Monday, February 28, 2011

Monday Morning Flowers! Goodbye February!

Happy Monday to all!

February makes a bridge and March breaks it.
- George Hebert

From December to March, there are for many of
us three gardens:
the garden outdoors,
the garden of pots and bowls in the house,
and the garden of the mind's eye.
-- Katherine S. White

Hope you are on your way to a good week ahead!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Betty's Clothing Confession

Rest assured, Betty knows how to rock a fashionable outfit. When Betty leaves for work in the morning, even the crows atop of roof stop and admire the snazzy jacket, pants, and coordinating shirt she has placed upon her body.

“Yeah, Betty! Lookin’ good, Betty!” they say in crow language as they nod their glossy black necks in approval.

Each evening I come home in the same natty outfit I left the house in, pick up the mail and enter the front door. To the outside world, a well-dressed, respectable person resides within this house. People walking by smile, envisioning me sitting down to a pot of tea and a crossword puzzle, still in my sophisticated outfit after a hard day of work

However, the harsh reality is, that in a scene reminiscent of the board game “Mystery Date,” anyone coming to the door even five minutes later would gasp in surprise, astonishment, and a tad bit of horror.


Because when I come home, I immediately take off those work clothes, and I look in my closet for something to wear around the house. I look past all the cute tops and sweaters I have purchased expressly for wearing after work.

Instead, I dig around for the object of my desire.

I am a woman who, when offered a fine meal in a five-star restaurant, declines and searches instead for the old burrito she knows is somewhere in her refrigerator. There in my closet, I search. I scan the floor and at last, I see it: the torn, the ragged, the stained red sweatshirt that I love so much.

I ignore all the healthy clothing choices and slip this bad boy on over my body.

Immediately, I revel in the sheer joy this old, heavy cotton bag with ripped sleeves gives me.


My clothing drug of choice.

Yeah, baby. I’m feeling good.

Add a pair of jeans: from natty to ratty in five minutes flat.

(Sometimes I leave my earrings and necklace on, just for that extra bit o' glamour.)

Time after time, I have vowed to stop wearing sweatshirt. It belongs in the trash. I know that. Many times I have stood in the garage with it in my hand, hovering over the ragbag, trying to convince myself to just let it drop.

Once, I even forced myself to paint in it, thinking that splatters of paint would convince me to let it go. Nope. Years of reading those lying tags on expensive sweaters paid off. “The variations in the weave and dye of this garment should not be considered flaws, but enhancements to the natural fibers of which this fine piece of clothing is created.” Ah yes! I finally understood! Through my glazed eyes, the paint stains actually DID add to the beauty and sheer authenticity of the sweatshirt.

What is it that draws me back to this worn-out, rag-tag sad excuse for a sweatshirt? I don’t even remember where I got it. It was not especially expensive. It has no insignia on it that makes me nostalgic.

Is its effect Pavlovian? Does the donning of this sweatshirt signal that I am home, safe, unencumbered by the demands of the outside world? Since there are many nights that I sleep in it, does wearing it bathe my brain in thoughts of peaceful sleep? (Poor HOB! This is my version of sexy lingerie. I may have ruined him for his next wife.)

I know that if HOB or my children were hanging around the house in the same type of item of clothing, I would harass and annoy them to no end. I would give them lectures on self-respect and dignity. I might even go so far as to hide the item of clothing. (As I did as a favor for HOB when his mother sent him that shirt that made him look like an Easter egg.) AND I would never let them out of the house something that ragged looking.

Now, before you get the mental picture of me trudging through the frozen food section of the grocery store in my sweatshirt, placing a large plastic bag of generic hash browns in my cart, and being stared at and pitied by all those around, let me tell you that I DO take it off if I need to go to the store, or over to a friend's house.

However, I have no problem buzzing around the neighborhood on my morning and evening walks in it. My justification of this behavior varies day to day, but generally I choose from this handy menu of thoughts:

A.) I walk so incredibly fast, no human eye can track my movements, and therefore no ordinary retina can focus on the torn sleeves and frayed neckline of my sweatshirt.

B.) Ratty exercise wear indicates an intense dedication to sport. People will admire my passion. My sweatshirt connotes that I have no time to think of fashion. Instead, it sends the message that I am in training for some future incredibly athletic event.

C.) My sweatshirt grants me the superpower of invisibility when out walking. (This one is my favorite and most often used.)

One of the sleeves is now hanging by a thread. I know that when that frays and breaks, that will be my signal to give it up. It will be time. I will move on. Right? I will not think of using safety pins, or even sewing it back on with honest-to-goodness needle and thread.

I’ll know when it’s time to give it up.

Really, I will.

So, my dear readers, do you have similar clothing quirks? Do you have pieces of clothing that you know you probably shouldn’t wear but do?

Gather around me, my support group.

Soothe me with tales of your shabby, your ripped, your stained clothing, yearning to be worn.

Tell me about the sweater with the large cat head on it.

Does the cat have jeweled eyes?

One or two?

Tell me all about it.

Leave out no detail.

Friday, February 25, 2011

It's Been a Long Week

Won't you join me for a little break?

Happy Friday, Sweet Things!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

A Capitol Time

We had a happy weekend in Sacramento.

We visited with good friends AND Sonny Boy and his girlfriend were able to come up from Santa Cruz to join us.

Big Fun!

We visited the capitol building as part of our visit.

Gotta love buildings like this.

Dome Time! It was gorgeous.

This was on the ceiling inside.

This is a memorial for a feral cat who lived on the capitol grounds for thirteen years. See was friendly and hung out on the south side of the capitol, the same side that houses the Senate--hence the name given to her.

Betty approves of this memorial.

Thanks for coming on this field trip with me!

Now get back on the bus and you'll each get a snack.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Poetry Tuesday: "Poppies" by Sandra McPherson


Orange is the single-hearted color. I remember
How I found them in a vein beside the railroad,
A bumble-bee fumbling for a foothold
While the poppies' petals flagged beneath his boot.

I brought three poppies home and two buds still sheathed.
I amputated them above the root. They lived on artlessly
Beside the window for a while, blazing orange, bearing me
No malice. Each four-fanned surface opened

To the light. They were bright as any orange grove.
I watched them day and night stretch open and tuck shut
With no roots to grip, like laboratory frogs' legs twitching
Or like red beheaded hens still hopping on sheer nerves.

On the third afternoon one bud tore off its green glove
And burst out brazen as Baby New Year.
Two other poppies dropped their petals, leaving four
Scribbly yellow streamers on a purple-brimmed and green

Conical cadaver like a New Year's hat.
I'd meant to celebrate with them, but they seemed
So suddenly tired, these aging ladies in crocheted
Shawl leaves. They'd once been golden as the streets

Of heaven, now they were as hollow.
They couldn't pull together for a last good-bye.
I had outlived them and had only their letters to read,
Fallen around the vase, saying they were sorry.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Monday Morning Almond Blossoms

Happy Monday, My People!

HOB and I took the seven hour drive to Sacramento this past weekend.

It was glorious fun to get out of town and go visit friends.

We passed thousands of almond trees on Highway 5.

Almond Fans, Rejoice!

This year's crop looks good!

Hope you have a bountiful Monday.

Remember to be gentle with yourself and others. We are all children of chance and none can say why some fields will blossom while others lay brown beneath the August sun. Care for those around you. Look past your differences. Their dreams are no less than yours, their choices no more easily made. And give, give in any way you can, of whatever you posses. To give is to love. To withhold is to wither. Care less for your harvest than for how it is shared and your life will have meaning and your heart will have peace.

--Kent Nerburn

Friday, February 18, 2011

Shopping With the Vengeful Teacher Betty

Recently I wrote a post about my actions as a teacher which had everyone telling me what I good person I was. In the interest of true honesty, I bring out this former post which reveals my other side.

Betty loves her students.

Well, OK, not all of them.

There are those who come to Betty's class, not seeking essential information about comma splices and fragments, but come merely bent on making Betty's life miserable by talking incessantly to their friends. Normally, Betty can squash this behavior like an old grape, but there was one student, many years ago whose talking nearly drove me crazy.

You see, it wasn't talking talking--the kind you can hear, distinguish words, and then repeat back to the student thereby letting him KNOW your hearing is akin to a bat's echolocation. I would be up there in front of class, giving essential information on writing well--the key that will unlock all the blessings of our modern society--and I would hear it: the low, steady, continuous buzzing of verbiage from his area. His lips barely moved and when I looked his way the buzzing stopped momentarily and then started again when I resumed my lecture.

I spoke to him over and over again about his behavior, putting on my best teacher look and tone. Bored and passive, he stared at me, obviously perturbed that I had come back to interrupt his important conversations. I continued to remind him to be quiet. He continued to ignore me. I bought power suits and wore them, in ascending austerity throughout the semester.

However, nothing stopped this verbal incontinence on his part--the slow steady leaking of whatever words he had stored up in his bladder-like cheeks. Akin to a Poe story, it went on and on, slowly driving me out of my mind. Near the end of the semester, he began to deny that he was doing it. Oh, but he was! I heard it, heard it, heard it, the low rumble, the burbling burning my ears. One day I heard it--the saw-like sound of his whispered buzzing. It reached my ears and rang there with its undertone of insubordination. I spun around in class to have my usual stare down with him, but he was not there! I looked around; he was gone. His friends said he had gone to the restroom. It was true, he was not physically in the room, but the sound remained, remained staining the very fabric of the air like bloodstains on the collar of the bridal gown of the doomed.

He made it through the semester--or I should say I made it through the semester and blessed each and every footstep he took as he exited the classroom for the final time.

(Change of mental music here: Go from loud, dramatic organ music to light Muzak, say, for instance, "The Girl from Impanema.")

HOB, my friend K, and I are all at the boxy, modern electronic store where all the employees dress like Mormon missionaries and practically embrace you as you enter the store. Friend K is getting her computer fixed and we have about an hour to kill in the store. We play with the massage chairs, and we go flip all the dials on all the cameras and camcorders. We cruise the aisles, each bearing a framed picture of an employee of the store, smiling, with the caption "This aisle proudly maintained by:" followed by the name of the employee.

In an attempt to continue to entertain ourselves, K and I head to the kitchen appliances aisle to make fun of the hot dog makers and green plastic margarita machines. Passing by one of the 97 cash registers, I stopped short. There he was! My nemesis! The low-talking pest from my class oh so long ago. He was dressed in the cult-like garb of the corporation.

Now, I am not a vengeful person. Well, not unless my blood sugar is low or you have a history of sitting in my class talking without end to your maladjusted friend behind you. He had made my workplace environment uncomfortable for me. He had raised my hostility levels. I have sat through enough employee training videos to know that this is considered some kind of harassment and since I don't see another avenue of recourse, I am thinking I have some sort of right to make his workplace environment a tad bit uncomfortable for him.

I pull K aside and tell her the story. Then I tell her my plan. I am going to find his aisle--the one proudly maintained by this ne'er-do-well and I am going to mess with it. K is a little appalled, but, good friend she is, agrees to at least help me find his aisle.

We find HOB who is a good person and wants nothing to do with this plan. He even says, "This is wrong on so many levels." He tries to convince me not to carry out my evil plan but just seeing that face--the face of the low-talking agent of evil-- again has ignited in me a vengeance that is running rampant through my veins.

We leave HOB behind as we look through the aisles, searching for The Face. We look computer component aisles, but none of the faces match up. We search the radio and TV aisles and I am secretly hoping he is not in charge of those--too heavy, too many cords; we'd have to really work hard switching them all around and the effect would be somewhat minimal. I'm not afraid of the work, but I want the payout to be magnificent. We search the computer game aisles--still no match, but I view with delight all the boxes, now lined up in neat displays, alphabetically arranged. Then, I grab K's arm and say with renewed fervor, "Let's check the CD and DVD aisles!"

Now, by this time, K is starting to lose interest, but my imagination is on the Tilt-a-Whirl at the Vengeance Carnival. All those hundreds and hundreds of titles, alphabetically arranged, all those thin little boxes, all the categories. Just think: "I Love Lucy" ends up in Horror. "Nightmare on Elm Street" ends up next to "Sesame Street." The boxes, all turned upside down, sideways, out of alphabetical order. I run to the aisle and scan for The Face. I whisper to the Gods of All that is Wrong but Feels so Right, "Just give me this..."

Alas. This aisle is NOT proudly maintained by my sworn foe, but instead by a sad-looking nymph.*

By this time HOB has caught up with us and as he gently pries my fingers off the shelf I am now gripping as if I am experiencing a Moro reflex, he suggests we go and get a "good meal."

I agree, but vow to return to complete my life's mission.

Well, a meal of a Subway Veggie Max sandwich, Doritos, and a large Diet Pepsi pretty much has magical powers over me. I told K and HOB that had come to my senses and agreed to be a mature adult and forget and forgive.

They both nodded and smiled, proud of my growth as a person and my capacity to embrace life and let go of past hurts.

(I think I can cover more ground in the store next time I go without those two to drag me down, and as far as I could tell, they couldn't even hear that sound, that low, murmured string of sound, I heard, heard, heard throughout the store!)

*(In this case, we go to definition #4)
1. one of a numerous class of lesser deities of mythology, conceived of as beautiful maidens inhabiting the sea, rivers, woods, trees, mountains, meadows, etc., and frequently mentioned as attending a superior deity.
2. a beautiful or graceful young woman.
3. a maiden.
4. the young of an insect that undergoes incomplete metamorphosis.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Card Club

As many of you know, HOB’s father recently passed away. HOB was so touched by all the people who reached out with messages to him. He was amazed each time someone sent a card of condolence.

When I was younger I kind of pooh-poohed the idea of cards. I figured that in the overwhelming face of death, a $2.95 card from me would do little to ease someone’s suffering. I would send sympathy cards to close friends and family, maybe, but I never really thought of sending them to co-workers, or neighbors. In a way I thought they would think I was being ghoulish or latching on to their sorrow in a way I had no right to latch on.

All that changed when I joined the Card Club after my own father passed away.

I was unable to go to the funeral since I was traveling in Europe at the time. I remember getting home and finding cards in my mailbox from friends, neighbors, acquaintances, and co-workers.
Since I had not gone through the ritual of the funeral or burial, these cards were especially important to me.

I remember opening one from a fellow teacher I knew, but not well, and a wave of recognition swept over me. She had recently lost a parent. She knew. She understood. She had paid her dues to the Card Club and now was extending her hand out to me, a recent inductee.

That’s what I saw when I really looked at the cards that had been sent after HOB’s father’s death.

I realized that almost everyone who sent a card was someone who had lost at least one parent. These cards, these pieces of stock paper with pretty pictures on them, were messages from those who had experienced great losses.

People were sending silent and powerful nods to his situation and all the emotions he was feeling. They were saying, “I know. I know. And now you know too. And I'm sorry. And it hurts. And it will hurt for some time to come.”

Welcome to the Card Club.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Poetry Tuesday: "Happiness" by Raymond Carver


So early it's still almost dark out.
I'm near the window with coffee,
and the usual early morning stuff
that passes for thought.

When I see the boy and his friend
walking up the road
to deliver the newspaper.

They wear caps and sweaters,
and one boy has a bag over his shoulder.
They are so happy
they aren't saying anything, these boys.

I think if they could, they would take
each other's arm.
It's early in the morning,
and they are doing this thing together.

They come on, slowly.
The sky is taking on light,
though the moon still hangs pale over the water.

Such beauty that for a minute
death and ambition, even love,
doesn't enter into this.

Happiness. It comes on
unexpectedly. And goes beyond, really,
any early morning talk about it.

--Raymond Carver

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day!

Good Monday Morning!

What a great way to start off the week--with Valentine's Day!

Hope you are surrounded by love today.

Of course, being surrounded by chocolate would be good too....

Embrace life! Don't be koi!

A coward is incapable of exhibiting love; it is the prerogative of the brave.
--Mahatma Ghandi

Sunday, February 13, 2011

My Excuse Today

What can I say?

Another Laundry Day delayed due to Cat Comfort.

No catnip was used to create this scene.

(I'm saving that for tomorrow when the thrill is gone and I have no more excuses for not doing laundry.)

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Why I Didn't Get the Laundry Done Yesterday

Now how could I have disturbed her?

She stayed there all day.

Good Kitty.

Good Kitty.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Things are Looking Up!

Happy Friday to You and Yours!

Hope your day is a happy one!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Important Job

Yesterday was one of those days when I looked at the clock at 7:00 a.m. and already felt behind.

My mind filled with all the things I had to accomplish. I had paragraphs to grade, e-mails to answer, lessons to plan, data from last semester to total up and get in, and I had a batch of essays I needed to go through and mark thoroughly. I hustled around, threw my briefcase into the car and drove to school, plagued with the list of things to do circling in my brain like a loop tape.

I got to campus, and started in. I was going to be a machine. I was going to get things done. I would focus, concentrate. I would conquer the pile of papers that sat before me. I shook my fist towards the heavens a la Scarlett. As God as my witness, I’d have an empty desk by nightfall. This was my one and only goal.

I worked for about ten minutes when there was a knock at my door. I spun around, ready to dispatch the intruder. There stood a student I hadn’t seen much of lately. He had come to ask to make up his missed assignments. Teacher Betty does not allow late work unless students let her know ahead of time they will be out of class. Still, I thought, I’d give him the handouts I had distributed in class and get him on his way. It would take five minutes at the most and then I would be back to my Very Important Work.

He sat on my couch and I started yammering on about how he had missed an entire section on organization, and it was up to him to get caught up with the material.

As I was yapping away with my Teacher Talk, I caught a glimpse of something in his face that made me stop. He was nodding and accepting the papers I was giving him, but there was a look of pain in his eyes that had nothing to do with missing the class and the work.

I have taught at community college long enough to know that our students are complicated. Their lives are complicated. Along with the traditional students are the nontraditional. The student who looks sleepy in the back row has not been out partying all night. He has been working in the strawberry fields since 6:00 a.m. and comes to class when he gets off at 2:00 p.m. The single mom is not missing my class because she is home watching TV. She is waiting in line at the free clinic for help for a sick child. My student who wears the tracking bracelet is trying hard to make a new life for himself by attending college for the first time and is finding it takes courage to fit into this new landscape and not fall back on his old ways.

I put the handouts aside, and asked him why he had been absent.

Now, maybe it’s because in English class we deal with words, with narratives, and with the emotions that come with them, but I’d be willing to bet that students feel more comfortable talking with their English teachers than, say, their chemistry or math teachers.

His story came out. It was a painful one and he needed to talk. He needed someone to listen. I couldn’t do much to help his situation, but I could listen and be supportive of him. I could let him know that he wasn’t alone and things would eventually get better.

After my student left my office, I glanced at the clock. Thirty minutes had passed by and yet, I suddenly felt like I had enough time to do all the things I needed to do. I looked at the pile of papers on my desk and I knew I’d get them all done in due time.

I felt a total shift in my attitude and outlook.

The anxiety I had worn like a heavy cape all morning had slipped off my shoulders. I felt a peacefulness and calm come over me.

I had the rare and wonderful sense of knowing that at that moment I was exactly where I was supposed to be, doing exactly what I was supposed to be doing in my life.

It made me think. How many other times I had plowed ahead with my own agenda, blind to the opportunities that life presented to me to help a fellow human being?

I'll still make plans, and lists, and vows to clear my desk, but from now on I won't just concentrate on the work I plan to do.

I'll be more aware of the opportunities to do the real work that I am given.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Poetry Tuesday: "Dusting" by Marilyn Nelson


Thank you for these tiny
particles of ocean salt,
pearl-necklace viruses,
winged protozoans:
for the infinite,
intricate shapes
of submicroscopic
living things.

For algae spores
and fungus spores,
bonded by vital
mutual genetic cooperation,
spreading their
inseparable lives
from equator to pole.

My hand, my arm,
make sweeping circles.
Dust climbs the ladder of light.
For this infernal, endless chore,
for these eternal seeds of rain:
Thank you. For dust.

--Marilyn Nelson

Monday, February 7, 2011

Monday Morning Flowers!

Happy Monday!

You can bet as I was walking around the grounds of the Huntington Library on Saturday with my camera, I was thinking of all my snowbound Bunnies out there.

I worked to gather flowers especially for you.

Look! Poppies! Poppies! Let's all sleep in a field of poppies!

Here's one just for you.

(Do you have your nose pressed up against your computer screen?
Are we sharing a special moment just as I had planned?)

Here's a big ball of sunshine.

Please Note: You have Dr. Betty's permission to sit and stare at these pictures as long as you need to.

It's a mental health issue, after all.

Let's not neglect it.

Flowers always make people better, happier, and more helpful; they are sunshine, food and medicine for the soul.

--Luther Burbank

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Out and About With Betty

Betty had a wonderful time out and about yesterday with some gal pals.
We headed to the Huntington Library in San Marino, CA.

Our first stop was at the tea house for some goodies.

(I thought these would get your attention.)

It was the Chinese New Year so there were red lanterns all over.

This is the roof of the conservatory from inside.

The Japanese Garden was especially lovely.

The Statue Garden was wonderful as well.

Betty was inspired.

Hope you are having a wonderful weekend!

Friday, February 4, 2011

The Stages of Development (Plot and Otherwise)

17 year-old son announces he wants to go with four friends to NBA game in Los Angeles (a 60 mile drive in heavy southern California traffic to crowded stadium).

He wants to drive.


Person vs. Person: Mother vs. Son

Person vs. Environment: Son from small suburban city in small car on crowded freeway amid huge, honking SUV's

Person vs. Self: Mother battles inner voices. Should she just say NO? Is she holding him back? Is she preventing him from becoming independent? Is she merely protecting him? Is it her duty to say no? Does she have a backbone? Is she using it? Is she overprotective and smothering? Is it her own fear or legitimate concern? Is she crippling him? Is she setting herself up for Lifetime Movie Tragedy?

Rising Action: In the week leading up to game, mother and son discuss possible trip. She refuses to give him answer. He refuses to let issue slip away. Mother loses valuable beauty sleep due to worry. Decision must be made. Father finally says OK but with hesitation and with caveat that mother must agree.

Climax: Mother closes eyes, says prayer, prints out maps, talks to every boy going in car about importance of maturity, gets cell phone numbers of every boy in car. Father checks over all safety aspects of car, parents lecture boy on safe driving, responsibility, use of AAA card, use of common sense.

Boy and four friends get in small red car car and leave for game as mother watches from window. Fingernail imprints left in window sill indicate her mental state.

Falling Action/Denouement: Two hours later, cell phone call confirms boy and friends have made it to game. Mother collapses in bed from exhaustion. Four hours later, father confirms by phone that son is on way home and goes to bed.

Resolution/Conclusion: Sweetest sight in the entire world at 5:00am when mother awakens?

The little red car in the driveway.

The lump in the bed under that familiar bedspread.

The shoes by the door.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Maddie and Me

I'll admit it. I am hideously attached to our dog, Maddie. This golden retriever/corgi mix came into our lives ten years ago. At the time we picked her out at the pound, the vet guessed her age at about four years. We got her because we wanted our boys to have a dog and they fell in love with her instantly. We all did. She became a part of our family and remained there.

She was the family dog, and even though there were promises to help walk her and feed her, you can guess to whom that responsibility fell. She and I walked miles and miles together—every morning and every evening, the same route, the same time.

When I worked in the yard, she came to sit beside me. In the house, she followed me from room to room, always settling down next to me. All those times I cooked for hungry boys in the kitchen, she was right there. When HOB traveled out of town on business, Maddie stayed with me, making me feel safe and keeping me company. Needless to say, we’ve had some good talks over the years.

One night I went to bed and she flopped on her bed in the darkened bedroom. I suddenly remembered something I needed in the living room and without turning on the lights, I went out to get it. On the way, I tripped over an ottoman and went down hard. I thought surely I had broken a rib or two and struggled to try and get up, but lay back down instead, trying hard not to cry. I called out to HOB but he was in his office with the door shut. Both boys were in their bedrooms asleep. A minute passed and then in the quiet dark of the night, I heard the steady sounds of Maddie’s toenails as she made her way across the hard living room floor. She stood beside me and waited for me the get up. When I did, she wagged her tail. Then she turned and I followed her back to the bedroom. She waited for me to climb into bed and then she went back to her own.

Maddie has slowed down considerably in the past year or so. Our regular walks are a thing of the past. She sleeps a lot more. She stays on her bed more. There are times she doesn’t make it completely out the door to do her business. Sometimes when I come home, she does not wake up when the garage door opens and yet, when she finally does awaken and sees me, her eyes light up and the tail begins to wag.

Her list of medications grows and recently she's had some severe skin issues. Last week we had her shaved so we could treat that condition. When she got back from the groomer, we found this marking on her neck freshly-shaven neck:

This, as anyone can plainly see, is her love note to us.

Two days ago I walked by her and saw her staring at me—her head strangely tilted. She was twitching; her eyes were racing back and forth. When she got up to walk, she stumbled and fell. She vomited on the floor. I called HOB who looked at her and then at me and shook his head. It appeared she had had a stroke. With great sadness, I called the veterinarian who does in-home euthanasia. He said he could be there by 3:30pm. We spent the day saying our goodbyes. It was heart-wrenching to watch Evan say farewell to his dog.

The doctor got there and recognized the symptoms immediately. It was not a stroke. It was geriatric vestibular syndrome—an inner ear problem that could possibly be treated. He said considering her age and other problems, he could put her down, but he needed us to know that this syndrome could be treated if we were willing to do so.

HOB and I looked at each other. We did not say much but I know we were thinking there had already been too much sorrow this year. We were going to rally around this dog. The vet assured us Maddie was not in pain and could have a good quality of life if the treatment was successful.

So our girl is still here, but this last scare made me realize my attachment for this dog goes deeper than the normal love I have for animals.

I realize now that Maddie is, for me, a link to the past. She is the survivor of all those years of growth and change in our boys. She and I have watched it all---first days of school, the skateboarding years, the soccer years, the driving lessons, the farewell to Sonny Boy as he set out for college. Maddie and I have stayed put and watched the parade as it passed by. And we've loved it all.

The parallels between us are scarily apparent. Her boys love her very much, but she is no longer the center of their lives. They have found their own ways, their own interests. They have made the normal transition to independence and now their contact with her is minimal. It’s natural. It’s good, but there is a part of her that misses it all.

When I see a woman my age in the park patiently walking slowly beside an old dog, I smile a knowing smile. I know the story: it was the family dog, but the family has grown up and moved on. She now takes all her maternal instincts—the ones she still longs to exercise—and she heaps them upon this old dog. She will be loyal and faithful to this creature until the very end, because she finishes that she starts and because she understands, at least a little, what it feels like on this end of the journey.