family


As I write this, one of our family dogs is being put down. I will not be there.

Buddy was fifteen years old. For a small dog especially, he’s had a long, long life. He is the second dog we have lost now. It is a gut-wrenching decision no matter what – is it fair? is he happy? are we only making him hang on for us? He brought us such joy. He was welcomed into the first house I ever lived in, which is four houses ago now. And he’s been through a lot with us.

When he was young, he was the local soccer prince – and he acted like it, too. He’d mess with his older brother, Oscar, until Oscar had to make clear who was in charge. I’ll never forget watching them play, and all of a sudden Buddy is on his back and Oscar has his paw resting lightly on his younger brother’s stomach. But they always looked out for each other. They started the family phrase “the dogs are going off,” to mean they were barking together at something or other, whether at a guest or a squirrel never really mattered.

I remember when Buddy pranced. He did, he pranced everywhere. His front legs would go out straight as he walked around (usually with a toy in his mouth) – a true prince. Like so many dogs, he could sense when I was sad and would then tolerate being held. He always knew when I was leaving again, to college or boarding school or camp, and would stay with me all day before I left.

We will miss him terribly. I wish I could give him one last hug, I wish I was there. When Oscar’s time came, we were all together.

Still, I’m reminded of that story that goes around. I didn’t see it until months or more after Oscar died. The gist is that a family makes the decision to put the family dog down. The parents debate bringing their 6 year-old to the vet with them, and ultimately explain and bring him along. As they stand there after, crying and holding each other and lamenting the short lives of dogs and other pets (I know the scene well by now), their 6 year-old surprises them by saying, “I know why.” They turn to him, and he continues, “People are put on the earth to learn to love each other and be nice, right?” They nod. “Well, dogs already know how to do that, so they don’t have to stay as long.”

It is a painful night, to be sure. But I try to take comfort in all of the good things, and in that story. Buddy, we miss you so much.

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10 days ago, in a rather silly mood, I gave you a peek into the world of National Novel Month 2013 and roughly what’s in store for me. Much has changed since then, including the major points of my plot. My muse is much happier now, even if it’s taking a turn into fantasy, something I never thought I’d do.

But that is actually nothing compared to my excitement over this:

My dad is going to do NaNoWriMo with me this year!

Repeat: my dad is going to do NaNoWriMo with me this year!

I can’t even – I’m so excited! SO EXCITED, I tell you. This is awesome because, well, dad. But also, he is an incredible writer. He is king of his industry, and is editor and co-owner of a monthly magazine which is rocking the competition like whoa. I’ve done NaNo for two years; this will be my third attempt (and hopefully second win!). His plan is to do lots of flash fiction pieces to total 50,000 words throughout November. Dad who beat up cancer last year and threw a party.

😀

Okay, also my plot. You remember that whole thing about ghost lessons? Yeah, that’s still there but majorly in the background. Here is my (evidently fantasy) plot as of now: In the 17th century, Richard was in love with Cassandra Hart, but despite everything he did for her, she never loved him back. She married Francis instead, and this made him angry. He appeared at their wedding, threatening they would rue the day etc., before taking a blade and stabbing himself through the heart. He stayed on earth as a ghost, and then underwent the requirements for becoming a Voleruh and took on the name Reshkhi. Voleruhs are evil creatures of the undead that steal ghost’s souls. Reshkhi has hunted the Hart family for centuries, with the desire to rip out the female Harts’ souls. Thanks to protection left by Cassandra, Jillian’s and Lea’s ancestor, he was unable to destroy them. Now, the youngest Hart, Jillian, has died at age 17, and her mother, Lea, has been trying to protect her from Reshkhi. Lea died one year ago, and when she did, the protection was broken. Now, Reshkhi is determined to take the soul of Lea’s daughter, Jillian.

* For the record, I’m aware of the “isn’t a ghost a soul?” issue and my comeback is: ghost = spirit; soul = soul. So hah.

It’s a work in progress. I had to create a creature – a Voleruh – which seemed to put me firmly in the fantastic. Which is SO weird. But whatever, let’s run with it, right? Don’t confuse my startled-ness with disliking fantasy; on the contrary it’s one of my favorite genres to read. But it’s also a lot of work and I admit I’m pretty nervous. Still, it’s an easier switch, as I’m not building worlds or races or languages a la Tolkien.

None of that is really important.

My dad is doing NaNoWriMo with me!

It didn’t occur to me until pretty late in the week that normal people take Labor Day off, even go somewhere. So I decided to see if I could work a schedule out to head up to my parents’ – and now boyfriend’s- town for the weekend. It involved one overnight 10-hour train ride, but I got there care of a pickup from Z. The train ride wasn’t so bad – there was even a span of 2+ hours I could use both seats and sleep rather absurdly curled up. But let’s face it, I was a bit of a zombie during the first day. I got home and pretty quickly a tailor arrived to figure out and then take my bridesmaid dress for hemming. It was a convoluted process but he was great, and then asked when I was leaving the area. When I told him a day and a half later, his eyes lit up: he took it as a personal challenge. My parents and I then raced off to the Farmer’s Market, which was beautiful as always. I’m almost never home when it’s still going, so it was neat to see everything. I even found a cute new skirt!

Later I went to Z’s to catch up on some episodes of Orange is the New Black, which we started together so must finish together. I think we only have a few left now! I also fell fast asleep and he let me nap until about dinnertime. I was still a zombie, possibly worse after the nap. But it did feel great. I rushed to shower off the overnight-train-it’s-been-too-long-since-the-last-clean and then the four of us went out for dinner at a place I love and requested. That was delicious as expected, and we followed it up with gelato – mm-mm!

The next day we woke up and went up to my parents’ for Belgian waffles and watermelon before heading out to browse through EMS. I picked up some small details for my hike, and then we went mini-golfing. I really wished I’d found my shorts at home before then – hot and humid! But still a fun time, with random holes (Funspot is always tops) and sometimes pretty things:

Before heading home, we stopped off at a grocery store that’s going out of business (actually, as of this writing, I think it’s gone). It was very strange to see it so empty.

Nothing! And they’d consolidated the few remaining items to the center of the store, resulting in this:

And this:

Strange but fun outing. When I got home, I found my shorts and helped my mom make yummy chocolate chip cookies for the BBQ/get-together with Z’s family. We fed a few to some thru-hikers who stopped by, and I tried to gather more information from them. Both were glad I was going to try it, saying it was an incredible experience. One, Rabbit, cautioned me to take 8-mile days for the first week rather than trying to power ahead (thus injuring myself). Your joints need time to adjust to the intensive walking.

The BBQ wound up being a celebration party and involved many more people than we’d thought! Thankfully we weren’t the only ones assigned to dessert, and there is always plenty of food there. We are lucky. We all oohed and ahhed over Z’s photos of my brother’s wedding, for the thousandth time. They are great. After, we headed up to my house for one last night of VT sleep. One more Orange is the New Black, and sleep. The morning, as usual with me, was a runaround of pack-shower-pack-organize-pack-ahhhhh-breakfast-pack-gogogo. Brunch down at Z’s was great and they packed me lunch and snacks because they are the greatest (both families). And: the tailor finished my dress, so it’s sitting in my suitcase with me now. Wow.

It was nice being home.

All kinds of things are coming together these days. I’m starting to feel more settled, somehow. Maybe from moving, maybe from other things.

The major coming together of the month was my brother’s wedding! I realized I never wrote about that. Everything about it was beautiful and perfect. I’ve never seen two people so much in love. Maybe I’ve just never been in a wedding, so didn’t get to see everything up front, but wow. These two. Add to that a beach in Hawaii, and you’re golden. It was stunning.

The first day became a beach day, which was lovely. Spread out, chill out, read, nap, check out the water and fish. And with nearly all my favorite people. My other brother and his family (super cool sister-in-law, two precious nieces), parents, boyfriend and his family, my new sister-in-law, aunt, cousin…

There were chill days, adventure days around the island, rehearsals and dinners, volcanoes, the wedding itself. Getting ready. I’m so excited to see pictures! There were some precious moments: getting “Bridesmaid” shirts from the bride, figuring out hair and makeup, my dad coming in and out – I think the photographer got one of both him and the bride fixing hair in the mirror -, the first look at her in her dress, helping her get her train into the pickup truck she drove to the wedding (oh man. Amazing). Watching her watch my brother, my brother sitting faced away from her at the front. Distracting her when she kept saying, “I look at [him] and I’m gonna start crying.” For goodness, sake, I almost started crying then! Walking in with my other brother, the ring they both bought me for my 18th on my hand. Listening to them say their vows, watching them just be so, so in love. The delicious food, the hilarity of the dancing.

Pololū Valley

lava

lava

So that trip was amazing. In every way. Took a day to run around practically the whole island, then slowed down to one of the most delicious meals out I’ve ever had, with this guy who continues to make me happy.

Things are coming together.

Today, for example. I was finally able to go to a yoga class this evening, for the first time since realizing there were classes my company would pay for through a gym membership. I’ve been wanting to go for a month or more. Tonight managed to open up enough that I went. I’m pretty intimidated by gyms, so it was nice to go in, be pointed in the right direction, and join others who were learning – getting direction for a workout. That’s the other thing about yoga. It’s hard, but it doesn’t quite feel like working out. And it’s a nice balance of workout and meditation for me, my own getaway from the madness. It was a pretty small class tonight, and for the most part I didn’t feel judged. Though there was that time I was stretching the opposite side as everyone else…

Then there is the continuous, seemingly-in-vain attempt at getting into a morning routine that I like. Ideally, it includes meditation, eating breakfast, writing my novel, showering, and making some try to look nice rather than running out the door. ONE of those things might start to happen, which might spur on the others. Baby steps. There is a local writing group, and some members also either write early or would like to. So it’s looking like some of us are going to create a kind of phone/e-mail tree to wake the others up when they want. If we all want to get up around 6am, then one has to and then calls the others. Maybe they call three times every five minutes and then stop. Or something. But that could be really awesome.

I also recently discovered and then tried out a super fast breakfast-making operation. You can bake eggs into hard-boiled-ness. Requires a muffin tin and eggs. Sunday night I bake-boiled a dozen eggs at once, leaving me an easy breakfast of 2 eggs each morning. If you keep the shells on, they’ll last about a week. Take them off, and it’s 2 days. Ready? Pre-heat oven to 325F (350 if your oven runs a touch cool), put one egg per muffin space (this prevents them from moving around too much), and then bake for 25-30 minutes. So far, I’ve found the yokes tend towards one side when you’re done, and there are some pinprick brown dots when you peel them. Neither is reason for concern. Between that and the occasional Instant Breakfast (provided I both have milk and it’s not gone bad), I might start eating breakfasts. The bagel place by work will still tempt me on occasion, I’m sure, but I’m trying to get away from the intake of carbs in the morning. The Internet* says it’s not good for your day energy. So there. So…there…toasted bagel with cream cheese. :-/

* Side note, my morning goals have been set for a long time before I saw an article like that. I already know TM, or transcendental meditation and love it. Etc. Carry on.

Writing, breakfast, meditation is sure to follow. As long as I don’t go back to sleep. I’ve gotta finish this novel before I leave for my hike, and time is decreasing rather more rapidly than I’d prefer!  That, and maybe weekly yoga, and then maybe weekly writing group (evening). Ohmygosh. Keep breathing. But that would be really great. This could be really great.

I owe you a post! I’ve owed you a post for awhile. Apologies.

So, I moved out of one place and into another, the boyfriend seems to be sticking around (and reading me better, we’ll get to that soon), and a brother is getting married this week!

The Move:

The move actually went really well. Hire movers if you can. It took them less than 3 hours to move everything out and then in. 3 hours! I remember doing this myself and it was a painful, all-day thing. Not so with professionals! I had rescheduled the Internet/cable technician to come after the movers left, but that memo didn’t get to where it needed to be, so he arrived while the movers were still getting boxes into rooms. Oh well, it all got done in one day. I’m still unpacking stuff. It’s amazing how much you actually need to live and how much you can really do without. I’ll find out a lot more about that when I go on my hike! So I’ve basically been putting it off, but at some point I’ll finish the last boxes and get pictures up, etc.

reading cornerI like the new place a lot. The space is a little easier to work with, and I now have a “reading corner” in my room, which is becoming my favorite place. The trick now is to keep it clutter-free! The kitchen is a touch smaller than I’d like but very workable. Still need a rug for my room and new curtains of some sort.

Downsides: no more washer and dryer in my apartment. It is on site, but you have to put money on this card, and the card machine isn’t even in a laundry room, it’s in the gym room, and the 2 cards for laundry and to get into the gym look exactly the same. Really? But it’s not a huge deal so far. It’ll be good to move more things around. Anything, anything to get myself in gear for this hike! I did my have first roach and other-nasty-bug (centipede or silverfish, ugh) experience yesterday and am on high alert now. They are fine outside. I don’t like them inside.

Speaking of the hike, I did the walk from the office to the new place (conveniently located near a bike trail), and it took me about an hour, 3.3 miles. Hopefully that becomes a regular commute.

The Boy:

He stayed with me a couple of weeks to help me move. So far, so good still. He’s increasingly meeting more friends and they like him, which is always a good sign 😉 A bunch of of went out to see Dazed and Confused because a theater was playing it, and we went out after and had a really fun time. It was even on a <gasp> weeknight! I’m starting to get his humor better, he’s starting to read me better. Wonderful case in point: I was feeling antsy and needed some space after the move. I loved having him here, and trying to get into this strange new routine of eating normal dinners at normal times. It was odd to get used to, as much as I did, with my absurd work hours, and now I know what everyone else who lives with a significant other means when they have to get home, they have to go make dinner, they want to just be with that person, whether they’re working or not. Just to be. Anyway, I am not used to that. And I hadn’t had a chance to make this new place my own, really. But before I would have said anything, I made some comment one morning that my work was going to be nuts, and he suggested he leave me be and go home for a week. And that is, really, what I wanted, but I felt bad saying it. He made it so I didn’t have to, which I appreciate tons (yes, noted that I should say these things in future but it’s not always easy). So, he comes back today and then we are off to said brother’s wedding! Yes, we. So, so, so excited. Aloha!

Other:

What else. I’m experimenting with beer, which I’ve never liked. That’s been an interesting adventure thus far. Work had some drama, but it’s on its way to being worked out. I’ve discovered and fallen in love with a new TV show called The Fosters. Watch it. It’s great. I went back to my writing group after forever, months and months. I am realizing how fast my goal to publish is approaching, so I’m attempting to finish editing the novel. 3am work nights make this difficult sometimes, but vacation soon and lots of plane rides to work on it 😀

I got caught up tonight in reading some of my old creative writing pieces from high school and college. It’s interesting for me to see how I’ve improved, and a little bit of what I’ve forgotten, in my writing. So, enjoy this. College, Intro to Creative Writing.

Baby Squirrels

Don’t ask me why we called ourselves that. I don’t know if there was a reason. I do recall a baby squirrel Halloween costume, but that may have come after the game began. I was about 6 years old, which would have made Chris 11. Video games weren’t even an option in our house. Whenever we weren’t building forts in the living room, we were playing Baby Squirrels.

Gathering supplies was our number one priority. These consisted of an animated Etch-a-Sketch (apparently called The Animator), some string, Legos, and heaven knows what else. We made objects into whatever we wanted. Our objective: navigate the seas of our house. We set up on the landing of the stairs. We could see the front hall and the doorways to the living room and kitchen, and the dining room if the doors were ever open. On the landing was a small wooden bench, handy for keeping our toys on but not for sitting.

We used the Etch-a-Sketch to navigate. We’d decide where on our “map” we wanted to go, plan it out, and then, inevitably, something would go wrong:

“Oh no, oh no! We’re in the deep seas now! Quick, get the rope!” my brother would say. Once I started collecting Beanie Babies, they would come on our adventures with us: a black dog called “Scotty” and a squirrel called “Nuts.” Chris especially liked doing a Scottish accent (as far as we could tell) when he was voicing Scotty. I had Nuts and he had an Irish accent, though my accent was not nearly as good as my brother’s.

I’d grab the rope, if we had one, or grab one from thin air.

“Oh no! Cap’n! What do we do?”

“Turn, turn! Give me the rope! Scotty, don’t jump!”

“Get the scope! I’ll steer!” I grabbed the Etch-a-Sketch and, moving this way and that, made pictures of scribbles and animated them, and we found our way out. Phew. One catastrophe avoided.

There is one adventure I will never forget. Chris and I were crossing the great sea on our landing, as usual, when we realized there was a shark below. This was dangerous, but also half the fun. We weren’t fast enough to outrun it, and we couldn’t very well see it from the top of the ship. Someone would have to go down into the sea to take it on.

There was no drawing of straws. I bowed my head.

“I’ll go.” I said.

“Are you sure?” Chris asked. I nodded. He took up the rope (which I’m wondering now if we ever actually had) and wrapped it around my stomach, then knotted it so I would be safe. He pulled on it, tugging me toward him to make sure it would stay on me. He then presented me with a plastic screwdriver, our only weapon. We looked on our navigator to find out where the shark might be. I was ready.

“Remember, just tug on the rope when you need to come up. Do you have your mask on?” he asked. I stared at him.

“Can’t you see it?”

“Oh. Sorry,” he whispered. We weren’t always on the same imagination plane. “Okay, I’m going to lower you down slowly.”

It was that time of day when it’s just begun to get dark inside but no one’s ready to turn on the lights. There was a little sunlight streaming in through the window in the front door, but even that was covered with a tiny lace curtain. There was more sunlight from the living room on the right, but that wasn’t where the shark would be. I crept slowly down the stairs, careful to avoid any creaks. Once, I missed, and there was a mild “reee!” of the wood. I cringed, held my breath, and with my hands awkwardly raised in a zombie-like creeping motion and my mouth slightly open, I stood there, keeping entirely still. After a few moments, I deemed it safe again and relaxed, allowing myself to go deeper and keep a lookout for the shark. My brother watched me from the top of the stairs, his intense green eyes like seaweed in the ocean. He put his fingers to his lips to remind me (as if I needed it): be quiet.

I got to the bottom of the stairs and froze. My dad was sitting at the kitchen table, his back to me. The shark was one thing, but we had to avoid detection by parents at all costs. I’d have to be extra careful on this run. We didn’t want to get “caught.” It would have brought them into our world by the necessity to interact with them, and that would break our story. It was as if their voices were too loud and would have broken the game, and forced us into “reality.”

I looked around. I crept toward the front hallway. I had to be sure not to stray too far from the bottom of the stairs; the invisible rope didn’t stretch that far. Suddenly, movement to my left. The shark! It was huge! Much bigger than any we’d taken on before. I jabbed at it with my screwdriver, but before I could deliver the final blow, it turned and prepared for an attack. I looked back at Chris. Could he see me? I took a step back and tugged on the rope. I tugged harder. I couldn’t risk even a whisper; we had to avoid parent detection no matter what. But I was going to get eaten by a shark! I shook my fists in an effort to get his attention. The shark would attack any minute, and I was running out of air. Finally, at the last second, Chris saw me tugging for dear life and started pulling me up. I hopped onto the first step just in time, feeling the slimy skin of a fin against my leg. From there, I tiptoed up those stairs as fast as my little legs could carry me.

Once I got to the top, I took in a huge breath of air.

“It almost got me! What took you so long?” I demanded.

“Oh my goodness,” he said – this was to become his classic line. “I’m so sorry. We were getting deep again and Scotty couldn’t navigate. I guess we should leave that to us.”

“Well, I stabbed it, but I couldn’t hit it again before it noticed.”

“Rats. We’ll just have to wait.”

“It was huge!” I said.

“I’m glad you’re okay.”

“Phew!”

“Hey, what do you want for dinner?” our mom called from downstairs. I jumped. I didn’t even realize she was home; everything had been so quiet.

“Fishsticks!” I yelled (this was also my word for physicists until I learned to say it right). Chris and I looked at each other. We’d have to start cleaning up.

“Oh, well,” he said. We gathered our toys and went to our rooms, awaiting another adventure of Baby Squirrels.

I almost lost a cousin today. Some people did. A brother, a sister, a wife, a best friend, a son. Or are with them, grieving over the place where a limb used to be. Minutes felt like hours as I waited to hear back from her, checked in with other friends and family in Boston or running today. I can’t recall feeling more helpless or scared in years. More. I was sick, I was stressed, worried, trying not to cry in the middle of the conference room. Thankfully I was alone in there for some of the time. I wanted news. Then pictures started getting picked up by the media. I had to stop. Even after I found out my cousin and about everyone I know in Boston was okay. I’m still incredibly rattled. When I called her I got only voicemail and tried really hard to keep calm. It was chaos, she was letting others know she was okay. But how can you know? My heart goes out to all the runners, friends, and family members of the victims. So many people, from all around the world, were hurt or are grieving today. I grieve with you. Love.

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