Can these hands heal?

I’ve always been told that I jump to conclusions (if you read my previous posts you’ll see that I’m often TOLD things quite a bit). Most of the time, I let the people who tell me things about my manner–usually negative–go in one ear and out the other to some degree (though not completely, because I am sensitive). However, today, I don’t give one darn hoot what people say about my overly sensitive ways of reacting. I am intuitive and I’m bracing myself for some bad news.

If you recall my last entry relating the last year of life without my precious father and how he helped me handle my puppy twelve years ago??? (If in doubt, please read “A Year in Heaven). Well that puppy is an elder dog now–a “senior” and he is not doing well.

Last Thursday I took Zolt for a checkup. I’m embarrassed to say that with everything that has gone down in the past year, I’ve been remiss in getting him checked every 12 months. He had lost 15 pounds. I hadn’t even noticed. Now he is a big dog–half Newfoundland-half Lab. Down to 75 pounds from his fighting weight of 90! Now he was always over weight, I reason. But the doctor doesn’t like what she sees. She thinks he looks depressed and she palpates his belly and thinks his liver is possibly enlarged. She also senses something neurological is askew as he is doing something “weird,” she says, “with his head.” I don’t see it and I’m a psychologist.

We do the X-rays which don’t show anything unusual. We do a complete blood profile which shows some elevated numbers (calcium and amylase) though nothing wrong with his liver enzymes (though the enzymes are not amiss until 75% of the organ has been damaged). He has a history of Lyme’s disease which caused early stage renal disease, we were told, many years ago. He has since been on a fancy diet I sent for through the mail. This seems to have kept his disease at bay. The kidney disease seems to have created a further problem, that of high blood pressure, which we have been treating for the past few years. I mean this is a dog who has had issues. He was hit by a car when he was young and we patched him up “good as new.” About six years ago we thought he had cancer as they had found a growth in his abdomen and all medical personnel braced me for the worst (such that I was on-call for an intra-op call to decide if we wanted to put him down or not). Low and behold, he surprised us all, and the problem turned out to be a cyst, blowing the minds of all vets involved in the case. But let me tell you, I prayed and prayed and prayed for this dog–hands on him in the ER the night before his surgery. I even put him on a prayer chain on the internet. Were my prayers answered or was it just my good fortune? I happen to think it was God.

I continued to lay my hands on sick dogs and good things happened. Did God work through my hands? I don’t know. Wouldn’t that be something? Wouldn’t that be a gift from God?

Tomorrow, I take my very best canine companion to Malvern for an ultrasound. I am seeing an internist upon the recommendation of my vet. I’m hoping the weight loss is due, in part, to the fact that we were away for over 10 days and Zolt had no human food to consume which is a considerable chunk of his diet. Plus he seems to hate this new food I switched to in June, I’m noticing (remember, I’m slow to observe certain things–my mind has been riddled with emotional grief all year and I have a child to take care of). Plus it’s over a 2 year span!! And he’s getting old and they lose weight as they age, right?

As for the high calcium….well he eats a heck of a lot of cheese (so much for the “special diet”) thanks to my husband’s lax manner in just about everything that concerns me. All I can say is that I’m NOT READY TO LOSE MY BELOVED DOG!! I mean, I know he’s not going to last forever. I’m just not ready. I’m still sobbing over my father’s death. I sure hope I still have the gift in the hands. I’m claiming it! Or have I blessed other people and their dogs such that my quota is up–up when it’s time for some miracles for me??

One can only keep the faith and remember that the Lyme’s disease from deer tick bites is another bullet in building my case to get back to the city!! And look at my baby, how stylish he would be when walking through Bergdorf’s wagging his tail and knocking over some table on the first floor. How I would love to take him there. Last time I was there, I even asked if they had a size requirement since all the dogs frequenting that place (as well as my hairdresser on Madison) weigh under 2 pounds. They aren’t prejudicial–all dogs are welcome and I am taking him there one of these days. It’s on the bucket list. Plus he’s much better mannered than some of those little dogs taking a tinkle at the Judith Lieber counter. He would hold it–even if it hurt. What a blessing this dog has been….


A year in heaven

This week, March 6th, to be precise, marks the year of my dear father’s departure from this world. I am an only child and losing him has been monumental. I knew it would stink, but I had no idea! I have been filled with emotion this entire year but on Tuesday, the 6th, I was BEYOND my usual level.

I thought it would be healthy to write–a catharsis of sorts–and , perhaps I could speak to someone else’s mourning–maybe extend comfort to others. But I didn’t write. I was so full of emotion, I couldn’t write. I felt like locking myself in a closet and drinking a bottle of Skinny Girl Margaritas, but I ended up running on the treadmill to “Sympathy for the Devil” instead.

I am out in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, skiing with my family–an activity and a place that were very dear to my family. My Dad loves it out here–he loves the mountains, he loves fishing and skiing and he hadn’t been able to join us the last few years because of the altitude–he had emphysema. I think the last time he was here was in 2003, in the Fall. We all went hiking and up to Jenny Lake. They fished at Dick Cheney’s country club (smiles) and we went through the national parks singing some silly song I learned in college. My son remembers those days and the song (“it’s vinter in the vunderland and the vind blows on the vindowpanes and all the viggy vomen write philosophies on the vestibule…).


It seems like years ago. I can’t really fathom the reality that I will never ever see him again–at least in this lifetime. When this fact permeates my soul, I go from completely O.K. one minute to breaking out in uncontrollable gasps of weeping–bordering on hyperventilation. Life just isn’t as wonderful without him on the planet. He was a kind man. A loving father and husband. One of those rare gentlemen whose humor and dignity got all of us through a lot of hard times. He wasn’t a man of many words (as my mother and myself) but he came up with some good ones when they were terribly needed. He would even mediate my marital blow-ups! He loved my son, his only grandchild, his namesake (the two of them pictured above), my mother, me and my husband and even my husband’s children (when I didn’t). He loved my cats and my dog. I remember when my dog was a puppy and I rescued him from a shelter in upstate New York and had to buy him a plane ticket to be brought to our town. My dad had picked up the dog at the airport (always doing me favors) and brought him down to our house. The puppy had had a nasty accident all over his kennel and of course my sweet father cleaned up the entire mess and the dog before he was presented to me (this was my first dog and would have been my last had I had to deal with the mess).

I’m not sure where I’m going with all of this. I just want to remember him today. I love him so much and I miss him even more. In trying to comfort his mother, when his father fails to do so, my son reminds me, “just think of the great year Grandpa had in heaven!” Oh, how I want to believe that. I really do. I think that’s why they call it faith.

My Life as a Multi-Hyphenate

Perhaps my aspirations were not lofty enough. I was told throughout my life that I could do anything “if I put my mind to it.” I guess the latter part was my demise. I didn’t put my mind to much…as in the 900% effort needed to achieve success as an actress, a media maven, a stand-up comic, a yogini or even possibly a painter.  Even though I was quite a good therapist and psychologist, I didn’t love it enough to stay in the field too long.  Once I defended my dissertation, I hung up my doctor-hat and became a mother. I want to point out that I am not even talking about my short-lived career as a real estate salesperson because that was one area I never cared to achieve success….just enough pocket change to make life easier. I also note the irony in the fact that I married a real estate developer, but that is a story for another time.

But all of this is changing. It started with putting forth the 900% effort required to be a great mother. Motherhood, beginning in my 40th year was the golden ring that I snatched quickly and confidently. Once I found out I was pregnant, I embraced it full heartedly. I packed up my tiny apartment in La Jolla, California and moved back east to be with my husband full time (we had a bicoastal marriage for a short time when I was in graduate school in San Diego). I try hard not to make the connection that I might have been late to mature since I did spend much of my twenties not thinking about success as I survived as a single, white woman living in New York City in the 1980s.

I moved my little life and all my books and music back to eastern Pennsylvania. Even the New York Times ranked Bucks County as the most beautiful county in the country (not Marin!). Leaving the beautiful southern California weather, my porch with plants and birds and the never over-stated town of La Jolla wasn’t easy however leaving the cultural nihilism and tattoo parlors of Pacific Beach was a snap. Occasionally, though, I yearn to move back to the Coast with the glorious sunshine and ocean yet diabolically wince when I think of the perfectly highlighted housewives in their precious pink sweat suits—FULL MAKEUP—while getting an early morning latte, exchanging horror stories about who ate the most carbs the day before (these women are not the transplants from New York).  I recognize this as simply a case of wanting what I don’t have, at the moment.

But today I have a treasure that I never held when living  in New York, Boston, London or California. I have a beautiful child—a son—now 14—still sweet, wonderful and as perfect as he was when a newborn. God graced me with the greatest gift; He did have a plan after all!  And to think I almost missed it. All the hyphenations aside, I am a mother, my greatest title—the main act—and a pretty good painter, too. Perhaps it takes a lot of hits and misses until one’s life is flushed out to near-perfection.

The Circle of Life

Today, as I left the house to paint, I left with a heavy heart. Not only am I grieving the death of  my father in March, I am grieving the loss of my parents’ cats…and my childhood home. Since my father died, my mother has been anxious to sell her house, get rid of her two beautiful cats and move to a retirement village. She wants things to be easier. The only way she can fathom “easy” is to move to a much smaller place, an apartment actually, in a lovely retirement community. For her this means endless bridge games, water aerobics and jello, I imagine. It also means the loss of her two feline companions. I get it. I do! How can you entertain the gals for bridge with a litter box stinking to high heaven? Therefore, Fritz and Floyd need to find a new home. She questioned me about shelters she could send them to. Aghast I replied, “Mother! Those places are for trailer trash. For people who are not responsible! We rescue animals from shelters, we don’t take animals there!” On and on it went with her defense being that she simply didn’t know what to do and she couldn’t take them there. PERIOD. So of course, you can’t argue with a grieving senior so I relented and began looking for a home for these precious boys that came from a shelter, abused and homeless and riddled with ring worm. Now they are fat and beautiful and loving and entitled.

I managed to find them a home. A new friend I paint with was willing to take one, maybe, for her 92 year old mother who still lives in a private home with a nurse…..but she has a small dog. Well Floyd certainly wouldn’t tolerate that. Fritz,…maybe. But how long will this woman live and before you know it, Fritz and Floyd will be uprooted again. Yesterday, I fell to my knees in prayer. Prayer for just about everything and everyone. Prayer for my girlfriend who lost her husband to a drunk driver; prayer for my mean spirited step daughter; prayer for my over-worked husband and under loved friend. Prayer for me, by Jesus. I need help! Help for my mother with those two cats.

The email came and my new friend offered up another solution. She, in Costa Rica with her family, was thinking about me and my mother and my mother’s soon-to-be-homeless cats. Her mother’s nurse came through. She just lost her dog to an unfortunate situation. She had to leave her dog with a stranger who bought her old house. Her children wanted a pet. They considered another dog but they loved cats….and cats are easy. But they wanted one declawed. BINGO. We got that! How about two (well, maybe…she needs to play it right with the husband). The entire family with their two small boys descended upon my mother this morning. One child wanted Fritz, the other Floyd. ALRIGHT. She’ll take them both. But my mother only had one cat carrier. Take one and come back tomorrow. Promise? Absolutely. Fingers crossed, I breath deeply and sweetly tonight.

Leaving the Angst Behind

Since I’m finishing the draft of my first book, well second, counting my dissertation, I’ve decided to put myself “out there” so to speak. Allowing myself to be completely vulnerable to the vast cyber universe of seriously critical anonyms. I barely have enough time to do the things I need to do and no time to do the things I want to do in my new life-path or focus, that of producing realistic oil paintings with a consistent quality of excellence. Anyone who paints can tell you just how difficult it is. So many things to think about. So much more than in any of the so-called brilliant fields in which I’ve actually worked–where people think they are doing really difficult stuff. SO MUCH HARDER. There are edges, values, hues, saturation, composition, texture and so on. This comes from a person who has done so, so many things in 54 years of life. Actually an embarrassingly ridiculous amount of dabbling has gone on in my life and now I’m trying like hell to focus….to focus on things that bring me peace and serenity and satisfaction. Also, I terribly need something to capture my attention, with a Zen-like flow. I get bored quickly, hence, the dossier.

It has taken me a long time and a lot of heart-ache to come to the conclusion that I am an artist before anything else. I have always been an artist and for some bizarre reason I tried to be so many things before I relented my will to the often lonely and difficult world of making art. And I might add, that it never, ever worked…for me, that is. However, my octogenarian mother always reminds me,  had I stayed with my last official, corporate position I could now be a publisher. She doesn’t realize how that would never EVER have happened with my anti-corporate disposition. Although, only days out of college with a B.A. degree, I went to the epicenter of excitement, my perceived universe of grandeur, the New York City advertising industry. I was such a good actress that I charmed 5 Vice Presidents of 5 top-ten worldwide agencies to give me a start as a Media Planner. I succeeded such that one of these gentleman actually called my parents in Pennsylvania to tell me that he has never hired a person for my position without an M.B.A. Isn’t that just dandy? How lucky for me…or maybe for them. Nah. On second thought, not for them, because I usually was fired once the artist was discovered. They saw it before I did. I continued to persevere in a city I loved but in corporations I despised. Why, I wonder, do we figure it out so late in life that there isn’t enough time left to do it all. The meaningful stuff, that is??