Thursday, December 10, 2009

#79 Unconditional Love

"So sad - wanted to cry, but held back the tears. I'm now onto dog number three."

The above was my email response to a blogger friend, who shared with the blogging world, the end of her dog's life. Her dog was old, in pain and infirm. My heart went out to her as only the mom of a four-legged family member can.

Zoe, our Doberman, was adopted at 8 weeks, a couple of months after Marc and I married. She was our baby. We left social engagements early and/or didn't go places because we didn't want to leave her for too long. When we chatted with other dog owners, we sounded like a bunch of proud parents one-upping each other with our "baby's" accomplishments. Zoe was with us at the beginning of our marriage, through the birth of our two children, and our moves from Washington DC to St. Louis, onto Philadelphia, and then out to the suburbs. Our first house was her first house too, and she loved roaming the 8 acres until the lots were sold and the new houses went up. Zoe died at the age of 8 from unknown causes. We came home from the movies one summer night and couldn't find her. She'd never left our property before, but I drove around the neighborhood calling her name. Meanwhile, Marc searched the property and finally found her "sleeping" in the pachysandra. I was hysterical - in the crying way. The next day we buried her; I felt empty. The day after that I came home from work forgetting that she was dead, and waited for her to run to the car. On day three post Zoe, I woke up and felt at peace. It was almost an exhilarating feeling. I can't explain it, but I felt that all would be ok.

We waited about a year before we adopted Hanna, our German Shepherd. We "saved" her through a group called Save A Shepherd. She was a sweet and wonderful dog - all 110 pounds of her. We never knew her real age or her history, but we had her for 9 years and loved every minute of it. Even her seasonal shedding and the stinky breath that came with age didn't bother me. The only problem with Hanna was that she was a true herder. When the neighborhood kids rode their bikes up our driveway, she would run next to them nipping their heels and waists while leaning into them. Sometimes those nips were closer to a good sized nibble. Needless to say, she wasn't popular with the neighborhood kids or their parents.

One day she started losing her nails. They just fell out. I googled "dogs losing finger nails" and came to a chat room where other dog owners talked about their dog's medical problems. There it was right in front of me. Hanna had all the symptoms of a neuropathic disease. Slowly over the months her back legs became numb and she started dragging her paws. We bought booties that helped her stabilize her back legs from slipping on our hardwood floors. I told Marc that the day she couldn't go to the bathroom alone would be the day we would have to say goodbye. That day came sooner than we expected. I happened to be looking out the window and saw her trying to squat, but her legs were shaking so badly she couldn't hold herself up. I ran outside and held her hind quarters while she did her business. I then helped her back into the house and called the vet to let them know that it was time. They too loved Hanna and were always telling me that she was the sweetest Shepherd they'd ever cared for.

Logan and Erica came with me that night. Erica chose to sit in the waiting room during the injection, but Logan wanted to be with Hanna and me. Putting Hanna down was a life- altering experience for me. As I sat on the floor petting her, the doctor injected the narcotics into a vein in her leg. I was looking into her eyes, telling her what a great lady she was and how we'll all miss her so much, when the light behind her eyes faded to dark. She was there one minute and poof, gone the next. With a broken heart, I watched her spark go out. It was, perhaps, the first time I wondered about the soul and questioned if the "light going out" is a chemico-physiological change or one's essence leaving the body. In my science classes, I had learned that energy just doesn't go away, it changes. Where did her energy go?

Now we're onto Iggy. He's our first boy dog, and I think if we ever get another dog, it will be a male. Females are great, but some are just too dominant and/or protective. In some dogs, the term "bitch" is truly descriptive of both personality and gender. Iggy was adopted. We saw him in a park with other dogs and cats trying to find new families. The other dogs were licking us, friendly and barking, but Iggy just stood or sat there letting us touch him, but not really responding. His ribs were sticking out and he had a terrible case of kennel cough. Somehow though, I knew he just needed love and nourishment to bring out his personality, two things we could give him in abundance. Well, let me tell you, he's just the best little guy. He's gentle and sweet and follows me all over just like the other two did, but he's mine -- I'm his alpha. He's got a little shepherd and a little golden retriever in him, so he's both smart and sweet.

Having an animal is a wonderful experience for everyone at any age. It teachers us to play when all we want is to put our feet up. Having a pet takes you... out of you. Their needs come first. I believe even Jewish law states that you must feed your animals before you feed yourself. People say I spoil my dogs. I don't think so. I give them what they want and need, and in return, they give me so much more.

Quote of the Day: "It's not how good you are, it's how good you want to be" Paul Arden, author

#78 Oh Hell, Why Bother

I was talking to a friend the other day about our bodies, diets, our relationship with food, and why we do what we do. She said that she had been really happy with her eating for the past 3 weeks, but her happy place with food and eating went to the dogs after a visit with an old friend from high school. Her friend happens to be tiny. She has always been tiny. This is nothing new to my friend. My friend is a full-figured girl and will never be considered petite no matter how much weight she loses.

As I listened to her share her fall-off-the-wagon story, I realized exactly what was going on. She was going through the Why Bother Blues; that negative feeling of "look at all I've done and it still isn't enough". It's that why bother feeling, and I'll be honest here, it has pulled me into the doldrums many times when it comes to my calves and legs. No matter how much yoga, power walking, squats, weight lifting, and dieting I do, my calves will never be and have never been shapely, and truthfully, my derriere will always have a little more jiggle when I wiggle than I would like it too.

My father calls this [the calf and ankle part of the leg] the Lederer curse. My mother's mother had these legs, and my mother and 2 of her sisters have/had these legs, and now, I do too. Interestingly, I don't think any of the female cousins inherited this trait. Obviously their fathers held the dominant gene for leg shape.

I told my friend that I totally got what she was saying. We both agreed that we can't compare ourselves to others, but have to look at our bodies and see what they are capable of. This doesn't make the "why bother" feelings go away, it just sort of brings you back to what's possible and real - like a reality check. Of course, growing old and all that goes with this doesn't help matters, but if I've learned anything, it's that you can make changes to yourself at any age.

So, I guess the lesson here is that no matter how many times you've had the why bother blues, you can't give up. Call me dumb or dense, but I'm going to keep working on these legs and this body until the fat lady sings, and may that fat lady never be me again.

You know, hope springs eternal.... even at 47.

Quote of the Day: "Creative Minds are Seldom Tidy" - Author unknown

Saturday, December 5, 2009

#77 Can You See the Potential?

In 1995 Marc and I bought, what is now, our 257 year old labor of love.

On a cold December Sunday, we went house hunting. We had been doing this for almost a year without success, but on that morning, we saw an ad in the paper for an old farm house. Since this was just the sort of thing we were looking for, we bundled up our 2 year old son, and off we went. The minute Marc saw the house, he fell immediately in love. He had told me that if we were ever going to move out of the city [we had only ever lived in cities - DC, St. Louis and Philadelphia] that he wanted an old house with land and lots of nooks and crannies. When we called our agent Monday morning to tell her we wanted to see this house, she told Marc that what he had fallen in love with was an 8 acre estate undergoing zoning hearings to be sub-divided, and that the house was being sold - "as is". He was still in love, and without my knowing, he and the agent went to look at it during his lunch hour. He called me at work later that day and told me that he had just left the property, and that if I could sneak out of the hospital [where I was working at the time], the caretaker would be there for another hour.

So, I snuck out. I drove up the creepy, overgrown, snow-covered drive and rang the doorbell. The caretaker opened the door and invited me in. All I remember thinking was that it was colder in the house than it was outside, and that this was one SPOOKY old house. I was also thinking that perhaps I should come back with Marc, however when I turned around to tell the caretaker just that, he was gone.

I could give you a room by room walking tour, but let's leave it at this. There was mold growing up the wall in the parlor, the wallpaper in the library was brown at the seams, the rose-colored carpet in the master bedroom had nail clippings large enough for me to see without having to bend down, all the bathrooms were circa 1950's, and there were some rooms that had such a slant from settlement that I felt dizzy and off balance. The basement [which I still don't like to visit alone] was unfinished - literally. The floor was perhaps cement, but it had layers of dirt on it. There was a really old wine cellar with wood shelves filled with bottles of wine. It was dark, long, narrow, and damp. There was a well [as in water well] built into the wall at the end of the cellar, which led to underground tunnels, which led to somewhere outside my house. I later learned that Quakers owned our home and were part of the underground railroad during the Civil War. Of course, at that moment, alone in this dark basement, listening to all sorts of creaks, moans and scurryings, all I could think about was the possibility of spirits, not of the alcoholic kind, left over from the past 200 odd years. Last, but not least, the kitchen. The kitchen had a yellow linoleum floor, a sink, a fridge, an oven and a pantry. OMG, no dishwasher? There was no cabinetry and there were long fluorescent lights on the ceiling. There was a room to the left of the kitchen that was probably the servant's "hang-out". It had a toilet, the washer and dryer and an industrial sink. No dishwasher. I walked back into the kitchen and through a swinging door into what was the butler's pantry. Praise the lord, a dishwasher... and some cabinetry.

When I got back to the hospital, I called Marc, and told him I had been to the house. He asked me, "Can you see the potential?", "Did you love it?". NO! I told him. Are you crazy? Do you realize how much money we need to put into this house? Just to live in it? Not even to decorate it? Do you realize there is no central air conditioning to cool 7000 square feet and 3 stories? Do you realize that there is lead paint in almost every room? Did you see the mold? Did you see the wisteria pulling the pebble dash stucco with horse hair off the house? [which I learned is very, very, very expensive to fix and/or replace]? Did you hear the ghosts [I didn't actually ask him this one because I was too embarrassed]?

Well, guess who gave in. It's the end of 2009, and we've been living in our money pit [she came by the name honestly] for 13 years. A lot of work and love have gone into this house. Our carpenter became husband number 2 and our painter became husband #3 since they both pretty much lived here for the first 8 years. Sadly, I had to divorce our landscaper and electrician, but am now dating a new landscaper, and thinking of just having flings with an electrician. We're on very good terms with our plumbers because truthfully, they're the only ones who know how the plumbing, heating and AC systems are rigged in this place. Finally, as I sit here in the butler's pantry, now my office, I am so glad that Marc saw this home's potential. This house has allowed me to discover many things about myself that, had we not taken this chance, I may never have known. Do I have the home I dreamed of? No. Unlike Marc, I didn't have a picture of the house I wanted, but if I had been able to imagine one, my dream house wouldn't even have come close to the one we live in.

As for the ghost[s] -- after a number of nocturnal and one afternoon visit, I decided to have a little chat with him/her/them. I went into the basement [Zoe, our doberman was coaxed down with me] and told him/her/them that we loved the house, that we were going to take good care of it, that we were more than happy to share this space with them, but they had to stop their visits because it was scaring me and the kids. I also promised not to remove anything that was left in a particular place in the house. That means that the 100 year old riding boots are still sitting on the same shelf in the library as when we moved in [they do get dusted]. It's been 8 years, and so far....... I dare not say anymore in case he/she/they are reading over my shoulder.

house - 1995 - see the wisteria?
library - picture given to us by the owners who lived here from 1938 - 1995
music room - taken the day we signed all the papers - moldy and damp walls
bathroom - salmon-pink walls
wine cellar - self explanatory
butler's hang-out - we gutted and then insulated, became the playroom when the kids were little, knocked out back wall to put in french doors.
master bath - updated from original in 2004
main hall - updated from original 2006

Quote of the Day: "Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind."- Dr. Seuss

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

#76 Party Crasher - Who Me?

Lots of news and drama surrounding the Salahis. What a couple!! Do you think crashing parties is his thing or her's? From watching the news, it appears that Michaele is the one to stop, yank Tareq's arm, and vogue pose for the cameras. I saw her do this twice, and yet, she could have just jumped onto his wagon for the ride and got hooked. Who's ever thing this is though, it seems Tareq may be the brains of this operation. During the news clips, more times than not, his entrance is made in a straight line with head down. He seems to know that no photos should be taken until one is safely through the doors, drink in hand, laughing with the host and hostess. At this point, either way, they're both screwed.

Interestingly, I have something in common with these two Reality-TV-Star-Wanna Bees. I like to party. Well, I still like A party, but I wouldn't call myself a party girl... anymore. However, in my college and grad school days, I loved to go to parties. I also loved getting a group together to go out dancing.

More important than having my fake driver's license allowing me entrance to all drinking establishements, I had something even better. Something that a lot of other party hoppers-crashers didn't have. I had my finger on the pulse of Washington DC. Not literally, but pretty close. Back in the 80s [not sure if they still do this today] whenever the president left the White House, a secret service agent would sit in the Emergency Room. Where did I work? In the Emergency Room. If we weren't crazy busy and we had a few minutes to sit, a chit chat with the agent du jour was always interesting. Now, don't go and start getting all mad at the agent, no major secrets were divulged, but as far as what was happening in the DC, Maryland and Virginia area in terms of parties and happenings, the agent was a great source of info.

Which brings me to what I really have in common with the Salahis. I had no problem crashing parties. Of course, looking back from where I sit now, I'm appalled at my chutzpah, but back then, it was just kids being kids. Also, being in a city, surrounded by hotels, party halls, and clubs, parties were a dime a dozen. Unlike the Salahis though, my buds and I waited until the party was in full swing before smoothly moving our way in. We never stopped to get our photos taken. Actually, there was no way we wanted our photos taken... as we snuck in the back or side door.

We did this all in fun and meant no harm. I can't remember one time being found out or kicked out. It's like wearing fake jewelry. If you wear it with attitude, no one will be the wiser. And believe me, we had attitude. The only time I personally had a problem with our venue was when we snuck into a party where I was surrounded by gay men [it was for a calendar shoot]. I felt totally left out. No one asked me to dance and no one offered to buy me a drink. To make matters worse, these beautiful boys were all around me laughing and drinking and shirt-less, AND IGNORING ME.

Lesson learned: When you've been asked out by the secret service agent twice, and have said no to him on both occasions, it probably isn't a great idea to ask him where the best party in town is.

Quote of the Day: "Never be bullied into silence. Never allow yourself to be made a victim. Accept no one's definition of your life; define yourself." Harvey Fierstein