role of sorts, even though that’s not the case in real life. Upon hearing this, my first thought was “I don’t belong in that role, maybe that’s what they’re getting at. I’ll give them the out”. I asked whether they think there is someone else more suited to that position, since who the fuck am I to be in such a role. I said I didn’t want to overstep my bounds. Instead of taking me up on that, they responded by saying I’m not overstepping, and should anyone say something like “who the fuck does this guy think he is”, they’d respond with “that’s Fearghus, the admin, and he’s our dude”. I can’t begin to explain what that felt like. It’s weird being made to feel like I belong in such a community, truly belong. I’ve never really felt that. Even with my music, I’ve always felt like the community outsider. Not quite in, but not quite out, just sorta there and easily dismissed without any loss. Now I don’t just feel like I fit in, I feel like my presence is wanted and welcomed. Whether people actually feel that way, or if I’m just reading too far into it with a hopeful heart, who the fuck knows.

In truth, I’m not fishing with this post. I’m not looking for further affirmation, or confirmation of the hopes I have, mostly because I feel as though a response to a fishing expedition is not exactly credible, since it was requested. It holds less weight. Still, I have hopes that this will be something that helps me change. Something that gives me the helping hand up so I can finally get past this barrier I’ve stood behind for so long. My only fear with that is whether I will be even more of an arrogant ass were I to actually believe in myself. After all, the line between arrogance and self awareness is pretty thin, and tends to be elusive as fuck for me. I guess we’ll see with time.

In Memoriam of the Monster

This is difficult for me. This past Saturday, we said goodbye to Sophie. It was one of the hardest decisions we’ve ever made for many reasons, which I’ll get into later. For now, let’s talk about the beautiful life of Sophie the Monster.

When we moved into our first house, we adopted two dogs, Yuna and Cosmo. Yuna had an issue where she’d chase her tail constantly, and we thought maybe if she had someone to play with (Cosmo was a grumpy old fucker) that she’d snap out of it. So we went to the local pound and looked for someone in need of rescue. That’s when I saw my monster. She was a 3 year old American Staffordshire Terrier that was supposedly rescued from somewhere where she was overbred for puppies. The vets said it looked like she had quite a few back to back litters, one of which was recent. The catch? According to her temperament profile, she was not good around men. When I asked about that, they said that she did not like the male employee that helped do the profile, and that she might not be good with a male owner. I wanted to meet her anyway. We met, played, walked, and she seemed to be ok. We had her meet our pups, and they seemed fine with each other, so we took her home. This was Father’s Day weekend, so I stayed home all weekend with her.

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Father’s Day at my sister’s house.

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Our first weekend together, two peas in a pod

We bonded that first weekend in a big way. We played, snuggled, napped, and really fell in love. From that moment on, as the Lish would tell people, she became “my dog”. While Lish claims Sophie merely tolerated her presence, she only had eyes for the dad. So much for her hating men. Pretty soon we noticed something else interesting. Her and Yuna would roughhouse and play a lot, and from that moment on, Yuna stopped chasing her tail. The only caveat now was that sometimes their play time would get a little too rough, so we had a dog trainer come in to evaluate Sophie. She was very standoffish to the dog, and didn’t like that Sophie was a dominant dog. Her official recommendation to us was that she could not be trained to not be dominant, and that we should put her down. I was fucking devastated. Lish and I spoke about it for hours, and in the end, decided “fuck that bitch”, and we kept her.

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Investigating Peanutty in his pack and play

We moved to our next home, and eventually things escalated between Yuna and Sophs. They had a terrible fight one day while the Lish had them outside, and it resulted in Sophs having to alpha-roll Yuna to get her to stop attacking. She just pinned her down and then let her go. From that moment on, however, we had to keep them separate to avoid any future fights, especially with a newborn on the way. Sophie was always wonderful around my children. There was never any hint of aggression or whatnot. They’d pet her, pull on her when they were very little, and feed her. She loved the kids so very much, and seemed rather protective of them.

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What’s a little chomp between friends?

Over the years, we played, laughed, got licked in the face, almost died from the farts, and loved that little pup. We named her Sophie after Princess Sophie from the DaVinci Code (her original name was Duthie…yikes!). Since she looked fierce to some people, due to her breed, but was actually a love muffin (my other nickname for her), she got the name Monster, an ironic jab at those who thought all pits were horrible and dangerous. We’d play with her favorite toy, this round rubber ball that she was never able to destroy, and absolutely loved. We called it round and fun, just like Sophie. We’d also call her Chewie sometimes because instead of barking she’d make Chewbacca noises sometimes. She loved snow, and would go outside and just eat it, which would sometimes make cold walks in the winter frustrating for those pansy humans who were shivering. She was like a bull in a china shop, and we’d joke that she was “beauty and grace” when she would barrel through something. She was a great pup.

Over the past year or two, Sophie lost quite a bit of weight, and at one point she seemed sensitive on her back towards her tail. We brought her to our vet, and we left with bad news. Sophie had liver cancer. In the months that followed, we watched her get worse slowly. She had trouble with her back legs, and eventually was falling very often. We tried medications to help, but it didn’t make a difference. She also lost her ability to hold her bladder and bowels, and was having accidents in the house pretty much daily. We had to keep her in a diaper at all times when she was in the house. She went completely deaf in both ears, and blind in one eye. We couldn’t leave her out of her crate unless we were downstairs in the room with her. Otherwise, she’d pace around the house, get into things, and have accidents that would go through the diaper and leave deposits around the house for us to find later.

Still, on occasion she was try to hop around and play with the same playful energy she always had. This made it extremely difficult to consider letting her go. I’d think to myself that she’s still got lots of life left in her, and how could I do such a thing. I didn’t think she was ready to go. When the time came recently to make the terrible call, it was with pain and overwhelming emotion. The fact of the matter is that her quality of life was poor due to the pain, lack of function, and lack of control. She ended up starting to snap at us, thinking that our hands near her face were us trying to feed her. We couldn’t risk her nipping one of the kids, and it wouldn’t be right to keep her crated all the time unless the kids were upstairs. Peanutty said to the Lish a few days earlier that he misses the old monster, and liked the old monster more than the new one. It was time. We gave her a long life, she was 13-14 years old, and would have been put down in the pound had we not taken her in, and though that should have given me some comfort, I can’t really take any at this time.

Our vet came to our home with an assistant, and we said our goodbyes to our beautiful little monster. I can’t begin to express the depth of my sorrows, my anger, and even my guilt. While a big part of me believes that what we did was right, I’ll always feel guilt about putting a dog down. I don’t think there will be a day where it won’t make me feel like some sort of murderer, someone who did away with a beautiful life without that being’s consent. I was the love of her life, and loved her so very much. A part of me hates myself for this. I loved her, more than words can accurately describe. I want her back, the old her, who played with me and roughhoused with me. I want to hit things and scream. I’m crying while writing this and can’t stop. We were there for her when she left this world, and I held her head and cried into her fur. I will miss you always, my love. Always and forever. You were my monster, my love muffin, and one of the best friends I ever had. I’m so sorry about everything, and I truly hope you are at peace. I will miss you always. I love you.

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She always winked

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Summer Monster

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Sophie and her arch nemesis, round and fun!

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Snuggling on the couch with the peanutty

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She was always down for some naptime with the pups!

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Smile Sophs…..close enough

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Sleeping monster in the sunlight

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I love this picture. My little angel of light.

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“Guys, have you tried this snow? It’s exquisite!”

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Happy puppy at our first house!

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There’s my monster smile!

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Sophie the monster, princess of the ivy!

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The Lish needed some cleaning, and Sophie had her covered!

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Farewell my beautiful angel, daddy will always miss you.

The path to honor

In my youth, I don’t think I ever really considered the concept of honor deeply or meaningfully. As such, I did much that would make me a rather dishonorable person. Over the years, however, I’ve thought quite a bit about it, and I’ve tried my hardest to walk the path of honor as much as possible. I’ve read books on chivalry and bushido, adapting it as best I could to fit the modern age. This has proven difficult for me, as my initial reactions tend to be quite less than honorable, but it’s something I’m working on.

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I’m pretty solid on the whole not charging an unhorsed opponent part…the rest is a bit spotty…

My personal path to honor involves always trying to do the right thing by others, thinking and meditating on the most reasonable and right thing to do in situations, and live my life with humility, understanding, and patience. The best part about all this is that when I’m actually able to do it, the feeling is amazing. Things also tend to work out better when I act more honorably. Still, though, I’m not sure when I’ll truly be a person that I would call a truly honorable person, if ever. I have many moments of weakness, anger, and foolishness that plague me and set me back. Also, I suffer from terrible hindsight, and that sets me back far enough to ensure that I may likely never get there.

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Mr. T speaks the truth

There are things I have done, and things I have said, which I can never fully forgive myself for. I look back in shame at these things, and whenever I feel like I may be making solid progress towards my goal, these are what set me back to where I was. There are some people close to me, and in my family, whom I have always desired a deeper relationship with, which can never happen due to my past actions. It pains me, in profound ways and with abyssal depth, to know that I can never make it right. Sometimes my actions come with permanent consequences, and those shine like new scars on my face. They are there whenever I look in the mirror, and are still painful to the touch. These will not go away, they will endure for as long as I will, and for all my talk about honor and doing the right thing, they will forever be a reminder of my shame and failure. In a way, they do serve a positive purpose. They keep me humble, though often cause me wounds as well. Though it’s not entirely rational, I tend to think I deserve none of the good in my life because of the sins of my past. Sins not against any sort of deity, which would be odd since I’m an atheist, but sins against others, and sins against myself. I don’t feel that I should be forgiven for such things, and I have great difficulty judging myself solely on the man I am at this moment, and not the entire picture.

So I’m stuck with sort of a conundrum. Can one such as me, who has so much red in their ledger from years past and from recent memory, be thought of as a truly honorable person? Could I ever be deserving of such praise when I’ve done so much damage in my lifetime, often to people I truly love? Do I even deserve forgiveness for such things? I’ve meditated on this much in the past few years, and the best I can come up with is this: Were I speaking to someone else, and this was their story, I’d be able to see them as honorable and respectable, both regardless and because of their past. If they were that way while also having a tainted past, I’d say it even more so since they had to overcome a proclivity to act without honor. However, I know my past firsthand. I know that there are things that others can never truly forgive me for, that I can never truly forgive myself for, and that have prevented me and others from having more meaningful relationships regardless of whether I was forgiven or not. Because of this, I’d feel that I would be a hypocrite to ever think myself capable of being an honorable person. I will forever strive to be the best I can be, but I fear that the darkness in my past will always prevent me from deserving praise or to be thought highly of by others. I fear the scars will always prevent me from seeing my face as anything but a collection of sins and mistakes.

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What if, indeed…

Novice Tourney & Tough Mudder 2017

Well, I survived the weekend…sort of. Truth be told, I took so long writing this cuz I ended up with bronchitis and an ear infection right after Tough Mudder last Sunday. Today is the first day since then that I felt quasi-human, which is pretty much my status quo. Anyways, enough about me, let’s instead talk about….well, ME….

To be totally honest, my weekend started Friday night when I saw Iron Maiden at the Barclays center in Brooklyn. It was a pretty late night, so I was tired to begin with on Saturday morning before the novice tourney. Quick review, Ghost was great, Maiden was great, the venue was fucking garbage and the sound guy should’ve been dragged out and beaten with dirty socks filled with mushy pickles. Now, moving onto the tourney. To say I was nervous as fuck would be a gross understatement. I got there nice and early, geared up, and got ready to fight. We presented ourselves to the royals (clothed this time), and I got my first assignment. Duncan in queen’s far. He was a lefty, and I was nervous as all hell, so my head really wasn’t in the game at all. I fumbled my way through the marshals asking me questions (totally guessed at the answers), and started out. He legged me, I legged him back, but I positioned my shield all wrong and he stabbed me in the grill of my helm for the win. Since this was a double elimination tourney, I was 0-1, and on the verge of a super quick elimination.

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The dude in the front ring on the left is the guy I fought in my second fight. I’m in the back with my sword on my shoulder, wearing the black armor with red trim.

My second fight was against a gentleman whose SCA name I don’t know. He fought with a two handed ax. I was much more relaxed during this fight, and though he hit like a truck, I was able to get my sword past his guard and land a shot on his stomach for the win, just as he legged me (not the hip, mid thigh). I was elated to actually score a win, which was my best case scenario for the weekend. Now I was 1-1, still on the chopping block, but doing far better than I expected.

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Second fight, I’m the guy on the left. Yes, I’m wearing doc martins…

My third fight was against another whose name I don’t know. This was, by far, my longest fight of the day. The entire thing lasted about 2 minutes of non-stop wailing on each other, but in the end I came up wanting. He got me with a good shot to the head, and I went down. Still, even though I got eliminated, I was happy to have at least put up a fight. I know I showed how green of a fighter I am by the mistakes I made, and my inability to close on that fight, but I’m pleased with my performance given that I’ve been fighting all of maybe 2 full months or so total, with 3-4 weeks off in the middle due to injury and moving.

I geared down and enjoyed spending the rest of the day talking to the other fighters, trying to motivate them to kick ass and do their best, and retaining for 2 of my favorite people. The kids were there as well, and they had a blast with the other kids. It was a fantastic event, and I’m excited to be fighting at Pennsic this year since this was so much fun. I’m also looking forward to doing some pick-ups at war and learning from the many fantastic fighters that will be there!

The next morning I woke early again and went to Tough Mudder. I decided to take it a bit easier on my legs and hips this year by not running/jogging much, and that paid off. Unfortunately, I made up for it by helping WAY more with people going over obstacles. I started with skidmarked, and after that I became a staple for people going over the wall, letting others use my shoulder as a step and pushing them up and over the wall. Later on we got to pyramid scheme, and one of my teammates was trying to pull me up and wrenched my left arm pretty hard. During the Hero Carry, since the lovely Lish wasn’t able to join me due to a knee injury, I ended up with some random dude. This year, much of the run was in the woods, and I carried him on level ground to the swap point. When we switched, he had to run up hill and an extra third farther. I felt kinda bad for the poor fucker, but better him than me! At least I had a dude as a partner, cuz if any of the other people nearby wanted to partner up (all were rather thin females) I fear I’d have crushed them to death under my fat old sweaty ass. I managed to escape with dignity mostly intact. Mud mile was easier for me this year, and block ness was fun. The worst, though, was at the end. It took me about 5 tries to get up everest this year. Last year I nailed it in one. Later on, my buddy had to make it up, but he was spent from the day, and clocked in at 6’5″ and 330lbs or so. He was able to grab the top, but we at the top couldn’t do it alone. Suddenly, groups of people rushed under him and made a human pyramid to push him up. It was certainly one of the coolest and most amazing Tough Mudder moments I’ve ever seen.

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After cleaning myself off

At the end, I was done. I was a little sore the rest of the day, and completely exhausted. The next morning, my throat was sore and I was coughing. As the day wore on, I felt more and more like crap. I called in the next day and went to the doctor first thing. Bronchitis and an ear infection. Took the next day off too, and I still feel like ass. Coughing up junk and feeling overall plague-esque. Note to self: Don’t let the water from the Tough Mudder obstacles get in your mouth…

So here we are. I made it through the gauntlet, and though I’m a little worse for wear, I’m pleased with my performance this weekend. Now onto prepping for war, and making sure I can manage fighting in a battle of that scale.

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Let’s do this!!!

The current emotional war zone…

I haven’t posted a fighting practice blurb in awhile, and there are reasons for this. Well, not just reasons why I haven’t posted about that, but also reasons why I haven’t been posting much in general. I spoke to a dear friend who writes fantastically well, and realize a criticism I had regarding one of her recent pieces was perhaps more projection than anything else. As such, it’s time to strip down and give a look into what I’ve been going through the past year or so.

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Whiner alert, call the whambulance!!!

WARNING!!! This entire blog post is basically just me ranting about shit and complaining. If that doesn’t whet your appetite, then you might wanna pass on this one.

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Felt it all the way from my chest down to the grundle…

First off, the search for a new home. You might remember that I had quite a difficult time last year. I had to say goodbye to the home we started our family in. Even now, while writing this, I feel that churning in my guts about the whole thing. We finally closed on the sale (which was a profound debacle), and months later I drove by. This just happened to be the day the new owners demolished the house. I saw what was my home, full of memories, laughter, and love, broken and being carted away in dump trucks. The big and beautiful old trees were also taken down. I was momentarily paralyzed by the sight, with many emotions vying for dominance within me, like pack animals choosing a new leader. I drove away feeling devastated, and have had to make peace with the thought that I could never pass by the house again and see triggers of beautiful memories ever again.

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Me every day while hunting for a house…

At the same time, we began the hunt for a new home. In short, this entire process was absolutely brutal. On the plus side, we had a fantastic realtor, one who went above and beyond to help us find a new home. Still, the whole thing was a gorram mess. Over the past year we saw literally dozens of houses, and placed bids on a few, only for that to ultimately fall through in spectacular fashion. We did, however, finally find a place a few months back, and we moved in last week. We’re still in the process of clearing out everything from the rental, and are trying to balance that with unpacking enough stuff to both live more comfortably while also making room for more shit. Meanwhile, the entire process is just punishing. It feels as though no matter how much work I put into unpacking, very little gets done and we’re still drowning in chaos, at least from my perspective. Once we’re mostly settled, I’ll have to jump in and do it again when I move my wife’s mom out of her house and in with us, which will be a whole other bag of challenges.

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My pretty little monster…

At some point within the last year, we also found out that our eldest dog, Sophie, has liver cancer. She’s got weak back legs, a weak bladder, is blind in one eye and stone deaf. We’re not sure how much time we have left with her, and are trying to keep her as comfortable as we can. For me, it’s frustrating and I’m stuck with a lot of anger that I don’t know what to do with. I’m gonna lose my friend soon, my sweet little monster, and there’s fuck all I can do to stop that. The entire thing is like being on extended death watch, where every time I see her asleep in her crate or on the couch, I wonder if this is it…

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Pretty accurate, except that I’m not a blonde…and my boobs are bigger…

Next, we add on financial fears. Fears that I somehow miscalculated and we’re in too deep with the house we bought. We won’t know for certain until maybe 6 months from now, but that doesn’t stop me from freaking out about it. As it is, we do have some money for renovations for the house, and there’s stuff we absolutely MUST do within the next year or so. As such, I’m gonna be saying goodbye to my beautiful Victoria (my 1968 Ford Fairlane 500 fastback). Having a classic car is something I’ve always wanted, and I’ve had her for most of Peanutty’s life now. That being said, she needs work done, and I just don’t have the loot to make that happen. I also don’t need another money pit hobby, especially when all I really get out of it is the joy of driving such a wonderful piece of historical beauty and American muscle around. Selling her would get us halfway to a bathroom remodel, which is much more desperately needed than cruising around in the car. Besides, I’m not exactly a spring chicken anymore, and nowadays I look less like a cool young metalhead cruising around in a badass car, like the older brother in Phantasm, and more like some pathetic old fucker pretending he’s still cool while going through some sort of midlife crisis.

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Guess it’s the difference in motion, just need to find the right rhythm…

Now back to the SCA fighting stuff. A few weeks back, the knuckles on my right hand started to really hurt. I figured it was just a padding issue, as well as the result of being a sissy with no physical strength in any part of my body. So I dealt with it. Fast forward to 2 weeks ago this past Monday, and my hand was INSANELY bad after practice. I decided to take some time off fighting to allow it to heal. It’s mostly there, but I still get a twinge if I clench my fist. Now, though, I’m getting all sorts of other pains, and at this stage in the game it’s increasingly hard to compare what should be investigated vs what is just me being older. I see so many people start fighting at various stages in their lives, and none seem to end up with the discomfort I have. I’m sure it has much to do with my lack of fitness, and the fact that physical activity NEVER came naturally to me. I understood that going in, but it still bums me out a little when I don’t see myself improving as I should. Those teaching me have been really good, and very patient and giving of their time, for which I’m eternally thankful. Still, I don’t think it will last, and I would never blame them for stepping away. I know the frustration of spending time to teach someone who just doesn’t get it, and isn’t meant for it. So if you’re one of my teachers, no worries. When you need to step away, please do so with a clear conscience. I’m just thankful to have had the time with you.

Now I know what you’re thinking (I really don’t), why not just talk about these issue with friends and whatnot. Well, that’s another problem for me. Not a new one, per se, but one that’s gone on for ages. I have difficulty with friendships. I tend to get close and drift away from people over time, and the only one I’ve ever been consistently close to is my wife. All others either rub me the wrong way, don’t reciprocate the same level of friendship, or just aren’t trustworthy enough for me to invest in. I have MAJOR trust issues, some of which grew from a self-esteem deficiency and others that were the result of being burned too often and too deeply to ever move past. It’s brutal. Sometimes I’ll be close with someone for years at a time, only for them to do something that goes against the very fabric I’m woven from, at which time I need to check out. Other times it’s just people being a little shitty because of their own issues, which they may or may not even be aware of. These times I’ll take a step back and take it as someone who needs space. Occasionally I’ll ask what’s up, if it’s something totally out of character, but usually it’s just a trait that just bumped up a level, so I step back and let things settle, lest I confront it and end up losing a friendship over saying something stupid or out of line. I also know that I tend to rub people the wrong way a LOT, but I’m actually not aware when I do it most times. I don’t know if people would rather not ¬†confront me about it for risk of a friendship ending fight, or if they think I’m well aware of what I’m doing and don’t give a fuck. Truth is, I DO give a fuck. I actually try to live my life by a code of honor, and do right by other people, so if I have a shitty habit that hurts people, FUCKING TELL ME! I know it sounds hypocritical given that I mentioned earlier that I tend to back away, but in all honesty I do bring up shitty behavior when people do it. What they do with that information is another story. I’m not gonna beat a dead horse here…

I’m sure there are other little things that pile onto this mound of crazy, but if I listed all of them this would be far longer and you’d either bail out of boredom, or drag yourself to the end, at which time you’d be praying for the sweet merciful release of death…or maybe some comfort tacos or something. Mmmm, tacos…

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Let’s do this!!!