Introducing, Winston! And Item No. 37

winstonMeet Winston – he’s a wire haired dachshund who is about a year old and joined our family last weekend.

This past winter, Winston ended up in a shelter with a broken leg and was marked for the euthanasia list.  A dog rescue swooped in and saved him from that fate.  He was nursed through his broken leg, gotten up to date on his shots, and neutered.  About two weeks ago, Winston was put on the adoptable dogs list and as soon as I saw him, I filled out an online adoption form and set up an appointment for a meet and greet.

He was nervous and wary at first.  A little beef jerky dog treat went a long way, and after playing with him for a bit, we decided to take the plunge and he came home with us.

The first twenty-four hours, he was subdued and quiet, but on day 3 with us, he figured out this was Home and we were His People.  He then proceeded to bark at every person who dared walk down the sidewalk, dogs two blocks away, dogs on TV, and any voice within ear shot, including those half a block away.  We use a mobile vet, and when they arrived, Winston spent the first 10 minutes of the visit barking at them and hiding under my chair.  We were his, and there was no way he was going to let those strangers take him away.  We’ll have to do some training with him when it comes to meeting new people and a potty training refresher, but that’s just part of the deal.

Winston doesn’t give two hoots about playing with balls, but he loves anything that is plush and has laid claim to anything to all plush toys he can reach, as well as a couple shoes, some house slippers, and the occasional balled up pair of socks, which he stashes under the dining room table.  He’s been dragging around a teddy bear that’s bigger than he is and “burying” small toys in the couch cushions.  An empty plastic water bottle was a fabulous toy that he dashed around the back yard with for ages, running like the wind.  The Hobbit and I were in stitches watching his crazy dog routine.

We’ll also have to curb Winston’s dare devil tendencies.  He leaps from the arms of the couch, living out his superman fantasy.  All that’s missing is the cape.  And, he’s got to learn how to live in peace with cats. There’s been growling and barking and hissing and running, with the cats taking about 20 seconds of deliberation to decide that staying in the garage is good for now.

Still, with all the work ahead of us, it’s great to have the ticka-ticka of dog feet running through the house and enthusiastic tail wags when we come through the door.  I think The Hobbit put it best when he said, “Mom, I’m having SO MUCH FUN with this dog.”  I second that.

Fabulous Forty: No. 3 Donate My Hair

Cousin ItThis item on my list was a long time coming, and the idea behind it is what sparked this crazy pursuit of 40 new experiences. First, we have to step back in time a bit.

Three years ago, a motivated (and brave) high school classmate of mine, tasked herself with putting together our 20 year high school reunion.  She started off by setting up a Facebook group for our graduating year and invited people to join the group. People began to join and hunt down locate other classmates and slowly a plan formed for a reunion.  I had fun seeing what people were up to and where their lives had taken them, but reunions and parties in general aren’t my thing, so I didn’t attend the actual reunion.

Through the FB group, I reconnected with a lovely woman who I had been in choir with throughout my high school years, Terri. Terri was a joy.  If you’ve ever been, or known, a teenage girl, you know that puberty is one long dramatic saga.  Even the best of friends can have falling outs over stupid, trivial things.  In four years of high school, not once did I ever have an unkind thought about Terri, for she was kind and carried a happiness in her that bubbled up in a way I envied. She was sunshine and puppies and rainbows, but in a genuine way. I can still recall the sound of her laughter and it makes me smile.

Terri and I discovered we had quite a few things in common as adults and exchanged emails, making each other laugh and delighting in the rediscovery of each other as the adults we’d become. Then, Terri had an irregular medical test. She was diagnosed with cervical cancer. Awful, awful, awful.  But I read, and it was my understanding that cervical cancer, which serious, is rarely the show stopper that ovarian or breast cancer is, so I had hope.  We all did.  People rallied.  Terri brought that out in people. There would be something seriously wrong with an individual who didn’t immediately become charmed by her and her sweetness.

There was surgery and radiation and tests. Then more bad news. She told me her oncologist used phrases like, “In thirty years of practicing medicine, I have never seen anything like this,” but not in the sense of a miracle cure, but the cancer was not responding to the treatment. Next was intensive chemo and trying to get into a cancer treatment center that would give her a fighting chance.  She sought out ways to change her diet and eliminate GMOs from what she and her family ate, as she was convinced this is what contributed to her health problems.

The news kept getting worse. Her health declined more and more.  I wept with each new piece of horrible information.  I wept for Terri, I wept for her two small children, for her husband, for her brother, for her parents, for her nieces and nephews and for all of us who knew her as the information we received went from bad to worse.

Several times, as Terri revealed each new horror she endured and with each bad test result, she would say, “Life is good.  It will never be the same, but life is good.”  I couldn’t believe it, and I certainly didn’t understand it at the time.  How can life be good in the face of cancer? Well, I get it now, LIFE is good, it’s death that sucks ass and cancer and sickness, but life?  Well, that’s good and full of marvelous things if we take the time to enjoy them.

When it became clear that the radiation did nothing and the chemo hadn’t even slowed things, Terri did the unimaginable.  She planned a party.  She & her husband decided to renew their vows and invite everyone they knew.  It was going to be a potluck and we were all invited to come and take part in life being good.  But then she started getting much, much sicker and the party had to be moved up to accommodate that. And then, the party had to be moved to the hospital because she had to be admitted.

Thank heavens for Facebook and cell phones and digital cameras and the kind people at the hospital where Terri was receiving treatment.  She and her husband were able to renew their vows in front of everyone who could make there in one of the meeting rooms at the hospital.  Sadly, I couldn’t make it, but was able to send flowers.  There were photos galore, video, and people Facetimed others who also couldn’t make it for the event.  Terri was beautiful and glowing, despite the oxygen mask and wheelchair she had to use.  I cried buckets. She died the next morning, and I cried more buckets of tears.

When Terri started chemo, she lost her hair, and that was so, so hard for her.  She had the kind of thick, straight, blond hair that women spends hundreds of dollars at salons to try to achieve, and her hair had stayed that beautiful blond color in adulthood. She mourned the loss of her hair.  Her mom mourned the loss of her hair, too, reminiscing in a blog post about how strangers would stop her in stores when Terri was little to comment on what beautiful hair she had.  I think up to that point the cancer and its treatment had been bad, but losing her hair meant she was Sick with a capital ‘s’, and it was a reality she couldn’t escape.

I think as women the two things that immediately make us recognizable as women to the world at large are our hair and our boobs.  Losing one, or both, due to cancer treatment seems to take away a woman’s femininity. Psychologically, it’s robbing women of a piece of their identity, and it was the one teeny, tiny thing I could do that would in a very miniscule way, help.

3There are many charities and organizations that accept hair donations and provide wigs for those who lose their hair for medical reasons, but I decided to donate my hair to the Beautiful Lengths Project sponsored by Pantene, because it is specifically for women who have lost their hair from chemo.

4I didn’t donate my hair for a pat on the back, and I am certainly not sharing this story to brag. If it wasn’t for my Fabulous Forty goals, I probably would have just mailed off the hair without a peep, but for everyone out there who knows, or has known, a woman who has grappled with the inner and outer horrors of chemo and has uttered the phrase, ” I with there was something I could do to help,” well, there is, and it does make a difference in the quality of life for those who receive these wigs.

5Donating my hair was also a celebration.  I have known several women who faced a breast cancer diagnosis and are still with us today.  There’s my nephew’s birth mother, Karen, who battled back from an initial diagnosis of Stage III breast cancer; my son’s kindergarten teacher, Mardel, who has beat cancer three times; a woman I used to work for, Casey, who had breast cancer twice; the grandmother of one of my son’s classmates; the mother of my husband’s supervisor; and the mother-in-law of one of my sisters, who passed away many years ago, but still proved there’s life after breast cancer.

A ruler for reference. When the hair was stretched out, it was 15 inches long.

A ruler for reference. When the hair was stretched out, it was 15 inches long.

So, ladies and gentlemen, if you have 8 inches (or more) of hair that is less than 5% gray and has not been chemically treated in any way, I do hope you’ll consider making your own donation to Beautiful Lengths to help a woman going through chemo help preserve her dignity and femininity.  And if you aren’t in a position to make a hair donation, then at least try to remember that Life is Good. Be kind.  Hug someone.  Tell people you love them every chance you get.  It’s always worth it.

7

Where Have You Been?

Happy Chrismahanukwanzakah!  And a Merry New Year!

I have been getting increasingly more desperate and pleading reminder emails from WordPress about my lack of postings.  Apparently, they miss me.  It’s nice to be missed, but I simply haven’t had the time to keep up with things until now. So in the immortal words of Indigo Montoya, “Let me explain. No. There is too much.  Let me sum up.”

October

I refrained from mentioning this on Facebook or here because I didn’t want my grief to be a public thing.  We had a great sadness in October when our good old dog, Shadow, passed away at the age of 15 1/2 years old.  I miss her every day.

Halloween and All Hallow’s Read was only a moderate success this year. Halloween was cold and soggy and with it being on a Friday night there were a lot of indoor, community events available and free to the public.  We only had about half the usual amount of trick-or-treat participants and I was left with a lot of books and candy.

November

The midterm election and No. 29 on my Fabulous Forty (FF) list concluded the first week of November and ushered in a brave new world as my husband was elected to our local school board.

I completed No. 38 on my FF list with my first ever (in my adult life), Girl’s Night Out.  Loads of fun and it’s nice to have a great group of ladies to laugh with.

We went to Missouri to visit my family and to meet the newest member of the clan, a great-nephew.

Mid-month, I was a vendor in a lovely little craft fair at an Episcopal church here in town, working towards crossing off goal No. 35.

The day before Thanksgiving, another one of our pets shuffled off this mortal coil when my 16 1/2 year old tabby cat, Sydney, died from old age.  I can’t tell you what a relief it is to know my husband is there for me when I need to bury a body, even if it is just a skinny old cat.  Sydney came with me from Missouri to California all those years ago, and she was the one thing that got me out of bed in the morning when I was going through some depression following my dad’s death.  She wasn’t a very affectionate cat and she had an aversion to using the litter box, so I can’t say she was wonderful, but she was mine and her loss was another ding in my heart.  We still share our home with two cats, Monkey (7 yr. old Siamese of giant proportions) and Amber (14 +/- yr. old Burmese with a weight problem and sleep apnea.  Yes, my cat snores.), but I think I’m ready for a new family dog and I have been scoping out Petfinder.com and Petharbor.com on an almost daily basis.

Thanksgiving was a domestic affair this year and I think we were all a little sad about that, considering we were in Killarney, Ireland on Thanksgiving last year. It was a mostly quiet, and I struck No. 36 off the FF list, “Learn to make tamales.” Ooooo boy, were they good.  I made them again for New Year’s and the second attempt was even better than the first.

November was also the Month of the Runny Nose and Cough. And so was December. Here’s hoping for a mostly snot free January.

It rained.  Hooray!  California needs rain, we’ve been in drought conditions for three years straight.  Then it rained and rained and rained and rained. The house got musty smelling.  The door on the Little Free Library swelled shut and the knob got yanked off. I was determined not to complain about the rain, but wow, it got soggy and I was getting cabin fever.

December

Following the election, there was a lot of making things official, such as swearing in and learning the duties of being a board member AND a conference to attend. You know that saying, “Behind every successful man is an exhausted woman,”?  Well, it’s true.

The Hobbit celebrated a birthday, which meant a party, and there were additional volunteer hours at school in preparation for a winter concert at school.

Also in December, I crossed off numbers 23 and 31 on the FF list:  Get a physical & all the associated tests; and implement a dietary supplement plan. It took me all stinking month to get all the tests done with our crazy schedule.  Clean bill of health, in case you’re wondering.

Between the sickness and scheduling issues and time drain, I didn’t get the Christmas tree up OR start buying gifts until Dec. 21st, which is a first for me.  I’m usually done with both by Thanksgiving weekend. I didn’t even send out Christmas cards.  It was all I could do to muster some Christmas spirit, and then I came down with a cold. Despite the coughing and seemingly endless river of snot that flowed through our lives, we had a nice Christmas and I spent the break from school mainly resting.

That brings us up to January, and a review of how I’m doing with my FF goals. I realized I hadn’t made much headway with it.  There just wasn’t time with all my other obligations, and I started to get a bit cranky and discourage.  I reviewed my goals and realized there’s one I’m just not going to be able to complete.  It’s not working at all, and that would be No. 5:  Complete the BBC’s 100 Big Read List. That goal took something I love, reading, and turned it into a laborious chore. I have barely read anything, avoiding books I want to read and painstakingly forcing myself to pick up books I should be reading.  So I’m changing it.  (My game, my rules!)  I found a reading challenge on Facebook and I’m giving myself credit with some of the books I’ve read since August. If you click here, you’ll see I have modified my goal list to reflect this new goal.  I feel like a huge weight has been lifted!

My wonderful sister-in-law has made a massive contribution to my goals and gave me a ukulele for Christmas. It’s a beautiful Rip Tide soprano ukulele with a gorgeous tone and I have been having a blast sifting through ukulele books and getting to know my new instrument. That means No. 20 on the list is well under way.

I am also tackling No. 30 this month, “Complete a 30-Day Challenge.”  After looking at lots and lots of 30-day challenges, I finally concluded I couldn’t even think of doing any of them until I got things cleaned up and sorted, so I settled on a 30-Day Decluttering Challenge and started it today. I also posted that challenge to the Fabulous Forty list.  I will post a synopsis of my experience with that when I complete the challenge.

That just about covers the highlights, and now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go play my ukulele.

Remind Me Again…?

The past two weeks have been an emotional roller coaster for me. I have been giving long, measured looks at the General Population and wondering, “Why bother?” It seems to have been going around, too.  A friend’s child was bullied, a fellow school parent and her kids were sworn at and violently shouted down by an aggressive wackadoo at a public park, and just a lot of really questionable actions by seemingly reasonable people have come to light in the past two weeks. It was easy to feel discouraged, and I did.

BUT I also have smiles and hugs from friends; there are shiny, happy kindergarteners faces (or kinder-smartners as their teacher refers to them); “my boys” who are so encouraging and funny and a joy to be with; and the in our family there was a bundle of hope in the form of a new great-nephew. These “crapped on” days happen, and retreating to a hermit-like existence isn’t really feasible, so I’ve got to put on my big girl panties and continue to face the world as best I can.  The follow words help me do that:

The Paradoxical Commandments

by Dr. Kent M. Keith

  1. People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered.
    Love them anyway.
  2. If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
    Do good anyway.
  3. If you are successful, you win false friends and true enemies.
    Succeed anyway.
  4. The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.
    Do good anyway.
  5. Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.
    Be honest and frank anyway.
  6. The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds.
    Think big anyway.
  7. People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs.
    Fight for a few underdogs anyway.
  8. What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.
    Build anyway.
  9. People really need help but may attack you if you do help them.
    Help people anyway.
  10. Give the world the best you have and you’ll get kicked in the teeth.
    Give the world the best you have anyway.

© 1968, 2001 Kent M. Keith