Saturday, November 29, 2008

Chilly English Saturday evening

Right, so I finally fell asleep around 9:00 Saturday morning and had a solid two hours before there I went, I was awake again. Not much to do, really, but face the music, put on my slippers and pour a cup of coffee. And change the plans of the day so that I was not finding myself strolling round Brighton in the late afternoon with droopy eyelids and dreading the long train ride back. So, a couple of apologetic texts to my very understanding Personal Hurricane and another cup of coffee, and I assessed the day. A walk was in order. A good long stroll in the grey day and chilly air, a bit of discovery along the city streets and throught the park. I needed to stay awake so that I could sleep through the night tonight and I need to sleep through the night because we have an early train to Brugge, Belgium. And while I'm there, I have decided to go unconnected, at least to the lap top. So, I'll check in with you Wednesday. In the meantime, have a nice week. Right now, I'm off for a hot bath and a warm bed where hopefully sleep will not only stalk but catch me and keep me through the night. Sounds divine.

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And in case you're wondering (and I know that you are definitely not), I am most certainly missing the little brown dog.

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Friday, November 28, 2008

Curling up with my jet lag

Meeting up with my Personal Hurricane this afternoon involved a nice walk to the train station, a train to Waterloo station, the underground to Leicester Square and then a bit of a mixed up sense of direction on my part that landed me in the theater district and not the pub. Text messaging saved the day on that one.

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When I was walking to the station from my friend's house, it was a little after 3:00 and so there was still some daylight before the sun disappeared and darkness arrived at the early hour of 4:00. Enough daylight for me to take my time, to peek in the shops, to notice the fallen yellow leaves in the church yard, to listen to the heels of my boots on the stones, to slowly fill my lungs with the chilly air and exhale warmth.

The pub in question is called Waxy O'Connors. Across the street is a bar called Waxy's Little Sister. The rain began just as I arrived but inside was warm and friendly and we passed the hours with a couple friends of his in a little nook, drinking champagne and Guinness, enjoying conversation, laughter, a bit of flirting, and fish and chips for dinner. Four people in a warm little pub off a little square in a big rainy city. Who likes a night like that? I do.

What day is it anyway? The clock on my laptop says it's 10:44 p.m. which is Friday night. That's fine if I were in Houston but over here it translates to 4:44 in the morning, Saturday morning. Yawn. I woke up about an hour ago and that was that, I'm up. At this moment, I'm sitting on the couch in the living room, lights on dim, a single candle glowing on the coffee table. My feet are propped up on the same table. A steaming cup of tea beside them. My laptop is on my lap serving double duty of convenience and warmth. I've got my ipod in my ears and I'm listening to some Christmas music I mixed into the mix before I left. It's perfectly still and both the solitude and the hour are unusual gifts.

As far as moments go, this one is a yummy dollop of whipped cream atop an equally yummy day.

Checking in

When the wheels of the plane lifted from the ground I sat back, took a deep breath and let it all fall away behind me. Tuesday was a good day, a great day even, if you allow that it was a day of tears and tremendous release for me. If you allow that a good long cry can be a great thing. All the stresses and emotions of late have built up and built up and I noticed but couldn't get the darned bubble inside to burst. Even with lots of thought, talk and understanding, emotions, the feelings themselves require their own time. And puffy-eyed as I was on Wednesday, the smile on my face was undeniable. Whew, what a release.

And now, now I'm writing from a very chilly London. It's gray and damp and foggy and stereotypically London today and for me that's just perfectly fine. I'm staying with a colleague who is also a friend and we enjoyed pizza, champagne and a roaring fire in her living room last night. We chatted like school girls and gossiped about work and was that pizza ever good. Not my typical Thanksgiving, but my life is all about redefining normal these days.

So, with the sadness and the grieving, I also have an eye toward the day and the experiences. I am learning that all these emotions can and will co-exist. They add to my character as they are woven into the whole of me. In short, they are part of life. And the gratitude part of the Thanksgivng yesterday was not lost on me. I'm very thankful indeed as I have much to be thankful for. And you and I both know it.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Green scales fall like rain

I'm leaving here tomorrow, flying or running but it's definitely going away. I want to be brave, I do, but I don't know how to do that and still be here on Thursday. I'm learning so much lately, learning the truth, the strength, the sorrow, learning how to grieve and how to accept. And let me tell you, there's a lot of road between the two. I'm learning how to handle myself when I'm sad, learning the steps to take, the pauses really, in order not to blame myself and not to harm myself.

I'm learning how to live the change between being a member of a family, a daughter, and becoming the family leader, to be the one who picks up the broken pieces of what once was a whole family, glue those pieces together and say, This is what we have and we will stick together and I will never ever leave you. And asking them to believe that even though every other adult in their life has failed that, if only in death. I'm learning to provide the answers to questions without having anyone to guide those answers, learning to heal the sorrow, listen to the fears, guide the path, fill the needs, write the checks, wring my hands and pray and hope every single night. I'm learning to do this on my own. I'm learning that some people drop out because they have to and some drop out for reasons I'll never understand. I'm learning that no matter the reasons, when you're left alone, you're alone.

I'm learning about who I am and who I was and who I can be, learning how to accept what I feel and not apologize or feel guilty for those feelings. Or my thoughts. Or my behavior.

Tomorrow I catch a flight to London for two weeks. Last Thanksgiving I spent the afternoon bedside by my mother, spoon feeding her turkey and dressing, giving sips of champagne through a straw. It was the last time she told me she loved me. I love you Alison. She concentrated on the words, it took enormous energy and concentration for her to speak, but she succeeded. I love you Alison.

The girl is with her boyfriend and the boy is doing his thing and that leaves me in a meadow between here and there but wide open and not at all comfortable. So I'm going to a place I've been before, a place I brought Mom for my 39th birthday, a place my grandmother took my mother when she turned 40. A place where I'll stand on steps where we stood together, walk a path we walked, see sights my mother pointed to me from atop a tourist bus. A place where I can walk the streets anonymously and maybe, just maybe, start crying. What a release the tears.

I was standing by my window,
On one cold and cloudy day
When I saw that hearse come rolling
For to carry my mother away

Will the circle be unbroken
By and by, Lord, by and by
There's a better home a-waiting
In the sky, Lord, in the sky

I said to that undertaker
Undertaker please drive slow
For this lady you are carrying
Lord, I hate to see here go

Will the circle be unbroken
By and by, Lord, by and by
There's a better home a-waiting
In the sky, Lord, in the sky

Oh, I followed close behind him
Tried to hold up and be brave
But I could not hide my sorrow
When they laid her in the grave

Will the circle be unbroken
By and by, Lord, by and by
There's a better home a-waiting
In the sky, Lord, in the sky

I went back home, my home was lonesome
Missed my mother, she was gone
All of my brothers, sisters crying
What a home so sad and lone

Will the circle be unbroken
By and by, Lord, by and by
There's a better home a-waiting
In the sky, Lord, in the sky

We sang the songs of childhood
Hymns of faith that made us strong
Ones that mother Maybelle taught us
Hear the angels sing along

Will the circle be unbroken
By and by, Lord, by and by
There's a better home a-waiting
In the sky, Lord, in the sky

Will the circle be unbroken
By and by, Lord, by and by
There's a better home a-waiting
In the sky, Lord, in the sky

Will the Circle be Unbroken?

Monday, November 24, 2008

Me too, but the stream is enough

The Story of My Life
~ Jennifer Michael

Each day goes down in history, wets its feet,
bathes in the clear or murky stream,
drinks deep, comes out to join past days on the other bank.
We go in with the bathing day, every morning,
brace the shiver on our skin, taste the slaking of thirst,
find footing on mossy rock. Climb out with sleep.
Waking, we're back on the first bank,
wading with a new day into the kaleidoscopic water.
Days far from either bank are barely seen and seem unseeing.
There is no recording of them that knows the cold and quenching of their moment in the water.
Yet I cannot let them go,
nor bearth strong suggestion formed by their fading figures
that they have let us go
and that those coming cannot be foretold anything actual of water, flesh, or stone.
Publisher holds out a large envelope
says, Sorry.We can't publish your autobiography.
Man sighs, says, Story of my life.
All these words, then, are only for the stream?
The stream is everything?
The stream is not enough?
The specters on the banks are deaf but listening?

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Saturday pups at the park

I'm happy to report that Cheyenne is recovering very well. In fact, last night when I got home from work, she barreled down the stairs to greet me, all full of circles and tail wags and oh my gosh, you're home, you're HOME, GUESS WHAT, YOU'RE HOME!

The past several days, she's been too sore and stiff from her surgery for that sort of activity (aka, her normal) and she's waited upstairs on the sofa bed until I got up there, the only activity being the thump thump thump of her tail.

So, this morning, I looked at her and as she danced around my feet whilst I scooped her puppy chow into her bowl, I knew she was well enough for the park. Her little friend Piedmont joined us there and Cheyenne taught him all about the thrill of finding and chewing sticks. And then she taught him about stealing sticks, which he quickly learned he could steal right back. Dogs.

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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Listen to your mother

I believe that carrots are the food I like least of all. Don't get technical on me, the assumption is that I'm writing about foods I've tried. And I've tried tripe cooked in lard in an inverted hubcap and slapped onto a corn tortilla, from a vendor on a street in a tiny town in Mexico. So there.

Which, in my usual manner, is a fine example of me straying way off the point.

Carrots and I have opposed each other for as long as I can remember. My mother used to tell me that carrots were good for me and she'd offer up one of two benefits. One, carrots were good for my eye sight, and two, carrots would make my hair curly. I've never quite understood how either could be true so subsequently fed more carrots to the dog, scraped them into my napkin, or left them behind on the plate (hidden beneath something when I was a child or simply uneaten as an adult) than I've ever fed myself.

Which brings me to the point I am trying to make: My eyesight is for sh*t and my hair is as straight as the line to financial destitution I'll be in if I continue to buy expensive shampoos, conditioners, sprays, mousses and gels in the futile hope of one day having curls (or let's be honest here, even a wave or two).

And that makes me wonder if I'd listened to her all those many years ago and added carrots to my daily diet, would I be withough glasses right now and tossing my many curls off my shoulder?

All of this because I just accidentally ate a carrot in my vegetable soup. Yech!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

As soon as I could

Cheyenne is fine. Thankfully, she's cancer free. Her doctor tells me it's good that we had the lumps removed though as two of them were getting aggressive. Aggressive fat? I had no idea the girl and I had that much in common. Wink wink.

In my usual all-about-the-girl fashion, I've pulled out the sofa bed and we're sleeping on the second floor tonight. It's easier for her to go down one flight of stairs, I believe, when she needs to get in the grass. She had a lump removed from deep under the inside of her front left leg, one removed from her chest and two removed (one deep) from her right back flank. I'm watching her having a bit of a challenge finding a comfy spot. But I know she'll get there.

I'm so happy to have her home again, so happy to no longer be wondering, fretting, hand-wringing. She keeps getting settled, then raising her head in anesthetic confusion, and I'm so happy to be right here beside her to tell her It's okay, girl, it's okay, and watch her heavy eyelids close again.

Thanks for the thoughts and prayers. I knew you'd be there, I just knew you would.

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Monday, November 17, 2008

Lumpitty Loo

That girl of mine is lumpy. Lumpy, lumpy, lumpy. I regularly bring her to the vet to get the lumps -- new and old -- checked and the results have always come back as being merely fatty. A couple weeks ago, the same thing. But a couple of those lumps keep growing and that is causing her doctor and me some concern. So, Tuesday morning she goes in for surgery. Four lumps are being removed, two of the unruly ones and two we just don't like, one of which I found this morning way up in her flank that startled the heck out of me and hasn't yet been tested. Cheyenne's no stranger to surgery, having had both back knees replaced, and some lumps removed a couple years ago, and I'm no stranger to hand wringing and worrying about her the night before and the day of surgery. In fact, even though she's familiarly flopped down beside me gnawing on a bone at the moment, things won't be right again until I pick her up tomorrow afternoon.

For my girl, keep your fingers crossed Tuesday, would you please?

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Weekend update

Have you ever had the kind of Saturday where you have no plans, where you open the windows to the morning sun, breathe in the fresh air and tell the day to take you where it may? Saturday was like that for me. It was a Saturday that I hugged and tickled and laughed my way through its hours. Cheyenne got whipped cream from Starbucks and we had hours in the sun at a restaurant that allows dogs on the patio. We went to the feed and antique store and loaded up on bones and chewies. I got my car cleaned from head to toe, or luggage rack to tire as it were. Network Geek met me at my house and worked for two hours to fix my computer / internet connection and amazingly he got it working. It was great to meet him as we've read each other's sites and supported each other through different challenges we've faced, but never met in person. Connections brought through this site always bring me an interesting form of satisfaction. Then I was back out in the day again, meeting several of my friend's and their dogs on the patio of a spot across the street. The dogs ran, chased, fetched and generally stole the show until the sun set down on us all and with that, the temp got too gold and it was time to call it a day. What a day it was.

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Friday, November 14, 2008

Just a thought

If we were riding a train, randomly sitting beside each other this afternoon, somewhere between our office stops and the stop that was near my house or yours or where you had to switch lines so that you could meet your friends for an after work drink or I had to get off to visit a friend, we might strike up a conversation, you and I. It might start with the weather, Going to get cold tonight, I hear. You'd say that. I'd nod, mumble something along the lines of having heard that too. I'd look at the map above the doors, count how many stops to where I get off. I'd look at the untied shoelace falling from a little boy's tennis shoe and onto the dirty floor and I'd follow the line of his legs upward to see his stubby hand gripping his mother's knee while she blocked out all other passengers in a straight-ahead blank gaze. I'd glance over at the oblivious punk with his headphones so loud that the base was audible to most of us in the car around him. But what I'd be thinking about is Cheetos, specifically, the jalapeno cheese cheetos. I'd ask you if you've tasted them. You'd pull back a bit in surprise, tell me that yes you have, and by your smile, I'd know that you found them quite good. And I'd say, I know, right? I'd tell you that I tried them out sort of by mistake, pushing the wrong button on a machine at our office. You'd joke that it was a mistake in my favor. It's then that I'd notice the telltale orange on your fingertips and know that you were telling the truth. And for two more stops, we'd hang there in the balance of our newfound and brief friendship, sealed by a cheeto.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The little guy finds home in the big city

What is known is that he was abandoned, seemingly thrown from a moving car if the road rash on his face and legs can be translated into a story. What is known is that he survived Hurricane Ike, apparently huddled beneath a church with two newfound equally hardluck friends and three pups. What is known is that a woman with a big heart rescued him and cared for him as she has done many other abandoned dogs.

Four weeks ago, my friend and I went to my family's cabin for the weekend. While there, we did something I've never done in the 20 plus years since building the cabin: we went to Bay City for the Rice Festival. It was a day of cool air and warm sunshine; we were headed to the beach. But crossing paths with a neighbor changed our direction. The neighbor went on and on about the festival, she was on her way there. She spoke of the artists' booths on the grounds of the downtown courthouse, she spoke of early Christmas shopping. She spoke enough about it that our curiosity was hooked. My friend and I decided to head that way and then go to the beach afterwards. And that decision planted the seeds to a big change in my friend's life, and what I would be doing with my time this past Saturday.

With Cheyenne on the leash leading the way, my friend and I weaved in and out of the booths, enjoying the people watching and the artists' wares, enjoying a day outside in small town Texas. We walked the square, rounded the corner and there it was. Dogs available for adoption. The first words my friend spoke were, Oh no. She'd been considering adopting a dog for several months but hadn't found the right one in size, temperament and age. Until she saw him.

She made a small donation and received some treats in return, squatted near the crate and offered the goodies that he excitedly accepted. He licked her hands while she asked questions about him and learned what was known about his story. Before ten minutes had passed, she had the application in hand and we were sitting on the courthouse steps filling it out. Another 30 minutes later, I was dragging her away from rubbing his belly and getting sloppy kisses in return.

My friend did some research on the rescue facility and waited for a phone call. She paced, fretted, would not cease talking about him, hoping he could be hers, believing that they belonged together and she was the human that could love him and provide him a good life in his forever home.

And the phone call did come. It would be another two weeks before he would be hers as he needed to be neutered and have some other treatment but on Saturday November 8th, she could pick him up. Her excitement was more than she could contain. We spent Saturday November 1st preparing her home for his arrival. There was a crate to be bought, a bed, bowls, treats, food and toys, lots of toys.

Early this past Saturday, we drove to Angleton to have breakfast with his foster mother and pick him up. My friend was nervous. What if he didn't like her? What if she couldn't do this? I tried to console her, told her he would love her, told her that he would guide her, that she would learn how to communicate with him and care for his needs.

On the drive home, he stayed in her arms and excitedly looked out the windows, licked her face, looked out the windows, snuggled deeper into her arms and licked her face some more.

His name is Piedmont. It appears he is a Basset Hound / Dalmation mix. He is somewhere between nine and ten months old and has an incredibly expressive and adorable face. His disposition is sweet, eager and very loving. He's afraid of water and not too fond of surprise movements or loud sounds. He'll work through that with her as his guide. Piedmont has a home now and from the way he's taking to his new Mom and his new home and his new friends, something tells me that Mom and the little guy are going to be just fine together.

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Monday, November 10, 2008

Hey look, it works!

It appears that my internet problem is fixed. Just as mysterious as the problem itself, with Comcast coming out here no less than five times and replacing the line as well as replacing the modem and who knows what else, is the apparent disappearance of the problem. After so many weeks of it working and then not working and my calling for service and waiting for available dates and scheduling my time away from work or requesting my friend to come over if I couldn't be here, I'm not remotely trusting of this connectivity. In fact, I'm not at all sure how it happened. I'd just arranged for Geek Squad to come out here tomorrow morning but they were at my neighbor's house this afternoon, my neighbor who has been suffering the same internet issues as I have been. Suddenly I have service. It's like finally getting the baby to sleep -- I'm sort of holding my breath and tiptoeing around the house.

And why am I at home today? Because I decided to take a me day. My weekend was larger than normal, filled to the brim with helping out a friend (more on that later) and an afternoon cooking and preparing meals to help out someone who can't navigate his kitchen at the moment, and then a whole lot of screaming and yelling and rooting for Texas Tech Saturday night. Sunday was equally full. Today I woke up and thought, give your time to yourself today. And that's just what I've done. It's grey and raining out and it's dry and comfortable in here. And because I can, I'm off to take a nap. A lazy nap on a rainy Monday afternoon.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

A post-it note for you

There's so much I want to say, so much to share with you. There's thoughts and notes and pretty words lined up nicely and waiting patiently to be transformed from ink scrolled on napkins, notebook paper, the back of a magazine on my bedside table, into Lucida Grand font right here on this screen.

I want to tell you about walking down a hall in my father's footsteps last week, about picking something up where he left it and carrying on with his efforts. I want to tell you about Central Park and an email I received that answers a question I put out here a couple years ago. I want to write about last night and how awesome to witness this first for our country.

There are lessons in my mind and stories in my heart and I miss sharing them with you.

I try though. Every day I try. But I cannot get on the internet at home and Comcast, though having been to my house no less than three times in the past two weeks, is unable to locate and fix the problem. Each day, hope renewed, I flip open the laptop and, hope dashed, shut it down again. Can moods be dictated by the internet? Sometimes, the answer is yes.

A Comcast technician is at my house right now. My friend is there with them while I'm here at the office with my fingers crossed.

I hope to get back here on a regular basis very soon. In the meantime, I don't know if you follow Opus or are a fan of Berkley Breathed's but now that it's over (again) I'm happy knowing that Opus is napping. "He sleeps in peace, dreaming of a world just ahead, brimming with kindness and grace and ubiquitous bow ties."