Friday, October 25, 2013

Losing My Shadow

I wanted my own dog. Brad had Zeus, a chocolate lab who was his hunting buddy, constant companion. Zeus tolerated me. I was in charge of keeping the water bowl filled, the kibble in his bowl twice a day, and the occasional belly rub. I wanted my own furry bundle of devotion. So I’d been scouring the ads for a few weeks. Certain I wanted a lab of my own, but not finding anything that clicked.

On my lunch break I was reading the local paper when the ad caught my eye. “Free Hungarian Pointer female.” I knew from conversations with Brad that a Hungarian Pointer was a Vizsla, his brother had one briefly when they were kids. I also knew they were an extremely rare breed in the States, and you didn’t just find one to give away. I kept the paper, and casually mentioned it to Brad when I got home. Ten minutes and one phone call later we were in the truck to take a look at her.

The woman who had her had had over 300 calls. We were the first people to show up. She was trying to find a home for the dog for a friend of hers, and wanted to make sure the dog went to a good home, preferably someone who hunted birds and would use her for what she had been bred for.

We pulled up, and saw this beautiful copper colored, lean, excited puppy (She was only 13 months old), locked in a 4 x 6 kennel with a dog house in it. She was vibrating she was so excited to see us. While Brad talked with the woman, I let her out and dear sweet goddess she ran. Huge wide circles, so happy to be out of that cage and stretching her legs for the first time in days. While I played with her and watched her run, Brad got the story of her short life.

She had been purchased as a gift from an uncle for his three year old nephew. Dad hated her from the start, he wanted a German Shorthair Pointer, not a high energy, hyper as hell, scrawny Vizsla. Mom didn’t like her either, she had an active toddler to care for, now she was supposed to take care of this dog as well? She wasn’t allowed in the house. She was verbally and physically abused by both the husband and wife. She was uncontrollable. The abuse of the dog turned to spousal abuse, and the wife had dropped this dog off at her friend’s house, just get rid of her.

I half heard most of this. I heard this sad, maddening story as I watched this dog run and jump and come to me when I whistled. She would run to me with her eyes sparkling, her tongue hanging out the side of her mouth, grinning that doggy grin that intimated she had a joke, and she would share it with me if I could catch her. She would stand still for a moment to have her head petted, then she was off again. The woman casually mentioned the dog hadn’t been allowed out to run for four or five days because she was so hard to catch.

Brad walked over to me and whispered, “Do you want her, with all that she has been through?” My response was immediate. “If you think I’m leaving her here you are nuts.” Half an hour later, we were in the truck with Penny the Vizsla.

We stopped to buy her food, a collar, and some toys. She spent the entire trip home with her feet on the back of the seat, nuzzling my ear or Brad’s. To this day, the best way to reward her for good behavior is to let her nuzzle your ears. Her tail never stopped wagging. We got home, let her out of the truck, and decided to take a walk down the pasture. She ran and ran and ran. Always circling back with that grin on her face.  I am convinced it was the best day she had ever had in her short life. I watched her and knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that I was hers and she was mine. Forever.

There were problems. She wasn’t house broken. Didn’t know her name. More energy than I had ever seen contained in one body in my life. She was terrified of Brad when the initial excitement wore off. It was six months before she realized when he got down on the floor it was to play with her, not to hurt her.

But oh, she and I. She was my shadow, my Velcro dog, my love. She was never more than a foot away from me. She sat next to me on the loveseat, her head either on my lap or laying on my shoulder. When Brad would leave for work or be gone on overnight trips, she curled up in the tightest ball against my spine, gradually uncurling as she slept to rest her head on the pillow next to mine. It was love, deep and instant and enduring. I couldn’t have asked for a better dog.

Brad did eventually get to hunt with her.  And she could hunt. There wasn’t a pheasant in the county that was safe from her. Safe from the shotgun sometimes, but not from that nose. She took great joy in finding those birds and getting her reward by nuzzling Brad’s ears.

While shotguns didn’t bother her, thunder and fireworks terrified her. Twice she got away during thunderstorms. The first time, she was gone for three days.  I was frantic. Certain she was gone forever. The afternoon of the third day, after I had sat down and prayed for her to find her way home, she came trotting up the pasture, as if returning from a bird hunting trip. I cried into her neck as she sat patiently, waiting for me to regain my senses and get her some food.

The second time she was found by a pair of hikers, who got her back to me less than 24 hours after she took off. It was still that heart stopping joy when I saw her again, and she almost jumped out of the window of their car to get back to me. There was no doubt she was really my dog.

So many memories. So much joy and love. My bright eyed copper girl is old now, her face mostly white, her hearing gone, and her eyesight dimming. She still likes to get out and run, but instead of hours of joyful circles she is content to trot around the yard for half an  hour or so, then retire to her cushion in the house to sleep. She barely eats. Her nose is no longer pinned to the ground searching for the scent of pheasant. She can’t hear the rooster pheasant that lives in the front pasture when he calls for his girlfriends.

I am losing my shadow. My canine love. I watch her as she sleeps, to see if she is still breathing. I see her search for me when I am standing right next to her. I don’t know if she can hear my voice any longer. Someday very soon I am going to wake to find she has slipped away in her sleep, or I am going to have to make the heart wrenching decision to have her put down. Someday soon I will bury her in the side yard next to Zeus the chocolate lab. I will have to bury my shadow, and a large chunk of my heart.

Sunday, December 30, 2012


Words and music have seduced me my entire life.

I don't ever remember a time without music and books. One of my earliest memories is of diving headfirst into a huge cardboard box full of children's books at a yard sale. The woman had told me I could have as many books as I could carry, and my mother had to pull me away crying because I couldn't hold as many as I want. It is quite obscene the number of books I own now. I honestly thought if I got a Kindle, that would reduce my purchasing of real life books. Hasn't even slowed it down.

Music is another obsession of mine. My paternal Grandmother dreamed of going to Nashville and becoming a great singer like Patsy Cline. And then she met Grandpa. Seven kids later, she contented herself with singing with her children, and passing her passion on to them. One uncle has played with Bob Seger and Chicago, as well as putting out several albums with his own bands. My dad is a pretty damn good singer, the other two brothers play guitar and drums respectively, one aunt teaches music. Music is as essential to me as air. I think I started reading my dad's Rolling Stone magazines when I was 7. One of the greatest regrets of my life? I can't sing or play a note. I think occasionally about trying to learn an instruement. It may happen some day.

One thing I can do, and do damn well, is write. I've kept a journal since I was about 6 or 7 (the first one was a Minnie Mouse journal. Cute as hell.), and I've written stories and poetry since then as well. I'm really getting back into the story writing, and I'm determined to be published some day very soon. I want to be the author that convinces a kid or adult that they love to read, and can't live without it in their life. All the places I've been in my mind, from the surface of Mars to the sewers of Derry, Maine, have inspired me.  I want to be that inspiration for someone else. I want my words to transport an awkward teenage girl to another world, where she can speak with dragons and save the entire planet. Reading, and dreaming myself somewhere else may have been the only things that got me through the unrelenting hell that was high school. It is also the reason my first tattoo was a dragon's head. Thank you Anne McCaffrey.

Is that a little arrogant of me? Maybe. I've realized lately I don't give a damn if it is or not. This is a part of myself I've allowed to be walled up for too damn long, and I'm clawing at those fucking bricks with bloody fingers until only rubble is left. And for the first time in a very long time, I feel like I can draw a complete breath. So maybe I should think about guitar lessons?

Tuesday, September 25, 2012


Before you read this story, be aware. It's not fluff and light. It's dark and sad and may contain triggers for suicide. Also, I promise, I am fine. Not thinking of hurting myself, just because I'm writing about suicide. If you are having thoughts of suicide, please talk to someone, call the Suicide Prevention Hotline, 1-800-273-8255. Don't leave, you are needed.

And now for Dark. This is copyrighted, and may not be used without my permission. Steal my work and I'll feed you to the grizzly bears in my backyard.

The baby was crying again. She rolled over to look at the clock, the only light in the room. 3:17. Her head turned to look at her husband, motionless beside her. Of course he wasn't going to hear the whimpers, he'd drunk himself into a stupor again. She sighed and pushed the covers back.

Walking through the dark house, hearing the hum of the refrigerator, the light of the microwave flashing. The power must have gone out again, she thought to herself. Reaching the baby's room, frowning to find the door closed. She turned the handle, expecting to see the crib highlighted in the soft glow of the nightlight.

More darkness greeted her, and silence. Perhaps the baby had woken when the power flickered and then gone back to sleep? She shuffled carefully to the crib, not wanting to make any noise. A thin blade of light fell through the curtains. She reached the crib, hands gently patting for the sleeping infant. She'd covered the interior twice before it registered that the baby was gone. Gone.

Reality intruded, the fog of sleep and dreams drawing away abruptly. The baby was gone. Forever gone. She sank to the floor, screams strangling her, unable to breath.

After a time she struggled back to her feet. She slowly made her way back to her own room, the sleeping form of her drunken husband still unmoving. She passed the bed, closing the bathroom door behind her silently. There was no need for a light, the bottle was right by the sink where her husband had left it. It was full of pills. She took them two at a time, not stopping until the bottle was empty. She carefully put the lid back on, returning the bottle to it's original position.

Carefully sliding back into bed, she could already feel the first tendrils of sleep and calm snake across her mind. There would be no more waking to the cries of her missing child. No more waking every again, just dark.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Fairy Tales

The whole election year rhetoric has gotten me thinking quite a bit lately. Not about politics, as the ad makers would have liked, but about women's rights and fairy tales. Yes, you read that correctly, fairy tales. Hear me out, I do have a connection.

It really pisses me off when I hear someone talking about empowering women. Mostly because I feel so powerless some days I guess, but also because I really think we (women) just allow our power to be taken away from us at a very early age. We willingly give it up, and then spend the rest of our lives fighting tooth and nail to get it back. And this is where the fairy tales come in.

I loved Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, Rapunzel, Cinderella, all of those fairy tale princesses as a girl. I loved the idea of falling in love, and suffering for that love, and being rescued by the handsome prince and living happily ever after. What little girl doesn't love those stories? The romance, the intrigue, all of it custom designed to make your heart beat a little faster, your breath catch, your eyes brim with tears when Prince Charming finally realizes his love and rescues his princess and they drift off the the castle to live happily ever after. My daughter grew up with the Disney movies, and was a different princess every year for Halloween.

For me, the fairy tales implied that if I just found the right guy, and put everything in his hands, all would be well. It wasn't an outright message, but as I look back, it was the absolute undercurrent. No matter how hard the princess fought against the evil queen, she would inevitably fail, and have to wait for the dashing prince to come rescue her. And as subliminal messages go, this one is still hard at work in our society today.

August 26, 1920, women received the right to vote in this country, and almost 100 years later, we still aren't deemed intelligent enough to decide what to do with our own bodies, make the same wage as a man doing the same job, or be treated as equals on a day to day basis. Women are looked down upon for staying home and raising our children, but a women who goes to work to support her family is looked down upon for letting someone else raise her kids. It's a vicious cycle of doubt and discrimination, and makes me both angry and so very utterly sad.

Young girls are so caught up in the romance of the fairy tales we've been fed our entire lives, and we are looking for that Prince Charming, that happily ever after. And so no matter that our parents have taught us that we are just as good as men, we do everything in our power to live up to that helpless princess awaiting rescue. We dress the way we are told, we act the way we think the man we are attracted to wants us to behave, we await the rescue, have the dream wedding, and begin to live happily ever after.

It works for a bit, it really does. And then reality begins to creep in, bills must be paid, children must be raised, and we slowly realize that while he may still be the man of our dreams, he isn't the total sum of our existence, and we have to stand up for ourselves and become responsible for our own happiness. We must begin to fight again for those rights that we so willingly laid aside in the pursuit of love.

Before you get me wrong, I'm not blaming the men here. They've been fed the same stories we girls received, but their role was Prince Charming, Batman, Superman, always arriving to save the day, rescue the damsel in distress, and make the world a better place. Young boys are set up for the same false expectations, perhaps even more so, because it's up to them to provide the happily ever after, and what failures they are if they can't come through.

It's a wonder we've evolved to the point we have. I know quite a few good men who believe a woman are their equals, and I know a few good women who believe they are second class citizens. Now would be a good time to announce how I've never compromised myself, never expected a man to save me, and expected my happily ever after, right?

Bullshit. I bought into the fantasy hook, line, and sinker. I fell in love hard at 16, got pregnant, got damn lucky that he stuck around, and thought that life was going to be peaches and cream from there on out. I'd really like to go back in time and smack myself. I'm 43 now, and fighting every day. I'm just lucky that I have a husband who believes in me more than I believe in myself, and encourages me on every crazy journey I take. I'm struggling every day to empower myself, to be my own Princess Charming, and make my life what I want of it, not what I'm content to be given. And I'm my own worst enemy. I at least am adult enough to admit to myself that the discontent I feel in my life is self-inflicted. And it breaks my heart to see others, men and women both, who are desperately searching for the one person who is going to be the answer to everything, when all they have to do is look in the mirror.

So, all the uproar these days over women's rights, and how the politicians are denying us our equality and control? All the discussion about empowering women? How about women concentrate on empowering themselves first. I'm willing to bet when we stop expecting the men in our lives to save us, most of them will be more than willing to be our cheerleaders instead.

Monday, September 10, 2012


Words. They swirl in my brain, flow from my fingers (sometimes, most of the time, I'm digging for them), float up from a page. Where would we be without them? How would we communicate? What if you couldn't speak or write your needs, desires, frustrations for just an hour? I cannot begin to imagine, and frankly I don't want to.

"Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me." We've all recited that little piece of crap, haven't we? In my life, words have always inflicted the worst wounds, left the worst scars.  I wish I could say I've never inflicted wounds with my own words, but lying to yourself is the worst sin. I've learned the hard way to guard my tongue, swallow words that might cause pain to another. Holding my tongue is damn hard. I've worked with the public for 22 years now, and I'm pretty good at politically correct speech, but I still find myself biting my tongue, trying desperately to find a better way to word something, or say nothing at all.

Lately, I worry I've spent so much time censoring myself that I've actually damaged by ability to write. What used to come so easily is now hard work that leaves me close to tears some nights. I can close my eyes, visualize the scene, and there is a missing connection between my brain and my fingers. In the time I used to be able to write a chapter I'm lucky if I can get a couple of paragraphs. And it pisses me off. Which in turn makes the writing just that much harder.

This is the stuff that I think about during the day, while I'm working. The power of something as simple as a word, from a loved one, friend, or even complete stranger. How it can be the pivot that sends you soaring or plummeting. We are truly fragile creatures, mentally and emotionally. Words are both the most dangerous weapon and the medicine we cannot live without.

Monday, June 11, 2012

If at first you don't succeed...

Wowsers, two years since my last post.  Hmm, time to begin again.  Time to get myself back into the habits and practices that make me happy.  Writing here is good practice for writing period.  And I'm kinda good at this, if I would just post a bit more. (snort)

Life is complicated.  Brad is still working out of town, in North Dakota now.  I'm so happy for the work, for the money to pay the bills, but so unhappy without my husband, my best friend.  It is hard, and the next person who tells me how great it must be to not have my husband "in the way all the time" is going to get punched in the nose.  Seriously.

I spend most of my time reminding myself of my blessings, and I have so very, very many.  But I'm struggling here, with being alone so much.  And my writing, my sewing, the things I love so very much are suffering, because I can't muster the energy to focus on doing those things.  And I certainly haven't been talking about it, to anyone!  Not that I'm ashamed of being sad or depressed, but I have so many good things in my life, and really, should I be complaining about the fact that my husband is gone so much working when so many others are out of work and would be happy to be in our position???  Yeah, martyr much Kat????

So, I'm going to make a concentrated effort to be present more, here, in my life.  And I'm going to write about it, because it makes me happy, and I'm good at it.  It may not be pretty for a bit, but bear with me, and I will get better, I promise.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Farming as Therapy

Yes, don't fall over, I'm back. Where was I?

Life is good. Life is still hard, full of more bills than money, my father has breast cancer, Brad is hardly ever home, but life is good. All the animals have come through the winter well and in good health, Brad's travels are safe, and more work is pouring in, my job is going well, and spring is here.

The animals have been making conversations moodle around in my head lately. When people find out I have 40 acres, dogs, cats, horses, cows, and chickens, they are astonished. How can you work full time, take care of all those animals, and have time for anything else? And I'm astonished that they think is is so difficult. But it has become commonplace for me. It takes less than an hour a day to take care of all my critters. More if I have to clean the chicken coop, but really, the animals take far less time than laundry does!

And I certainly enjoy it more than doing laundry! The horses nicker when I go outside, the cats all come running to see me, the chickens talk a little louder, and of course the dogs are always happy to see me. The cows are over at the neighbors, and we have agreed to nod politely to each other across the pasture. It's better that way.

If anyone had told me five years ago that I would keep chickens, and still get a thrill everytime I find an egg in the nesting boxes, I would have told them they were out of their minds. And the fact that I have a garden, and actually have grown things, made my own tomato sauce???? I killed an air fern people. But more and more people all over this country are getting into farming, raising their own meat and produce. It's a pheonomenon that is sweeping our culture, and I'm fascinated by it.

It's not that farming, or ranching, or whatever you want to call it is inherently noble or romantic. Shovel out a really dirty chicken coop, and see how much romance you feel. But there is great satisfaction in cooking with produce you just picked from your backyard, making bread with honey from your boss's ranch, and eggs from your hens. Grilling a steak from a beef you raised, knowing no hormones were given to the animal. Hens clucking contentedly while searching for the juciest bugs, horses munching on fresh pasture, barn cats keeping the mouse population under control while checking in for head pats. It's dirty, it's smelly, it's hard work, and I love all of it. I feel more connected to my life. I can get out of my head.

I think, and this is only based on my experience, that this is the real reason why people are so taken with getting back to the basics of life. We have all gotten so disconnected from our own selves, our own emotions, that it takes weeding a garden, collecting eggs, caring for another creature, to allow us to feel again. To take some physical satisfaction from something tangible, real, and self-nurturing. Technology is fabulous, but I really believe caring for all my critters helps me care for myself.