Goodbye, my Jewel

•December 29, 2011 • 3 Comments

I imagine, in the beginning, she was a shy pup amidst the other greyhounds.  Perhaps she already knew, because she was black, that she was less desirable.  Black greyhounds are not wanted or well-liked on the racetrack or once off.  They are the hardest to find homes for.  But Jewel excelled.  She became a winner.  Then she became a mother to litters of potential winners.

When Jewel came to us as a foster dog at the age of eight, she’d been “off the farm” for one week.  We were told Jewel hadn’t eaten in three days.  We picked her up and drove around the corner to Wendy’s.  We bought a hamburger for her, and she ate it all, meat and bun in two gulps.  That evening, our old dog left his bowl, and Jewel moved in before we realized it and ate her own plus his, then moved on to what the other greyhound had left.  Okay, so she could eat just fine.

At the time, we had a houseful of four-legged kids.  Harley was our eldest—a true hound who moved slower but still maintained his Alpha status and occasionally scared us to death when we let him off-lead (that boy could run in his day, even if he wasn’t a greyhound).  Ladybug, an earlier greyhound rescue, was our carefree “I’m the center of the universe” girl who was too distracted by her adoring human fans to ever be a good racer but ended up stealing the hearts of everyone she ever met.  Cleo, our calico kitty, was and still is the bravest and sneakiest in our household (she’s taught more than a few greyhounds not to mess with a cat).  And Bijou, the female golden tiger kitty, was (and also still is) the most loving cat I’ve ever experienced, right up-in-the-face all over you if you can take it (the claws are something else, but the love makes up for it every single day).

Given the full house, we believed we were capable of fostering vs. adopting.  Then we got the first call about a home for Jewel—no fence.  Nope, we were sure she needed space to run, even if she was eight.  Another call.  They didn’t have any other greyhounds.  We knew that wouldn’t be good enough for Jewel.  She needed other greyhounds more than she needed us.

As the weeks passed and we received call after call of possible homes for Jewel, we came to realize that no home was good enough for Jewel … because she had become our Jewel.  Yes, she was skittish.  In the greyhound world, we call them “spooks” because they’ve been so hurt by what they went through that they don’t trust humans fully, no matter what we do.  But she fit with us.

Jewel never fully got over all that happened before she came to us, but she overcame much.  She embraced our four-legged family, and she loved Ladybug from day one.  Ladybug literally was her world.  She learned to love us, too—the humans—as much as she loved her animal friends.  And I still wish I could have captured on camera the way she stood there patiently while Bijou rubbed against her and snaked around her long legs.

We lost Harley first—at the age of 17, four years ago on the day after Thanksgiving.  Last year in the spring, we lost Ladybug to cancer—and endured that sparkle going out of her eyes.

I think Jewel might have passed away sooner, but she knew we needed her.  We even adopted an abandoned 12-year-old Italian Greyhound, Twiggie (for us, for Twiggie, whose human mother died, and also for Jewel, who had no dogs left in the house).  And Jewel treated the “new kid” like a baby and loved her with all her heart.

She held out as long as she could, supporting us through our own grief.  But Jewel was fourteen and a half years old.  She had the equivalent of Alzheimer’s, her back hips were shot, and she was still lonely, pining for her babies and her Ladybug.  She told us it was time.  We had raced with her to the end, and we had to let go.  It was peaceful for her, perhaps the first time she had truly felt that way since Ladybug passed.  It was devastating to let her go, but I know our beautiful Jewel had friends waiting for her across the Rainbow Bridge.

I know she still holds us dear to her and wishes us the best … especially now that she’s winning every race up there, somewhere, and playing with her dear friend, Ladybug, once again.

I wrote a poem a while back when Jewel wasn’t doing too well.  I rewrote it upon her passing … my legacy to her.

Black Gold
                —For Our Jewel, Who Passed

I would like to have seen that lithe black
body hasten the wind in the trees, to watch
that sable frame run with pure grace.

Jewel, named Black Gold when she raced,
is fourteen.  Today, she stumbles, the harness
she wears her only support.  She cannot stand.

She cries, confused.  She can’t sleep, and I don’t want to,
feeling every minute is her last.  Just one more is enough,
I think, knowing better.  But today is her day, the last.

Is there such a thing as black lightning?
She raced three years—one-hundred races.
Three quarters wins but still no freedom.

They wouldn’t let her go, had to make more.
It was Jewel’s lot to breed winners.  Now she babies
toys that don’t breathe or talk back, always the mother.

Born black, she was expendable.  That’s the way,
even with greyhounds.  Ironically, we never learn.
But these days the gray covets her black, and all is equal.

Jewel loved her own, misses them and searches
in vain, moving in the rhythm of her aching body.
More medicine made it tolerable—for a little while.

She’s not a complainer, never has been, despite the pain.
Jewel’s my special miss.  My right old girl who forgets
the day. No longer can eat.  Her bones show.

She doesn’t remember me most of the time,
but she’s my Jewel.  And she taught me so much.
I only hope someone will see me this way someday.

Color her black again.
Watch her run.

——————————————————————————————–

Once again, thanks for “listening.”

Keep writing; keep sharing.

Anne

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SPLINTERED MEMORIES

•December 13, 2011 • 1 Comment

My long-time friend and colleague, Leslie M. Rupracht, has a book of poetry soon to be released—Splintered Memories.

I have had the privilege of reading much of Leslie’s poetry, and am familiar with many of these pieces.  But not until I viewed this entire manuscript did I understand fully the magnitude of Leslie’s accomplishment.  She has chosen poetry as her art form, and what this book becomes is much more than a collection.  This is a holistic chronicle, a biography and autobiography, crafted by emotion and presented with unerring honesty and insight. The progression of this mother-daughter story finds voice through vivid sensory details—as in the poem “The Art of Taste”—as well as starkly portrayed loss—as in the poem “What She Bears.”

You don’t need to love poetry to connect with this book … you just need to love a mother.  This is a must read for the holiday season!  You can preorder your copy now at discount by visiting http://www.mainstreetrag.com/LRupracht.html.

Congratulations, Leslie!

Just One …

•May 20, 2011 • 7 Comments

… something special … is all we need.  Just one moment—each day.

I require inspiration to write my blogs.  I’m not that “write every day or even once a week” disciplined kind of gal (so you’ve noticed).  But when it comes, it truly does inspire me to say something.  Tonight, that something is rather small, by outward appearances, but big to me.

I’ve had a day of ups and downs—like most days for most everyone.  Then I received some notes from a friend who had a very bad week of physical and emotional turmoil.  And I talked to my love, who doesn’t sleep so much and hurts most of the time.  Then I talked to my mom, who is 85 and lives in pain every day and never sleeps, it seems.

I couldn’t fix their pain.  I couldn’t give them palpable relief.  Despite what I couldn’t do, I do know I gave support and, perhaps, a little comfort to each of them by knowing that I care, that I love them.

I work in a world of PC’s and Blackberries.  I’m used to being alone, communicating mostly by the magic of the internet.  At times, I chide myself for not socializing enough or having enough face-to-face time—with clients, with friends, with family.  Today, I was blessed with a little magic of my own, I think.  I don’t know how or why, but I was attuned to the “nature of things” and realized who and what needed my attention.

I also realized that attention didn’t mean being physically near someone in order to be with them.  And having distance from someone tangibly didn’t mean I wasn’t with them when it counted, when they needed me.

It was simply being there that mattered.  I talked on the phone to my love this afternoon.  I sent instant messages to my friend throughout the night.  I had a two-hour, long-distance conversation with my mom.  I did what I could, and sometimes that really is enough.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not applying for martyrdom just yet.  I have plenty of negligent moments (as past blogs can attest).  But today I did okay by others.  I felt what to do and followed my instincts (aka “heart”).  And I feel good about that.  Yes, it’s a small thing, but I have hope I can multiply it into a bigger thing … tomorrow.

Just now, as I am contemplating my selfless giving, my felines remind me I have not paid attention to them in months (it would seem), for they are vying for my complete devotion—crawling over my keyboard, nipping at me, nudging my arm to create typos.  If you knew my cat Bijou personally, you would laugh—Bijou craves attention every day as if she’s been denied it for months.  If you knew my other cat, Cleo, you’d call me a liar because she never asks for affection (but she does, late at night, when no one else can witness it).  Truth is, I have been very busy, and the dogs get more attention as a rule than Cleo and Bijou.

Appropriately, I am humbled by my cats.  My apologies to them.  Obviously, being attuned did not apply to everything or everyone today.  I will close so they can have my full attention.  And so I can sleep.

Still, I wish you a moment tomorrow when you find someone in your life who needs you—and you respond.

Let’s talk about love …

•March 16, 2011 • 7 Comments

… which I never do.  But I’m feeling graced tonight, and think I must. 

What is this illusive thing, after all, that we call love?  Of course, it’s the hormones kicking in when you see that person who just turns your body to mush wishing you could be with him or her.  Maybe you like a shapely leg or a strong (or well-endowed) chest, or maybe it’s really great arms, beautifully shaped, the kind with shoulders ever so strong, the perfect ones for leaning on …

… or it could be the smile and laughter that comes whenever you’re with that one.  Or the tears you shed simply because you know that individual is there for you — through good, through bad, through indifferent times — whenever you need them most.  Not tears of sadness but of emotion overwhelming you.

Love is such an inadequate word anymore.  We throw it around then blow it away like used tissues.  We’re forbidden to use it in poetry — “too cliché” they say — and yet it may be the most powerful thing we have at our disposal to end all the world’s woes.  If we love each other, we can’t help but treat the world and each other better, right?

I’ve been confronted with a lot of anger lately, from others and also from within.  It’s always hard for me to experience that emotion.  It’s so strong — maybe the most sinister of all, since we seem to be able to express it better than any other, yet we all strive to avoid it outright, using four-letter words to convey our angst, hurt, frustration … maybe that’s all that anger really is, a means to voice our own imperfections personified through others.  I thought I had conquered my own anger years ago, and I’m somewhat surprised to find it back.  My anger is like my childhood bully (who called me her friend when it suited her) that stripped me of confidence … and made me feel unloved.

I’ve been editing a book of poetry for a friend (two books, actually, by the time we realized just how many great poems he had in his portfolio) … and I realized today that this individual is NOT afraid to use the word love.  Through his writing, he’s made love a renewed four-letter word we can once again embrace, particularly in the highest level of all — the love that God bestows on us every day, all the time, even in the midst of our many imperfections.

And I just finished editing another writer’s book that’s all about God’s love for us and the messages within the Bible that tell us so.  I learned from this author that love has many meanings, individual words, in the Greek language.  The particular translation that speaks to me is agape — the sacrificial, self-giving love a slave has for a master or that God has for us.  Even in Greek, love can have a simultaneously good and bad connotation, and yet I prefer to think that being “a willing slave to love” has a wonderfully dichotomous meaning; it is only in the complete giving of ourselves that we find lasting love, a love that continues a lifetime, a love that feels so deeply it can transcend just one lifetime … right?

I’m a devout and recovering (from the guilt, always the guilt) Catholic.  As such, I believe these writings were sent to me for a reason.  I believe in fate, call it circumstance if you want, but there is still something that brings people together in this world when the need is present and the person is accepting.

And I believe — in my heart, and soul, and spirit (three other words considered taboo in poetry but used well despite what critiques say) — that love is the only way to find God, whatever god you choose. 

Tonight, on a very personal level, I realize how greatly blessed I am.  I’m forty-five years old.  I have very close friends who love me for who I am, more than my share.  I embrace the many pets in my life — past and present — who have illustrated love to me in all their individual ways.  And I’ve witnessed through my own brother’s marriage (and friendships with other select couples) how incredible love can be between two people who are committed to each other, who appreciate each other, and who tender to one another selflessly (as humanly possible amidst the everyday struggle) — with the understanding that it isn’t about winning but about giving.  And, while I was waiting for that one, I had much of it already … in a friend who has been with me through the best and worst times in my life, my second sister, not by blood but by love.  But we both always knew there was something else we craved, wanted, needed.  That love that would embrace every facet — the physical combined with friendship, the sensual and sensitive closeness of the body with the spirit.

She has found that love, but he lives far away.  At this point in time, she shares precious moments with him, not enough but of quality, I’m sure.  What a wonderful gift; we both waited ever so patiently for a very long time.

I’ve found that love, too.  The one that encompasses all.  Three years plus together, and I know he is the one for whom I waited — that someone who speaks to my heart in ways that words make clumsy to describe.  He’s the one who, simply, makes me sane in a very insane world.  It’s not a smooth road, as no road worth traveling ever is.  We all have our high points and low points, plus the baggage we’ve carried for so long that our backs are weary and, sometimes, even our spirit wears thin.  We struggle.  Even in love.  I can’t help thinking I was gifted these other insights from fellow writers here and now all the more for me to see the clear meaning of love.

All the love I have — I cherish.  In all of the forms given to me.  My wish is for everyone to realize what they have, work for it, and embrace it.  Love isn’t a right; it’s a responsibility.  Love isn’t disposable; it’s a gift. 

Even if you don’t believe in God; you have to believe in love.  Otherwise, what’s the point?  Right?



I have mine — plus incredibly beautiful, strong shoulders to lean on.  What more could I ask? 

Only that you find your own.

There’s no lack of Talent these days …

•February 25, 2011 • 2 Comments

Wow, so all that schooling is actually paying off?  Seriously, I am extremely fortunate, and I know it.  I want to share just a little of the great work I get to partake of every day.  Please don’t hate me …

My business is writing, editing, and graphic design.  Right now, I’m doing all three—and loving it!  What a great mix, and what a great gift to have work that is challenging, invigorating, and compelling on so many levels.  I have always—since I was old enough to form words—been a writer (the novel I wrote and rewrote in sixth grade—on a typewriter—is somewhat proof).  Yet I never imagined the satisfaction I could experience by being an editor and helping other writers achieve their own goals.  The writers who have come to me for editing services are so very different in each of their styles, and all are exceptional—truly gifted in their own right.  Some have achieved publication, and some are still in the long process of finding a home for their books; all deserve for their writing to find that home.  They are definitely that good.

I’m so engrossed in my work these days, that I seldom take time out to just “chill.”  But, last night, I took a break and caught up on some “taped” TV programs.  I stayed up later than I anticipated, or wanted, once I started catching up.  Why?  Okay, I admit it (scoff if you must), but I had to catch up to prepare for next week’s American Idol.  I am a long-time fan, since season one.  And now I know why.  I always get satisfaction from seeing a truly talented individual shine, especially when they grow and get better as the show progresses.  This season has already showcased some of the best talent I have ever heard—not only on this TV show but truly ever.  These kids are no joke; they truly have phenomenal voices (believe me, if you don’t watch, they are kids).  This week the judges made the final cuts to the top 24 that will perform live from here on.  And I actually cried as some really great talent “went home.”  Amazing, truly amazing.  The competition was the toughest in the history of the show, so for those who didn’t make it but really deserved it, I send them prayers and good Karma that they stick with their dreams and keep on singing.

And I have great admiration for the new mix of judges on American Idol this season.  Jennifer Lopez has shown herself to be professional and endearing at the same time.  She knows her stuff and doesn’t pull punches, and yet she’s kind and caring when it comes to giving feedback.  Randy Jackson, the veteran, holds his own with an expertise “of the industry” I’ve always appreciated, but he seems to be a gentler version of himself with these other new judges.  And Steven Tyler is all I thought he would be (he must have his own “bleeper” devoted to catching his @#$@ every time), but he’s so much more; Steven knows music inside and out, and he also knows musicians; his ability to be right on target and blatantly honest without ever being unkind strikes a chord in me. 

Okay, it strikes the chord in me, because recently I’ve been a judge for a full-length poetry book contest, and I was definitely in the same boat as Jennifer, Randy, and Steven.  How could I choose among the multitude of great entries?  I almost wished (somewhere around the tenth exceptional entry) that one writer would be “bad” so I could easily move onto the next. 

That was not the case.  Instead, I was WOWed by the caliber of writing that is going on today from the “kids” of our poetry community.  I judged anonymously with no insight into the authors beyond the poetry itself, so I can’t say for sure that these writers are younger than I am.  I suspect that many are far younger—and already wiser.  But age doesn’t matter.  I was moved by these poets’ insights, their angst; I was renewed in the power that poetry instills.

I’m nearing another deadline for choosing the entries for moonShine review, my prose journal, and I fear the same angst in being able to choose from the submissions what will be “the best” for the next issue (luckily, I have much assistance in making those choices).  There’s always been an outpouring of rich and sophisticated writing when it comes to moonShine’s submissions.  I suspect this time will be even harder.

There is such great talent in our world today, embedded right in our own local communities.  I am amazed and enchanted—and renewed.  In my last blog, I spoke of “promise” as my word for the year.  Well, here you go.  There is so much promise going on right in front of me, I’m having a hard time digesting it all.  Revealing ourselves and connecting to others is a true gift in life.  It is what makes us authentic; only then do we sing (no matter what art form we choose to convey our creativity) to others, emote with others, and make the deeper connections we all crave as humans.

I hear your voices sing, and I rejoice in the many songs.  Keep writing; keep sharing.

Anne

Such Inspiration … As if there’s not enough

•January 19, 2011 • 5 Comments

I’ve been in a great dilemma lately — way too much to write about and no time to do it.  I’m lucky.  I’m inspired and, simultaneously, I have work that pays me and keeps the dogs and cats fed (and a roof over our heads).  But I have been wanting to post on the blog for a LONG time and, yet, not found that singular inspiration (or time) to do so.

Well, tonight, it culminated, finally, as I read my friend Claire’s blog.  For backdrop, here’s the excerpt from Claire that caught me:

      This year, I heard about a new twist to the old effort. On one of my 
      favorite radio stations, K-Love, I heard on the morning show about
      a pastor who suggested people try coming up with one-word or
      short phrase as a “theme” for the year and try to direct activities      
      around that theme. By choosing a positive word and theme, the
      hope is that it will make a dramatic improvement in the quality of 
      the spiritual (and therefore, earthly) life of t
hose who practice it.

(For respect to Claire before I begin, you can read this blog, and many of her others, by linking from my sidebar: http://clairearmstrong.wordpress.com/.)

Okay.  So, here I am.  One Word?  Oh boy, I’m in for trouble.  I’m a writer (and an overachiever by nature).  How do I come up with one word?  After a long day of work, an aching back, and many distractions — good and not-so-good — and a tired-from-the-cold that just seeps into my bones … I find inspiration. Thank you, Claire, and darn you!  I can think of only ONE word:

                   promise

It’s not a bold nor big promise, no capitals, no punctuation, no stress.  The meaning for me is about trying — trying for a better attitude, trying for a year of less aches, trying for better creativity than I’ve felt the past month.

Looking for guidance on just how to approach this undertaking, I naturally go to the dictionary (writer, of course).  And I find that a single word, especially this particular word, has so many meanings and connotations, that it becomes too convoluted for a mere one-year resolution:

Simply as a noun, ‘Promise’ means:
     1.   A declaration something will or won’t be done or given by one:
unkept political promises.
     2.  An express assurance on which expectation is to be based:
promises an enemy won’t win.
     3.  Something that has the effect of an express assurance;
indication of what may be expected.
     4.  Indication of future excellence or achievement:
a writer who shows promise.

I’ve had many blogs in the making that referred to the example of #1.  But I like that last definition most of all — “a writer who shows promise.”  Perhaps this was the inspiration I am truly meant to have for 2011.  After all, I am writing again, editing all the time, and sending my writing out for review, critique, and possible publication. So, the ‘promise’ is there that I will continue in this particular endeavor.

And yet, there’s more that strikes me once I look to the verb definitions to give me a clue:
     5.   Something that is promised.
     6.   To engage or undertake by promise, as in: She promised to go tomorrow.
     7.   To make a promise of (some specified act, gift, etc.): to promise help.
     8.   To make a promise of something to (someone): Promise me you will come.
     9.   To afford ground for expecting: The sky promised a storm.
    10.  To engage to join in marriage.

Wow, can just ONE word mean so many things?  What have I gotten myself into?  I’m suddenly in a flux of promises as I twist and turn my way through declarations, expressions, undertakings, and engagements.  Do I really have time for this?

Tongue and cheek aside, ‘promising’ is an extremely important act for me.  Once it is given, it is given in stone.  It is the best of me and it is the worst for me and hurts my spirit in those moments when I fail to keep it.  And it is in honesty and purity that I give promise

Promises are what matter in our lives — and they are also very hard to make, to live … to give.  It’s not so simple, knowing we all carry our own baggage, no sense denying it.  But we are also SO capable —and worthy — of letting go of that baggage, and of the other people (who matter) allowing us to do that.

So, my promise for 2011 is to not dwell on the things I cannot control nor change, like one man in Tucson terrorizing an entire country or nature inundating us with an extreme winter freeze.

Instead, I choose to promise:
     to smile more,
     to say please and thank you more,
     and to express my love and appreciation
     to those that matter the most to me
more.

Another Late Night, Thanks to Tomas …

•November 11, 2010 • 1 Comment

I have so much to say, I’m not sure where to begin.  But I will try to gain some focus here as I proceed …

I spent 8 days (10, technically, if you include travel) in Dominica recently.  It’s ironic, actually.  Supposedly, I had chosen a fairly good time to go.  This is high season for scuba diving in that region (the West Indies, that is).  Oh, I know all about hurricanes and the possibilities this time of year.  Still, typically and traditionally, the hurricanes cease sooner around Dominica.  Well, why should I expect that to hold true in my case?  I shouldn’t have …

Truth is, Hurricane Tomas did not hit Dominica.  “Near” Hurricane Tomas did. 

I arrived in Dominica on Wednesday night, ready to scuba. I did dive on Thursday and Friday—with limited ability, due to a plugged ear from allergies and the plane.  My friend, Cheryl, pleasantly informed me on Friday as she surfaced, that I had missed the best dive EVER—huge turtles, barracuda, you name it, she described.  I sighed, muttered something inappropriate, checked my gear, and prepared for the second, shallower dive—one, I hoped, my right ear could take.  It actually did, and I saw four sea horses in addition to some beautifully colored squid, gloriously vibrant coral, and a few monster lobsters I wish I could have taken home for dinner.  (Side note – you can’t spear in most places as a scuba diver – it is illegal, and I don’t really think I could anyway.)

Very early on Saturday morning, however, Cheryl’s significant beau, Francis—being a boat captain for a major dive center in Dominica—got the call.  He took off to fuel the boats and move them to open water, preparing for all the possible inevitables—including sleeping on boats and/or moving them to other islands for safety … it’s all about boats there, and getting those boats to calmer waters.  One smashed boat and the season is done, after all.  (Yes, insurance pays, but definitely not fast enough to get a boat back in the water quick enough to compensate).  But St. Lucia and Barbados were hit HARD by Tomas … places where Dominica usually takes the boats for safety!

Ah, I digress.  Back to Saturday, when Cheryl and I (while Francis was getting very, very wet) proceeded to secure windows, watch patiently, secure windows, then watch impatiently, as the rain set in—and the power flickered, and the winds gained momentum.  When Francis actually arrived back home—drenched, of course—Tomas had taken a respite.  It was Saturday night, and we grabbed the opportunity to go out and get some food (especially given the power had been out for a  few hours and we hadn’t stocked up for the occasion).

And, as a result, I met some of the nicest people IN THE WORLD amidst the comedy and drama of a storm-filled night.  Ashley, who runs the Drop Anchor just down the road from where I stayed (walking distance for sure if there’s not a hurricane in the vicinity), was the perfect hostess, despite the climate.   She receives her food from local vendors each day and serves a commendable variety of soups and bakes.  (If you don’t know what a ‘bake’ is—learn.  I’m going to devote some research on to how to fix them!)   The food was great.  And I was most thankful for the battery-operated tea lights when the power when out again.  (Being portable, a battery-operated tea light can get you quite far—especially to a bathroom when you need it.)

I truly have to commend Ashley and her parents.  They are TEXAS born and bred.  Wonderfully social, good American music (that’s a plus, no matter what you think, once in Dominica for a  time). Hospitality is their namesake, and they have built the most beautiful dock ever on the island, short of the massive “things” cruise ships require … even Francis admires what they’ve done.  They are just plain (not simple, mind you) individuals who have chosen to pursue some great things.  I encourage them and wish them the absolute best.  And, if ever you find yourself in Dominica, I assure you there is no better view than on their dock (short of being on a boat in the middle of nowhere)—to view the sky’s spectrum at its fullest.

All in all, it was a most unusual yet fulfilling trip for me.   And, though trying at times (as the weather and my companions adjusted), I do think it was ultimately very much worth it and brought me back to a center I haven’t known in quite some time.

Peace to all,
Anne