Monday, August 31, 2020


 Leaves fall early in the autumn wind.

Butterflies are already yellow with August

A pair flies over the grass of the West garden.

Seeing them hurts my heart.

Li Po, Chinese poet of the 8th century, "The River Merchant's Wife: A Letter"

Summer is over. No matter the temperature, by the time we get to August it's obvious that the season is changing. It's getting dark much earlier. Everything that's green outside is beginning to look tired. A few leaves are starting to change color and some are even beginning to drop. The hummingbirds seem frantic as they swarm the feeders, devouring the sugar water as they put on weight and prepare to fly South for the winter. I wonder if, during the long winter months, they ever dream of their homes here in North America that they'll be returning to next Spring? Do hummingbirds dream to begin with? I know that they return to the same places year after year, and the ones we see at our feeders right now are likely to be back by next April. 

I think of the start of seasons a little differently than most people. Here is an explanation from one of my favorite seasonal writers, Waverly Fitzgerald:

Americans are accustomed to dating the beginning of a season from the solar holidays. We say that Autumn begins on Autumn Equinox. But in medieval England, autumn actually began on Lammas (August 2).

The clearest evidence for this ancient system of dividing the year comes from the old names for Yule and the summer solstice. The Christmas feast in England was always known as the Midwinter feast. Likewise, June 23 was called Midsummer's Eve, because June 24 was Midsummer's Day. If June 24 is the middle of the summer, then the summer must begin at the start of May. This makes August 2 the first day of autumn, November 1 the first day of winter and February 2 the first day of spring. There is good evidence for these older seasonal markers as there are clusters of ancient religious and political holidays that occur around these dates.

I have been using this new understanding of the seasons for several years now and find it much more satisfying. In Seattle, buds are apparent on the trees and a few crocuses are evident by February 1. The spring equinox is the height of the flower explosion: Daffodils, tulips, azaleas, some rhododendrons, cherry trees, plum trees, quince, hyacinths, etc. Right around May 1, the hawthorn (or may) trees begin to flower, along with lilies of the valley and lilacs.

At first I thought that August 1 was too early to consider the start of Autumn. In Seattle, we often have our most glorious sunny days in August and September and the leaves don’t begin to turn (or fall) until October. But what has changed is my understanding of Autumn. I now see it as the time of harvest rather than the time of falling leaves, which seems an appropriate signal of the approach of winter, which begins with the gloomy days of November and continues through until February 1.

I like to divide each season into two parts, for instance, Early Autumn (Aug 1 to Sep 22) and Late Autumn (Sep 22 to Nov 1). Early Autumn in Seattle is a time of sunshine and abundance, although the dark falls sooner and the nights are cooler. Late Autumn has the feel of the more traditional Autumn, that sense of scurrying around trying to gather nuts before the winter begins. The leaves will all be gone from the trees by the end of Late Autumn. My mentor Helen Farias liked to use the old word “-tide” for these segments of the year. Right now, we are beginning Lammastide.

By this old way of reckoning, here at the end of August we're only 3 weeks away from Mid Autumn, the autumnal equinox. Even though it will be a few weeks yet before the heat really begins to subside in South Carolina, you can still sense a change in the air. This year I'll be especially glad to see the arrival of a new month, a new season, and a new epoch in my life. August 2020 has been full of distress and sadness in this house, and it feels like it's time to let go and start moving on. It's a wistful and bittersweet feeling.

Saturday, August 29, 2020

Some music for your Saturday

 My husband frequently watches a YouTube channel called Daryl's House, which is Daryl  Hall (of Hall and Oates) hosting musician friends at his house, and playing music together. It's pretty awesome. Last night we watched a cover of Papa Was a Rolling Stone that Hall and the guys from the band Train did together, and I enjoyed it so much I thought I'd share it with you. Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

The ugly cry

 I'm sitting here sobbing like a baby. It's a real, true "ugly cry" and my face is a mess.

I went to the vet's office this afternoon to pick up Ginger's ashes. The local company that handled the cremation made everything so nice. The container that they put the ashes in was so pretty, and there was a sympathy card, and best of all they had made a little plaster cast of her pawprint. I sat in the car and sobbed.

Then when I got home I had a message from a friend that I used to work with at the bookstore telling me to go and look on my front porch. There was a gift bag with a beautiful hand crocheted shawl for me and another sympathy card, and the card said to consider the shawl a hug from her and Ginger. I really sobbed then. I can't believe the timing....that she left the gift on the same day I picked up the ashes. 

I'm so grateful for all the kindness I've been shown as I grieve for my girl. My heart is full to overflowing. My eyes, too.

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Our Lady of the Holler

 I found this on the internet the other day and wanted to share it here on the blog. Dolly Parton is an American icon, a living legend, and a national treasure. All hail Queen Dolly!

Our Lady of the Holler, Slayer of Jolene, Mother of Butterflies, patron saint of birthing mothers, champion of literacy, teacher of children, Her Royal Majesty Queen Dolly, First of Her Name.

(Art work done by Astrosperma aka Stacie E Williams )

Thursday, August 20, 2020


The sadness of the last couple of weeks is settling in to a sort of dull depression in which I have morbid thoughts (3am mortality fears, anyone?), occasional bouts of mild anxiety, and a kind of plodding listlessness the rest of the time. Added to my awful grief over Ginger's death, my parents and our relationship has reached a low point these days (at least on my end). That's a story for another day, though. Compared to my sadness over losing Ginger, their selfishness and thoughtlessness is barely a pinprick most of the time. Just more background shades of gray in my life at the moment.

And I swore to myself I was going to be more upbeat the next time I posted. Sorry! 

I need to go back to work.

One good thing that happened is that I finally bit the bullet and went shopping on Tuesday. I found a great sale at the local JC Penny's because they're going out of business next month. I hate that they'll be gone, but was glad of the break to my wallet. Ginger's vet bills this month are over $1500 and we haven't paid the cremation fee yet. (Not that I'm complaining about spending so much on her. She was worth every penny and more.) I was able to buy myself 5 whole work outfits, with a couple of those pieces versatile enough to pair with other stuff I already own. I also bought some new underwear items and hose. And all in one store, and at a reasonable price! The new clothes were/are sorely needed and I can go back to work feeling okay about how I look, at least. 

I'm sure I'm "preaching to the choir" here, but I'm also so, so tired of Covid-19. I want my old life back. That feels like another kind of grieving. I miss my friends, my book club, going out in public without fear, and so many other things. I don't think anything is going to change anytime soon in that regard, either. In fact, I hate to say it, but I imagine we're going to have a second wave in the fall that's even worse than the first one. I really hope I'm wrong about that.

And I wish the upcoming election was over and done with already. I dread it, no matter the outcome, although if 45 is reelected I don't know how I'm going to be able to move forward. I'm sick of the ugliness and nastiness, the racism and upheaval of these last four years. Can we even survive four more years of this horror as an intact country? Hell, we might be on the road to ruin no matter what. We're all so hopelessly divided, and the ugliness that has shown itself won't be easily forgotten. I'll never forget (or forgive) how so many people I know enthusiastically joined the Trump train. They saw his utter lack of morals, kindness, and decency, his unfitness for the job, the criminality of every person who works in his administration, the racism, the nepotism, the vile abuse that he unleashes on Twitter every single day, and still they love and support him. I can't understand it. I'll never understand it. More stress, just thinking about it, so I try not to. At least not much.

So anyway, how are you all doing these days? I've tried to keep up with blog reading and leaving a comment here and there, but I feel like I'm very behind. I hope to do better this weekend and catch up with all of you before my job starts back on Monday. I have a feeling the first week or so back is going to be exhausting, with little energy left over for the blog. Getting back to a normal routine is going to feel so good, though. 

From The Magician King by Lev Grossman. Notice the Doldrums are very close to the Underworld, way out at sea.

Saturday, August 15, 2020

Just coping

 Hi everyone. Thank you all for all the kind and supportive comments on my last post. I can't respond to them individually at this point but please know that I've read and appreciated every single one of them.  

I fear this is turning into the My Dying Dog blog, which can't be very much fun to read. I'm sorry. Life feels like it's in this weird transitional period, a kind of shitty and depressing limbo between our old life with Ginger and what comes after. In a little over a week I'll return to work full time after 5 months of being at home. Establishing new routines and getting back on a schedule will have to help. 

That said, I'm glad I have another week at home with George. He's going to be alone during the day for the first time since we adopted him, and another week with me will hopefully help him adjust a bit more beforehand. He's having a really hard time with Ginger's passing. He's confused, anxious, and sticking to me like glue. I catch him listening hard to the slightest noises in the house, and looking around the porch and backyard sometimes. It's pretty obvious he's listening and looking for Ginger, and doesn't understand what's happened. He looks at me sometimes with these big, sad, questioning eyes and it's heartbreaking. We're trying to be cheerful and matter of fact with him to help curb some of the anxiety. We're taking him for extra walks to burn off some of that tension, too. I don't know what else to do but to give him time. 

You know what doesn't help George (or us, for that matter)? Marco calling several times a day, "GINGEEEERR! GINGER!Every time he hears us call for George, he has to follow up and call for Ginger, too. It's really sad. (Be aware of these things if you ever get the crazy idea that owning a parrot would be nothing but fun). It makes us sad to hear him call out to her, and it's pretty obvious he's wondering what happened to her and where she went. Maybe he's missing her, too. We had her already when he came to live with us all those years ago.

I've discovered that grief is exhausting. Gregg, George, and I have all been feeling tired and listless. In an effort to take care of us all, I did some cooking yesterday afternoon. I made spaghetti sauce from scratch and let it simmer for hours, filling up the house with a delicious smell. When I looked in on the boys after finishing some stuff in the kitchen, this is what I saw.

Poor guys were both worn out. Gregg never naps, so this was a surprise. I stayed as quiet as I could and let them sleep for the next hour or so.  Later we had big bowls of delicious spaghetti, the best (and biggest) meal we had eaten in many days. We both felt a little better for it. I made a lot of sauce, so the extra is slowly heating back up in the crockpot for tonight's meal. It smells even better today.

So that's it. We're hanging in there and coping with this transition for our little family as best we can. Thanks again for all the support. It really means a lot.

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Running free

 We had to say goodbye to our beautiful Ginger this morning. She went gently, peacefully, with her two humans beside her stroking her soft fur and letting her know how very loved she was (is).

 And now, I like to imagine that she's running free in the countryside where she was born, with her old pal Charlie by her side. 

                The best friends, Ginger and Charlie, years ago. I hope they're together again now.

Rest well, my sweet girl. There will never be another like you. We love you so much, and we always will.

Monday, August 10, 2020

Rough night, tough decisions

 Yesterday was a bad day for Ginger. She started swelling through the middle again, and by the time we went to bed she was hugely swollen and miserable. Not only that, but she didn't pee all day long. She could barely stand up, she was so swollen with fluid, and she didn't eat much. In the middle of the night she drank a bunch of water and then threw up the little she had eaten during the day as well as the pills we had given her. We were sure today was going to be the day we were going to have to have her put to sleep. And she had been doing so well all week!

After a terrible sleepless night for us both, we called her vet and took her up there this morning. We steeled ourselves for what we thought was coming. Dr. Causey, to our surprise, offered to drain the fluid off again and to check her again at the end of this week. We were so torn about whether to do it or not; she was so miserable yesterday that we hate the thought of this just happening again and again. But on the other hand, she felt so much better last week that she was able (and eager) to eat, go on easy walks, and sniff around the backyard after they got the fluid off. So we decided to try it one more time.

It only took a few minutes, and they got 5 pounds of fluid off her chest and belly. Doc says that her kidneys are fine despite the fact that she wasn't peeing yesterday, and he said she should be back to peeing normally today and we should continue to give her the heart pill and lasix. He wants us to bring her back Thursday afternoon to see how things are going. We do NOT want another weekend to catch us when we're helpless to watch her struggling.

We're trying so hard not to be selfish. We of course want her with us as long as possible, but on the other hand we don't want her to feel bad. Also, I'm not sure how many more times my heart can take staying up all night wondering if we're going to have to have her put to sleep in the morning, steeling ourselves to go through it, and then bringing her back home for another week's reprieve. But if she still can have quality of life, how selfish is it to put her to sleep just because the situation is causing us stress and heartache? Last night I hoped that she would just die peacefully in her sleep at home so that we wouldn't continue to be faced with these terrible choices, and so her last moments on earth wouldn't be spent in the vet's office. I feel guilt both ways. Especially when this morning she managed to climb willingly in the back seat of the car and willingly walked into the vet's office. She trusts us (and them) to fix things for her but I'm not sure how much longer we're going to be able to. This is so hard.

But for the next few days, she's at home again and already seems to be feeling better with all that fluid off her body. Hopefully we'll have another good week with her, spoiling her, but when this fluid builds up again I think we're going to have to say "enough" both for her, and our, sakes. None of the choices feel right and I feel like my heart is breaking afresh every single day. 

Sunday, August 9, 2020

A decade of blogging

 As astounding as it seems, exactly 10 years ago today I started this blog. I just can't believe it's been that long. Looking back at the first month or two of my posts, I'm amazed at how many things have happened and changed in that amount of time. When I began this blog, I had just moved back to Florence after 3 years of living 20 miles out in the country. I was still working as the store manager at Pier 1 Imports of Florence, but unbeknownst to me our little store was about to go out of business later that year. Now Pier 1 Imports as a company is out of business altogether. I loved that job and it was a sad day when our store closed down. When I started this blog, Gregg had not been diagnosed with cancer yet, and now he's an 8 year cancer survivor. I've changed jobs twice since then, made lots of friends, and finally bought a home of our own (which meant another move). Life has had its ups and downs. Ginger was still a young, high energy pup when I started writing here, Marco was still a baby, and George wouldn't come along for another 3 years. We had a little House Sparrow named Chip who lived with us, too. My mother in law was still alive and her mind was still sharp (I miss her so much), and our favorite niece and nephew were young teenagers. That same niece just got married last year, and last month she and her husband moved all the way across the country to Oregon where she'll be starting law school later this month. How life moves along! If I manage to keep blogging for another 10 years who knows what my life will look like then. I hope most of the changes that are sure to happen are mostly happy ones, and that I can meet the challenges and bad times with courage and heart.

Thank you for being here. Thank you for reading. Writing this blog has enriched my life more than I could ever have anticipated back in 2010. I treasure each and every one of you.

This double rainbow appeared in the sky beyond our house two days ago after an afternoon rain shower.

Friday, August 7, 2020

Two weeks left

I realized yesterday that I only have two full weeks left before I go back to work. Teachers and 190 day staff (that's me) go back on August 24th and the students return two weeks later, the day after Labor Day. It seems hard to believe that I'm so close to going back to a normal work schedule after being at home since mid-March. I've been so sidetracked with Ginger the last couple of weeks that all of a sudden it seems like I have a ton of things left to do to prepare and very little time left to get them done. I need to do a major closet overhaul, for instance. I know beyond a doubt that I need some new work clothes, and since I've avoided all non-essential shopping for months now even some basic items (like underwear) are wearing out and looking ratty. I'm going to have to brave the shops over the next two weeks to buy new clothes. I could really use a haircut, too. 

With the way Covid-19 is still spreading in our community, no one knows how long we'll actually be able to keep the schools open. I suspect another lockdown may be in our future. Our positive percentage rate in South Carolina is hovering around 20%, which is super high. At the beginning of all this they said that in order to reopen schools and businesses safely we needed to be down to 5%. So we're not even close to that. Still, my particular district has a very detailed, well-thought out plan to reopen schools as safely as possible. Our Superintendent has done a great job and I feel about as safe going back as I'm going to feel given the circumstances. There's a lot of fear and anxiety among teachers, staff, parents, and the community though. What a mess this whole thing has been. 

I'm dreading the thought of leaving Ginger, too. Gregg has always been her favorite person, but something has changed now that her health is failing. All of a sudden, as he said yesterday, "She's turned into a mama's girl." She's been sticking to me like glue, even following me around the house day and night. She sleeps on the rug beside my side of the bed. She tries to be near me all the time. I'm sure she'll be fine when I go back to work, and she sleeps a lot during the day anyway, but it still gives me a pang to think of leaving her for 8 hours at a time. I've also turned into the lightest sleeper ever now that she's been sick. If she starts to breathe hard during the night I instantly wake up and check on her. I'm not sure how to fix that, but I do know I need to be able to get a good night's sleep once I'm working again. I guess it's another thing I'll have to take as it comes. I hope Ginger continues to do as well as she has been so far. Here's a picture of her standing in front of George last night to beg for tidbits off my plate:

Doesn't she look happy? I didn't believe, at the beginning of this week, that I would ever see her like this again. I didn't even think she'd still be here at this point. I'm so grateful that we're getting some more good days with her, however few they may end up being. 

Well, I guess I'd better get off the computer and start making a list of all the things I need to accomplish in the next two weeks. I think returning to work full time is going to be good for my mental health, so except for leaving the animals, I'm really looking forward to it.

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

A thank you and an update

First of all, thank you to everyone who left kind, supportive comments on my last two posts. I've been too emotional to answer each one individually, I know I'll start crying if I attempt to! But please know that I've read each and every one multiple times and they've meant so much to me. The friendship and kindness of my blog friends has been a real comfort during these last few terrible days.

Ginger has been doing amazingly well since we got home from the vet on Monday. I can't believe how tough she is! She's been eating really well, going out to relieve herself, and even showing interest in short walks to sniff around the neighborhood. She even felt well enough last night to snatch a treat away from George and then to grin at us afterwards! Except for the fact that she's still slightly swollen in the middle, is moving very slowly, and sleeps a lot, she seems like her regular self. In two days she's figured out that we'll give her anything she wants to eat right now and she's turned into a stone-cold beggar at mealtime! She never did that before in her life, but things have changed and she's taking advantage of it while she can. I'm so proud of her! She's a tough girl!

I called the vet this morning and told him how well she's doing. I also asked him if there would be any harm in treating her for heart failure, which is the one treatable possible diagnosis we're dealing with here. (It's either heart failure or cancer, and more likely a heart problem since she had over a liter of fluid drained from around her heart and abdomen on Sunday). He said there would be no harm whatsoever in putting her on heart medication and seeing how things go. She was so ill when we took her up there on Monday that the option to try a treatment didn't occur to any of us. It was only after we brought her home and saw how hard she's fighting to rally and go on with life that we came up with the idea. Dr. Causey said he thought it was a great idea, and that even if it doesn't help, it won't hurt. He says we may even get lucky. Make no mistake, we love Ginger far too much to let her suffer. Once she's in pain, or can't enjoy anything anymore, we won't keep her alive just for the sake of keeping her alive. Her quality of life is the most important thing. As long as she's enjoying her food, her brief walks, and her family time with us, we'll care for her to the best of our ability. If nothing else, maybe the new medicines will improve the quality of what days she has left, even if there aren't very many of them.

I spent two days crying pretty much nonstop and just feeling.....despair. I feel better now. Having a path forward and a plan helps some. Getting a couple of decent nights' sleep definitely took the raw edge off my emotions (the vet told me on Monday "you look exhausted" and he was right) and I feel a little stronger and better able to cope with the situation. Poor George has been confused and anxious and woebegone, and Marco has been screaming for attention which is nerve-shattering. I realized I'm not doing any of us any good (least of all Ginger) by going around weeping and acting like the end of the world is here. Now is the time (I tell myself) to buck up and try to make the days as normal and pleasant as possible. If my good dog can be so brave and strong, then so can I.

Ginger yesterday after going outside to pee. She knew she was about to get a treat when she got back inside. :)

Monday, August 3, 2020

Our girl

We took Ginger to see her regular vet this morning. Things are about as bad as they could possibly be.

We've brought her home to give her a couple of good days. Lots of love, lots of attention, and any food she might like to eat. Later this week we're probably going to have to let her go. 

Our hearts are broken. 

Now all we can do is be strong for her, give her all the love and attention possible in the next few days, and then do the right thing for her. She needs us and we won't let her down.

Saturday, August 1, 2020

Aging dogs (updated in the comments)

Last night was another bad night with my beloved dog, Ginger. Something is going on with her and a trip to the vet may soon be in order. I'm afraid that most of the problems she's developing are all age related.

Having to admit she's getting old is so hard for me. I'm crying just typing this. I don't know how to convey how much our girl means to us and seeing what may be the first real signs of a decline in her is so very upsetting. She's thirteen years old now, and while the huge battery of tests she had done last September when she had Vestibular Disease indicated she was extremely healthy for a dog her age, recently she's had some odd behaviors that have me worried. 

To begin with, she's been acting a little more "scattered" in general. She's not hearing all that well anymore, and sometimes she acts a little distracted. More worrying, she's taken to pacing around at night and seems to have a hard time settling down to sleep. It's especially bad if we haven't taken her for a walk, but a couple of times lately she's refused to go out (which is in itself highly unusual). The heat is terrible right now, even at night, so I don't blame her if that's the reason. When we do manage a walk, she's not willing to go very far and she's been very slow, which also might be the heat, but she seems to settle down and rest better on the nights when she's had some exercise. Last night was horrible. She wouldn't go out to walk (which was fine, the heat index was so high even at 10pm that it probably wasn't a great idea) but she kept pacing and whining softly at the side of the bed and I kept getting up to see if she needed to go out and pee. She went outside briefly two of the 10 times she woke me up, but the other times she just walked around, got some water, and went back to the bedroom. Occasionally I wake up to her panting a little in the middle of the night, which makes me worry that she's in some kind of pain.

I called the vet this morning and asked if I could make an appointment for her next week. I also asked if I could give her something for pain in the meantime, to see if that's the problem. The vet told me to come by the office and pick up some anti-inflammatory medicine to try, and if that solves the problem (he thinks it might) I can cancel the appointment we made for next Thursday. I'm anxious to see if this helps! She's been slower about standing up and going up and down steps lately, so hopefully she's just got a touch of arthritis, which is relatively easy to treat. Easier than canine dementia setting in, which is my worst fear. 

I wish I could be at peace with her aging. I'm not sure if it's the timing, what with the pandemic and other stressors in my life right now, but I'm having a terrible time dealing with this. I've been crying all day today. I was even shedding tears as I picked up the medicine at the vet's. Nothing is so wrong with Ginger at this point that I need to be this emotional about it but I can't seem to stop. Maybe I need to join Ginger and George and take a nap. I certainly didn't get much rest last night. Hopefully Ginger's first pill (which she got just over an hour ago) will start to make a difference and she'll be back to her normal self soon. I'll let you know. Meanwhile, I'm off to try to distract my weepy self with some mindless tv, a healthy lunch, and hopefully (if Marco will be quiet for an hour or so) a good nap. Wish me luck.