A hole in my soul tonight.

BUCK

~2000 to 2018

It is with a heavy yet grateful heart that I sit at my computer to write.
Our dearest, toughest, bestest canine friend left this Earthly world for the next chapter in his journey.
Buck came to us in July 2009.  He was walking in the Saratoga 4th of July parade with his human helper, Cheryl Bressler.  She was trying to find him a forever home as he had been living in the Casper shelter for more than a year.  Gracelyn was in the BOB (our version of a jogging stroller) waving her flag, and I was peering up at the hot late morning sun wondering if I’d put enough sunscreen on her face and mine.  I glanced back at the parade and there was a chocolate Labrador Retriever staring intently right at me.  AT. ME.  The Saratoga parade is not huge, but it is a community gathering so there are always many, many people lined up on both sides of the street.
Buck stared at me.  And kept staring as his human, Cheryl, walked on down the street.  I couldn’t get the look from him out of my mind.  He had keen, brown eyes that seemed to be trying to get something across to me.
We left the parade, walked home (because in Saratoga you can do that) and I called Greg to tell him about the chocolate Labrador with the intense eyes.  Then I called Cheryl to find out details.  She said he was staying at the small shelter in Saratoga, by the police station.  We could certainly go pick him up and see how he did with us for a day or two.
Gracelyn and I headed over.  Buck was beside himself!  He jumped as high as the gate latch, all four feet off the ground at the same time.  Briefly, I wondered what I’d gotten us into.  But his exuberance at being with humans was, well, charming.  We got him into the car and home and into the yard where he could meet Timmy, our aged Springer Spaniel.  They got along famously.  Greg drove up to meet him and we both decided that night Buck was not going back to the shelter.
And so began our life with Buck.  He was nine or 10 years old, per the shelter papers, and had been surrendered because he “ran away.”  Hmmm…we had a fenced yard, what could go wrong?  He was positive for Giardia and weighed only 57 lbs with raging diarrhea.  Again, what could go wrong?
Many, many breakouts later (including being picked up by the Saratoga policeman that Greg subsequently sweet-talked into giving him back to us) and over a year of ground hamburger and baked sweet potatoes and Buck was well on the way to health.
We left Saratoga and moved down to the ranch where Buck quickly set up a morning routine: scout the fence line for break-ins from the coyotes, head up the mountain to do Lord knows what and eventually sun himself in the yard.
He became a foster parent to our missing Max.  They were best buddies and Buck taught him everything…including how to roam up the mountain and across the river.  Not such a great lesson and Max didn’t come home one day.
Buck became a foster parent once again when we brought home Aengus, a sort of step-brother to Max (same mom, a year later).  He dutifully taught him how to lift his leg and to roughhouse.  All within a fenced yard so no checking the fence line down by the barn or heading up the mountain.
The last few winters have been pretty hard on our Buck as his hips have protested the cold and ice.  Each winter I thought was going to be the last, but by some miracle, Buck would make it, the snow would melt, the sun would warm the ground and he’d be out there laying in the grass that was trying to sprout.  And we’d go through the summer, then the fall and I’d dread the winter coming, knowing it would be so difficult for him to manage on the snow and ice.  But he just kept going, our own Energizer Bunny.  Never complaining, always with the wagging tail.
No matter how cold or how much snow, every time I’d return home from a weekend of work, he’d come to greet me on the path to the door.
The last month though Buck seemed to not be Buck anymore.  Sort of a shell of his former self.  Old age does that, shrinking the physical body, clouding the senses.  He slept a lot, but was also uncomfortable a lot.
I procrastinated.  I did not want my rescued chocolate Labrador with the intense brown eyes to leave me.
I know about death of beloved canine companions.  I have lost several.  Each one left an indelible mark on my soul.   And a hole in my heart when their Earthly journey was through.
To me it seemed that Buck was hanging on, holding on with what strength he could muster.  I just couldn’t figure out why.  I wondered if maybe he was waiting until our missing Max came home.  I wondered if he was waiting for us to find another little buddy for Aengus.
I never wondered if he was holding on for me.
It finally came to me last night, that maybe, just maybe, he WAS holding on for me.  For me to be alright with him leaving.  For me to be OK with him moving on.  For me to accept the Circle of Life and understand that he had been on this earth 18 or 19 years, much longer than normal for Labrador Retrievers, and that it was simply time for him to go.  That his body couldn’t handle much more…he would do it for me…and he had been doing it for me, but it was costing him.
So, with a heavy heart yet a so very grateful heart, I gave him the gift of death today.  At 3:00 pm, Buck left his physical body.  And left a hole in my soul.
My chocolate Labrador with the intense brown eyes was a spiritual being having a canine experience.  And wasn’t I the lucky one to be able to share it with him.
Thank you Buck for your time here with us.  Thank you Great Spirit/Great Mystery/the Universe for the gift of his life.
Blessed Be.
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Time for happy thoughts.

Happy thoughts like the kind that make you laugh so hard you float up to the ceiling for a tea party with Mary Poppins and Bert and the kids.

Or happy thoughts that make you fly again like Peter Banning when he remembers how to be a Lost Boy in Never Never Land.  Bang-a-rang!  (I miss Robin Williams. He was a perfect Peter Pan who forgot he was Peter Pan and then remembered again. Oops…not so happy.  Bang-a-rang Robin Williams wherever your beautiful spirit is flying today!)

Happy thoughts like when you look outside all of a sudden and see nothing but big, fat, white flakes falling from the heavens, blanketing the trees and the hills and the Jungle Fort out back.

Happy thoughts like the first sip of the first cup of coffee in the morning.  Ahhhh, nirvana.

I have found it so easy to feel like I’m drowning in the ugliness and the chaos and the inhumanity of the current state of affairs in this country.

My last post spoke to the jumbled-up-ness of my psyche as it tries to digest the news of the past week, let alone the past one and a half years.  Putting a misogynistic, sexual predator who defends domestic abusers in the White House will likely be remembered as one of America’s absolute worst acts ever.  Ever.  The psychic trauma of this last year and a half for those of us who don’t subscribe to the beliefs of the xenophobic, racist, sexist bully’s regime is great and may take years to recover from.

It’s been a delicate dance since November 2016.  Too much news and politics and I yell at the radio and say bad words and feel knots in my stomach.  Not enough news and politics and I feel that I’ll miss something that will be the turning point, the coup de grace, the final blow to this national nightmare.  From which we can all wake up and resume being civilized humans in a civilized society again.  (Nota bene:  dearest daughter Gracelyn won’t let me change the station too often, asking me if I remember what happened the last time I consciously did that?  She’ll answer me in her sweet, sing-song voice:  “Comey was fired.”  And so we leave it on the news station.  I think we’re both just waiting for words that will make us have faith again.)

I published the last post (My “And So I Stayed” story) on another site on Sunday morning and was overwhelmed by the responses.  Affirmations of what I’d written, stories of others’ experiences, kindnesses, love, gratitude, appreciation…just generally the best part of our collective humanity.  It was truly humbling.

And so freeing.  I have felt a bit lighter since initially getting the words out.  Sunshine truly is Nature’s best disinfectant.

Sunshine.  That’s a happy thought.  Usually in the middle of winter, I’m content for gray days with snow and blustery winds and freezing temperatures.  Perfect for sledding or skiing or drinking hot cocoa (for her) and hot coffee (for me).  Or snowball fights, or making forts, or throwing snowballs.  But this winter hasn’t turned out to be much of a winter, with a paltry amount of snow on the ground and bare spots every where you turn.  We had mud in the drive already.  Mud.  And exposed grass in the front.  It’s only the middle of February.  I don’t care what that groundhog said.  I don’t see much winter left.  So when it gets like this, I think my Spring Fever sets in and I’d just rather get to the sunshine.  And the sprouting grass and the buds on the aspen trees.  And the sun rising higher, not hidden behind the mountain on its shallow arc across the sky.  Instead, blazing a path right overhead.

So sunshine is my happy thought today.

“You’ll never know dear, how much I love you….please don’t take my sunshine away.”

Blessings be.

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And so I stayed…

The first bloody nose happened not long after we started dating.  But he was sincerely sorry. So I stayed.

The yelling and the name-calling started not long after we became engaged.  But he was, always, sincerely sorry.  So I stayed.

The second bloody nose happened after we were happily married.  But again, he was sincerely sorry.  So I stayed.

The bruises, both physical and emotional, were sprinkled throughout the relationship.  The fault was always mine.  Or that’s how he made it seem.  So I stayed.

Because how could anyone else ever put up with me? How could anyone else ever love me as much as he did?  Tolerating my hysterical outbursts, my neediness, my emotional swings (hormones anyone?).  Who else would stick around, if not him?  So I stayed.

One time I fought back.  My open hand connected with his face.  He took to the bed, gave me the cold shoulder, wouldn’t respond to my pleading, my begging for forgiveness.  Finally, after much groveling on my part, he said “how could you hit me?  I can’t believe you hit me.”  I had no words to say except “I’m so sorry.”  Over and over and over.  And I stayed.

I was ashamed.  I was embarrassed.  I was humiliated.  Me, the smart one.  Me, the feminist.  Me, the one who seemed to have it all together.  How could I possibly have let this happen to me?  I began to internalize the emotional abuse, began to turn on myself, began to doubt myself.  Maybe all the things he said to me, about me, were true.  Maybe I was a lunatic, a crazy bitch, a nutcase.  Maybe I did deserve to be pushed around, to be bullied by his size and his strength.  Maybe I was worthless.  So I stayed.

I never found the words that would have stood up for my battered self.  I never found the courage to stand my ground, to say “NO MORE.”  I never found the love for myself that would have enabled me to feel I was worth so much more than what I was getting.

In retrospect, the end of the marriage was a mutual parting of ways, after time spent apart, for reasons due to school, residencies, jobs.  Once again, though, I was a coward.    My best friend ever, my beloved Golden Retriever Calvin was diagnosed with lymphoma and died within weeks.  I was devastated.  Two weeks later, he called to say he was filing the divorce papers.  Not “Happy Birthday. How are you?  Do you miss Calvin?”  Emotionally abusive, in his way, to the end.  I never confronted him.  I hid behind the age-worn excuse of “we both want different things out of life, so we should go our separate ways.”  It seemed easier to not say anything.  Just like it had been easier not to say anything during the ten years we were together.

I thought by signing the papers, by taking back my name, I would be shedding that part of me that had been abused.  That by walking away, the scars would disappear and I could pretend as if none of it had happened.

Funny thing about scar tissue though…it doesn’t lay down in nice, neat, straight, parallel lines that fit perfectly into the lanes of life.  Scar tissue forms in clumps that can knot up and disrupt the best laid plans.  Scar tissue can form and lay low for a while, not causing any problems.  Until one day, life tries to travel down that path and WHAMMO! BAM! Road block.  Cause there’s no moving smoothly over ginormous balled-up adhesions.  There are triggers, I will be honest.  I have a personal space now that if I feel is being invaded, I will defend mightily.  I can’t watch movies that have even the slightest hint of domestic physical abuse without my heart rate accelerating and my respirations increasing.  I have been angry of late.  At the bullies in our world…the men in positions of power, the stories that are coming out, the ones not told, the ones not believed.

The stigma of being “one who stayed” rears its head often in my life.  The father of my daughter, my second husband, has said countless times over the years that he just cannot understand how a woman would go back for more abuse.  We have this conversation a lot. I used to get pretty worked up when I was trying to explain it to him.  I’m far enough away from it now that I have the ability to dial down the emotion so that I don’t explode out of my skin. He has a hard time reconciling the knowledge of me, his wife who is a passionate feminist, who has two professional medical degrees, who is a successful parent/homeschool teacher/employee outside the home, as ever being “one who stayed.”  I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve tried to explain it.  But to be honest, it’s as if I’m speaking ancient Greek and he’s speaking Cherokee (which is in his family tree, so I can say that without being disrespectful).  To him, it is unfathomable that a woman would stay in a relationship with a man who is physically abusive.  To him, that woman is simply stupid.

And therein lies the stigma.  And the dichotomy.  I stayed.  I am not stupid.  I am actually a pretty smart person.  But. I. Stayed.

I anticipate running into another clump of scar tissue soon.  Our daughter is 11 years old now.  She is strong, in every sense of the word.  She is physically strong, but she is also emotionally strong.  Strong-willed and strongly opinionated.  She is passionate and intelligent and has a fine sense of right and wrong. How do I tell her that her mother was “one who stayed?”

And dear Goddess of the Universe, how can I help her be one who won’t?

 

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Legacies

leg·a·cy
ˈleɡəsē
noun
noun: legacy; plural noun: legacies
  1. 1.
    an amount of money or property left to someone in a will.
    synonyms: bequestinheritanceheritageendowmentgiftpatrimonysettlementbirthright;

    formalbenefaction
    “a legacy from a great aunt”
    • a thing handed down by a predecessor.
      “the legacy of centuries of neglect”
      synonyms: consequenceeffectupshotspin-offrepercussionaftermath, by-product, result

      “a legacy of the wars”

      (Thank you Google for the above.)

 Legacy:  a thing handed down by a predecessor

Something to think about this MLKJr Day, am I right?  Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr certainly left a legacy.  He handed down to us words, dreams, thoughts, calls to action.

He would have been 89 years young this year.  What would he think about this country today? Would he take a knee, bow his head and speak his big words of “love…together…peace?”  Would he link arms with John Lewis, Michelle and Barack and the rest of us hurting at this time of strife in our country?  What would he tell us if we could stand and listen to his fiery oration?  Would he still have a dream?

Would he think we had squandered all of what has come before us–the suffering and the sacrifices that he and his brethren made for the rights of all?  Would he be angry that we hadn’t done more, that we had wasted time, that we are all still not sitting at the same table?

Or would he clasp hands with each and every one of us, wrap us in a hug, and tell us that “Love is the key to the problems of the world?”  Would he tell us to stay strong, to believe in the movement, to not give up, to keep marching?

I heard this on the night that Barack Obama was elected President in 2008:

“Rosa Parks sat so that Martin Luther King could walk.

Martin Luther King, Jr walked so that Barack Obama could run.

Barack Obama ran so that our children could fly.”

The above was reworded by Jay-Z from the original wording uttered by Cleo Fields, former Congressman and State Senator from Louisiana:

“W.E.B. Dubois taught so that Rosa Parks could take a seat. Rosa took a seat so we all could take a stand. We all took a stand so that Martin Luther King Jr. could march. Martin marched so Jesse Jackson could run. Jesse ran so Obama could WIN.”

Either way the words are a testament to the giants who have come before us.  We must carry on their legacy.  We must remember Martin’s big words: love, peace, together, dreams.

We must stand and march and run and dream and fly.  This country is depending on us.

Again, I quote Joseph Kennedy:

“To those who have been given much, much is expected in return.”

It is time for us to give.

 

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Musings by Grace (guest post)

(Untitled)

December night,

warm and bright inside.

Fresh arroz on the table,

Peas, so delicious, make it

stable.

Baked pollo, spicy shrimp,

outside the snowflakes

fall.

A large white cake, sprinkled

with snowy sugar and

sparkles.

A happy family birthday.

 

and

 

Silence Has a Sound

Though you don’t notice for all the

noise around,

Silence has a sound.

The whisper-roaring you hear,

Every time you put a shell to your ear.

The Hush-shush of skis on snow,

The shifting of an ice flow.

Marching ant feet,

making something, to them, so sweet.

The pop, pop, pop of an octopus underwater.

The clip-clop , clip-clop of a relentless

horse trotter.

The crash-clang-bang of a fight with

swords,

The power of a few words.

The scritch-scratch of a pen,

Telling not where but when.

Silence is made up of all the

sounds in the world,

Curled

In on its self.

Silence has a sound.

Silence has a sound,

the world ’round.

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Exclusive: Sources: General Flynn ‘Wept’ As He Asked FBI to Spare Mike Flynn Jr

The noose tightens ever so much more.
The long, national nightmare of this last year may indeed be on its way to being over.
I fear we have a long journey ahead of us, but there is light ahead.

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The wheels of time

I am sure if I had a few extra seconds in my day I could go back through the archives of “Excerpts from the Diary of a MadRanchWife” and find words written at about this time each year, describing the melancholia that seems to descend upon my countenance.

We had a long discussion this morning about the conundrum we encounter each year at this time.  My daughter is living up to her mini-me status in yet another way.  She senses the passage of time as acutely as I do.  She is as melancholy as I when she steps outside and feels the need to add a sweater due to the autumnal chill.  She must also intuit the changing sunlight, the different arc the orb traces through the sky each day, the loss of the brightness as it travels overhead.

I told her how truly conflicted I am at this time each year…saddened at the waning days of summer (we have such a truly, short summer here), the loss of our beloved flower garden, the exit of our zinging hummingbird friends as they head south for warmer climes.  The regret at lists not completed, projects not even started, hikes not taken, books not read.

We talked about feeling despondent and powerless over time marching on, despite our very best efforts at attempting to lasso it and hold it still, long enough to eke out just one more day of summer, one more night of backyard camping, one more s’more, one more day sitting on the front porch smelling the flowers and watching the hummers dip and dive and fly crazily about.

And then we began the slow turn to musing about the myriad of wonders that fall brings, in all of its splendor.  We spy the beginnings of the leaf changes, first the ground cover, followed by the willows beginning their dance of rust and red, then the wild rose bushes, with their bright red rose hip berries and yellow-gold leaves.  Finally the aspens start, at the very tippy-top, with a few leaves sporting new colors, usually varying shades of gold.  I anticipate a lovely fall, bursting at the seams with varying hues, a result of the many rainy days in August.

We talk about the smell of fall–fallen leaves, musty earth.  We talk about the tastes of fall–the biggest, crispest, sweetest apples of the year.

And we both come to the inevitable conclusion that though we are loathe to leave summer, we welcome the autumn with open arms, with all of the awe it has to offer.

We make a pact to enjoy what each day has to offer, to try not to live with regrets for things not done.  We decide to be grateful for what we have before us, to not be saddened that the wheels of time continue turning, despite our best efforts to hold them still.

This is the blessing of my life–to be able to share with my daughter the bittersweet lessons of letting go and learning how to live in the moment.  I don’t always get it right, but knowing I have a kindred spirit to share my path helps to soothe my soul.  Knowing that her life has been entrusted to me, by the Universe, to guide and teach and shelter along the way helps me to look forward to trying to be a better person, a better mother.

Blessings be.

 

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