Friday, November 4, 2011

Random Musings and Commentary

Changes of note since October 20:
1.  Violet often sprawls between us at the foot of the bed like Tansy did.
2.  Zillah is now only content when BOTH Doug and I are home. (but she's hurt, mad, and lonely.)
3.  My shoelaces come untied EVERY time I run, and they NEVER, literally, NEVER come untied in all of these years of running.  (absolutely no connection to Tansy, but still, odd.)

And while I know all of the socially correct things I SHOULD be saying when people ask how I am, it's not in me to should on myself.  I should say that I'm doing better, that I'm fine.  I should say it's getting easier or that I find comfort in how happy her life was, and that I made it that way.  I should say I am finding peace.  But I'm not.  They want me to say it though.  Because no one really knows what to say.  I wouldn't either.  Saying won't do anything anyway.  Listening does, and people who really, truly get it, they give me solace in knowing they don't think I'm crazy.  I don't blame anyone who doesn't get it; their life experience is different from mine.  There is no blame in that.

But it does pinch a bit to see that my leave form that was filled out for me while I was gone has been coded with my only 2 personal days and my only 2 business days.  Not grievance days or whatever they call it when your child or family member dies.  Not family sick days, despite that fact that I have no children and never will be able to use those.  Not even kindly coded as personal sick days.  Because I was sick with grief.  I spent every day at the vet, the doctor for my girl.  I was mentally sick, sick at heart, sick to my stomach.  Why can't that be recognized?  It doesn't matter how many people say, "pets are part of our families", because society doesn't really believe that.  Not really.  My leave form proves that.

But I know I'm not supposed to write blog after blog about how much I miss and love my dog.  I know that people say she was "just a dog" and that people with children know an entirely different level of love and they cannot see this one as just as valid.  I guess I know that, though I haven't experienced it; I've only been told.  None of that changes the way it is for me though.  None of the shoulds and should-nots keep me from deep-hearted sobbing every time I wake without her, come home to silence, and go to sleep missing her.  I am weary of all of this.  I just want it to be over.  I get to the end of my work day and think, "oh no, not ANOTHER day without her to meet me at the door!"  as if it's going to end.  As if this will stop and one day she will be there again.

 I can, and have, said all the things that are true, that we had no choice, no regrets, and we did what was best for her.  I can distance my heart and just use words to say to people that there was nothing different we could have done and we had to let her go.  I am able to say that I might believe her spirit has dissipated into other things in the world, such as us, the cats, the earth... I have said and thought perhaps she is or will be part of the earth that I claim to love so much and so, I should be content if she cannot be with us, then at least she is part of the flowers, the ground, the nature that I love.  I could attempt to believe she is fully there in spirit, at my side in all things, but that would be false comfort for me. My brain doesn't work that way.  I can't be the hypocrite to my own belief system, or lack thereof.  I can't suspend what I normally believe just to comfort myself.  I don't believe in doing that.  I can't do that even if I wanted to.  I believe science though; that energy never disappears; it only changes forms.  And I believe her spirit, WHO Tansy was, was a type of energy.  But I lack the knowledge, or humans do, of what that energy is capable of.  And lacking that, I cannot supply faith in all the made up stories people tell themselves over the generations, to explain and pacify.  No can do.

I believe in love.  I loved her.  I love her still.  I still feel that the sheer force of my will, of my wanting her, should bring her back.  I can't think of a time in my life that I've wanted something so badly and not found a way to have it.  So my life experience has not prepared me for this finality.



Letter To Tansy

Dear Tansy,
I feel as if my life has died.  So much of what made me happy had you entwined all through it.  I feel there is no light at the end of the tunnel, and the tunnel is dark and pointless.  You were my comfort and my joy. you came with me even to work in my writing models and Good Things.  You were why I ran, so many times, and you were a joy to make happy and tired.  You were a beautiful ribbon woven into my marriage, and a reason to keep going sometimes when everything else was hard.
I knew every moment with you was precious.  I never took you for granted.  When I held you, I secretly mourned the day I would lose you, but I had no inkling it would be so soon.  I thought I could protect you from everything with good food, exercise, love, vigilance, and the force of my will and my love.  I knew whenever you were a little "off" and I could read your every mood and nuance.  But I never saw this evil thing coming.  It came with no warning and took you away so viciously.
I want to scream and hate someone for doing this to you, to us.  I am so ANGRY and sad.
I miss you like a phantom limb, but it was attached to my heart.  Where are you?  Are you lonely?  Do you miss us?  I'm so, so sorry, Tansy.  I would have done anything to keep you alive and happy.  I'm so sorry you had to go, that we had to let you go so that your pain would end.
I love you, my gorgeous, smart, soft, adorable, affectionate girl.
I will love you forever.
p.s. please come visit my dreams with your sweet face and soft ears.

I Teach

The Kids who will be Successful...   
October 31, 2011
Please read article in the link above, as well as the link I posted in the prior entry, and then see below.
Dear Parents,
As we educators and parents alike are bombarded with technology and pressured to believe our kids will only succeed if they use as much of it as possible in our schools, the reality is quite the opposite. 
Children who are allowed to BE children, to play, and openly explore materials and environments without structure, are the children of the future.  THEY are the next CEOs and inventors because they have learned to question, experiment, adventure, make mistakes, and create.  In this article, some of the wealthiest, most educated parents who work IN the computer industry are choosing to send their children to schools where there are NO computers and where children do the thinking for themselves at the level that is developmentally right for them.
Many of you moved to this community BECAUSE of the good school system.
I encourage you to read up on this and to find out what is happening to your child's school system as a result of pressures and legislation from people who have no idea what is best for children and who haven't set foot in a classroom.  They need to hear from YOU, from parents and the community.  They have already painted teachers as lazy, over-paid, undeserving people.  Public schools are under attack, and I don't believe in privatizing schools to make money off of children.  They are not a product.  Every child doesn't necessarily show their intelligence or aptitude on a standardized test.  Teachers can't possibly logically be paid and evaluated based on their students' test scores.  Children aren't part of an industry.  They don't come off an assembly line and they can't be counted as products sold.  Look at how unique YOUR child is!
Teachers alone are not responsible for a child's success or failure.  Developmentally, a child's personality is pretty much set by age 5, before we even get them into our classrooms. If they haven't had their basic needs met at home, they quite literally cannot learn.  Their brains physically will not be able to take in and make sense of information.  Children need both parents and teachers to educate them.   Parents need to partner with schools and find out what is happening out there, and do something about it before it is too late.
There is a perception of unions protecting "bad" teachers, and a perception that teachers only work from 8:30-3:30.  There is a perception that we have summers "off".  There is misinformation that is wreaking havoc, RIGHT NOW, in your child's school system, and it's not something the superintendent can control; it's coming from the TOP.  The legislators that you and I vote for.  In every school, perhaps there is 1 teacher who isn't the best.  Maybe. Is that enough to paint the entire profession with tar?
We come in on weekends, early mornings, evenings, holidays, and summer days to work to make your child's education the best we can.  We pay for our own classes that are required by the state each summer.  We have master's degrees in education, child development, reading, writing... we care more than we sometimes should for each child in our room.  We take home their troubles with us at night.  We worry over the summer.  We spend quite literally over a thousand dollars a year of our own money on our classroom and students. And we will continue to do this until it is made impossible to do.  Even with all the cuts and all the criticisms, we don't have it in us to work less or care less.  We had our rooms ready for that first ice cream social night.  You didn't come in to find furniture still put away or piles of books that needed sorting, or any of the other million little things we did to get ready.  We were only contractually expected to be there THAT DAY.  Most of us were here for the entire month prior.  I can speak for myself; I was here from August 1st until the day your child walked in the door.  I spent a solid week in July taking a class to further my education.  I spent part of the rest of my summer learning a new curriculum.  I missed 5 days with my own family, most of whom I see once every 6 years because they live out of state.  Their reunion was the week before school started.  School came first.  Your child came first.
Recently my own parents were listening to me rant about some of the requirements coming down the pipe from the lawmakers.  They heard my frustration with the expectations for our students that are simply not right.  They watched me spend most of my Saturday on my lesson plans and half of my Sunday beginning report cards.  And my dad said to me, "I don't think parents KNOW what's going on.  You need to tell them."  and so I am.  Many of you who volunteer know at least how hard we work.  Some of you ARE educators or are related to them, so you know.  But on the off chance that anyone wasn't aware?  We have some stories to tell you.  We need you to fight for your children, for their education and their future.
We LOVE what we do, and we LOVE your children, but lawmakers are making it hard to do what we know is right for kids. I urge you to get involved, find out what is going on, and make a difference.

Anger Phase

October 23, 2011

It has been 3 days since we lost her.  It has been 10 days since she began getting sick.  It has been only 5 days since the words, “cancer in her blood” were said to me.  She filled 4 years of my life with a lifetime of happiness and joy, and the expectation of at least 10 more. 
In my misery I recall that any unhappiness we cause ourselves by not accepting what is.  Well, you better fucking believe I’m not accepting this!  How on earth would I accept the abrupt and horribly painful excision of Tansy, whose very name invokes magic and love in my brain, from my life?  Who the fuck thinks I could ever accept having to decide she’d had enough pain, when she’d never known pain in her life, not for more than a moment or two, and choose to stop her heart and end her life?  Her life was with ME, goddammit, and she NEEDED me.  She wanted nothing more than to be with us, and my day was made complete and happy when I had made HER day complete and happy.  And now?  Now I am given comfort and platitudes that she will always be with me in memory, in spirit.  But even if that is true, even if I can someday find comfort in her memory, instead of ripping agony, what about HER?  What about what SHE is experiencing and what SHE went through?  I don’t know, and even if any of the highly unlikely scenarios that people believe in are true, they give me no peace, because I know that Tansy wouldn’t find joy someplace where we are not.  Just as I could not conjure a place that I would prefer to being with those I love here in my life.  Even assuming she has the love of some great spirit being, and a swamp to wade in, sticks to chase, a Frisbee to fetch, bones to chew, and cats to love, she doesn’t have US and we don’t have HER and that is WRONG and totally fucked up.  Some horrible warp happened in my universe this week, and it is irreversible, but I feel sure it was a mistake, a clerical error, so to speak, but it is done and it cannot be undone.  SOMEONE fucked up.  This was NOT supposed to happen, I am certain. 
I admit my life has been beautifully charmed, and when a person has that kind of life, even with some pain and ups and downs, one begins to have the false impression that it will continue, that one is safe somehow from the poisonous things that happen to other people.  It is not that I believed I’d never lose her, or anyone I love, but it could be put off for some time, and happen naturally, gradually, with sorrow but with a level of acceptance.  Whoever said that we create our own conflict by non-acceptance is absolutely right, but it doesn’t help one bit right now.
I have had my heart broken 2 other times, and I know this because the feelings match, though this one is current, and so it is much worse.  It is acutely painful NOW, not then.  But the other two instances were different.  The first was blissfully resolved and I was so very lucky.  The second took a lot of work on my part, and a decision, but I made it through with some scarring but also a lot of growth and deepening.  THIS, though, cannot be resolved because she’s gone and never coming back to me no matter how I rage and sob and cry.  THIS I cannot make a decision to work on or fix.  I don’t feel that, at this time, I can DECIDE to accept that my Tansy is dead.  I have to say that awful word so that acceptance can come sometime, maybe, and maybe I won’t slip into some crazy denial.  I already talk to her just as much, if not more, than I did before. 
But when I call her, “Come-come Tansy!” I get nothing.  When I reach for her, I get nothing.  And when I see her in my mind’s eye, waves of hurt sweep through me and I want to disappear.
That day in the woods, so blissfully unaware, worried for her and knowing she didn’t feel well, but just an infection, just a virus, and they would fix her.  It might cost us an arm and a leg, but I never considered for a second that it was something much more sinister and impossible to fight.  I was running one moment, and the phone sang, and I breathlessly answered, knowing it was our vet.  He was confused by my voice, and asked if my mom was there.  I knew he thought I was a child, and for a moment I wanted to say, “I’m Tansy’s mom.” But I just said who I was, and he was so thrown off for a moment of apology.  And then the words, “Blood test… doesn’t look good… some kind of cancer in her blood…” and I dropped to the ground, mid-path, beneath the pines, cushioned by the pine needle carpet, and I broke in half right then.  Because don’t we all know that “Cancer” is a death word.  We know that it means fighting some invisible, vile, evil thing, and it often wins no matter how much money we throw at researching it.  And though in the few short days to come, I had some hope of fighting and actually winning, because my life is so charmed, that hope was very quickly wiped out and replaced with a knowledge of an inevitable end that I felt would kill me as well. 
That’s the thing, isn’t it?  When we lose someone we love like that, we sort of wish we’d died too so we don’t have to be left with the pain of missing them.  And the words, “lose someone”?  Like we misplaced her?  I knew where Tansy was like an extension of my own body.  I still feel her there, like a phantom limb you hear about on amputees.  I feel her attention on me when I cross a room, her ears perked slightly, eyebrows up, mini tail wag of acknowledgement.  I feel her get up and go to the door when it’s “time to go”.  I feel her follow me into the bathroom and ask to have her teeth brushed.  I can feel her when it’s time for her to come in, and when she wants out.  My sense of her has not dulled, but when there is no solid reality of my gorgeous dog actually loping at my side, or trotting up onto the deck, or lying at my feet, then my whole world tips on its side and I know again that a terrible error was made.
I am still waiting for the apology, and for someone to fix it.  I guess I have a long way to go to acceptance.


Last night on the back deck, I looked up that that gorgeous sweep of stars, and whispered to the Universe, “I hate you.  I hate you for taking away my beautiful girl, my dog who was the love of my life.” And I meant it.  The pain is such that I want the same shot that gave her relief before the one that stopped her heart.  I don’t need that second shot because my heart is already broken.
I look out to where her body lies, and all I can think is how that sweet, sweet girl is curled beneath the earth and I can’t ever hold her or touch that soft fur again.  I know that I have memorized, recorded in every  sensor, cell and nerve of my hands and brain, the feel of her puppy-soft ears and the space between them, the lovely expanse of her throat as she would lean her head back in ecstasy for us to scratch as long as we were willing.
Everywhere are deep and unexpected holes, unhealed wounds that I trip into nearly every moment of my day.  In the night I wake to use the bathroom, and immediately am aware that I will not be stepping around her bed; I will not hear her jingle her tags on purpose to let my night-blind self know where she is.  In the morning, at first consciousness, the pain is there, coursing all through me, knowing she will not be there, rolled happily onto her back, white belly and legs in the air, and I feel as if the horror that took every cell of her is also taking every cell of me, but I know that my horror is grief, and it will not kill me, though at times that feels preferable.  I look anyway, and see that in her place, Violet has drawn her little black and white self across the bottom of the bed, stretched on her back, feet in the air.  It is both a smile and a pinch.  Could a bit of our Tansy be in there with that other little animal spirit?  I believe in nothing, so anything is possible.
Where there was a long, pink-tongued yawn, coupled with a belly-crawl up the divide between us, there is nothing, silence and stillness, only blankets.  My hands have no smooth, warm tummy to rub and kiss.(She really didn’t like me to kiss her tummy; it make her nervous, but she learned to le me do it anyway because I couldn’t help it.)  When I walk by her “places”, there is no welcoming tail thump or golden-eyed glance my way.  The noises at the door are not her, and the sounds I imagine to be her thumps or sighs or groans are only my imagination.
With the moment of intention to leave the house, my senses expect the trotting click of nails and paws to the door where she would wait to go where we go.  And last night with the invitation to join Beth and Tim, I stopped cold at the thought of walking the trail to their house without Tansy, who would know exactly where we were going before we even told her.  She would run to the edge of her line, right at the path to their house, and look back at us, asking, “Is my collar off?  Can I go safely?” and we would say, “Let’s go, Tansy! “ and she would bound across that line and down the trail, leading the way always.
My tea time this Saturday morning is uninterrupted by polite, soft “woofs” to be let in and out, and less polite “’oofs”  and eventually sharp little barks to say, “please throw my Frisbee but first get it from me…”.  I would really like to have those interruptions back.  I want to see her trot out into the yard in her routine to relieve herself, and then, nose to the ground, follow the little Tansy trail she has made around the house over these few, short years. 
I know that on Monday when I leave for work there will be no sad puppy face and perked ears at the bedroom window, and worse, when I return, there will be no enormous welcome for me the moment I open the door.  She will not wiggle her little happy tail and bustled rump to see me, and when I open the sliding door, she will never again sail off of the top step, all four legs in “super dog” position, invisible cape flying, as she sails into the yard after her Frisbee.  That Frisbee rests with her now, and we can only hope that her little spirit is playing with it somewhere in the deep snow or grassy shade.  We can hope that she is rolled onto her back with her Frisbee folded between her paws as she mouths it happily.  She has lost so many Frisbees over the time we have known her, but this one will always be with her. 
We can’t know, but perhaps she is waiting for us somehow, somewhere, content for the time to wait as she would at street crossings… “Good wait, wait, Tansy.” Followed by a treat.  Or maybe she has gone on and we will catch up someday and have a joyous, barking, wiggling, face-kissing reunion.  Or possibly she is in the kind of dreamless sleep that the sedative gave her, with no awareness of pain or joy, and in the spring, she will wake to find she is a living part of the entire earth, making soil, feeding flowers, giving life to her little patch.  Her life force, the spirit that made her Tansy, could be pieced and parceled between all who loved her, cats included.  Again, I believe nothing, so I can believe anything.  This is both a bane and a blessing.
Today is the first day the sun has shone since she got sick.  It seems that there has been nothing but clouds, wind, and rain for the last week.  I am struggling constantly with the physical factors; I was so attached to her physical self, along with her human-like personality.  To let myself know or begin to imagine what is happening to that warm, darling body I held so many times, is absolute horror to me.   It is the thing I most try to block out, but can’t always do it.
It is much better, and a different sort of hurt, to conjure her living self while we run.  Though the run yesterday, our first since we lost her, was physically painful, and I felt my insides literally marinating in grief, I did bring her with us, and I watched her run, trot, and pace along in front of us, in all of her different gaits.  I saw her glance back at us periodically, golden eyes alight with joy to be doing her “work”.  I watched her run off to the sides to sniff and check “p-mail”, and then gallop to catch up and again lead the way with her little rump bustle waving back and forth and her caramel-oreo cookie ears flapping in the breeze.
We have talked endlessly about her, with words, looks, and silence between us.  We know without a doubt, and this is true, that we had no choice; we did right by her to send her on her way, to take the pain away.  She never deserved even that week of pain that was hers to bear and ours to witness, and the only choices were to watch her continue in it with the hopes the medicine would eventually help, with the understanding that even if it did, if by some miracle long shot it brought a remission in several weeks, she would then have only mere months before the evil would return and put her through it all over again.  Tansy did not deserve that, and Doug said it perfectly that day as we held her and made the decision; he said, “Tahlia, I wouldn’t want that for myself.”  And he is right.  If I was alive, but not living, if everything that made me happy was taken from me by pain and I knew my future was inevitable and brief, I would beg them to let me go.
In the end, she hurt so much there were no more tail wags, however faint, and those golden eyes were glassy and miserable.  When we held her in our arms and they gave her first the sedative to relieve the pain, she gave a huge and relieving sigh, her whole body relaxing after a week of tightness and hurt.  With that sigh, we felt our bodies relax too, and we felt, at least for those moments, near joy that her pain was over.  Her sweet face relaxed into her natural sleep look, her black-rimmed eyes softly closed, not slitted open with angst and discomfort.  Her sweet paws were gently resting on Doug’s legs, and I could bury my face in her fur and know I wasn’t causing her anymore pain.  We knew in minutes we would be in agony, when she would be finally gone, but for that brief time, we celebrated our decision and her relief.
We will never have to look back and question anything.  We gave her the absolute best life any dog could have, though the hours spent at work while she was alone were unavoidable regrets, and in her horribly quick last days, we did everything possible to make her comfortable.  And our decision at the end was, without a doubt, the only decision we could have made for her.  She had ceased living the life she loved, and it would have been cruel to ask her to fight anymore when the chances were so slim and the future inevitably a repeat of this last week.  We loved her more than anything and we told her she could go, that she was a good dog and had done her work well.  I don’t know if she heard us or knew how much we loved her, because she expected us to keep her pain away, but she knew for 4 years and 5 months how loved she was.