Sweetness and Light

January 7, 2013 at 10:26 pm | Posted in Family, The Pups | 29 Comments
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When our behemoth black Lab was a wee pup, just barely one year old, he ate our remote control. (I’m not kidding.) We didn’t have children yet. We both worked. And one ordinary Tuesday, he got bored while we were out bringing home the Bark’n Bac’n.

Shortly thereafter, we decided to get him a canine friend. Someone older, wiser, more mature. Someone who could teach him more manners than we’d been able to. (Because he had eaten the dog-training book, too.)

Yin and Yang.

My husband chose Polly from a local dog-rescue website. With her shaggy, blonde face smiling up at him, her brown eyes glittering with that Disney-dog aura of hers, I’m pretty sure he was a goner from the first click. And a few days later, she came to live with us.

Actually, she came for a weekend trial. It lasted for seven years.

Because she was the perfect foil for our Lab. She was calm and quiet and gentle. She allowed him to push past her, beat her to the top of the stairs, and bowl her over when he needed to be the alpha dog of someone, anyone, in this ever-more-chaotic house filled with pint-sized ear-pullers. And she never ate things she shouldn’t, save a few crayons, the occasional litter-box cookie, and, once, a bag of lollipops.

She also never barked, except in her sleep when the terrier in her subconscious romped with abandon after squirrels and rabbits. She snuffled when we trimmed her Gandalfian eyebrows. She smelled like fresh tortillas and charmed all the neighborhood postmen.

Sweetness and Light.

We lost her this weekend.

She settled down for the night on her worn green-and-brown bed and never woke up.

She was old. She had arthritis that made it terribly painful to stand up and lie down. She was mostly blind and mostly deaf.

So it was a blessing that she passed peacefully, at home, in her favorite spot.

I know that. I do. Still, I miss her. I wasn’t ready for her to go.

But she was ready.

I have to take comfort in that. Somehow, I have to.

Care to share a funny or sweet story about your pets? About the strangest thing they ever ate? About how your heart manages, somehow, to heal once they’re gone?


Binding Our Wounds

December 15, 2012 at 12:40 am | Posted in Haiku Friday, Lollipop | 4 Comments
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Haiku Friday: Binding Our Wounds


Her class walks our way,
Trailing sweaters, looseleaf, and
New library books.

She has a purple
Dot on her chin from art class.
One shoe is untied.

My selfish heart sings:
She is mine, all mine, still mine.
And then I break. Mine.

Grieve. Learn. Act.
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Help for Sandy Hook Elementary Families

Falling into Place

July 25, 2011 at 1:45 pm | Posted in Family, Transylvania | 16 Comments
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Fort Stockton, Texas.

It’s been a garrison in the flat, dusty West Texas nothingness for 150 years or so, protecting settlers from Indians, Yankees, and wayward steer. I was there once. Back when my husband and I could load one tiny bag in the tiny trunk of his tiny convertible and just go. Anywhere. Any weekend. Because we felt like it.

We stopped for lunch in Fort Stockton on the way to hiking and moon-watching in Big Bend. Over a Nachos Supreme, I nonchalantly said, “So, we might need to get a pregnancy test. I mean, I’m probably not pregnant, but we brought all that wine. So I might need to know if I can drink it. You know, maybe, just in case.”

But my maybes and probably nots didn’t fool either of us. We wanted a baby — and neither of us wanted to hope too much.

We moseyed over to Walmart and bought a two-pack, as casually as if we were buying Doublemint or Doritos. And we drove on, pretending to forget about it. We took one the next morning. Two lines. Two pink lines. The first tangible sign of new life, new beginnings, for us.


Another couple passed through Fort Stockton recently. On their way home from vacation in Colorado. Their two little boys and their daughter sat in the back of their minivan, probably playing Nintendo games or looking for slug bugs. A car going the other way crossed the center median. It smashed into them.

The mom died instantly. The dad died later at the hospital. Both of the boys are paralyzed. Their sister has lots of broken bones.

Their family is broken, too. Where Fort Stockton was the beginning for my family, it’s an ending for this one.


I reflect on all of this 6,000 miles away from that dry, desert cowtown. From my apartment balcony in a foreign city where I’m wearing a sweater in July. Where piles of red cherries decorate the concrete below me, knocked down by the afternoon hailstorm. Where my ears listen keenly for the squeaking sounds of Bun waking.

When he stirs, I load him into the stroller and we walk to the park. We pass the small white church, and I detour into its rose garden. I stand there, letting the sun soak through my clothes as the wind stirs up a faint, flowery sweetness. I notice the doors are open. We tiptoe inside.

The deep blues and oranges in the gold-leaf frescoes zero in on me, on my helplessness and sadness. The congregation chants words my heart needs, even though my brain doesn’t understand them. I feel the simple joy of just being there, of just being.

But I can’t ignore the sickening ache right in my core. Another mother is out of moments like these. Another family is irrevocably altered.

I turn away and slip outside, dropping a few coins in the wooden box by the door for a candle. The wind whips as I try to light it and push it into the sandy stand in the corner of the garden. It blows out. I light it again, and twice more, until I find a spot in the back where the wind can’t reach.

I watch it burn for a while. I say their names out loud, as if making my declaration will soothe their souls, or cement their memories, or heal their children, or something, anything. I stand there until the wind blows Bun’s hat on the ground. Then I put it back on and we walk to the park.

We swing together, back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, each lost in our own thoughts. I can’t help but think of the similar momentum of life. Back, forth, up, down, and again, until it stops. Until we stop.

I think of this place I’m in now, an ocean away from that place, the one where life was both celebrated and taken. I promise myself I will keep swinging, keep pushing forward, keep looking up until it’s time to stop, until it’s my time to stop.

I’ll do it for me. And for them.

How do you cope with tragedy? With reminders of your own mortality? How do you keep going, and do you believe it makes you stronger?


Fluffy Bunnies in Romania:
Read the tales
See the photos.

Haiku Friday

March 18, 2011 at 12:02 am | Posted in Haiku Friday, Lollipop | 13 Comments
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Haiku Friday: Saying Grace

We sit down to eat,
My mom, my daughter, and me,
At a local place.

A TV serves up
Headlines like chips and salsa.
It’s hard to resist.

An old woman in
A mask
waits for a bus to
Somewhere, anywhere.

Her eyes are fierce as
White-suited strangers run tests.
Has she been exposed?

Her back to the screen,
My daughter sways in her chair
To hear her dress swish.

Wearing bunny ears,
She nibbles on tortillas
And her bendy straw.

They found the baby
Alive after four days, still
In her pajamas.

Her parents despaired,
Certain she’d been swept away.
One small miracle.

We share a cookie
And she asks for another,
Just the center part.

Her innocence, as
Soft and sweet as the icing
She loves, crushes me.

15,000 lost.
Still, they search: for life, for time,
For the reason why.

Every degree more
And hope’s half-life decreases.
How long till it’s gone?

When she smiles, I grieve
For mothers and daughters now
Gone. I grab her hand.

I watch the screen and
Look for words to say we’re safe.
But I can’t find them.

How do faraway tragedies become part of your everyday life? How do you choose what to tell your children about your feelings (and theirs)? And how do you make sense of such loss?


Help Japan:
1. “Like” the “Dog Bless You” Facebook page, and $1 will go to support rescue dogs involved in relief efforts.

2. Text REDCROSS to 90999 to donate $10 to the American Red Cross’s relief efforts.

3. Fold and upload a paper crane to send your wishes for relief and healing.

4. Spread the word about Google’s Japan People Finder.

5. Click over for more High-Tech Ways to Help.

Nine Years

September 11, 2010 at 6:00 pm | Posted in Family | 13 Comments
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Nine years ago.

I wasn’t a mother. I wasn’t a wife.

But I saw the towers fall. I saw the posters of the missing. I watched the fruitless search for survivors and the tattered flag hoisted high above the concrete graveyard.

I wasn’t a mother. I wasn’t a wife. But I ached for them, the mothers and wives who lost and were lost that day.

Nine years later.

I am a mother. I am a wife. I understand what it means to love, as a partner, as a parent. I can’t comprehend losing that, losing them.

Nine years later, I still ache. Always, I’ll ache.

And I’ll remember.

What will you remember?

Five for Ten: Courage

May 10, 2010 at 10:00 am | Posted in Family, Five for Ten | 44 Comments
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February. 1951. My grandparents.

One month after this picture is taken, my grandmother gives birth to a baby girl. The labor is too difficult, the Cesarean too late, her little lungs too weak. She dies two days later.

My grandfather arranges for her tiny body to be returned to their small town from the nearby city hospital. He chooses a simple grave marker etched with flowers. He buries his firstborn.

My grandmother must stay in the hospital, recovering. She never meets her daughter. Never strokes her soft forehead, nuzzles her smooth cheek, or holds her delicate fingers. Never murmurs I love you.

They return to their farm. Harvest the cotton. Try to make a living. Try to forget. But the bassinet in the corner of their bedroom reminds them. Their daughter is not here.

Within the year, my grandmother is pregnant again. She gives birth on February 29. A boy. A Leap Year baby.

He dies the next day.

They name him after my grandfather. They bury him next to his sister. They can’t afford a second gravestone, but their minds are marked. Indelibly.

Your children will never survive. That’s what the doctors say.

They try to understand, try to keep moving. They cry for their babies: the two they’ve lost and the others, just whispers in the life they thought they’d have.

They try to adopt. At the last moment, it falls through. The bassinet in their bedroom is empty, still.

They try again. And my mother becomes their daughter in the spring of 1953. She has blue eyes and blond curls. She lights the dark corners of their home, just as she soothes the sharp edges of their souls.

Two years later, my grandmother is unexpectedly pregnant. She carries the baby with quiet resolve, already anticipating the emptiness of loss even as she yearns for new, thriving life.

She gives birth to a baby boy. He struggles. But he survives.

They bring him home. They are a family of four.

They are four. But, also, they are six. Always, they will be six.

Because they have courage.

The courage to look back. The courage to look forward. The courage to remember.


Read more about courage at Momalom’s Five for Ten.

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