Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Feminine Curve Gone Awry

I first noticed I was crooked five or six years ago. I had a Zero Balancing session with a friend who is also a ZB teacher; I'd heard it had done wonders for a boy I knew who'd had a huge accident while skiing.

I woke up the next morning with a sense that something was 'off'. I looked in the mirror and gasped: my right hip was a good inch or more higher than my left. If I straightened my pelvis, my left foot was barely touching the ground.

"I'm crooked!" I told my ZB friend. "Come back," she said. She did another adjustment and that sense of being crooked was gone.

I was so impressed that I became a student. For awhile, I was ZBing all my massage clients as part of their fancy-schmancy spa experience.

But I was still crooked. It wasn't ZB's fault, I think that session just called it to my attention. Maybe it was years of carrying children on my right hip. Maybe it's just the way I'm made. But it's gotten worse.

At my last checkup, my doctor gave it a name: scoliosis. That's the condition where your spine twists in one direction, creating a strange lateral curve. This past snowfall put my twisting spine into the spotlight.

I cleared off a couple of inches of very heavy, wet snow from our driveway a couple of days ago and my back hurt. Nothing new there; I've got a couple of crumbling disks so shoveling hurts. But this time, my right hip has hiked up another inch or so and my left foot is a good inch and half off the ground.

"Look at this," I said to my guy as I lifted my shirt and stood with both feet on the ground.

He looked for a minute, then his eyes widened.

"I was just enjoying the curves, but man! You need a lift in your shoe! You need a brace! You need to go see a!"

I'm taking his last piece of advice, but it feels like the universe is shaking its finger at me. I rarely do yoga even though I know I should. My job keeps me sitting all day. My daily walks only happen three or four days a week. I'm eating too much. I am not taking care of myself and my spine has decided to graphically illustrate just what that looks like.

I don't know it it's laziness, a sense that I don't deserve much care or a sense of futility in the battle against encroaching age. All three are no excuse because I know better, yet somehow my lethargy has been winning.

This morning, my crooked back and I are walking to the chiropractor. I will eat less and lose weight, since any pounds dropped multiply exponentially for my spine.
And whatever advice the chiropractor gives me to reduce that sideways curve, I will do. Because not only do I hate pain, I hate looking in the mirror and knowing that I'm doing nothing to prevent this strange contortion that could, eventually, make me a twisted, humped little old lady.

I have envisioned myself as a lively, healthy old woman but I'm not doing much to make that a reality. Time to wake up.

Friday, February 26, 2010

The Morning After The Storm

We're in a strange little pocket of calm in the midst of Nature's fury. All around us are reports of highways closed, more than a foot of snow, power lines sizzling across the roads. Here, at the foot of the Catskills, we've got fluffy, gentle little flakes that melt before they can accumulate.

It's been a record-breaker, this series of late February storms. Over a hundred thousand people in two counties have been without power for three days...many of them got their power back briefly, only to have it knocked out in the latest storm.
And there's another on the way.

The winds howled here last night but the lines held. The sky is still that bright pewter gray that promises more snow is a possibility, but it's not that dark, glowering gray that threatens a blizzard.

My guy told me when he was working late in his studio, the winds were howling so loudly that he gave up trying to muffle the noise as he was recording - he just sang right over them. That should create some interesting effects.

I'm hoping the snow holds off so we can go tour the area...there's one neighborhood in particular that turns into a riverfront community after heavy rains. Water pours off the mountain into a pipe which dumps all the water in their front yards and covers their driveways. It's quite a sight. I wonder if they have rafts for such occasions.

Spring's almost here, right?

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Gale Force Winds

"...And like a never-dying force, the wind
Roared till we shouted with it... " 'The Wanderer' John Masefield

Wild weather this February has brought. Yesterday's snows were so heavy that they left close to two hundred thousand people without power in just two Hudson Valley counties. Then came the rain, the rising streams, the flooded roads, and predictions of the worst still to come.

We expected a foot of snow in our little town today. Instead we got some fat, jolly flakes, a lot of rain and a lot of slush.

The storm arrived tonight. As I sit here writing, I feel like I'm in a ship at sea. The wind is lashing the driving rain against the house and howling around the corners. People we know have deserted their homes, people who lost power yesterday and have no hope of getting it back before the weekend. We've been lucky. We've got heat, lights, even our connection to the web.

Yet we're alone tonight, tossing and pitching in the center of a furious winter storm, listening to the rain pound against the windows. I worry that if the temperatures drop just a little, that rain will freeze. Then we'll be adrift in a sea of ice. I worry about the people who have to go out and I'm grateful I'm not one of them.

I can ride out the storm, secure under the covers tonight. Tomorrow morning I will wake up and the occasional stream below the rocks in our backyard will be a pond. It's possible the wind will still be screaming. Or perhaps it will all be over, and everything will seem swept clean, scrubbed and fresh.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

One of the Best Parts of Getting Old

Imagine this: you're sitting in your office, on the telephone with the host of a radio show that's heard in four states, on the air live. You have had one cup of coffee so far and you're not fully functional before the third cup. You're expecting a quick conversation about the news story you're going to be filing later that morning. Oh no. You're in for a surprise.

This is what he says to you:

"It's a coworker's birthday. So now, before we talk about anything else, you and me, right now...we're going to sing "Happy Birthday."

What's your reaction? Horror? Disbelief? Rage? An overpowering urge to dive under the desk and throw the phone across the room?

Not if you're older than fifty, in my experience. If you're over that mid-century mark, you laugh and say, "Okay! You start!" And join him with appropriate vocal flourishes which would have included harmony if you'd been able to hear him better.

That's how my work day started today. And I would have described myself as an intensely shy person when I was younger. I loved to sing and did, in fact, perform on some school stages, but my nerves often left me gasping for air or shaking so badly that I sounded like Tiny Tim.

No more. I have my shy moments, but they are few and far between, generally reserved for social situations. When it comes to performing, I've moved to the "What the Hell" school of behavior, which operates under the philosophy that the worse that can happen is that people will think you're silly. There are worse things and I'm old enough to know that now.

So happy birthday, coworker. We serenaded you with great gusto and it was big fun.
What a relief to not care what people think of me!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Time: A Doctor Who Acts Like It Doesn't Exist

When I was a kid, I remember the doctor made house calls. Not the pediatrician; there wasn't one. He was our family doctor. And I remember being very angry indeed that he once was allowed to come into my candy-striped bedroom, stick a tongue depressor in my mouth and make me say "ah!" when I just wanted to be left alone to enjoy my raging fever.

But from an adult perspective, how wonderful that was. My parents didn't have to bundle up a sick little kid, drag her into the office and wait until the doctor could see her. Better for everyone, though less efficient use of time for the doctor.

Today, everyone's a specialist. Everyone is overbooked. No one has time to leave the office unless it's to visit the patients in the hospital. A doctor's visit means a long wait in the waiting room, then a long wait in the examining room, then, with luck, a pleasant though somewhat harried physician joining you with your chart in hand, asking what exactly seems to be the problem.

The good ones manage to come up with a name for the ailment and the treatment. Or sometimes you get sent for tests. Lots of them.

Yesterday I saw a dinosaur. He looked like a regular doctor but trust me, this guy was from the stone age.

Here's what happened.

We arrived for an appointment. Nothing serious, just a few things normal for bodies that have lived awhile.

"The doctor is running an hour and a half behind," the nurse said, looking around the waiting room. "If anyone wants to reschedule..."

It took awhile, but a couple of people bailed.

"This gentleman's getting a physical," the nurse said, looking at one fellow.

Another patient decided he could wait to see the doctor on another day.

We said we'd wait. We went out, got a coffee, came back and waited. And waited.

It was more like two hours than an hour and a half. But here's why we waited:

The doctor's staff went home at five. The building was empty. And the doctor kept on finishing his exams, taking all the time he needed with each one, explaining things to his patients, grabbing books to better explain what he was telling them, getting later and later by the moment.

Our appointment lasted well over an hour. The doctor showed no sign of feeling rushed, hungry, even the least bit impatient. He chatted, explained, asked questions, answered questions for as long as there were any questions to ask.

After a relaxed visit, with every single question answered and promises from the doctor that he would take care of calling any other doctors necessary, he moved on to the next patient. The last patient of the day. It was already seven thirty at night. He hadn't had dinner. And he still had to go to the hospital, check on his patients, and return phone calls.

My inner-mother-voice says he should restructure his days, make sure he doesn't book his day so full, allow himself time to eat, to rest. He cannot keep up this pace. He will burn out. It would also eliminate the ridiculous waits endured by his patients. When, I wonder, does he relax?

But he's a man comfortably in middle age who appears very happy with his profession, very excited and interested in medicine and in the people he treats.

Perhaps he has no life. Yet his life is very full.

Remember that line from Field of Dreams with Dr. Burt Lancaster? Later Dr. Burt has to step across the line to save a child's life, ending the miracle that brought him back to life and made him young so he could fulfill his dream of batting in the major leagues?

Ray Kinsella: Fifty years ago, for five minutes you came within... you came this close. It would KILL some men to get so close to their dream and not touch it. God, they'd consider it a tragedy.

Dr. Archibald "Moonlight" Graham: Son, if I'd only gotten to be a doctor for five minutes... now that would have been a tragedy.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Again, Ruth Says It Better Than I Can - Ring That Bell!

I love this blog.

And because I'm whirling like a dervish today, don't have time to explain but want you to know, I'm going to ask you to go see Ruth and read why you need to be ringing a bell tomorrow.

Ring The Bell For All of Us

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The View From My Window

It hasn't looked a lot like winter this year. It's all fallen to the south or the north of us, and the Catskills, which used to be snow country when I was a kid, had bare ground just yesterday.

This morning, it's winter.

Very, very pretty.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Who Did You Used To Be?

I saw myself this morning. Not who I am, but who I was.

I was out walking, jogging a little, hoping to fry those creepy little Lyme spirochetes into vapor when it happened.

I passed a home that I believe is someone's summer cottage. It has a huge field in back that is overshadowed by the frosty Catskill mountains. And in that field, not far from the house, was a tree. In that tree was a girl.

It was sunny outside, but cold. She was bundled up in her snow jacket, her gloves. She sat on a large branch, her back against the trunk, perfectly still. She was looking at the mountains.

I felt a thrum inside, a resonance of recognition, and it all came back to me.

That was me. I'd forgotten.

We had a small cabin on gorgeous farmland in the land that time forgot - the Leatherstocking region of New York. It was a three hour drive from our home in New Jersey. My parents built the cabin when I was about five; it became my favorite place on earth.

Beside the house was an apple tree. Below it was a stand of birches. The apple tree overlooked a pond and what you might call a healthy was a mountain, but we were so far up its side that it didn't seem overpowering.

As soon as I was big enough to climb it, I sat on the one branch of that tree that was parallel to the ground for hours. I was hidden from view, able to see the world, to watch the fish hiccup to the surface of the pond, see the woodchuck amble through my mother's vegetable garden, see the hawks circling overhead.

When I was older, I found a higher perch in a nearby stand of birches.

The birch trees below the house created a little hideaway in which I also spent a lot of time. From there, I could look up at the house and across the lower field.

A third stand of birches in the neighboring field created a bigger, and more private place to sit and think.

And then there was the well.

The well cap was about a foot off the ground on the side of the house. It had a space between some sort of drain and the edge that was just the right size for one small foot. And I cannot tell you how many hours I spent atop that well, balanced on one foot, looking at the world.

What was I thinking? I couldn't say. But I know that time was important to me, it was something I loved. I wasn't lonely and I wasn't bored. I was thinking.

That girl this morning reminded me. And as soon as I remembered, I remembered something else that hit me with a jolt.

I don't know if every parent does this, but I spend a lot of time trying to understand who my children are, where their personalities have come from. It's not because I don't like who they are; on the contrary, I find them completely delightful. But I thoroughly enjoy discovering places where we intersect, things where I recognize myself, not because I encouraged them in that direction, but because that's apparently a part of their hard wiring.

And I remember who else loved to sit in trees. My son. As soon as he could climb, he was up in a tree, sitting for hours on end. Sometimes he took a book with him, but usually he was up there alone, just thinking.

When the kids were small, my parents still had that cabin upstate. They let us use it. It's as much a part of my children's childhood as it was mine and we were all heartbroken when it finally had to be sold.

One of the first things I remember doing when the kids got steady on their feet was showing my son the well cap. He adored it. I have photos of him out there, balanced on one foot, the other resting on the nozzle as I'd done for years.

His sister suffered herself to be put in a tree for a photo, but it just wasn't her thing. She was an explorer, but she didn't seem to have that same affinity with trees and heights.

My daughter and I share many traits; my son is sometimes harder for me to puzzle out. But I remembered this morning that in this thing, we are alike.

And I find myself thinking that I need to spend more time hanging out in a tree.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Happy Valentines Day

Ernest Becker:

When we understand that man is the only animal who must create meaning, who must open a wedge into neutral nature, we already understand the essence of love. Love is the problem of an animal who must find life, create a dialogue with nature in order to experience his own being.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Things Open Up When You Let Go

I've spent the past couple of years worrying. I used to be a recovering worrier, but I've fallen back into old patterns. Money, the future, my kids, health, our world's future, am I doing what I'm here to do (whatever that is)?

And the vise tightened a little bit every day. I could almost feel it.

But something happened around the New Year; I not only resolved to relax and let go, but I realized that if nothing changed at all, it just wasn't all that bad in my world.

Maybe we have to move to a smaller house. So what? It's a house. Maybe I'll never get paid what I think I'm worth. So what? My job treats me well, appreciates my work, lets me work on issues I think are important. Maybe my Lyme really is chronic, that I'm never going to feel quite as well as I used to. So what? I'm still so much more functional than many people with other chronic conditions. Maybe I'll learn to nap, at long last. My kids? They prove every day that they've got good heads on their shoulders and my nudging doesn't really help them. They're finding their way, bumping into walls and learning what works and what doesn't.

The world. Ah. That's all a question of perspective. If I look for a massive, techtonic shift in consciousness, I'm likely to be waiting a long time. That isn't how change happens. But there are changes, there is movement. I speak to the leaders of many of those progressive efforts. I should know better than most that change is possible and it is happening. It's a glacier, not a tsunami.

What about fulfilling whatever my purpose might be here? First you have to accept that there is one. I do. I believe the overarching purpose is learning. We're little cells of a greater organism, in the philosophy of Susan, and each of us contributes to the improvement of the whole by the lessons we learn and the evolving we do in our lifetime experiences.

So what if I'm doing it already? What if I had some massive lessons to learn, and I've already tackled them? I've learned that no matter how hard we try to conform, there comes a time when the inner self throws off its chains and demands to live. It may be a small revolution; a decision to change careers, to find a job that isn't a daily psychic death. Or it can be a huge revolution; a dead stop, full turn in a new direction. Whatever it may be, I think that there are two choices; let that inner self live, or live with a growing resentment and anger that distorts every part of your life.

The inner self, I've come to believe, is the expression of that greater self, the one who came here with a mission. It has to be fulfilled. That's why it exists.

But, as Arlo Guthrie said after fifteen minutes of "Alice's Restaurant", that isn't what I came to talk to you about today.

I came to talk about why the doors and windows suddenly are opening, the skies clearing for miles, the road beginning to uncurl ahead of me like a lazy ribbon.

Something happened after that New Year's exhalation. Opportunities began to present themselves. I made a couple of small steps to straighten out the messes in my world and suddenly amazing things are afoot.

The phone rang and an old friend mentioned a job that might be a great fit for me. Within days, three more good jobs, similarly good, appeared, all of them ones with whom I already have contacts.

Our house hasn't sold, but showings are beginning to pick up. We found another house, not far away, that would work beautifully for us and that we like. I stumbled across a story about an elderly doctor who treats children with Lyme Disease; he offered me a new perspective on my options.

My life's work? I still believe that, right now, it's writing. And I'm still fighting my own resistance to do it. But I've set that April 1st deadline and I'll meet it. Organization is important right now; I've got such limited time during the week that my work is slopping over into my "me" time, and I'm too conscientious to put aside the "them" work and risk missing a deadline.

But I've got three days this weekend, time to get "their" work done, finish my taxes and spend some quality time with my book.

The sky is wide open. And with all my reading of quantum mechanics, the metaphysical reading that relates to it (Seth books are remarkable if you've never explored - my mother adored them and so does KB), all my viewings of Mindwalk, What the Bleep Do We Know?, it's still counter-intuitive. When things are scary, we shut down.

But if the universe is, indeed, an interconnected web of energy and our thoughts can, indeed, create reality, the trick is to relax, to let go, to put out a clear, firm intention of what we want and need and then forget it. By all the laws of quantum mechanics, it will manifest.

This time in my life is apparently another reminder that it's true. All my worrying created nothing but obstacles. When I let go, things started to flow.

I don't know how it will all come out, but I know what I'm looking for. Serenity, a level of comfort and space to pursue this writing life I want. I have to do my part. I have to write. All of these strange, happy coincidences indicate that the universe is willing to do its part, too.

What if we really DO make our own reality? What will you make?

Friday, February 12, 2010

Does What We Eat Define Us?

I'd like to discuss this without a firestorm. I have questions.

The Judeo-Christian ethic teaches that the world and all its creatures are here for Man's use. Based on that logic, we have used this world's resources, abused and depleted them. Among the problems we have created is the factory farm.

I am a vegetarian. I'll tell you that up front because I'm not trying to do a sneak attack on those of you who aren't. From an animal rights perspective, I'm only part of the way there. To really practice what I believe, I should be vegan. So I understand that making a drastic lifestyle change is a huge and difficult step. Okay?

First, I want to know if there is a way to discuss this issue without the knee jerk hysteria that so often happens the minute you say, "Eating animal products is bad on a number of different levels and our modern livestock agriculture is inhumane."

It's blunt, but it's fact. You live longer if you don't eat meat. Here are some links if you want to study the numbers.

That's enough right there to start a fight, and I wonder why that is. Is it because it threatens our habits? Is it because it is seen as an implied criticism?

But wait until you start discussing the ethics of modern farming. We have a vision of the family farm, the peaceful cows in the field, the well cared for animals that are treated with respect, with care until the time comes for them to be slaughtered for meat. That's not reality. And we know it.

The book "Eating Animals" is a bestseller. It documents the horrific conditions under which today's animals life on factory farms. The movie "Peaceable Kingdom" is making the film festival rounds (and winning). It tells the stories of farmers, good, compassionate people who try to run humane livestock operations, who realize that their livelihood is based on a belief they can no longer support: they kill the animals they care for.

Our children's bodies are full of antibiotics from the food we feed them. Their hormone levels are artifically elevated. Our food is tainted, it makes us sick. Sometimes it kills us. The animals are kept in conditions that we could not abide if we witnessed it firsthand.

Scientists say the huge population of animals are contributing half the methane that's changing our climate.

Yet look at this article in a Missouri newspaper. Obviously, in a farm state the question of animal rights would be seen as threatening. What strikes me is the tone of the comments below it. It's a "war".

I don't want to fight. I want to know if it is possible to lay out the arguments, line them up against that "Man is the Earth's Master" chestnut and see if it's possible to get past the knee jerk denial to a place where the evidence can begin to be considered on its own merits.

The family farm, a beloved part of my background, is already dying, killed by big agriculture. A plant-based diet won't kill it. Creativity will, in fact, save the few that remain. Rather than eat the animals on farms, find ways to make money from our nostalgia for that way of life. Or switch to sustainable crops. Don't tell me I'm anti-farm; I'm not.

For me, the bottom line became that I couldn't justify the death of an animal to please my palate. I don't have that right. It was that simple. All the arguments are there to support my diet. The arguments for eating animal products don't stand up to scrutiny.

So it's a very personal choice, and perhaps that's why it's such an emotional one. But I can tell you that when I see a pig, a cow, a chicken at the county fair now, that disconnect between my fondness for them and what I eat is gone. And that's a huge relief.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

How Could Anyone Sort It All Out?

I wish I could explain better. I can't. All I can tell you is that I have seen clear evidence of how deep some of our society's problems go and I'm feeling both sad and disheartened.

How is it that within our cities live people in neighborhoods that operate under frontier law? How can we bear the waste of millions of lives spent in exile from opportunity, both because of their own hopelessness and the fact that it's damned hard to break out?

What is it that divides these people from mainstream society? The shade of their skin color. Really, it's that simple. I try to examine all the reasons; culture, habit, education, but it boils down to color.

Imagine: a race of people with lavender skin. They come from all over the world, but in every country, their skin marks them as different. They are, as are many people, immigrants. They try to function in a society where they are minorities. But unlike other immigrants, they cannot mingle without notice, without anyone being conscious of the fact that they are "other". So they gather together, creating neighborhoods where they feel comfortable, where they aren't "other". They become "we".

A few of these lavender people, the motivated ones, the strong ones, the ones with parents who refuse to allow them to settle for anything less than their highest potential, pursue their dreams. They are fueled by the obstacles they encounter; prejudice simply adds to their motivation to prove that they can make it in a world that isn't lavender-friendly. Those few can succeed. But they are few compared to the rest who remain where it is, if not safe, familiar.

Many, perhaps most, stay safe within their neighborhoods, find ways to survive in their own world, live by their own code. The rules of the rest of the world don't apply there; they have their own code, their own rules, their own law. It is a frontier, a wild west where the strong make the rules, where defying the strong is just plain dangerous.

How is it possible that we are allowing this to exist? And for those of us who know it for the injustice that it is, how do you fix it?

Can there be any hope for the young people who have grown up in the frontier? Their rage is so deep, their hopelessness so vast, the twisted values of the frontier so ingrained that I just don't see how they can be convinced that there's any possibility of a different life.

And what of the children? What hope is there for them, when the world they know is a shadow world of us against them?

And how much poorer is our world because we're squandering the genius that undoubtedly waits to be tapped in those endless, isolated frontiers.

We hoped for change in America - how many generations will it take for change to happen where it really matters - in ourselves?

I Need Co-Conspirators

This is just for fun - but you can make my daughter laugh with very little effort, which will tickle me as well.

She's turning 21 this year, she's a gifted writer who thinks she can't write and she started a blog just because I nagged her into it. She wrote a couple of entries, then abandoned it for months.

"I can't write," she explained.

But I noticed this morning that she's posted a new entry. And, typically, she noted that no one reads it but her mother.

So here's where you come in. If you have a minute...and if you feel like it, go visit. Say hi. Make her eyes pop out of her head.

You'll like her, by the way. I do. But then I admit I'm biased.

You'll find her here: Oh Please.

Tell her hi from her mom, too.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Is It Really The End of the World or Just A Snowstorm?

Apologies, first of all, to those of you who are truly in a blizzard. Washington, Virginia, New Jersey, Long Island, I get it. This is some serious snow.

This is directed at the media.

Wolf Blitzer was so excited by the snow that he donned his hat and scarf and walked outside the CNN Washington studios to show us deserted streets. That's probably the best thing I've seen Wolf do in a long time. But the New York stations were downright ridiculous.

NBC dragged Chuck Scarborough into the studio and cancelled all their programming to yammer on and on about the fact that it was snowing.

"Better leave early for work," they warned at a time when you can be certain anyone who WAS going to go to work was already on the way.

"Leave your car behind." Ditto.

All day long they had video of kids sledding, people trudging through the snow, cars crawling along the road.

Isn't this New York? Doesn't it snow here in the winter? Do we really have to act as though this is a major disaster?

It seems to me that a storm that is likely to result in one snow day for the local schools just isn't much of a storm.

I see this as a symptom of the 24 hour news cycle. As soon as anything happens, anything at all, the newsrooms go into hysterical overdrive, covering and covering and covering it until it's absolutely smothered.

Excuse me, weren't we all just in a lather on Monday (sorry - you were, not me) about the governor's supposed scandalous behavior which the NY Times was going to publish? Wasn't he going to resign?

Not only did the governor not resign, he soundly thrashed the Times for spreading rumors without actually providing any facts, or even a story. There's still no story in the Times.

And by golly there was another rumor about the governor today, this time involving ethics. The news organizations pounced on it like starving wolverines.

They've got time to fill. They need stories. And we've apparently reached the point where we report rumors if we don't have fact.

I have no opinion on the governor but I'm disgusted by the press, my colleagues.
We're becoming Chicken Little, screaming the sky is falling every time a flake falls from the sky, every time someone whispers there might be a story that could bring down a public figure.

I've sometimes felt like being a reporter is not far different from being a professional gossip. It feels even worse now.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Why Are the Dogs In Cages Instead of The People Who Hurt Them?

I'm angry tonight, angry at a world where people can abuse animals and get away with it.

We went to see Mellifer/Amy/Nancy/Cupcake tonight, the dog I met the other day and who I was hoping could become part of our family.

"Someone's beaten the hell out of her," I'd been told. "She's been impossible to place."

She was wonderful once we got her out of the cage and outside that first visit; sweet, friendly, clearly interested in getting a human of her own.

But I'd been warned she was fearful of men. KB and I went tonight, hoping that perhaps she'd sense that he'd never hurt anyone.

She greeted him with a growl. She was afraid, despite the cookies in his pocket, his soft voice, his effort to be non-threatening.

It didn't get better. He tried. He gave her space. But the minute he turned his attention toward her, she growled. At one point, she lunged.

"This isn't going to work," the woman who clearly likes her and wanted her to go home with us tonight admitted.

This isn't a mean dog. She's afraid. And unfortunately, she shows her fear with aggression. For someone comfortable with dogs, who understand them, she's worth the work she'll require. But for us, with one of us never having owned a dog and just not sure what to do or how to act, it's a disaster waiting to happen.

We had to leave her there.

"Someone else called about her, too," we were told. "Maybe it'll work out."

I've adopted dogs before, dogs who'd been abused and mistreated. And it always breaks my heart, because the dogs are so willing to forgive, so basically kind and bewildered. And it's even sadder when a badly treated dog turns fearful; it makes it that much harder to find them the loving home they so desperately want and need.

I hope Mellifer/Melissa/Melinda/Melanie finds one. I wish it could have been ours.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Decision Postponed

Through no fault of ours. Mellifer, as I've been calling her for the past hour, or Clarisse, as KB seems to be leaning toward, or Big Sweet Thing, the abandoned dog who has been languishing in the local shelter for the past two months, is still there.

We tried. I called, but the line was busy. I emailed but got no response. They're busy, I know. So we decided to take a chance, just ride on over and hope we could find someone.

The shelter is on the grounds of the town transfer station. There's a big gate halfway up the drive, so no way to get close if that gate is locked.

It was.

The transfer station is closed on Monday. So we must wait to see her again, to see if she likes us, if KB wants her, too.

I have jury duty on Tuesdays, so that's out. But Wednesday! I'll be there.
We'll all chat about it, BlarneyStone, KB and I, and see if we think we'd be a good fit. And if KB and Regina/Maxine/TubeSock/PunkinHead/Sophie/CutiePie agree, we'll probably be out that night gathering supplies, preparing the three cats who don't suspect what cruel joke we're about to play on them. And arranging a date for her arrival.

Unless we all look at each other, shrug and say, "Eh. Not so much."

Odds of that? Slim to none.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Heaven On Earth

It's blizzarding in some parts of the US, sunny and cold in others (like here in the Catskills), god only knows elsewhere. But it's probably gorgeous in Saba.

That's where I took this photo. It was six years ago but it feels like yesterday; this is an island in the Dutch Antilles that isn't easily forgotten.

I'd been to the Caribbean once when I was thirteen; I went to Maui on my honeymoon.
This was my first tropical experience in a very long time and absolutely the most breathtaking place I have ever seen.

Saba's wildly popular with European snorkling enthusiasts (that's such a clumsy-sounding name for such a wonderful pasttime) who appreciate the incredibly clear water, the bountiful sealife and the quiet, nearly-all-alone-in-the-universe feel of the experience.

I followed a sea turtle who was flying gently through the water; I let myself be dragged through a narrow pass between two rocks by roaring waves after I realized that the water was so salty that I could float with absolutely no effort. I love the water, but this was the most incredible experience ever.

This is a view overlooking my favorite spot on the island; a rock in the the neighborhood of Hell's Gate (named for the fearsome winds that can roar in off the ocean). I sat on that rock every morning with a cup of coffee, facing a panoramic, 180 degree view of the ocean without another soul in sight.

Look next to the larger building - that was my inn. See the white road? Follow it to the top. The rock is there.


Where's your spot? Tell me about it. Winter is a fine time to share stories of outdoor paradises.

Friday, February 5, 2010

I'm A Sucker For A Pretty Face

I met someone today. Her name may be Valley. It may be Lady. It may be something entirely different.

She's been in the local animal shelter for two months, according to the woman there.

"We haven't been able to place her because she gets so worked up when people come to see her."

This big, gorgeous black dog (let's call her Honey as that's what I found myself calling her)greeted me by leaping up against her gate and barking. She is intimidating.

"Trust me. Get her outside and she's a different dog."

I couldn't doubt it. The room was full of barking, yapping, jumping dogs, each one working the rest into a frenzy.

I trusted her. She snapped a leash on Honey's collar (a flimsy cloth number, by the way) and we went outside. Honey was fascinated by everything going on around her. I was not on her radar.

"What do you think she is?"

"We think Golden Retriever and black Lab. I mean, she looks like a big black Golden."

Or a small Newfoundland. She's got a huge, soft head.

"What have you been feeding her?" I asked as I patted her round sides.

"Too much. It gets cold in there in the winter; I give 'em plenty of insulation."

The shelter manager proceeded to thump Honey enthusiastically on the butt. Honey didn't mind a bit.

"You see? If she was mean, she'd turn on me for this. I've seen her with men and she's just scared. I think someone beat the hell out of her. We found her just wandering the streets."

After a bit, I took the leash and we walked. Honey's entire body was swiveling...first her head, then her butt. She wasn't rough, but she was fascinated by everything. After a bit, she started following me a little.

"Sit," I told her. She did.

"Have her give you her paw."

She gently offered one fuzzy mitt.

I came back and sat down, patting Honey's head.

"If it was just me, I'd take you home right now," I told her.

Honey watched me.

"She's already listening to you more than she listens to me," the woman observed.

Flattery will get you everywhere.

"So would you be open to letting me foster her for a couple of weeks and see if it's going to work?"

Honey licked my hand.

"I'm sure we would. It's been two months. They're already telling me that we have to do something about her."

"You mean put her down?"

She nodded. "But she's a great dog! She just needs a place she knows she belongs!"

"I have to bring back my guy. It won't work if she's scared of him or she hates him, even though I can't imagine she would."

"That's fine."

"And there are the three cats. I know you showed me she doesn't seem to care about them, but what if one of them swats her?"

She nodded.

"I think they'd be okay with just about anything if you're willing to give her a shot."

I came home with plenty to think about. What if I get a job that doesn't keep me home all day? What if we have to move? What if what if what if???

KB was drinking his coffee when I got home.

"So where is she?" he asked, smiling.

"Well....want to go meet her Monday?"

He didn't say no.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Writer's Block? More Like Writer's Shutdown.

Remember when you had to write a paper for school, you knew what you were going to say but you just couldn't bring yourself to sit down and DO it? Welcome to my first non-fiction book's progress.

It started with an idea, which found an interested agent, who then proposed a different project first, a project that should have been pretty straightforward.

That's apparently not how I roll.

A simple collection of biographies has, instead, turned into a narrative in which I weave my own search for meaning into stories of people I've interviewed. They are people who inspire me, who challenge me; people whose stories hit a nerve, a nerve I sometimes didn't even recognize at the time.

My writer friends who've seen the initial rough drafts are encouraging; it's a compelling read when I'm strewn all over the pages. That's enough of a challenge for me right there to shut me down.

I'm fighting to remember that making myself the common thread that runs through these stories isn't a form of narcissism. All it does is give the reader someone to identify with, changing the book from a dry, objective textbook into a messy human story.

But every single time I even think about writing, I run up against a twelve foot tall Donna Reed sadly shaking her head over my unladylike willingness to talk about not only myself, but about my least shining moments.

She's so disappointed in me.

But come on, Donna! You felt trapped in that good girl role, too, didn't you? I've seen the studio photos. And when you put on a dark wig, you actually pulled it off.

Twelve foot tall Donna Reed does not concede the point. That, she informs me, was a job. But in real life, we're supposed to be perfect. Why would you parade your life in front of the world, trading the soft focus lens for harsh magnifier?

In practical terms, this is how it looks: I finish work for the day. KB, home from his two week southern sojourn, asks the usual question: what are you doing tonight?

"Oh," I mumble, "I don't know. Maybe I'll practice violin. Maybe I'll get my tax stuff together. Maybe I'll write."

The rest is unsaid: maybe I'll scan real estate ads. Maybe I'll look at dogs that need a new home. Maybe I'll read other peoples' blogs. Maybe I'll watch television. HGTV is pretty damned fascinating, you know.

I anticipate discomfort when I begin to write. It doesn't really happen; in fact, it's a pretty enjoyable undertaking. Once I start, I get sucked in pretty quickly.

But far too many days go by when I don't make myself start.

What, I wonder, is that all about?

Monday, February 1, 2010

Absolutely Outstanding

You want a brief course in civil rights in America? No? Do you just want to see a truly masterful blog post?

You can't do better than this:

Creative, compelling, informative. Bravo.