Cleaning House

I finished my taxes earlier today… I don’t know why I procrastinated as much as I did – I knew I was getting a refund – but I guess part of it was that I am a little worried about last year’s taxes.

In the midst of the divorce battle, I filed as “single” after going through the rules step by step (I use Turbo Tax…) I obtained a refund, but later, as part of the divorce proceedings, had to file an amended return. I am still concerned about the whole “filing an amended” return. The thing is, I have not stayed on top of tax laws since graduating from law school in 1999, but I’m positive that if I’ve made a mistake, I’ll be treated as someone who should have known better. That’s the thing about a law degree – there is forever after an assumption that you should know better when it comes to anything legal or contractual in nature. It would be even worse if I were actively practicing law and I screwed up.

I am remembering the day that I found out that I failed the Florida Bar Exam for the second time, in 2013. It was April. It was a horrible month in general – the first day of the month, when the kids were supposed to come home from spring break, they were kicked off the flight because my daughter and her father were arguing. The next day, my brother and his wife kidnapped their kids and disappeared. Every day that month something bad seemed to happen, with one good thing – I met Adam in person for the first time. Or rather, for the first time as an adult, because apparently I met him when I was a kid, but I don’t remember that.

Mixed rottie shepherd dog, laying on the tile floor at the base of the stairs
Penny at the bottom of the staircase

We had a dog who was nearing the end of her life. She was always the kind of dog who couldn’t be trusted with strangers, aggressively barking, jumping at the fence when she was outside… but as she neared the end of her life, she seemed to be experiencing some sort of dementia where she would forget who we were. She would sit at the bottom of the stairs in the apartment and “guard” the staircase. I was afraid she would bite one of the kids, and I knew that the decision to put her down was coming.

In April, for over a week, she was suffering from diarrhea. I was CONSTANTLY having to clean disgusting messes. I had gone to the mailbox before going inside, opened the letter from the state of Florida, read the bad news, and walked into the apartment to find yet another mess.

I remember cleaning the carpet with the spot steamer, crying about the bar exam, and at the same time realizing that under the feeling of disappointment in myself, I also felt something unexpected: relief. Relief that, for now at least, I didn’t have to go searching for a job as a lawyer. Relief that there was still an obstacle between me and that “grown up” job. I wasn’t ready. I’m not sure when I will be, though I have been seriously considering trying to find administrative work in a law office to gain more exposure. At any rate, I knew in that moment that I needed to take more time.

Within the next few weeks, Penny (our dog) lost bladder control. She would just be walking along and pee, not even realizing she was doing it. I was the only person who could put the leash on her – she bit other people. She loved Adam, used to put her head on his knees and love on him, but one day when he was walking her, he went to adjust the leash and she went for his neck. I knew then, though I didn’t want to, that I had to get her put down before she hurt someone. By this time, she had lumps on and around her head. I didn’t have them removed, because we had gone that route once before, and the operation she’d had at seven brought her misery, especially in having to be boarded overnight in a kennel. She never did well with that.

We had her put down in May, and the kids were present, and had the opportunity to say goodbye. That was their decision – I left it to each of them, and they all chose to be present. While it was a sad time, I knew that if I didn’t take care of it, she could really hurt someone. If that had happened, not only would I bear the guilt of what happened to whomever she harmed, but she would no doubt have been put down anyway, but spending her last minutes with strangers, lonely and afraid, instead of surrounded by the people who loved her.

Yesterday I was starting to write a cover letter to take around to local law offices, expressing interest in secretarial or legal assistant work, but I wound up being distracted by a mess in the living room. The little dog is becoming something of a brat about going out back… Anyway, cleaning up his mess, I decided to vacuum the fur from the rug under the table. My Dyson vacuum cleaner wasn’t working very well, so I looked at it and realized it was because there was too much fur and stuff caught up in the brushes in the roller. I wound up spending an hour and a half CLEANING THE HELL out of that vacuum. No, I didn’t just remove the crap from the brush rollers – I took that thing apart, WASHED parts of it, even took a bucket and a scrubby sponge and washed the extension cord. It doesn’t quite look “new” but it’s a hell of a lot cleaner than it was. It had about seven or eight years of accumulated dirt on the outside, and in some of the tubes. The reward was that it is working like new again. I love that vacuum…

The floors are all cleaned and scrubbed, the table, which I had neglected with all the other things (like 12 hour shifts, driving kids to and fro, etc.) is now scrubbed and cleared as well, and while I still have piles of stuff I need to sort, donate, toss, or put away somewhere, (why oh why can’t I have a magical closet that is bigger inside than it appears?!) the living room, dining room, and kitchen are all cleaner for now… The kids came home last night though, so we will see how long THAT lasts. The flight was without incident this year.

Sometimes life seems overwhelming. In 2013 it was an entire year of overwhelming. April felt like the entire month was April Fool’s Day. 2014 was also a very difficult year. But I am starting, piece by piece, to feel as though maybe, just maybe, things are falling into place. I don’t want to jinx it – I am a firm believer in Murphy’s Law – but let’s just say that at some point, things have to get better.

Shepherd Rottie mix dog with her paws on a metal fence
Penny guarding the gate
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