Monday, September 15, 2014

This Blog Should Be Called the Chronicles of Dead Black Dogs

Since that's all I seem to be writing about here.

We killed her.  I know that seems a little drastic but when you break it down it's true.  She had an addiction and we didn't break her of it.  She was an adrenalin junky.  You were Miss Bee.  You were.  She, from the moment she arrived here at the Homestead, chased things with wheels or legs that moved.  My earliest memories of her are of her chasing my garden cart as I pulled it around the property.  But here is the list of other things:

anyone on a bike
the 4 wheeler
the ski boat
children sledding
any bird, including our chickens
any chipmunk (their taunting chirps made her go berserk)
definitely the cat
Medora's goats
pollywogs in the pond
any ball, puck, or moving object thrown or kicked by a kid

I'm sure there are other things I've forgotten but her need to get whatever was moving is what ultimately led to her demise.  If we had been any good- we would have trained her.  We talked about a shock collar.  For years.  Would that have helped?  Tough saying, not knowing.  My guilt is overwhelming.  She was just starting out.  This was her beginning.

I've lost a follower.  I'm down one from 10.  I don't write on this here platform anymore.  Life with preteens is enough.  So, I'm sad to jot down only sad news but I want Bee's life chronicled somewhere.  I want to remember her just as I do today.  Sometimes time doesn't lend itself to remembering.  And I don't want to forget.

Liebe died on Mother's Day in 2011.  Bee was born June 9, a few months after.  We filled the hole with Bee.  She arrived with her rambunctious spirit, which was not loved by Sydney, our old hag.  Therein lied some guilt too.  It's rampant in these parts.  Early on Bee ate dead frogs on the road and perfected her art of chasing the cat.  It got to the point near the end of her life that she associated bringing down the recycling to the basement with the cat.  She would bark as soon as we picked up the recycling bucket to head towards the basement and like Pavlov's dog she drooled with the excitement of the prospect of a chase.  I won't be able to walk towards the basement door without remembering how she would blow by anyone to shoot down the stairs first- just in case the cat was within biting distance.  A few days before she died she almost had him.  He stayed in the brown shed until yesterday.

Bee was a free spirit in the woods.  She took her own path, often on the scent of a deer or two.  She would always come back, frothing at the mouth after a good long sprint.  This was okay in the woods, but I knew some day that it wouldn't be okay on our road- even though we live in the middle of nowhere.  We let her do it anyway.  Well, because we like to make our children happy.  I always kept her on a leash on the busier road at the bottom of the hill.  Paul Bunyan would sometimes risk it down there with her off-leash.  We had trained her to come to us when she heard a car.  We would make her sit until the car was out of sight and then we would release her.  Sometimes she would chase anyway.  But most of the time, she stayed with us.  And this worked for three and a half years.

Until Bee didn't have time to come back to me before the second car came down the road.

She slept at my feet and barked at 3 in the afternoon for dinner.  She barked at the shadows cast by the full moon.  She barked when she needed attention, which is why I got her a friend.  Bozie will have to be a different post.  But they played hard, together, for a full month.  They had their first fight on Friday.

Bee was a sweet sweet dog.  She had kisses for you whenever you wanted one.  She and Paul Bunyan would hug often.  All he needed to do was to get down on one knee.  She loved to lick his salty head.  He would give her a rub down in return.  We constantly wonder why we keep setting ourselves up for this heartache.  And I have to remind myself that the heartache is trumped by all the love and affection that we have received from all of our black labs.  Bee slept at my feet.  In the morning she crept up for kisses.  And there is nothing that can replace the feeling of contentment that you can receive from having someone come to greet you, happily, at the door.  Especially if your preteens don't care if you've come or gone.

I think it helps people deal with a loss when they tell themselves that their loved one died doing what he/she loved to do.  I'm quite certain the Crocodile Hunter's family said that when he died.  Or there was a guy who died using one of those wingsuits.  Or the local boy last month who drove his motorcycle too fast down a dirt road.  All these adrenaline junkies who knew the risks but did it anyway.  I could say that for Bee.  She was doing what she LOVED to do.  But she didn't know the inherent risks in doing what she was doing.  That's what's killing me.  We were the ones responsible for this.  I should have stayed in the woods.  I should have kept her on the leash.  We should have gotten that shock collar.  We should have trained her that first day she chased my garden cart.  should should should should should should.

Well, this I know.  Her legs and spirit traveled more in this time and place than most dogs do in a lifetime.  We shared a love and a short life and it was a gift.  She was a gift.  She is a gift.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

I think I Have an Alien Baby Inside of Me

Summer is passing at warp speed.  Boys are moving around in 5 packs.  They have a mob mentality and don't pick up their wet suits and towels and before I can ask them to they're off and running to sleep over someone else's house.  At least last night I made them brush their teeth before they left.  They're tan and growing so fast their bones hurt.  See what sleep and sunshine do?  They make me have to buy twice the burger meat. 

We're here there and everywhere.  It's par for the course.  I'm not going to make this a weepy report of my sobriety but let's just say it's going swimmingly.  I've replaced beer with homemade limeades and last night I had a lemonade mixed with some strawberry jam I jarred up yesterday afternoon.  I've replaced my need to get drunk with a need to host dinner.  I want to feed people, see their relief.  I threw a 9 lb. piece of pork in the oven yesterday and let it cook in its own bone and fat for 7 hours.  I pulled it all apart and slathered it in apple cider vinegar, ketchup and brown sugar.  It was too simple to taste so good.  It's hard to believe you're eating muscle when it tastes like candy.  No scraps for the compost bin. 

Arthur wrecked our beach trip this year; I still dug my feet in the sand and ate like a queen.  Seems to be the thing to do down there.  Before that I was spoiled in L.A.  Getting my hair "blow dried," hanging out with the Fonz again.  You know that section of the tabloids where they show stars being regular people..."They're JUST like us!"?  Well, Henry's just like us.  You should see his grandson's face when he sees him.  Love is human.  Love is kind.

Bees buzzing around the homestead again- swarmed from my neighbor's hive.  I sawed off the branch they were clinging to and Amy and I in our bee keeper's outfits, sweat rolling down our backs, captured them into a plastic bucket.  Sweeping them in with a broom like they were dog hair piles collected in the corner of the living room.  It was surreal.  We just dumped them, literally, into a new box and they immediately started working, cleaning, exploring, protecting their queen who sits around and lays eggs all day.  It's phenomenal.  I heard the box buzzing this morning as I worked to get my garden presentable.  It seems like an impossible task (more weeds than vegetables) and then I think about those bees working so hard to make honey so they can exist in this world.  I can, at least, weed for an hour.  But my mind wanders to the list- bills to pay, friends that need help, Mom that's getting emergency hip replacement (right now), laundry that needs to get hung, dishes that need doing, book list that needs creating, boat that needs registering, pizza oven that needs starting, dog needs exercising, me that needs exercising, soccer sign-ups, dinner thoughts, greenhouse plants that need watering, ugh.  I'm sure the bees have complex lives too but what I wouldn't give to just have one goal: nectar.  That's it.  Go get it.  Bring it back.  Go get more.  Sleep.  Go get nectar.  Bring it back. Go get more.

I have to admit I like the chaos.  I don't sit very well.  Lately, when I've sat on my porch in my new furniture to take a moment for myself I get this sensation in my gut.  Something rolls around inside of me.  It truly feels like I have a baby doing somersaults in my stomach, which (ya know) I've felt before, so I'm qualified to tell you that that's what it feels like.  But, yet, it sorta feels different too.  Which is why I think I have an alien in my belly.  I'm pregnant with an alien baby.  But that's ok.  Maybe he/she'll treat me like I'm the queen and they'll do all the work around here.  And then all I'll have to do is lay around and have tons and tons (2,000 a day) more alien babies who, when born, wait on me hand and foot.  They'll feed me and clean up after me.  And maybe, maybe, if I'm a good queen they'll even pick up their fucking wet bathing suits.


Thursday, May 8, 2014

I Choose You

I love this picture.  Me, two babies inside, in Paul Bunyan's underwear.  Addy on the left.  Claire on the right.  Jesus on the t.v. behind me. 

My 41st birthday was two and a half weeks ago.  It was a Sunday.  It was spitting snow.  It was raw and cold and...

I didn't open one gift.  No one gave me a present.  I have to give Paul Bunyan some credit because he and I had been working tirelessly to get the space over his shop ready for one of the Wombats who needed to move in immediately.  She has left her husband.

She moved in on my birthday.

The Friday night before we got invited to go to Mud's house for dinner.  She had salmon.  I was bringing steaks.  The sun was out.  We hadn't seen it for awhile, so it felt good on our faces and backs.  The kids jumped around outside after school.  Paul Bunyan and I cracked a beer at 4:00.  We finished building the bed frame by 5:00.  When we got to Mud's house Paul Bunyan and I cracked another beer.  It was 5:30.  We were heading around the field for a walk with the dogs.  Paul Bunyan went inside for another beer because he slammed his second one.  While we waited on the hill, Mud with her gin and tonic, me with my beer, I made a snarky comment to Addy, Mud's daughter.  She's Claire's age and taller than me, with a heart the size of a horse.  It was vacation week and she was greasy from playing, and not showering.

Me, smiling: "Addy, When was the last time you took a shower?"
Her, embarrassed, looking away: "I don't want to say..."

I laughed it off.  We walked, drank, laughed.  6:00 cracked a beer.  6:30 cracked a beer.  I don't know how many I drank.  I piled the empties in the box so I wouldn't see them.  Paul Bunyan stopped at 4.  I remember crushing more of Mud's dilapidated patio furniture and throwing it on the fire; I've been known to do this.  I did it last Spring after drinking a half gallon of a homemade rum punch I brought over to share.  I burned her failing table that night- trying to be funny.  Later that same night I called my husband gay- trying to be funny.  

At some point on Friday Mud and I were talking about how we would stay sober enough to go pick up our children at parties if they needed rides home.  It was baffling to us.  We ate (at least at this dinner I remember eating).  We drank more.  And then the kids came to say it was time to go.  We rounded up our stuff; I meandered around the kitchen and found only my nearly empty case of beer with a few (2) leftover for me to crack open when we got home.  I cradled it to my chest and said my good byes.  Things are murky from here but this is what I remember:

I called Addy trailer trash.
She ran away upstairs in tears.
Someone (Paul Bunyan) had to tell me to go upstairs to apologize.
I still clutched my case of beer (maybe).
I tried to open her door, apologizing, telling her I was only kidding.
She pushed from the other side.
When I came back down Claire called me mean.
I saw the disappointment in everyone's eyes.
I clutched my case of empties.



adjective: sheepish (of a person or expression) showing embarrassment from shame or a lack of self-confidence.

I had turned into my father.

I don't want to go into the details about all the nasty nights I've witnessed my dad, who was always trying to be "funny", be so critical and mean to me, my brother, my mother, my teammates, my friends.  All you need to know is that in that ONE moment that I felt Addy push against the door to NOT let me in I realized I was him.  And every piece of my body does NOT want to be him.  

And so I'm done.  I'm done with the alcohol and it's not going to be easy and it's not going to be fun and I've been crying for two and half whole weeks at the loss of something I've found so enjoyable  for 20 years.  There is so much work to be done and there is so much redefining that has to be done and there is so much fear that has to be suppressed and there is so much joy to be found in sobriety.  But right now I'm just plain sad.

It took Paul Bunyan 5 (give or take) years to quit his addiction to tobacco.  It was finally a $1,000 bet he made with his buddy Jon.  I hope I don't struggle as much as he did.  I have a feeling that whenever I have a craving to go back all I'll have to do is feel Addy pushing back against that door, trying to keep me out.  I was that girl.  I know how that feels.

Claire has been playing this song every time we're in the car:

"Tell the world that we finally got it all right"

And so I choose you.

I choose you.

I choose you.

 I choose you.

 And most importantly, I choose me.  The greatest birthday gift anyone could give me.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Looking out my Spring and the Possibilities.

I think it's here.  Sun. Blue sky.  Mud.  Yay (facetiously said)!  The mud is here!  No, really, I think this year I'm psyched Spring has arrived.  But there is still enough snow in the woods to have to snowshoe.  And there is still snow up to the kitchen winder.  So, it's still here.  For awhile, at least.

But sun shining in while I was doing the dishes this morning made the mundane task, well, not so mundane.  Pandora in the background.  Limitless possibilities in the foreground.  And then this song came on:

And I turned into a weepy mess.

Claire had a birthday party at the beginning of March.  Lots of friends, pizza, root beer, skating, sledding, a few boys.  SCREECH!  Wha?  A few boys?  Yeah.  A few boys.  What's the big deal? They came rolling in with clouds and clouds of cologne in their wake.  They brought a new dimension to the party.  Claire broke her boyfriend's heart that night.  What's the big deal, right?  Her best friend will probably be dating him next month.  Cacacarazy.

Well, the twins came home from their skating party at one point in the night.  They were headed back out to a sleepover but they came home to grab their sleeping bags and pillows and when they walked in they got a "Sup?" from one of the boys, and a "What's up Bro?" from another.  One of the them gave them a high five and my heart overflowed with some pride.  Claire's picked out some great guy friends.  For them to notice "the little bros" was cool.  My mind raced to next year.  The twins will be up at the middle school.  I was seeing them in the hallway getting high fives from these "older" boys, wanting desperately for Claire to accept them into her "cool" group of friends.  What if they could all hang out together through the years?  Her boyfriends, Claire, them- down in the basement sneaking beer from the kegerator? SCREECH.  Wha?  No, well, you know what I mean.

Four days ago she posted this on Instagram:

What the hell is happening?  I'll tell you what is happening: HER FRIENDS THINK HER BROTHERS ARE COOL!  That's right, she's using them to gain popularity! No, I'll tell you what I think is really happening:

THIS WOMAN has saved our family.  Our family meetings are sometimes well attended and sometimes not, but having appreciations to start them off has done something miraculous to our family dynamic.  At first it was hard for them to come up with things that they appreciate about each but last night Timmy said, "I appreciate that Claire is nice to me."  SCREECH!  Wha?  Seriously?  She laughed and said, "Yeah, I shared my popcorn with him."  SCREECH!  What?  Seriously?  I tell's fucking working.  And why wouldn't it?  If I told Paul Bunyan how much I appreciate him on a daily basis life would be so much greater.  And if someone told me how much they appreciate me on a daily basis, I might work harder to please them.  It's incredible.  Seriously, why are we such assholes to each other?  It makes no sense.

So, if we keep this up, if we keep telling each other how much we appreciate what we do, or how we do something, the possibilities are endless.  Claire will want to hang with her brothers, listen to their opinions, help them pick out hairstyles and clothes.  They will share things, now and in their lives when they leave this home.  And as the Avett Brothers so artfully spelled out to me this morning, "There is nothing worth sharing like the love that let us share our name."

We are the Ganzies.  They are the Ganzies.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The Beauty and the Beast

Claire has been stealing my camera.

She's been taking pictures of some of her favorite things.

She's been posting them on Instagram.

I think.  I don't know.  I don't monitor her.

I really don't know who she's talking to.  Or who is talking to her.

I'm sure my friends (Mud) think I'm crazy .  I should know.  I should make sure there isn't any creepy guys.  I should watch, listen, oversee, spy, protect.

But, I don't.  It isn't in my nature.

I have to trust her.  She's done nothing to make me not trust her.  So, why wouldn't I give her the benefit of the doubt?

I went to listen to Vicki Hoefle last night and she's good.  She's good at making everyone feel like they've really fucked it all up. 

Because that's how I feel.  I've really screwed it up with Claire. 

She's a bully to her brothers.

She's complains about having to do any work around the house.  She sometimes throws temper tantrums.  She sometimes tells me she hates me.  She sounds like a spoiled rotten brat.  And I did that to her.  I made her that.

I'm sorry Claire.  I'm sorry we (see how I bring Paul Bunyan into this) did that do you.  (Vicki, you'd be proud of me for saying that!).  But now we get to see what (in Vicki's eyes) we did right.  I have never once told you what to wear or how to do your hair.  Just the other day I had a parent comment on how her daughter was dressed, up on the stage, in front of the whole community.  She had on different colored socks, crazy shoes, a cool patterned skirt, a funky shirt, and a hat that made the whole mismatched extra spunky outfit come together.  She said, "she's got a Claire thing going on".  I laughed.  You have always been identified in the school as the girl who went in her own direction with regards to how you dressed.  And you know what that means- you have confidence!  You never gave a shit about what people thought.  I LOVE THAT! 

Here's what else we did right.  We made decisions about your life up to you.  You get to choose gymnastics over play or play over gymnastics or maybe even BOTH.  It's your life.  You choose.  You recently wanted to give up flute.  Cool.  I'm sorry you're going to give it up because you're really good at it and I love listening to you play at home.  BUT it's your life.  Go for it.  You get to choose when you go to bed, when you get up, when you want to shower, when or if you want to do your homework, when you want to do your laundry (cuz you're doin' it girl), when you want to eat, what you want to eat, if you want to eat (EEGADS- if everyone knew you leave the house without breakfast I'd have my hide skinned.  Oh wait, they now know).  I don't care.  It's your life.  You live it.

We don't care about your grades.  That's up to you.  Isn't that great?  All right, now we're on a roll.

So when I look back on all the things we failed you at (helping you cope when things don't always go your way and how to appreciate your brothers and your role in this family) I am grateful that these are things we can work on.  But your confidence in your abilities to do things well and your abilities to make decisions that affect your life are things that I'm glad (really glad) you have.  Because they are the things that are hardest to find.

So when you come out on top, first all around, I'm proud of you.  I appreciate how much time and effort and will you've put in to get where you are.  More importantly, I hope you're proud of you too.  But you still have to empty out the dishwasher.  Sorry.

Friday, December 6, 2013

I want to make cookies.

I went for a run the other day.  Crazy, I know.  I came up behind one of our neighbors who was walking.  He's a walker.  Always has been.  He and his wife live in town.  They walk to the top of our hill.  Sometimes alone.  Sometimes with each other.  I always stop to talk.  Tom used to swear, a lot.  Even if the kids were in the car.  He's an impassioned guy.  What can you say?  And then he had a stroke.  And couldn't swear anymore.  Actually, he couldn't talk anymore.  But he's making his way back.  His brain is working hard to reconnect.  What he says now is, "I know.  I know.  I know."  He repeats it over and over again.  But he still walks.

When I was approaching him I was wondering if I should stop and talk.  Grab his hand.  Let him know I'm here.  That I hear him even if he can only say, "I know."  But before I reached him he veered into the Christmas tree farm and walked up the hill into the mist of the evergreen scent.  I want to bake him cookies.

I trotted a little further up the road and ran into my good friend Cath and her mother-in-law.  They were on a walk.  Cath just had a baby and she snuggled that thing close to her chest as they scooted down the slippery dirt road.  She's a super woman, Cath is, so we've been exercising since Mazzy's been about 2 weeks old.  I mean not just the general run-of-the-mill exercising but Cath's been doing push-ups and pull-ups and Olympic weight lifting shit.  It's crazy.  I was still on the couch 6 weeks postpartum.  Loving every excuse to relax.  She's up every two to three hours at night.  I know how hard this is.  I want to bake her cookies.

I turned around because it was starting to get a little dark and I sorta looked like a tree instead of a bright light.  On my way back I almost got run over by a reindeer- not really- just my good friends Suzie and Brooks and their big boy Langdon.  They had just picked out their Christmas tree.  Brand new tree for a brand new house.  Brand new baby to be born soon to fill up brand new house too.  All this brandnewedness makes me want to bake them cookies.

On Tuesday I picked up Bee's sister.  Her name is Theo.  We've been taking care of her here and there to give Bee someone to play with.  They're good playmates.  We're going to be adopting Theo after the New Year because her owner has to move into her 76 year old mother's apartment.  She's trying to put her son through college and she's a single mom, doing it all on her own. She's almost in tears every time I see her.  I want to bake her cookies too. 

On Wednesday our new neighbor walked up the driveway to the house to tell us the alpacas were out.  She introduced herself and her yellow lab Biscuit.   While Theo humped him, I apologized for not coming up to say, "Welcome to the neighborhood.  I'm the loser who hasn't baked you cookies yet.  Oh, but can we sled on your hill?  Because we used to do that.  And it's super fun."

I want to bake cookies for the neighbor down the hill who had to go back to work this week after being home for a year with her new baby.  It's so hard.

I want to bake cookies for the neighbor up the hill who still is in dispute with her ex-husband about who gets what.  It's been about 5 years.  It's too hard.

I want to bake cookies for the neighbor up the hill who drives to the other side of town three times a week to walk a dog she doesn't own but who is holed up in a barn stall and doesn't see the light of day or get to sniff the wind. 

I want to bake cookies for the really good friend who had to go back to get another mammogram, a second opinion, because her primary doctor doesn't trust the first.  It's too much worry.

I want to bake cookies for my husband who 1)gets upset that I bake cookies for everyone else but don't leave any for him, 2) has been struggling over the decision to maybe take another job,  and 3) has sore body parts.

I want to bake cookies for my daughter who is struggling over whether to choose the play or gymnastics, and why do kids have to choose anyway?  Can't they do it all?

I want to bake cookies for the snow man who lost his head, and the bird who hit the window, and my cat who is jailed to the top of the t.v. stand because we now have two dogs that want to eat him.  Okay, well, I'm stretching it here but life is hard and I wish it wasn't. I wish I could spend my days making cookies to make it all better.  And I wish that that would work.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

It's PAT!

Today I bought Pat's Sweet Italian sausages for dinner.  Sausage: pork and goodies all rolled into one.  I was there when he first started making them.  Back in the day.  When the Market was a "small" market.  At the corner of Main and Bridge.  Pat would grind my ground beef right IN FRONT OF MY FACE!  I miss the place.  I never minded waiting for Pat- he moves at a snail's pace.  I would pick stuff out of the cooler that I didn't need while I waited- shit like maple creme and chocolate milk.  Who needs that?  But his ground beef was the freshest, wrapped in white paper like the "olden" days.  The  new Market doesn't do that and it tastes like the Styrofoam they serve it on, for jeezum sake.

I saw Pat the other day at the Jonesville Post Office.  He rolled out the door and spoke sincerely to another elderly friend.  I don't know how old he is but he's hunched and backed and moves with deliberation.  He had on his Richmond Market hat and fleece vest and probably a pair of fleeced lined khakis but I failed to take note.   I saw his skin colored Mercury and was reminded of my Grandparent's Oldsmobile.  It all seemed so fitting- a reliable old American car for a reliable old American. 

I love seeing, to this day, Pat's hunched back stacking his meats to display at the Market.  I'm not sure what he feels/thinks about the "new" place. He doesn't nearly have the same contact with his customers and I'm certain he's not dealing with the same custom orders he had at the old Corner Market.  But maybe he likes the slower pace.  The one thing I have noticed, however, is that he still whistles while he works.

He whistles ALL THE TIME!  It's just a whistle- no specific tune.  I mean, who does this anymore?  Do you know anyone who whistles ALL THE TIME?  It's amazing.  AND he moves SOOO slowly!!  Who does this anymore??  Do you know anyone who moves slowly ALL THE TIME?

I soooooo want to be Pat the butcher.  I want to move slowly.  I want to whistle while I work.  Did I mention I want to move slowly?

I'm in the car.  A LOT!  Driving them (shutter) anywhere they want to go.  Going from Point A to Point B and everyone tells me I should soak it up because some day they won't want to be with me and I'm all, like, they don't WANT to be with me right now- they want to get to POINT B.  Eeegads.  Let's slow it down people!

The only time I'm walking slowly (or moving deliberately) is when I'm walking in the woods with Paul Bunyan and then it's all about stopping to look at drainage options, single track trail options, best trees for tree house options, and how to build a bridge over said creek.  Which is all fine and dandy- really it is.  Because if this is the only time I'm moving at Pat's pace then I'll take it.  I'll take it!  BRING ME TO THE WOODS ANYDAY!  I LOVE THE WOODS!

Some day I'll be old too- I can't ever picture me moving that slowly or that hunched over- but maybe I will.  Maybe I'll sit still to have one complete mug of tea.  Maybe I'll be able to listen to what my kids really really need.  Maybe I'll be able to listen to what I really really need.  In the meantime, I'll listen to this, because it makes sense to me, especially when they sing:

And I'll walk slow, I'll walk slow
Take my hand, help me on my way.
And I'll walk slow, I'll walk slow
Take my hand, I'll be on my way.

You'll help me walk slow- won't you??