Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Empty Couch

On Monday afternoon, my daughter and I took our precious boxer, Toby, to the vet and lovingly caressed him as we had him put to sleep.  Grief for me is a very private thing.  I can't speak of my loss without crying, so I don't talk about it.  The hurt is so deep I tiptoe around it -- allowing myself to think about it only in brief increments -- until enough time has passed to soften the edges. 

But, tonight I must write about it -- in memory of Toby -- and let my tears flow in solitude.  You see, we had to make the choice to put this beloved dog to sleep -- at only five years old -- a strong, healthy boy, who we loved so much.  We have had some issues with food aggression between him and our Yorkie, which have been worrisome.  However, on Monday, as we sat at the lunch table with my little granddaughter, he snarled and lunged at her as she sat eating her peanut butter sandwich.  Peanut butter was Toby's favorite.  Fortunately, he didn't bite her -- just brushed her face, but we realized that we couldn't ever trust him with our little ones again.

What a terrible decision to have to make.  I have loved this dog since he was a tiny pup.  We have been through all sorts of health issues with him -- stomach surgery, cardiac issues -- and through it all we were there to hold him and love him.  He was a lap dog from the start -- and even took his last ride to the vet on my lap -- all 70 pounds of him.

My daughter is devastated -- he was her baby.  And seeing my precious daughter grieve intensifies my own.  There are reminders of him everywhere I turn -- I expect to see him jumping up into the air when I come home; the couch on the porch where he would stretch out and sleep brings tears to my eyes.  I can't get his face out of my mind as he passed from this life --

When you have pets, there are inevitable losses and grief, but somehow this is one of the worst -- there was no time to prepare for it, no illness or injury that made it necessary.  This was just a horrible choice that had to be made, and it will haunt us for a long time.

In the meantime, though, I will hold my grief closely to my heart, and in time, the pain will ease a bit.  I will be able to think about him and laugh at his crazy antics, and remember his soft, happy face snuggled against me as he slept on my lap.  But for now, I try to think of other things and keep busy, and deal with the little bits of pain that I can handle.  I was always the one to pull the bandaid off slowly and gently, never ripping it off in one quick pull.

Godspeed, Toby -- I love you!!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Oh What a Beautiful Weekend

After a busy and difficult week, filled with a pervasive sadness as I marked the second anniversary of my sister's death, I was rewarded with a weekend of pleasure.  Saturday morning I rose early to mow my lawn and grocery shop -- getting these mundane chores out of the way as quickly as possible.  In the early afternoon my cousin and I went to Pine Hollow Arboretum, a beautiful haven in the midst of the little hamlet of Slingerlands.

The Arboretum is a 25 acre parcel of land which has been lovingly tended by Dr. John Abbuhl and his wife for years.  We were graciously welcomed at the Visitors' Center by Kay Abbuhl, and, map in hand, began our stroll through this most lovely acreage.  As we walked the trails through wooded areas dotted with ponds, I felt a lightening of spirit.  The residence is surrounded with lovely plantings, and graced with a hillside waterfall gently flowing midst greenery and flowers.  Water lilies in several colors float on the surface of the ponds, and black raspberry bushes hide along the paths.  Benches here and there beckon you to linger.  We startled a deer as we walked and he darted away across a small field to hide in a stand of pines.  We strolled and talked, and were soothed by the beauty of the natural world surrounding us.  We came back to my house and sat on the porch for a bit, relaxed and content from our afternoon wanderings.

Last evening my brother-in-law came for dinner.  We enjoyed a dinner of grilled steaks, baked potatoes, and sauteed vegetables, and sipped wine on the porch as the evening waned.  Bill is an interesting person, and our evening was low-key and relaxing.  He brought over some old photographs he had found in the house, and as I looked through them last evening, I was excited to find several photos I did not remember seeing before -- of ancestors I had come to know through my genealogical research.  Now these photos will become part of the family history I am working on.

This morning I slept in a bit and let the day slowly begin, reading my newspaper with coffee at hand, and then watering my plants before the hot summer sun rose higher in the sky.  I prepared a potato salad and roasted a chicken for an early dinner with my father-in-law.  Once again, after dinner, we sat on the shady porch, talking away the afternoon as the heat and humidity of July began to deepen.

The week ahead will be busy and most likely carry its share of stresses into my life, but I am so thankful for the gift of this peaceful weekend.  What more could one ask than two days filled with the pleasures of nature, good wine, good food, and the company of beloved family.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011


I walked at dusk tonight, along the sidewalks I have walked for almost forty years.  My heart is heavy -- it has been one of those weeks that weigh on your soul.  As I walked I thought how many times through the years I had walked these same streets with deep sadness in my heart.  And I thought about choices -- the choices we make in our lives -- the choices that are often forced upon us by a sense of duty to the ones we love -- our children, our grandchildren.  They never really know the magnitude of the choices we made -- whether to leave or to stay.  They only know that we are here and they are loved, and that is really all they need to know.

But tonight, as I walked, the phrase "cold-hearted bitch" played in my head from a supper conversation with my husband, and I wondered how different things might have been if I had left.  It never seemed that I really had a choice.  But, tonight I wondered, as I walked these familiar streets alone --

Life is a series of choices -- and it seems that so many times I have made the wrong ones. 

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Let's Save America!!!

There is something terribly wrong today in the financial and political systems in our nation.  The rich get richer and the poor get poorer, and our country is at risk of losing status in the global community.  The Republicans claim the Democrats do not want to make the difficult decisions which will improve the economy (meaning budget cuts) and the cuts the Democrats do make seem to be those that impact the most vulnerable in our society -- the poor and the children.  The Republicans refuse to impose taxes on the wealthy, mistakenly believing still in the "trickle down" effect.

In my opinion, our most serious problem is GREED -- unadulterated greed for money and for power.  We have gradually veered off course.  The United States was once the "land of opportunity" for anyone who wanted to work hard.  Ordinary men built thriving businesses that fed their own families and provided employees with adequate wages and benefits and pride in their accomplishments.  It was possible for young men of limited means to aspire to political positions and actually win elections based on merit and knowledge.

Now, our financial world is comprised of huge corporations whose CEO's make astronomical salaries, while their workers often barely make a living wage.  The small businesses which built this great country are a thing of the past -- "Main Street" has been replaced by big-box stores and malls lined with chain stores.  Small shops cannot possibly compete with the buying power of these mega-stores.  

Our politicians must have bottomless treasure chests of campaign funds to win an election, and unless they are already extremely wealthy, a great deal of these funds come from contributions from large corporations, leaving even the most honest politician walking a fine line between doing what he thinks is best for the country or doing what he needs to do to maintain the financial support of his corporate "sponsors".

The motivation in business today is GREED.  He who can make the most money and maintain the most lavish lifestyle is the winner.  What does it matter to him if the people who work for him do not earn a living wage.  He is successful, respected and powerful, and that is what counts in America today.  To Hell with ethics, as long as he can build his own little empire.

The motiviation in politics is GREED FOR POWER.  There is, as always, a huge divide between the principles of both political parties.  The Democrats traditionally support the common man and feel a responsibility to care for the disadvantaged, while promoting more liberal social causes such as abortion and gay marriate.  The Republicans traditionally support the health of big business and the deep-rooted morals of their predominantly Chrisitan members.  We need the ideas from both parties to save our country -- to make it once again a society where people really do have opportunities to better themselves, take pride in their work, have adequate health care, and a safety net during hard times.  BUT, today our politicians refuse to work together for the common good.  They are much more concerned with their own political power than with any compromise.  Partisanship is alive and well because of this tremendous greed for power.

Please take some time to ponder the following questions.  In order for things to change in this country, we all must look directly at the problems that face us and speak out. 

1.  Why are corporate profits up tremendously, yet our unemployment rates rise?

2.  Why do average citizens pay taxes on everything, yet large corporations often get tax breaks at the same time they are paying no taxes on their profits?

3.  Why, when a school budget is voted down by taxpayers, are the first cuts made in teachers and programs that benefit children, rather than in administrative positions?

4.  Why does it cost $900 for a health insurance policy for a couple in a group plan, and $1900 for the exact same plan when the couple is no longer in a group?
             (And, yet, the Republicans scoff at health care reform and fight it diligently)

5.  Why do developers hold communities hostage for tax breaks to build facilities there?

6.  Why can't there be some time limit on political campaigning, to avoid this almost constant preoccupation with the next election, when there is critical work to be done in our legislative bodies NOW?

7.  Why can't there be some regulation on our corporate and financial insitutions which guarantees a living wage for employees?
             (And, "minimum wage" is definitely not a "living wage".  By living wage, I mean a wage that allows a person to pay for decent housing, healthy food, health insurance, and necessities)

8.  With the high cost of college, how are our young people going to get the education they need to succeed, without mortgaging their future with huge student loans?

9.  If they raise the age limits for Social Security and Medicare, what will happen to those people who are in poor health before they are eligible to retire?

10.  Why, why, why can't the Democrats and Republicans work together to solve the serious financial problems of this country.  Can't they for once put aside the issue of "power" and forge their differing views into policies that will make this country once again a "Land of Opportunity" for us all?

Please think about these questions, talk about them, write about them, and get your opinions heard.  The common people must begin to take back our country and make it a better place to live.

Friday, July 1, 2011

The Peace Which Passeth All Understanding

The evening is marked with birdsong, as tiny birds fly from tree to feeder for one last snack before settling into their roosts for the night.  It becomes quieter, as dusk falls gently, and I begin to hear a cricket or two.  As much as I love early mornings, these summer evenings are a comfort beyond compare.  The setting sun has faded behind the trees, and nature pauses in that moment when the birds, chipmunks and squirrels find their way home and the crickets, bats, rabbits and deer begin their nighttime foraging.

How lovely it feels to sit here in solitude at the beginning of this new month.  The past few months have been a study in contradictions.  There have been moments of deep joy, such as the birth of my granddaughter, Emma, interspersed with troubles and stresses.  We are struggling through the bankruptcy of our business; my husband was hospitalized in early June and is still not totally recovered.  My children's lives have been filled with stress and turmoil.  In the midst of this all, though, there have been beautiful celebrations to treasure -- a baby shower for my God-daughter at Brunswick Greens Country Club in a lovely room whose windows provide a sweeping view of the Berkshire Mountains, a 40th anniversary party for my in-laws at my son's beautiful new house, family gatherings for birthdays and Fathers' Day, and an overnight visit from a close friend.  These are the moments that balance the bad times.

And now July is here again and brings with it the second anniversary of my sister's death.  As I sit here tonight, I remember evenings on this porch with her -- sipping wine and laughing.  Who knew our precious times together were numbered, and who knew my tears would still flow when I think of her.

Life is not easy nor predictable.  We must savor the good times with those we love and work to create myriad memories to cherish and carry with us through the difficult times.

On an evening such as this, I feel at peace in the knowledge that the Lord who created this beautifully complicated natural world of ours also holds our souls in his gentle hands.  Darkness is now enveloping my little porch and the silence is deepening -- broken only by the occasional bat squealing through the night sky.  My soul is quieted and I am thankful for the blessing of this old porch and my peaceful gardens, and this lovely first day of July.