Sophie 2003-2017

“I’m learning how to be sad without [her]; navigating without my North Star.”

Sophie, my beautiful red dog, died. June 29, 2017. She was two months shy of 14.

She could not stay any longer.  Early in the 2016, before Joe died, we had talked about the possibility that Sophie wouldn’t make it through 2016. She was getting old and her arthritis and hip dysplasia was getting worse. She still acted like herself, just older and slower. She had changed from chasing her tennis ball to just guarding it, lest anyone decide to throw it.

After Joe died, she somehow knew that she had to stay.  She stayed for me because she knew how broken I was without him. She was too. She missed him. She knew he was gone. She’d watched the paramedics try to revive him. But, like me, she knew it was useless. We grieved together. But she made me get up and walk with her the morning after he died. She made me see the daffodils that bloomed that morning … the forsythia that had exploded all over March 2016 … the blackbirds singing in the tree outside our house.

And every day after that we did our morning and evening walks… our mid-afternoon turn around the yard.
She’d been okay even in the morning of the 28th and right up until about 3 a.m. when she refused to walk up the steps to the house one more time after a middle-of-the-night walk. A friend carried her in for me and put her back on the bed, where she’d slept for her entire life. We snuggled. I fell asleep but around 5 a.m. on June 29th she was having trouble breathing… she was scared.  We got a couple of pills down her and she calmed. I thought I’d take her to the vet at 9 when they opened, but it soon became obvious that she would not make it that long. So I held her.
I told her stories of getting her and Bear… the day that Joe and I went to pick out puppies from an acquaintance who’s dog had a rather large litter of two different looking dogs half black & white and half red & white. Wandering around their yard we both attracted the attention of two different pups. A little pink-nosed red girl laid on my foot. I picked her up and looked into Sophie’s eyes for the first time. I put her under my arm like a football and turned to see Joe.  I said, just as he started saying the exact same words, “I think I’ve found the dog!” He had a perfectly beautiful black-and white dog under his arm, like a football. We laughed. Told each other how we found the pup and immediately decided that two dogs was just fine.  Their Mama dog came up to me, put her paws on my shoulders and looked me in the eye… then, as if to say “Okay, you can take them,” she dropped back down and walked away.
I told Sophie stories of her great hunting conquests … of catching rabbits … two that we knew of … one only two years ago … both rabbits survived their encounter with Sophie … her soft mouth too gentle to kill a bunny.
I reminded her of the Last Great Adventure of her life when Michael (who had loved four of Sophie’s pups) and I took her with us to Colorado. She got to smell Colorado dirt just the month before.  She didn’t like it and was a nervous wreck until we got back to where she knew the smells again… Topeka was as far west as she’d ever been. She finally rested once we hit Wanamaker.
I told her about Nine and Kira and Foxy and Lil’Bear and Brown all waiting to go play.
I told her about Joe waiting for her on the Other Side, his pockets stuffed with tennis balls.
With every single word she knew, she raised her eyebrow. She listened to every word and looked me in the eyes… when she breathed her last breath my heart came apart.
Reading this article has brought me to grief-tears again. Good and healthy, but grief-tears just the same. Sophie made sure I lived through losing Joe. I am learning how to be sad without her.
Sophie was my first dog. I’d had dogs in my life, but they were my brother’s dogs or my Mom’s dog and it broke my heart when they died… but not like this. Dogs choose who their person is. Bear, was my other “first dog” and when he died it was crushing but not like this. Joe and Sophie and Nine were here to help me be sad.  And now, the last of them is gone.
End of an era.
I miss HER … not a dog… HER. I miss her unconditional love. I miss her eyes. I miss the sound of her breathing at night. I miss my beautiful red girl.

Thanksgiving 2015

I’ve just come back to my WordPress after a very long time. My last post is in 2011. My last draft was from November 2015. Little did I know at the time that 105 days later my beloved Joe would die. In re-reading the post just now, I did what I always do, since that day, when I encounter an unexpected memory: I sobbed. I keened. And then I stopped a few moments later. I am so very grateful that we did this dinner. It wasn’t that we had no where to go. Siblings and friends had asked us to join them for dinner. But somehow, this seemed right.  We made dinner, ate off the good china and had our “first” Thanksgiving.

 

By the next Thanksgiving in 2016, Joe was gone, dying on March 9th at the beginning of Spring so that I actually had no wait whatsoever for signs of renewal.

The below was written on Thanksgiving, but more importantly, it was written the day after my 63rd birthday. It is my birthday gift to me.

 

November 26, 2015

Hey. I can’t believe it has been 4 years since I wrote anything here. Well, there goes that promise to self… I think I promised myself something like, “I will write something every week OR ELSE!”

So… better now than never, right.

So what possessed me to sit down and write tonight, Thanksgiving evening, the day after my 63rd birthday?

Thanksgiving Dinner.

Yup. That is it. But this was an exceptionally special Thanksgiving Dinner. Here at the end of a year of enormous loss, I needed to write about it.

Tonight, my husband, Joe, and our friend and neighbor, Bill, and I sat down on this rainy and cold Kansas night for a special dinner. I made roast pork loin and green bean casserole and cornbread dressing (poor-do as my Louisiana Nana used to call it). A simple meal, but served on Nana’s china with a candle burning on the table.

This is the first time in over 16 years I’ve dined off of Nana’s china. I inherited it from my mother, Gene, when she passed away in 1999. It has graced my curio cabinet for 16 years. I have asked myself a million times, why do I keep it? What should I do with it? Should I sell it? I tried once… the antique dealer laughed at me and pointed to shelves full of lovely china that he’d bought years before from some other granddaughters struggling with the same questions. Should I give it away to someone who would use it? My brother? He laughed. A cousin? One wanted it but we’ve never gotten together to make the exchange. But tonight. Tonight was Thanksgiving again… not exactly like the Thanksgiving of the years gone … the ones with my Mom and Dad… Aunts and Uncles … loud, boisterous cousins playing under the spreading pecan tree in Granddad’s yard in Houston … waiting for the meal to be laid … of course eating at the “Children’s” table in the kitchen rather than (as my Aunt Marlene used to say) “on the carpet” in the dining room off of Nana’s precious china. I didn’t graduate to the dining table until I was almost 25 years old… and by almost, I mean I got to sit at the Adult table on the last day I was 24 years old, my birthday being on Friday the 25th that year.

Tonight, though was special. This year, Joe’s parents both passed away. Now we both have risen to the tops of our respective family trees. Shellshocked with loss from this year, having lost friends, family and beloved pets, we… just… couldn’t…

We talked for a few days about having grilled ham and cheese sandwiches with soup. — solid comfort food — for dinner on Thanksgiving.  But in the end a “real” meal was our choice.

I laughed at myself at the end of the meal tonight when I made the mad dash to pick up the unused spoons knives and forks to put them away before they had to be washed. My mother and I were always the mad dashers pulling the unused utensils and packing them away in the silver box … no need to wash them if no one had used them! But of course, we always laid a proper table. Two forks, knife, soup spoon, tea spoon, all had to be laid for each diner, even though the likelihood of them using all that silverware was very low.

Just a little while ago, I performed the other ritual that my mother and I always did together. The washing and drying of the china and the silverware. I had to perform both tasks because my sweet mother is gone all these years. I don’t mind, because this little ritual brings her back to me for just a moment or two.

After Nana died, and the china moved to Mom’s house, we continued the Thanksgiving dining traditions, complete with the silverware retrieving mad dash, washing and drying. Each piece of silver safely washed and dried. Each plate, bowl, cup, saucer, platter, and gravy boat gently washed and dried and then laid lovingly back upon the tableclothed dining table to assure that they were completely dry before being stored away the following morning until Christmas dinner a month hence.

I did all that tonight… the carefully washed china and silverware lay on my table as I type, waiting for tomorrow morning to be put away.

My Mama is here with me tonight. And my Nana. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you don’t need to hold on to traditions. You miss them when you don’t participate in them. It has been over 16 years since I did these things. And I find they have patiently waited for me to return to them. And they give me the comfort of home and love.

 

 

104 Days to the End of this Wretched Year

Coping with change is not easy.  Coping with change that involves every aspect of your life, from health to finances to family and friends is almost life threatening.

I started this year on an up note… I was going to attack my health problems head on, starting with an exercise program I could live with.  As usual that fell through about a month into the process.  Partly it was my own damn fault because I could have/should have chosen to go ahead and keep swimming on my own when Joe became unable to go swimming because of his problem with his foot.  But I didn’t because it had been one of the few things we did together out side of sitting at home watching TV or going to the doctor.  So the first resolution to take care of myself went out the window so early in the year it was hardly a memory when along about the 1st of March, I thought I was having a heart attack.

Yep.  That is what I thought.  Chest pain — like an elephant foot pressing into my chest… shooting pains down my left arm.  Jaw pain and neck pain that didn’t want to quit.  I put up with it silently and then one day some talking head on TV in a red dress said “You might be having a heart attack if…” so I made an appointment to see a doctor.  Now this in and of itself was a horrible decision to make.  You see, I have no health insurance.  I have not had health insurance since my husband became disabled in 2009.  We had to give it up at the beginning of 2010 when I was no longer covered by the University’s health insurance policy that we had to pay for to keep Joe alive.  Had I wanted it, the price would have doubled and at the time I thought 57 and more or less healthy — I’ll be fine.

Don’t believe you will be fine without health insurance — especially if you are in your late 50s.  Your chances are not good.  Even if you are relatively healthy, anything can happen.

I blithely went to the doctor, thinking that I was probably going to get an EKG and a scolding for being too fat.  No.  When I walked in and told them my symptoms the Nurse Practitioner, who had started her nursing career in our local hospital’s  Emergency Room, turned me right around and said “Go, NOW to the ER. Do not go home and get your husband, do not go anywhere else, go straight there and tell them what you told me.”  So I did.

I spent the next two days in the hospital having tests on what is called a “step down unit”.  This unit is a one-off from the Intensive Care… your telemetry can be transferred immediately to the Intensive Care unit (conveniently located on the same hall, within steps of your room) if need be.   Ultimately they decided that I had some coronary blockage but not bad enough for bypass just yet, and, worse, anxiety. Severe anxiety.  No kidding… And just to make me more anxious, they sent the social worker by to talk to me about the bill… one that has after a second hospitalization for more chest pains in June, has now risen to the $35000 range.  Hell, if you had my life you’d be anxious too.  But then everyone with anxiety feels that way, or we wouldn’t be anxious, right?

And we’re only up to June.

Why am I anxious?  Well, I am unemployed since September 14, 2009.  I have applied for 97 jobs since then and I have 97 form letter rejections to go with each of those earnestly written cover letters for each of those 97 positions.  With each rejection comes just another tightening of the throat, a little more pressure on the chest and pushes me just a little closer to the acceptance of the inevitable.

What, you may ask in this case is “inevitable”.  Now, this is something I must accept and yet, the first time I wrote these sentences, I used conditionals like “most likely” and “probably”.  I have edited those words out… Here is the inevitable truth that I must accept before I can move on to the next phase of my life:

The inevitable truth of my condition of unemployment is that it is permanent.  I will never work for another person again as long as I live.

Not because I don’t want to, but, because of the length of time the economy will take to recover from the depression that the main stream media and the powers that be refuse to call anything but a “recession” and then only on the darkest days.  This, combined with my age and education makes me the least desirable possible employee.  Another inevitable truth that is coming out of this “depression/recession/downturn” is:

Someone who is old, over-educated and unemployed for over 2 years is UNDESIRABLE.

Recently I read about a petition being circulated to urge Monster.com (and other job websites) to ban advertisements that tell applicants not to apply if they are currently unemployed.  It would seem that some employers have an interesting “policy” that if one has been unemployed for 6 months that one may not apply for the jobs being offered to the general public.  Some how this seems discriminatory — but of course isn’t because “unemployed” is not a protected class.

So what does one do when one finds that she must give up the idea of being an employee and become what? Self-employed? (because I love to work at nothin’ all day?) With all due respect to Bachman Turner Overdrive, I liked going to work…even when I was annoyed.  I find it annoying that there is no work for me, a well educated, hard working, literate human being who actually wants to be in an office or somewhere, productively creating for the good of humankind and receiving remuneration for same.

But, I’m told, I must learn to cope with this change.  The inevitables that aren’t going away.  The lemons that must be made into lemonade.

I used to work for a corporation that arrogantly published the “core values” and then made us all wear them on our name tags so that we could remember what the corporation was trying to accomplish.

Well, I have core values too:

I expect to perform meaningful work for the betterment of humans.

I expect a living wage for the performance of that work.

I expect high quality medical care that keeps me alive and healthy and will not send me to bankruptcy court.

I expect decent housing that is affordable, manageable and maintainable.

I expect city/county/state/federal services that provide sanitation, good roads, clean water and air, and ensures my safety in times of danger.

I expect to pay for these services with reasonable taxes.

I expect honesty from all levels of government.

I want to go on, write a manifesto, a constitution, a declaration… but the very interesting thing is that those things have been written.  We don’t need new ones we need to respect the old ones.

Oooops.  Did I use that word “old” as in “too old” or “outdated” or “unemployed for more than 6 months” … Our world is a dangerous place.  Is it any wonder I am….

ANXIOUS?

 

©2011

I like Ike: or Where are the Eisenhower Republicans?

Ever wonder why Republicans don’t raise the specter of Dwight David Eisenhower the way they are constantly going back and reanimating Ronald Reagan? How about this quote from the 34th President of the United States (and the last good Republican in my opinion):

“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.”

This quote is from his April 1953 “Chance for Peace” speech regarding (among other things) the death of Lenin.

Eisenhower in the Oval Office

He also

  • Ended the Korean War (which wasn’t really a war but a policing action – Presidential Proclamation No. 2914, 3 C.F.R. 99 (1953), which remained in force until 14 September 1978);
  • Authorized with Canada a joint construction of the St. Lawrence Seaway;
  • Did not bomb the hell out of Puerto Rico when  five representatives were wounded in House of Representatives by shots fired by Puerto Rican nationalists;
  • Extended Social Security coverage to farmers (make something bad out of that, Michelle Bachman!);
  • Signed the The Interstate Highway System into being;
  • Signed the 1957 Civil Rights Act which seeks to protect voting rights (which btw many of our Repubican Governors are working dilligently to infringe);
  • During his administration Explorer I, the first American satellite launched;
  • Signed the bill establishing National Aeronautics and Space Administration (and now we can wave byebye to NASA and NASA engineer’s jobs);
  • Signed the National Defense Education Act, providing loans for college students and funds to encourage young people to enter teaching careers (raise your hand if you went to school with an NDSL loan?  I did);
  • Signed the act admitting Hawaii as the 50th state;
  • With Queen Elizabeth II he opened the St. Lawrence Seaway (built in an astonishing 5 years! US & Canada workers work quickly — It has been 10 years since the WTC crashed to the ground and they’re still not finished with the new WTC building… maybe they should have hired some Canadians); and
  • Last but not least, he warned us about the Military-Industrial Complex.

He had good reason to because….

The above is a list of good things…

here’s the bad news – the Military Industrial Complex news:

  • Replaced the government of Premier Mohammed Mossadegh in Iran with regime loyal to Shah Pahlevi;
  • Did nothing to stop Joe McCarthy and his commie witch hunt;
  • Signed the Communist Control Act outlawing Communist Party (was this the beginning of infringing on free speech??? Maybe);
  • Signed Southeast Asia Defense Treaty (SEATO) (NB: don’t believe it when anyone tells you that Viet Nam was Johnson’s fault… the US was obligated by this treaty to be in Viet Nam);
  • Sent U.S. forces to defend Formosa against Communist aggression;
  • Eisenhower Doctrine bill signed, authorizing use of U.S. forces to assist Middle East nations threatened by Communist aggression (I guess we’re still fightin’ commies in the Middle East, huh?);
  • Sent U.S. Marines into Lebanon at the request of President Camille Chamoun; and
  • Permitted U-2 flights in to the USSR (Remember Gary Powers????)

Not everyone is perfect – just as Obama is not the Perfect Democrat, Eisenhower was not the Perfect Republican… BUT there was a balance to the guy.  It is hard to see “balance” in any of the current contenders for the job.  I’d just like to find a Republican like Ike… one that isn’t “all” bad.

©2011

Well, greetings everyone… I guess I’ve been mightily quiet for a while… Facebook will do that to you.

I’ve complained loud and long to my little circle of friends there about Tea Parties, Earthquakes, broken air conditioners and automobiles.

But I haven’t written anything substantial and I haven’t made a contribution to the world of blogs in quite some time. So today, I make the commitment to have something substantial, readable, enlightening and exciting up by Monday the 29th or else I expect all five of my subscribers to write me a note that says something along the lines of “HEY! What was that you wanted to say????”

©2011

 

The difficulty of “simple”

Lately, I have been contemplating the word “simple”.

Simple things, simple pleasures, simple actions.  Simple is usually considered to be “easiest” or “fastest”.  It is rarely thought to be difficult to take the simplest way.

Difficult, though, is just what simple can be.

Simple kindness… for some kindness is difficult.  It is never easy to let go of one’s ego and be compassionate.  Usually compassion requires some form of sacrifice – at least on the part of one taking compassionate action.

Simple pleasure… how does one simplify pleasure – one first must remove ego and allow pleasure to infuse the soul.  The simple pleasure of a sunny day… one first must shove aside all the intruding needs, wants and have-tos to be able just to acknowledge that it is a sunny day.

The concept of harming none – the concept of doing unto others as you would have them do unto you – the concept of being excellent to each other – these are simple concepts.  But the actions required to achieve these concepts are very, very difficult – particularly when ego is in the way.

We must give up our egoic point of view.  We must remove ourselves from the equation.  “What’s in it for me?” should never be the first question or even any part of the question.  Heart-felt love, kindness and compassion for others and one’s self are not self-ish or self-centered – even if the love is for one’s self.  As long as egoic aggrandizement is not part of the motivation, love and even self-love — loving kindness and compassion for one’s self — supports the heart and builds the ability to give loving kindness and compassion to others.

A social worker I once knew had a moral compass that required her to ask “Will a child die?” To her, the worst possible outcome of any action was the death of a child.  While I agree that is the worst possible outcome, I think that even if the answer is “no” the question might just be the wrong question.  Harm comes in many shapes and sizes.  So too actions… the moral compass needs to be something along the lines of “Who/what is harmed?”  If by telling a “little lie” – nothing that seems “big” – you somehow cause another person to become homeless, you have caused great harm.  Is this possible?  Yes.  It very nearly happened to me.

“Ah!” you say, “very nearly” – well the results of that person’s “little lie” have not come to completion yet… I and my family could still become homeless.  Fortunately for me, there are others in my world that are far less egoic than the people who lied and caused the crisis.  Fortunately, should that horrible moment come that me and mine would have no place to live, there are those who would take us in.  And so, was there harm in that “little lie”? Of course.  Might it also create a change for the better?  Possibly. But was it worth it?  Not to me.

©2011

More Civility Please…

Well, I have to chime in here.  I was just watching a brief, channel-surfed moment of CNN and find some raging right talking head screaming about how the MSM may want to paint all the right with the same brush but none of them (the MSM) are going to respond so the people who are on his website screaming (in comments I presume because he showed a computer screen with giant type) for Sarah Palin’s head – literally.

Honestly, I don’t know of too many websites that allow a comment like that go through much less blow it up in type size and advertise it on TV.  Basically, most people will either just delete a maniac’s comment or, if they find it credible, turn it over to law enforcement.

As a “left leaning blogger” I want to stand up and say:  “No threat of violence against another human being is justified.”  I do not care if you don’t like someone else’s politics…I certainly do not like Sarah Palin’s politics.  I continue to think that she is unqualified for most jobs, but especially World Leader… whether that world leadership is as President of the US or just a talk show host.  She has a right to her opinion just as I have a right to mine.  She even has a right to be irresponsible in her choice of graphics on her website – I do not believe that the use of cross-hairs is a credible threat, I simply believe it is irresponsible of the un-coronated queen of the National Rifle Association to to put cross-hairs on a map of “targeted” seats.  For anyone to blithely suggest that those cross-hairs were symbolic of a surveyor’s sight is disingenuous at best.  We all know what the symbol meant and it was not that Palin, et. al. were surveying those seats.  They were targeting the seats – the irresponsible part – because obviously they do not know how to evaluate responsibility – was that a maniac could look at that and think “kill”.  I do not for one minute believe that Sarah Palin et. al. were advocating murder.  Nor do I believe that the Maniac of Tuscon saw the cross-hairs and took it as a message – since his politics were decidedly leftist, he came to that conclusion without Sarah Palin or any other right-leaning talking head’s urgings.

What I want today almost three years after starting this blog is the same thing I wanted then:  civility in politics, responsibility of action by our politicians, and for those politicians of both sides – or now – all sides of the aisle to remember who they work for… WE the People!

© 2011