Tuesday, January 30, 2007

S IS FOR. . . .

Knatolee said, "I stole this theme from Dephal, who stole it from Leanne. Then I stole this explanation from Dephal: "The idea is you get a letter, and then list 10 things that begin with that letter that have significance to your life. If any of you want to play, just email me or leave me a comment, and I'll send you your letter."

What Knat said. . . And Dephal was kind enough to send me my letter, which just happens to be S. Ssssooo, without further ado, here is my list of what S means to me:

Sisters: The most special person in my life, aside from my children is my sister Sue. She’s warm and giving and is genuinely one of the most compassionate and passionate people that I know. She loves her children and her husband unconditionally, and I find her inner strength very compelling. She has a sparkling sense of slightly irrational humor that I totally relate to, and we share a genuine love of animals. And even though we’re bound by blood, I know we’d be friends even if we weren’t related. The fact that we are sisters is the wonderful serendipity called life.

I LOVE snow. I grew up with it, walked to school in it uphill both ways, shoveled it, played in it, made snow caves as a child and entertained in it. I sometimes find it strange that I landed in a place where it hardly ever snows.

Silence: I love the quiet spaces of early morning and late evening, which often find me sitting at the computer working or sipping tea while I ponder the mysteries of life. I’m a nightowl by nature and the whole get up at 6 a.m. be at work by 7:30 a.m. is totally unnatural to my body clock. I love the wee hours of the night when the whole world seems silent and I step out onto the deck and see the stars shining in all their glory, and I sometimes imagine that I’m looking at a small glimpse of heaven.

Singing: I love to sing. . . in the shower, at the grocery store, in the car at the top of my lungs. I remember all the silly, wonderful songs of my childhood learned from singing around the campfire at Girl Scout camp or grammar school, and I delight in teaching them to my grandchildren. I also make songs up for and about my grandchildren who show a remarkable talent for following in my footsteps.

Serendipity: I love the sound of that word. In fact, I love words because the right combination can paint a million pictures in my mind's eye, define the taste of a ripe fruit like the sharp, sweet tartness of a cherry, describe the deep welling of sadness in someone’s heart and the height that joy can reach. I love to journal because it helps me to keep things straight in my mind and allows me to express myself unfettered by the inhibition of being heard by someone else. It sets my heart free to be myself, totally immersed in the moment.

Seriousness: I have a hard time being serious. I love to laugh and find humor in the most innocuous things. My kids always joke that I crack myself up. . .and that’s true for the most part. I love to find humor and love being around people who also love to laugh. Life is too short to be so serious all the time. Laughter lightens up a dreary day and makes my world a fun place to be.

Starting Over: Okay, this is really two words. But second chances have been a big focus in my life recently. It seems the older I get, the more precious I realize life is. I’ve come to see that no one can change my life but me, that no one can help me live the life I want except me. Now that I've found the courage to change my life, I’m like a kid in a candy store. I want to do it all. I want to experience everything. I want to drink in life and savor every moment.

Symphony: I love music. It’s always been a part of my life. We had a very old, broken down piano in the basement of the house where I grew up, and I spent hours down there, teaching myself to play a few melodies. My kids grew up listening to me play the guitar and singing along with all the John Denver songs. Although I never took formal lessons, I find an indescribable joy in music that can’t really be found anywhere else. Attending a concert or live performance is a moving experience for me. I feel my soul expanding and contracting with the swelling harmonies as the music moves through me and over me. And I love all kinds of music: country, oldies, classical. There’s a piece to fit every mood, every desire.

Saggitarius: Having been born in December, this is my zodiac sign. I think it fits me well. I like traveling, getting to the heart of the matter, freedom. I dislike feeling tied down, being constrained, being bothered with details. This is what one site says about my sign: “Sagittarians have a positive outlook on life, are full of enterprise, energy, versatility, adventurousness and eagerness to extend experience beyond the physically familiar. They enjoy travelling and exploration, the more so because their minds are constantly open to new dimensions of thought. They are basically ambitious and optimistic, and continue to be so even when their hopes are dashed. Their strongly idealistic natures can also suffer many disappointments without being affected. They are honorable, honest, trustworthy, truthful, generous and sincere, with a passion for justice. They are usually on the side of the underdog in society they will fight for any cause they believe to be just, and are prepared to be rebellious. They balance loyalty with independence.”

Science: I’ve always been fascinated by science and nature in general. I loved Carl Sagan and his theories about life on other planets. I never get tired of the learning and reading about the animal-human connection, and Jane Goodall is one of my heroes. Her books are mesmerizing, and I never get tired of reading her work or watching her documentaries. One of my largest interests is how to stop the destruction of the planet, learning what we can do as individuals to make sure that we leave a legacy for future generations. I can’t imagine a world without whales or polar bears or condors or any of the magical creatures of this planet. But if we continue to move in the direction we have been, extinction of species will be inevitable. Let’s begin by being an example and by teaching our children the value of life and habitat for all creatures.

listen to Jane speak at the Earth Day celebration. You will be inspired.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Bighead Todd

This is our little Todd, lovingly named Bighead Todd because as you can see he wasn't quite normal when he was born. His eyes were placed far apart and his head was overly large. He was neurologically damaged, but he ate and grew and thrived. He was born six years ago in a litter of seven, all girls except for him. His mother was a wonderful mini Poodle named Precious who was turned in to a shelter with her seven babies because her owner decided she couldn't deal with the the babies once they were born. We took them in when the shelter called and asked us to take them. They wouldn't have lived on the concrete for very long. So we took Precious and her tiny sausage puppies.

Here is a photo of our Todd when he was about 8 weeks old. He was so adorable but never normal. He spent much of his time alone. He didn't learn to negotiate the stairs until he was almost a year old. I used to work with him by placing each paw on the stair to teach him to go down. As he got older, his phobias really started to manifest themselves. He was terrified of anything he didn't recognize and sometimes that included me and Bob. If he saw a shadow outside when it was dark, he would scream and head inside. But despite all of this, we loved him dearly. He was our handicapped child and as long as we could keep his world safe for him, we would.
This is one of my favorite pictures of baby Todd with his sister Mocha. He loved his sisters and especially his mother. Here he is snuggled up with Precious before she was adopted.

He really missed herwhen she went to live at her new home. We kept the litter together until the babies were at least 12 weeks old and two of them lived with us much longer. Todd became more insecure after Precious was adopted and only interacted with his siblings, so we kept Karma for him. They played by chasing each other around a bush in our yard. Karma would then jump into the middle of the bush and poor Todd would keep going around looking for her.

In the last few years, Todd developed a number of other medical problems. He was allergic to different foods. He became hypothyroid. He developed an obsessive disorder called psychogenic polydipsia, in which he drank large amounts of water obsessively. We had him tested for Cushings and Addison's and ran tests to rule out a physical cause. There was nothing we could find that would cause him to drink as much water as he could, whenever he could. It seems harmless, but it was taking a toll on his kidneys because they were losing their ability to concentrate urine. He began having seizures, which had become increasingly worse. I think they were tied to his obsessive drinking, which we tried to stem by watching his intake but it was heartbreaking to watch him search for something to drink. His continuous search for water also meant that he urinated copious amounts whenever the urge came upon him. He was incapable of understanding the need to potty outside, so we just kept old towels and blankets everywhere to absorb the urine. Needless to say, we did tons of laundry every day.

As Todd got older, his ears began to stand up. He ended up having poodle size ears that stood straight up like his Pomeranian father's. But I thought he was beautiful. His fur was a shiny mixture in shades of chocolate brown, and it was thick and wavy. He did not look like a dog that had a thyroid problem. But as beautiful as Todd was, every year brought more of his irrational fears to the surface. Grooming became almost impossible. There were days when he would not come near me or Bob even though we'd raised him from the time he was a newborn baby. Bathing him, grooming him, trimming nails was tortuous for him and for us. There were times when I thought he would have heart failure because he was so terrified.

Today, we let our Todd go. His seizures were getting worse. He was having them two times or more a week. We wanted him to know peace even though it meant we would lose him. Why is it that the more understanding and care, the more a spirit depends on you, the more attached you become? Is it because you realize how much they need you, or is it because you don't realize how much you come to need caring for them? I don't know what the answer is, but I know that Todd will forever be in my heart. I loved his precious face, his huge ears, his look that said he knew me. And I miss him -- very much. I hope you're finally at peace, my Toddman, and having a ball at the Bridge, our Bighead Todd.
". . .I hope you never look back, but ya never forget,
All the ones who love you, in the place you left. . . ,
And while you're out there getting where you're getting to,

I hope you know somebody loves you. . . ,
Yeah, this, is my wish."

Rascall Flats

Friday, January 12, 2007

There's no Place Like Home

Yippeeee!! I'm a homeowner. I closed on my house yesterday, and I drove over to see it again afterwards. I LOVE this house and the yard and the promise it brings for happy, secure times.

Here are pictures of my kitchen and living room. These rooms have laminate flooring which looks really nice. I need to replace the stove, get a fridge and dishwasher; but I can't wait to really start living in it. The bedrooms are carpeted, which I'm not overly fond of. I'm going to get an estimate on how much it would cost to replace the carpeting with flooring of some kind. I like laminate, but it's slippery when wet.

Here's a picture of my very large, very beautiful backyard. I just love this yard. I'm having some Pines taken down but there are dogwoods that will be beautiful in the spring; and I'm going to replace some of the pines with river birch. I'm so excited at the thought of planting a garden and getting to enjoy it season after season with Beautyberry, Lilacs, Coneflowers, and a ton of other plants I love. I'll have to keep a picture journal of how it changes from beginning to end. There's plenty of branches to hang windchimes and bird feeders, and white Christmas lights that I love all year round.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

One of My Favorite Guys

This is my pal, Bailey; and my riding instructor Becky. Bailey is a Quarterhorse who is completely safe, but he has a definite attitude with beginning riders -- either you have it or you don't. We've gotten to know each other quite well over the past few months. He stands patiently for brushing but doesn't like to have his chest touched, and he'll reach back with his mouth to let you know. He's not a biter but he just wants you to know to make it snappy and don't linger on that spot.

You sometimes have to convince him that you know how to clean his hooves, or he'll jerk them out of your grasp and stamp his foot on the ground. But now that he has more confidence in me, he's been very good. He's a dream to tack up. He's has a very smooth gait and is a real pleasure to ride, that is, if you can convince him that you know enough to take charge. Who knew that I would love riding so much at my age! It's a wonderful feeling to be up there on Bailey and having him respond to my requests.

I've mastered the seated trot, and Bailey is a dream to ride at the trot. Even so, I took my first spill during my lesson on Sunday as Bailey and I were trotting around the ring. He stumbled as we went around the corner, throwing me unexpectedly to the left. I managed to hang on to the pommel to keep myself from being thrown completely off but found myself hanging at almost a 90 degree angle and unable to pull myself back up. I looked back at the ground behind me and tried to gauge how far it was and how much it was going to hurt when I fell. Luckily, I landed on the upper part of my butt and was only a little sore for a couple of days. Bailey, being the great horse that he is, stopped completely when he felt me lose my seat. Becky says you're not really a rider until you've fallen at least 7 times. I have no intention of trying to meet that challenge.

Tuesday, January 9, 2007


One of the stables where I take riding lessons has a new addition to their family.

This little guy's name is Ike. Can you believe he's only 8 weeks old? He's actually Ike Jr., since his dad's name was Ike and Ike Jr. looks just like him. He's a friendly, lovable, gorgeous baby; and I fell in love with him right away. He's all gangly legs and floppy Great Dane puppy.

Here's Ike taking the lead with Bailey! Already learning to be around the horses who are all dog savvy. Ike pulled on the lead until Bailey started to follow, which scared him, "Hey, why is that big guy following me around?!" Ike also has an older sister named Molly, a Cattle Dog/Border Collie cross, who is a little annoyed by having to put up with "the little pest" (her words, not mine).

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Farewell to a friend

I had to say good-bye to a friend today. The first time I left this house behind was in April of 2006, and I had to leave some of my pets behind. Circumstances beyond my control prevented me from taking them with me then, but I thought it would only be a short time before we could be together in a new place, building on new dreams.

I recently returned to this house after 8 months to take care of my ex-husband after a hip replacement; and although I had very mixed feelings about coming back here, I was ecstatic to be with my cats and dogs again. I love taking care of them and having them around me and having them sleep with me is wonderful. Unfortunately, when I returned about 3 weeks ago, I noticed that Big Puss seemed to be having some trouble breathing and noticed that sometimes he would cough while purring.

I was worried about him, but he seemed to be eating and getting around all right so I hoped it was a slight cold that would get better. He didn't seem to be coughing as much; but in the last few days, I noticed that he hadn't been eating very much. I tried tempting him with yummy canned food, but he just sniffed it and walked away. I knew then that something was definitely not right. I made an appointment for him to be seen by my vet, Jeff, today.

Last night, while we were lying in bed together, Big Puss was in his usual place beside Cody. He loved sleeping next to Cody. I think he somehow found it comforting to be next to the big black dog that cleaned his ears like his mother. I was watching a movie when I felt a tug in my subconscious and had the feeling that he was asking me to look at him. I locked my eyes with his. He just stared into my heart, and I knew that we were saying good-bye. After a long glance, he got up and came to me and I snuggled him as much as he would allow before he resumed his spot next to Cody.

I took him to the vet this morning and received a phone call in the afternoon that said, "I'm sorry. . .there's not much hope. The x-rays show cancer spread throughout the lungs. . ." I was heartbroken even though I already knew we had said our good-byes. I wasn't ready to let go, but my Big Puss had lost 3 1/2 pounds since his last check up a couple of months ago. He didn't want to eat any more, and he had let me know it was time. But oh, it was so very hard.

He wasn't like any other cat I ever knew. He was so smart! He figured out how to open drawers to get the hair bands he liked to play with. He learned how, and then taught the other cats, to open the bi-fold closet doors by pushing them in the middle and then shoving them open at the end. He tried to turn the doorknobs to open the doors to the bedrooms. It's a good thing he didn't have opposable thumbs, or we would have been in real trouble. He came to live with me when he was only 5 weeks old and was a part of my life for 12 years. His passing marks the end of a generation. His brother, Little Puss, left us a few years ago. I lost his mother, Patches, two years ago to cancer in her throat, and now he is gone too.

I'll miss the heavy warmth of you lying on my side while I sleep, the gentle purring of your motor while you lull me to dreams, your happy cry when you see me home from work, your funny scampering to get in bed when you know it's time to say goodnight, as if I could close the door and leave you on the other side. I miss you so much already, my friend.

“This bridge will only take you halfway there, to those mysterious lands you long to see. Through gypsy camps and swirling Arab fair, and moonlit woods where unicorns run free. So come and walk awhile with me and share the twisting trails and wonderous worlds Ive known. But this bridge will only take you halfway there. The last few steps you have to take alone.”

Shel Siverstein