Monthly Archives: September, 2011

Barely Keeping My Head Above Water

Sasha Eating!

I am barely keeping my head above water and this has been an especially busy and stressful week.  Every day since Tuesday I have either been at the vet’s with someone or the vet has been here and today it is both.  I thought for awhile that I was going to lose Sasha, but she seems to have turned the corner and the ultrasound yesterday revealed no cancer but instead irritable bowel syndrome.  She was hospitalized yesterday so she could receive fluids and medicines and then I was able to bring her home for the night, but took her back up this morning for another day of the same.  But she did start eating last night and again this morning although not enough to change her weight.  She still weighs 4 lbs. 9 oz. (and she had been at 6 lbs 12 oz before she started the oral meds now three weeks ago), but for the first time in over two weeks she at least didn’t lose weight!  So we are all hoping she is starting to recover and we have a game plan that will involve me pilling her with several pills once to twice a day for awhile, but if she can just start gaining weight we will have hope for more quality time.  

Chauncey after surgery to remove 3 bumps

And if that weren’t enough, Chauncey’s skin flared up really badly and one of his bumps (Cocker Spaniels tend to get lots of bumps as they age) turned really nasty so he had to have surgery to remove 3 of these things and we are still waiting for the biopsy results.  He has a bandaged right paw and he is wearing a blue t-shirt and he doesn’t really care for either, but there it is.  Dr. Nell will be out this afternoon to change his bandage and see how he is doing and she will also bring Sasha home!

So adding all this onto my already much busier schedule has left me feeling as if I am barely keeping ahead of the game.  I haven’t quilted all week, although I am hoping to do that today and tomorrow.  I haven’t written many haiku or tanka or any kind of poem, and my twitter friends probably think I have fallen off the face of the earth.  It is tough when things get this chaotic and I am just grateful for the care and understanding of everyone at Fair Isle Animal Clinic, especially Dr. Nell and Dr. Dana.  

Front yard using new wide-angle lens

I am also very grateful for my new volunteer job at Student Link!  It is a big change for me and it does make for a more active schedule, but I think if the rest of life could sort itself out, I will like the new schedule and I will get used to it.  The students this year are really wonderful.  The program has 18 students and because there are so few, relatively speaking, the flavor of Student Link really changes from year to year depending on who is there.  This is my third year to volunteer here, and I have been amazed at how different it feels each year.  But this is the first time I have been such an integral part of the program and I am enjoying my added responsibilities and my more frequent contact with the students.  Some years I only got to know a handful of them, but this year I’m meeting most.  Some are doing Running Start, which is a program with our community colleges where by they can start early at the community college and so those students are off island during the day and hence I don’t see them.  But the majority are here and now that they know I will be there every morning that Student Link is open (TWTh), they are starting to show up more and that is very gratifying.

Anyway, I am having to learn new organizational skills (or resurrect old ones) to keep everything chugging along and I do find by the end of the day that I am totally exhausted, but I’m hoping over time that it will all settle into a normal and not so exhausting routine.  Until then, if I don’t respond right away to comments or don’t get to reading other blogs from friends, etc. please forgive me.  Know that you are in my thoughts even if my actions don’t seem to reflect that!  And now it is time to post this and get some quilting accomplished!  Have a super day wherever you are!

One Size Doesn’t Fit All

One size definitely does not fit all in any realm of our lives as far as I can see.  As you may know, I have just started a new year with Student Link, our island alternative high school, which has a total of 18 wonderful students.  I have been talking about this (as it is a big part of my life for a variety of reasons) and I have run into several people who do not believe that Student Link should exist at all especially in these economic times.  After all the regular classroom was good enough for them so it should be good enough for everyone.

I have been thinking hard about this and as I was dishing out cat food this morning (where one size definitely does not fit all!), I realized that in other times and maybe even now in other places, these students would have been forced into the standard box and if they rebelled they could face military schools, juvenile homes, etc. just because their minds and their bodies do not conform to what society considers “normal,” since they learn in different ways.

I grew up in a very authoritarian household and I have also always been a timid soul who has avoided conflict on any level, avoiding it to the point of losing my true identity.  I knew what my father’s wrath felt like and I saw it meted out to my younger sister (who was the “no” to my “yes”) often enough that I learned early on that I was not acceptable and that my only choice was to force myself into the narrow boxes provided by my family and society at large.

It wasn’t until I was in my 50’s that I even tried to find the real me.  But even then, the idea, so deeply rooted in my psyche, that who I am is someone terribly flawed on every level, governed my quest for the real me.  I was determined to find myself, but equally convinced that that self must be horrible.  But I was very tired of pretending to be someone I wasn’t.  And so at long last I started rebelling, but never with any idea of self-acceptance or that I was ok just the way I am.  It took me into my 60’s to start arriving at that conclusion and even now (as I wrote on my Tanka Diary one day about my cat food dilemmas) my first reaction to disagreement or conflict is that I have goofed again or it is my fault or whatever.

So when I see a program like Student Link which is aimed at helping those of us who are not in the mainstream, those who march to a very different drummer, I am proud to be a part of that.  I do not think the answer is forcing the student to march to the same beat as everyone else, but rather to allow the student, all students in fact, to find their own beat, to march on a path that makes sense for them.

We all need to know that we are ok just as we are and that differences should be celebrated.  I so admire the students I work with who are able at such a young age (well, of course they don’t think they are so young!) to figure out that they need something else.  And the program at Student Link is actually much harder than the mainstream classroom, requiring more discipline and self-motivation from the students.  They have to plan their curriculum, with guidance, but still they have to do it.  They meet with the Student Link teacher 45 min. a week.  The rest of their 25+ hours of school work/week must be done on their own.  Some have family support, but many come from less than functional families.  Some need to hold down jobs just to keep the family going.  Some have learning differences which they have to work around.  And they are doing that, each and every one of them.  I watch these young people blossom in the independent atmosphere.  I watch them make life changing decisions and learn what being a self-sufficient adult in our culture means.  I watch them follow their dreams and make their lives around things they are passionate about.

So when I hear the nay-sayers complaining, I gently smile and try to help them see that one size doesn’t fit all.  Some very gentle souls are lost and broken by the structured approach which does not listen to the individual or allow for individual differences.  The school system here on Vashon thankfully recognizes that and that is why they have in their wisdom provided for Student Link.  And as I watch these students find their way and grow into the adults they were meant to be, the wounded soul in me heals a bit more.  May each of us be allowed the freedom to find our true selves and blossom into who we are meant to be.

Life in the Purple House: Updates and Photos

Thackeray says dog beds aren’t just for dogs!

I have just uploaded a bunch of photos to my Picasa album Mostly Pets, and I shall pick a few to post here but feel free to check them all out if you want.


Anyway, this past week was the first real week of school.  The previous week saw Student Link orientations, but the start of my regular tutoring began on Tuesday.  I survived and I am sure I will become more and more used to the new routine.  Meanwhile, I do really enjoy tutoring and these students, in Vashon’s alternative high school, are just fantastic!  They have figured themselves out better at 16+ than I did for most of my life.  We bond over our mutual adolescence and they are so determined to figure out what they need to do to succeed as adults.  I feel honored to be part of their journey as they are a part of mine.

Sasha prefers glasses for her water!

Meanwhile, the construction update is mostly painting.  One kitchen cabinet did get finished.  The kitchen cabinets have been “nearly finished” since February, as our fourth cabinet maker commented, but I think we are getting closer.  And the exterior painting is coming along well.  Since summer has finally put in an appearance here in the Pacific Northwest, I think the exterior will get completed with any luck.

Chauncey high up on cat furniture hoping for food

Overall the pets are doing well.  I am concerned about Sasha as she is still not eating much if at all, and she now only weighs 5 lbs.  She has not had any chemo oral meds for over a week so I’m hoping they will be out of her system soon.  Those medicines which the oncologist assured us would be something most cats never even notice and that the chewables were something they would gobble down, well that proved to be false on every front for poor Sasha and we shan’t be trying that again!

Oliver after the groomers (and Thackeray in back)
Laoise enjoys the sun on my dresser

Chauncey has lost some weight on the “pumpkin” diet but he obviously doesn’t think much of it.  Earlier in the week when I decided that our couches could return from storage, I had moved things around to make room for the couches and inadvertently left a piece of cat furniture next to the kitchen counter.  I went out for about 15 minutes and came back to find Chauncey standing up in the middle of the counter looking very pleased with himself has he had emptied all the cat food dishes!

Chauncey standing proud where he has no business being!
Chauncey after the groomers

Poosa, Oliver, Thackeray, and Laoise are all doing well, thankfully!  And our regular vet will soon be back in town.  She comes to the house on Wednesday afternoon and that can’t happen soon enough for me!

Chauncey on the counter hoping for more food. The bowls
are squeaky clean!

First ever quilt with only frogs for a 6 yr old frog lover

I have also been quilting and I have finished off three more quilts for Vashon Youth and Family Services and also finished the top for a new lap quilt for me and laid out and partially sewn the top for a new bed quilt also for me.  Today I am cutting lots of squares for the next set of three quilts for VYFS, and I hope also to get at least one of them laid out.  

So that is the update from the Purple House!  I hope all is well wherever you are with you and yours.  Thanks for stopping by!

Life is Fleeting

This has been a week of transitions and one where the brevity of life has been exposed more than usual.  A very fine Haiku poet, Svetlana Marisova, died this week of brain cancer.  I had known her for only a short time and even then only through NaHaiWriMo’s Facebook page, but even as a novice I recognized the magnificence of her writing.  I was most surprised to learn that she was only 21 at the time of her death.  Some have already called her the best haiku poet in any language in the last 150 years!  She has left us a remarkable legacy.

And then a friend had to say farewell to a beloved dog after 16 years.  Further my own Sasha is not doing very well and I have no clue how much of a future is still in store for us.

Obviously these are very different passings or projected passings, but the point is that for all species, life is  a short and fleeting event.  Some species by their very nature live longer; others live only a few hours.  Some are able to live their allotted time frame; others have their lives cut short by illness, accident, war, etc.  But in all cases, even for those who live a relatively long time, the fact is that everything will one day die.  

We tend to fear death, which is natural in the first place, and an inborn survival mechanism for the species in the second place.  But the reality is that life and death are just flip sides of the same coin.  Life on this planet is eternal (or so I hope unless we as a species manage to kill off Mother Earth) and I suspect there is life elsewhere in the universe.  Life will continue in the big picture, but not for the individual.

At this time of year, with fall approaching, we can easily see Nature’s natural rhythms of birth and death.  I used to dread winter especially as everything seemed so dead.  And humans have set up a frenetic pace of life around the Winter Solstice as if trying to deny that we are also carbon based life forms and we too need to slow down and do our “cave work” in the winter, just as the rest of nature does, resting and regenerating for spring.

All of life is cyclical and our time here in this world is limited.  This is not meant to be morbid, but simply to recognize the very nature of the universe at large.  Recently a blog I follow had a post entitled Kittens and Death and the writer’s point was just that.  Every relationship we have, big and small alike, will end.  What does this mean?  It means I think that I need to acknowledge that and then live to the fullest, in the present moment, noticing what is going on around me, treasuring my companions along the way, looking up from my quilting to notice the birds foraging outside my window or the butterflies flying past, enjoying every moment with my four-legged companions knowing that I will in all likelihood outlive them, enjoying the good along with the bad, simply being present and aware.

That is not a very simple task, but it is one that I for one need to remember, and weeks such as this one, bring the point home and give me a chance to reflect and remember to stay present.  The past is gone and I have no idea what the future holds, but I know I have this moment right here right now, and that is more than enough.