This and That

Musings on Being a Writer and My Life
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Dog Tales–Welcoming a Dog Into Our Home

  • July 31, 2017 2:42 am

When I think about how happy I am to have my delightful dog Sparkle in my life, I am amazed.

For a long time I resisted having a dog. First of all, I am allergic to dogs, and I feared that I would be sick all the time. Secondly, I knew that a dog would tie us down. My late husband, Dan, and I loved our freedom and being spontaneous—often deciding to take an overnight jaunt to the beach when we got up in the morning. Dogs are very social, of course, and need to be around people—especially their “parents.” I didn’t see how our lifestyle would accommodate a dog.

True confession: I really didn’t like dogs—I thought they were a nuisance and I avoided them as much as possible.  And then there was my fear of dogs, which started when I was just 3 years old. Our family had an Irish Setter—a puppy. My Mom had her hands full with my brother and sister and me—and she was expecting her fourth child. So, I’m sure she had no available time to train a rambunctious puppy. My Dad worked shift work and had a long commute, so the dog sort of trained himself. I remember playing in the backyard and the dog knocking me down and tearing the sash on my dress. (I refused to wear pants when I was little. I told my parents that “Pants is for boys.”) Shortly after that, the dog (whose name I can’t remember) went to “live at the farm.” The result of my interactions with this pet was a fear of dogs that stayed with me into adulthood.

Sparkle came to live with us after my husband’s first cancer. Seeing his transformed face when he cuddled a dog at the hospital during his recovery, I knew we had to find one I could tolerate. People suggested a French poodle, claiming that they were “hypoallergenic.” But quite frankly, I found poodles to be cloying. And I thought that they were probably high maintenance princesses. But,  mixing a poodle with another breed, results in a    delightful dog that I could tolerate.

Finding a reliable, caring dog sitter who charged a reasonable fee to keep our pet in her home when we wanted to travel or had a busy day, made having a dog easier.

With all of the obstacles to including a furry “baby” into our home overcome, we found a little Yorkie-poo puppy that we named Sparkle.

My husband adored Sparkle. I credit her with helping him to recover from his first cancer surgery, which was a brutal operation following chemotherapy and radiation. She gave him great comfort and he loved to take her out for walks several times a day. Dan trained her with love and gentleness, and she was housebroken by the time she was only 3 months old. Walking Sparkle got my late husband back into life and he even met several other “puppy daddies” every day to chat and occasionally go out for coffee. After Dan’s death, Sparkle helped me mourn my terrible loss and I know that she misses him.  I cherish Sparkle as my connection to my late husband.

I’m astonished by how much I enjoy being a dog parent. Here are a few of my insights:

 

What I learned from my Dog, Sparkle

It is easy to love an animal.

A 14 pound,  one foot tall dog can be in charge of a household!

Petting a dog is soothing and helps to deal with stress.

Taking care of a dog is a job— and is a lot like having a toddler.Daddy's Girl

Kissing a dog does not lead to a fatal attack of “dog germs” (ala Lucy in “Peanuts”).

Playing with a dog is not only fun, it is comical and relaxing.

Dogs are a great comfort when you are sick, stressed or lonely.

Dogs love to eat—all the time.

Dogs have the most pathetic way of begging for food—all the time. And it is very easy to give into them.

You can learn “doggie-talk.”  For example, I know the difference between a bark that means, “I want to go out” and “I want a treat.”

Walking a dog is a great way to get to know people.

A dog can quickly learn that if she sits just right, you will give her a treat.

Living with a dog brings new energy into your household.

It’s easy to spoil a dog.

You can give your dog a cute name, and she won’t mind.

Stuffed dogs and dog books are no substitute for the real thing.

A dog will find a place deep in your heart and, at some point, you realize how grateful you are that she is there.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Future and the Past

  • April 9, 2016 3:06 am

key west 14 7

 

After my recent shoulder surgery , I went to a rehabilitation facility to hasten my recovery. It was an unusually pleasant place—attractive, clean, with attentive staff.

During the ten days I stayed there, I experienced something that shook me to the core of my being.

I was much younger and healthier than the typical resident at the facility. It was like being a teenager at your grandparent’s fiftieth anniversary party.

Like most facilities of this nature, the staff provided stimulating experiences: entertainment by local people, bingo games, and movies. I attended several of these functions because the days often felt incredibly long. I soon realized that most of the people who attended these functions were “long-term residents”—a euphemism for people whose memories and personalities had been ravaged by aging.

I went to a community birthday party one afternoon. (The draw for me was the cake and ice cream!) I chose to sit at a table with a man and his wife—people I saw every day. They appeared to be in my age range so I thought that we might be able to visit with one another.  The woman resembled me somewhat—she was obviously of Irish descent, with dark, wavy hair, dark eyes and fair skin.

But when I attempted to chat with the couple, it soon became obvious that the woman had dementia. I watched as the husband tenderly attended to her, spooning ice cream into her mouth, and wiping her lips and encouraging her to take sips from a cup of punch.

At one point, I looked at him and smiled.  A tear trickle down his cheek. I wondered if I reminded him of his wife in better days; and that my presence was a reminder of all that had been swallowed up by his wife’s illness. It felt like entering into his private hell.

Looking around, I realized that the staff who took care of the long-term residents could have been me at the height of my teaching career.  And the long term-residents could be my future.

It was chilling to see my past and (possibly) my future.

 

 

 

It’s Always Something

  • November 20, 2015 2:33 am
Kathy Joyce Glascott

  It’s always something: Something to celebrate, something to mourn, something to regret, something to attend to. I miss my husband. Because it is always something: a phone call or three; a doctor’s appointment; walking the dog; visiting friends, laundry; cleaning; the list is endless. I do it all alone. Alone. If I need help,…

It’s Okay to Cry

  • March 21, 2015 1:50 am

 

 

Tears. Crying. Sobbing.

Some people can’t stand the sight of tears. They feel uncomfortable when someone in their midst starts to cry. They furnish the tearful one with tissues. They tell you that you don’t need to cry. And some even demand that you stop.  Then they’ll offer platitudes to “comfort” you.

“He’s in a better place.”

“She doesn’t want you to be sad.”

“Crying won’t change things.”

Sometimes, guilt is used.

“Everyone’s looking at you.”

“Stop acting like a baby.”

“Real men don’t cry.”

“C’mon, it’s been months.”

To me, tears are cathartic. I’ve had a lot to cry about the past several years: the death of my husband and brother and several friends.

I’ve hidden my tears, and shown a seemingly competent, albeit subdued front.

Time does, indeed, mute the pain. Notice I said mute, not erase. Nothing erases the pain. It’s there and it will be there for the rest of my life, I am sure. As I start to move on, and to participate more fully in my life, behind the smiles and the laughter is a deep well of loss and grief.

So, if tears should flow, I will let them. I will let them cleanse me and help me to cope. And then, once again, I will be ready to face a new day—alone.

 

 

Snowstorm !

  • November 26, 2014 1:04 am
Buffalo Snowstorm

Buffalo Snowstorm

 

Readers of this blog know by now that I am a native of Buffalo, New York.

Yes, the Buffalo that made headlines last week for a monster snowstorm that buried parts of the region in up to 7 feet of snow in a day.  Not fluffy, oh-how-pretty snow, rather wet, heavy snow that is hard to walk through and exhausting to shovel. The snowstorm which is being called “Knife” by the Weather Service also included embedded thunderstorms—adding to the already anxiety producing event.

One of my sisters still lives in the house we grew up in. She sent a picture of the street right before she was liberated from her snow-bound house.  It was impossible to discern a street or steps leading down from the porch. All that could be seen were piles of white, featureless snow.

Now try to imagine what it was like to be literally snowed into your house.  You can’t open the door because there is a snowdrift that makes it impossible to push the door open. Even if you did open the door, your egress would be hindered by the heaping mounds of snow. There would be no reliable visual clue to help orient you to the front steps leading out of the house, or to the street.

If you tried to walk, the snow could easily reach your hips, making walking almost impossible.

Most of us could handle this for a day or maybe two—but imagine living like this for 6 days.

You are actually imprisoned by snow, knowing that someone from outside would have to come and shovel you out of the house—or you would have to wait until the snow compacts and you might be able to open your front door.

For my sister, this story has a happy ending. She was finally freed after 6 days by a combination of front loaders that came down the street and plowed it out, neighbors who worked together to shovel out the entrances to their houses and a moderation of the weather.

Thirteen people died during this storm and buildings collapsed.

Yes, Buffalo does get a lot of snow—but this storm was monumental and unforgettable. It was not the “Oh goody—I have no school today” kind of storm.

It was a weather event that changed lives.

 

 

It’s Okay to Cry

  • June 14, 2014 6:08 am

 

 

Tears. Crying. Sobbing.

Some people can’t stand the sight of tears. They feel uncomfortable when someone in their midst starts to cry.

They’ll hand you tissues and tell you that you don’t need to cry. Even demand that you stop.  Then they’ll offer platitudes to “comfort” you.

“He’s in a better place.”

“She doesn’t want you to be sad.”

“Crying won’t change things.”

Sometimes, guilt is used.

“Everyone’s looking at you.”

“Stop acting like a baby.”

“Real men don’t cry.”

“C’mon, it’s been months.”

To me, tears are cathartic. I’ve had a lot to cry about the past two years: the death of my husband and brother and several friends.

I’ve hidden my tears, and shown a seemingly competent, albeit subdued front.

Time does, indeed, mute the pain. Notice I said mute, not erase. Nothing erases the pain. It’s there and it will be there for the rest of my life, I am sure. As I start to move on, and to participate more fully in my life, behind the smiles and the laughter is a deep well of loss and grief.

So, if tears should flow, I will let them cleanse me and help me to cope. And then, once again, I will be ready to face a new day—alone.

Because, the truth is, it’s okay to cry.

 

 

I Was Thinking

  • May 7, 2014 6:51 am

 

 

“I was thinking about my mother the other day,” Lori said. Rick looked up, rattled his newspaper and stared at her.

“Yes,” he intoned.

“Well, you know that it’s getting harder and harder for her to get up and down the stairs.” Lori hesitated for a moment and then added, “And she’s lonely, too.”

Rick set the newspaper down on the table with a slight thump. “And?”

Lori hated the way that he made her feel sometimes. Like now, for instance. She felt like a child, incapable of an intelligent thought.

She stood up straight and looked him square in the eye. “I want to ask Mom to move in with us. We have the room now that the kids are on their own.” She twisted the dish towel in her hands nervously, waiting for her husband’s reply.

Rick stirred his coffee deliberately and thought for a moment. Lori’s mother was okay. She hadn’t interfered much over the years. But he knew that Mary was much more astute than her daughter, who tended to take things at face value.

Rick bit his upper lip. He and Mariel would have to more discreet.

But then again, he thought, Lori would be busy with her mother. They’d go out shopping and to lunch and movies. Things Lori didn’t usually do. It seemed that she had almost no friends and rarely went out. The only social life she had was as his wife, when she entertained important clients or went with him to those boring dinners he was obligated to attend. She seemed to enjoy those evenings though, and would dress up and gossip excitedly all the way home. And she was a superb hostess—a great cook with a flair for decorating and using clever themes.

When he thought about Lori, it seemed strange to Rick that she had so few friends.

When he met her in college, she was bubbly and loved to be around people. In fact, she had drawn him out of his shell, taking him to all sorts of parties and concerts. People were naturally drawn to Lori, like a moth to a flame. She had what they called charisma.

After they married, Lori buried herself in raising their family and eventually she had little to say that was of any consequence—at least to Rick. Maybe that’s why I strayed, he thought.  She was just boring. And he still had a slim waist and a full head of hair. He found that the Mariels of the world were plentiful and willing.

Lori rinsed the dishes and placed them in the dishwasher with a clank.

Rick smiled slyly and said, “Well, let’s do it! Your Mom’s a great old gal and it would be fun to have another person here.”

Lori was giddy with excitement as she hurried into the den to call Mom. She thought about how surprised Rick would be that her Mom’s belongings were already packed in boxes and cartons. All that remained was for the movers to come.

Lori bit her lip to stop from smiling.

What did Rick take her for, she wondered, a babe in the woods?

Wouldn’t he be surprised if he knew about the plan she and her mother had devised to deal with his flagrant series of affairs? She was amazed at how good her Mom was at using the internet. Wasn’t it shocking that you could find a poison that was virtually untraceable at a web site?

Lori and her Mom couldn’t wait to start cooking and baking all of Rick’s favorites. It would take about a month to do the job.

Lori smiled, thinking about how delighted she would be to have Mom live with her.

 

 

 

Smile, Smile, Smile

  • January 19, 2014 8:39 am

I’ve decided that I need to try to focus on the blessings in my life as a counter balance to the losses and problems that I’ve encountered over the last few years.  What woke me up was the reaction of friends to a post I placed on Face Book a few days ago. I don’t want people to feel that they have to constantly lift my spirits up—I think that I have to take some responsibility for that myself.

Yes, I am in mourning over the loss of my husband and brother. I’ve had a few medical problems.  But in reality there is much happiness and joy in my life.

I have a wonderful and loving family who care about me. My  talented and beautiful daughter is a mature and accomplished  woman.  I have great friends, people I mean something to. I live in a beautiful place with everything from restaurants to clubs to shows to a state-of-the-art fitness center. It really is a retiree’s dream comes true.  I belong to a great women’s writing group and am active in several clubs. There is Widows’ group and a Singles group—both of which have helped me to re-invent my life.

The day I posted on Face Book that I missed my husband, a terrific thing also happened.  I am the president of a club. Our planned speaker couldn’t make it, so I devised a Trivia game that was a big hit. Everyone enjoyed it, and there was a feeling of fun and camaraderie as a result of the game.

I felt really good about that and went home smiling. So when I went to post on Face Book, why didn’t I mention that? I realized later that I missed being able to share my accomplishment with Dan—but that didn’t diminish the success of the evening. After I wrote that post and read the comments that followed, I realized that I had portrayed myself as a victim, not as a functioning person who is healing.

I think it is in my best interest to try to be a little more positive.

I know that Dan would want me to enjoy my life—he loved his life and I need to honor that by living my life the best way I can.

Ultimately it’s about the balance between challenges and the positive aspects of life.

scales

I’m Back!

  • August 22, 2013 5:30 am

As regular readers of this blog know, it’s been several weeks since I’ve posted anything new. I haven’t given up on the blog—it’s just that typing with the “hunt and peck method” using one hand is tiring. Why am I using such an inefficient method to type this blog entry? I had surgery on my left shoulder, basically immobilizing that arm and hand for an indefinite period of time.

So here I am, tediously typing this entry.

Like all of life’s experiences, I’ve learned from this one. I’d like to share some of my insights.

First, always ask your doctor if there will be much post-surgical pain. I didn’t and—well, let’s just say I was quite surprised—and not in a good way.

Second, ask your doctor how long your recovery will take. My doctor told me I’d need a few weeks of rehab (substitute months for weeks).

Third, under no circumstances should you mentally substitute easy for endoscopic. They are not synonyms.

Fourth, as difficult as it might seem, you can learn to bathe, dress, shampoo your hair, cook simple meals, and do laundry with one arm immobilized. It’s not easy, but it can be done.

Fifth, if and when your friends offer to help, say “yes.” No matter how well you are coping, it is heavenly to have help.

Like all challenges, you can survive this kind of surgery with prayer, a little moxie, a lot of determination and especially, the help and support of family and friends.

 

 

 

Labor Day

  • September 9, 2011 6:03 am

Labor Day weekend has come and gone. There were parades, speeches and cookouts all over the United States to celebrate this important day.

Every year on Labor Day, I think of my Dad, Thomas R. Joyce, Jr. He was a working man—he labored in the steel mills in Lackawanna, New York for well over 40 years. He started working when he was only 17. Like many young men in his era, he fudged his age in order to get hired; it was the Depression and the family needed money to survive. So he set aside his dream of a college education and went to work as a laborer in the steel mills.

Because of my father’s sacrifice, his younger brothers eventually earned their degrees—two were dentists and the other an engineer. By the time his chance came around, he had a young family to support. So my Dad continued to work in the steel mill.

Yet he never complained about the lack of opportunity, rather he was proud of his brothers and their accomplishment. He was intellectually curious until the day he died. He taught himself to play the piano, read Greek and math tomes “for fun” and corresponded with Isaac Asimov for a period of time. He loved science fiction and read voraciously. He was a professional photographer for a time. Later he pursued photography as a hobby  and developed photos in a dark room he set up in our home.

He was very proud of his Irish heritage and at times, even spoke in a sort of ersatz Irish brogue.

When the first Atari computers became affordable in the 1980’s, Dad taught himself how to write computer programs—one of which he sold to the local computer store! (It kept track of their inventory.)

He was what might be called a Renaissance man—curious, intellectual and involved in the world around him.

And he was a working man—the type of American who helped make this country what it is. He was a Union activist (and proud of it) who eventually became management at “the plant.”  One of my brothers went to work at the steel mill where he learned that Dad’s nickname was “The Hammer”—because he drove himself so hard. Needless to say, there were no slackers on his shift.

To me, my Dad embodies what Labor Day is about: The generations of working men and women who built this country: who made steel, cars, built homes and hospitals and schools and churches, healed the sick, and taught children to read and write—because it was the right thing to do. They didn’t necessarily become rich. But they contributed richly to the fabric of everyday life in our country.

And that is what Labor Day is really about.