Friday, October 31, 2008

Please don't hate me...

Your next installment of PHC has been delayed.

I was doing some final edits and the whole thing deleted, and of course with my luck it left no trace anywhere. Not even an original unedited copy is anywhere to be found. It was as long as the other ones, so when it deleted in the final editing stages, you can imagine how pissed I was. This goes hand in hand with the fact that my computer is currently acting wonkier than Paris Hilton's eye... And we all know that that's pretty friggin wonky!

I am hopeful that this, along with other problems, will be resolved soon.

And I'll get on retyping things, and as long as the computer cooperates for an indeterminate amount of time, I should have something up for you at some point this weekend, though I know from my stat counter that most of you have real lives on the weekends and don't sit around reading this mess, because really who wants to ruin a perfectly good weekend with this drivel?

Saturday, October 25, 2008

A little harmless fun...

I've gotten ahead on typing up the poop house chronicles, so there should still be posts, even if I get a little bit lazy... There are no assurances that I won't get a lot lazy though. But I'll do my best to stay on top of it.

The fact is that lately Lizzle has had a rough time of it. This week brought an emotional breakdown that I hadn't anticipated. And I'm not an overly emotional girl by any stretch of the imagination, so a noteworthy emotional breakdown is BIG headline news.

But as it happens, Big Daddy Spankbottom, of Las Vegas fame, is coming to town this weekend for some homecoming / tailgating action. So I plan on getting shit-faced drunk, being ridiculous, making questionable decisions, and generally having a good time, strictly because it's been too long since I've been able to genuinely cut loose, and after the last couple of weeks, I friggin deserve it!

There should be pictures... You know, just to break up the monotony of the PHC posts!

Have a good one kids!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Poop House Chronicles (Part Six): "The monkey house..."

I was recently watching an episode of Project Runway season 4 where Tim Gunn visited the designers in their homes to discuss the progress they had made while working on their collections away from the cameras. One of the designers had adorned his line with human hair. Like most of us Tim Gunn was repulsed by the idea of human hair as part of the clothing. When trying to talk the designer out of using the hair, he noted that it was kind of like the monkey house at the zoo. The designer gave him a perplexed look. Tim explained, (I'm paraphrasing here, but using quotes anyway... But it helps if you read it in that Tim Gunn voice, if you know who Tim Gunn is and what he sounds like.)

"Well, when you first walk into the monkey house at the zoo, and you smell it in there, you think to yourself, 'Disgusting! I can't believe anyone wants to go in here!' And then after twenty minutes or so, you start thinking, 'Well it's really not all that bad.' And if you stay in there an hour you don't even notice it anymore... I think it's the same way with this design, you've lived with it this long, so now you don't even notice the disgusting part. But if there's someone who is just now coming into the monkey house, to them it's still disgusting."

Tim Gunn was onto something. If you've lived with something foul for so long, you probably do become desensitized to it, and even get comfortable with it. That is the only rationale I can come up with for the folks who actually LIVED in the poop house. But as someone who merely ventured in for a small portion of the day I can tell you that there is no desensitizing for the normal folks. Even if you can handle being in the place for twenty minutes, (HIGHLY UNLIKELY for most normal folks,) the smell doesn't go away, and at no point do you find yourself saying "It's really not all that bad!" As someone who spent more time than I care to remember, and more time than anyone should ever spend in that toxic waste dump, (sometimes more than 2 hours a stretch,) I can tell you that I never got used to it, and from the second I walked in until the second I was home and fully showered, sanitized and scrubbed, I choked on every breath I took. And even as I would sit at home after my shower, with the laundry running, and my hair washed and dried, most evenings I would still psychosomatically itch and get chills of disgust from the mere IDEA that I'd been exposed to that foulness. And while I sat there, itching despite being clean, I would ponder. And the more I thought about it, the less I was able to wrap my head around it. The residents of the poop house DID venture out on occasion. Mitch told me he went to group therapy sessions, little Millie went to a state sponsored head start program, and from what I gathered, mom had a job. This means that they went out and functioned in some of the better smelling parts of the world around them, and upon returning home, one would think that the foul odor of their residence would assault them the same way it brutalized any other person... One would think that upon noticing that your home smells worse than say, oh, I don't know, a city dump perhaps, that one would be inclined to do something to remedy the situation. Even a mediocre remedy such as purchasing an air freshener or two, or, dare I say CLEANING UP the direct causes of the festering foulness seemed totally unheard of to these folks... Like I said, I was BAFFLED by the concept of remaining in the proverbial monkey house when you have to be aware of the stench and yet, not doing a damn thing about it.

I knew I'd have to go back again. And the stench haunted me even when I wasn't there.

The day after my initial meeting with Mitch, I knew I'd have to go back later to actually see the child, and to meet "mom."

I called up state case worker Dave.

"Hey, Dave! Met with our favorite clients last night."

"Oh, yeah? How did that go?"

"Disgusting. Naturally... There is just no way that that house meets minimum standards."

"Well, actually it kind of does."

"How is that possible? You had to go in and inspect the place before they ever got Millie back from foster care. How did they pass?"

"Well, they had food in the house, and there wasn't anything structurally wrong where she was going to fall through a gaping hole in the floor or anything, and they have functional utilities, so technically it made the cut. I wasn't happy about it, but I had to sign off on it."

"You're kidding me! The menagerie of animals in that place, and all the poop and garbage and bugs didn't disqualify that rat hole?"

"Technically, no."

"Well, that's tragic... Seriously... But speaking of the bugs, I was talking with Mitch and he seemed to think that you had something in the works to deal with that roach situation they've got going on in there. Care to comment on that?"

"Well, yeah, I've been talking to my supervisor about getting some waiver money to get an exterminator or something in there."

"Personally, I'd opt for a wrecking ball."

"Yeah, but the waiver money hasn't come through yet, so you might want to just tell them to get some spray and try to control it that way."

"That place is so far beyond spray! If those bugs can thrive so well in the toxic fumes of that house on a daily basis, I don't think any kind of chemicalized bug spray is going to do much good."

"Can't really hurt though."

"I guess not."

"I'll get back to you on the waiver money progress when I've got something to report."

"Thanks... Oh, wait, what about all the animals?"

"What about them?"

"There's got to be some kind of statute saying that they have too many, right?"

"Well, I don't know. I'll look into that. I don't know if there are set numbers anywhere on the books, and to be honest I've never been able to get a solid count of all the animals."

"If the roaches count, it's too many! Hell, even if the roaches don't count, it's too many!"

"Well, I'll take a look at the books and see if there are any limits."

"Fair enough."

And that was that. The house was technically structurally sound, although I suspect that the structural integrity of the place really just consisted of the roaches holding hands to keep the place upright. They had food and utilities in the house... That was enough to make the grade. Tragic but true.

Knowing that Dave was unable to get a solid count on the animals living in the house, I figured this would be an interesting endeavor the next time I went into the poop house... Incidentally, it was to be later that same day!

So I went about my regular daily business. I saw all of my other unappealing clients first, and then drove over to the least appealing clients of all. As I put the car in park, turned off the engine and looked at the house, I turned, closed my eyes, took a deep breath, (knowing it would be my last for the day,) sighed heavily, cursed under my breath, shuddered, and went to face the beast...

I walked up the cracked front walk, uneven from the tree roots which had burrowed underneath when the trees were still alive, (they were long since dead and lopped off at odd levels somewhere above the 8 foot mark). I breathed less deeply with each passing step, as the odor intensified the closer I got. I went up the three crumbling steps to the garbage-cluttered porch. I knocked on the once-white, now dingy beige door. The dogs barked. A chill went up my spine. I heard someone approach the door from the other side. I heard a woman's voice yell at the dogs to shut up. The lock disengaged. And a genuinely large woman stood winded before me as the door opened. I marveled at the fact that she could be winded, because I knew the dimensions of the house, and knew that there were no stairs nor exercise equipment in the home... She couldn't possibly have walked more than 60 feet. There was no place in the house further than 60 feet from that door... And 60 feet is probably pushing it. It was far more likely that she'd been parked on her sizable rear end on the couch, a mere 30 feet from the door. Yet here she was, totally winded like she just finished running a half-marathon.

I knew this was "mom." I knew her name from the info sheet I'd gotten from the office. We'll call her "Martha." Martha, as you may have already guessed had a pretty significant weight problem. I'm by no means a small girl, but next to her, I'd have been considered Allegra Versace. (Google it if you don't already get the reference.) Seriously. This woman was no taller than I am at 5'7" and HAD to be tipping the scales at well over 400 lbs. I wish I were kidding... Once I got a good look at her, I understood why she was winded after hauling that load off the couch and walking all of 30 feet to the door... Lugging that around would wear me out too! When the wonder about her windedness wore off, (whoa, alliteration!) I marveled that she was in real clothes, and not the mumu which is stereotypically sported by women this size.

"Uhmmm, hello, Martha?"

"Yeah. I'm Martha."

"Hello, Martha, I'm Liz. I'm Julie's replacement."

"Oh. Hi."

"Yeah, hi. Ok, so you know why I'm here."


"Ok, well, since this is my first time meeting with you, I need you to sign a consent form saying that you understand that I'm here because you're involved with the department of child services, and that any information I get from you, or from coming to your home can be shared with your state case worker."

"Ok. You got a pen?"

"Yes I do."

(Knowing that she lived in the poop house, and knowing the likelihood that she probably hadn't washed her hands in 6 months, I opted to let her keep that ten cent bic pen.)

"Ok, so I got a fair amount of information from Mitch when I was here yesterday. I'd like to ask you a few questions too, just to round out the picture. Would you mind joining me out here on the porch for a few minutes?"

"Well, Millie is in her room, but Mitch is in the kitchen... He can watch her."

[At this point she yelled something unintelligible to me back into the foul recesses of the house, but I assume it was letting Mitch know that she was meeting with me on the porch, and that he needed to watch Millie.]

"Ok, so Mitch tells me that you're working, where are you currently employed?"

"Domino's Pizza."

I'm sure that my horrified expression was laid bare as I tried to compute this new information... Fortunately, being totally spoiled by the delights of Chicago style pizza, and never having been a fan of Domino's, I could not recall having consumed Domino's Pizza any time since I'd left Chicago... And I certainly haven't had it since learning of their star staff member! (I think it's fair to say that I'm ruined on the concept of EVER eating a food product from any franchise where I know a poop house resident has worked.)

"OH... Uhhh... OK. Domino's Pizza. And how many hours a week would you say you work in a week?"

"Well, usually thirty or so, but we've been really busy lately, so probably closer to 40 or 50."

Again, I was horrified. I think people should know when someone comes from the poop house to prepare the food you're ordering... And if they're logging 30 or more hours a week there, then that's a whole lot of tainted pizza and breadsticks!

"Ok. So you're there quite a bit..." (I couldn't think of anything else to say)


"And I imagine that most of that time is in the afternoons and evenings, so I'm guessing that Mitch is really the primary care giver here while you go out and work."


"Ok... Well, I did talk to your case worker earlier today, and we chatted about the issues in this case."

"Ok. What did he have to say?"

"Well, it's pretty evident to all of us that you guys have a pretty significant bug problem."

"Yeah. He was talking about getting an exterminator for us, but he hasn't done that."

"Well, that's what we discussed. He told me that the waiver money to cover the costs of an exterminator hasn't come through yet, so in the meantime he wanted me to ask that you consider getting some bug spray and trying to at least attempt to manage the problem that way."

"Well, I don't get paid until next week... But I'll look into getting some spray when I get my check."

Another shiver ran up my spine at the thought of her being so nonchalant about the bug situation, and letting it persist for at least another week.

"Ok, another issue he wanted me to discuss with you was the number of animals you have living here. Exactly how many are there?"

"Well let me see... There's 5 dogs."

"Five! Oh! I'd only seen four."

"No, we've got five in there."

"Uh-huh... And how many cats?"

"I think probably eight or nine."

"Probably? You don't know?"

"Well, we can find out."

"How is that?"

"We can feed em."


Instantly my heart sank, my stomach quivered, and my gag reflex fought to be heeded. I knew that since none of the animals ever went outside, I'd be forced to go in to get a count during feeding time.

"Well, let's go in... Oh, and you can meet Millie."


And in we went.

I followed Martha through the close quarters of the front room, through the maze of little dung heaps on the floor, through the putrid den area, and into the more open area of the kitchen.

Martha stood a few feet from me, close to the kitchen sink heaped with dirty dishes... It was at this point when I got my first really good look at her, despite having spent the previous few minutes talking to her on the front porch. She was roughly my height, every bit of the 400 pounds I initially figured her for, and every bit as disgusting as her husband. This was clearly not a case of opposites attracting. She wore no shoes or socks, which repulsed me because I knew the state of that carpet, dirty khaki pants, a stained t-shirt with partially ripped off pocket on the chest area, and CLEARLY wore no bra despite her size. She had yellowish-brown teeth which bore all the tell-tale signs of decay and hard living with no dental care. Her complexion was pale and lightly freckled, including all three of her chins, and she had long, stringy, greasy brown hair which seemed to be pulled back in a ponytail, as a means of prolonging her time between showers. It was evident that hygiene was never a strong suit for anyone in this family... And when one combined this revelation with the state of the home, it really didn't come as any genuine shock.

She yelled something unremarkable in the general direction of Mitch and Millie, and then addressed me.

"You want me to feed em?"

"Well, um, if that's the only way to get them together to count them, then I guess."

"OK! Watch this! ...Oh, you might want to move away from the door there."

I sidestepped slightly to a more interior part of the room, and slightly away from the door, looking rather puzzled as I didn't know why this was necessary.

Martha then grabbed a tupperware bin the size of a large stock pot, and shook it.

In an instant, cats came darting through the kitchen door from all directions, sprinting to the feeding area with all the fervor of refugees greeting a truckload of food and supplies.

Martha cackled at this.

"See why I told you to move away from the doorway?"

"Uhh... Yeah."

I marveled at the number of cats. And as they vied for a prime spot at the food dishes, and writhed around each other, I attempted to count them. And when I was through counting them, I was in disbelief at the number I'd tallied and began counting again figuring that some of them had to have moved around and gotten counted twice... The second and third counts were the same.



"Umm, you said you only had eight or nine... by my count, you guys were way off! I see fourteen!"

"No! There's no way we've got fourteen!"

"Well, they're your cats, and they're all here... Count them for yourself. Name them off... I'm seeing fourteen."

"Well, there's Sable, Pretty Boy, Fancy Face, Pearl, Precious, Midnight, ...."

The names were rattled off. All fourteen of them. Many were rattled off two or three times because they would lose track of who had been counted on their extended fingers, and who hadn't. Meanwhile, I stood aghast that anyone could have fourteen cats at all, let alone in such close quarters, and that all fourteen had names, yet even the family couldn't fathom that they actually had fourteen cats.

Having been stirred up by the cavalcade of cats streaming by, Mitch and Millie had come into the kitchen... I was about to meet Millie.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Poop House Chronicles (Part Five): Into the fray...

I apologize for the lengthy break... Shit has been going down lately, and I just couldn't deal with the poop house in addition to everything else that's been going on. I hope that you haven't given up on getting all the gory details, because we're about to delve into the real heart of darkness.

When we left off, I was standing on the front porch of the poop house, talking to the resident male. He'd informed me that the mother and child were not home at the moment. I knew I was going to have to go in anyway, and I was dreading it.

I stood there, trying to deal with the stagnant sewer smell, and trying to figure out how I was going to deal with the worse smell that I knew lurked in the house.

I asked him a few routine questions to determine the best way to shape my services for this family.

"Ok, Mitch, are you working at the moment?"

"No. I hurt my wrist at work a few years ago, and haven't gone back to work since."

"I see. Are you on disability?"

"No. I've been trying to get it, and I've talked to a lawyer but he thinks it will be a year or two before my case goes through."

"Ok, so you're not generating any income. I know you've been working with Julie up until now, did she put you in touch with any of those other resources that you can use so that you're able to get by while you're not working?"


"Ok, what are you currently using?"

"Well, I go to the food banks. We can't get welfare because the case is still open from when they took 'Millie' (psuedonym for the child) away. I go to the community outreach clinics when I get sick, and when I go to group."


"Yeah, I go to group for depression."

Mentally, I simply thought that if this was my life I'd be depressed too... I'd have offed myself long before I'd ever have let my home look or smell like this, but depression was a given.

"Ok, so how is that going for you? Are you getting any kind of results?"

"Well, no. I used to have individual sessions too, but my counselor stopped doing that because the state said I'd reached the limit."

"Ok. So if you're at least getting into group sessions, you're meeting with someone who knows what is going on... And are you medicated at all?"

"Nope. Can't afford it. I had some stuff when I went to the individual sessions, but now that I only have group I can't get it."

"Ok... I might be able to help you with some resources to get meds if they are something that your group therapist is willing to prescribe... Is your group leader a prescribing therapist, or just a group counselor?"

"They've got somebody who can prescribe something. I just haven't talked to them since I only have group."

"Ok. And how often do you have group sessions?"

"Well, they meet once a week, but I haven't been in about a month."

"May I ask why you haven't been?"

"Too busy."

"Hmmm... Well, forgive me for asking this so bluntly, but you're too busy doing what exactly?"

"Well... Uhhh..."

"I'm sure that you have things to do, but I'm asking because it is important that you take care of your mental health just as much as, say, going to the doctor for a broken arm... If there is something wrong, and someone can help you fix it so that it heals properly, then it is important to take the time to go and get that help, don't you think?"

"Yeah, but I've just been to busy to go lately."

"Ok, well, I'd like for you to work on figuring out a workable schedule so that you can get your other things done too, and still make it to your group meetings. I mean I'm not a therapist, but I think if you have a diagnosed problem then it is very important that you set aside the time to work on it, don't you?"

"I guess so."

"Well, I don't mean this to be offensive, but you're not currently working, so that right there frees up 40 hours a week... Your group lasts what, an hour? Two maybe?"

"An hour."

"Ok, well, then you need to consider setting aside that one hour for yourself, and doing everything else that you need to do during the other 39 hours. I mean I'm not trying to tell you what to do with every minute of your day, but we're talking about one hour a week that someone thinks you need. And if you didn't think you needed something, you never would have been going in the first place, would you?"

"I guess."

"Well, I just want you to try. And in fact, I'll tell you right now, that that's all I'm ever going to ask of you. I'm telling you right now that I'm not going to come into your house and fix all this for you. You've got to be the one putting in the time and effort to TRY to make things better."

"Well, I appreciate that. Julie would just get mad at us and holler at us for not getting stuff done."

"Well, I'm not saying that I won't expect results. I do want to see progress. But I also know that Rome wasn't built in a day. You all didn't get into this mess overnight, and it's not going to get better overnight. I'm going to work with you guys, and I know that this is going to take some time and some real work, but the fact is that if this was all good, I wouldn't have to be in here telling you what's what... Obviously I'm here, so you've got some work to do. I want to make this as quick and painless as possible, but that's going to mean some effort on your part. You with me on that?"

"Yeah. I got it. So you're not just going to get mad at us like Julie?"

"Well, if I see that you're putting in a fair amount of effort, I'll be willing to keep working on improving things with you... But if you're not holding up your end of the deal, I'm telling you right now that I'm not going to be willing to work any harder than you are! So if you get the work done, then things are good, and I stay off your case, but if things aren't getting done, then I'll be mad and you'll hear all about it!"

"Sounds fair."

At this point the dogs in the house seemed to have found other things to do, and other patches of carpet to shit on, because they had lost interest in barking at us through the screen door. Realizing that the dogs were otherwise occupied, that I'd already been smelling the foulness from the relative safety of the porch, and that the quicker we went in to see the situation in the house, the sooner I could get home and shower... I told him that as part of my job I'd have to see the inside to make sure that things were "acceptable" (although the state and I have VERY different ideas of what qualifies as acceptable) and I'd probably be on my way shortly.

We went in. And the instant that the screen door was flung open, the wall of stench hit me like a nuclear shock wave. It took every fiber of my being to not recoil and run the opposite direction, or to vomit on the spot. I girded myself as the wave of nausea swept over me and took hold. I choked on what little breath I was able to take. And as I looked down to see the four little dogs running around my feet, barking at me and snarling at each other, I noticed four fresh piles of dog poo within two feet of the door... Most likely left there while the little beasts were originally barking through the door during the conversation on the porch.

As my vision panned upwards, I noted that very little, if anything, had changed since my original foray into this hellhole several months prior. If Julie had gotten any results at any point in the meantime, it couldn't be detected now.

On the desk to the immediate left of the door was still a mess of papers, some of which had evidence of urine and feces on them. In the makeshift bedroom setup, the clothes and garbage were still heaped up to be level with the mattress, and in some areas it was higher than the level of the mattress, which itself looked ever more defeated and begging for a quick exit into a dumpster. Without any sheets on the mattress, it was readily apparent that the animals had repeatedly used the bed as a stomping ground and makeshift litter box. One pile of dung on the upper reaches of a boxy particle-board headboard appeared to have been there for quite some time as it was dried out and crusted in place. I'm convinced that if an inanimate thing, (in this case, another pile of dog shit) - if the other pile of dung, which rested almost dead center on the mattress, could've smiled, it would have. It was fresh and chilling in the middle of the bed... It was a self-satisfied little pile of dung which had just lucked into some prime real estate!

I noticed to my right that cats were climbing up, and over, and through the assorted piles and entanglements of various dumpster delicacies which were heaped in this front room. I counted three or four... One couldn't be sure, and lord only knows what else was living in those piles. I followed Mitch through the cramped den area, into the more open kitchen area.

Once in the kitchen, the bug problem in the home became much more apparent... It was readily evident in the rest of the house, but I'd focused on attempting to count animals and trying not to step in the numerous piles of dung, haphazardly laid out on the carpet like smelly, disgusting land mines. I asked Mitch about the dishes in the sink, and why they weren't done.

"Well, I was going to do them, but I just got too busy."

"Busy doing what? That's on your chore list that Julie made you put up right there... And that list says you've got to do the dishes and clean as you go."

"Well... Ok. I'll do them. Are you going to stand here and watch me do them like Julie?"

"Not today... But if I come back tomorrow and they're still there, then yeah I'll make sure they get done if it means standing here while you do them... Besides, don't you think a sink full of dirty dishes contributes to this cockroach situation you've got going on?"

"Well, we were going to get a can of spray, but we just didn't..."

"No offense, Mitch, but I think a problem like this is going to take a lot more than just a can of spray."

"Well our case worker, Dave, said that he was going to see if he could do anything, but we ain't heard anything back about that."

"I'll talk to him and see what I can find out."


"And what about those other chores on the list? Number one says pick up the poop and keep the litter box clean... I have seen all kinds of poop, including a few piles out here in the kitchen floor. That's one I will have to stand here and make sure you do, because I can't leave here knowing that there's poop on the floor when you tell me that your kiddo is coming back here later tonight."

So Mitch went through the house with a roll of toilet paper and picked up the poop one disgusting pile at a time, often needing me to point out piles he would have missed otherwise. I then noted that I needed to see the child's room. I needed to make sure that Millie had an "acceptable" bedroom situation... And since we knew that cleanliness wasn't something that factored into the state's definition of "acceptable" I was really just hoping to just peek in the door and not see a child-sized cage. As Mitch opened the door to Millie's bedroom, I thought I was going to faint, and if it hadn't been for my extreme fear of ending up laying in a heap of animal dung with roaches crawling all over my face while passed out, I probably would have... Because although I didn't think it was possible, when he opened the door to her bedroom, the smell worsened.

It is difficult to describe, and for as much as I know that I have not done justice to the original stench, but this new odor was a different kind of disgusting. It was hard to keep the chunks rising in my throat in check, and all I could bring myself to focus on were the small brown roaches climbing on the wall near the door frame. The odor which poured out was intensely acrid, reeking of that ammonia-like cat urine smell. Beyond the initial wave of ammonia was a sickly sweet smell, I couldn't place it, but whatever it was, it hung thick in the air in this room.

Once I was able to blink away the moisture in my eyes generated not only by the intense urge to vomit, and the overwhelming ammonia which had caused my eyes to burn, I looked inside. Needless to say, I was not pleased. I noticed an additional three cats which I hadn't seen before. Apparently they'd been confined behind that door for quite a long while. Since the time of their original confinement, they'd pissed and shat all over that room. I noticed at least six piles of crap on the floor, and told Mitch to go get his roll of toilet paper so that those could be cleaned up as well.

It took Mitch a few moments to locate his roll of toilet paper somewhere in the mess elsewhere in the home. During those moments, I noticed the rest of little Millie's room. Along the wall to the left of the door was a sad little twin bed with no sheets on the disgusting greyed mattress. There was a headboard with empty little cubby holes which had once had doors that had long since been ripped off. There was a small table with broken toys and clothes heaped on it, which sat in front of a closet which had a curtain instead of a door, and a large heap of clothing spilled out onto the floor. It was readily apparent that the cats had been hanging out on that pile of clothing and they had no problems shitting where they sat. Panning further to the right, there was a small desk, again covered in cat shit, dirty clothes, and broken toys. In the far right corner there was a chest of drawers with a small television on top. The drawers were haphazardly pulled out, and articles of clothing spilled from one drawer into the next. Piles of filthy stuffed animals and more broken toys littered the floor around the base of the chest of drawers and led the eye back around to the right hand side of the door. I noticed that the walls were randomly marred with crayon graffiti in shades predominantly of green and brown. There were no pictures, merely tangles of lines and odd shapes drawn in colors which most children would likely have discarded when opting for pretty colors when drawing pretty pictures of their pretty houses... That said, these colors and these tangles of bizarre forms fit right in.

Mitch picked up the dung in the room. I told him that I wanted to see serious progress in cleaning up this room first. I instructed him that the laundry needed to be done, and that the clothes needed to be put away properly either in the closet or in the chest of drawers so that they remained clean, rather than ending up covered in cat excrement. I told him that if the bed was in that kind of shape underneath, the least that they could do was to put clean sheets on it, and if they didn't have sheets that they needed to at least cover it with a blanket tucked in on all sides. I told him that the smell was an issue, because there was no way that constantly inhaling all that concentrated ammonia smell could be good for little Millie. I asked him to try to air the room out and not confine animals in there if at all possible. I listed a few other chores for him to take care of, and having reached well beyond my limits of tolerance for this kind of olfactory punishment, I departed. I got to my car and upon seeing the front door close with Mitch securely on the other side, I hacked and wretched and struggled to catch my breath.

As soon as I opened my car door, I reached in and got the bottle of hand sanitizer and bathed my hands thoroughly, despite the fact that I couldn't recall touching anything. I considered what else I needed to soak in the stuff before actually getting in and starting my car. I took off the soon to be infamous "poop shoes" and placed them back in a bag which I'd set aside for this purpose. I put on the shoes I'd worn to all my other appointments, got into my car, resoaked my hands in purell, knowing that I'd just touched the "poop shoes," (even though the handling was minimal, and I had been VERY VERY careful to only touch the upper portions of the shoes,) and proceeded to drive home the quickest way I knew, all the while finding that I could still smell the offensive odors of that house on myself. As soon as I was inside my front door, I stripped down and put the clothes directly into the washing machine on HOT and ran to take the most ridiculously hot and scrub-tastic exfoliating shower you can imagine... Little did I know that this was to be a near-daily ritual for the next NINE MONTHS.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Someone Asked...

When last I posted, someone asked in the comments what I was up to rather than composing the next poop house chronicles post. Well, here's the answer.

I've been applying and interviewing like a rational person, and contemplating my birthday like a fool.

I went for two interviews on Thursday. The first one seemed promising via phone, but the second I walked into the building I KNEW it was suspect. From the muzak being pumped into the next room to the fact that they were willing to interview guy wearing ratty jeans and a polo, the second I walked in the front door, I knew that this ended badly. I stayed in the office, despite the fact that I already knew where this was going.

I talked to the receptionist. She seemed somewhat short of completely vapid and devoid of information. She complimented my watch. I assumed since she realized it was an expensive watch, she wouldn't lead me awry without divulging information about the situation into which I was being introduced. A moment later, I was greeted by the gentleman who had called and recruited me to this facility. He greeted me warmly, and asked fairly pertinent questions... He then stated that someone else would be leading a group presentation. This was the giveaway. Trying to be polite, and knowing that I didn't have to be at my next appointment for another couple of hours, I sat, I listened.

Before the schpeil even began, I knew what was coming. And despite being seated in the second row, I could tell that there was at least one other person who also knew, but remained seated as well. At this point a fairly attractive female came to the front of the room and began speaking. She talked about the growth in the "wellness industry" and she talked about the company foundations, and the benefits of direct marketing. She then noted that we would not be expected to do direct marketing.


After the conclusion of her initial speech, and her powepoint presentation, it was more than a little bit clear that this was a pyramid scheme. And not only that, it was a pyramid scheme in which they lured people to presentations, based on the possible promise of a REAL job, but upon which the were preying on the dumb, and using them for their personal information and contacts. Not being dumb, I sat through the inital presentation politely... As did the person in front of me who I also previously mentioned I did not find to be completely stupid. As soon as the lights resumed normal levels of functionality, she stood up, as I did, and she walked to the guy who talked us both into showing up. She noted that this idiocy wasn't for her... Although she used more polite terms. She walked out. I then spoke to the guy myself. I noted that much like the girl before me, this also was not for me. He tried to talk me into staying, and tried to talk me into making the initial investment in the company, if not as a sales rep, then as a customer!

For the bargain price of only $165.95 I coud buy FIVE whole bottles of their product to convince myself of their results! Needless to say, I laughed in his face and said, "No, I think you have me confused for an imbecile. I will not be buying your product, nor will I be selling it for you. I hope you and your hype have a nice day, because you'll be doing it without me."

He tiried to talk me into staying to talk to other people in the office. He tried to talk me into spending money to become a customer so that I became convinced as to the effectiveness of the product he wanted me to shill. I informed him that I was much more concerned with paying my bills and obtaining a REAL JOB as opposed to earning him a commission in a pyramid scheme. I then walked out, following the girl who preceeded me.

I'd like to think that the other 30 people in the room were merely plants solely designated to convince either myself or the other girl that this was something real, but I get the distinct impression that most of them were actually, rather stupidly, convinced by a poorly constructed powerpoint and an only mildly engaging speaker that this was a legitimate job opportunity.

I'd LOVE to think that the second that both the other girl and I were out the door that all the other people in the room were instantly deflated and waiting for the next crop of people to come in the door, but I think a lot of them were legitimately stupid enough to stay on and be conned out of their hard earned money. Either way, it's not my problem.

After I departed from that shit show, I found that I'd wasted barely enough of my time to preclude me from engaging the girl who'd left before me merely by circumstance, and I was left with more than enough time to get to my next interview.

I went to the next interview, I interviewed well, used the poop house in answer format to convince her that I knew what the hell I was doing, while leaving out enough details so as not to terrify her, and I think I got myself a job... Knock wood.

In the meantime, I celebrated a birthday.

I tried to talk to someone with whom I used to have romantic entanglements, in order to celebrate the day properly, but that fell flat on its ass. I talked to my mother who celebrated appropriately that I was no longer in her uterus all these years later, and I'm hoping that at some point this weekend my best friend/roommate will come home to assist me in getting properly drunk and making this birthday count.

But I will say this... No matter what happens on my birthday, this is probably the best one I've had in several years, largely because despite being single, and no matter what the bank balance reads, nor what the other "standard measurments of happiness" say, I have found that I am much happier doing my own thing and pursuing my own interests. I only hope that the rest of the year can go so well!

I've found the bright spot in things for now. And for that, and that alone, I am totally happy.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

We'll be back in two and two...

We now interrupt your regularly scheduled Poop House Chronicle reading for this commercial break.

Basically, I need a break from thinking about the poop house, and despite your dedicated and intense need to continue following, I think you all need a little break too.

Perhaps I should use this time wisely and at least mention a few things about the poop house posts. It won't get me away from thinking about the poop house, but there isn't any genuine way of escaping it for me anymore.

First off, let me state that the posts are composed very deliberately. I realize that I have been very detailed about my experiences without covering much time at all. In terms of actual time on my service, we've only covered a week, and the initial venture into the home while they were on Julie's service. I haven't even ventured back into the house yet since my training day experience. And yet, I've managed 4 LENGTHY posts on the topic.

I assure you that while I have laid an intensely detailed groundwork upon which we will continue to tread, not every venture into the house will be so heavily reported. I had the family on my service for over nine months, and while many of my daily or near daily visits were forever seared into my memory, many of the days ran together. Many of the days were very similar. The stand-out days are the ones which will be recounted for you. But when dealing with a place so foul, a stand-out day has to be something really genuinely remarkable, and never for a pleasant reason. I have composed the posts in the manner you find so riveting for a very specific reason. I feel it is important for me to hook you with these details now in order to keep you reading later. There are many genuinely unpleasant and vomit-inducing things ahead. If I captivate you now, it is intentional to ensure that you share in my horror later.

I assure you that while I bring you along to share in the experience, recounting it for you brings no relief or catharsis for me. As Traci so aptly stated in her recent comment, like anyone who has seen awful things, (soldiers, abuse victims, and other casualties of the more awful end of the spectrum of modern experiences,) these are things that stay with us and cause us to be damaged goods. We move on and live and work past these horrific experiences not only because we have to, but because if we didn't, the world would be that much worse that we suffered the experiences and did nothing with the knowledge gained. Furthermore, if we didn't press on, we would be equal victims of the tragic system and its antiquated standards which hurt almost as many as they heal. I refuse to be a victim of that system. And I refuse to believe that while I went into that house alone every day, that I should be the only one to know the fetid world which lay inside.

What is worse is that while this is supposed to be one of the worst cases on the books, the fact is that there are many more cases of similar nature which I have no doubt have gone unreported. There are cases in other communities. There are cases in other states. There are cases where people don't know how to fix anything, so they do nothing. There are cases where people go in and do the work but don't tell of the horrors they've seen. My fear is that these cases are more common than many of us would like to imagine. My story ensures that while I won't violate a client's confidentiality, I will not have experienced these things idly.

I hope you understand.

I also feel the need to point out that, yes, the child was living in the home the entire time I had the case. This alone should make your blood boil. If you are not already irate at the very idea of this, then details to come should send you over the edge. The fact that I reported every last detail of what I saw to a state case manager who was legally responsible for the welfare of the child, and the case worker did nothing should make you irate beyond words. Many of you might wonder why I didn't do anything myself to see that the child was removed. The fact is that every second of my work with that family was spent either working directly with them to improve conditions for the sake of the child, documenting the foulness of the home so that there was no way that the state case worker could say he didn't know, or directly stating to the case worker that there is no excuse for a child to still be living in that filth. And not for a lack of effort, nothing happened.

I'm not composing this series in order to garner sympathy from any of you, though I do appreciate that you sympathize. I appreciate that you come back and share in this with me. The fact is that I am writing these things because they are an ugly truth that I feel everyone should know about, and which I have finally processed enough on a personal level to share with whomsoever chooses to continue reading. If at any point you feel that you cannot deal with what you've read here, I understand, but I ask you to understand that I had to live it, forced to continue reliving it day after day, not fairly compensated for my efforts, and was made to feel guilty for being upset enough to seek outlets for my ire. What is almost worse than having the case itself, was the way that the company treated me and others in similar positions, even going so far as to deny us access to professional counseling outlets despite specializing is such services.

While I know that this is not really a break from the poop house chronicles, it at least informs you a little more in depth so that you know why I share these stories.

And now, here's a picture of a cute little bunny rabbit!

AWWWW! Look at that cute little guy!

Thursday, October 02, 2008

The Poop House Chronicles (Part Four): Let's get to it.

So I've been unwillingly forced to take one of the worst cases ever. I was lied to, manipulated and then forced to keep the case against my will.

So the next day I did my normal case work. And knowing that I needed to make contact with the poop house family, I knew I would have to go there. I put it at the end of my day so that I could easily go home and sanitize myself after exposure to that environment. I went about my daily business with a sense of dread that grew by the minute. At the end of everything else, I girded myself for what was to come and drove to the poop house.

I sat out in my car and tried to determine the best course of action with regard for breathing for the length of time I would be there. Breathe through the mouth and not smell the place, but obviously have an open mouth in this place, or breathe through the nose and despite smelling the place and increasing the likelihood of my vomiting, have some kind of natural defense against the foulness, (nasal inhalation filtering things a bit).

I opted for the nose, despite the nasty repercussions, they were less nasty than the alternative. So I grabbed my binder and a pen and headed to the door. I knocked. And beyond a few moments of small dogs barking at me through the grungy door, there was no reply. I left them a note saying that I'd been there and requesting that they call me to set up an appointment.

I then went home, and despite not entering the house, I left my shoes outside my front door and showered.

The next day I operated on pretty much the same premise, putting the poop house at the end of my day, unless I got a call saying that they needed to meet with me another time. The call never came, so I went back, repeated the process of mental preparation, walking to the door, knocking, and leaving a note. I did this three more times during the rest of the week. I never received a call, and nobody ever answered the door.

I submitted my paperwork for the week noting my attempts to meet with them, and continued about my business.

The next week I had gone to the office for one reason or another and while I was there I ran into a senior member of the supervisory staff.

"Hey, Liz, can I talk to you for a minute?"

"Sure, what's up?"

"I noticed that you didn't have any face to face contact with these people last week."


"Well, that's a problem! These people are involved with us because they need our services and you're not meeting with them!"

"Listen, I TRIED to meet with them. I tried a total of five times. Nobody answered the door, and nobody called to set up an appointment time despite the notes I left. I can't help that."

"Well, that's not good enough."

"What do you mean that's not good enough? I went EVERY DAY last week and nobody answered the door, and nobody called to say that they had gotten the note and wanted to set up an appointment, or to even let me know when they would be home. I can't make them be at home when I show up. I can't make them answer the door if they are home."

"Well, you've only been going once a day!"

"Are you suggesting that I'm not doing my job?"

"Well, you should be going two and three times daily or sit outside and wait for them to come home."

"Brilliant! I can only bill for the few minutes it takes me to leave the note and you want me to wait outside for them to come home... And when would you suggest I see my other clients, because last I looked, they needed our services too?"

"Well, you still need to get to all your other clients, obviously. But you really need to get in there and make sure that this kid is ok."

"You've clearly never been to this house, because there is no way that anyone who lives in that dung heap is OK! And like I said before, if they are NOT at home, or they are at home and don't choose to answer the door, I can't make it happen."

"Well, you better make something happen."

"Make something happen... That's interesting. If I don't make something happen with these folks, are you going to take them off my service?"

"No. But if we find that you're not getting your job done we can withhold your paycheck."

"I've talked to the state case worker. I went every day last week, and left notes EVERY DAY. I'm doing my job, and I take issue with you implying that I'm not. We've had TONS of evasive clients on the books who outmaneuvered our people for longer periods than just a week. Are all the workers on those cases not doing their jobs either because they are not going undercover and hunting those clients down?"


"I didn't think so. But what I do think is that despite the fact that I am disgusted by the very idea of going to that house, I have been going and doing my job, and will continue to do so. I also think that I am accomplishing nothing by standing here defending my work, rather than being out there DOING IT. So, if we're through here, I'm going to go back out there and do my job so that no one else will accuse me of anything sordid which might cost me my paycheck."

"Well, I didn't mean to offend you, I was just saying that we need people in there."

"And I've told you that I've gone. And I'm not going to stand here talking in circles with you anymore."

(It was probably roughly the time that this conversation took place that I landed myself on that shit list belonging to the supervisors which made the higher-ups sigh heavily and roll their eyes when I spoke up in meetings until the day I left... It should be noted that only the best people make that list, and that it made me a favorite among my peers.)

I shrugged him off and left the office. I was beyond pissed off, because not only was I now assigned to the worst case on the books, I got it by means of intra-office deception, I was forced to keep it despite my protests, and now I was having my integrity called into question... Red flags are running up left and right. The argument turned out to be pointless because during my visit later in the day, the door was answered. And I was sorrowfully granted access to the earthly portal to hell.

I went, and once again tried my hand at mentally preparing for the scenario for which there is not any genuine way to mentally prepare. Physical preparations can be taken, although only in the form of a hazmat suit, but since I had no access to one, and the families we work with generally become offended when we show up wearing garments designed solely to protect ourselves from their homes, it wasn't really an option.

So I mentally cursed out in my car for a few minutes. I went up the broken sidewalk and up the crumbling concrete stairs. I knocked on the grungy beige door. I listened to the little dogs barking on the other side. And just as I prepared to write out my note, I heard the lock disengage. The door creaked open a few inches, and the barking got louder. I attempted to introduce myself, but was drowned out by the growling and barking. I told the guy at the door that I was Julie's replacement, yelling over the dogs. He opened the door wider and attempted to grant me access. The little dogs came pouring out onto the small area of front porch which was not heaped with festering garbage, they circled and tried to nip at my ankles through my pant legs. It was at this point I noticed that there were four small dogs. Two brown short-haired chihuahuas, one slightly larger tan chihuahua mutt, most likely mixed with a small terrier breed, and one small greyish black dog which was roughly the size of a chihuahua, but could not be readily identified as such due to a nasty case of mange and old age which had taken large chunks of the animal's fur. Even if the fur had been in place it would still have been one of the ugliest dogs in existence. I asked him if there was some way that the animals could be stored for the time that I was there. He merely scooted them back through the door, yelled at them to shut up, and came out onto the porch himself, shutting the door behind him. It was at this point that I mentally celebrated the slight stay of execution and got my first good look at this fellow.

Picture if you will a character we will call Mitch. Mitch isn't his real name of course, but I've only ever known one other Mitch, and I found him just as revolting, though in other ways. So, Mitch stood before me. A short, dirty, repulsive little troll of a man. He stood about 5' 2" a few inches shorter than myself. He stood barefoot on the disgusting porch, which was only bested in filth by the shit-stained carpet I knew existed on the other side of the door, which he'd also clearly been barefoot upon. He wore filthy bluejeans, which were not filthy in an "I'm grubby incidentally because I've been working on a roofing job today," kind of way, but more of a "I haven't bothered to peel these bad boys off in a couple of weeks long enough to shower, let alone wash them," kind of way. A dingy t-shirt with various food stains and other stains of unknown origin really paired well with the jeans to complete the ensemble. I noticed there were several holes in both garments implying that they were not only "well-worn" and past seeing better days, it was pretty clear based on the improper fit that they were most likely also second hand from a bargain bin at the thrift store or obtained at a church clothing drive. (*I would like to note at this time that I am not judging this man, nor anyone else in a similar position for wearing thrift store clothes, or obtaining anything through charitable means when it is warranted... I am merely describing the attire so that you get an accurate picture. If I'm judging anyone mentioned in these posts, it is not for their clothing, their income, or their social standing. I am judging them for living in filth, ruining the life of a child in the home, and continuing to feign ignorance when services and resources have been at their disposal for some time.) To look at the man's face, one observes a pale sallow complexion, thin patchy whisps of brownish hair, making it appear that he is either intentionally trying to grow a beard and having all the luck of a 13 year old boy who hasn't quite made it through enough of puberty to get real beardiness, or he has just inadvertently forgotten to shave for a week and these few scraggly patches were all his body could muster. He did have a small brown moustache, and coke-bottle bifocal glasses. But the two things which really made the most lasting impression were his curly brown mullet, which he wore with a straight face, and his mouth, which was little more than a pinkish graveyard where his teeth used to be, and which currently was populated with tiny, blackened, jagged nubs where most of his teeth had once resided. (As someone who takes pride in dental hygiene, I will not kid you when I say that it hurt me to look at them, and I'm almost positive that they had to hurt him.)

I reintroduced myself once the dogs calmed down some. I noted that I was Julie's replacement on their case. I asked him to sign a consent form and asked if his wife was home. He told me she wasn't, she had actually taken the little girl to go visit grandma. He informed me that she would return later and that the whole family would be home all day the next day. I shuddered at the thought of returning the following day, but even more so at the idea of going into the festering stink hole they called home today. I tried to weigh my options... I knew I had to go in and make sure that the kid wasn't living in ... well... worse conditions than what we already knew about.

I stood on the front porch and asked a few routine questions, and tried to figure out exactly how long I could be in that house without breathing before my brain would start to die from a lack of oxygen... I knew this was it. I was already there, and it was time to go back into the belly of the beast.

(To be continued...)