Thursday, February 25, 2010

Full of grace

I just finished reading the book "Golfing with God". A friend let me borrow it and, although I wasn't all that impressed with the book, it did get me thinking. For the longest time now, I've wondered what it is that I should be. I'm not talking career or hair color. I'm talking about true "being".

A friend of mine passed away two years ago in his 40s. It was so sad to feel so helpless as I visited and held his hand as the cancer took over his body and mind. But there was one thing I learned from that. Grace.

Mark was so graceful - not the type of graceful when we describe dancers. But graceful - full of grace.

That's what I aspire to be - graceful. To accept that some things are out of my hands, and to strive with all my heart to effect things that are not. I'm not sure how exactly to get there but I think it comes with age and the wisdom gained from watching others as they deal with difficulty.

I have a few graceful people in my life, and I notice that they are very calm and calming. These are the people I go to when I need inspiration or a sane voice. I want to be the type of person that others come to when they need the same thing.

If there's a meaning to life, I believe it is to be there for each other. Doing that without ego or negativity is the beginning of grace. I'm sure I can at least start there.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Just thinkin'

I started this blog thinking that I'd write in it every day. But lately, a week goes by without my posting anything. Why? Because I feel like I should only write when I have something important to say.

My husband tells me I "think too much" sometimes. I overanalyze and don't go with my gut. Funny thing is, what I'm analyzing IS my gut. It's easy to go with what feels right. However, I think the mind sometimes clouds our feelings. We all compensate and get lazy, and that can interfere with our speaking the truth.

My sister says that the hard thing to do is always the right thing to do. And so, I analyze. Am I doing/saying something because it's the easy way out? Have I explored all ramifications? Is anyone getting hurt by what I say/do?

These things wake me up at night and keep me up. I know that we can't always be dead on with our comments. There are times when we intend something to be funny but end up hurting someone. Or move in and take action where leadership is needed but overdo it.

I never ever want to hurt someone I care about. I know I have done so in the past - but learn from it.

Where am I going with this? I don't know. I guess today I'm feeling like explaining why I sometimes don't write. Rambling treatises are not my style. I'd rather think through an important revelation or experience before putting it in writing.

Do I "think too much"? Not sure that there's any other option for me.

Monday, February 15, 2010


This past week, I celebrated my 51st birthday. I love birthdays. I always say that any day with cake is a good day. Cards in the mail instead of bills. People singing to you. What's not to like?

Reminders of my age keep coming up, though. There was the AARP invitation in the mail last week (I refuse to join for reasons not related to age). Then there was Saturday when I was the oldest one at a younger friend's girlfriend day where we did facials. Let me tell you, they all looked better without makeup than me.

Today I received the invitation to my 30th college reunion. Was 1980 really that long ago? I still think very young, albeit with a bent towards wisdom from lessons learned.

But the numbers don't lie. Maybe that's why I always hated math. With science, there's no talking your way out of the facts like there is when you think. That's why I became a Liberal Arts student, I'm sure of it.

Nonetheless, here I am. 51 years old. Sometimes-painful arthritis in my left hip and little finger. Memories that go back before my younger peers were born. A box full of pictures taken before digital cameras became the norm, and a closet stuffed with vinyl records (hey, I heard they're making a comeback).

It's not like me to dwell on age - and I'm not doing that now. It's just that sometimes, the numbers tap you on the shoulder and remind you of their presence.

But, enough of this. I've got to get moving. There's no time for counting.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Who's "they"?

As always, I read the feedback section in the local paper tonight and feel the need to do some feedback of my own. The following comment got under my skin:

Are we crazy? How can we take in thousands of Haitians? We are in debt over our heads, unemployment is over 10 percent and we are going to add thousands of Haitians to the welfare rolls. I feel sorry for their problems, but this is ridiculous.

I know from experience that there are many people who live in the same square mile of the city for their entire lives. Never getting out to meet new people or experience anything beyond what's comfortable. This does not mean they are bad people - just out of touch.

"Their problems" are never "our problems" because people from different countries or backgrounds are not found in that same square mile and therefore are not "us", but "they".

It's baffling to me that a human could look at another human who is in distress and classify them out of needing our help. Whether it's by race, or sexual-orientation, or country, or any other delineation. I wonder if the "us v. them" crowd watches A Christmas Carol every year and feels that they already got the lesson that the pre-revelation Scrooge did not. 

Do those that exclude get up for popcorn during this exchange between Marley and Scrooge? Or do they sit there and nod, not comparing this exchange to their own actions?

Scrooge: But it was only that you were an honest man of business!
Jacob Marley: BUSINESS? Mankind was my business! Their common welfare was my business!
Sadly, my guess is that they do the latter.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Lessons from a spaniel

My friend Gretchen who has taken in many more rescued dogs than us, tells me that every dog comes into your life to teach you something. It's been a week since I added my last post. And it's taken me that long to think through all that my dog Alex taught me while he was with us.

Before I can express what he did for me, you'll need at least a Reader's Digest version of his story.

Alex was the first foster dog I took in when I volunteered for Springer Spaniel Rescue. We flunked Fostering 101 miserably when we could not let him go after having him for a few weeks, and promptly adopted him ourselves. We had Brittany, our younger Springer, for over a year when Alex joined us and they were instant friends.  

Alex was 6 when we brought him home, and extremely overweight - a good 40 pounds which is a lot on a 55-pound frame. He had a heart murmur and seriously dysplasic, arthritic hips not helped at all by his weight. Ron worked on the exercise and I worked on the diet. After about 1.5 years, he was where he needed to be and the heart murmur was gone. I started him with a pet massage therapist and we completely avoided hip surgery for him. He was a happy, silly, lovebug.

His health was pretty good for a few years until he developed severe anxiety. So years ago, I took him to see the dog behavior god, Nick Dodman at Tufts. After a ton of tests and more conferences with all vets involved, we finally got the meds right and Alex's anxiety improved significantly. He seemed to be back to his old self for a couple of years.

Then the attacks began. First we thought it was vestibular disease, but after several episodes happened over almost 2 years (with a severe episode in October 2009 that he never really recovered from), our vet advised us to take him to a neurologist. We got word then that Alex likely had a brain tumor and not much time left.

We kept him as comfortable as we could while also dealing with his increasing anxiety again. Now we realized that the anxiety was likely caused by the slow-growing brain tumor all these years. When Alex started losing control of his bladder last week, we knew it was time to ask the vet to come to the house. He died at home on his favorite spot on the couch surrounded by love.

So what did this entire 8+ year journey teach me?
  • Never ever give up on someone you love. They would do the same for you.
  • Patience is a virtue I never thought I would have but found so much of it in Alex's final months with us.
  • Go with your gut. Alex was a ton of work but so many of the decisions I made about his care (some for the first time) were spot on.
  • I can handle much more stress than I ever imagined if it means a loved one is getting the help they need to get through a tough time.
  • Death is not to be feared but accepted as a part of life.
  • My husband is a strong, sensitive, and kind man. Okay, I already knew that one but I didn't know just how much until now.
  • Marriages are made stronger by sharing the load and getting each other through unbearable sadness.
  • Dogs never leave you.
Ron and I have both found ourselves lurking around the NE Springer Spaniel Rescue website this week. We still have two spaniels here, and have no intention of boosting the pack up to three dogs again. But it's funny how your heart makes room.

When I was the membership coordinator for Springer Rescue, I used to tell all the new recruits that the only way to do rescue work well was to do it with all your heart. Even if that meant it got broken sometimes. A broken heart was okay. It meant you were perfect for the job.

Rest in peace, sweet Alex. Thank you for the lessons.