Thursday, August 28, 2008

I (Still) Heart Joe Biden

Beau Biden's introduction of his father to accept the nomination for VP. You probably already know the story, but get a tissue anyway.

Joe's (what, you didn't know we're on first-name terms?) office has been sending me copies of his speeches for over two years now. I hope the next mailing includes a copy of Beau's speech as well as his father's.

(And when Beau speaks of his "other duties" he is referring to his upcoming deployment to Iraq.)

And, while it should go without saying, Joe's speech was pretty damn good, too:

Random Question for the Week

Why does my University Alumni Association send me three pieces of mail in the same day? They want money (duh) but they're wasting it by not consolidating.

Better question, and posed before by a comedian whose name I forget: Why hasn't anyone asked Bin Laden's university's Office of Giving to smoke him out? Mine has found me through at least five moves.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Will This Cursed Month Never End?

As you're probably already aware, other than the first nine days, August has not turned out to be a great month for me. It's not the first time, either. In August of 1998, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer; three of my brothers were in a plane crash that killed two of them, as well as the fiancée of the third. And then Thomas almost died after his lungs collapsed.

Fast-forward 10 years: Argus died, followed by my mother less than a week later. The timing forced my brother to fly on the 10th anniversary of the crash. My mother was buried on what would have been her 47th wedding anniversary. And I got to spend excessive amounts of time with family members I don't ever see anymore. In some cases, these are people I don't want to see anymore.

But I did get to spend time with my brother and sister and their families--always fun—and before we came home from Virginia, we were able to spend a really lovely day with Thomas' parents. Other than a higher than normal level of stress, I thought I was doing ok. But the stress level is not really abating and it certainly didn't help that one of our neighbors called code enforcement on the chickens. That's right: at lunch time yesterday, the nice man from code enforcement came by because one of our neighbors called to say that we had roosters--not allowed in the city--rather than hens, which are.

And ridiculous though it may be, that seems to have been, if not the last straw that the camel could bear, then perilously close to it. My temper is razor thin. Last night I was having trouble drawing a full breath. I’m stress eating, and we’re not talking carrots. I can’t stay awake, but when I actually manage to stay asleep, it’s most definitely not restful. And now I have that sick and sinking feeling that generally precedes a need to go to bed and stay there for a month.

I’m certain that, at least in part, it’s the guilt I feel for not being more strongly affected by my mother’s death. Or because I didn’t recognize the person they were eulogizing; the woman that my older sister spoke of, her voice heavy with tears. Why I didn’t know that mother whose death caused my brothers to weep. And now I’m left wondering if that person truly existed and, if so, why I didn’t make a stronger effort to get to know her.

The stress, irritability and depression are familiar demons and I’ll fight them, of course. I always do, though when so much seems to come at once, it’s oh, so much harder.

Friday, August 22, 2008

In Memoriam

O Great Spirit,
Whose breath gives life to the world
and whose voice is heard in
the soft breeze,
We need your strength and wisdom
that we may walk in beauty.

May our eyes
ever behold the red and
purple sunset

Make us wise so that we may
understand what you have taught us
Help us learn the lessons you
have hidden in every leaf
and rock

Make us always ready to come to you
with clean hands and straight eyes
so when life fades, as the
fading sunset,
our spirits may come to you
without shame.

Bill Murphy, October 9, 1966- August 22, 1998
Steven Murphy, September 14, 1975-August 22, 1998

This Native American Call to Prayer was read at the memorial service for my brother Michael's fiancee, who also died in the accident.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

And One of These Days . . .

I'm going to be able to do a few posts--With Photos!--on our vacation. Sadly there's obviously a lot more caca going on. But soon. I promise.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Of Mothers and Daughters

The relationship between mothers and their daughters has provided inspiration for countless movies, novels and memoirs--something I totally get. I don't have much of a relationship with my mother; to be honest, for the past couple of years, I've had none at all. It's true, that old saying, "You can choose your friends but not your family." For my mother and me, a good relationship was never going to happen. From the beginning, we seemed to have wildly divergent interests, beliefs and values.

When asked why our relationship devolved so drastically--to the point that I've spoken to her for a total of three minutes in over a year--the only answer I really have is that I got tired of being disappointed. With a few exceptions, Mom never seemed that interested in what was going on in my life, especially once I was married. There was never what most people would consider an appropriate level of interest or excitement when Hannah and Charlotte were born, in their milestones, or even when I finally told her about everything that Charlotte had been going through. Instead, our very short conversations always turned back to Mom and her health issues.

Of course I was concerned about her, but more and more dismayed at what I saw as a shocking lack of curiosity about any condition or treatment mentioned by her doctors. Every time she called I would have to Google a diagnosis or a new list of symptoms. And she never seemed that interested in my girls, or in my sister's, something I found to be both unfathomable and inexcusable. But this of course is only how it appeared to me. After all, there are always two sides to a story. Perhaps she thought the same of me. Perhaps she was disappointed in her daughter. Perhaps I was just never able to understand and appreciate her view of the world.

Earlier today, Hannah asked me why she didn't ever see "Other Grandma."

"Is it because she was mean to you?"

"No, of course not. She lives on the East coast and we just don't really, well, we just don't talk that much anymore."


"Well, we just don't have that much in common, and we're all so busy . . . "

There was no way I was going to tell her the whole bit about being tired of being disappointed, sad that my mother never called to check in, didn't send birthday cards or any of that grandmotherly stuff. What I did tell Hannah was that there was no way she and I would ever get within miles of that situation. She means too much to me and I approach that love and our relationship in an entirely different way. We have our arguments, yes. We butt heads (often), yes. But that is because we are both strong willed. But we think and we love and we talk about things. And I will make sure that we always do.

My mother died tonight. I'll never get a chance to try to bridge the chasm between us. But I also know in my heart that it was unlikely that the attempt would have made a difference.

Perhaps I'm still numb from all that's gone on this week. Since my brother called with the news, I've had teary moments, but not the gut-wrenching sobs like those for Argus. Thomas says--rightly, sad as this is--that I was probably closer to the dog.

So now I'm having a glass (or two) of wine, hoping that it will assist in my search for the tears that ought to be there. Because right now, the thing that feels the worst is that I don't seem to feel at all.

I'm sure it will come. I'll just have to keep looking.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Random Question for the Week

Why is Evan Bayh still in the running for VP?

I don't think I've been as uninspired by a (potential) VP since Dan Quail. Well, except that Mr Bayh is actually qualified. Just sort of, well, mmyeh. Bland.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

OK, Enough With Making People Cry . . .

Of course, to be honest, this will probably make some of you cry.

According to a report from the non-partisan Center for Responsive politics, deployed US troops are donating to Barack Obama's campaign 6:1 over John McCain's. So will we still be hearing that if we don't get on the administration's bandwagon--and McCain's--and stay there that we don't support the troops?

But of course, silly! It's and election year and divide and conquer is the order of the day, not to mention the past six years.

Good Boy!

2 of 3: Argus and the girls, originally uploaded by thomas pix.

Mild-mannered, always sweet. Great Danes are definitely the way to go.

Monday, August 11, 2008

The Homecoming

It's late, though not as late as it seems. We're finally home, the girls are in bed, the bags semi-unpacked, and here I sit, wondering if I am shaking because we've spent a long day in the car and I haven't eaten much since breakfast, or whether it's because my dog is dead and every tuft of hair that blows across the floor reminds me that we're not bringing him home tomorrow.

Hannah was of course terribly upset when we told her (I think one of the harder things Thomas has had to do), but now tells me not to be sad because "we can just get you another dog." She even suggests another Great Dane, the same color, "we'll even call him Argus!" But would just any other Great Dane be able to waggle his eyebrows at you, like Andy Rooney trying to tell a joke that might have been considered off-color 50 years ago? And would that eyebrow trick be as perfectly timed to the wagging of his tail (the dog's, not Andy's)?

I have hundreds of photos of Argus, but not one of them quite captures the expressions that were his alone, from the aforementioned eyebrows, to the guilty look when we caught him eating from the counter, to the apologetic when I pulled out the credit card to pay the vet for stomach pumping or induced vomiting to remove the foil or plastic that had been wrapped around whatever it was that he ate from the counter, or to pay for the multiple casts for his puppy-toes. (He also didn't mind my run-on, uber-tangential sentences, either. That or he never quite mastered the eye-roll.)

Because I still don’t quite believe he’s gone, I don’t know what I’ll miss the most. There was the way he hugged you, tucking your head under his chin and then shaking his head—always so much more gently with the girls. Or the way he used to put his face up to mine until our foreheads touched. Or that he knew that sometimes he could get away with sleeping on the bed when Thomas was traveling. The way he played soccer and Frisbee-block with Charlotte. Or how patient he always was with Hannah, letting her dress him in hats and tutus. That it would never occur to him to eat the chickens wandering around his backyard. Or that, after all this time, he would still bark at Thomas’s car because, no matter what anyone said, Argus was my dog (with the exception of the two months after Hannah was born when he wouldn’t even look at me). Or maybe just the peaceful, comfortable sound of him snoring on his bed in the corner.

And, of course there is also how ridiculously safe I felt with a dog who hated the rain, was terrified of thunderstorms, fireworks, the vacuum cleaner and chirping smoke detectors, and who couldn’t bear to be outside by himself for very long.

We’re home but to an emptier, colder, far less dog-y house. But, as Thomas reminds me, we’ll have at least another year with the dog hair.

So goodbye again, Puppy My Love. Thanks for teaching me how to love a dog and that a dog's love is unconditional. I wish you hadn't had to go. I wish we had been here when you did.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Goodbye, Puppy Love

Argus Kriese 5 July 2000-10 August 2008

Friday, August 01, 2008

Oh Canada!

Left Coast Mom is heading north to Canada for a couple of weeks. First Oregon (camping); then Washington (Thomas has a conference in a very nice lodge); Idaho (camping); Montana (hotel); Banff, BC (camping); and Invermere, BC (hotel). I'll probably be a little spotty about posting but hope to have some photos up tomorrow while I still have internet acess. I don't trust Hannah and Charlotte in a cafe--they're way too excited to be out and about (not to mention entirely too loud!).

Anyone need maple syrup, besides my lovely neighbors who are chicken sitting?