August 19, 2008

Today feels better than yesterday.  It's still sad, but I seem to have gotten my emotions back in check again.  That at least seems like progress.  Someone recently wrote and asked me how a person is supposed to stay positive when things keep going wrong and life just seems to hurt all the time.  I can't say I'm at that place now, although I've definitely been there before and it's a subject I have given a lot of thought.  Sometimes, it feels like we're just being given more to handle than we can possibly stand and I know better than anyone how tempting it feels to just give up.

I'm only 47 and sometimes, I feel like I've lived 3-4 lifetimes already.  I look back on 30 years of being a mother, then taking care of my own mother's family before that and having a 20 year relationship with my first husband, then a 12 year relationship with my second husband, two husbands in the Air Force and now a son in the Army and one living in Canada, six children spread over 2 generations, living all over the world, holding down more jobs and more different kinds of jobs, than I think I could count, burying plenty of loved ones including every parent and grandparent who went before me, going through decades of financial struggles, divorces, years of single parenthood, broken dreams, plenty of lost pets, plenty of painful, dire situations and it's daunting, to say the least.  I can't even begin to invest enough time to think about all of the times that it seemed as though the answer to our prayers had been handed to us, only to have it disintegrate before our very eyes.  

Kathy Hardeman and I have also discussed this a good bit and I'm not sure we have ever really resolved anything on the subject, but it has surely been interesting trying and we've both learned a lot in the process, I believe.

The one premise I keep returning to is something I was told a long time ago and have found to be true.  Humans learn and take action through pain.  Rarely does it happen through joy and peace.  I'm not saying it can't happen, but if you look at the average person, they sit fat and happy and high on the hog when things are good, not really making any changes for fear of upsetting the happy status quo or just plain lethargy, figuring, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."  When our lives or the Universe or God or whatever externally guiding force you want to honor needs for us to MOVE or change something, pain is typically about the only thing that will do it.  I believe there is a momentum to life and that *something*, whether it is our own desire for our greatest good, be that conscious or subconscious, whether it is God or whether it is the general evolution of the species, humans, most of them anyway, are compelled to evolve forward and better themselves.  Since that requires work, I think we are often resistant to that urge and that resistance creates conflict inside ourselves and in our lives.  I also believe that it creates dis-ease.  When we know we should be changing something in our lives and we sit on the fence, endlessly weighing the pros and cons (analysis is paralysis) or just outright refuse to make the change, it has been my experience that situation after situation after situation will present itself to motivate us to make that change.  If we don't take the bait and get the hint, the gentle nudges turn into two-by-fours, beating us about the head and shoulders until we do make the change.  There are plenty of times I've seen people put off and put off and put off doing what they should do until the choice is taken out of their hands.  A good example is this:

A guy I used to know decided he wanted to divorce his wife.  They'd gotten into a fairly negative cycle that had gone on for a few years and they just couldn't break out of it.  They cared about each other, but bickered all the time.  They had a couple of kids and he really didn't want them to continue growing up in that kind of negativity.  The guy owned his own business and had made a decent success of it, but it had required all of his time over a period of years to do so and as a result, he and the wife had grown apart and little splinters of resentment that had started out as nothing had now festered and the whole relationship was infected.  He went back and forth about how much a divorce would cost, how they could lose the house, how he could lose a good bit of the business he'd worked so hard to build up and so on.  Well you can guess what happened.  *UP* jumped the devil and while he was deliberating and planning and over-thinking it, she served HIM with divorce papers.  He was tremendously pissed off and yes, he ended up losing everything.

On her side, she was thinking that here she was not getting any younger, raising children on her own.  She'd given up her own fairly lucrative career to be a stay-at-home mom and take care of the kids; a decision they'd made together.  She wanted to go back to school and finish up her degree now that the kids were in school, but he was not supportive of the idea.  Since the business was thriving, he was showing no sign of slowing down and being a more plugged in co-parent and marriage partner and while the money was nice, she'd gotten married to be married, not to be a single parent.  She would tell him she missed him, that she was lonely, and he would tell her to stop whining and to understand that if they were going to be financially successful, they both had to make sacrifices.  She reached a point where she was sacrificing more than what she felt she was prepared to give, so she cut ties, got a good lawyer and walked away with a hefty settlement.  He is still angry and resentful at what she put him/them through out of her own "selfishness," and she has completed her degree, just started a great job this past summer and is dating a very sweet, very attentive guy who loves her to pieces.

Neither of these people are "bad" people, but the truth is that life rewards action and the average person just will not take action unless they are forced into it, then they are resentful about being made to do it.

I heard a story on the radio just this morning.  It was talk radio and the theme for the day was regrets.  A guy told a story of a crush he had on the lead singer in a local production of the musical, "Oklahoma."  He was also working on the production behind the scenes and each night, he would watch her mesmerized, totally in love.  He could not get up the nerve to ask her out, but he was casually dating another girl on the set who he liked very much, but his heart was with the lead singer.  At the cast wrap up party, the lead singer came up to him, put her arm around his neck and pulled him in for a deep, passionate kiss.  He was completely overwhelmed and stunned as she pulled back, looked into his eyes and said, "Don't ever be afraid to take a chance.  I would have happily gone out with you at any time."  Then she walked away and he never saw her again.

Life rewards action and I would further that thought to say that I believe that sometimes, if we don't take that action, painful situations will begin to propel us to where we need to be.  Pain makes us move.  If we back into a stove that is hot, we'll move a lot faster than if we back into one that is cold. 

I know people endure tragedies far greater than mine and I do not even pretend to know how that feels or the purpose behind it or if there even is a purpose. We want and need to believe that there is, but I really just don't know. 

I do know that in my own life, when a series of painful events happen, I square myself up and start meditating on it, going back to the last time things felt "right" and working forward, trying to see where I went off course.  I think of it as the prod of the shepherd's cane, pushing me back onto the path of my greatest good. 

As many of you know, I believe very much in balance and the ebb and flow of life, that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.  It's how nature exists and since we are a part of nature, it makes sense that it would be at play in our lives as well.

I don't know why good dogs die bad deaths or fan belts break on our car on the way to an important job interview or why the toast falls butter side down more often at some points in our lives than others (usually WHEN I'M ON MY DAMNED PERIOD, THANK YOU VERY MUCH - ahem).  My overwhelming conviction is that it is part of that gigantic something that humans simply do not have the capacity to understand.  I believe that everything happens for a reason, but sometimes, the reasons are fairly insignificant or just don't have anything to do with us.  Belle's death could have been about her, not about me.  I am just the person who got caught up in the wake.  We do tend to personalize things and presume that what happens to us must be about us or be a message for us.  I think sometimes maybe that's not the case at all and it's our own ego that causes us to believe it is so. 

On the other hand, if we are continually experiencing the same challenging circumstances, then it's time to figure out what we should be doing differently.  If every guy we date turns out to be a drunk, maybe it's time to stop picking up guys in bars.  Often, it's a forest versus trees situation.

Anyway, I have to clean house, but this is part of the mess that has been going through my head today.  I am reminded of an old Dottie Rambo song (God Bless Dottie, may she rest in peace):

When I'm low in spirit, I cry, "Lord lift me up!
I want to go higher with Thee."
But the Lord knows I can't live on the mountain.   (Yes, I can, Dottie, sorry)
So, He picked out a valley for me.

It's dark as a dungeon, and the sun seldom shines
and I question, "Lord, why must this be?"
Then He tells me there's strength in my sorrows
and there's victory in trials for me.

Then he leads me beside the still waters
Somewhere in the valley below.
He draws me aside to be tested and tried
and in the valley he restoreth my soul.


August 18, 2008

Like the book about Alexander, it was a "terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day."  Actually, the first bit of it was bad and the rest of it would have been fine under other circumstances, but the first bit pretty much colored the rest of the day and into the evening.

Some of you have been reading this journal for a long time and will know what I'm talking about, but some of the newbies might not have a clue, so I have a recap, which you may skip if you do not need the refresher course.

Not long after we moved here in early 2004, a white lab started coming around our house.  She was skin and bones and looked like completely hell and slunk around terrified of humans.  I started feeding her and Eric fussed about me feeding her and I joked that she was the best dog we'd ever had because she was so little fuss.  I named her Belle and over the next few months, she got strong and healthy and pretty.  I got close enough to her to see that she had beautiful, ice blue eyes, but I did not know whether she was a boy or girl until she got pregnant.  Three years ago next month, she had 8 puppies.  Three died at birth.  I found the first one under Eric's truck while he was still wet with the cord attached.  She was nowhere to be found, so I took him inside and rubbed him with a towel to simulate mom licking him and fed him some baby formula I happened to have.  I hand fed him for 6 weeks and named him JoBu (see the movie "Major League").  Later that afternoon, I went out walking through the woods to see if I could find her and sure enough, I heard the other babies and found them in a hole she'd dug while in labor.  She was cowering off to the side about 15 feet away from me, having left the babies when she heard me coming.  She was covered in damp dirt from the waste down and looked pretty ragged.  I brought her food and water and left her alone until the next day when I came out and got the babies who had died and buried them.  She was a very attentive mother, the most devoted dog mom I've ever seen. 

When the babies were around 4 weeks old, she moved them out of the woods and under our deck.  At 6 weeks, they weaned and we found homes for 2 of them with 3 of them (including JoBu) staying in our care.  I didn't want even one dog, much less 3 1/2, but this is what I felt life had sent to us. 

When the babies were around 3 months old, I wrote about them online and a kind person donated the money to have Belle spayed.  The trick was to catch her, which no one had ever been able to do before.  We started feeding her in the dog kennel and one day, I just went out and calmly closed the kennel door with her in it.  Eric brought a cage home from animal control and through a very traumatic series of events, we were able to get her into the cage.  She was terrified.  A very kind veterinarian staff spayed her and returned her to us.  We kept her in a quiet room inside for a couple of days, then moved her to the kennel for another couple of days, then opened the gate so that she could leave.  She did and although I did not expect her to stick around after such invasive treatment, she did and has been here ever since.

She has remained a devoted mother and visited her 3 puppies every day.  They would run up and down the fence line together and play for hours at a time.  She kept the wild animals out of our yard and as a result, kept our outside kitties safe.  I have continued to feed her, but still, never touched her except for the few minutes that she tolerated my stroking her while she was in the cage before and after her surgery. 

She loved stuffed animals and when she would find them in the community, she would take them to a hole she'd dug in a corner of our yard and put them in it, then lie down in there with them as she had with her puppies.  In a truly magical move, one year, after the big snows had melted, she brought us no less than 7 mule deer antlers that had been shed.  They were truly gifts from this dog's heart.

She died today. 

It's hard to write more than that, but I will because I don't want to leave you hanging.  Eric had to leave to go do a job in Monterey and took off around 4am.  At 5am, I heard a wailing and moaning and howling and soon, every dog in the hill top was in chorus.  It didn't stop.  I checked to make sure my dogs were all inside, thinking one might have escaped when Eric went out, but they were all safe.  In my heart, I knew it was Belle, even though there are plenty of other dogs and coyotes that roam the area unleashed.  She was so street savvy and clever that I tried to convince myself it couldn't be her.  Even the animal control officer who lives up here and knows the dog well has voiced great admiration for the fact that Belle bothers no one and is very wise to the roads. 

It was so dark that a flashlight couldn't even cut through it enough for me to see.  I could tell approximately where she/the animal was, but I was nervous about getting close to it out of risk of being attacked if it wasn't Belle or even if it was Belle, she could be delirious and snappy from the pain.  I could see the animal was white and my heart fell.  Still, I prayed that there was some chance it wasn't her.

I went inside and called the sheriff's department who handles after hours animal control.  The big concern was that by that time, it was around 5:30am and the high school bus stops in exactly the spot where she was lying at 6:15am.  Some of the boys who go to that bus stop are pretty rough and I was very worried that they would hurt or bother her further or that she might hurt them if she was out of it and in that much pain.  She was still making a good bit of noise. 

Finally, Animal Control called me back and said they couldn't help me because they were getting a horse out of a ditch.  ?What?  I told them that I was pretty sure that the safety of some human kids trumped their horse in a ditch, but it was no go.  I couldn't imagine what to do next, so I prayed about it and remembered hearing a man in our community talk about recently disengaging a baby dear from a fence where it was trapped.  The man can be very grouchy and as a result, quite intimidating, but overall, I've had a pretty decent rapport with him.  I called and woke him up and told him what was happening and he said he'd be there in 10 minutes and that I should have coffee going.  I did and he got here in 20 minutes (hey, he's 70 and moves slow, it's OK).  He knocked on the door and told me the dog had a very broken leg and was done for.  He commented about how sweet and gentle she was as he was lifting her in to his truck.  I went out to see if it was her and it was.  She was curled up as though nothing was happening, as though she hadn't just been wailing mournfully for an hour or so.  She looked up at me and even wagged her tail a little.  Her leg was clearly broken at the big bone with bone protruding and her pupils were extremely dilated.  Donald told me to "Say goodbye" and I about lost it.  I told her goodbye, that I loved her and thanked her for protecting us.  I thanked Donald profusely and went inside and completely fell apart.  He didn't even take the coffee.  I managed to put myself back together long enough to get three kids on three buses at three different times over the next two and a half hours, then I fell apart some more.

My heart still just aches for this beautiful creature who lived wild and free, the way she wanted to by her own terms, and met such a tragic fate.  Donald commented that a car would have to be moving very fast to do that much damage to her, so I know it was one of these assholes who tear ass up and down the road like it's a racetrack.  They hit her and just kept going. 

Jackie Lou and I went to town today.  It was something we had already arranged and I knew I needed the distraction, but still, I couldn't stop thinking about her.  Donald phoned me tonight to see if I was OK and to tell me that Belle was OK too, out of pain and "sleeping under a nice tree in the woods."  She loved the woods and that seems fitting, plus, she's in a hole which is where she always seemed to feel safest.  I know Donald has immense respect for animals, more so than he does for most humans probably, so I am sure he granted her dignity. 

While I was in town, I bought some silk Fall flowers and a little harvesty bucket and I will put together an arrangement for my sweet girl and put it out with one of her stuffed babies at the hole where she slept.  Tomorrow, I will take in her food and water bowls and throw them away.  I don't think I can bear to see them. 

Oddly, when the entire hilltop of dogs was howling with her, my dogs, her own puppies, were completely silent and acted as though nothing was going on. 

I have not told the boys yet and I am not sure if I will.  She would often go days without us seeing her, so they don't expect her to be omnipresent like the other dogs we have.  Delena knows because she was awake and getting ready for school when most of everything was happening. 

My head is spinning with all of the ways I should have and could have done things differently and I'm sure there are some of you out there who know exactly what I should have done and didn't or shouldn't have done and did.  I tell myself I did the best I could under the circumstances, but I know this one is going to haunt me for a long time.

Moving on to other things that aren't as horribly depressing...

I have a LOT of sewing and crafting to get done for the business, so that will take up a good bit of my time while Eric is in Monterey.  My week is totally open, so tomorrow, I am going to do a complete clean on my house so that I can work in a clean, pretty, organized environment, then I'll get busy on it.  I have monkeys and sunbonnets and quilts and wreaths and wall hangings to make.  I also need to update the website because our stock has changed a good bit.  Maybe that's a job for tomorrow after I get the house cleaned.  I also plan to again clear out my closet and vow to only have clothes in it that I actually wear.

I did manage to get Delena's room all cleaned up.  It took 5 hours and that was AFTER she'd been cleaning on it, but she has kept it clean since then quite nicely.  Because I spent 5 hours cleaning her room, she had to give me 5 days of dishwashing, which she did without complaint.  (It was a very nice break)  The next two days, I cleaned and organized the "multipurpose room" (see below).  A woman I know is moving and she is an amazing crafts person and actually gave me bins and bins and bins of wonderful craft items.  I integrated it with my own and totally redid the room so it's nice and pretty and organized now.  I can find almost anything I need...except for the tip that goes onto the electric pump to blow up my exercise ball and the instructions to the authentic frontier gibberish written pattern for the sunbonnet. They were nowhere to be found. 

I dressed around 46 bears, for a total of over 80 bears I've renovated.  Not many have been sold, so I expect they will be donated to the children's raffles for Founder's Day.  The monkey business is picking up and I have several pairs of socks, so I'll work on those.  The bears, since they are dressed and ready, are in storage in my motor home and it was great to have that space freed up.

I cleaned nothing today and my house is a complete mess.  I really just do not care.  I am just a few minutes from closing up the downstairs for the night, making my way upstairs and watching TV until I fall asleep.   Tomorrow will be a better day and with any luck, I'll be a step closer to healing this hurt.

Be Particular,

August 12, 2008

I am doing my best through gritted teeth and rolling eyeballs to get out of this dangerously cynical mental pit into which I have apparently fallen, whether it is by design or by chance.  Either way, it *is.*  I've been here for a bit and it's not a very comfortable place for me.  It's familiar, but it's not typical of me, if that makes any sense at all.  I've been here before, but not often and I really don't like it much.

Normally, I get here when I have a series of situations in which people let me down in a serial fashion, which usually is another way of saying that I put expectations onto people without their permission or even their knowledge.

That inevitably brings me to the "I am surrounded by morons" place because no one is doing anything I need for them to do and I end up frustrated and they end up confused as to why I'm angry with them and then get pissed off that I'm angry with them and it makes a really unhappy, cyclic thing. 

I am usually pretty good at voicing my needs and being clear with people about what I expect, but of course, that doesn't always mean you're going to get it. 

As I've mentioned here before, we've been in yet other a challenging financial time, which always leads me to believe that there is *something* here for us that we have not yet unlocked.  Otherwise, we would not keep coming back to exactly the same situation over and over.  I believe that once you learn the lesson that life is presenting to you, you get to move on and don't have to keep repeating the same cycles.  Until you figure out what is holding you there and continually bringing you back to the same place, it just keeps happening.

Not only does that create stress of its own (creditors are definitely persistent little buggers when it comes to phone calls, aren't they?), but Eric gets frustrated when he's not hunting and gathering like he wants to and I get frustrated that he's under foot being all disgruntled and we start snipping at one another and it's not very pleasant, especially when one of us, I won't say which one, is lumbering through menopause like a giant, oafish, hemorrhaging grizzly bear.  That also is a tension source because it doesn't help matters when you're in an already stressful situation and one of us, I won't say which one, kind of wants to kill everyone all the time anyway because her hormones have her on the razor's edge of seriously snapping and going uzi-nuts on the world and all its annoying denizens.

I went to town with Jackie Lou today and I think that has helped me to snap out of it a bit.  The kids started back to school yesterday and all have been having very happy days, so that is also a major load-lightener.

I spent all of yesterday helping Sage with his new site layout and updating EOS.  Today, I was in town, so tomorrow is major renovation day.

That's one thing that helps me get my spirit in line is when I can get my environment organized and well managed.  My laundry room, aka "dog room" aka "office" aka "craft room" is where I spent a good bit of my time and it is a stacked up, thrown together, disorganized mess, so that is job 1 tomorrow.  I want to get every single one of these 30-40 bears dressed up and out of my room.  The whole bear thing was NOT a success and I want to liquidate these little suckers.  If I can get each of them dressed and then sell them for some ridiculously low price, then I have more room in my multi-purpose room from both the bear supply and the clothing supply.  They sure aren't doing me any good sitting here and pride definitely is not a factor in regard to what I charge for them.  What I paid is already money gone, so it doesn't really matter.

I have around a dozen pair of Rockford socks waiting to be made into monkeys and I want to get busy with those as well.  They are such a pain in the butt to make and take a long time, but again, it's money that's spent that could potentially be money made.  I cut out a half dozen sunbonnets, then promptly lost the (very complicated) directions for putting them together.  Because the pattern itself is printed in authentic frontier gibberish, you pretty much need the directions for them to make sense in the assembly, so cleaning the multi-purpose room (I will call anything a pretentious name to avoid typing out "dog room, office, craft room" over and over).  Reorganizing the MPR (see how it just gets worse and worse) will potentially help me find those damned instructions as well.  I will also be happier working on the bears, monkeys and sunbonnets in a tidier room.

Plus I do this weird little mirroring thing where as things begin to go into their "rightful places," things inside me also begin to go into their rightful places. 

I am eager to feel like me again.  The joy and the wonder and the gratitude feel as though they have been missing for a long time.  There are so many different sources for the angst that I could cite, but the reality is that it's a little bit of everything and a whole lot of nothing and I have to find a way to get it fixed while I can still get back.

Saturday, the premier event of Grizzly Flats, the annual Fire Safe Council BBQ, is being held at our house.  We are one of the few properties that is actually "Flat" in Grizzly "Flats" and so it made sense to have it here since we have a couple of acres to work with and Eric had time to fix up the yard since he doesn't have any kind of pesky employment time issues.  So far, he has installed exterior electrical lighting, built a deck to serve as a stage for the bands, moved the fence to open up the left half of the back yard for usage, trenched in power, spread wood chips to hell and back all over the back yard and the small road/trail that leads from the front road to our back yard, plus he and about 25 of his nearest and dearest trimmed out about a half acre on the side that was previously forest and underbrush and is now actually quite park-like.  The materials were all donated, so there was no out of pocket expense, just time and energy.

In the process, he tilled up the path for the giant, spiral Earth Labyrinth and pushed the soil up into berms to define the path.  It's really very, very lovely.  Jennifer, Nathan and I spent Saturday decorating it with all sorts of little statues and stone and candles and other decorations.  That was a very joyful and spiritual experience and I love walking the labyrinth, which takes a fair amount of time to do.  In the center, there is a big circle which has a circle of trees within it.  My cauldron on a tripod when into the circle and I also created near there a really sweet fairy circle with all sorts of fairy statues, as well as lots of little shiny things for them to play with and enjoy.  The other half of the inner circle has a giant manzanita stump with lots of stubbies jutting out.  We put candles on them and use the spaces between the stubbies to hold things.  It takes probably about 30-40 tealights and votives to light up the whole labyrinth.  There are also torches involved, so if you're walking at night, you don't fall along the way.

Now that the kids are immersed in school all day and my life is developing a certain kind of routine with him working part time and me at home, I am feeling a lot more in step with things.  Having a spontaneous day every single day where everyone is coming and going and needing this and that is a sure fire way to drive me insane.  With Eric home and kids home and me home and all of those variables hard at work, I had no sense of routine at all and I just don't thrive in that sort of process.

As I have gotten older, I found that somewhere along the line, alone time stopped being a luxury and started being a necessity.  I just don't ever get that for more than an hour or two here and there during the summer.  This should help me keep my head together better. 

I have three kids on three different buses and three different schedules.  I have one that leaves at 6:35, on that leaves at 7:20 and one that leaves at 8:45.  Then all 3 get home at 4pm.  Life begins at 9am, I have found.  There's not much sleep to be had lately, but that will come, I hope.  I'd love a few more days of summer just to get caught up, then to reboot the school thing again.  Sleep deprivation also does not help my state of mind.

Now, it is time to hit the bed and try for some of that sleep stuff.

Be Particular,


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