Saturday, June 28, 2008

Waste, waste, waste

One day a while back, Austin asked me what we could do to be more "green." We talked about the things we already do - recycle, compost, reusable grocery bags, and such - and we talked about the things we might do better - take the trip to the dump to recycle glass instead of throwing it away, be more aware of turning the lights off, and reduce our CO2 imprint by driving around less. Good start to a conversation we all need to continue.

The hard part of the conversation we have yet to have and very much need to is this: We are SOOOOO wasteful. Our family, our neighborhood, our society - all wasters of resources. This whacked me on the head yesterday when I took the kids to see Wall-E.

Truly, go see this movie. It is beautiful animation and a precious love story, but more than that, it is profoundly disturbing. Wall-E is a little robot who was created for the sole purpose of making bricks out of trash and stacking it neatly. There is very little dialogue in the beginning of the movie - a silence that forces and allows the viewer to think. A company named Buy-N-Large runs the world, and our nasty consumerism is presented in a humorous way that takes the edge off of the viewers discomfort, but does not eliminate the oh-my-word-we-are-so-wasteful feeling that lingers in your throat.

As disturbing as it is from an environmental perspective, it also is from a political viewpoint. Adults of conscience will not be able to walk away from this film without pangs of guilt about the urgent need for our government to crack down on the filth created by our consumerism. It opens your eyes to how techno-centric we have become, how obsessed with our stuff we are, how oblivious we are to the waste we participate in daily. Ugh.

But really, the movie is appropriate for children! I am not sure they sense the total discomfort adults do, but it is a great conversation starter about going green.

My revelation? I am a waster. I like to think I am one who is constantly looking for a way to reuse refuse, to conserve energy, to love our planet, but I am a LONG way from it. All of us who live in a nice little house in a nice little neighborhood and who have tv's and cell phones and gaming systems and cars and all those "necessities" - we are wasters. We have moved so far away from NEED and so far into WANT that we are largely unable to tell the difference. I NEED a cell phone. I NEED a book. I NEED 100 channels. I NEED a van. Heck, I don't need any of that stuff, but I am able to convince myself that I do.

I can't even keep my house clean because of all the stuff we have - stuff we REALLY feel like we MUST have for comfort or happiness or whatever excuse. I am typing on one of four computers in my house, and next year, we'll have five. Really - more computers than people. But we think we NEED them.

And the really sad thing? Relative to so many people, we have so little! We live in a world where we are unable and unwilling to see how much MORE we have than the majority of the world and we only see what we still DON'T HAVE. I'm ashamed.

So, I want to think that I might keep this concept of waste in the forefront - that I might consider waste with all I do. Whether it is the water I don't need to use, the temperature on the A/C, the fuel in my car, the food in my refrigerator, or the possessions I buy - I need to ask myself, "Is the amount of waste this product or activity generates worth it?" Sadly, I know that I will often continue to make bad choices because I am a selfish little thing, but I hope I can heighten my own awareness so that those bad choices will become progressively fewer.

I think I'll talk about this more another time, because I am feeling rotten about sitting here doing "nothing" when I could be up working on something that will make a positive difference in my children's world. Maybe I 'll start the conversation about our wastefulness and greed while encouraging them to eliminate some of the JUNK we have accumulated. To goodwill, of course - not to the trash! :)

Sunday, June 8, 2008

RIP Estherjen

Really, seriously, how much more loss can a girl experience before she reaches her limit?

Okay, I shouldn't have asked that, because that's like poking God or Karma or Fate or whatever and saying, "Bring it on!" So, allow me to rephrase that.

I am becoming too good at goodbye.

This morning, my beloved husband and I took our "firstborn" to the emergency veterinary clinic to say goodbye to her. Ugh. Another ouchy day for Meesh.

But I skipped to the end. Allow me to reminisce.

Jimmy and I started our marriage almost fifteen years ago. He was working nights and weekends at WLOS in Asheville. I was all alone in a one bedroom apartment most of the time that first summer, living on his schedule, looking for work, and being all-in-all giddy in love with him and with marriage and with the mountains. But I wanted a BABY, because I had just spent the year prior living on Memory Lane (literally) with my precious Bink, then 4 years old, and I wanted wanted wanted to be a MOMMA.

Needless to say, we as newlyweds with virtually no income and 22 whopping years of age under our belts did not have any business being parents. By the time September came around, we had decided that a puppy was in order.

SO, for Jimmy's birthday we went to the shelter and picked out our new love - a "cocker-terrier mix" from a litter that had just come to the shelter. I picked out one and he picked out one and I succumbed to his choice since it was going to be his birthday present. To hear Jimmy tell it to E-dog for lo these many years, "Momma didn't want you. She wanted that other puppy."

All that first night after we had picked her and before we could take her home (she had to get spayed before she could go with us), we lay awake thinking up the perfect name. And did we ever find it.

Estherjen. Our primary method of birth control, since she alleviated my desire to have babies.

We picked up our sweet Esther and fell so in love with her. The first weekend we had her, Jim's folks came up and we all went gallivanting about the mountains in their Blazer with Esther in the way back. Sunday morning, she started to vomit and have diarrhea, which ended up being all bloody - a "mother's" worst nightmare. Jimmy was working that evening and I was all alone with my new puppy and mortified.

So, off to the emergency clinic we went - Monday hadn't even come for us to call the vet and make our hey-this-is-Esther appointment. It was just horrible. They poked her and I.V.'ed her and said they were going to need to keep her overnight for observation since she was maybe, MAYBE 8 weeks old and only a few days post-op from her spay. I was devastated. I cried and cried and they soothed and soothed, but I had already grown so attached to this wee one. The classic memory from that experience? I didn't want to leave her and have her think we had taken her back somewhere awful and that we weren't coming back for her. I wanted her to know I loved her and to have my smell with her for comfort (like they do with babies, you know?). So I said, no, SOBBED to the nice people, who by now thought I was completely looney toons, "Can I leave her my socks?" (Jimmy does a great impersonation of this although HE wasn't there to hear it nor to feel how awful and helpless I felt.)

Needless to say, she was fine and dandy the next day and came home ever so grateful and ready to learn to poop outside or whatever it would take to keep her from that place.

She became an appendage to me - she kept me company every day after school until "Daddy" got home at midnight and every weekend, she and I would "go-go car-ride" around the greater Asheville metro to find our future home. We would sneak naps on the couch (where Jimmy said she wasn't allowed) and we would take dinner to Jimmy and eat on the porch at WLOS, overlooking the Smokies. She came with me to work on teacher workdays and went hiking and camping and everything else-ing with us. At holiday time, she joined us on trips to our parents' homes, just as if she were one of the grandchildren.

And today it ended much like it had begun. We knew during the night that it was time. The tumor in her rear thigh had grown so large (like three to four times the size of her other leg) that she finally became lame as a result of it. It didn't appear to hurt her, but she was uncomfortable and confused and struggling to stand - walking was not even possible. We could have opted to explore amputation, but we had long ago decided that would not be fair treatment for a dog of her age and superior nature. She'd lost so much weight lately and could barely hear anything, if at all. I honestly can't remember the last time I heard her bark or do anything vocal besides moan. Her vision was questionable, her periods of dementia more frequent... Yeah, it was time.

We held her in our bed all night - the incontinence miraculously stopped some months ago, probably due to the increase in the size of the tumor - and we talked to her and loved on her and cried over her. Little sleep, but much needed snuggling to last the rest of our lives without her.

She knew. Just like Abby knew. There was a sense of calm in her as we went into the clinic. Even before they gave her the IV and the sedative shot, she was still and peaceful and Oh-So-Brave. Like always, she could sense our feelings and knew that we were terribly saddened. But she did not work to give us comfort as she had on so many occasions. She let it be about her, for once, and accepted our love as if she, too, knew that she needed to store it up.


This has become quite a long post.

I want to share with you all the stories of a good dog's life, the memories that are part of our history and will always be a part of our future. So, if you are done reading the lamentations over a dead dog, feel free to click off now. But if you love or have loved a dog, I think you'll read on.

Esther, the pup-pup, the E-dog - I remember...

...hiking and watching you fall in the creek and Hammer (daddy's friend you adored) stepping into the water up to his knee to grab you out, then freezing as we finished the hike and the fall air dried out his wet pants leg.

...doggy obedience class - you were so smart and you were so good at "down" although you never got the hang of much beyond that. Not bad for the only mutt among a bunch of schmancy purebreds...

...Grandma swearing she wouldn't feed you from the table and slipping you hush puppies and beef fat with NO discretion. She also trimmed your eyebrows when they got all bushy so she could see your precious eyes and face.

...the day we brought home Abby and you showed us what they meant in obedience class by "dominance." You were patient with her and herded her and did ALL the training for us. True, you pissed on the futon on purpose that once to let us know of your displeasure.

...the day we brought home Austin and the way you lovingly smelled him and claimed the place under his crib as your own. We had played "Where's Austin?" so much before he was born that you were glad to finally put a name with a face.

...the day we brought home Kori and you told us that was just darn enough children. Boy, were you right.

...the Christmas break you and Abby escaped (one of us had inadvertently left the fence open). Some stranger in the next neighborhood over called us and left a message that they had Abby, but no one knew where you were. I envisioned you dead on the side of US74, and my daddy and your daddy left Southport for a 7 hour trip home to find you. We got the call before they had gone too far that you were in the basement in your crate, pretty scared and clearly worried about your sister.

...throwing racquetballs for you to fetch until you decided it was time to just lie around and chew on them.

...your little stuffed lion that was the most difficult thing I ever threw away.

...when you ate the flea collar and vomited the buckle. That's when we realized you were actually part goat.

...when you got into the bathroom trash and we learned to keep the trash under the sink. many chewed up diapers. Ugh. And yet, we still let you kiss us!

...when less-than-a-year-old Kori put her hand in your food bowl at precisely the moment you decided to eat - you warned her but good and you scared the crap out of her, me and yourself. I will never understand how dogs know just how much to squeeze with their teeth to teach a lesson but to not puncture the skin. chasing those damned hissing ducks into the pond and me yelling at your daddy because he didn't LOOK willing to jump in and save you. You could hear us yelling at you, but they looked so tasty and you were closer than you ever got to any squirrel. You finally realized that you couldn't swim nearly as well as you thought and headed back to shore. Stupid mutt.

...the traffic ticket incidents - one for dad on the highway and one for me in Irmo. You got me out of mine, but the state trooper wasn't nearly as sympathetic to your hysterical barking in the middle of the night in the middle of nowhere.

...the way you looked up at the overpasses as we drove under them in the pouring rain.

...your patient love and diligent protection for my babies and me.

...the way you felt the first time I held you.

...the way you felt the last time I held you.

...your love and gratitude and relative obedience.

Rest in peace, my sweet pup-pup. You will always be treasured. Kiss your Grandma and Pokey for me, and stay out of the trash.

Get in the box, pup-pup. Go night night.

Friday, June 6, 2008


Holy moly, it's summer time! The thermometer has been hitting 100 for several days now, so it definitely FEELS like summer, but I have yet to realize that school is really out.

Next week I am starting my master's program in Language and Literacy - WOOHOO! It'll take three years at $300 a month, but I'll end up with an honest-to-goodness degree at the end. SO many great things about it - here's a little list:

1. One of my best good geek friends is the facilitator. DOCTOR Deborah Ann MacPhee will be traveling from the far-off land of Aiken, SC once a week to lead our little group through each of the courses. She is brilliant and fun and a heck of a good instructor, PLUS she will be one of the better-known gurus of professional development in a few short years, so I am especially pleased to be in her tutelage.

2. We will be studying in a cohort model - same fifteen students for every course. Having done my undergraduate major courses in a cohort, as well 12 of my other graduate hours in a cohort model, I am MOST excited. Every course can build on the previous ones, you don't have to get to know the people every single time a new course starts, and the camaraderie formed is such a benefit as you go out in the world to do good works.

3. Classes will be primarily taught at OPES, where I ANTICIPATE working starting next year. Even if I end up working somewhere else, OP is the school closest to my house, so travel time will be limited. Hurray!

4. I am a freaking geekalicious nerd and I can't wait to fill up my brain with more theory, ponder the great thoughts, have excellent convos with peers, and put some of this new knowledge into practice. I am such a firm believer that teachers should ALWAYS be students so that we may fully realize and remember the demands we place on them and how it feels to be in a "little desk."

Needless to say, I am excited.

Other exciting summer plans include two (yes TWO) beach trips - one to the Gulf Shores in two weeks and one to Edisto in July. Feeling fat and unattractive, but getting over it and ready to change some habits so that I don't have to buy any more clothes than I already have. Both trips are weddings - the first is Jimmy's first cousin, Ashley, and the second is another of his first cousins, Matt. We think it's so funny to say that Jimmy's first cousins are getting married, but not to each other. Okay, so we're easily amused. The kids are in both, so there will be many pictures to enjoy.

Kori and Austin are going to an acting camp in July that will culminate in a little show. That will be hysterical. I love those two people (duh) and they always amaze me.

Kori will do her traditional stint at the DFHS cheerleading camp in July - always entertaining - and Austin and I will spend some quality time doing errands or playing Wii while she is away.

Here's some big summer news: Austin can stay at home alone for short periods of time, as long as one of our neighbors is home. Love that. Have to teach him to keep the phone nearby, though - he zones out upstairs and doesn't hear it. Alas.

OH! And I am getting that darn hysterectomy once and for all in July. Fabulous. VERY little recovery time for the kind I'm supposed to have. Love that!

Then there's momma and daddy's estate issues to wrap up, but now that Geno has his little Staph-in-the-heart issue, he won't be going to Korea (or Iraq or any other farflung reaches of the military planet) any time soon, so maybe we can all focus on that together.

So, while I hope to keep up the posting, I make no promises as to my frequency. Much cleaning and playing and reading and relaxing and planning to do... And I am going to scrapbook some, dammit!

Have a great summer!