Sunday, June 19, 2016

A Butterfly Flaps Its Wings In My Yard...

I'm sure you've heard the sentiment, "A butterfly flaps its wings somewhere and the wind changes, and a warm front hits a cold front off the coast of western Africa and before you know it you've got a hurricane closing in."  It's a way to explain Chaos Theory which basically goes to teach that for every action we take good or bad, it impacts something, somewhere down the line in ways that we can't predict or even imagine.  For me, it's a good reason to sit still and do absolutely nothing for the rest of my life because, well, who needs that kind of power or lack of control?!  

However, since I've decided to create this blog post, I'm sure that my decision will impact events in ways I didn't envision, so I may as well continue.  You may want to get out your storm gear just in case.

At the very edge of my property runs what is left of the driveway that lead to the tiny farm house that was home to the people who owned the farm this development now rests on.  It was tucked up in a canopy of over-growth and trees.  You could tell it was once loved as day lilies still bloomed close to the foundation.  By the time the developer bought this 50+ acres, it didn't much resemble a farm and the house was falling to ruin.  We all hoped the small house could be saved, but it would have cost way too much to reclaim it.

All that is left of the original owners is the long driveway and some of the huge pines edging it.  It's taken me awhile to get used to the notion that I have a driveway as the last few feet of my property, but it has come in handy when we need to get mulch or other things to the backyard.  A truck fits down it quite well.

Over time, the concrete has broken up and fallen apart further along the drive, but up at our end the first four home owners still have concrete. It's become wild and overgrown as the years have gone on. While we have our grass cut as part of our monthly dues, wild areas are left to the homeowners to manage as part of their property. We aren't a condo association with all the exterior being common ground.  We each own our quarter-acre property as well as the house that sits on it.

Our home owners association, envisioned ours to be a 'no fence' community, at least for the patio homes.  This means that we all have the freedom to do what we wish when it comes to gardening.  We liked the idea that one would see a continuous vista of green open space with the Laurel Highlands as the back drop.  It's one of the best views I've ever been blessed with as a home owner.

It's actually worked out very nicely.  We all collaborate with each other about plants and flower beds and other things we wish to do so that it's become quite a close knit group.  We all benefit from the additions and plants.  It's park-like. We've given an open invitation for our neighbors to feel free to use our fire pit anytime they'd like.  And there's a great deal of chatting back and forth when we're out.  Nice.  Very!

The other day My Lion said, "I'm going to get a quote to have the landscaper clean out the back.  I want to be able to get a vehicle down there again.  And, we have to keep it cleaned out so that the gas utility people can get to the gas line for service.  Can you talk with the neighbors to see if they want to participate?"

To be honest, over the ten years we've lived here, it had become a real mess.  My neighbor Theresa and I especially dumped our yard waste down there.  I mean, what are you going to do with all the cut back?  The trash company won't take it to the landfill and we don't have a recycling spot that will accept it so it seemed an easy solution.

It turned out it wasn't our best idea.  Why?  Because as it got more and more filled with yard debris and grass clippings, it's become a bridge from the farm directly behind us to our yards for ground hogs and snakes and you name it.  And, as it became more overgrown, we've had lots of incidences of neighborhood kids using it for whatever nefarious deeds young people are want to do. The last straw was finding what turned out to be my neighbor's stuff strewn about and picked over after her car was broken into and well, enough was enough.

I talked with my neighbors on either side.  Theresa immediately said she agreed and would contribute.  My neighbors on the other side said they'd have to think about it.  The neighbor on the other side of them said, "No, I'll have my guy take care of it like he does twice a year.  Thanks."

Last Friday, the landscaper came with a small bobcat and they got to work to cut back the trees and brush and weed-wacked till it was down to the low point.  The bobcat was used to shorten how many hours he'd have to charge to have them remove the debris by hand.  It was either pay for the equipment rental or pay them per hour for clean-up.  We went with the equipment option which was actually a bit cheaper and I am certain they all breathed a sigh of relief when we did.

In about four hours time they had it returned to the way it looked when we moved in- in fact better! Perfectly cleaned out and down to the original cement drive.  Now we have a natural fire break and the critters will possibly think twice before sauntering over to our yards.  I hope.  Theresa was pleased with the job.  We were completely pleased with the job.  Michael told the three neighbors what the job cost and asked them to contribute what they feel it is worth to them.  In case you're curious, the job cost $1500.  He says, "Regardless if they want to contribute, the job had to be done so I did it."

Now, $1500 is a pretty big price tag and we're totally hoping that the neighbors will kick in, but if they don't we still feel we what was best for our property and for the good of the community.  So, I bet you're wondering why I started out this post with the whole Chaos Theory bit, aren't you?  I'll get to that now.

While the job was being done my neighbor, with whom we've been very friendly and who declined to be part of the job, rings the door bell.  I step out, big smile on my face because I'm always glad to see him and get totally bushwacked.  Totally.  He starts out by saying he's very upset and when I ask why he continues, "I thought we were friends!  And yet, without telling me that you're having equipment brought in and severely changing the grade of that back property, you just go and do it. I've called my attorney and if you cause a ponding, standing water issue for me, well, you're going to have to deal with my attorney."

Shocked, I answered, "I did call you and tell you we were going to have it cleaned out.  I offered you to be part of it if you wanted to have the brush and grass hauled away.  I know you have it weed-wacked twice a year but if you wanted the build-up removed, you could have done it!"

He went on to say we'd severely changed the grade and since he sits at the lowest point on the run, he'll have major issues.  I tried to tell him that we couldn't change the grade because the cement is already there.  He refused to believe me saying that cement only remained at the very top of the drive. I countered that he was incorrect.  Asked if he wanted to go back and look and he refused.

His parting words to me were, "I'm just really disappointed.  I thought we were friends and friends don't cause problems for friends." When he drove away I simply stood there.  Totally caught off-guard.

He's not spoken with us since.  My Lion says, "Once someone threatens me with their attorney, all conversation on my end stops.  I won't get involved with a treat. We have the pictures and a video that the landscapers shot that shows he already has a problem with standing water back there.  That's how they determined how far to go with the clean up."

Sigh.  SIGH.  MAJOR SIGH! Yes, I suppose this is one of those times when No Good Deed Goes Unpunished.  But, I have to say I am totally perplexed.  How can our decision to do what's right for our home and the homes immediately surrounding us, willing to absorb the total cost, be anything but a good thing?

How can a butterfly flapping its wings in my yard cause a total shite-storm Tsunami for our neighbor two houses away?!?  Can anyone explain that to me?  It seems Chaos Theory applies to people as well as our Universe, I suppose.

And, it turns out that Chaos Theory is correct; I never saw that one coming...

Namaste' Till Next Time,
Holly aka The Tsunami Starter

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

How To Be The Son In A Life

This is my friend, Coke, as we all have called him most of his life.  His real name is Constantine.  He says he was almost in the third grade before he could write his name without errors.  You might have that problem, too, if you had to write Constantine Lee Hagepanos over and over with those big thick pencils.

We've been friends for a long while now.  We met in college; he was a photographer for the University's newspaper.  He captured one of my favorite images one morning during the dark ages of in-person student registration.  It's only one of the thousands of images he's captured with his camera. He probably doesn't even remember this one but it's special to me.  It was the start of a years long friendship.  In many ways our lives have paralleled.  We could be brother and sister from different mothers based on similar life experiences. Heck, we even have the same middle name!

Coke has always marched to the beat of his own drum and many times that's not been the easiest march.  He's a people rescuer.  He will do anything for someone that he likes, or admires, or loves, or just because he's encountered them and they need help that he can give.  Sometimes his willingness to help another has been at personal cost to himself.  Sometimes he's invested in someone who really didn't deserve all his help.  Sometimes they proved unworthy of his gift.  But, more often than not, anyone who has encountered Coke becomes better for his investment.  He is one of the best friends a person could have.

A recipient who is worthy of Coke's investment is his mother, Callie.  She is a wonderful spirit of quiet wit and wisdom.  She has not had an easy life.  She missed out on much of the joy one should expect from those around them. And as she has grown older, with significant health issues, Coke has been torn as to how to help her.  He has brothers and sisters, but as is often the case with family dynamics, it's generally one child who shoulders the burden of the many decisions of caring for and about an aging parent. Not that the other children couldn't or wouldn't take care of the parent, but generally there is one who the parent will allow to care for them.  For Callie, that child is Coke.

To wit, Coke, who had a very interesting life in Germany working as an Ex-pat for a major banking concern, decided to come home and move in with Callie.  Not that he felt he had to, but because he genuinely felt it to be his calling. He invested major personal wealth into clearing out and rehabbing the small bungalow he grew up in so life for Callie would be easier. He has centered his life on taking care of her physical needs.

Yesterday, peacefully, Callie shed this world of ours and has gone on to The Next Place.  Coke's tour of duty is now complete.  He has done for his mother what he has done for so many of us-- he has seen her safely home.

For any who have had the experience of taking care of a parent as the world around them slips slowly away, we understand what it can take out of a person.  But, I have never heard Coke utter more than a few casual complaints about it all.  Mostly, he just viewed it as a duty and necessity and shouldered on.

He always seems to find a sense of purpose or contentment with a day.  And now that Callie's part in his life is complete, I know he will find even more definition as a beloved Pop to his small grandson. He will continue his work as mentor and guardian for his nephew.  He will always be the father who loves his daughter through all the phases of her life.  And I will hold hope, thanks to Coke's example with his mom, that his daughter will understand what love in action looks like when Coke's time of need unfolds.  He will always be to the rest of us, one of the best friends we have.

I know Callie is at peace.  I hope for the same for my friend.  Because he deserves it.  He's earned it. And if I can ever return the favor of being his friend in anyway, I hope I can do so as well as he has always been a friend to me.

I know one thing for certain; there are thousands of sons in this world of ours.  But there are a rare few, like Coke, who work to be the sun in a parent's life.  A Son who views it as his duty, to return to that parent the gift of life and caring.  A son who instinctively knows how to be the joy that a parent deserves from life-- especially when the joy goes missing.

Coke is my Friend; he's become Michael's Friend.  He is Callie's Son.  And he is often the Sun in our lives especially during those times when the darkness is closing in and we are completely afraid that we'll never see the light again.

May Callie go forth shining.  And may all of us who call him friend be there to help Coke continue to find the joy in life now that this chapter closes and he looks forward to what comes next.

Namaste' Till Next Time,
Holly aka Coke's Friend

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Silent Sermon Sunday

Rabbie says, "Make sure to keep your balance!"

Namaste' Till Next Time,
Holly aka Rabbie & Argyle's Mommer

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Over A Year In The Making

It's taken me over a year to write this post.  I'm still not sure I'm up for it, but at this point I know it won't ever be my best work, or the easiest to construct; certainly it won't be easy to read, ever.  But, there you have it.  Some of the most necessary writing is the worst to create.  On the steps together are Argyle, Rory, and Fiona.  It's one of the last times I was able to capture an image with the three of them.  On January 29, 2015 Michael and I said farewell to Rory and Fi and sent them together on their journey to The Rainbow Bridge.

For any pet parent, the decision to do this is the worst.  I call it the Hideous and Heroic Thing. Hideous because you are making the decision to end the pet's life.  Heroic because, in all cases, the decision comes when you can almost hear your beloved pet whisper, "Oh thank you for loving me enough to end my suffering."

We decided to do it this way because Rory & Fiona had spent every day of their lives together after being born 10 days apart.  Fiona was first and from the same sire different dam.  Rory always looked to Fiona to tell them what they should do.  I never once saw him question her authority.  As they got older, if he didn't agree with her, he'd simply ignore her, but he never once challenged her.

In the end, they were only nine years old and both were dealing with very unexpectedly serious issues.  With Rory, I tried for two years to get him well-- after all, it was just a skin issue!  With Fiona, her cancer showed up out of the blue and as there is no cure for Transitional Cell Carcinoma of The Bladder- TCC for short, well, I just hung my head, opened my hands, and yielded to The Creator with this defeated prayer, "I can't do this any longer.  My life is consumed with trying to keep them together body and soul.  And, I am failing.  They deserve better.  I love them too much to keep them here."  Her cancer was the final straw.

I think I now understand how a parent of several children, one of them with special needs or serious behavioral issues, must feel torn.  All the energy goes to keeping the child at risk or in need together. At some point, though, in a moment of calm, your attention is attracted by your good child who never makes demands on you, always does as you ask, tries to help you care for the sick child, and never ever has your time. You think, "Oh you beautiful child how unfair this all is for you..."

I looked at sweet Argyle and realized he was getting more than the short end of the stick. Rory and Fiona had never bonded with him.  They learned to live with him.  They accepted he is part of our pack, but they never really interacted with him. Toward the end, I would see Fiona cleaning Argyle's face and I'd often them see them laying near each other, but the same can't be said of Rory.  In fact, it was a couple of months after Argyle came that I noticed a quarter sized red, wet, raw spot on Rory's side.

And that took off like wild fire; Rory became beyond miserable with a skin issue that no one could identify and nothing helped.  I became like a Valkyrie trying to heal him.  Eventually, it got so that My Silly Boydog wanted nothing to do with me or anything around him.  He was that miserable and uncomfortable.  And THAT, that was the moment I felt my heart break.  My Beloved Boydog, my Silly Boydog avoided being near me.  Just because I was constantly trying through baths, and potions, and pills, and powders, and oils, and, and, and....he just couldn't stand it any longer and neither could I.

Fiona, my little die-hard was much different.  First, she developed Cushing's Disease which, for me, was no big deal to manage.  I'd had a Cairn Terrier with it so I knew what to expect. Her drug, while expensive, kept her symptoms well controlled.  At its start, Cushing's is really a quality of life issue before it actually begins to effect the organs enough to make it a life threatening disease.

So long as the Bossy Bess got her two square meals, treats, and her bonies to gnaw on, things were good.  Then one day, she began having trouble peeing and there was lots of blood. We thought it was a bladder stone, but when she got to surgery, well, it wasn't that.  My vet called from the OR to give me the news that he'd found cancer. And that moment is when I felt my heart and back break.

There's no cure for TCC.  And, although the scientists at Purdue University are working like Trojans to find answers, any answer wouldn't come in time for our girl.  There are a rare few Scotties who go through treatment and come out cancer free.  Most of the time, an owner only gets a few hard months with their dog before the dreaded day comes.  And, those months are far from quality.  Far from...

Michael and I talked it over.  I called some very close Scottie friends to tell them what we were facing and to ask for their input. And, like I said, I finally offered my prayer of defeat or maybe it was a prayer of final acceptance, and we made the decision.

My husband made the observation, "I think, even though Fiona still feels pretty good, we should send them journeying together.  Fiona would be fine without Rory here, but I honestly don't think Rory could cope with the leaving of Fiona on top of how physically miserable he is feeling."  I couldn't have agreed more with that assessment.  At the same time, I knew my mind would snap if I sent Rory on and in six months or less, was looking to take that final walk with Fiona.  Call me weak, but I just could not do it.  "I think we should send them together; they've spent every day with each other. Let's allow them to take this final walk with each other," whispered Michael. I nodded.

Mike called our vet; he immediately said he thought we were making the right decision.  He agreed to bring a tech with him to our home where we could let them go surrounded by the familiar and loved ones. I said to Dr. Roman, "I'm afraid I'm cheating Fiona out of time."  He answered, "Holly, I think you're doing the right thing here.  Most of the time, we euthanize an animal on the worst day of its life.  It makes it that much more terrible for the family and the pet.  Allowing them to go when they are still a bit happy with life is a blessing."  I won't ever forget him saying that.

The end was quiet and peaceful as these journeys are generally.  I held Rory in my arms and Michael held Fiona.  And all too soon, their time with us was done.  We had them cremated together and their ashes wait, with all my other beloved dogs, to be blended with my ashes when the time comes for my journey to The Bridge.

Why has it taken me so long to record this in a blog?  It's not as if it was my first experience taking that final walk with a dog.  It won't be my last.  I think it's because of the immense impact it's had on me spiritually.  I think the two years of struggling every day with them, most especially Rory, had imprinted me with some form of post traumatic stress.  I didn't want to talk about it, even though I knew there were many kind souls who would listen. I could not find the words to express my feelings and thoughts.  I could not find the way to tell the story without covering every, terrible, harrowing detail of the struggle we'd gone through.  And, if I can't tell a story in a way that is clear and succinct, well, I'm not going to tell it.

So, I didn't write about it here although my friends on Facebook knew what was happening and their outpouring of grief and prayers and good wishes was a true balm to our souls.  It was heart healing to hear how many people had come to love our Scotties through my writings and how we shared them in pictures.  It really, really made clear how people can help immensely while you grieve even though there is so very little they can do.

I didn't write about it, because things on this blog have great meaning for me.  I didn't write about it here because I was simply too heart sick to attempt telling the tale.  I didn't write about it here because I was emotionally exhausted.  I didn't write about it here because I needed a break from all the sadness.  I didn't write about it here because I simply wanted to dwell is some joy with the sweet boy still with us.  I wanted to concentrate on Argyle who so patiently and stoically never interfered or insisted on having his way.  I didn't write about Rory & Fiona's death because I needed to concentrate on living with Argyle and Michael.  I didn't write because I couldn't.

An entire year later, I realize that my not writing about their death has left a bit of business undone. I've not given Rory and Fiona their moment of final glory by articulating how much they meant to me and how much their going has altered me and, hopefully, deepened my ability to care and be a Human Being.

A year later, I find mySelf wanting to record this and thank them for being such a marvelous part of my life.  I write to say how lucky we were to have brought Argyle into our home.  He helped us through our sadness by being with us and loving us quietly without demands.  He adapted quite easily to being an Only Child.  His uncomplicated and sunny personality truly helped me to return to life. He bonded to Michael and has chosen him as His Person.  He loves us both, but he totally loves sitting in Mike's chair in the evenings.  It's been sweet to watch him bloom after the shade of illness, sadness, and sorrow was ended.

The thing about life is that it does go on.  Life does move on, even though many of us mourners resent that it does.  While I don't hate that life progresses, I now realize that grief is not something to get's a process that changes who one is- how one identifies themselves.  Grief is the fire that can deepen our Spirit and expand our ability to be compassionate.  Grief is the price we pay for having been given the grand gift of love.  And, I wouldn't avoid the grief at the expense of not loving.

So life has moved on here at Casa de Frock.  Michael and I talk about Fi and Rory quite a lot and it doesn't hurt us now when we do.  Argyle continues to be a handsome, loving, funny Scottie. He's our sweet Brindle Boy, (Except when the mailman or the UPS guys have the nerve to breach the Scottie Perimeter of Hostility, e.g. come to the front door.)

 And to prove that life rolls on, well almost a year later...

Here is the newest member of our Pack...please say hello to our baby Sweetie Wheatie!  This is Rabbie Burns MacCelti.  He is full of life, energy, and play.  Happily he and Argyle are bonding together nicely.  Argyle is the perfect mentor to teach him manners and how things work.

Not quite four months old and he has a chipmunk kill to his credit.  Somehow, I just know Rory was purring, "Auck, Laddie, ah am sae verra prrrrroud of ye!" While Fiona is saying, "Move over, time to eat!  I just love me some fresh Munk."

Namaste' Till Next Time,
Holly aka She Who is Mum to Argyle MacPiper & Rabbie Burns MacCelti
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