Semper Fideles

I wrote this entry one year ago in anticipation of my housemate taking his pets with him when he and his girlfriend moved down to So Cal to be closer to his ailing mother. It has been in my drafts, waiting for that fateful day when he returned to take them with him after they had settled into their new place... and that has not come to pass. Rather than let this languish in my drafts or delete it, I thought I'd post it now, in honor of MY dog.
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It seems that the cold has arrived with the month of November, a chill which didn't exist just a few days ago. While I sit at my desk, my housemate's dog lies at my feet, protecting me from the cold and anything else that may threaten me.

Piglette has been with us since September 2007, when my housemate adopted her from WKODIT (What Kind of Dog Is That?) rescue. Having been through at least two homes and a kennel, she was a tad uncertain and insecure her first months here. Being left alone made her nervous, as did bringing her anywhere in the car.

When she decided that she was in a stable place and wouldn't be abandoned again, she blossomed, and has returned more love and faithfulness than she has ever received. She is always at my side, always happy just to be near me, always protective, always wanting just to make me happy.

That's the wonderful thing about dogs -- you can always count on them to be there for you through thick and thin, to lift your spirits when you feel down, to be your faithful companion. Dogs do not know the effort you make to spend real time with them, but they always value and appreciate the time you set aside to spend with them as though they do know. People are more like cats, they tend to come and go as the mood or opportunity suits them.

Piglette is technically my housemate's dog, but she and I have formed a strong bond in the last three years. I tend to be the one who feeds her and cleans up after her, and she usually sleeps with me. So, I anticipate that when my housemate and his girlfriend move to Southern California in the next few months that giving up my faithful companion will be difficult, if not heartbreaking, for both of us. How do you take a dog that has been abandoned multiple times from the only consistent home it has known and not expect it to feel abandoned once again? And how do you abandon the most faithful, consistent companion you have ever known?



Juneau at dusk
August 2011
 I'm back from the Alaskan cruise! I enjoyed the time with my family (and thanks, dad, for paying my way so I could go) on the Norwegian Pearl, which my father booked through Costco (yes, the discount warehouse people). Alaska is, indeed, the breathtaking natural wonder that everyone raves about. As it turns out, however, I am not a cruise person.

I had never been on a cruise before. I'm not much of a structured vacationer or touring type. I amble into town, rent an apartment or check into a cheap hotel, unpack my bags, and settle into base camp, taking day excursions at my leisure.

Cruises are relatively structured. Although good food is available 24 hours per day, the best food is served at set hours, and every time you walk into one of the dining rooms, they immediately spray you with hand sanitizer. Activities and use of facilities are also limited to certain times. Plus, you can't just leave town at will. If you get antsy, you can either jump into freezing, deep water or wait until the ship reaches a port... which brings up ports.

Glacier Bay, reversal print
At each port, you have 8 to 10 hours to do everything you want to do in that area. Pre-planning and prioritizing are essential. Although the largest cities in Alaska are still relatively small towns, they still have more than 10 hours' worth of wilderness, quaint town experiences, and museums I'd like to see. Plus, there isn't much opportunity to interact with the locals to get advice, other than the tour guides.

The typical port call goes something like this... everyone rushes off the boat to find their scheduled tour or transport. During the day, you rush from place to place, listening to tour guides, snapping photos, buying trinkets. At the end of it all, the tour drops you exhausted at the docks, just in time to crawl back on the boat before it leaves you behind. My sister and her husband, both flight attendants, are accustomed to, and I think very much enjoy, the frenetic pace.

Mendenhall Glacier
The highlights? Our tour guide in Skagway, Klondike Kevin, takes groups of 6 to 10 and will personalize your tour to your wants. He hasn't done anything with his web site, but we booked him through Dyea Dave, who takes larger groups. The crew on the ship made the renewal of vows by my sister and her husband a special day. And we saw a lot of animals, which I hope to cover in a separate entry.

I needed a vacation after my vacation! Actually, in spite of the crew's best efforts to wipe out every viri and bacteria on the ship, I managed to come down with a sore throat and the sniffles on the last day, just in time to meet my boyfriend in Seattle and spend a couple days with him there.



Nasturtium, 2011
"It was drilled into me that anything less than winning was failure. In the impressionable way of sons, I did not consider this rhetorically; I took him at his word... when I noticed that this deity who asked only for perfection was himself less than perfect... I wasn't able to shrug it off. I was consumed instead by a blinding rage. The revelation that he was merely human, and frightfully so, was beyond my power to forgive."

Jon Krakauer
Into the Wild

This passage of Jon Krakauer's made little, if any, impression on me when I originally read his chronicle of a young man's foray into the Alaska wilderness that resulted in his death. But when I happened upon it again as I was thumbing through a few weeks ago, it stayed with me.

Hollyhock, June 2011
As a child of parents who instilled the values of hard work, education and more hard work in me at a young age, I have struggled with similar resentments and feelings of inadequacy at different points in my life. When I wailed "This is boring!" they reminded me that I chose to view whatever it was as boring, and instead of expecting my surroundings to fully nourish me with no effort on my part, I should see the potential in my surroundings.

In the moment, the speeches that my parents referred to as constructive criticism seemed more like nagging diatribe. But as I move somewhat less than gracefully through my midlife, I now understand how my parents expected a lot of me because they cared. I can even see how they were often correct, and realize that, yes, our situations are largely what we make of them. The past few years have been tough. But through those times I managed to realize how lucky I am in many ways. Most people who have the floor drop out from under them professionally don't have the family support structure I do, although I know that some people do choose not to turn to their families for support.

I've also realized that no matter how far I fall, I still have something to give, and there is always someone in greater need than I am. For me right now, that means donating my time, rather than money, but time is a precious commodity and cannot be regained once it passes.

Speaking of time, next week I will be spending it with my family on a cruise ship. My sister and her husband will be renewing their wedding vows. Internet access on the ship is extremely expensive, so I will be leaving the virtual world behind for a week and a half. I think it will be good for me. I hope that all my friends, online and in-person, have the opportunity to spend real time with those they care about the most.

Note: photos in this entry were taken with my new camera, a Samsung HZ30W. My boyfriend gave it to me when I lost my trusty Canon PowerShot. A few weeks after receiving the new camera, I was cleaning my closet, and felt something hard under a pile of t-shirts. It was my Canon. Go figure.


Tearing Asunder

anywhere i go you go, my dear
and whatever is done
by only me is your doing, my darling

from: I Carry Your Heart With Me
- E.E. Cummings -

It has been said that 50% of all marriages in the U.S. end in divorce. I have never been married, and I come from parents whose marriage ended when my mother died in my father's arms, a victim of a sudden, but thankfully, relatively painless heart attack. But I can see how people who once felt they had an infinite amount of love to offer each-other can grow apart.

Some are able to make the transition gracefully, and move on without carrying the  bitterness that can weigh down one's whole being. Some are not so graceful, and leave one or both participants with deeper scars than the events leading to the divorce. I have managed to avoid being caught up in the tide of angst of the latter type... until now... and only by virtue of having rented a room to one of the participants.

Walking into the café where I've bought my coffee beans for over 20 years this afternoon, I was told by the soon-to-be-ex wife of my renter that she "ain't sellin' [me] sh*t". I could understand the hostility if I'd been the lover of her soon-to-be-ex husband, and of course I would not have had the gall to walk into her domain if I were, but somehow, I thought the landlord would be safe from the ire!

Luckily, I can buy coffee elsewhere, but their family and friends are not so lucky. As I contemplate the stanza above from E.E. Cummings, I realize that the greater amount of equity people share, the more connected their lives remain even after warm feelings pass away. Two people who cared for each-other enough to marry and raise two children together are unable to keep a personal dispute between the two of them. Everyone close to them will be forced to take sides if this attitude prevails, and the whole family, not just the marriage, will be broken. It saddens me that partners who worked together for so long cannot find it within themselves to make one last push to work together to smooth the end of one era and move on to happier futures.


After a Long Break

I believe that this is the longest break from blogging I have ever taken. For the first time in several years, I've had nothing to share with the world. We're already a few weeks into it (and it's early for the lunar version), but happy new year!

When I last posted in December, I was painting. I painted the bedroom my housemate vacated, and while I was at it, the main bathroom. Both rooms were in dire need of love. I'm eying the kitchen now, although that really needs much more than just paint.
The room, painted and ready for an occupant 
My grandfather planted the Meyer lemons outside the window nearly 60 years ago

I have been hoping to find a new housemate through friends, but no one wants to live in the boring 'burbs! I'm contemplating craigslist, although I have bad luck with craigslist, so I'm putting that off for as long as possible.
Fresh paint in the bathroom, too.
Yes, that's doggie shampoo, it's too cold this time of year to bathe Piglet outside!

I'm still technically jobless, but I had a few interviews, which is an improvement over the big, fat nothing I was getting before. I picked up some part-time temporary admin work just to get by for the next few months, while giving me time to keep searching for something longer-term. I still dream of turning ideas into things that work, and for the right idea, I'd go just about anywhere.

In my spare time, I've become more active with the grassroots animal welfare group I've volunteered with since 2003. Instead of volunteering at the program level, I am now helping with their first-ever formal Development plan. Given my work experience, the fact that I have done some nonprofit development work, and the fact that it can be difficult to find volunteers for the less-fun background work (most volunteers want, understandably, to be hands-on with the animals) I think that is where my efforts will make the biggest difference.

Somewhere in the fray, I was asked to sit on the Board. I wasn't thrilled about taking on that responsibility, particularly since fundraising is already demanding, especially at the volunteer level. But I am not good at saying no, so I was voted on last week. I am already preparing my letter that states my intention to step down at the end of my term.

Confession: philanthropically speaking, education is my true passion. While I support animal welfare, environmental and social justice causes, I truly believe that education is the key, that an educated population is aware of its faults and has the tools to fix them. I hope one day to devote time to educational issues, but I haven't yet found where someone with my skill set can work most effectively in that arena. If anyone has ideas on that front, I'm all ears (or eyes, in this case).