Saturday, October 31, 2009

Halloween Fun!

In the midst of grieving Darla's loss, I was thankful for a welcome diversion from our empty home - Halloween! Over the years I've become more and more of a fan of the holiday. I love to dress up, dress the kids up, hang with neighbors and sneak chocolates from the girls' overflowing pumpkin buckets. This year was probably one of the best we've ever had.

We headed over to a friend's house (in the neighborhood over) for a big family party before the kids hit the streets to trick-or-treat. The group was huge - about 20 kids - running to each door until about a mile into it, when the little ones started to fade.

The hostess, another friend and I "cleaned up" until late in the evening, having a great time laughing, sharing stories and commiserating over lost pets. It was just what the doctor ordered.

The kids had a great time this year - dressing up at least 3-4 times for all the different parties and festivals they were invited to. Their costumes rocked, even though I didn't have time to do homemade ones, and I even got in on the dress up fun (even though it was just a generic witch number). Happy post-Halloween!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Darla, The Best Dog Ever

Twelve years ago, Jason and I were newlyweds and, like many, desperately wanted a puppy to test out our future parenting skills on. I somehow found an old lady who rescued young motherless pups, nursed them to health, then found homes for them. We went out to see what she had, and were taken by a group of Cocker Spaniel mix puppies. The fattest one we saw did not match her brothers and sisters, who were black and looked like purebred cocker pups. This little girl was tan, looked more like a hound, and wriggled her way to the top, taking us immediately with her big brown eyes, puppy kisses and cuteness. A week later she was weaned and I rode home with her in my lap. We had to stop half way, though, for Jason to take a turn.

We got home and placed her in the grass. She was so little, she apparently hadn't learned to walk well, and also had never been in grass, so wasn't sure what to think of the stuff. She quickly got the hang of it and bounded around, tiny little cropped tail in the air, crouching low to pounce. We already had a cat at that point named Spanky, so we decided to call our fat little sweetie Darla, to keep the Our Gang theme going. That night we settled her into her crate downstairs for bed. You can guess that outcome. She slept in bed with me for many years to come.

Darla quickly became the neighborhood favorite. Everyone would stop and "awwww" over her. She was always happy, somewhat precocious, but never truly bad. Well, we did have to replace an entire condo full of carpet thanks to her chewing "phase," and I did find out the hard way more than once that WD40 removes ink stains from carpet (she had a taste for Bic pens), but overall, she was a snuggle bug.

There was no mistake that Darla was a happy dog. She loved everyone. Her tail was too short to adequately wag enough to let people know this, so instead she wagged her entire body. And if you gave her a hug, she would reward you with a fantastic "love grunt' (uuummmppphhhh) and a full body lean (her version of a hug) to let you know she was reciprocating the love. She'd sigh with contentment under my feet as I'd rub her back and work at a desk. She'd romp along side me at the river. She loved to travel (well at least until one fateful day when she fell out of the car - another story for another time), and especially loved weekends with Jason's family, where she would be fed a steady diet of roast beef, mashed potatoes and the occasional McDonald's cheeseburger, which Jason's dad would drive out to get, exclusively for her. She was spoiled rotten, but gracious enough to return the favor by spoiling us with her love, too.

Through the years Darla was my steady and constant friend. When I had a miscarriage, no one could comfort me the way Darla did. I cried and cried with her patiently licking my tears away. When I was pregnant with the girls in later years, she would lay her head on my stomach and listen to her as long as I would allow her to. When I brought each girl home home, the first thing I did was let Darla sniff the baby from head to toe (I think my mom was mortified) - thankfully she gave her approval of each one. When we lost family members she let me cry  on her. When I was angry she'd endure my rants about the injustice I'd been served. When I was happy she'd waggle along with me.

When Darla was about six, she lost her eyesight. It didn't stop her. She still chased bubbles she couldn't see (a favorite pastime she and Katie had developed). She "chased" sticks not knowing where they landed, and bounded across our terraced yard without fear. She ran into walls, doors, refrigerators... but she'd always pick herself back up and keep going, wagging and wriggling all the way. She had a tireless spirit that infused our home with happiness, even on the darkest days. She kept my feet warm. She kept my heart happy. She soothed my soul. She was one of the best friends I will ever have, canine or human.

Over the last several months, though, Darla began to lose weight. The lumps that were previously benign throughout her body began to take on new, hard shapes. And then Wednesday I noticed a spot  on her belly, and it looked really bad. I took her to the vet and they confirmed my worst fears. Cancer had taken over. We brought her home, made her comfortable with pain killers and I tried to decide when and how to let my dear old friend go.

I spent the last two days agonizing over the decision. I talked with Katie, dealing with her very adult questions from her that I have no clue how to answer adequately. I tried to put things in terms Sadie would understand. I fed Darla every scrap she could possibly want. We snuggled. I got some kisses. I even got a love grunt. But the spot was getting worse rapidly. So today I told the girls we needed to say goodbye. I dropped them off at my parents and headed out for the hardest trip to a vet anyone ever has to make.

I carried my old friend into the vet's office this afternoon, and couldn't keep it together long enough to even tell them what appointment time I had. Tears streamed down my face as I held her, shaking in my arms, until the receptionist could figure out who we were - I didn't have the words for it. We found our way to a room, the doctor reaffirmed that this was the time, and I held her in my arms as she slipped peacefully away. I brought her home, Jason helped me dig a grave, and we laid her to rest. I. Am. Heartbroken.

I wish I could write a beautiful, more fitting tribute to Darla's life - a life that touched my heart and soul to their very core. But I guess that, in itself, is a tribute. That a furry friend could be such a huge member of the family. That she touched our lives, especially mine, so deeply. That she made our lives so much richer simply by her presence. I will miss her so very much.

 Darla, 1997 - 2009

A Parting Prayer
  - © Brandy Duckworth, 1998

Dear Lord, please open your gates and call St. Francis
to come escort this beloved companion across the Rainbow Bridge.

Assign her to a place of honor, 

for she has been a faithful servant
and has always done her best to please me.

Bless the hands that send her to you,
for they are doing so in love and compassion,
freeing her from pain and suffering.

Grant me the strength not to dwell on my loss.
Help me remember the details of her life
with the love she has shown me.
And grant me the courage to honor her
by sharing those memories with others.

Let her remember me as well
and let her know that I will always love her.
And when it's my time to pass over into your paradise,
please allow her to accompany those
who will bring me home.

Thank you, Lord,
for the gift of her companionship
and for the time we've had together.

And thank you, Lord,
for granting me the strength
to give her to you now.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Ex

I should have posted this weeks ago when it took place.

Bedtime. Katie and I snuggled, chatting and whispering as we tend to do before she falls asleep. And this is the conversation that transpires...

Katie: I have a boyfriend, you know.
Me: Really (not trying to be shocked, but wanting more info)?
Katie: Yes, his name is Jason and he's really smart. He's the only other good kid in class.
Me: Smart nice guys are good.
Katie: I have an ex, too.
Me: (stifling grin) Really, what's that mean?
Katie: You know, an extra boyfriend, in case the first doesn't work out.

And thus karma begins to kick in...

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


First Sadie. Then Katie. With a brief feverish interlude by yours truly that quickly disappeared. Then Katie again. And now back to me. Day three of a fever... ugh.

So I'm forced to sit at home, thinking about lots of things that I've managed to avoid by being busy.

Here's what's been going through my head.

Jason's brother is sick again. I think it's bad. Another growth, pushing his kidneys aside. I'm pretty sure it's cancer, even though the results are still pending.

Jason and I are getting divorced. It's weird to be cool with it - we even joke about things that should not be funny, but are given our current situation. We're both ready, though it's been a long painful process to get here. He's going to be moving out ASAP, meaning when he gets a job and can afford to. For now we're stuck living in the same home, which is tough. We've come to a decent agreement on separation - in fact, we can backtrack the date to the time we officially separated sleeping space in our home (quite some time ago). I could be a 'free' agent as early as April. The girls are taking things pretty well. Katie has lots of questions, but we're both trying to be open and honest with her as we go through this. The kids will live with me, but Jason will have shared custody and see them as much as possible. We'll switch weekends, and have already started doing that.

Speaking of weekends, this is "my" weekend (no kids) so I'm trying to decide what to do. I want to get out and away, but have obligations Sunday, so I guess I'm in town. Maybe KD on Saturday with a friend or something.

Daytime TV sucks. I ended up just leaving it off all day. No interest whatsoever in "real" housewives (who are ironically as fake as one can get), talk shows or watching Rainman for the 400th time.

My work is getting to be too much for me. Three full time jobs, plus keeping the association management company on track with everything, is just too much. So I'm on the prowl for ways to reduce my hours. 70+ hour weeks are no longer fun. Working when sick is even less fun.

I'm wondering where my life will lead over the next year or two. Divorced mom of two. The thought of singlehood is daunting at the moment... though I look forward to moving on with life. Hopefully a new career. At least one new hobby, and a good girl-road-trip to some place I haven't been before, I hope.

Enough honesty into cyberspace. Time to check up on Raymond and see if he's had his date in the elevator yet...

Friday, October 16, 2009

At a Crossroads

I've been kind of quiet lately. Not just in blogland, but in life, too. Lots of introspection, lots of pondering. To my friends that I regularly talk to, I apologize for the sudden hermit-like behavior.

Life is full of change, we've all lived long enough to at least get that concept at this point. It's ever evolving, and we're along for the ride. Some of us think we can control destiny, some of us think that we're fated for a certain future. I'm kind of in between. I think there's a course, a path, but that we have the power to decide where it leads us. For years I chose to coast along in neutral, letting the 'fates' guide my path. Suddenly, I'm at a crossroads, and it's time to make a decision. Do I get in the drivers seat and take this baby for a spin, or do I continue to coast, content to view the scenery? It's so much safer to coast. But so much more fun to give life a spin...

So yeah. Went out of my way for that metaphor, but that's where I am. It sounds easy laid out like that. Drive, baby, drive - right? But driving is scary. You have to learn new skills, may have to encounter new people. All that stuff. Ok, I'll stop the metaphors. Officially done with them.

Anyway, I'm doing some major introspection, which leaves me little time to write. I've found myself sketching, which I haven't done in YEARS. And I found myself looking at life a bit of a different way. I tend to try (not always doing a good job of it, but I TRY) to put everyone else first. I now have a sign on my fridge saying "What do I want?". And I'm pondering that. What do I want this year? Next? Five years from now? And how am I going to get it?

I'm developing a list. It ranges from rediscovering my creative outlets to providing my kids the music lessons they want. It includes travel, a new career focus, personal growth, new paint in at least three rooms of the house and a kitty. It's a work in progress, needless to say.