Sunday, February 18, 2007

My Old, Old Dog is Breaking My Heart

I'm worried about my old guy. He's been less than robust for--gosh--probably two years now. He stopped running with me not long after we returned from Hawaii, and that was April of 2005. Last May he had back surgery and you could say he's never fully recovered from that. Just when we had him going to the underwater doggie treadmill regularly to build up strength in his back legs, he developed a bladder stone which forced him onto antibiotics and out of the pool. At the same time, he developed a problem in his neck, likely another disk thing. His neurologist (yes, he has one) does not want him working out for a couple of months.

In the mean time, his back legs are getting weaker and weaker and he needs lots of help--I mean LOTS of help--getting around. This I don't mind a bit. We take him to work and we don't leave him alone ever--not more than a couple of hours. He simply cannot get up by himself. He's peeing on his blankets and pee pads and himself and just when I think he's got to be miserable, he grabs his tennis ball and starts chomping on it. Or he starts barking at a passing dog outside our fence. You'd better just keep gettin' it, buddy, 'cause if you don't, I'm gonna come through that fence and tear you up. His appetite is extremely hearty. Dog wolfs down food. Film at eleven. He has light in his eyes and a smile on his face. He's the freakin' energizer bunny because he just will not quit.

It's as if he doesn't know he can't walk worth a shit. Or he doesn't see the faces of people, looking upon him with pity. Or he doesn't hear them: "Poor, poor dog. I feel so sorry for him." Well, lady, I feel sorry for him too. And there is little I can do for him that I'm not already doing. And how do you think that makes me feel? This dog is my heart. I know I won't have him much longer. And I know that could be a week or a month or four months.

He simply will not give up. And until he does, I will not give up on him. But it breaks my heart just the same. It breaks my heart to see him struggle. It breaks my heart to see him fall down and hear the sound of his hip hitting the floor, as I'm running toward him to try to catch him. It breaks my heart to see him lose control of his, let's say, "functions."

I know that many, many pet OWNERS (and I use this term deliberately) would draw the line at the "ohmygawd he's peeing on ____________(fill in the blank: the carpet, his bed, the kitchen floor)". And I know that many, many people look at us (dear husband and I) like we are crazy or cruel, making him go through this every day.

We're not crazy. We believe we are doing the best we can for him. We hope that some day, when we can't control our bladders, a kind soul will mop up around us. And for however long it takes until he shows us he doesn't want to be here anymore, we'll keep doing it for him. And I just keep drinking Old Vine Zin, thinking maybe it will fill the holes in my heart.

Friday, February 9, 2007

Discovering My Writing Passion

Tomorrow I'm registered for an all-day writing workshop. The topic is Constructing Character: The Engaging Protagonist. I can't wait. I will enjoy every minute of the six hour class. The time will fly by and when it's over, I will feel a bit deflated. Like the end of vacation or a day at the amusement park. Because I have found the thing I love to do. My passion. The one thing.

And it's about time. Here I was, in my forties, everybody else running around doing their thing, having fun with their knitting, or their pottery, their painting, sculpting, dancing, crosswords, acting, music. What did I do after work? Oh, I'd engage in exciting activities like reading the paper. Or tidying up the house. Then there was the ultimate thrill: laundry. Often, I'd perform these mundane pastimes while listening to my husband play the drums. I envied him his passion; his creative outlet. I wondered how he could look for, listen to, download and play music for hours on end. "What is my passion?" I would say (ok, I would whine a little). I thought about it a lot, wondered what it was, where it could be, and when it would make itself known to me. "Oh passion, where are you?" How would I discover it? Would it discover me?

I had interests. I thought perhaps one of them might be a passion in disguise. Was it cooking? I love to cook, but I'm not obsessed with it. Was I meant to be baking? At one time, I imagined myself some kind of pastry chef in training. Bought The Cake Bible. Measured out ingredients by weight for the utmost accuracy. But who was going to eat all those genaches and all that buttercream?

I love animals, but don't want to make a career or avocation out of it. Not now. Maybe later. What else . . . gardening! That might be it! I buy plants and I put them in the ground. I have a good eye and I manage to keep them alive. They look pretty in my yard. I am interested in gardening. But only when it's nice outside. I can't do it in the dark and I don't enjoy it when it's raining. That leaves about twelve weeks a year for plant stuff. And I hate weeding (who doesn't?). No--my passion is not gardening. Or is it gardening is not my passion? Whatever.

I took some Irish Step Dancing lessons last summer. Loved it! Great exercise and lots of fun. Then I stopped. Then I gained some weight and thought I'd better take that off before beginning again. Maybe this summer. Maybe next. Obviously, not my passion.

I play the piano. Took eight years of lessons as a kid. There is a beautiful baby grand piano in my living room. I rarely touch it. I love playing. But I'm not that great and it takes time to be great. I don't love it enough to practice for hours.

This? This is easy. I love writing. I've always been good at it. Non-fiction. Research papers. Some ad copy a few years back. It all came easily to me. Friends and family told me I was a good writer. But fiction? That was unknown territory. I decided to try to write a story, starting with just a blank screen. I had a thought. That was all. I wrote a few paragraphs, thought it was ok, then left it. For months. Then years.

I did not have time to write any more of my story for over two years. Then I saw the description for a series of writing classes at our community college. The name of the instructor caught my eye: I wanted to meet her. She is an editor for a publisher, that a friend and I had in mind for a book project we had started. The instructor would be a great contact, I thought.

I attended the class and for the first time was referred to as writer. She referred to us as writers! It sounded sweet and made me smile. Like a kid. We started some writing exercises and I was surprised at what came out of the end of my pen. It was effortless and fun! I made up characters and put them in situations and words came out of their mouths and they came alive on the page. I was hooked.

Since then, I've taken many more classes and workshops, and I have several scheduled for the first half of the year. Next month, I'm attending a three-day writing conference where Clyde Ford, Karen Joy Fowler, and Jane Hamilton will be in attendance! I am very excited.

My passion is writing. I am a writer. I started this blog just to ensure I will keep writing every chance I get. My book is up to 8500 words, and I have so much more to go. I'm just getting started. And I can't wait until I have more time to practice my craft. I will be very content.

So did I find my passion or did it find me? I definitely found it. I stretched a bit and registered for classes I didn't really have time for, but which I wanted for myself. And that's the key. My passion was there, out there, or inside me, I don't know which. I just had to give it the time it deserved. Once I finally did something just for myself, it came easily.

If only I had more practice at that. What else is waiting for me?

Thursday, February 8, 2007

A Nice Afternoon Ruined by Rugrats

First, let me be perfectly clear: I like kids. I don't have 'em, I don't want 'em, I don't want to be around 'em. I adore the ones who are related to me. But I can live without the ones who are not.

So when we decided to have a Super Bowl get-together at our house, it was no surprise that adults only was the plan. A friend mentioned that a couple w/kids (CWK) we know had inquired about our group's SB plans. We didn't have room for eight adults and two kids, so had not invited them. Then, one couple backed out due to illness. What to do? We like the CWK, so we called before the game and invited them over. Did so with good intentions, even though we didn't think they'd accept. It would be fine if they came, we thought. We like the parents so much, we thought. The kids won't be too bad, we thought. And besides, they won't show up, we thought.

So, with plenty of our delightful local micro brew's sinfully hoppy IPA in the fridge, a bunch o'munchies on the table, and some incredibly delicious home-baked-by-me cupcakes (thanks, Amy Sedaris--love you!) for dessert, we adults settled in to watch the game. Not that I cared about the game. Not that many of us in the room did. But what the hell. The commercials were funny, the game was exciting at the start, and we were drinking and eating. All was well.

Then the CWK pulled up. Oooh--change of plans! Time for me to morph into hostess mode: forget about the game, greet the guests, take the coats, organize the food and beer they brought (which we appreciated), and get everyone settled in. That's when we noticed the three-year-old had a nasty cough. She coughed. And coughed. Eewww. The parents noticed it too. "But it just started in the car on the way over," they said. I believed them. I did. They're not the types to bring their kids out when they're sick. I tried to ignore it and enjoy the company. I settled in to do just that, next to dad who's holding The Sickly One on his lap. We're all happy on the couch, just starting a conversation, between her phlemmy, croupy coughs. I look over to continue our conversation and can't help but notice he's covered in puke. I didn't hear it, didn't see it. It's just there. Oh my! I jump up into hostess mode again. Get some towels, get some cleaner, find some cough medicine, find dad something to wear.

Game? What game?

And on it went. We thought they would exit stage left. Nope. We did laundry, changed clothes, cleaned up. Everyone went on as though the kid wasn't sick. What?? I don't remember the rest of the game. The kids were jumping on my furniture, pitching plastic footballs at the adults' heads, throwing pillows on the floor, going upstairs to my bedroom without my permission, asking if they could "play" on my elderly dog's bed. (and my elderly dog was IN IT!). At least they asked, so my husband could say NO. The parents sort of tried to keep them in check. But mostly they played wherever they wanted to.

Eventually, we all ate, we all got to continue drinking, (adults anyway), and they left. We sighed. What happened here? It was so pleasant before they arrived. It was so quiet after they were gone. In between, it was loud, frantic, loud, stressful, loud, gross, pukey, loud, and well, loud.

I cannot imagine my parents allowing this behavior. There were reasons we didn't visit other households much. Nobody enjoys kids like their parents do. It's just a fact. And while missing three-quarters of the Super Bowl didn't ruin my life, I would have enjoyed it--and my other guests--much more without the children.