Tuesday, May 23, 2006


The Chihuahua was particularly cute when I came home from work today. Ears pinned back, body curling with glee, tail vibrating, he slipped out the door, unable to wait for me to enter. Instead of hightailing it into the park the way he normally does, he stayed to shower me with greetings. Although I poke fun at this dog, I appreciate his cuddly, affectionate, always-available-for-comforting nature, and the way he gazes at me with adoration in his eyes. Whenever I pick him up, he relaxes like a rag doll, totally compliant, grateful for the attention.

After dinner, it was my idea to go for a walk in the park. For some odd reason, I wanted to leave the Chihuahua at home this time, but the child insisted on taking the dog as we usually did.

Maybe it was the angle of the sun, but something made the scene in the park magical, with the first rosebuds opening and the slightly crisp air still warmed by the setting sun. The Chihuahua was, as always, thrilled to be alive and with his people.

We walked and ran through the roses to the casting pond and back. Close to home, the frisky Chihuahua bucked and charged, freeing the end of his leash from the child's hand. Off he flew, toward the nearest dog.

Our Chihuahua is not like other Chihuahuas. Ours is loving, trusting, and fearless, totally. He never seemed to realize that his size was diminutive, or that some dogs lacking in sophistication might mistake him for a squirrel.

The ensuing events are a bit hazy to me, as if shock set in from the outset. I was aware of a dog brawl, and afterwards I heard my dog crying mightily. My child was bawling. I clutched the sides of my face in horror, unable to move or comprehend. The owner of the attacking dog tried to pick up my Chihuahua, but my dog snapped at him and staggered over to me, bleeding from the belly.

My neighbor drove me and my family (boy and Chihuahua) to the emergency animal hospital. A heroic effort was made to save his life, but our little chico died tonight.

So far, the aftermath has been unbearable. The house is filled with the toys he loved so much, which he was constantly presenting us with, hoping we'd play fetch. His Pooch Perch is stationed proudly at the window, where he kept vigilance until his people returned home. His little teacup of water awaits him. I can't bring myself to remove his things, which have become suddenly sacred.

In my mind's eye I see him proudly prancing about, doing his utmost to teach me all about the joie de vivre which was his specialty. We were lucky to have him, if only for 10 months. Thank you, chico.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Knight in Shining Armor

My diary writing resumed today after an inquiry from Shankari, who was curious as to whether I had burned my diaries yet. No, I haven't, largely because I seem to have a few more things to say in them before I'm ready for the bonfire.

Today my journal writing took an unexpected turn. Often I tend to dwell on the same issues, ad infinitum, but today I found myself focused, much to my surprise, on the boyfriend with whom I had been involved during my mother's illness.

M had referred to himself, sarcastically, as my "knight in shining armor". He deeply resented the many helpless women who seem to be looking for that magic man to save their lives. His past was littered with such women, and he hoped I wouldn't turn out to be yet another example.

Actually, I had always perceived my mother as my source of security. It's no wonder- she had resolved many of my problems for me, from financial to social to physical. For example, there was a man stalking me when I was a college student. After I told her about it over the phone, she appeared at my door several hours later, having traveled two hundred miles to tell this stalker a thing or two. Same thing happened when I told her I had been diagnosed with anemia. She showed up at my dorm room hours later wielding a side of beef.

Now I see that, facing the impending loss of my source of security (she had pancreatic cancer), I did unconsciously hope to transfer the title to M. After I flew back to my hometown for her funeral, M apparently decided to don his suit of armor. He showed up at my mother's funeral unexpectedly, having flown halfway across the country to be at my side.

Afterwards, he presented me with a bill for his air fare. (After all, it was my mother who had died, and he had flown there for my benefit, even though I had not asked him to come.) I never realized that the damsels had to pay their knights!

He had been planning to quit his engineering job to move to Montana, in a heroic effort to "follow his heart." He did pack up his belongings and head out west a few months after the funeral. I was heartbroken, but not for long. He called when he got there, with a proposal. If I'd give him money, I could go to Montana and stay with him for a few months. (It seems he didn't have enough money to make it there after all.) I sent the money, took a leave of absence from work, and headed out West.

That was only the beginning. The job he eventually found didn't pay very well, and I used my savings to pay his bills during my prolonged visit.

M and I remain long distance friends. He almost died in a motorcycle crash recently, and I'm glad he didn't. His deep spiritual and philosophical ideas are forever welcome in my life. However, today's journal writing exposed the truth: by financially enabling M to live out his dream, I had been his knight in shining armor.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

What's your theme today?

The other day when I was attempting to turn left off a main drag, I was in an unusually jovial mood, apparently. Instead of being offended by having to wait until an approaching Speedy Gonzales passed, driving at least twice the posted speed limit, I chuckled to myself that he was a man on a mission. After pausing briefly to speculate as to what it might be, it dawned on me that each of us has a daily theme or goal, whether or not we're aware of it.

Lately, my mission has been to make it through the day- to get from point A (May 19) to point B (May 20). That's it. The theme? Survival.

OK, is that the way I really want to live my life? (Granted, I'm usually driving well within the speed limit given such a mundane mission. I pose no threat to society from behind the wheel!)

How do Joseph Campbell's bliss followers go about their days? Do they groan and grumble when the alarm goes off in the morning?

Today the child and I had a mission, at least in the morning. I awakened very early, without an alarm, and noticed with surprise that the child was still sound asleep. On the days when school is his resented agenda, he is outrageously difficult to remove from bed, but today is Saturday! So I whispered the words "yard sale" and he sat bolt upright in bed, smiling from ear to ear.

Less than five minutes later we were in the car, on our way to an annual neighborhood-wide yard sale in a very hip part of town. Treasures would surely abound, and I drove with a sense of purpose, barely lawful.

Now we're back home after a successful shopping spree (I got shoe organizers for $.50 total and he got a pair of really nice brand new speakers for his iPod for $2.00) and now I am searching for a mission for the remainder of the day.

My neighbor just came over, bursting at the seams with news. He had warded off two juvenile delinquents last night who ran through my property, upsetting the trash can, yard waste containers and everything else in their path. He actually shot at them with a BB gun.

Since I must not have seemed impressed enough with that story, he went on to tell me that once he had fatally shot a squirrel in the head with the same BB gun. This particular man, I must admit, does have an agenda, one which remains constant from one day to the next. He is a God-fearing, gun-wielding man who believes in controlling his environment to the point of killing wildlife. He is forever mowing grass, hacking branches, spraying insecticides, fertilizing, clipping, weed-wacking, you name it. He is never at rest.

So I guess I do have a mission: to live and let live. I would never kill a squirrel; I hand feed them peanuts. I will continue to appall people like my neighbor with my overgrown jungle-like landscaping which provides habitat for the very animals he wants to shoot. And every so often I'll throw in a yard sale for extra kick.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Mothers' Day

It doesn't take much thought for me to come up with an answer to the un-asked question: What do you want for Mothers' Day, Betty?

I'd like a pack of tiny, busy elves to enter my house during the night before to set things right. I want them to get rid of everything, mine or the child's, which is unneccessary or not contributing to our well-being. Forget the 3 categories (discard, give away, hold for 6 months); I just want them to clear out the house, then clean and organize what's left.

These elves would even take it upon themselves to re-arrange the furniture in my impossible-to-make sense-of living room. Feng Shui principles would be honored impeccably. They would even tear up the wall-to-wall carpeting which I so despise and install beautiful new hardwood floors.

They wouldn't neglect the outdoors, either. They'd plant the flowers I'd bought, prune the jungle which is starting to strangle my house, and clean and repair the gutters. They'd sweep the patio, fill the birdfeeders and set up the fountain.

The atmosphere would be magically transformed from chaos into peace. The elves would leave me a breakfast of scrambled tofu and Starbucks organic Serena blend before scurrying out. (The child would be too awed to eat.)

I'd probably spend the rest of the day reading and strolling through the rose garden while the child happily entertained himself or interacted with me in our inspiring new environment. The Chihuahua would be so blown away that he'd dare not soil his new digs. (The elves had somehow set him straight, too.)

This is my hope and fantasy for all mothers- that we each receive a generous dose of whatever it is we need on May 14. Happy Mothers' Day.

Monday, May 08, 2006

to keep or not to keep

I have what I consider to be a major dilemma. Since the age of 12, I have kept diaries, or journals as they are more commonly called, off and on. I would never part with the ones from adolescence. Those diaries were made for children- they even have tiny locks on them. The content features nothing objectionable; I was very reserved, having been raised by a gaggle of very tight-assed closet Irish Catholics.

During early adulthood the writing became more tortured. College offered me a more diverse view of the world. The one I attended happened to be particularly wild and crazy. And competitive. I became more insecure and unstable, and wrote about it fairly candidly, sober or otherwise, thinking that somehow my writing would prove to be therapeutic. Maybe it was; maybe it wasn't.

I once paid a dear price for my diary-keeping habit when a boyfriend, in a moment of compromised integrity, snuck a peek. He thereby learned of my continuing friendship with a celebrity who had been in town. The aftermath of his discovery was particularly diary-worthy.

I derive pleasure from reading past diaries, as a voyeur of my own past. Every once in a while I catch a glimpse of growth when I realize that some past life-or-death issue would be nothing now.

Unmarried, I suffered greatly over the decision of whether or not to have my child. I wrote profusely and openly.

Once the child was born, the future of my diaries came into question. Now there exists a human being who would undoubtedly be affected by my words, some of which debated his birth.

Now when I write, I am cautious, again the stiffled adolescent, now that my child can read. As always, I insist on writing my diaries on paper, the old-fashioned way.

I guess I've answered my question. I have no choice- the diaries must go. But first, today I'm going to indulge in a writing frenzy, laying it all out, in no uncertain terms, no limits, no fears of exposure.

You're all invited to a bonfire at Betty's tonight.