Monday, December 27, 2010

Social Contracts

If you watched this episode of House, you will already understand what is meant by Social Contracts.  If not.... here goes.  He probably did a much wittier job of explaining it than I but...

Social Contracts are what make you say "How are you?"  when you don't really have the time or the inclination to listen to the answer.  

Social Contracts are what make you answer "Fine,"  even when you aren't really fine, because you just finished talking to an elderly couple who is facing the imminent death of their beloved pet and there is NOTHING that can be done to change the outcome. 

Social Contracts are what make you say "Yes the chicken was delightful" even when it was dried up and chewy. 

Social Contracts are what make you say "How was your holiday?" the Monday after Christmas...

But do you really care?  In the grocery check out line, does it really matter to you how your clerks holiday went?  At Doc-In-The-Box, are you REALLY going to tell the receptionist how your weekend REALLY was?

Social Contracts keep things moving - keep the mood light and superficial.  It is socially acceptable lying.  Heck, it is socially PROMOTED lying.  It makes you feel better that you feigned interest in someone else's life, and they did the same right back... that means everything is fine, right?  The world outside may be messy and nasty, but in your bubble, it is safe and warm and cozy.  

That is what Social Contracts are about.  Making sure we are all feeling warm and fuzzy and our bubbles are all safe.

I know I won't stop participating in Social Contracts.  I can't and still keep my job.  And for my friends, when I ask how are you, it is because I REALLY care and REALLY do want to know... That is a whole different realm.  I want to know whether your bubble is leaking or if you need help getting back to warm and cozy.

There are times though, like now, that it seems that Social Contracts just feel like a waste of time.  Lately too, though, it bothers me because it seems as though we're lying to each other day in and day out...

Don't get me started on Social Customs.  What are those, you ask?


How many Christmas gifts did you buy this year where you wondered, "Why in the world am I getting THIS person a Christmas gift?"  

Because the Social Custom makes you....

That's what Christmas is all about, right?  Those gifts?

Isn't it?

That's another story.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Magic Wand Anyone?

I hope the shock on my face wasn't projected through the room when I saw her.  

Always a strong woman, for as small as she is, she always seemed larger than life.  A free spirit who lived, it seemed to a degree, by the seat of her pants and was the epitome of "just do it."  It is only recently that I realized that I am taller than she.  In my head, her presence, her strength, she was always so ...


Just a few weeks ago, she was in a bed just a few doors down from the one she is in now.  But she was still that tremendous presence. The laughter rang through the room as we all talked about so much.  It was only a small set back.  Easy to overcome and be back, larger than life in a short jiffy.

Today, I was shocked at  how pale, how fragile, how frail she looked.  I could look past the drug haze, but still, the reality of the situation was palpably clear.  She was Pale. Fragile. Frail.


I didn't feel this with my own father.  I watched him whither down to nothing, but it still felt as though I were an outsider.  Someone allowed in on occasion, but not truly intimately involved in the process known as dying.  That was mostly my own doing, and I blame no one else for that.  

Now....  now I am intimately involved.  Two women that I hold in the highest of esteem are hurting, each in their own way.  I step up.  I give a hug.  I listen.  I engage.  

I hurt. 

Do I have a right to hurt?    Do I have a right to feel this badly?   She is not my mother.  

But she is someone who means as much to me as a mother could.  And in many ways, more than my own mother.  Over many years, she has hugged me, kissed me, confided in me, and listened to me.  We have laughed and cried together.  Shared and complained together. 

And my dear, dear friend; her daughter... how she hurts.  She has been there for me in my worst hours.  Do I have the courage, the strength and the stamina to be there for her?

I have always admired the relationship the two of them have had.   It is a mother daughter relationship, but it is also a true friendship.  I have watched them laugh together, cry together, and stand solemnly together.  

As the reality of the closeness of the future becomes clear, the hurt grows.

The pain exists on so many levels.  So much left to do.  So much left to see.  So much left to explore.  So much left to be a part of.

So much left that will not be gotten to.

It hurts to see the pain.  I want to wrap my arms around them  and make it all go away.  I want to say that there will be that one more thing that can be done.  I want to come up with the magical answer that turns everything around.  

I want the pain to stop for all.

But no matter how much I hold either of them.  No matter what research I do.  No matter how many stones I try to look under.  The magical answer isn't there.

Goodbye is all that is left.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Guardian Angel

"I am taking you somewhere very important,"  I told her.

Her soulful eyes regarded me with interest, but I wasn't sure she understood.

"I have a job for you.  I don't know if you are able to do it, but it is a huge responsibility.  I am entrusting you with someone who needs you desperately."

Still, she looked at me.  I wasn't sure my message was getting through, but I had to trust, somehow, she understood.

Loneliness eats up a person.  Days on end of staring out a window, shuffling to the refrigerator for a glass of water, and sitting back down to stare out the window; they take their toll. 

Not too long ago, the days had more meaning, more purpose.   They had a reason for getting out of bed.  Someone to take care of, some reason to make sure the blinds were opened.   A way to guarantee that she was up and moving, if for nothing more than to open the door a few times a day.   There was a constant companion to listen to the worries, the concerns, the joys and the stories, day in and day out.  There was a shadow from room to room.  There was a presence in the middle of the night that said, you are not alone. 

There was a guardian angel in the room.

But after 15 years of being a guardian angel, the body could no longer do the job that it seemed she was set on this earth to do. 

Dogs don't live as long as we.... don't ever live as long as we ever need them to.   It is a reality we who live with and love dogs realize at some point in our shared existence.

And so goodbye must be said. 

And for one, lonely days begin.  No, not completely alone.  Plenty of others check in and check on her.  Bring meals, offer days out, but at night, there is no one left to say goodnight to.

But she did anyway.... to the empty room.  Every night, she spoke aloud to the guardian angel whose presence could not be seen anymore, only felt.  And every morning, she awoke to an empty room, an empty house.

As I drove, I was hoping fervently that this new dog soul could live up to the responsibility I was giving to her.  I had looked and looked and looked for one to take the job, but somehow, none reached out and grabbed me.  Oh to be sure, plenty tugged at my heartstrings.  But none spoke to me.  I felt I was pushing too hard to find the right one, so I stopped looking.   And when I did, Mandy came along.

A tentative soul, she is soft and gentle and kind.  A kind of mirthfulness is hinted at in her eyes, but she is steady and caring.  Anything I asked, she agreed to do.  She showed me strength in character, and I threw up a silent prayer that she is the right one.

That she is the new guardian angel.

It is a lofty job.  A hard job.  One fraught with responsibility. And reward.

And so we arrived.  She settled in as if she had come home from a short trip out on the town.  She toured the place, took in all of it's nooks and crannies.  She greeted all who were there to meet her as if they were all long lost friends.  It was kisses and wags all around for everyone. 

Small tests happened and nothing phased her.  This seemingly tentative soul couldn't be rattled by a shaken garbage bag, an electric lift chair, a knock at the door, a child on the floor, or music from an electronic keyboard.   She was steady and solid.

And so, after some time in the day had passed, she and I ventured outside together.  She had already explored the yard, but this was our heart to heart time. 

She regarded me curiously this time as I asked her if she understood now what she was here for.  I asked her if she understood just how important the job was.  I asked her if all we had been talking about made sense to her.

 With a tail wag, she gave me a very clear response: "I got this."

And so we left them alone. 

Evening came.    Several trips outside, and one evening meal had come and gone.  A check in was in order.

A visit on the pretense of leaving a dessert afforded a view of the settled scene.  Mandy was content, laying on the dog bed in the middle of the living room floor, much as the previous guardian had done.  From there, there is an excellent view of the chair, the door, the kitchen and the bedroom entrance, nearly all of the house, except the bathroom.  She would get up and seek out attention, soak it in and give it back ten fold.  Then take her post once again.  When her charge got up to go to the bathroom, Mandy watched from her post as her charge went down the hall.  But Mandy was not content to remain in an out of sight post.  Instead, after a few moments, she dutifully got up and sauntered down the hallway to confirm that all was in order and ok, in spite of anothers presence, fully willing and able to give attention and love.  She couldn't be distracted at that time. 

She had a job to do.

She's got this.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

A Chapter Ends

Twenty years ago I met a man.  He was a kind older man who owned a dog.  The dog wasn't his originally, but instead, was his son's dog.  His son had been killed prior to my meeting this man, and this dog, a Labrador named Blue,  was the last connection he had to his son.  

That dog was his world.  He walked it faithfully twice daily, and sometimes more if his legs would let him.  He had had polio as a child and, while he could walk, he had definite issues with walking and it was painful for him.  He took the best care he could of that dog.  That was how I met him.

He brought the dog into the veterinary clinic I was working at at the time.   We met a time or two there, and then I moved on to other things in my life.  About 3 years later, we met again.  He was a new client and I was a new employee at another veterinary hospital.  And Blue was 3 years older. 

Blue developed a few medical problems and we saw Blue numerous times.  I got to see this man's devotion to this dog.  I got to see the love he had for this dog.  It was amazing and heartwrenching.  I could see the writing on the wall...Blue's time with the man wasn't much longer.

Blue was sick.  Very sick.   The decision was agonizing for the man.  If he chose to euthanize Blue, then he was severing the only tie he felt he had left to his son, now several years since gone.   But if he let Blue die on his own, he knew Blue would be in agony, and he knew that wouldn't be fair to Blue.

After long talks with the doctor, he made the decision.  He was heartbroken.  The whole office was saddened to watch the man say goodbye to his friend.  There wasn't a dry eye to be found.

Over the following few months, the man came by the office to visit. He asked me questions about Blue and whether he had made the right decision or if he had made the decision too soon, or too late.  

At Christmas time a woman came into the clinic and wanted an 8 week old lab puppy euthanized because she couldn't find it a home and she was going away for Christmas.  I was flabbergasted.  It was Christmas eve and she couldn't find a puppy a home?  We refused to euthanize the puppy, but did offer to take the puppy in to find it a new home.   

A call placed to the man brought thank you's but a no, we don't want a puppy.  And then 15 minutes later he was stopping by, just to see the puppy.  He met the puppy and visited it for quite a while.  As he left, he asked for reassurances that it wouldn't be put to sleep, and I told him that the puppy was quite safe.  He said thank you  and left.   30 minutes later he was back with a box, asking if he could take the puppy home.....  

I helped him with Blue (Blue 2 to be exact) personally over the years.  Not long after taking Blue II home, the man's wife called me and begged me to take Blue II in to housebreak him, and when I agreed, she asked that I not give him back until he was housebroken.   I did.  He stayed with me when they went on vacations and I even took him through obedience classes so that he and the man could go on walks together.  I watched Blue grow up.  I watched him mature.  I watched him devotedly give everything he had to the man, and watched the man absorb it.

When Blue II was just 9 or 10, he developed a severe heart condition that couldn't be controlled with anything that we tried.  And the man tried everything.   But to no avail.

The man swore they wouldn't get another dog.   And then there was a phone call from his wife.  He had gone to a farmers market and came home with a dog.  Thus, Blue III came to be.  

Blue III grew to be HUGE.  He was, at his peak, 100 lbs or more.  The man walked him faithfully and cared for him, giving him all he needed.  And then the man got sick.

He was in the hospital for several days following a massive heart attack.   Then, we heard that he had died.  

We continued to care for Blue III.  The man's wife brought him in and made sure he was cared for with the best possible medicine.   He was, after all, her connection to her now late husband.
Each time she brought him in, she said "Do anything you need to do to get him well!"

Until, anything we did to get him well, wasn't enough.    This week, liver cancer was the diagnosis.  We had fought a good fight, but there was nothing else left to do.

I was asked to be a phone witness to her authorization to euthanize Blue III.  I got on the phone to make the confirmation.  She said yes, this is what needs to be done.  It is the same decision I had to make with his master, and it is the right one to make.  I cannot allow Blue to suffer any more than I could allow his master to suffer.  Please, take care of him.

And so, with so many tears in my eyes that I almost couldn't see what I was doing, and with Blue's head on my knee,  I helped the third Blue over the rainbow bridge.  

As he took his last breath, I felt a chapter of my life coming to an end.  

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Playing with light

So many intricacies in the photos I took today.  I saw the different colors as I watched the sprinkler run, so I grabbed the camera.  What is so awesome is the fact that what the camera sees is different than what the eye sees.... I so like what the camera saw.

Who knew that watering the lawn could be so AWESOME!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Leaving a mark

A long lonely highway.  It has a lot of nowhere all along it.  And this tree has dozens of pairs of shoes slung up in various places all over it.  Some athletic shoes, some boots, some that were once fancy.  All an attempt of someone to make their mark.  

The tree fascinated me.  I took pictures of it at all kinds of angles.  Far away, directly under... everything but climbing up into it.  I was amazed at the number of shoes, and the length of time some of them had obviously been there.

As I was getting ready to leave I looked around for the first time.

 And these were the shoes that didn't make it.  They spoke to me just as loudly as the ones in the tree.    There weren't quite as many as were in the tree, but they were plentiful on the ground
People making a statement as well.

Perhaps we aren't all meant to make our mark on the tree.

We can leave just as much of an impact on the ground.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

American Goose

Since I took this picture last week, she is in yet another outfit!  I can't keep up with her!! 

She makes me smile and makes me look forward to going to work!

I will add her newest outfit ASAP for me.  It is interesting, and very cool.  Not sure I have seen her in the same outfit twice as yet, except maybe the rain gear.... but it rained a lot for a long time so....

And yes, I do have a life outside of this goose.  But this goose amazes me, so I share her with you!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Proud To Be An American

And of course..... She's Air Force.... What else would you expect a goose to be????

I was so excited to see her this evening on my way home from work...  The Memorial Day Air Force (think she's a full bird Colonel???) Goose....

Thursday, May 27, 2010

*GASP* She's Naked!!

I drove by in anticipation.... what would be next?  Sunny weather is coming, will she be dressed for it????

Alas......... I can share no pictures....

For the Goose....

She is NAKED!

Here's to hoping for the next clever outfit!!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Goose Entertainment

This goose lives near me.  I have seen her in many different outfits.  I have seen her in a sun dress, a pancho,  a spring dress, back to a rainsuit, and a nursing outfit.  I have seen her holding an umbrella and wearing a huge variety of hats and bonnets.  And on Easter Sunday she was a shepherd, with a small flock of sheep she was tending to, with large colored goose eggs beneath her.

This week, she has been fishing....  I have held back snapping pictures of her, but I cannot any longer.  She makes my drive to and from work a little bit more exciting, because I can't wait to see if she has a new activity she is all set for.

Stay tuned to see what else she'll be spotted in next!

Monday, April 26, 2010


I never knew Robert.  Never got to see his smiling face in person.  Never got to hear his laughter.  Never got to watch him learn to crawl, then walk, then run.  Never got to see the joy in his eyes that small children are capable of at the littlest things.  

But today, I watched him grow up.  I got to see him as a newborn.  A growing baby.  A toddler sitting around in diapers.  A youngster discovering the absolute joys of a blue magic marker and hands and face and legs and everything in between.

I got to see all the many people that touched him.  All the people he touched.  The souls he enriched in almost 6 1/2 years.  

Picture after picture on the screen.  Sorting, sampling, deciding.  Admiring, staring.  Crying.  Seeing hurt that is just as raw in 2010 as it was in 2002. 

Somehow feeling a piece of that hurt myself.   Somehow, in seeing all those snap shots in time, I felt like I watched Little Robert grow up.  I felt like I had been there.  I felt like I had touched him.  Like he had come off the screen and into my life.  For a moment.  

But, I hadn't known him.  Never saw his smile.  Never heard his laughter.  Never touched his soft perfect skin.  And I never will have the opportunity...

But he touched me nonetheless.

Choices people make in their own lives nearly always impact someone else.  In this case... a young man made a choice to drink and drive.  His choice affected so so so many people.  

And still is.

And forever will. 

If you want to know a bit more about Robert Jr, copy and paste:

Monday, March 29, 2010


Just a small noise.  Just a little vibration.... just a peep in the right spot at the right time.....

That's all it would take, and this would come tumbling down....

Ever feel like that?  Like just one more word.... one more gesture, one more look....  and the explosion will happen.....??

Been there.  Done that.

Sometimes though... if you can hold it together long enough.... spring comes and a nice thaw allows it to melt away harmlessly.

Words spoken can not be unsaid......

Saturday, March 6, 2010

The Road To....

The road spoke to me. It is filled with possibilities. It is crisp and clean in its borders, yet its destination is unknown. Unless you were to take the time to follow it.

And if you take the time to follow it, there are many things to notice. There are tracks that sort of parallel the road. Did someone else want to explore the road, but decide to do it their own way?

There are power lines that are taking power to.... some one. Somewhere. Do I know them? Do I care?

And is it more interesting to know that the road was photographed while driving on a highway above it?

In some ways, I was following that road. In others, I was taking my own way.

But for a moment in time, I paused to reflect just where does the road go to??

Friday, January 1, 2010

Sparkling New Year

These were from a few weeks ago, but they strike me as crystal. Shiny. New. Sparkly.

Just like a new year.....

Happy New Year.