Thursday, June 29, 2006

Thursday Thirteen

1. I got several D's in conduct--I think in 9th and 10th grade

2. I can't stand coke and most sodas

3. On my couch sit Esther and Mildred, two (cloth) witches who have now moved three times with us, and insist on prominence in the family

4. I loved playing hopscotch as a kid, especially throwing the rock in the square(?)

5. One of my proudest accomplishments was being the Project Director of a Spinal Cord Injury Resource Directory

6. My jewelry is all over the place

7. I usually have a back-up plan

8. People who know me would be surprised that I make true friends very slowly

9. I regularly make up songs that rhyme and sing them outloud (I can't sing)

10. I've lived in two states (Mass. and Oklahoma) and one other country (Germany)

11. Pizza is my # 2 weakness in life and bread of any kind is my # 3

12. I am not eating much of either because I am losing weight

13. I've had (& loved)a parakeet named Crystal Starlight ("Chris"); dogs named Sniffy, Scottie, Mitch, Nicky, Rosie, and now Stella; two cats Alice and Max; a fish named Tillie (she came when I called), a hampster named Faye-Faye and a squirrel named Henrietta Mooney

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

A Giraffe On Roller-skates

"She’s a fun girl who loves life! Her hobbies include running,
jumping and sniffing. She has a medical condition called
spondylosis which means that parts of her spinal cord
are changing. This should be able to be managed with
the help of your veterinarian." (

The medical piece was no small deal. Spondylosis a condition where bones are dangerously fragile, and for this “fun girl” both her back and neck were affected. Also, on the day we first saw her, she was just finishing treatment for lyme disease and she had some additional stomach problems due to the scavenger food she must have eaten while a stray on the streets. We didn’t know it at the time, but to top it off her bladder leaks. It’s controllable with medication but not enough to spare her from the indignity of another diagnosis: “inappropriate urination”.

Can’t have you pissing in the house, Scout. You gotta go—I can’t keep
up with your problems.

She wouldn’t make eye contact. You couldn’t hold her head in your hands even when you tried. And for the first few days you couldn’t touch her feet, not even to affectionately hold a paw. She would stretch forward with those long graceful legs and those salon quality toenails, then drop her front and then her back end, perfectly keeping her head and upper torso gracefully balanced. She’d stay in that posture-perfect position for hours, staring ahead with sad eyes, quietly watching, quietly listening.

We bought her an $80 orthopedic bed. Basically it was just a four layer egg foam and not worth the cost, but it was well worth the benefit. She knew it was hers. Most of the time she would lie on its firm plaid mattress, her deep brown eyes staring as if she were searching for something or someone familiar. Sometimes she looked like she was relaxed and resting but more often she looked sad, lost,longing.

She didn’t pay us much attention but she tried. She was appreciative, and she was obedient--so obedient that she did not move or peep in the morning until we called to her. She would wag her tail when expected but just as often she kept it partially between her legs, hanging there looking lost. And she immediately crouched out of the room as soon as we sat down for dinner--or breakfast or lunch. At first we didn’t catch the significance of that, not until she began to slowly return as we cleaned up and put the food away. And--this one’s the hardest—she reflectively dropped her head whenever we tried to pet her; the movement was sudden, efficient, routine. It was not quite a wince—she was too obedient for that—but she prepared herself, just in case.

Get out of here now or I’ll drag you outside with my bare hands.

This dog was rescued somewhere in Sturbridge. She was malnourished and in severe abdominal pain at the time, and she growled—only once—and yelped in pain until the shelter took her to a local vet.

Get out of the truck, you good-for-nothing dog. Find somebody else to put up with your constant problems.

She had been in the shelter for two months, sick, crated, and cared for by the volunteer angels of animal rescue. They said she was sweet. The two women we met there seemed to like her. She was a difficult adoption because of her medical condition—which was at risk of re-injury from normal activity. Probably for that reason alone, people hesitated to take her home.

You’ve been a pretty good dog Scout. You’re sweet to the wife and kids but bottom line you’re a wimp. You walk like an old lady sometimes and you can hardly keep up with me. I need a “man’s dog”, not a sissy”.

It seemed true enough that she liked to play, sniff and jump. We took her out to the shelter’s fenced-in area and she seemed fairly animated and agile. We took her home because Janet liked her immediately, especially her long lanky body with German Shepard black and brown coloring and a Hound’s floppy ears and inquizitive nose. She had beautiful brown eyes. Compared to our beloved springer spaniel, who died almost two years ago, she was a giant. She was clumsy when she walked, even clumsier when she tried to run or jump, and even today we still marvel when her long wag of a tail bangs against walls and furniture, which it does often.

It’s too bad because the guys like you, Scout. You look tough the way a dog should. It’s too bad, but I can’t keep you no longer. That’s the way it is.

The shelter said she was 3 or 4 years old and she would need some training. No one could predict how severe her medical condition would get. We bought her a red leash and a red collar named her Stella .

It was clear within the first few days that this dog loved someone else—maybe even a whole family. You had the sense she was mourning the loss of her life.

Sometimes you get to me because you’re sweet and you’ll do anything I tell you to. But you’re too much trouble. And I ain’t spending my money on vet bills.

She was polite but distant. Mostly she listened and watched. She especially liked men with tools, Without a trace of fear, she was content to lie within three feet of Jessie’s buzzing power saw as he rebuilt our porch. And when our tall and lanky fence guy Paul, came in the yard through the back gate, carrying his tool box, she jumped up, estastic, rushing to him, running in between his legs and walking beside him in a bouncy sort of way--as though her owner had returned for her.

Get in the truck. You can come to the worksite with me but you better stay where I tell you. Don’t bother me and don’t expect me to take care of you. If you get in somebody’s way and you get hurt that’s your problem.

Stella approached some men with care and fear. She growled at our gentle friend Jonathan, and slinked to him, low to the ground, when he extended his hand and called to her. Her tail wagged tucked between her legs, and you could see her trying to be compliant, to be accepted, but you could also see her preparing for the worse.

You’re too damn nervous Scout. Why don’t you stand up for yourself when Ben starts pushing you around? Ever since him and me got in that fistfight, at least now you growl when you first see him but then you turn into a wimp again. Stop taking shit from him.

In the beginning of her new life, her back legs were stiff every morning, She’d do a half stretch trying to limber up, and she improved as the day went on. Sometimes she looks like a puppy and other times like she’s very old. She’s not 3 or 4: the vet says she’s probably 7 or 8 —“a mature girl” he calls her, He guesses the spondlyosis probably came from an injury. She is now helped by a low dose of remadyl, and she moves like she has a new body after the doggie acupuncture she gets once a month.

If you can’t figure out how to ride in the back of my truck, you can stay home. You hurt your back because you were stupid and lost your balance. You just lay in the garage for almost a month before you could walk ok again.

It’s been 8 weeks in our household we and she have developed a modest routine. She is antsy at 8 am but in this neck of the woods we’re barely having the first cup of coffee. We manage to head into Look Park almost every afternoon and take a 1.2 mile walk around. Stella sniffs everything twice, does pretty well on leash, sits with ease as she follows movements and sounds while I read and relax, and she goes crazy--her tail awagging every which way--when she sees little dogs.

Pokey will miss you Scout. He’ll hate to sleep without you. But if he was pissing in the house, he’d be gone too.

It took five minutes and three walkthroughs to teach her to walk around the garden. She learned to pee in a designated area in a couple of weeks. You can tell her to lie down and she’ll stay there for you. She understands and follows all the basic commands: sit, stay, paw, no, leave it. She stays close by us in the yard, without a leash, and comes when called. When she comes in from the rain, she knows to wait until I wipe her paws. She loves riding in the car. She does all these things correctly and without hesitation: she is perfectly trained and perfectly wonderful, except there is one problem. Sometimes she is afraid--other times terrified--of not doing it all right.

You’ve got to the count of 3 or I’ll beat the shit out of you. You stay here and don’t move until I tell you. Do you understand?

She doesn’t ask for much. She looks depressed about half the time. Heading into month three, she still lies motionless sometimes, with her eyes open—(my guess) remembering and mourning the life she had. One night when Janet was shaking out and folding our clean sheets, from nowhere she darted up and playfully jumped in and danced under the sheets and into the frey. What was familiar to her was unmistakable.

This is a dog who has learned to take care of herself. But things are looking up. She now asks for her favorite pig ears at designated times. She dances wildly, her legs aimed every which way in the air when we bring out her leash, She lets us know she prefers it when we’re around. She likes our friends and family and wags her tail when we walk by. And she softly sighs and pushes her head closer when we lie with her cheek to cheek.

It’s hard to figure why Stella was left in Sturbridge MA. She’s too sweet for that. My guess is her owner was a strict and macho son-of-a bitch. But my guess is that she loved him and she tried her best. Because she is such a great dog, I wouldn’t be surprised if in some misguided way he loved her too.

I ain’t looking back. I did what had to be done. But it’s weird without you.
I’m not thinkin about it too much, but I didn’t know I’d miss you.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Prompt # 3

How's this for a new prompt?:

The Road Not Taken

It's been pulling at my shoulder for a couple of weeks so with thanks to Robert Frost, how about it?

Monday, June 26, 2006

The Thursday Thirteen Written Between Sunday & Monday

Late but not forgotten: A's Thursday Thirteen. 13 little known facts and quirks about me:

1. I love the smell of wood
2. My mother is 90 years old and lives alone in the house my father built
3. I lose my wallet, credit card or car keys at least once a day
4. I am seriously afraid of heights and couldn't sky dive for a million dollars.
5. I lived in Germany for 2 years in an apartment heated by a coal stove in only the livingroom(brrrrr)
6. I've learned to pretty much keep my promises
7. When I breath the sea air in Provincetown and the Outer Cape, I believe I can do anything
8. I'm overweight but in my head still imagine my skinnier self
9. I lent a friend money years back and haven't forgotten that she never paid me back
10. I was voted "Personality Plus" my senior year in high school
11. I develop and present fantastic workshops but have "stage fright" for days beforehand
12. I was arrested for breaking and entering when I was 13
13. Nothing comes close to pizza for the sheer love of it.

Saturday, June 24, 2006


Here's my horoscope today:

Repression is a funny thing. Denying your feelings only gives them greater power. Just remember that feeling your emotions and acting on them are two entirely different things. Practice the former right now.

Given the recent big yellow "guilt" prompt, I'm reminded that I am responsible for controlling my actions but not my feelings. Feelings are simply feelings. Whatever your astrological sign and whatever the circumstance, I'm passing this on as a wise tid-bit for the day.

Monday, June 19, 2006

jb's studio

i'm still experimenting with photos through flickr.

this is jb's provincetown studio. these are the fabrics she gleefully bought in montmartre in paris. they are hanging on her loom. this studio is long gone--it's been replaced by the magic cottage, which is in our backyard and fabulous.

jb is a fiber artist. these days she finds twigs, rusted metal and run-over bottle caps, combines them with anything, and makes collages. when jb does this, she looks like she is 6 years old having the time of her life.

new orleans

here's my first attempt at adding photos to commentary.

jb and i spent two weeks in new orleans with the red cross last october. it was a life changing experience:
--for miles and miles and miles, the damage was indescribable
--the lack of response and help from the government was shocking
--the people in new orleans and throughout the state were stunned, homeless, and brave.
--the red cross volunteers confirmed that people, not politicians, really come through

jb and i were assigned to a mental health unit. we saw families returning to their destroyed homes for the first time, others sleeping in their cars, dogs still panicked on the streets of saint bernard county, six weeks later, and rooftop holes where people had cut through their attics to keep from drowning.

i'm told alot of the devastation we saw in october is still untouched.
i'd go back in a minute. it changed me forever, and i am grateful.

Saturday, June 17, 2006


Writing this was quick and fun.


Toss it in the wastebasket
Like it never existed
Hide it under your winter sweaters
And hope it smothers
Take it for a ride and toss it out the window
At 40 miles an hour
Bury it beneath the porch
And let the ants feast on it
Lock it in the closet
Until it shrivels
Put it in the washing machine
And start the rinse cycle on high

You see, it hasn’t done a thing for you.
And it hasn’t done a thing for anyone else either.
It hasn’t clarified or enlightened or solved or absolved.
It hangs in your heart as an “I wish” or “I should”
But without change or action.
It just sits there, taking up space
Until you do something.
And when you do something,
It’s not guilt anymore.
It’s worthless.
It’s a junior league emotion
Trying to make the team.
Do yourself a favor
And let it find someone else
To hassle and diminish.
Screw you, guilt.
I fed you, gave you a home
Respected your purpose
And in return you did nothing

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Is It True??

I want this not to be true. Help!

No word in the English language rhymes with month, orange, silver, or purple.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Where Land Meets Sea

Tiny coastal Provincetown lies at the very tip of Cape Cod and the Massachusetts boot, home to 3500 year round residents and 20,000 summer tourists. Affectionately called Ptown, it's inhabitants tend to be artists, Portuguese families with long relationships with the sea, small business owners, and gay and lesbian folks who arrive and live as finally themselves.

jb and I went back to Ptown this weekend. We lived there for two years in our little 3 room condo one block from the bay. It was the best and the worse: it might be the incredible light that bounces off the ocean peninsula, or the fact that the winters are hauntingly isolated, or maybe those of us who find our way to Provincetown tend to come from extremes--we can be uniquely creative, or surprisingly dysfunctional, sometimes with little daylight in between. In any case, during my two years as a "townie", I started a little consulting business, worked on my first book, and developed both an Artisan Cooperative and an independent movie theatre. But I also had the worse work assignment and the worse colleagues of my life.

Our place is now rented and this weekend we arrive as visitors. It is a drenching wet Saturday, and yet the two mile stretch of Commercial Street is busier than it should have been. We are thrilled to see our good friends, we visit the cooperative, breath the ocean air, notice the new landscaping and businesses in town. We pass Miss Ellie singing her familiar songs in front of the Crown and Anchor. She/he is 74 years old with killer legs and a shaky voice. We order a lobster roll on the ride down cape and reunite with Fanizzi's solid Sunday brunch. There is creativity everywhere we turn. This is Provincetown, like no other place. I can feel the flow of creative energy dancing in my head. I am inspired, motivated, eager to notice, ready to participate.

I'm not sure jb and I will ever return to Provincetown for more than vacations. Real estate is high and the drive off Cape Cod is endless. But it's in my blood forever. I've met dozens and dozens of people who salivate when I've told them I live there. When I worked for the movie theatre, it was all-too-easy to get directors and actors and playwrights to accept a summer engagement there. The place is magical. It changes, it bickers, it is downright petty sometimes. But it is always magical.

If you come to Provincetown, you may find an unfamiliar artistry within yourself. Or you may find a simple peace that comes from the sea. You might even relax alittle about who you are and the outrageous quirks that makeyou unique. It's a place not to be missed if you can help it.

How Old?

How old would you be if you didn't know how old you are?

Thursday, June 08, 2006

10 Things About Me

1. I am a counselor through and through
2. I love creating small sacred spaces
3. Gardening clears my worries
4. I am blessed with a true partner and a precious daughter
5. I could devote my life to helping abused dogs
6. My home is cozy and colorful
7. I have little tolerance for dishonesty
8. My weaknesses are bread, pasta, and sad movies
9. I am appalled by my president's actions and zealotry
10. My favorite word is "grace"

Monday, June 05, 2006

Positive Stress...

I'm back to thinking about positive stress, not the kind that has its roots in unresolved anxiety or unexpected problems, or even the kind that comes from a who-knows-why bad day. Positive stress is my reaction to circumstances that are rooted in good things--in people and events that exist because of my decisions and desires.

Today is a good example. jb and I have been fortunate to be able to convert our rittery back porch into what is now becoming a bona fide four season room. We've had a great carpenter replacing the windows so they now magnificently extend across three of four walls, putting in a new door with a cool built in mini-blind, adding new woodwork, etc. The tranformation and prospect of using this new "sunroom" has been exciting.

But today a simple job--blowing insulation into the roof--took on a life of its own. The insulation company did a bad job, it rained, all the insulation got wet, it leaked into our new room in two places, and the mess can only be fixed by replacing the entire flat roof. We now have a blue tarp blowing in the proverbial wind of our back yard and jb and I have spent too much of the day protecting ourselves. learning about levers and tar, and figuring out how to handle all this.

Tomorrow the nefarious company will replace the roof and assumingly make it all whole again. Probably we'll spend another day being cautious and vigilant, but in the big scheme of things, this is a small small event. I know it's a small event. I just have to train myself to act accordingly.

I am working hard to differentiate between legitimate difficult stress and optional positive stress because I waste precious time when I go off due to reasons of my own making, and good reasons to boot. The sunroom is a good thing. It will be a wonderful space for years ahead. We're proud of how it will look and feel. That's the real story. The rain and the roof are just a paragraph.

Every day there are reasons for me to overreact. I took my car in and the service manager was a bozo. (I'm lucky I have a car). I lost my ATM card (I have money in my account). Another bad haircut (Hair grows).

I know I'll never be above being petty here and there, but getting it right about stress is going to help me. I'm reminded of a silly little quote I saw on a greeting card: "Angels fly because they take themselves lightly". This summer, I'm working on my own version of flying.

UPDATE--8 hours later

The shingles are flying. The saws are screeching. The grass is shuddering from the thrown wooden planks and hostile nails. The guys brought the wrong tools. It is all a total mess.

Our stress level is through the roof. So much for positive growth--we're ready to rip this company apart along with the roofing material. jb is on her way to work and I, beginning my unexpected summer off, will spend my day dealing with this XX@**X$@**.

I'll update again: the pathetic diary of an agitated homeowner.

UPDATE--16 hours later

The new roof is on. The yard is a mess. The chimney has tar on it. But: My day got better as it progressed. Tomorrow is the Wednesday Farmer's Market, I am revising my book proposal, and Stella and I took a mile walk in Look Park. Today WAS stressful, but I wrestled it down when I could. Right now I'm reasonably dandy.

Friday, June 02, 2006

The Prompt

Divine Justice

Twice I’ve tried and failed. I hate regrets and I have two big ones.

Through an intermediary I send word to my first deep and true love. It is 25 years later and I calmly see my part in the painful bitter betrayal that choked us both. The response back is a non response: a dollop of vanilla variety silence. If I read into it, the non words are clear: ‘I am ignoring you. Leave me alone.”

The second regret is less complicated but equally unfortunate. I lost a good friend to a bad decision, one that was not then and definitely not now worth anything close to the cost. It’s been four years. I’ve sent a couple of cards and left a couple of phone messages, apologizing, lamenting, hoping for a reconnect. I’ve gotten word back, politely and indirectly, that the time is not right… maybe some other time.

I am looking for redemption and find it buried in rejection.

Isn’t that just the way sometimes? You have to let go of someone you wished you had gripped harder or softer. You have to accept what you can’t make right. That’s your only chance.

I’ve phoned my friend Dory and we’re sharing a double scooped hot fudge sundae in downtown Northampton. It is a warm breezy Sunday night in June and gratitude skips around our ankles. Dory has made a few regret calls herself lately, with similar results.

We are two minds now less emcumbered by several less people. It’s a loss and the ice cream is quite divine. Just ice and no heat.

Isn’t that just the way sometimes?

Thursday, June 01, 2006

A Memorial to Willa

I spent yesterday in a sad beautiful world. It began in an old Jewish cemetary in Glendale/Queens New York--with hundreds, thousands of tall, thin elegant grave markers, tightly standing one aside another in every direction , and there too the age and date of death, many markers with small stones and rocks carefully placed around the engraved name, as is the Jewish tradition. It ended at a lush one story rustic designer home and abundant landscape in Westchester, decorated in the best welcoming colors and complete with a pool and accompanying sweet cottage alone atop a hill in a clearing of tall pines and songbirds. This was not a show-off house: it was home to Willa's sister, and the love of it showed.

Willa died 12 months ago. Yesterday was the unveiling of her headstone. She was diagnosed with lung cancer--she who quit smoking with me twenty years ago, after too many late night talks of philosophies and longings. Quickly she beat it, and then quickly it beat her. In life and death she was equal parts brave, wise, whimsical, kind, adventureous, outlandish, spiritual, fair, perceptive, and a standout candidate for the growth-of-the-decade award.

When Willa died, it made no sense. This was a woman who grew into herself, became a leader in disability rights, could combine any food source together for quick magnifigence, wore purple and red and mysterious earrings, who readily shared her view but so easily you were gently rocked as you listened. This was a woman who secretly was a best friend to so many people that her memorial last year became abit comical as one person after another claimed Willa's best-friendship (including me). This was a woman who knew this deep precious part of me only as I and perhaps one or two other people ever will. This was a woman who knew my soul. This was my friend, Dan and Sarah's mother, Susan and Ellen's sister, Vivian and Gail's guardian angels.

Willa spent alot of her life with a cautious perceptible shaking of her hands as she showed up every day, every moment to face down her fears and become her unshakeable wonderful self. Whenever it counted, she raised two strong kids, pushed herself into dazzling career success, and unbeknownst until her memorial, served as best-friend-in-residence whenever the need.

Is it ok to confidently say that Willa's death is unfair? I'm generally not a poor sport about life's ups and downs, and I've never been delusional about mortality. I'm also not new to death: I've lost my father, two friends (both car accidents), a cousin and a sister-in-law. But Willa? Finally at the intersection of peace and calm, when her life is just fine thank you, Willa has to check out? Very very unfair. Very very unbelievable.

Yesterday about 20 people quietly sobbed and lovingly watched as her children removed the thin white vail from her headstone. There it was: Willa's name: confirmation of a loss too huge to ever truly accept. "This is what love does", her gravestone said. Yes, Willa, this is what love does. It lives in my heart, gives me courage, and reminds me that I can be truly known. Thanks, pal. I'll keep an eye out.

Love, KJ