Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Life Is Too Short For White Walls

Sarah Lytle's granddaughter's new PINK bedroom!

"Can you come help me paint," my friend asked?  "My granddaughter is coming and I thought I'd have time to paint her bedroom walls, but I think I need help to get it done before she gets here."

Oh, yippee!  I love to paint.  I really LOVE to paint someone else's house, especially when I don't have to pick the color myself!

"What color," I asked?  Not that it would make a difference as to whether I helped or not, but still, it somehow seemed important to visualize what I'd be doing.

"Pink!" she replied. "Wink Pink."

Now, this is a classy gal.  Not the "typical" wife of a mid-west farmer or insurance salesman.  Not that there is anything wrong with farmer's wives (or insurance salesmen's wives). I have a deep respect and admiration for them.  But, I kinda visualize different colors when I think of a Kansas farmer's wife's walls vs a Santa Barbara California artist's walls.  Pink can mean a lot of different things, after all.  I look at a color pallet online and dream pink.  "Secret Rendezvous", "Mediiterranean Spice",  "Old Claret".  Hum……  Where is Wink?

So, off I head to paint.  Pink.  I'm imagining a form of dusty rose.  But when I arrive and open the can - even I could see, she wasn't kidding.  This is PINK!  In fact, I recognize this color.  I just helped my cousin paint her 11 year old daughter's room what had to be the exact same shade of pink.  Megan, (my cousin)  was not as thrilled with the idea of having this much pink in her house.  But her daughter REALLY wanted it and, as I pointed out, it wasn't as though she was cooperating in helping her obtain a tattoo or pierced nose.  This was paint - which can change next week if the daughter tires of it.

Though, I had to admit that painting this pink made me realize what it must feel like to live inside a Bazooka Bubble Gum bubble.  In contrast to my cousin, my friend, Sara, was embracing this Wink, pink as it was  

So, I happily painted and then Sara came in and pulled the room together.  Some Andy Warhol Marilyn Monroe's on one wall, a faux zebra-skin rug on the floor, a bright 60's-era peace poster, twinkle lights in the air and a 2' wide turquoise and lavender metal Christmas tree for holiday spirit. Oh, yes - and a phone that looked like a set of big red lips!  It was a masterpiece.  Made me want to run home and paint a room or two pink for myself - though I admit - I'd need her to come over to add the finishing touches.

After doing the remodel of my basement a few years ago, I was overcome with a need for color.  And, standing in that room, surrounded by the brightest, wildest, bubble-gummiest pink you can imagine - I added yet another important thing add to my list of how to make life better:

 "Embrace color!  Life is just too short for White Walls!"  

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Arayo's New Lair

Arayo recovers from surgery in her new lair

There are things we do for those we love.  And, though I hate to admit it, sometimes we'll do more for the dog than one of our human family members.

Arayo was split nearly in half - some 70 staples form the zipper that keeps her organs from falling out.  Healing will take time and while she doesn't seem to be in pain, she needs to hide in a dark private place.  I caught her dragging herself under the bed last night.  I don't know how she does that.  She looks like the poster dog for joining the Army.  "Be All You Can Be" and all that nonsense.   With no more than an inch of space between her body and the top of the bed, she lays flat and uses her front legs to drag herself so she's hidden far from reach.

Once she is heeled I won't need to take her to the vet for the removal of the staples - I'll just let her drag herself under the bed and they'll all rip out.  But for now, they need to remain in place.  Terrified of what I'll find when I have extracted her from this hiding place, I lift the bed and encourage her out.

From the garage I dig out an old card table which fits between the bed and wall. A blanket covers it, producing a gold cottony den of sorts.   I can't reach the dresser where my clothes are kept, but its the only good place for this nest - and - well, so what?  If Arayo is happy, I don't really need to change clothes, anyway!

The entire affect is - well, ugly.  If a spouse or child had suggested the need for setting up a rickety old card table and covering it with a blanket so they could crawl in it and mend, I'd explain that they could just GET OVER IT!  Life is full of little inconveniences and the sooner they learn to be happy with what they have the better!  Besides, I'm not working around a hideous eyesore just so they'll feel better!  (Starting to pick up on why I didn't have kids?  Why I'm not married?)

Start each birthday on your head
But, Arayo is Arayo and she gets what makes her feel good.  Today I celebrate my birthday.   It will be a quiet day spent with this dog I so adore.   Perhaps, I'll write, maybe get the year started right by doing taxes.  Who knows.  

A friend sent me a magnet for my birthday.  It has a B&W photo of 3 older women on it - one wearing a folded hat made of newspaper.  It reads "You're on the right road if you're happy when you're lost."   That's my new motto for this year - but the photo should have a photo of Arayo and me, driving down the road, wind in our hair.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Nice is Nice, But......

It pays to be nice.  I believe that, though, at times, like most everyone, I could do better.  And, people who are just rude - I don't have the patience for them.

But  last night I finished reading the Steve Jobs biography.  No doubt how it was going to turn out, but it was interesting how I responded to reading about someone who was so notoriously ruthless in his dealing with people, and how I found myself appreciating him for that giant personality flaw!

He wasn't like Hitler, literally killing people for his personal goals and beliefs, and God knows what the world would be like if we had millions of Steve Jobs running around insulting people, telling them their ideas are crap.  And it didn't just extend to computers. At one point, after his liver transplant, someone came into his hospital room and slipped a mask over his face before doing a procedure.  They thought he was unconscious, but he ripped the mask off and said it was ugly and he refused to wear it.  He made them bring 5 others in so he could select the best designed one to wear.  

I've been using Apple products since purchasing my first computer in 1984.  I have to admit that when my mom was talked into getting a PC "because it was  cheaper"  - the thing was nothing but a headache.  Steve wanted his systems to work in perfect harmony - and for the most part they do.  I just shake my head at friends who have PC's which are constantly in the shop with a virus, or something  just not working……  "And HOW is that PC saving you money?" I want to ask?  I can hear Jobs - "They are building crap!"

Jobs set a high standard and those who rose to his calling - while they complained about his rudeness - they were also proud that he got them to do more than they would have without his pushing. 

I've often said our country needs a time of cleansing.  We've become a country of whiners and it bothers me that the ethics have gone out of our day-to-day thinking.  Too bad they can't just turn the country over to someone like Steve Jobs. Someone who would cut out the crap and focus on the programs and goals that are efficient and well designed.  Instead we have a mishmash. As Steve would say "we have crap".

With winter upon us, its a good time to settle down with a good book.  "Steve Jobs" is a fascinating and personal look at a genius who has changed our world.

Saturday, January 7, 2012


Arayo's side and belly were shaved for surgery

Like the squeak of a mouse, it is high and soft.  In the darkness of the room, I lay on my mattress on the floor, trying to associate the noise with something familiar.  Again, the sound - a little bit peep, a little whimper, a little whine.

I realize it is Arayo and reach to stroke her - moving my hand from the silky rich texture of her fur to the bald skin of her lower side and hip.  The area my cousin calls "the turkey leg" because it looks so like the side of a freshly plucked Thanksgiving bird.

For the moment she calms, though when I roll over to go back to sleep, the whining continues.  It is so unlike her - she is a Newfoundland, noted for being stoic through pain.  "Oh, what the hell", I think, and reach for her medications.  She had a pain pill 3 hours ago, but if she is complaining, I'll give her another one.  

She's been split from breastbone to her privates.  62 staples hold her organs in place, another 5 secure a port which will be used later to inflate a band wrapped around the neck of her bladder.  Continent only with the use of massive amounts of drugs, a band has been affixed to the neck of her bladder and will later be inflated - the goal to keep urine where it belongs until she elects to discharge it.  

62 stitches hold Arayo together
But that is all for later.  Now, we work through the slow healing process.

With another pill ingested, Arayo gradually calms and I sleep, only to wake again to find her whimpering yet anew.  I  don't think I can give her another pill so I wrap my arm around her and allow her to climb onto the mattress and curl next to my shoulder. 

It is I who love her most, yet it is I who have caused this misery she now suffers.  My job is to protect her, yet I've brought this into her life.    Until I know she's fully healed and that this was the right decision, Arayo and I each suffer our own special agony.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Waiting Room

The wind in one's fur is glorious
We are bonded -  this eclectic group of strangers.  We huddle in cocoons of our own making.   The quadriplegic in his wheelchair, senior citizen in her sporty black and gray plaid cap, housewife in jogging pants and tennis shoes, and the teen with the hog-sized ring hanging from the center of her nose.  Together we bring the energy level of this room to a very heavy place.  

We each hold a furry soul in our hearts who struggles through a life or death procedure beyond the doors - in an area we can't reach.

A flash of white comes from the inner sanctuary.  In unison we look up, hoping it is "our" vet student with word that our pet is doing well.  The lovely Asian woman smiles at the student, then turns away, flashing truth to her daughter - a sad and very worried expression.

Another student comes forth, holding back a wiry haired little guy with a bright yellow bandage surrounding his belly.  A middle-aged couple lights up, jumps from their seat and calls the dog's name.  For a moment the pall is lifted.  Someone's pet will be fine.

From the outside comes a woman, 60's, anorexicly thin. Her face painstakingly designed by years of viewing the negative side of every situation. A furry Golden Retriever, face graying, peers after her, worried for her wellbeing.  That one so decidedly sweet can worship at the heels of one so obviously crabby is proof that dogs are teachers - gifts from a higher source.  Unlike most of us who can't bear to leave this place - she drops off her dog and leaves.

A blonde. so fat she requires the aide of a walker, waits - two Yorkies resting on the ample chest which forms a cushioned couch for their support.  Piled together as though they are one, they rest their tiny heads on her shoulder as she nestles her florid face in their rough coat.  They worry for their other pack member as one.

I wait, as I've waited for the past 6 hours when Arayo was taken from me.  "My" student has just approached.  "Are you ready for this,"  he asks?  They are taking her in, surgery will begin in a few minutes.  The surgery which will split her belly, remove organs, tacking some, adding support to others, is ready to begin. 

Many from around the globe join me as I worry for my girl.  "My sweet Arayo.  I hope you feel the  prayers and thoughts of love which are streaming your way.  Please hold strong, be safe.  I love you."

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

A Life Altering Decision

Arayo with her razorback pup
She carries it in her mouth and fusses over its wellbeing.  Upset when it is lost, she whines, begging to be let out to search for this new love.  Green with spiny horns growing out of its elongated flat-fronted snout,  it squeaks and carries on at the least bit of nudging.
Arayo is protective of her new charge, certain it is a her own.  I shudder to think what the father looked like, to produce, with my beautiful girl, this bizarre child.  
There is no accounting for those we cherish the most.  I adore this dog.  She is all I find good in the world.  Sweet natured, accepting of what life lays at her paws.  A wonderful companion, interested in exploring the world and meeting new people.  The perfect ambassador, teaching humans astute enough to notice how to navigate the land-mines of human interactions.
She is my dearest friend, just as this green squeaky toy is her child.  Arayo thinks she's had a baby and this razorback pig is her pup.  It has pushed me towards making a decision I've danced away from for 7 very short years.  It is time to spay before her body is too old, before infections can take hold which would easily kill her.
Arayo and I hit the road again today, traveling to central Missouri to the Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital at Columbia.  Our questions are many, the surgery not risk-free.  We ask that you keep us in your thoughts and prayers - that she comes through this as she has most things in life - with ease - and that I don't totally go off the deep end as I worry through the process.  Many of you have helped as I've fussed over making this decision.  To each of you, I thank you for your patient input and knowledge.  I couldn't do it without you!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

The Special Moment

The Proposal, with family looking on

The man needed an accomplice, so he approached one of us.  Perhaps his mistake was not doing a background check on the group she was with but he needed to act quickly and quietly.   He'd thought everything else through.  The time, the location, the ring.  All he needed was someone to record this - the biggest moment of his life.

But, he asked one of us to hold the camera and document this event.  With the camera running, he led his special someone to a canopy created with hundreds of white lights.  He peered into her face, then dropped to one knee and produced a small box containing the glittering symbol of a thousand dreams.

Our rag-tag group surrounded the couple as he asked her to spend the rest of her life with him, and the romantic moment was transformed to a sporting event.  We cheered his actions, we clapped, then someone realized we didn't know her answer so we loudly called out, as though it was our right to know her response.  We'd suddenly taken a vested interest in the outcome of this moment.  She nodded, and responded yes, and as he stood and slipped the ring on her finger, we applauded, then asked to be invited to the wedding!

My uncle then pulled from his pocket the ultimate engagement gift.  A round chocolate-covered brownie he had purloined at my aunt's memorial earlier in the day.  He'd been bringing it out of his pocket for the past seven hours to gloat about possessing the once appealing treat, but this time, he unwrapped the decaying prize from its shredded paper napkin and offered it to the couple.  With grace, they accepted it, although it was like the gutted squirrel that is offered to a human by the family cat.  

Returning to the paths and twinkling lights of Garvan Gardens, the night seemed brighter, the cold less biting.  Whoever you are, we wish you years and years of happiness.  We were thrilled to spend such a special moment with you.

(Thank you to my niece Chisa Hughes for sharing the great photographs!)
The extended Hughes family