Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Enough is enough

Several years ago, I quit dog rescue.  I couldn't handle the stupidity of people any longer.  I couldn't handle the fact that people suddenly needed to find their dog of 12 year a new home because it's fur didn't match their new couch.  (Yes, that was a thing and it was my final straw...)  I couldn't handle the inhumanity of people, and if I'm being honest, seeing people always behave at their worst made me hate people.  Rescue was tiring because it never ended.  You would place one mended heart and the next broken heart would find you before the ink dried on the first one's adoption contract.  It was a cynical, self gratifying cycle.  

In all my years of rescue I prided myself on the the fact I was never a "foster fail".  Now, there were times I did take on a dog who returned to rescue or I adopted because it was a bite case and euthanasia was the only other option, however for 22 years I never adopted a foster dog.  I was and always have been dead set against it. 

Just before Christmas, my daughter begged me to foster a dog she had fallen in love with.  This dog was in bad shape.  Definitely one of the worst cases of abuse I had ever seen.  I won't go into the specifics, but Rodger Dog had never known kindness in his life, had never known consistently being fed, and the abuse left him physically and emotionally incomplete.  Rodger Dog was terribly dog aggressive when he arrived here out of  fear, had separation anxiety something terrible, and his eyes eluded to the fact he didn't really care about life anymore.  I told my daughter that Rodger Dog could only stay with us long enough for me to find a rescue who would take him.  I told her, we didn't need another dog.  I told her not to got get attached, because he was not staying.  The truth of the matter is this though:  I couldn't give him up.

Perhaps it was the hollow look in his eyes, perhaps it was the hunched over posture that said:  "I can't do this anymore."  Perhaps it was the fact this dog showed absolutely no emotion what so ever with his body, or maybe it was the way he slept when he finally realized he was safe.  I don't know.  I have no idea what made me finally say:  "Enough is enough."  But, enough is enough.  

This dog is here to stay.  There is something fragile about Rodger that I can't quite put my finger on.  He's learning to be a dog again, learning how his new body works, and supposedly dogs don't generalize, but I can't help but wonder: "What if he feels safe for the first time in his life?  What if he thinks he's "home" only to have his life uprooted again?  What if he leaves us to go to a rescue and wonders where we went?"  I can't let him be lost, confused or feel pain again.  There is something about his broken heart that deserves someone saying enough is enough.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Goodbye 2018, You Won't Be Missed!

Last week as we said good-bye to 2018, I was as elated as a stay-at-home mom sending her children back to school after a summer full of refereeing arguments.

2018 shook me to my core.
It rattled my being.
It taught me what the word grief meant.
It nearly broke me.

I'm not normally one to wish moments away, but I had to remind myself continually in 2018 that all bleeding stops eventually, though many times I wasn't sure if that was true or how it would happen, and I found myself longing for a less chaotic life.

2018 was a huge reminder of just how fleeting and inestimable life is, and it has been the hardest year of my life thus far. The feelings of despair and sadness I've felt over the last year tops any and all other years of my life combined.

I am praying that 2109 takes notes from 2018 on what not to do!  Regardless, I am marching into 2019 warrior style, determined to live intentionally, and vowing to get my life back on track.  Life is too short not to, 2018 taught me that....


Thursday, November 22, 2018

Remembering you.....

This morning I woke up sad and missing you.

Last year on this day, you were on HIV medications for a total of 5 days, you were so weak you could hardly walk, and you had lost 60 lbs.

You had just gotten out of the hospital but staying in a nursing home, and you were adamant you did not want to spend the holidays in a nursing home, so I thought:  "No big deal.  I will take you with me to Thanksgiving at mom's house."  Only, this time, for the first time, you weren't welcome there.  (That would later be a blessing...)

Determined to honor your request and not have you be in a nursing home, I decided I would skip Thanksgiving with the other side of the family, and we would just celebrate at our house this year.

I was determined to cook a Thanksgiving meal, even though we all know I am the least qualified to cook a meal for anyone....  Surprisingly, it turned out delicious!

Turkey, stuffing, green beans, chicken noodles, fresh rolls, mashed potatoes and gravy, and pumpkin pie with extra whip cream!

We sat around all day watching Hallmark Christmas movies.  Those were your favorite and would sustain us through the entire season...  (PS: There are still several on my DVR just waiting for us to watch them.  I don't have the heart to delete them....)

We had a fire going in the fire place, because that was your favorite spot, in front of the fire place wrapped in a down comforter.

Abby, Ethan and the boys would come by that afternoon to spread Thanksgiving chaos and crazy.  Nothing says holiday like our kind if crazy, and I was so happy they came by to visit.  My heart needed the laughter of Isaac and Cooper.....

All day you drifted in and out of sleep while your new anti-viral medication wreaked havoc on your body, making you vomit what would end up being your last Thanksgiving meal.  We substituted Zofran, Sprite and chicken needle soup in for dinner later that night, and you were able to hold down pumpkin pie finally.

I didn't take you back to the nursing home until I was satisfied that you had been out of there for the "whole holiday".
If I had only known this would be our last Thanksgiving together.  
If only I had known I would not have forever with you.
I would have lived my life a lot differently......

Sunday, November 11, 2018

HIV: Know your status....

Yesterday was a particularly hard day for me, I tried to stay busy.  We went to visit my family, we worked in the yard, went to dinner with friends, but I really struggled with the date of November 10th.  A year ago yesterday I still had a father.  He was a very sick father, because no one could quite put their finger on what was wrong with him, but there was still hope.

A year ago yesterday, my sister took my dad to a neurology appointment, had to go back for some reason, and there in a stack of paper was a script for an HIV test.  Concerned, my sister contacted me and said:  "The doctor just gave dad a script for an HIV test?"  I quickly dismissed it, and thought there was NO way this diagnosis was even a possibility!

Yet, I hit up "Dr. Goggle," and there in front of me was every symptom my father had....  The sores in his mouth, the "wasting" of weight, the diarrhea. the dementia, the lines on his finger nails, the frequent pneumonia.  The list went on, and my dad had every symptom.....  Suddenly, all I could hear in my head was my wife saying for the past several months: "Emily, if no one can find leukemia, has he been tested for HIV?  I remember in nursing school, they mirrored each other."  Only this time, instead of ignoring her and telling her she was crazy, I realized there was a possibility she was right. 

Being hugely impatient, and just wanting everyone to be wrong, I stopped by the drugstore on my way home that night, and picked up an "at-home" HIV test.  (Yes, they do make those....)  I went to my sister's house, we swabbed my dad's cheek, and then huddled around an HIV test ready to wait 23 minutes for the test to be done.  Although, we didn't need 23 minutes.  The test came back positive in 3 minutes.  I literally felt the bottom drop out of my world on November 10th, 2017.

I was absolutely numb when I drove home from my sister's house that night.

All I could do on the drive home was cry.
I cried because of the diagnosis.
I cried because suddenly cancer seemed like a much better disease to have.
I cried because people like my family didn't get HIV.
I cried because the stigma of 3 little letters embarrassed me.
I cried because I was afraid of the unknown.

I immediately went home, joined an AIDS/HIV group on Facebook, and tried to go to bed, but sleep never came that night.

I was up at 2 am, bawling, screaming and pleading with God and anyone else who would listen, for a different diagnosis.  Instead I found a 24-hour support line for people newly diagnosed with AIDS/HIV.  I called them in complete hysterics, ugly crying, and unable to catch my breath,

I poured my heart out to a woman on the other end of the phone line saying things like:  "My dad isn't gay!  My dad's white!  My dad doesn't do drugs!  He hasn't even dated in 10 years!  How does this happen?!"

The woman on the other end of the phone was some sort of saint.  She let me cry, swear, and come completely un-hinged.  She answered every one of my questions, explaining HIV doesn't know race, sexuality, gender, or an age group.  She educated me, explaining what blood levels I needed to ask his doctors about. Talked me off a ledge when I was too afraid to test myself.  (Negative!)  She explained HIV could lay dormant in the body, not showing signs for decades, until the immune system was compromised and that's when it would rear it's ugly, opportunistic head.  She armed me for the days to come with knowledge, and courage, explaining she had been where I was sitting and reassured me I would become an HIV/AIDS expert by the time the weekend was over.  She was right and she became my constant 2 am voice of reason as we navigated forward.

If you are ever in a crisis, you will hear people say: "God doesn't give you more than you can handle."  I called bullshit on that statement November 10th, 2017.  God WILL in fact give you more than you can handle so you remember to look to Him when you're walking through a storm.  And it's through Him you will find no one truly walks alone.  The people who were placed in our path, were absolute gifts from above.  They were exactly where we needed them, when we needed them.  From the woman on the HIV hotline, to a friend who had a friend who worked at Equitas and helped him obtain discounted medication, to the Ryan White Foundation, and all the nursing home people who loved my dad and worked tirelessly to help us find our new normal, never once making him feel like he was "less than or different". These folks became our tribe, and even when there was no hope, it was the kindness of these people who helped us through  the hard times and allowed me to recognize the positives.

I've never written about my dad's diagnosis and illness, because I was embarrassed and didn't want the stigma of HIV to affect our family, but I think part of healing is to grieve and remember, so I've decided to write in an attempt to help heal my broken heart and bring awareness.  Possibly, just possibly, someone out there will read this, get tested, and live a long life due to a diagnosis and medication intervention.  My dad would have loved that.....

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Virtual Child.....

My Beautiful Child, 

I received your letter and I have to say, my heart breaks for you.  I'm so sorry your coming out didn't go how you thought it would, and now your tender heart is wounded and broken.

I remember what it was like to want to live your authentic life, and to finally take that plunge.  I'm sorry you mustered up all that courage only to now find yourself homeless and alienated by your family.  I'm sickened that the very people who are supposed to love you unconditionally failed you, hiding behind their Bible.  (You can be gay and be a Christian, don't forget that baby!)

Please sweet child, hear me when I say:

YOU are perfect!
YOU are brave!
YOU are strong!
YOU are loved beyond measure!
YOU matter!

As a mother I worry about you, about your safety, and your future.  It's hard to be a teenager navigating life.  It's even harder when you have to worry about where you are going to sleep, how you are going to eat, and who your champions in life are.  Please reach out to someone local to help you navigate this current chapter.  Do you have additional family members, a friend, a teacher, a clergy member?  I pray you do.....

Remember:  Someone judging you does NOT define you.  It defines them!

Your "Virtual Mommas" believe in you, love you, want you to succeed, and are here if you need a hug or shoulder to lean on.

Be strong.
Believe in God.
Love yourself.
You are worth it!

Wrapping you in love and lifting you up in prayer,

Your Virtual Momma

PS:  Reach back out to me and let me know how you are doing.  Don't make your Virtual Momma worry!  ;)

Monday, September 3, 2018

Back in the saddle again....

I complained about having horses, and not wanting to own them again after we canceled the lease on our last show horse and re-homed our beloved retired mare, and I was steadfast on NOT owning another one, because if I’m being honest the magic of horses left me when Pony Girl and I parted ways.  Horses were such a part of that life: from the horse shows, the laughter in the barn at night when family and friends were just hanging out, to the tender moments spent holding hands when tucking the barn in for the night, it was a simple yet amazing life.  I felt safe there, and I found myself trusting my heart with a woman AND her horses.  After it ended I could have cared less if I ever saw another horse, let alone rode one.  It was easier to guard my heart, block any feelings from resurfacing, and attempt to forget that that life ever existed.

The harder I kept dragging my feet and swearing off horses though, the more our daughter kept horses in the forefront of every family conversation.  She continually kept pursuing her dream of owning another horse, and I was not blind to the fact the kid needed a horse like most people need air to breathe, and for Christmas, Kay and I bought her a mare that she had been riding through her high-school riding team.

I purposely have not gotten attached to this horse, and paired with the fact she is a little quirky and not overly snuggily, it has been easy to not pay attention or fall in love with her.  I was so burnt on horses and the lifestyle that comes along with them that I had shut myself off.  It was a defense to protect myself from remembering and ever walking that walk again.

What I failed to remember was how much I missed having horses in my life.  I forgot I actually love to ride, and I love the convivial atmosphere that come along with having a barn family, a group of people who become family through a mutual love of horses.  Last night was full of fun and laughter!  Surrounded by our barn family, I got back in the saddle again riding Katzya’s horse and rode for the 3rd and longest time I have ridden in 21 months.  It was so wonderful to ride and just feel life melt away. Enveloped in laughter, Kay rode for the first time in 25 years, the barn owner made a rare appearance on a horse, and Katzya and her friend loved cheering us on.  It was a night filled with laughter, friends, fun and horses. 

Being back in the saddle and rediscovering the magic felt so good, even better than I remember!

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Bigots, Breakfast, and Being Overly-Black......

This morning started off like every other morning for me.

I woke up under-caffeinated with my body feeling like it needed about 2 more hours of sleep and my hair out of control.  You see, every morning for the last 40 years, 4 months and 18 days, I have awoken looking like Ronald McDonald and Kramer had a love child.  Now, in my formative years,  I hated this about myself, however as I have grown into an adult I have learned to accept and love my crazy locks in all their glory.  Even in the morning!

Usually, if I want to go somewhere quickly in the morning, I throw on a hat, because I am not and never will be, one of those girls who can quickly throw my hair up in a "messy bun" or pony tail.  (My hair doesn't roll like that....)  Currently though, my hair is in a God awful state of re-growth.  It's too short to pull back, but it looks hideous under a ball cap. 

So, this morning, I wrapped my head in a scarf, complimented myself on my cuteness, grabbed my wallet and my dog, and set off to fetch breakfast and a Sunday paper for my wife. 

Quickly, I ran into the gas station, grabbed the requested Sunday newspaper, got in line behind a guy who was paying for whatever he was paying for.  (Honestly, I can't say I was really paying attention to him, I was in a hurry to get to my next destination: McDonald's.  I needed my morning Coke!)  That guy finished up paying, spun around, looked me up and down and quickly blurted out the words:  "Well, you look overly-black this morning!" 

Now, I'm sure if this man knew me, knew I was under-caffeinated, and knew how hard I work to engage a mouth filter I don't possess, he would have kept his mouth shut, but he didn't.....

And this folks is how I nearly committed homicide before 10 am.....

Me, still shocked:  "I'm sorry?  Did you just say I looked overly-black?!  And what does being black look like exactly?"  (I really wanted to hear this explanation....)

Him:  "Yes.  With that thing on your head, you look black."

Me:  "My scarf?!  My scarf makes me look "overly-black"?!"

Him:  "Well, yeah.  Didn't you look in the mirror this morning?!"

Me, pointing to my head:  "Actually, I DID look in the mirror, and I thought I looked like your average human, although cuter, because in case you haven't noticed, this scarf is on point!"

Him:  "Well, you might want to look again."

And this is when I nearly lost my shit....

Me:  "Question for you, did you happen to see the bigot looking back at you in the mirror this morning?"

Him, cockily chuckling:  "Oh, so now I'm a bigot?  What does that look like exactly?!"

Me:  "Well, I wasn't sure what a bigot would look like until now, but after looking at you I realize a racist bigot looks exactly as I thought one would look.  Like an idiot!  Because only an idiot would spew the stupidity you're spewing while attempting to make a fashion statement by pulling his white tube socks all the way up to his knees when wearing sandals!

Enough said.