Doggie Breath

My dad always liked to say that we’re an “equal opportunity family.”

They’re black, I’m white. They’re 15 years old (or 105 in human years), I’m 20. They smell awful all the time from every orifice, I like to think that my odor is somewhat tolerable at least some of the time. They’re my sisters.

My sisters are two 14-year-old black labs.

My sisters are two 14-year-old black labs.

As an only child, they’re all I’ve ever had.

Tomorrow is the day they go to Heaven.

Losing both my sisters at the same time is something I’ve been dreading for a while. I’m trying to justify it in that Coco has been more and more wobbly lately, while she and Spooky have both been steadily losing control of their bowels.

I once read something online about why dogs’ lives are shorter than humans’. It was before a friend of mine’s dog died and I wanted to know how to comfort him when the time came. It said that people come into this world to learn how to live a good life, how to love one another, and it takes us a long time, roughly 70-80 years. But dogs are born knowing how to live and how to love so they don’t have to stay as long.

That’s the beauty in animals. Unconditional love.

Their love has kept my life so full for so long. It’ll be hard to let them both go at the same time, but their mom brought them into this world together so it’s only right that they should leave it the same way: together.

It’s really unfair that dogs can’t decide for themselves, when it’s their time to go. How can a person have the ability, burden even, to choose when the life of someone else ends?

My dad always said he would know when it was time for them to go because they’d be able to tell him. He’s not here now, so it’s been up to my mom and I. I just hope this unusually sunny day is dad saying he’s ready for them. It’s time. Send ’em up.

Spooky (red collar) and Coco (blue collar) taking a napDoggie breath is a wonderful smell that’s always followed by loving kisses.

I’m going to miss it.

Goodbye, old friend

Monday night my mom made the very last schlep into Virginia Beach to check that everything was in working order at our, now, old house for the owners’ arrival Tuesday morning.

We had been renting this house for the past four years from our, now, old friends, a Navy man and his wife who left it to retire to a larger, log-cabin-style home, probably overlooking the water, in the forests of Indiana. In those four years, my little family made a lot of memories in that house. It was a lot cozier than the house we had lived in previously- a five bedroom, brick house in a brand new neighborhood, every interior wall and carpet white and spotless, emotionless as a dead person. Due to a decline in our financial well-being our family was forced to consider a more modest home than the corpse of a house we bought when we first moved to Virginia Beach. We ended up renting from our friends, who were moving at the same time, conveniently enough.

So after four years, only months after my dad passed away, the owners, our “friends,” decided they want to sell the house, leaving us with only a month to find another home and evacuate. A month; it sounds doable, right? Reasonable? No. A month is not enough time to make a decision on a permanent home that we hadn’t even begun to look for, let alone all the packing there was to be done, keeping in mind I was still five hours from home at school for half of this month. They expected us to be gone in a month, when it had only been four since my dad passed and I hadn’t even been able to bring myself to go through his things. My mom and I were just beginning the struggle toward finding a “new normal,” the process that is vitally important after someone so essential in one’s life passes away. In one phone call, that new life was put on hold and our new normal was completely shattered and in addition to the grief, we suddenly had to deal with undue stress and pressure from this approaching move.

I’m not saying that the owners of the house are not allowed to do whatever they want with the property, whenever they want. They can. I’m also not implying that we’re not grateful for their letting us rent the house from them for as long as we did. However, these people did consider themselves great friends to my dad and to our family, until now. This decision on their part was going to cause a lot of problems for my, now smaller as of a few months, family.

We had to resort to finding only a temporary home. This sounds slightly more reasonable, right? No. Not with 3 pets, two of which are 14-year-old labs (that’s 98 in human years) who aren’t accustomed to change, soil themselves on a daily basis because they have little control over their bowels and bladders, and have hips which are physically unable to cooperate with stairs.

Thus, the search was very limited. The only places we could even consider a possibility were those who allowed 3 animals, all heavier than ten pounds, which eliminates almost all rental homes and apartments. Then we had to eliminate all the places with stairs or a deck or uneven surface of any kind, which led to a dwindling number of options. So we were looking for a rental home or a first-floor apartment with those qualifications and in our price range. The only places available were in areas that we consider scary, to say the least. It seemed that if we wanted a place to fit those qualifications and that was a safe place to live, we would need to start looking out of our price range.

At this point, things weren’t looking very promising. Then out of no where, my mom found this lovely little apartment complex in a neighboring city, only 25 minutes from where we’d been living in the cozy little house in Virginia Beach, with a unit available on the first floor. It was a miracle! And here we are in this cute little apartment, just big enough for the five of us.

Maybe it’s a good thing that this happened when it did. Maybe mom and I needed to be uprooted completely from our old lives in order to move on. I was uneasy about things changing, because I didn’t want to forget. Through the process of downsizing to the essentials (what must happen when a family moves from a home for six into an apartment for five) and selling so many of our possessions that held dear family memories, I was afraid that I wouldn’t remember him. I am still afraid, but now I’m afraid and buried under piles of boxes as the huge undertaking that is unpacking approaches.

Unsure and afraid of forgetting the past and of what our future holds, still I say, “Goodbye to you, old house. Though you were falling down around us at times, you only served to push us closer together. Thank you for the time and for the memories.”

Guest Post: “I Am Not Your Wife, Sister or Daughter. I Am A Person.”

Everyone, both men and women, needs to read this. It might be excessively rant-y, but that’s the part that makes it worth reading; she’s passionate AND she knows what she’s talking about. You go, girl.

The Belle Jar

I don’t have to tell you that Steubenville is all over the news.

I don’t have to tell you that it’s a fucking joke that Trent Mays and Ma’lik Richmond, the two teenagers convicted of raping a sixteen year old girl, were only sentenced to a combined three years in juvenile prison. Each will serve a year for the rape itself; Mays will serve an additional year for “illegal use of a minor in nudity-oriented material.”

I probably don’t even have to tell you that the media treatment of this trial has been a perfect, if utterly sickening, example of rape culture, with its focus on how difficult and painful this event has been for the rapists who raped a sixteen year old girl then bragged about it on social media.

And I almost certainly don’t have to tell you that the world is full of seemingly nice, normal…

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My next-door neighbor has been invited to participate in a creative writing conference (because she’s so good at words). Earlier she recited a few of her original poems to us common folk. To say the least, I was inspired. Here’s my poem about asthma- what I’m experiencing this moment.

No mercy. Bearing his full weight on my upper body.

No escape. He laughs, but I cannot.

Only whispers escape from what used to be a lively, unfiltered stream.

This voice is not familiar. So weak, breathless, wretched.

Not self-pity. but a desperate attempt to shame his obesity off of me.

No doubt, saturated with what could only have been sandbag-pancakes for breakfast and lead-salami lunch sandwiches,

He sits, perched as only a mountain would. Oppressive and immovable.

The wind blows through me as if to steal what breath I have left,

And I will not leave this bed, because air can be found nowhere else.

I ask them for “more weight,” but I am not Giles Corey and this is not The Crucible.

Sorry it’s not more upbeat. It’s been a long day.

You Don’t Know Me, But I Attended Your Dad’s Funeral Today.

You Don’t Know Me, But I Attended Your Dad’s Funeral Today.

Reblogged from: littlemisswordy

A letter to the boy at the funeral home today:

I attended a funeral today. I didn’t know the man who died, but I know he was your whole world. I stood in a room surrounded by people whose lives he touched. I’m sure you didn’t know all of them, but I know we both felt the pain and suffering among them…the sense of loss. I heard mention of offices having closed for business today because of his death, and employees taking a scheduled moment of silent prayer in his honor. You must be proud of him. As I looked around the crowded room where some stood because every seat was occupied by someone who felt the need to pay their respects, I thought big or small this man made a difference in these people’s lives. I know he did in yours. Colleagues, friends, family members and employees all came together in grief, heads bowed, hands linked together. And then I saw you. I knew of your existence but hadn’t caught a glimpse of you. I prayed for you last night, a faceless eight year old boy who suddenly lost his father this weekend. You walked past me, dressed all in black with your head down, as hands reached out and touched the top of your head, your arm, your shoulder, all in an effort to comfort you, all seeking comfort for themselves as well. Your father walked this earth for forty-two years, yet for you it has only been eight…not enough time for a father and son. So many lessons you will now learn from someone else, so many new memories which will now be created without your father, and so many memories that will someday fade and in time possibly disappear for one so young as you. And yet I can’t help but think it may not be such a bad thing for some memories to fade, because in so fading so does some of the pain.We are so often admonished for not hanging on to our memories, especially those really tragic ones, events which you are too young to remember. “Never Forget” they say, and I do understand the need to remember. However, in order to move on we need to allow ourselves to somewhat forget, to let go a little of the pain and despair that accompanies some of those memories. We will always remember those we hold dear, but focusing on the here and now gives us the perspective necessary to take the next step. Grief is good. Besides being a necessary and vital process, it reminds us to be grateful for still being among the living. It makes us look around us with newfound appreciation. It jolts us back to truly living instead of just going through the motions. When we experience loss, we also experience the gift of life, of opening our eyes to what truly matters on our individual and collective journeys. When we do this, we realize every day things such as the bed not being made or dirty clothes piling up on the floor aren’t the big things in our lives, but they are still essential to keeping us grounded and focused on the here and now. Each of these minor responsibilities is key in keeping us balanced enough to face what comes and let go a little of what has already come. I know you’re too young to understand this, but one day I hope you will. I hope you will experience life fully and find much to keep you grounded. I hope you keep your eyes open to the magnitude of all the little things in life we so often take for granted. I hope you reach out to those around you without shame when you need support. And, I hope you never hesitate to do the same for someone experiencing the weight of the world on their shoulders…much like you do today.On this day, I pray for you and your mother to find balance as you begin your journey of grief. I pray each step takes you a little closer to peace in your heart. I pray you cherish those memories of your father, and hold them close as you take each step toward becoming a man one day. I pray each load of laundry, each household chore, each homework assignment, each mundane task carries you to your next chapter, your new way of life…a new sense of normalcy.

This post is so perfect. Inspirational and sad, but certainly comforting in more ways than one. I had to share it.