Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

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Do-Over

May 15, 2012

For reasons I would rather not share,  I took my blog down from WordPress and “unpublished” my book from Amazon.  Within the last couple of weeks I have posted some of the short stories from my book and reblogged some of the posts I wrote here.  If you are visiting my blog for the first time, all of the content is new.  If you have been following my blog then some of the posts will look familiar.  If you bought my book, I want to say thank you, and hope you will enjoy reading some of the stories again.  I have decided not to publish the second book of short stories I was working on and have posted some of the stories here for the first time.

All of the stories I have written are about Me And My Dogs and our journey through life.  Moving forward I am also going to include stories about You And Your Dogs.  If you would like to share a story with me please email it to Stories@MeAndMyDogs.biz.  Include your contact information so I can get back to you.  Thanks for continuing to follow me, and I look forward to hearing your stories.

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Carolina

March 1, 2012

Carolina.  Where have I been, what have I been doing for the past two months.  It was a time that went by in no time.  I don’t know what I was doing, where I went or whom I saw.  At the time, I thought I was getting my life back.  I said at a meeting that I was happy.  Happy, but I kept looking over my shoulder for what was going to happen next.  I couldn’t just be glad in the day, I worried.  It has been a long time since I was really happy.  This felt real, it felt like I was moving on, getting over it, getting on with it.

 

Carolina started to refuse food two weeks ago.  We all know what that meant.  I didn’t need a diagnosis and I won’t write a eulogy.  Bob and our vet said it was time to let her go.  I wasn’t ready.  I was done grieving.  I grieved for two years.  I was moving on.  But in the end, it wasn’t about me, it was about Carolina.  Sweet Carolina.  She loved everyone and everyone loved her.

I started writing about two years ago and stopped about two months ago.  It occurred to me that maybe I can only write when I am grieving.  Or better, writing is something I do only when I spend most of my time wrapped in a blanket on the couch.  I am the happiest when I am making something or doing something.  Writing doesn’t feel like that.  Writing fills the time in between.

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Promises

January 16, 2012

When I was in my 40’s I learned that no one hires menopausal woman.  Seriously, who would invite that into the workplace?  It is bad enough having the ones that already worked there.  It is like having a house full of adolescents.  So when I knew I had to go back to work I decided to teach because it was the only profession that hired woman 40 to 50 years old.  Looking at it closer, I found that there was a demand for math teachers, middle school math teachers.  A menopausal woman teaching pubescent students seemed like a perfect fit!

March 31st last year I finished my student teaching.  Within a week I completed all my requirements and got my post baccalaureate in middle school mathematics education.  I submitted my credentials and soon had my Georgia educator certificate.  My 50th birthday was approaching, April 27th.  I was looking forward to it. I had a plan. I was going to go back to work, pay off my debts and in just 15 years, and have the house paid for and retire with a pension and social security.

Well people plan and God laughs.  My mother died April 26th and I did not find a job.  I knew other people who were looking for teaching jobs and they didn’t find a position either.  No first years.  This made me feel a little better, but at the time I didn’t care because it gave me the time to spend with my father.  I stayed with him in Massachusetts to help him adjust to living alone.  My husband Bob was supportive and took care of the dogs and the house while I was away.  I promised him I would find a job after the holidays.

The holidays are in the past and the school year is half over, and there are a few teaching positions open; people who did not return after fall break.  I got only one response back from all my applications that said I did not fit the qualifications and “there were many, many applicants”.  So, I applied to various youth organizations in the area even though they require a degree in psychology or sociology.  There are lots of jobs available because the job requires long hours and is emotionally draining.  The pay is not that good either.  I haven’t gotten any responses to my applications.

I made a promise.  I told Bob I would find a job this year.  I will keep looking, but today, I am turning to my higher power for help.  One of the promises in the big book for the 12th step is “when we look back, we realize that the things which came to us when we put ourselves in God’s hands were better than anything we could have planed.”  I guess he has a plan for me.  I hope it happens soon.

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Layers

January 5, 2012

My friends have decided it was time to get my field back into condition to do some dog agility.  The tornado did a lot of damage to it.  But it is not the damage from the tornado that is keeping me from the field, it is what happened the day before the tornado, the day my mother died.

Agility Field in December 2011

 

Today my agility field is covered in layers of debris. It is in the woods and in the summer the trees that shade it, cover it in the fall with leaves.  Under the leaves are weeds.  Weeds that grew from roots that were there long before it was an agility field.  Below the weeds is a layer of soil brought there by the rain that washes down from the woods.  The bottom layer, which may be gone, is wood chips.  Wood chips that were brought in to create a natural footing for the dogs to run on.

 

My higher power, Nature, who protects my field with a cover of organic materials, also wrapped me in protective blanket of family and friends.  Much of the time I wouldhave spent on my field, I spent with my father and my sister and brothers. Each with our own fields of debris, we grieve for our mother who lies peacefully in the earth, in a field of lawn and trees.

The layers of tears and excuses, reasons why I cannot return to my agility field are my grief.  I can’t go there.  It is too thick, too heavy, to overwhelming to clear away.  It will take a leaf blower, weed eater, chipper mulcher, rakes and shovels to get the bottom.  The bottom that nature has worked three seasons to renew is the foundation for me to build a new field, a new life, a new beginning.

Agility Field January 2012

My friends are coming on Monday.  I will provide the tools.  They provide the strength; the power to peel off the layers that Nature has protected me with.  With each layer, they will be helping me get my life back.  Together we will shred the debris, the pain of the past year and spread it on the field as Nature has done.  My husband will bring new wood chips to make the footing for me to run on as Nature has intended.

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Acceptance

December 26, 2011

The very first time my husband and I entertained together, we had only been dating a few months.  It was New Years Eve.  We went to the grocery store together to buy food and soft drinks, the package store for alcohol, then to his apartment to get ready.  As soon as the groceries were put away, Bob said he had to run an errand and would be right back.  I didn’t ask any questions and kept cleaning as he walked out the door.

A few hours later he returned, more excited than I had ever seen him.  He found a vintage guitar and wanted to buy it.  As he paced around, I encouraged him to go back and get it before someone else bought it.  When he came back a few hours later, the apartment was clean, the prep work was done on the food, and all that was left to do was cook.

Seventeen years, fifteen guitars and countless parties later, Bob still disappears on the day we have company.  Each time he says he will be there to help, and each time he comes rushing in just an hour or two before company is expected to arrive.  He does the cooking and he entertains as he does it.  This Christmas Eve while I was home preparing a Feast of Seven Fishes for twelve people, he was at the galvanizing plant watching zinc melt.

I could hear myself yelling above the sound of the vacuum cleaner, “seventeen years and he is never here to help me get ready for a party, why should this party be any different…”  I was so mad.  Then I stopped.  The next voice I heard was my oldest brother saying the eulogy at my mother’s funeral.  He was telling the story of how my father would always come home late on Christmas Eve because he would stop on the way home to visit his friends.  My brother said, “Ma would get so mad…this happened every year.”

When Bob finally got home, he was so excited.  He said “the kettle didn’t crack and the temperature was at 850 degrees, right where it needs to be.  Everything is going according to plan, the zinc should all melted and we will be ready to galvanize product on Tuesday.  What do you need me to do?  I was thinking I would dust the guitars.”  I tried not to be mad and replied, “Do what you want, I will have everything ready, all you have to do is cook and entertain.”

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Inspiration

October 10, 2011

For the first time in our life, my younger sister weighs less than me.  Big bones are what she was always told, and she believed it.  Her weight was normal.  She wasn’t fat; I was skinny.  I remember one time when I was in junior high school.  Our parents made us trade seats at the dinner table so I sat next to my father and she sat next to my mother.  My father was to make sure that I ate.  Not that my mother wasn’t attentive, I just did what my father told me to.  This was the alternative to putting me in the hospital.  I was too skinny and they worried I had something wrong with me.

No one has called me skinny for a long time.  When I joined the Navy after college, I had to drink a gallon of water on the way to the induction center so I would weigh the required minimum of 105 pounds.  At boot camp I gained almost 20 pounds and after four years in the service I weighed 145, the heaviest I weighed in my life.  The pounds came off, but I had to work at it.  For the first time in my life, I had to watch what I ate and exercise.  My weight has fluctuated between 135 and 150 ever since.

My sister Maryann on the other hand has always weighed more.  Not much more, but more, always more than me.  Earlier this year, there was an oil spill at her house and she had to move out for a few months.  Her and her husband stayed with friends and family until they finally settled into a hotel.  By the time the environmental protection agency allowed them to live in their house again, she lost 8 pounds.  It was a good start, so she tried to lose more.  As of today she lost 45 pounds.  She now weighs 15 pounds less than me.

Becky called me last week.  Becky and her husband have dedicated their life to reducing the excessive population of dogs and cats.  They run a non-profit group called Dade Animal Resource Team.  The primary mission of DART is spay and neuter.    They raise money and transport over a thousand dogs and cats every year to low-cost spay / neuter clinics.  They also facilitate temporary care and adoptions of stray, abandoned and unwanted pets.  I have helped them out occasionally by providing free training for foster and adoptive families.  I haven’t done much, not as much as I could do.

“How are you doing?  I haven’t heard from you in a while”. Becky said.

“I am fine, getting better”.

Becky’s father died just one week after my mother.  He also had diabetes.

“How about you?”  I said

“Okay, there is more work to do to sort through dad’s things and get the house ready to sell.”

“I am so sorry.  I am in Massachusetts visiting with my dad right now.  I plan to be back home in a few days.”

“How is he doing, okay?”

“He is adjusting.  He doesn’t like living alone”

“It will take some time.”

“I know.”

“Debbie, are you still doing dog training?  Ruff and I would love to come and do some agility.”

“Funny you should ask, Bob and I were looking at the field and discussed getting it cleaned up.”

“Cleaned up?”

“The rain from the tornado washed most of the wood chips off the field and replaced them with a layer of dirt.  We now have weeds growing.  Bob and I want to solve the drainage problem before we buy new wood chips.  We have a plan, we just need to get going on it.”

My sister looks great.  I told her she inspired me to lose some weight.  I am at the high-end of my acceptable range.  Maryann was surprised and said I was the second person that week that called her that.  Her weight loss coach was the first.  She didn’t say it, but I wondered if that was the first time anyone ever called her that, an inspiration.  She has trudged her way through life, just getting by and trying to be happy.  She went to school, worked, and raised two kids on her own.  It was hard, it is hard, but she does it, she has done it for a long time.  After a life time of doing for her family, Maryann is finally doing something for herself.

“If you need some help, I don’t mind doing some of the heavy work.”

“Thanks Becky, I may just take you up on that.  But I want to put some drainage in the road, before I start on the field.  I think that is where the dirt is coming from.”

“Okay, just let me know, Ruff and I are anxious to come over and see you.”

“I can’t wait for you to see Wisconsin.”

“Who is Wisconsin? Did you get a new puppy?”

“I did.  Wisconsin was born at the end of January; I got her the beginning of April.  I thought you knew.”

Oh no.  Did I not tell Becky I got a puppy, that I bought a puppy?  I thought I had but Mom died three weeks after I got her and I have talked to so many people, and I don’t know what I said to whom, and…and.  Oh no.  I didn’t tell her.  When I told her I wanted a puppy, she asked me to adopt one, “there is such a need”, she said.  I bet I didn’t tell her because I didn’t want to tell her.

Since I last spoke to Becky I agreed to foster a dog.  A young Irish Setter named Zoey.  Her owners couldn’t keep her, so she is staying with Bob and I until a permanent home is found.  We can’t keep her.  Five dogs are too many.  It is too expensive and I can’t manage that many dogs at once.  Besides, Zoey needs a home with a family; she is a great family dog.

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Searching

September 27, 2011

I talk a lot, but I don’t say much.  I am actually pretty shy.  Keeping secrets is a shortcoming.  Not secrets about you, secrets about myself.  Many people, even those closest to me, do not know very much about me.  They are often surprised to find out even seemingly ordinary things about me.  But there are people, those I know and those I have never met personally, who tell me my secrets.  These short stories are about some of those people.

“Honey, what are you going to do about your marriage?”

“My marriage?”

“I could see you’re not happy.  You’re too young to be unhappy.”

Was it that obvious?  He was quiet.  He didn’t talk very much during our visit up east, to me or anyone else.

“I am not making any decisions right now.”

“Maybe you should get some counseling.”

She only stands shoulder high, but her presence is undeniable.  When she smiles her teeth mash together as she crinkles her nose.  It was impossible to avoid eye contact when she talks.  She is my aunt.

Memphis had a tough start to life.  He was aggressive, and I could not control him.  I came very close to putting him to rest.  When he was only a few months old, he would go from sleeping peacefully in my lap to violently attaching the other dogs, Boston in particular.

To manage his behavior and to keep the other dogs safe, I strategically placed baby gates, crates and air horns throughout the house.  At the time, trying to manage the situation was all I could do, while I uncovered the cause of the behavior and to modify it.  I used special collars and leashes, changed his food, gave him supplements and adhered to strict rules and routines.  I would not let any of the other dogs stare at him; they learned to look away and not make eye contact.  Things improved, but there were still fights.

When Memphis would get into a fight, my first concern was always safety.  I didn’t want anyone to get hurt.  My second concern was all of the dogs’ emotional states.  I worried that Memphis was insane and that it was affecting the other dogs.  They all learned to be cautious around him, but were they scared and unhappy too?

My mother liked to play bingo.  This was the only time she ever went to church.  Every Tuesday, she would ask one of us in the house to go with her.  The answer was always no, but she went anyway.   Bingo was for old people, it couldn’t be much fun. One week she couldn’t drive, I don’t remember why; but I agreed to take her.  I was nervous, not knowing what to expect.  When we arrived at the church, we stood in line, waiting for the doors to open.  It was important to get there early, so she could get her “usual seat.”  The desk in the hall had piles of bingo cards on it.  People bought a hundred of them.  My mother got her cards, and I began to sweat.  “I’m with her,” I said.  “I’m just going to watch.”

I followed my mother down the long hall into a huge room full of tables and chairs.  We sat down in her usual spot.  She spread out some of her cards.  They were made of newsprint, so she took some tape out of her bag and taped them to the table.  In her bag was also two plastic bottles of ink, a bright red wand with a magnet in it, lots of red translucent markers, and cash.  She took one of the bottles of ink and dabbed the free, center square of the nine cards in front of her, then placed the bottle down.  She was ready.

Memphis had not gotten into a fight in almost four months.  Then one night, Memphis and I were sleeping and I rolled over onto him and woke him.  He instantly stood up on the bed, looked me straight in the eyes and froze.  I was sure he was going to kill me, so I was quietly making a plan to defend myself.  Then, just as suddenly as he’d stood, he looked away, shook, jumped down off the bed, circled a few times, then got back on the bed, laid down and went back to sleep.  He shook it off and was now sleeping! I could not close my eyes.  This was the moment when I knew he was better, this was the moment I saw him look away.

“N32 . . . B14 . . . G50.” The man calling the numbers was on a stage with a round basket next to him, and a large sign with numbers and letters above him.  The sign would light up each time he spoke.  “B1!”  Everyone in the room swiped their bottles down the B column and dabbed the corresponding square on their bingo cards.  No one spoke.  Their gaze was on the cards and their ears alert for one word.

“Only a few people know this: my husband is a recovering alcoholic.  He has been sober for three years.  It was hard for him to stop drinking, but he did it.  We are still adjusting to our new life.”

“Three years is a long time, honey.”  She said as she leaned in closer.

I wanted to tell my aunt everything but I couldn’t.

“I know, but right now he is focused on his work and staying sober.  I can wait.”

“Are you getting help, have you gone to meetings?  They really do help.”

How does she know about meetings? Look away, look away!

“Ya I go to meetings, we both do.  We are working on it.”

“That’s good…”  I don’t remember what she said next.  I was trying to hide my pain and fight the tears.

Finally, I said,  “when my parents had their 50th anniversary party, my mother said, ‘Fifty years, and they weren’t all happy.’  Well, how do I know if these are the years that aren’t so happy?”

“You know if you have a good foundation.  You have to be good to each other; but remember, you are responsible for your own happiness.”

BINGO!