Recently, we got a new puppy. It is my mom’s dog and not what this story is about.
In May, I had the first two weeks of life without a family dog. My family has always had dogs. They mesh well with us. This is probably because we are like dogs. But is this because we have always been around dogs? Or just because we hold common values?
Henry was the best dog.
But the first dog I remember was a poodle mix. She was black and chose our neighbor over us when we moved. This is understandable because six children between 12-2 are not as luxury friendly as a retired gentleman with liver treats. But I will never forgive her. We never had another female dog.
Henry was our last “family” dog. He grew up on our mini-farm with Rebel, the pig-vet cornering, sprinkler chasing Blue Heeler, and Bobby, the pig-like Border Collie and something-else-unfortunate, good-natured earth crawler.
Bobby got puny at a ripe old age and held out long enough to die in my arms a few hours after flying back from Ukraine several years ago (and you ask me why I’m morbid?!).
During my following trip to Ukraine, Rebel outlasted the vet’s prediction by half-a-car-chasing-decade and passed on to a place where biting duck heads has no consequences.
Henry was the lean and mean fighting machine (okay…he didn’t fight and he wasn’t mean, but he was lean and fast and the best that’s ever been). He was the only animal to make the move with us to suburbia. At age 12 or so, he was probably ready to retire from UPS alert and critter chasing, but for a fit boxer/lab, the change was probably as rough on him as it was to my mother-hubbard’s view-needing-soul.
Henry had already had a long journey with us, listening to at least all the females’ problems in the family, taking long walks as we got ready for Mount Saint Helen’s hikes, getting dragged to agility classes despite is laid-back sensitive personality, sitting up all night with me on my last day on the property, etc.
What was great about Henry (and about any dog that does not abandon you for your liver-treat-feeding neighbor), is their ability to listen without interrupting. Henry never interrupted. And he understood everything. (I’m sorry, but it’s true. He was very intuitive.) He never told me what I should do. He never even said it would be okay or that it wouldn’t be okay. He just looked at me and I knew that I was loved and would never be rejected as long as we both breathed on this mortal orb.
Well, we don’t both breath anymore. Henry got cancer. And, like you would expect, he never complained, he didn’t give up but went on with his loving life, he never told anyone their problems didn’t compare, he never blamed anyone for moving from country air or switching to cheaper dog food or not getting a $$$$ treatment. In fact, he didn’t have any important last things to wrap up because he had done them all as they reached his ears and his nose and his big, grubby paws. He had never turned his back on a loved one and he had never snubbed a stranger. He did not need to ask any apologizes because he had always met those who mattered to him with love (sometimes too much). When he had seen something to do (like chase a cat), he had done it to the utmost.
He didn’t need closure or a chaplain at his bedside. He had been who he was supposed to be and he had done what he was supposed to do. He had obeyed his Maker to the word. He had been named DOG and had acted and loved like a dog.
He had sat in the back of my stupid old Honda patiently, breathing in the air of the countryside on his car ride to the vet. Enjoying it, even though he couldn’t sit up. And he had not been angry or bitter at the lady in the vet office who made remarks about how pathetic his once powerful self seemed.
Even though his track records with vets was filled with anxiety, he had been the calm and collected one for my sake. And he laid down on the blanket and sat with me and tried to get up and lick my face whenever I sobbed. Which, of course, made me sob more. And then he didn’t want to kill the vet (like I did) when they put a muzzle on him to give him a relaxant. And he didn’t ask us what we were doing when they gave him another shot, he only moved his head from my lap and laid it where I couldn’t see and stopped being there for me.
Well, to make a tidy ending to my sob story that would have been something I would have shared wordlessly with Henry for some closure and now I have to make you endure it instead, I just want to say happy retirement Henry, from loving so hard, and I love you very much.
I’m not one of those people that thinks animals can be human or that they should be treated like children. (And when you are talking to me, you should interupt sometimes and tell me I am being an idiot!)
All of our dogs were outside dogs. Henry was a farm dog. He tromped through ice and he sacked out under trees in the heat. He was a dog. But he was just so much better at being a dog than I am at being a human.
He knew no pride.
And I guess that’s what I want to learn from him. And what mattered to me. That pride thing.
I want to look at people and listen and love them, even when what they say, in the grand scheme of existence, is stupid. To love them when they come after me with a PVC pipe and I don’t understand. To be freakishly loyal and cheerful, even when leaving could mean a much more comfortable (liver-filled?) life. To not know what bitterness means.
To be good at being human. And not freak out about the rest.
And, never to go to bed at night thinking about myself and all the things I did wrong or did right or how much of an idiot I am…trying to chase myself in a circle all over the map pride-filled-self-worth feelings. Henry knew what chasing your tail was. It was a joke and pretty soon you should stop and go chase a squirrel or a car or find someone to make happy.
Went to Alaska.
did not get eaten by bears, but narrowly escaped certain death from ptarmigans.
snowshoed with my bf. Oh, the humiliations.
snow machined to a frozen lake.
it was nice.
did not fall through the ice.
that was also nice.
did not meet these aliens that seem to be coming to earth in this photo.
many of the best conversation of my life have involved SEMKI.
cracked my head on the ice. Then saw this beautiful sunset (other people saw it too).
then watched “Rambo” and ate salmon.
then had so many delays and airline misery coming home I made more money in vouchers than I do in a week a work. And my mom bought me a stuffed animal at the airport…
and we went straight to the beach (did not pass Go, did not collect $200).
and drove home on one of the paths of old.
and I knew that the Willamette Valley is the most beautiful place on earth.
and that spring was almost gone already.
and some of my favorite trees had died. #oldmarleyatthelodgeisdead
i drank a lot of green tea to cope. lol. xP
and everything went into quarantine, including Harrison, in a new attempt/idea about our illnesses.
and then somehow we ended up at the beach again. #classic
with all 12 (two hiding still) nieces and nephews.
and lots of sunshine and chocolate.
and then I came back to my meth house.
this one time, I scheduled my eye exam at the wrong clinic and so mostly went Costco/New Seasons shopping. And so this is Harrison sitting on my coming nephew.
and this is camels (aka tulips, aka you should watch Brothers Bloom more often).
this is what I ate in celebration of a 65 hour lunch-breakless, running on your feet work week completed, because of my-brother-in-arms got me raisin snacks at Dollar Tree. And all people know that raisin snacks, at least in the days of childhood, are the measure of ones standing in the world.
and now I am sitting here drinking chocolate, thinking about all the beautiful things in life, and how everything will leave you (including your dog that has cancer) and that all homes are either taken away from you or spit you out. And how it’s nearly impossible to make decisions, let alone know what you want.
And so… I really need Jesus. And that’s probably a fine place to be.
It’s one thing to know. It’s another to act on the knowing. It’s another to feel. But joy and thankfulness are not outside of our control, and…when it comes down to it…life is beautiful and mine is Jesus’ and it is good. And I have everything. More than I could have imagined.
But I need to stop having so many feelings so this blog isn’t such a loser. Call myself a writer… Blughadug.
The concept of home is important to me. *cough, cough*
I remember very vividly throwing up in my car seat when we drove away from our first house for the last time. I had just learned how to climb the fruit trees crammed in our 1/2 acre lot.
Leaving our last house has already been documented and whined about sufficiently enough here. Suffice to say that I am, at heart, a homebody. The problem is, sometimes you do something stupid and everything gets all discombobulated. Like, one day you get on a plane to Ukraine. That sort of thing.
And…BAM… Life is ruined and/or made into something even more wonderful and beautiful and filling-uppish than you ever imagined.
But still… it kind of stinks. To be woken up to the fact that you will never be all home. On this side of alive anyways. Or something. I don’t know. And this is why we need to talk about meth.
I returned to America on October 29th. I would like to say that I began unpacking the next morning (not my stuff from Ukraine [I left most of it there]), but my entire life which had been so graciously boxed and moved in my absence. But I didn’t.
I “finished” unpacking on December 24th.
A few days later, we moved out.
This is because everyone had been sick since October. At first we were shut-ins. We naturally assumed we had a bout of the Black Plague. A few people, however, braved our white chalked doors–comrades, my mom, the mailman–none of which contracted any crippling symptoms.
Eventually, after a lot of rounds of The Incredibles and howling in the night, it was decided our issues must be provoked by environmental variables.
We tested the house. Methamphetamine and formaldehyde (and a few other things associated with addiction, crime, and the preservation of dead bodies) came back. But after more intense testing, all of these were below “threat levels.”
My nieces and nephews missed literally every Christmas and New Years extravaganza. Some of us have seen some improvement since moving out. Some have gotten worse in the last week or two. We still have no clue what is going on. Or what to do next. YOLO. xP
Although it is the worst to watch little people be sick (and I’m sure their parents would have a thing or two to say about four months of sleepless nights), they do help you keep your sense of humor/reality.
3-year-old-nephew: draw me a fridge.
*I draw fridge*
3-year-old-nephew: draw a biiiiiigggg fridge. with a water thing.
*I draw a fridge*
3-year-old-nephew: draw me a really tallllllll fridge. don’t forget the water thing.
*I draw a fridge*
3-year-old-nephew: draw me a fridge with the door open. And ice cream.
*I draw a fridge*
3-year-old-nephew: me a tiny, tiny fridge.
*I draw a fridge.*
3-year-old-nephew: awe. It’s sooo cuuute.
3-year-old-nephew: make it on fire.
6-year-old-niece: what does that say?
me: can you read any of it?
6-year-old-niece: there is “all.” And “love.” Because it is almost Valentine’s Day.
me: it’s actually a gift for [person I was staying with at the time’s] wedding. It says, “love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” And, “love never fails.”
*extended moment of contemplation*
6-year-old-niece: but sometimes it does.
Aw, yes. But not Jesus.
This may sound more angry Godish than I intend, but life seems kind of like a series of God showing you the stupidity of the idols you’ve been leaning on. I feel like there has been a very distinct chain of this in my life. And all things have hurt, and all things have been good.
“Security” and “knowing what to do” are getting a hard hitting at the moment.
Also, since last we spoke, I started my worst paying, most labor intensive job of all time. Which I love tremendously and which makes me invariably high (no drug houses needed, thank you very much).
I’ve never had just one job at once and I’ve had a wide variety of jobs in general…but this is the first job ever that I can’t really take home with me (or does not exist in my home, on the desk two inches from my bed when I try to sleep, or in my laptop, Hector, etc.). It is a weird experience. And it is good when you’re on the move/homeless.😉
Basically I get to go through the rituals of normal living and make people eat and drink coffee and get paid for it. Also, hang out with old people.
Quote from a resident observer on my 3rd week or so: Well, it looks like she’s still incompetent, but she’s having fun!
This post is deceitfully titled for effect (I learned how to do that in journalism school). We aren’t really on the other side of this yet. I’m not sure I’ve actually learned anything. In general my nervous system and brain are just freaking out these days anyways.
I mostly just feel, right now, that I am watching “my wonderful plan for my life (and/or next summer)” crumble up with days off work and doctor and being homeless bills.
But, the Lord puts a table in the valley and in front of our enemies when there’s still a lot of fighting to be done. Celebration occurs in the valley. It is with Jesus.
There are many ways of shepherding. And many ways of needing to be shepherded.
And I feel like a idiot. And I sound like an idiot. And this is the most writing I’ve done since our family Christmas letter that I’m not even sure we ever sent out.
p.s. if you feel let down by this blog post and/or me and need some emotions to move on to, try these guys which are really getting to me right now…
The Four Quartets
East Cooker V.
So here I am, in the middle way, having had twenty years—
Twenty years largely wasted, the years of l’entre deux guerres
Trying to learn to use words, and every attempt
Is a wholly new start, and a different kind of failure
Because one has only learnt to get the better of words
For the thing one no longer has to say, or the way in which
One is no longer disposed to say it. And so each venture
Is a new beginning, a raid on the inarticulate
With shabby equipment always deteriorating
In the general mess of imprecision of feeling,
Undisciplined squads of emotion. And what there is to conquer
By strength and submission, has already been discovered
Once or twice, or several times, by men whom one cannot hope
To emulate—but there is no competition—
There is only the fight to recover what has been lost
And found and lost again and again: and now, under conditions
That seem unpropitious. But perhaps neither gain nor loss.
For us, there is only the trying. The rest is not our business.
Home is where one starts from. As we grow older
The world becomes stranger, the pattern more complicated
Of dead and living. Not the intense moment
Isolated, with no before and after,
But a lifetime burning in every moment
And not the lifetime of one man only
But of old stones that cannot be deciphered.
There is a time of the evening under starlight,
A time for the evening under lamplight
(The evening with the photograph album).
Love is most nearly itself
When here and no cease to matter.
Old men ought to be explorers
Here and there does not matter
We must be still and still moving
Into another intensity
For a further union, a deeper communion
Through the dark cold and empty desolation,
The wave cry, the wind cry, the vast waters
Of the petrel and porpoise. In the end is my beginning.
-T.S. Eliot, 1940
Happy Christmas. Merry New Year. Celebratorious almost Epiphany. Let us congratulate each other on being one holiday season closer to our inevitable deaths.
And, since I don’t want to talk about the fact that our new house has meth fumes in it (from before our day) and we all had to move out…let us move on quickly.
- Best Fiction: The Power and the Glory, by Graham Greene. I confess this was my first Graham Greene book/knowledge of his existence experience. Unnamed “whiskey priest” + communism + firing squads + sparse, insightful style with mildly abstract philosophical undertones. Awe yiss.Other gems included, but are not limited to:
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, by Betty Smith. Essentially everything…and creepily like reading my soul with a greater writing style and a completely different personality. You know those stories you come back and see how much they shaped your life. I felt like that…only I hadn’t read it before.
Go Set a Watchman, by Harper Lee. Not for it’s style or construction so much… Just that one scene.
- Best Nonfiction: Last Letters of Resistance: Farewells from the Bonhoeffer Family, edited by Eberhard Bethge. The feelz, the faith, the obedience, the loyalty, the letter form, the general focus on people I already learned to adore a decade ago. THIS.
Handbook to Prayer, by Kenneth Boa.
Journalism, by Joe Sacco. Not for the worldview, but for the dedication, brevity, and bravery of his work. Favorite angsty, liberal journalist thus far.
WORLD Magazine Policy Book, by Marvin Olasky and others. This was helpful on all levels of writing, but unfortunately is not available to the public at large.
The Loving Life: In A World of Broken Relationships, by Paul Miller. Because it was purgatorial in its convicting-ness and much more direct, inspiring than his The Praying Life.
- Book most Likely to be thrown across Room: 1984, by George Orwell. I came to the last page at 3am screaming “NOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!” And it did not respond like Hollywood… It just ended. And I loved it so.
How my thoughts progressed from page 1-328:
a) This is weird b) His descriptions are genius. c) I want to write just like him when I grow up. d) I miss communist apartment buildings. e) Don’t do that. f) This is why all revolutions fail. We need God/Jesus/the Bible/just not ourselves. g) If this is going where I think it’s going, I will go on a killing spree. h) Why did I just get pet rats. i) no. j) I hate everyone and everything. k) There must be hope. l) There must be hope. n) There must be hope. m) I seriously can’t go to bed with the world standing as it is at this moment. o) NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!! p) I knew it. I hate him. And I want to die. q) Silence. r) It couldn’t have ended any other way. s) George Orwell is a genius…basically I love big brother, but actually George Orwell.
- Best Picture Book: The Pilot and the Little Prince: The Life of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry by Peter Sis. Technically, I read this on Christmas of 2014, but I feel like I have read it enough times in 2015 to give it a sturdy showing here. This captures all the allure of Saint-Exupéry with the life, mystery, and respect needed.
Peter Sis is a genius. On display also in the magnificent The Wall: Growing up Behind the Iron Curtain (the first anything I discovered that gave the right vibes to help me understand the penetrating and lasting presence of 50-90s British and American music in post-Soviet countries).Also: I find an author I like. I find out they have ties to eastern Europe. #classic.
- Most Despised Book: The Planet of the Wind (the Little Prince #1) by Delphine Dubos. This book offended me on every frequency. Unlike Peter Sis, I felt that, despite her obvious fascination with Saint-Exupéry, she entirely failed to understand or respect him and his creations. Of course, that could be me, but I remain scared and affronted.
The Movie World
- Most Soul Vibe/Earth Shatter type Movie: The Wind that Shakes the Barley, directed by Ken Louch and written by Paul Laverty. I don’t know about historical accuracy and all that per se, but this is a movie among men. Although I’ve seen it multiple times now (some of my friends are too scared to watch it without my fast-forwarding of the fingernails scene…cough, cough), our first encounter went down like this:
Bethany has not cried for a long time. Bethany has been reading news about people dying in Ukraine all day. Bethany has no idea if she is going to be able to do any of the things she wants to in this life. Bethany begins to wonder about the meaning of life, freedom, and the commonality of man. Bethany cannot sleep because of these eternal questions (also, she had the flu, which was probably the true cause of sleeplessness). Bethany gets out iPod. Bethany watches The Wind that Shakes the Barley. Bethany is able to cry profusely. Bethany is released by someone expressing many vibes and feels and complexities that she could not. Bethany sleeps like a babe, hoping she will be a good writer someday. Bethany wakes up and makes everyone else watch this movie, apologizing to the relevant party after each traumatic experience. A new world is open…cinematographicly, Irishly and questionwise, storywise.
- Movie most likely to be seen in Russian: Red Lights, written and directed by Rodrigo Cortés. We had to move on to the Russian language because seeing it 5 times in 4 months calls for a change of pace. Say yes to this experience. Even if you don’t like it, you have to appreciate some of its qualities.
P.S. Cillian Murphy did enter my life with force this year, in case you were wondering.
- Best Movie Surprise: Brooklyn, directed by John Crowley and written by Nick Hornby (screenplay) and Colm Tóibín (novel). Mum and I went to this only knowing that it was about immigrants and New York (more than enough). And that I needed to get out of the house and was too sick for much else. A very good and rewarding decision. Excellent.Irish movies also appear to be a thing this year for me… Not sure how I feel about that.
- Best Theater Movie: Far from the Madding Crowd, directed by Thomas Vinterberg and written by Thomas Hardy (novel) and David Nicholls (screenplay). I have a thing for all of Thomas Hardy’s crusty, belligerent characters and stories and this new adaption delivered it with all the beautiful music, landscape, heart-rending glances, romantic baby lamb gifts, random-shot-gun-blasting, etc. that anyone could possibly think to ask. I don’t like what this movie does to me. It is excellent.
Of course I enjoyed the latest Avengers and other theater going experiences as well.
- Ever-abiding Movie of Choice: The Brothers Bloom, directed and written by Rian Johnson. It’s been several years since I fell in love with this magic, but it deserves to be mentioned as it was thoroughly enjoyed this year. Also, I would just like to say that even though I haven’t seen any Star Wars, I’m kind of excited for #8 seeing as how Rian Johnson is directing…
Other Visual Things.
1. Best Mini-Series: Generation War, written by Stefan Kolditz. Despite the many soul-thrilling discoveries I made this year, this is the very best. The story, the way it is filmed, the characters, the perspectives, the comradeship, the inner war aspects…You rarely find something that speaks to you in all the ways you want to speak to the world/be/are scared to admit like this 3-part beast so fully is.
(Not for the faint of heart/people who can’t deal with other German storytelling such as Erich Maria Remarque. Even when they are mildly blasphemous or more than usually confusing, I can’t help admiring all the German films or books I’ve pretty much ever read. Something about them gets to me.)
- Best TV Show: Well, I thoroughly enjoyed aspects of both Agent Carter and Forever, but re-watching Prison Break (not on 2nd generation iPhone with constant reloading many years ago), has been intense. Obviously, it does some good tricks on you and I wouldn’t take a bullet for it, I would take a bullet for a lot of its characters and it perfectly illustrates the technique of constantly raising the stakes/everyone being driven by their desire/excellently built layers of conflict and suspense. There are few of its ilk that combine compelling characters and so many heart-attack inducing, car smashing scenes simultaneously.
- Best Revisited: Bleak House, directed by Justin Chadwick and Susanna White and written by Andrew Davies (screenplay) and Charles Dickens (novel, duh).This always makes me want to be a better person. (Trite sentence to avoid the depths of emotions I actually feel about this beauty.)
- Worst Visual Experience: My Bedroom from October 29-December 24th, written and directed by my own stupidity, the busyness of life, and the side-effects of living in a meth contaminated house.
- Best Youtube: “On Mental Illness,” by John Green. Although I don’t really like what he decides to write and a host of his political views, I respect John Green’s skill, mobilizing power, heart, humor, and humility in every fiber of my being. Also, this. Honorable mentions goes to “Secret Protestant Churches in Donetsk: Ukraine’s Religious War,” by Vice News/Simon Ostrovsky, “Hunger Games Musical: Mockingjay Parody – Peeta’s Song,” by Studio C, “Thanksgiving Day,” really by Saturday Night Live, “Waiting for Love (lyric video),” by Avicii (not as much as for the words as for the dog), and so forth…
Note: Some of these movies and books do contain difficult or inappropriate content. If you take anything in this ramble as a recommendation, please proceed with your own standards of respect. I tend to skip and forget things and then recommend, (also I often watch things with censorship). lol.