A Few Stories

Believe it or not, life has been happening beyond our fireplace project. Here are some things we’ve been up to lately.

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Playing in the tube maze at Nana's house.

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At the park with Harper doggie (oh, and, incidentally owner Christy) this weekend, Harper took his first Ride down a slide, and I managed to get a couple pictures.

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It’s been warm, but rainy lately. Benji and I go outside anyway, and he’s started “helping” worms find dirt when they’re out wiggling around. I heard that sunlight paralyzes worms, but can’t confirm that from observation due to lack of sunshine. However, I can confirm that toddlers squeezing worms seems to have a somewhat paralytic effect, which may or may not wear off if the worm survives the trauma.

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And, a while ago, we drew handprints on the wall inside the fireplace. Once it’s tiled we’ll never see them again, but it made the project feel a little more ours.

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Finally, a story about being two. Over the weekend, we had dinner at my parent’s house with some family (my phone first offered faculty, an amusing slip because Mom knows them from teaching) friends of theirs. The friends brought a delicious lemon meringue pie, and as soon as Benji saw it, he started asking for pie. All through the dinner prep – pie. Eating dinner – pie. Waiting for everyone else to finish dinner – pie. He really, really wanted pie, and probably waited an hour or more for it, a very long time for a little kid.

Finally, it was time for pie! Mom cut him the first slice, he eagerly reached for it… And suddenly his expression dropped and he burst into tears. Through the storm of weeping, he made us understand that this wasn’t apple pie, and he had all along been expecting apple pie. Oh, the disappointment! The tears! Mom have him some strawberry slices, which sort of placated him, but we won’t soon forget the tragedy of the lemon meringue pie. (I should add that it was excellent lemon meringue pie, with a crumbly, light crust, fluffy sweet meringue, and tart, smooth lemon custard. Yum.)

Downs and Ups

Day’s Verse:
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.
Ephesians 2:8-9

Carmel 2002 In the movie Clue, there’s a scene where, after all sorts of craziness, Colonel Mustard says, “I can’t take anymore scares!” as the chandelier crashes to the floor inches from him.

This pretty accurately reflects where I’m at right now. On Monday morning, Dad sent me an email early, asking me to call about Carmel — not a good sign. When we talked, he elucidated that Carmel couldn’t use her right hind leg, and he planned on calling the vet when they opened. My spirits plummeted. A couple times I’ve dreamed Carmel died, and woken up both times crying, tears running down my cheeks. If that’s how I reacted in a dream, how much worse is it in real life? I’m not ready to find out! Especially not with already having the emotional burden of Grandpa dying at Easter, Ben’s memorial service just on Saturday, and my dear friend Rachel moving to Fresno in a couple days.

The vet X-rayed Carmel’s back and told Dad she had a spinal injury. He gave her a shot containing a very high dose of steroids and sent her home, telling Dad that if she didn’t significantly improve by this morning, she probably wouldn’t improve and that would be that.

Well, this morning she wasn’t dramatically better, but if Dad picked her rear end up, she would bear weight on it. And she was willing to walk for a Milkbone. But it wasn’t enough improvement to think she’d get back to living a functional, happy doggy life — what’s life if you can’t walk around and sniff stuff? — so Dad made an appointment with the vet to put Carmel down at 5:00 today. I stopped by midday to check on her, and she had moved! –just a few feet, and frankly she didn’t seem herself at all when I came over. She didn’t move an inch, and although I petted her ears the way she likes, she seemed extremely subdued. My impression was that she was really just enduring, and we’d already lost the the happy dog we know and love.

I won’t sugarcoat it; I spent a good portion of the day crying and heartbroken. We went to go on a farewell walk with my dear friend Rachel, who is moving to California in a couple days, and all I could think about was losing Carmel. Carmel has been in my life since I was in high school, and I can hardly imagine not having her stinky, hairy self around at Mom and Dad’s house. She sometimes comes for visits at my house, and we practically have to drag her out the door when it’s time to go home. Carmel has been a consistent, unconditionally loving presence in my life for many years, and the prospect of losing her truly broke my heart.

I have so many happy memories of her, I can’t even begin to quantify them, let alone describe them. We hiked innumerable miles, snowshoed (that darn snow between her toes!), walked in parks, took her swimming, dressed her up silly, taught her tricks; I won’t go on. You get the idea. I missed the best years of her life while I lived in Massachusetts, and she was the one thing I really missed all those years back East. You can talk to parents on the phone, but you can’t get dog cuddles remotely. I collected tennis balls on my commutes and mailed Mom and Dad long tube full of tennis balls. Oh joy! …at least, on Carmel’s part.

So Dad picked me up at 4:45 to go with him and Carmel for her last visit to the vet. She was surprisingly able to walk, but kept staggering badly and losing control of her rear legs. Standing up proved particularly difficult. We walked into the vet’s office, and Dad asked to talk with Dr. Marsh a bit before we put Carmel down. He came in, and Dad described Carmel’s symptoms (a different vet had seen Carmel the previous day). One new symptom Dad mentioned: Carmel seemed to hold her head at a strange angle. Hmm. Out came the eye-examining light. Hmmm. More discussion, some more investigation of her posture. Yes, she definitely held her head at an unusual angle, off to the left. Stand her up: Gee, she’s clearly listing to the left. Well, hey, this lameness may not be due to the back injury observed on the X-ray! Turns out Carmel has vestibular syndrome, which he described as kind of like doggie vertigo, where Carmel doesn’t know where down is. It’s a central nervous system problem that isn’t treatable, but often resolves itself in a week or so, with a decent likelihood of her getting back to reasonable functionality.

We walked back out into the waiting room with Carmel. The entire staff was there, waiting to be sad with us. Instead, when Dr. Marsh announced the new diagnosis and sent us home, the entire staff clapped and cheered. Hooray! What a huge blessing! I felt like I was the one reprieved, rather than Carmel. She’s still a 13-year-old overweight golden retriever, and nothing will bring back the boundless-energy ball of enthusiasm we remember, but at least we get time for more stinky, hairy cuddles.

Now I’m exhausted. Like I said at the beginning: I can’t take anymore scares! Or, more accurately, I can’t take any more, PERIOD.

And here’s my all-time favorite video of Carmel.

Lifebits

Day’s Verse:
Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong. Do everything in love.
1 Cor. 16:13-14

I’ve had a blog post open and partly written for days. That’s why I haven’t updated my blog in such a long time — I’m halfway through a post and I keep trying to squeeze it out, but you know, you just can’t rush some things. So in the meantime, I thought I’d post a quick update on all those meaningless things that make life meaningful.

I just read a fascinating book called Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough, which expands on an article of the same name in the Atlantic Monthly. There’s a blog post brewing in me somewhere about that book. Some main things I came away with: Astonishment at how picky some women are about men; the different ways of going through life — either satisfied when you meet your criteria or always trying to get the best possible deal — have a huge impact on how you feel about life; your expectations going into any situation dramatically color your experience of that situation.

Rainier cherries are fresh and local; we got a box from the Woodinville Farmer’s Market and I just ate way more than is probably healthy for me. Also apricots, which I’ve only recently been able to eat again after finding half a worm in an apricot years ago. Also bok choy, which is excellent because Ian’s favorite salad is bok choy salad (a recipe similar to this one) and I refuse to buy bok choy — or, at this point, pretty much any produce — from more than 200 miles away.

This Friday my high school friend Zoe is getting married.

This Saturday I’m helping run Go, Dog Go! as part of my AmeriCorps Community Action Project. After that, I’m out of hours for helping, so anything else I do is real volunteering. Please come to Go, Dog Go! if you can to at least say hi. Bring your dog, if you have one.

I met a lady at the park near our house yesterday. Her name was Danielle. She had a 16-month-old Golden Retriever named Mia (or Maya…I forget) who totally charmed me. We — Danielle and me — spent 45 minutes chatting. It was nice getting to know somebody new. Dog people tend to be very nice, and they always love talking about their dogs.

Artemis is at Cascade Bicycle Studio getting a rack put on. It’s taking 3 days. I have faith that some day, I will be able to carry things with my primary bike without hurting my back. In the meantime, the Red Bike and I are bonding. My favorite thing about the Red Bike: Wearing sandals while riding. Mom always said not to, but it’s so comfortable in the summer!

I put 2 coats of off-white paint over the dark dusty rose in the downstairs bathroom. The walls still have a pink tint. Curse you, 1990s color choices!

That’s the news from Lake Wobegone. Tune in the same place, some other time, for the exciting continuation of this thrilling life.