10,000 Pictures

This post comes a little late – traveling yesterday was followed by the mad scramble dash to buy groceries and unpack to restore myself to my normal routine as quickly as possible so that my final day of vacation could be spent running the insanely long list of errands before I return to work tomorrow.

I took over 10,000 pictures in 2011. A picture should be worth 1,000 words, so I’ll spare you pontificating this morning. 10,000 pictures taken, 10,000,000 words not spoken. 12 months, 12 pictures for you as we welcome in ’12.

 

Be always at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let each new year find you a better man. ~Benjamin Franklin
Works for me!!!
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Out With the Old
The ball just dropped in Times Square. I don’t know if I’ll make it up to midnight CST. Aaaah, Kansas… and legal fireworks. Charlee, the chihuahua, is in a panicked snit.

If I had to sum up this year in a word, my word for 2011 would be Surrender.

Actually, maybe two words. Surrender Into.

At the end of my rope? Dangling like a worm on a hook? Death grip holding on for dear life?

Not this year.

Relaxing into the pendulum’s swinging after I emotionally survived the free fall feeling from my tethered position 30 feet above the desert floor, knowing that I, alone, held onto the rope keeping me securely fastened to the pulley up top, but for me to get back on the ground, where I really wanted to be – rather than up in the air – I had to let go. And when letting go of that rope and falling freely, consider what emotional ties I wanted to let go of as well. Damn Miraval and their cleverly appropriate challenges! When can I go again?

The holiday season brings me additional opportunity for reflection with the compounding factors of approaching a calendar year milestone and a personal milestone (in other words, my birthday, yech). I can not only look back at a single year, I can reflect on an entire age. 

For 2011, I wanted a better year than 2010. In 2011, I started to understand what it really means to gain wisdom. To me, wisdom is not rote knowledge, but knowledge gained through reflection following experience.I still don’t know much in terms of worldly shit, but I paid a lot more attention to myself and to my pain points and triggers; I learned. I still have a long way to go, but babes, you better believe I know a whole lot more than I did this time last year.

I started this year challenging some of my beliefs and perceptions; the short time I spent at Miraval helped me examine fears and actions motivated by fear. I gave myself permission to grieve and let go of ideas that would only continue to hold me back from being happy.

I had the courage to face letting go of Chloe, and for the first time, experienced the full scope of responsibility of another living creature. Her life circle had come to its end, and I had the hard decision to let her pass painlessly and in my arms.

They say that love finds you when you aren’t looking for it. This year, I found that cliche to be true. Quite unexpectedly, and most delightedly, I found love, or maybe it found me. Although that ended too soon, rather than remain so sad and angry to have lost what I felt and experienced the months I was with Guy, I choose to be grateful I had any time with him at all; for the gift was for me to be excited about a man again, for me to trust a man again, and to fall in love. Because here’s the thing: it wasn’t about what I was getting – it was about what I gave, that I gave… and I gave willingly. The greatest gift was the most bittersweet gift, and that was for me to make a stand for what I believe I’m worth and to speak up for what I want at the highest level of my dream for a fulfilled life – there is no place where Guy wanted to fit in that, and so a square peg was not going to be force fit into a round hole.

My Pepere died, following a courageous battle with brain cancer. I was able to say goodbye to him last fall, and so I went back to New England to honor his death and celebrate the gifts he brought all of us through his life.

Montana was the place of reconnecting with old friends while forming new friendships, too. There is so much power to the collective female spirit, and when women come together with a similar intention and focus, the combined energy is healing, invigorating, and inspiring. Saying goodbye to one friend whose wisdom and energy was so soothing to me, she reminded me that when we hug, to lean to the left, that way our hearts can touch.

I articulated my dissertation topic and introduced my hypothesis to members of the higher education community. I took a chance and submitted a request to present a formal discussion of my hypothesis and provide the rationale to justify my research: my request was accepted and I began the exciting and intimidating process of refining my research to form a presentation at a national conference in March. The message to me? Is that people want to hear what I have to say, and I need to move forward with the confidence in myself that others have already expressed they have in me.

This year had significant disappointments and losses. But, I was stronger and less fearful than I was last year. This year was particularly emotional. But, I was more able to accept the vulnerability and rawness of validating my own experiences and feelings. And so, I believe 2012 will be even better than 2011. I believe that 2012 will bring me challenges. I believe I will be sad and angry at points during the year. I believe the good times will be greater in quantity and quality than any time bringing angst.

I’m sending you warm wishes for your year and wishes for warm hearts. Happy New Year!

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A poet is someone who stands outside in the rain hoping to be struck by lightning. ~James Dickey
The first monsoon storm of the season it right above my head, right now. Hearing the distinctive roar in the clouds, I stepped onto my patio, and sure enough, the beginning of raindrops hit my skin. The sky glows from the city lights reflecting off the surface of the clouds, and I can see the lightening. The thunder in these storms rumbles so fiercely.  In fact, I’ve already jumped in my computer seat – twice – since the storm started tonight!!

Chloe hated the monsoons. I would lock her in my closet because that is the quietest place in the condo, and she would be distraught from the separation from me, but when I let her out, she would tremble so much in fear of the loud noises, nothing would console her! This monsoon storm is sans Chloe.

Even though these storms gave my darling, little girl such grief, there is something to be — simply something to BE  — about experiencing a Sonoran monsoon. It can’t even be said. And, the smell…. This is a different rain scent than anywhere else I’ve ever been in a rain storm. The desert comes alive in a different way during and after a heavy rainfall, and the creosote emits this scent unlike anything other… and I have actually driven in my car to the edge of the city to park preserves just to stand, almost as a crazy person — not trying to be a poet, and just breathe. Breathe in this aroma that is so fleeting and not replicable, to hold onto for the next year’s summer storm season.
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Do you know there is a National Napping Day? I know, right?! The day after Daylight Saving rolls the clock forward is a national day of napping. Well, my napping day came two days early, courtesy of my first strep throat diagnosis since childhood. Man, of my, I forgot how much of a bitter bitch that infection is. The girl who HATES pills, and shudders even to take vitamins, has been white-knuckle gripping vicodin since Saturday morning. And I felt like just the most miserable, worthless, and pathetic person as I dozed in and out of narcotic-induced sleep trying to battle the pain.

It’s fair to say, I have been most neglectful on here lately, and the reasons can really just turn into excuses. I’m still working on getting used to missing Chloe. I still have her little container of cremains on my counter… and I catch myself tapping it as I walk by. One of her (four) beds still sits next to my bed, the bags of veterinary-prescribed kibble still sit behind my dining table where I set them, never putting them in my car to return to the vet. Her still-filled toy basket is still tucked under one of my end tables… on top of which rests the memorial DVD my cousin created for our memorial service for Pepere, who passed not quite a month ago (don’t want to go there, yet).  And in between that with work mentally draining me nearly daily and school challenging me, I haven’t had much to think about let alone write. But, heck, that’s life, right?

So, maybe strep throat was a way for the universe to (quite sadistically) build in a breather for me. No time spent in class, facilitating class, grading papers, or running to any one of the THREE ADORABLE events I had plans to attend. And for the day, I had to just let it go, and in the fog of the pain pills, not let my brain twitch and scatter.

Fortunately, the Real Housewives of Miami had a rerun yesterday and I was able to catch myself up on the season. I have to say… not my favorite. And watching hours of footage of these beautiful women flaunting totally taut and blemish free thighs has me positively petrified of my own Miami excursion, just about four weeks away from today — EEEEEP! The perfect JCrew bikini has already arrived, and the downside to my love of teeny bikinis is the necessity for a bootie size able to fit in said bikini. So, maybe catching strep throat was a jump start on a diet plan for me to crash drop six to eight pounds in time for some fun in the sun? But do I really think he will care? Nah, the drama is created by and is for me. I think, like any other red-blooded-heterosexual male, he’ll just be happy to see his babe in a bikini. Who’s “he?” Ah, umm….. That’s definitely going to require some time for another posting, and kind of me explaining why I decided to go against my “I’ll Never” list and decide to give one lawyer a chance on a date despite swearing off lawyers sometime in the Spring of 2008 following the worst date in my life, courtesy of another litigator.

And for those of you who can squeeze in some time to take a little break from it all, find your own hammock, or non-hammock, if you must, and tomorrow, during National Napping Day, celebrate some patriotism (it’s a national day, after all!) and find some respite and see what little epiphanies can come your way. And, if you can even find yourself 15 minutes or so, find a way to frigging let some of it go.

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She’s Gone | The Loss of a Pet (2)

I can’t say if anything prepares you to say goodbye. The experience of the loss of a pet can crush your core. Chloe could have cared less for even getting out of bed. High-pitched sing-songs for “breakfaaaaaaast” were ignored. I hadn’t given her any insulin Monday evening so the lethargy and disinterest in food could have been because her blood sugar was higher than normal, which the vet was going to check out. I packed her food, insulin, sweater, and some softie toys for her to have smells of home. 

My first update from the vet came at 9 am. She won’t eat, she won’t drink. They administered sub-cutaneous fluids, an antiobiotic, anti-nausea, antacid… and painkillers – she was “resting comfortably now.” Initial blood work from the previous night checked out okay. The vet recommended testing for pancreatitis to see if there was a flare up and also valley fever, but she wasn’t displaying any symptoms of either. Her liver enzymes were very high and with complete certainty, little Chloe was ill and they needed to try to find out why. They would call me back when the vet got out of an upcoming surgery and let me know of any progress.

A little over an hour later, I hadn’t heard anything, and called. And was placed on hold. For a long time. Just so we are clear, by the end of the day,  I was ready to punch this vet. For THIRTEEN AND A HALF YEARS I have been taking Chloe to this veterinarian office and I had NEVER been blown off or disregarded like this frigging vet was treating me. I finally ceased communication with her and spoke with one of the technicians.

Chloe’s 13th b’day party/”bark mitzvah” thrown by her “Auntie Heather & Uncle Kevin”
When I would ask, “exactly HOW SICK is Chloe” I couldn’t get a straight answer.
By noon, Chloe had been given additional fluids, more anti-nausea, and more painkillers. I couldn’t help but do the math because the costs were adding up, very quickly (and I resented that I was doing the math). By 1:30, Chloe was being administered IV fluids, electrolytes, pain killers… and was “resting comfortably.” And I started to understand, because know one was telling me but I could read between the lines, I was going to have to make a decision, at what point was I going to HAVE to say, at 13 ½, I cannot justify additional costs just to try to find out what is ailing my little dog.
 
My biggest fear was staring at me through the black face of my blackberry screen. At 13 ½, when do I say, my little dog has fought long enough. She has come back from near death multiple times already, has had multiple surgeries, already, and was such a strong, sweet, little fighter who even when in pain (already) and sick (already), would still be just so sweet and so happy.
 
Such a quiet, little, loving, stoic. Chloe could not stand on her own, her fever was not dropping, I was going to have to transport her to an overnight emergency vet for observation through the night, but for now, she was “resting comfortably.” Umm, no. She was stoned out of her mind.
Looking for clams in Mexico.
Was I really giving up on her by saying $1700 (total cost of treatment up to that point — that day — and still not-performed-but-recommended-tests) is too much money to try to find out what’s wrong — $1700 before we can even begin attempting to treat (if we even can treat) what we might find out is wrong? And was I really being fair for her for thinking oppositely, and deciding that, no matter the irrationality and (frankly) irresponsibility of accruing whatever cost I could to try to keep her with me? When would I decide that my little fighter has held on long enough, that it’s okay for her to go, that she can let go?
 
At my totally open-office-environment, in the company of a good colleague, I broke. As he talked me through the reasons why I could the best doggie-mom NOW and help her let go, NOW. I started sobbing. I totally and fully… LOST. MY. SHIT. On the work floor. In plain sight of employees, other managers, other directors, I could not have created any more of a circus if I channeled PT Barnum. COMPLETELY UNPROFESSIONAL.
 
And, as he gently explained to me, I had made my decision, and I didn’t need to feel badly about my decision… for her, I was making the decision. And, he was right. I was right, and this time, I did not want to be, right. I wanted to hear the vet tell me what she wouldn’t tell me. I wanted the vet to tell me she could fix Chloe. I wanted the vet to tell me Chloe still had more fight, more life in her.
 
But I didn’t get that answer. In fact, I got NO help from that awful woman (why oh why couldn’t have Dr. Jensen been here one more time to help Chloe and me?).
Here she is, healthy — about 7 years ago — looking at how full her little belly is… by the time she passed, I could encircle her “waist” with my hands. At her healthiest she was 19 pounds. She weighed 13 pounds on 01/11/11.
I left work. I called my mom, whom I had been texting – my mom actually is the one who found and purchased Chloe. And my mom, alone, knew exactly how significant Chloe was to me. In fact, Chloe was originally my mom’s, but my mom gave her to me when she realized my Chihuahua liked her (my mom) more than me and Chloe and I had a sweet little connection. My mom heard my voice, cracking and choking, and she knew. I knew. We both knew what I had to do.
Swimming lessons. Chloe liked to chase lizards. She fell in the pool once and sank. Fortunately, we were outside and rescued her. We decided she needed to learn how to swim.
I did not want her to hang on in pain. She gave me far too much in my life for me to force her to live in misery. I did not want to come home from work – or anywhere – one day to find she died when I was away, to think that she could have died painfully, and alone. I did not want to get a call from any vet office telling me they lost her, and she died, locked in a little kennel, away from smells and sounds and textures she knows.
 

I called the vet office and spoke with Theresa, a vet technician who I have been working with at the office for years and years. And I told her, “we’re going to let Chloe go, tonight.” And Theresa finally told me what no one else would. “Yeaaaaah, Jennifer, she’s not doing well. We don’t know what’s wrong. I think you’re making the right decision. You’re making a good choice. I’m so sorry. I’m really sorry. We tried, we did.” We made arrangements for me to arrive in about 30 minutes and they would have a family room ready for me to spend with Chloe for as long as we could, and Chloe’s euthanasia would be the very last thing the vet did that day. I stopped to get some cheese. To hell with the diabetes and the bladder stones and the damaged pancreas, cheese would not hurt her, anymore. And she loved cheese, and couldn’t have any because of her restricted diet. My little dog was going to have cheese, if she could eat the frigging cheese.

And I got to the vet, and I was brought into the room, and I waited for Chloe. Theresa told me she called Dr. Jensen, who wished me to have her regrets and condolences, and who also stated that Chloe has fought a lot, and even though she’s not there to see Chloe herself, it sounds to her like “it’s time.” I actually appreciated that a call was made to my primary vet, even though the answer was what I didn’t want to hear.

When Rachel carried her in, my limp little dog smelled me, and perked up, and got a little shot of energy. Rachel put her on the ground, curious to see of Chloe would stand, and she ran right to where I was sitting. And she wagged her little tail-nub – and I swear she smiled. Rachel exclaimed amazement and stated that they had not seen as much energy from her in the entire day. I picked her up, and she just melted into my lap, and fell asleep, instantly. I held her, alone in that room, my tears falling on her little, white, forehead and I brushed back her eyebrows. And I spoke to her. And fed her come cheese, before she lost interest in even that.

She couldn’t even stay awake as I held her. And I sobbed. I didn’t even try to be quiet. I cried, completely heartbroken. At 5:47, the vet came in. She medically, sterile-ly explained how the injection would work. I carried Chloe to the table, and she looked up at me, with her huge, brown eyes, and she just looked so tired, and… sad. I gently laid her on the cushion on the table, and then embraced her.

 
I stared at her left eye, the only one I could see from the angle which I held her, and I alternately sketched back and forth to the needle I allowed the vet to stick in her little leg, and the blue solution – a powerful blend of barbiturates that would shut off all functioning in her brain. I knew, in less than moments, she would be gone… because I signed a paper (and paid $1048) and gave the vet permission to humanely kill my dog. In front of me, because I held my helpless, trusting, little, Chloe when the poisons were injected into her.
 
She’s gone.” 
 
That’s what heart break sounds like. A true shattering of one’s core. 
 
Her heart stopped beating after I knew Chloe was really gone. I knew the instant “Chloe” left. I saw her eye change, and that’s when I knew the barbiturates entered her brain. There was no shudder, no sigh. She left, still and quiet.
Getting blessed by one of the Franciscan Friars from St. Mary’s Basilica at “The Casa” (Franciscan Renewal Center) for the annual blessing of animals.
AND I KNOW that Chloe (is) “just a dog.” I KNOW. But she was mine, wholly mine. The one thing I haven’t totally fucked up as an adult. Chloe. Was there for every break-up. EVERY break-up. The big ones, the unexciting ones. She was there when some jerk wouldn’t call, and she was there when the loser-who-couldn’t-get-a-clue wouldn’t stop calling. When I broke up with my best friend of 13 years from high school, she was there. When I found myself terrified in my condo, living alone for the first time in my life, she was there. She filled this horrible little condo with life when I was a veritable walking dead woman. She helped me build a home, and I probably invested far more of my emotional self into my little pup, but she was the constant in my adult life.
In fact, it’s easier for me to think about what part of my life hasn’t had Chloe in it. She has flown across the country, road-tripped into Mexico, tag-alonged to interstate polo tournaments, investigated cattle on a New Mexico ranch, and stalked horses…. Chloe hiked and camped all over the state, swam in the ocean with me, camped on beaches. Heck, she was featured in a local news promotion spot as a doggie model…. Where hasn’t she gone with me?
 

People can disappoint. We lie. To each other, to ourselves. She didn’t, not once. She kept me honest, she kept me accountable. I had a rhythm in my life that revolved around my little dog. That rhythm, the heartbeat that depended on my protection and my nurturing (the rhythm and heartbeat that stabilized my own rhythm and pace), stopped, somewhere between 5:51 and 5:53 pm Tuesday, January 11, 2011.

She’s… gone.

The last picture I took of her.
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