Monthly Archives: May 2011

Rolling in the Deep.

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Love, love, love that song, but, it’s not what I am writing about. It just seems a worthy descriptor for how I am feeling. I continue to have a deep sorrow about losing my father. I am knee deep in undone projects. One of my clients completed our program today, and I have a deep concern about her ability to succeed. I am deeply grateful for Paul and our household menagerie.
The client who I wrapped up with today received her Section 8 voucher a few months ago, but I stuck with her because I knew that without our support, she will be totally lost. She has zero family support, no car, no money and, if I am honest, little chance at success. Which makes me very, very sad. It also makes me keenly aware of how very blessed and fortunate I am. I have no conception of what it must feel like to lose the one support I have. I can’t imagine going through my days feeling like it is me against the world…having to fight for everything I have….and having every thing be second-hand. This woman’s reality is so vastly different than mine, and my hope for her so strong. Because, she is strong. She has been dealt a crappy hand, and though she struggles greatly in so many ways, she managed to complete her semester with B’s in all of her classes. Despite earning her GED at age 41, having no car, little financial resources and pretty much me being the only one to cheer her on, she has told me that she has no plans to stop going to school and bought “professional attire” at the second-hand store today so that she is prepared if a job interview comes her way. This woman’s story fills me with so many emotions…guilt being not the least of them. Guilt for having what I take for granted…a job, a car, a built-in support system. My guilt led me to purchase jumbo packs of paper towels and toilet paper for her and her son as a parting gift. You can’t buy those things on food stamps, therefore, they are highly valued and cut into her paltry monthly child support payments. I don’t know about you, but, I don’t think anyone should have to suffer the indignity of not being able to afford toilet paper.
As for those undone projects, I have a half- completed garden and our courtyard immediately struck me as looking very white trash when I got home. Paul assured me that this is not possible, first, because he is not white…and second, because there are no tires laying around, or cars up on blocks. Point taken, but, our courtyard is a sort of external expression of my current inner life…a little messy, a bit disheveled and lacking proper care. My heart and mind seem to be over-whelmed with emotions, running from sadness to gratitude, from anger to joy, with very little middle ground. I have yet to make it to the meditation room…but, I am getting a massage tomorrow afternoon as a way to help me just relax. And see if I can just be with me for a while…..I will NOT be engaging in polite conversation with the massage therapist…you hear me? I WILL NOT!! This may not be as hard as I fear, as Lisa and I will be going on a sad mission earlier in the day. My dad had purchased bottles of fine wines to give to his lung doctor and his surgeon and we are bringing them by their offices tomorrow morning. I know that’s what he would want us to do. He would not want that wine sitting and not being enjoyed. So, we will do this and it will be another check mark on the long list of reminders and of life going on.
I may or may not be a mess right now. I am really not sure. I think that’s ok..I am doing things to ensure I am not a mess in the long run. Therapy…working…planning a future with my husband…taking walks with the dogs…moisturizing my tattoo regularly (which is still not completely healed, BTW).
The gerbera daisies can wait until tomorrow to go into the ground…the deer are only gonna eat them, anyway ­čśŽ

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Paint it Black.

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…like my mood.
My dad is gone a month tomorrow. In that month, I have learned a few things about myself. One of those things is that down-time is my enemy. I used to both look forward to and dread Sundays. I looked forward to them, because it is the most relaxed day of the week….I dreaded them, because they lead directly into Monday. Those dual emotions have shifted a bit over the past few weeks, and as much as I have always said I hate it- I need the structured time that work offers. My mind goes in too many directions otherwise. It’s not good…I dwell on missing my dad’s voice and think about how much I would give up to have him back. And…I would give up everything. Just to have seen him one more time…to have one more conversation…to tell him that I love him.
It seems that there are quite a few things that I need to re-think and try to do differently. Nothing like forced change. While all of this has my head spinning, the truth is that I have known for a long time that there are things I need to do differently. I need to take better care of my health. I am sore all the time. So, I am thinking about taking a Yoga class called “Yoga for stiff people”. Seriously, that’s what it’s called. Should be perfect for me. I am also thinking about going to a meditation room in Lambertville. Maybe, if I go someplace where I can just “be”, I’ll learn how to just be. And, accept my thoughts and let them come and go. Maybe if I go someplace where there are no distractions or reminders, I’ll be able to accept them when they pop up…maybe, I will learn to smile at them, instead of cry or get cranky (like I did today). I don’t really know what to do…I just know that what I am doing is not working. The only thing that seems to be working is….working. When I am at my office or with my clients, or working on something on their behalf…I feel okay. But, left to my own devices, I feel groundless and unfocused. My thoughts circle back to my dad…to growing up…to my parent’s divorce….to my brother…to what to do next. It’s annoying. In some ways, it’s nothing new…it just feels heavier and lonelier now. I know all of this is about finding inner peace and that wherever I go, I bring me. but, at least at the meditation room, barking dogs are less likely to irk or distract me. The phone won’t ring, the laundry won’t be yelling “FOLD ME!!” in my face.
My brother, Paul and I are going to Deerfield Beach for 4th of July. We will be staying at “the Florida place”…my dad’s condo on the beach. I am so looking forward to this trip because to me, more than anyplace else, it holds memories of my dad. Eventually, we will have to sell it, but, for right now, I can’t wait to walk up the stairs and feel him. It was his. We have all used it throughout the years, but, it has long been my dad’s place. Maybe I will find some peace there. Maybe all I will feel are the February through April renters. I hope not…I hope to find his hand-written note next to thermostat reminding everyone to turn the A/C up before they leave and his drawer-full of beach shorts and tee shirts. It will be hard, I know this. But, I am hopeful for some healing there.
Life is so crazy and unpredictable, and, I am grateful for the predictable things…like Savannah following Paul around as he ate granola earlier…it made me laugh and realize that life does go on. I am grateful that Paul went to Redbox to get a movie…a simple thing like watching a movie gives me a goal and something to focus on. All I have to do is watch and for a little while, I won’t be just wandering from place to place. I am grateful for Facebook and that I can go back and look at all the comments my dad made on my pictures. I am grateful, too, that I can turn off the computer if it becomes too much.
Now…if only I could do that with my mind ­čśë

Mixed Emotions.

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I need to talk about my love of animals again….shocker. As this blog (hopefully) evolves, I will add more subject matter, but, seems I still have a lot to say about my beloved house pets. Actually, not just mine, but, the idea of pets, in general. The pet care industry makes huge profits every year….this year the estimate is $50 billion. Most of the people I know either have animals, have had at least one pet over the years or, at the very least are nice to mine. Not a single person I know has ever abused or neglected a house pet….and yet, it seems that this is not that rare of an occurrence.
In one of my first posts, I mentioned a dog named┬á Patrick, who was starved and thrown away. I, like many people, was completely appalled and deeply saddened by his story. Turns out (little did I know), that his story is not all that uncommon, and as disgusting as his story is…it is pretty mild compared to some of the others I have seen since. Patrick’s story changed the way I use Facebook and opened my eyes to things that, while I would rather not see, I simply cannot ignore. Facebook has TONS of pages devoted to rescue groups, shelters, animal abuse, volunteer organizations and just about anything else you can imagine related to animals in need. I subscribe to many of these pages now, and while my heart is broken daily by what I see, I can’t stop looking and doing what I can to help. I have never been much of a preacher, and tend to keep my views to myself and in some ways, this is no different. Though I may post some things on my page related to this issue, I keep the more disturbing ones limited to other animal-related pages, or just with friends who I know are interested. It’s hard, because I want to help…but, I also don’t want to shove this down people’s throats. Some people don’t care, some people don’t want to know…and the truth is, even on some of the animal welfare pages, there are people who can’t handle it. I can’t handle it sometimes. I definitely couldn’t handle it two weeks ago. But, as times goes on, I am able to remember why I started paying attention in the first place. I look at these animals and think to myself that I can’t possibly imagine my own dogs or cats being purposely hurt, cut, burned, hung, dragged, starved, beaten, and, yes, some are even sexually abused *a big WTF here*. The other day, I accidentally stepped on Trixie’s foot and the cry she let out stayed in my head all day. It was awful. I cannot imagine that there are people who intentionally hurt animals, because it makes them laugh, relieves their anger or pent-up sexual frustration….or better yet, because they are “bored”. And yet there are seemingly large numbers of those types of people. I tell you this not to shock you, but, in the hopes that you will give it some thought and, maybe, do something in your own little way. Right now, I am not in the position where I can do anything grand…but, I am in a position where I can do little things. Like…. tell you about it, sponsor a spay for a cat to help population control, donate a few Kongs for shelter dogs.
That is the sad part of this post. I hope it makes you think…and feel like you can do something. Because you can, one dog or cat at a time. If you want to, that is. You may not, and that is fine, too. Just knowing that something exists can help. You just never know where something might lead you. By the way, all of this applies to humans, too. Abuse and neglect of the disabled, children, the elderly all happen way too often, in my opinion. I fight to end those things in my own little way, too. Ask my former boss, Amy, about how I screamed at a negligent Philadelphia DHS worker a few years ago on behalf of a 17 year old boy with no place to call home.
Now for the hopeful part…..when I was little I wanted to be a dog breeder. I always brought stray dogs and cats home. When I was in my 30’s, I had a dog-walking and pet-sitting business. I got out of it for a number of reasons, but, had partners who continue to run it very successfully and have branched out in so many ways that I love to see. This is part of that “you never know where something may lead” thing. It’s cool, I love seeing what they have done. I was involved in creating Baltimore City’s first dog park, I sat briefly on a committee that was involved in deciding the fate of “vicious dogs”. What I have found is that there are numerous directions life can lead you. For me, though, the most significant way in which I have been involved in animal welfare is in my own home. I ensure their safety, physical and mental health and try to give as much unconditional love as I can. Of course, the animals are better at this than me: it is their specialty. So, where might all this lead? I have no idea. But, one of the things that breaks my heart the most is seeing elderly dogs placed in shelters. Now, having lived with Sugar and her “issues” as she declined, I can tell you, living with an elderly dog is not easy. But, I cannot imagine putting her in a shelter at the end of her life to die alone. So, one of the things I am thinking of is starting some kind of rescue or “sanctuary” for these dogs, in which they get to spend the end of their lives comfortably and surrounded by love. I am not sure of where to begin to do this. But, what I am sure of is that there is a need. The knowledge can’t be undone…and the need can only be undone with action.
So,what about those mixed emotions? Well, first, it is the title of a Stones song…and I am on a Stones kick, for obvious reasons. But, beyond that, where animals are concerned, I truly have them. A mixture of sadness for those in need and hope for changing the future for some.
Who knows where life will lead? I certainly don’t…but, I am hopeful that it leads me closer to creating happier lives for animals….one dog or cat at a time.

Rescued Ink.

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I got my tattoo on Friday. Unlike a new haircut…which would grow back….my grief-related ink is here to stay. But, in case I change my mind at some point, thankfully, this is the modern era and I can have it removed if I want (believe me…I thought of that right away!). For now, I am glad I did it, as it is something both my brother and I will have to remind us of our dad. He is probably up in Heaven rolling his eyes, yet honored. I hope so, anyway. *My brother got his tattoo on Monday, in a much less obvious place (his leg), mine is on my forearm, for the whole world to see.*
My Aunt Pam came to visit from Baltimore yesterday. We went to go see Cheryl Wheeler do a show at the New Hope Winery. Not many people are familiar with Cheryl, but, she is a fantastic singer/songwriter whose left wing political views and sense of humor are insightful and hilarious. Check her out. She is also a 60 year old lesbian, with zero sense of style…which is probably why she is not more popular. She doesn’t seem to care, which in my mind makes her that much greater. But, let me tell you about my Aunt Pam. She is truly one of my favorite people in the world. Which is interesting, seeing as when I met her as a child I really didn’t like her. Maybe I was afraid of her…I don’t know, but, I have been told by multiple people that I initially had a very strong negative reaction to her. I can’t imagine why, or feeling that way now, as she is one of the kindest, most interesting, least judgmental and generous people I know. We moved to Baltimore “together” and though over time we didn’t see each other all that often while I was living there (around the corner from each other) it was always a tremendous comfort to me to know she was there. Anyone who has ever met Pam says the same: that she is a genuine person, who is enjoyable to be around. I feel very blessed to have her in my life.
I have been thinking a lot about relationships lately, and have decided that I am very fortunate to know the people I do. In the past, I think I would have said “lucky”, but, I don’t think luck has anything to do with it. Luck would imply chance and a randomness that I don’t think exists, at least where relationships are concerned. Remember….I am an everything happens for a reason person. I think “fortunate” is a better word, because it implies that something has been bestowed upon me…and indeed, I have had much good fortune bestowed upon me in terms of the people I have around me. “Blessed” is also a good word to describe how I feel about my relationships…though, honestly, I have a hard time with that word, because it has always had religious connotations to it for me. But, I am trying to resolve that within myself. I am trying to take the religious aspect out of my relationship with God and have it be more about me and Him (her? it? them?) because it feels more comfortable to me. Concepts that I learned as a young Catholic school girl stick with me….like blessings, faith, charity and doing good deeds, but, the context has changed tremendously. Anyway, the relationship I have with God continues to unravel and reveal itself to me and I don’t think he, she, it or them really mind that the relationship doesn’t happen in a church.
Anyway….I could go on and on about that, but, I am more focused on my “earthly” relationships right now. There is so much to learn through them, and though I have a few with some turmoil (guess who?), for the most part….I know some really amazing people. Throughout the years, like for most people, lots of friendships have come and gone, but, the really good ones remain. Like my Aunt Pam. I truly consider her my friend.
One of the reasons I think I have been able to maintain these relationships is because I work hard to keep drama out of my life. There was a time when I thrived on drama…and, I don’t even think I was aware of it for a long time. There was a time when I treated relationships like they were disposable. I regret that, and worked hard to prove it to a few people who really matter to me. Now, I just simply refuse to let drama into my life (wherever possible). I have my dad to thank for this, because he lived by the motto “keep it simple”. Drama= trauma….and quite frankly, I have had enough of that in my life.
I started this post on Friday, and really struggled with it. So, I apologize if it sucks. But, please know that if you are reading it, most likely that is because you are one of the people I feel blessed and fortunate to know ­čÖé

Ball of Confusion.

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….that’s what my head is today, hey, hey.

I am so happy to be back at work…despite my fears that I would be a mess and unable to deal. Turns out, that, for now, at least…it is exactly what I need. I work for an agency which employs incredible people, full of generosity and caring. I am also fortunate to have a caseload of clients who, for the most part, are genuinely nice people, so all of that makes it easier. I did not expect that work would be a good distraction…I thought I would find it irritating, but, I am happy to find that I was wrong. My clients have been happy to see me and I am happy to have re-established a routine.

However…
My insides are tied up in a knot. My back and neck are killing me and I feel a deep unrest. I spent much of the last few years thinking that I had limited options and kind of resigned myself to that. My dad was sick, my husband unemployed and the economy tanked. I was afraid, and, though going to graduate school was a good distraction and helped me feel like I was moving forward…over time it began to feel like more of an obligation than something I desired. Not that I didn’t enjoy it…I did, at times. I like writing papers, getting my thoughts together and having interesting discussions in class….plus, I have made some great friends there. What I don’t like is the time committment, the expense and the hoops I will have to jump through to be licensed. All to make more money. At something I enjoy, but, I don’t know….So, I know now is not the time to be making big decisions…but, I am seriously considering not going back. If I don’t, I’ll be a two time grad school drop-out. I *think* I am ok with that. Now, school might be a good distraction, too….but, I got some big sh*t I gotta take care of now that my dad is gone, and feel like that has to be my priority. My dad left me a note, which I wrote about in a previous post, that also says I am being asked to step-up and step into bigger shoes. He wore a size 13….so, these shoes are literally big- and they are just as big metaphorically. I’m scared…but, also excited…I think there is huge potential for growth if things are handled properly and I allow myself some faith and trust in the process.
It’s a weird feeling when you have lots of options and just as unsettling as when you feel like you have very few. For me, anyway. For right now, I have to go to work, I have to pay down my debt…I have to help my brother get on his feet. After that….I can do almost whatever I want. I CAN move to Tobago if we choose….I CAN start my own non-profit, or I can just keep doing what I am doing. It’s daunting, and not a class of problems I would have thought I’d encounter. And, what’s really disconcerting is that I don’t have my father to bounce things off of. I feel thoroughly untethered. It’s weird…maybe someday I will feel a sense of freedom….but, not today. Today, I feel like a birthday balloon that escaped the bunch and is just floating on the wind.
I am grateful, for now, that through my haze of confusion that I was able to see that today was an extraordinarily┬á beautiful day. Maybe, that’s all I need to know for right now. Oh, and I am getting grief-related ink. A tattoo to honor my dad and his love for The Rolling Stones…like this one….

Big Things, Little Signs…and vice versa.

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I am one of those “everything happens for a reason” people. At times, I wish I wasn’t, because I can get disappointed when I don’t see the signs, or get the results, I think I “should”. Because…of course, I know better than anyone or anything what “should” happen. Seeing as I am all-powerful. Kidding. But, I do have difficulty giving up control at times, and when I hang on too tight…that is usually when I don’t see the signs.
I also think that we meet the people we do for a reason. Sometimes, to bring out the best in us, sometimes to reflect the worst and sometimes just to cause us to reflect…period. Yesterday, Lisa and I met with the attorney my father had hired to handle his will. I had met him briefly at the viewing, and could tell immediately that he defied the “lawyer” stereotype. He was a very nice man, who was sincere in his kind words about my father. In addition to the official conversation we had yesterday, Lisa and I had some questions on a more personal level, that we thought, as a lawyer, he might have some advice or insight about. It was a very brief conversation, but, altered my perception about something that I think, unfortunately, I had long misunderstood. And, he spoke to us as a man, as a father and not as a lawyer. Through this conversation, I got my first sign from my dad. This man was not my father’s lawyer on accident. Although he may not know it, my father’s hiring him may very well change my life in more ways than one. But, I like to think that he does know it and is giving me a wink and a smile from Heaven.
Today, I was in the grocery store and the woman ahead of me was handed a $50 bill in change. She asked the cashier for smaller bills and he said he didn’t have any. She then walked over to the customer service counter, which was closed. She got all frustrated, throwing up her hands and huffing. My first thought was….man, there are WAY bigger problems in life *mine, for instance* and boy, she is getting upset over nothing. But, then I remembered something a co-worker from The Limited said to me years ago….that you never know what came before the moment you meet someone. That thought has stuck with me ever since, I just seem to forget it at key times, like when I get frustrated myself.
Both of these situations were great reminders of the impact we can have on each other. You just never know the effect you can have on someone. I have yet to find a “reason” for my father’s death, and haven’t stopped asking the question “why?”. What I have found is what I think to be the reason he lived: to make the world a better place through his quiet generosity, to show us how to enjoy the simplest things…like a Lindor Truffle, to try to make the most of what you’ve got, that attitude is everything….and, for me, most importantly, to not sweat the small stuff.

Sleep Tight.

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Every night, there is a fight for space in my bed. Since Paul started his job, he goes to bed pretty early, as he gets up very early. I, however, especially over the past week and a half have been up very late. My mind won’t shut down until I am completely exhausted. It is an interesting shift.
While Paul was unemployed, he would be up late, applying for jobs, or building websites to make some money. Me & the beasts would retire at a “normal” hour and spread ourselves out. It was quite luxurious. Now, with Paul’s new schedule and my restlessness, by the time I get to bed, luxury means I get to squeeze myself in, and grab as much blanket as I can. Sometimes, I make everyone shift around, sometimes I don’t. Unlike the dogs, who don’t seem to mind making us uncomfortable, I really feel bad making them move. And, forget the cats…they ain’t going nowhere.
Some people are very opposed to letting animals in bed…and believe me, some nights I wish I was one of those people. But, I am not. And, if Paul were a less tolerant man, we never would have made it to “I Do’. Tonight, Savannah waited for me on the couch until I was ready to go to bed. However, even when she does this, in order to ensure her spot, she climbs her stairs to get into bed while I brush my teeth. Rocco was nested up under the covers (all over my side) and Trixie was at Paul’s feet. Zooby was still hunting wabbits at the back window. I gently nudged the dogs out of the way and wedged myself in, happy to have enough blanket that none of me was exposed. Once I got situated, Zooby climbed the stairs and waited until I invited him up onto my chest. He settled there, and proceeded to purr like a locomotive until he felt Trixie climb up my legs (he must have known it was inevitable that she was going to pounce on his head). The five minutes he was laying on me was the quietest and most content I have been since my father’s passing. *Zooby is my favorite, please don’t let the others know.* Once he left, my brain started going again…so here I am, writing a pointless story about the sleeping arrangements in my house.
I guess it’s really not so pointless, on second thought. Maybe the point is simple: no matter how small the bed, there is always enough room for those we love.
Good night…I hope you sleep well. Me…well..I’ll sleep tight.