Gwenevere

July 10, 2010 at 4:22 pm (Life, Uncategorized) (, , , , )

A little monster has been tearing through the house for the last three weeks. The hurricane is not expected to stop raging for years to come. She’s got a bit of Lena in her, stubborn and sweet and extremely clever. She sleeps a lot, is mostly housebroken and willful. She enjoys food, mischief, harassing the resident 13-year-old Jack Russell and is an avid fetcher.

Paul falling in love when first meeting her.

She’s grown quite a bit since this was taken.

She’s accompanied by the usual problems: Her defecating and urination habits are getting better, but not quite there yet. Bite inhibition is making slow progress because she’s a retriever and she’ll start teething soon. She knows sit, but is still confused by her own name, “Gwen.” She pulls on the leash and tries to lead you home when taken outdoors. Sleeping through the night is a recent development. She’s not quite grasped the concept of being a “floor dog,” i.e. a critter that doesn’t jump on people to greet them. She howls and whines and cries when I leave the room. She has a radar for trouble.

I wonder if I’m doing a good job raising her a lot. However, I’m convinced I lucked out and was paired up with an extremely sweet, forgiving animal. She’s a good girl.

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Hello, New Year

January 2, 2010 at 4:32 pm (Life) (, , , , )

So far, the New Year has been treating me well. I could be cynical and say this ought to be expected, as it’s only been 2010 for about two days, but I’m choosing to be more positive this year. I wouldn’t call it making outright New Year’s resolutions, since I find most of them to be trite, but it’ll have to do.

2009 was an interesting year, if you will. It wasn’t the best of times. Between havingĀ  really rough start with my first semester at college and Lena dying, I thought it would be an entire downhill slide. I was homesick and confused and unmotivated and generally not a happy camper.

Lucky for me, it had ups as well as downs. WorldCon in Montreal turned out to be a fantastic experience where I finally met my friend Cat and spent some time with Alex and made some important decisions regarding my self-esteem and who I am. San Francisco allowed me to meet up with Meg and another long-time friend. My return to college was made that much better by instantly bonding with a bunch of people – I now have friends I look forward to seeing and genuinely miss. I went to New York City for the first time in my life. I fell in love and subsequently I am no longer perpetually single.

I don’t expect 2010 to be easy. Right off the bat, I can think of several things that will be difficult: I am moving out of my aunt’s house and in with a friend right at the beginning of the semester. I have a hopefully pending transfer to California in sight. My academics are still a major priority in my life, but I have a great deal of emotional issues to sort through.

No matter how crappy my life feels, I’ll have to remind myself that I lead a very charmed life. I have a stable (if slightly dysfunctional) family, a support network that spans the globe and a boyfriend who is too good for words. I have a roof over my head, clothes on my back, have the ability to attend school and live inĀ  country that is not constantly torn by war and fear. I have access to health care. I am well-traveled. There’s nothing I truly need (save for maybe a canine companion to keep me a little more even-keeled, because companion animals are glorious that way).

So here’s to you, 2010.

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Grumpy

September 28, 2009 at 9:16 pm (Life) (, , , , , , , , )

grumpy This was my expression throughout the majority of the Torah services, Yizkor and Musaf and the beginning of the Avodah (at which point, we left).

I have realized I am not cut out to be the member of a congregation as large as this. There were well over a thousand people present. This means it is loud, people are always talking, it is hard for me to concentrate on the actual prayers and it is super crowded. There was absolutely no room for me to move during the Amidah. Someone behind me was constantly basically shoving their book into the back of my head.

Again, the rabbi felt it was appropriate to ask for money. During Yizkor. OF ALL TIMES, DURING YIZKOR. Did it ever occur to him how incredibly rude that is? People have passed away and we’re trying to say prayers for them, and you’re asking us to reach into our pockets? The man moved further up my list of Obnoxious Things And People I Dislike. This is a rather affluent community, I’m sure he could have asked for donations for Israel Bonds or their synagogue at some other point. His stories and interjections were absolutely moot, pointless.

If there is a God, S/He will not make me go back to this place. Ever. Please, please, please let me have transferred to a different school and a different community by then. I can’t deal with this again.

I made sure to email all my professors about my absence, so everything was alright on that front. I finally managed to weave my way through the automated phone system operated by TriCare in order to inquire about getting new contact lenses through someone here in the area. It seems they are willing to cover it, but I apparently still need to talk to someone back in Europe as to how exactly we want to proceed. Simple, people – I need to see an experienced ophthalmologist who can deal with eyes that have been operated on, have a high astigmatism and off-the-charts diopters. Ugh. I hate life.

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Yom Kippur

September 27, 2009 at 10:59 pm (Life) (, , , , , , , )

I did manage to find a place to go for Yom Kippur. However, it’s not somewhere I see myself going back to after my obligation for Yom Kippur is over. The congregation is large, impersonal and conservative. The latter wouldn’t bother me too much, but it’s a little . . . restrictive, in a way. It’s the kind of place where you’ll see older people and young families and very little in between.

Not only that, but the rabbi started being a solicitor for various funds in the middle of services, which I thought was incredibly inappropriate. We’re RIGHT smackdab in the middle of Kol Nidre services. And you ask people to put money into Israel Bonds? REALLY? YOU THINK THAT WAS A GOOD IDEA? He also started harping on our need to support Israel and donate and blahblahblah.

I have no issue with charity. I do have an issue when a religious official uses his role to push political agendas; it’s not something I have ever seen a rabbi do and I hope I’ll never have to see it again. It’s not something I associate with Judaism, the begging for money and propagation of political things is more a Christian phenomenon. Or it was until now.

The whole thing just made me incredibly uncomfortable. A religious official is supposed to offer advice, not preach from the pulpit about how I as a Jew am obligated to support Israel in every possible way. That’s like someone telling C. that she has to support the Pope because she’s Catholic despite the fact that dude’s batshit crazy, not to mention assbackwards on basically every matter of social importance. I am in no way obligated to support a country simply because I am part of a religious entity. I will not publicly support a country and a government on the basis of this.

I appreciate Israel’s existence, but I do not agree with a lot of their policies. I believe displacing Palestinians is wrong. The way Israel was founded is very much akin to the Europeans marching into North American and displacing all the American Indians. I don’t believe military action is necessary all the damn time and I am absolutely horrified at the sense of entitlement that many European and American-born Jews have when they make aliyah, and how perfectly acceptable the racism towards Palestinians is within those Jewish communities in Israel.

So, no, Rabbi Whateveryournamemaybe, I am keeping my money out of Israel Bonds and in my damn pocket. This kind of conduct does not leave me feeling spiritually cleansed, forgiven by God or enlightened. It makes me think I ended up an awful place for a very emotional time, and that makes me sad.

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Dogless

September 11, 2009 at 8:43 pm (Life) (, , , , , )

This state just makes me feel intensely lonely. The cat is not really the best companion you could imagine. C. doesn’t know anyone who has a friendly dog I could take for walks. One family has a dog, but she’s just as ill-tempered and unfriendly with everyone as Odin. I am terrified of applying to the local chapter of the Humane Society to be a dog handler for their shelter for fear of being rejected on the basis of everyone wanting that position.

I hate this and clearly need a job that won’t take me traveling afar, to be done with college and to live somewhere else. And all this whinging of mine makes me fear the years to come in which I probably won’t be able to own a dog.

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Beginnings

August 31, 2009 at 4:58 pm (Life, School) (, , , , , )

The first day of the new semester has come and gone. I’m not sure I feel any better or wiser; I just feel like I’ve progressed further down the line of education. I suppose that’s part of the deal, eh? My schedule’s going to be pretty full with all the practicing and registering with the DMV for my learner’s permit and God knows what else I can come up with.

I’ve been going to bed at nine. I think I might try and push that up to ten, just so I don’t wake up in the middle of the night because my bladder is so ridiculously full. That’s one nightly ritual I can live without. However, ten is the latest simply because I’ll probably be getting up between 7.00 and 7.30 for the rest of the semester. This allows me to hitch a ride to school with C. Yeah, it gets me there an hour earlier than I have to be, but I figure I can take a book along, listen to music or actually socialize with people for a change. I managed to avoid that for much of the last semester. I’m making an active effort to no longer do that.

So I arrived in the music building a full hour earlier than I had to and immediately proceeded to fall back into old habits, which includes sitting quietly and not interacting with whoever may be in the hall with me. At some point, one guy looked at me as I dropped my iPod back into my bag and said, “Did you dye your hair?”

“Yeah, I did. And cut it, too.”

“OH MAN! I’m sorry! You’ve been chilling there the whole time and I didn’t even recognize you. It looks great. How was your summer?”

I was a little stunned because I end up considering myself fairly mousy for most part. I know I’m not, but I can fade into the background pretty well if I want to. I didn’t feel super confident my first semester. As I’ve stated here before, I’m getting over that phase. I need to be more outgoing, talk to people and just be myself. I’m just surprised this guy had noticed my existence the semester before at all. I got up and chatted with him for a bit, then more people drifted in, all of whom also recognized me. I talked to them until they had to go to class, at which point I sat back down and watched some more of Pushing Daisies on my iPod.

Someone sat next to me and I tried not to listen in on their conversation on the phone. I’d thought the voice sounded familiar, but I wasn’t sure. Turned out it was T, one of the girls who’d been in my class during the first summer session. She signed off the phone and we talked for about half an hour; turns out we have some classes together. I should be okay.

My music theory class is small, which is fantastic. Same prof as last semester, as I’d requested. Thank God it went through. Not that I have anything against the other guy who teaches it, but Prof. S has a different understanding of teaching that meshes well with my personality and way of learning. Once I find something I work well with, I try not to change it. My lab class also runs at the same time it did last year. I felt a little uncertain during the half-hour break between Chorus and Lab, but some new girl broke the ice by telling me she thought I was really pretty and it went from there.

All in all, I’d say it’s been a pretty good day. I finished a book I’d been postponing reading for quite some time due to the fact it was my dad who handed it to me. My father and I don’t usually agree on what either of us consider a great read. This book, Eine exklusive Liebe is not something I’d consider a FANTASTIC read, but it was a good book. It was written by a woman a little older than my sister in an attempt to reconcile and explore her grandparents’ double suicide and how that tied into her understanding of herself and her family, and to rediscover some of the history lost in the concept of “We don’t talk about that.” I’d say pick it up if you understand German; it’s not a must read, but I wouldn’t consider it a waste of paper and time, either.

It was just a little ironic how the book closed with naming the locksmith’s fee. My dog’s life had basically been reduced to a hospital bill and an euthanasia fee. I wonder if it is part of human nature to grasp at numbers in an attempt to understand something, even as it constitutes a cruel twist because there is simply no way of attaching monetary value to a life.

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Chugging On

August 17, 2009 at 5:35 pm (Fun, Life) (, , , , , , , , , )

I’ve been saved from spending my whole life brooding only because my mother took us to Montreal and then San Francisco. WorldCon was pretty fabulous – I got to see a bunch of friends I hadn’t seen in AGES and that makes me happy. I did not get to talk to Neil Gaiman but I walked within a few feet of him. That will have to suffice. I don’t want to be that dick fangirl who ruins it for everyone else.

Right around that time, I had a pretty enlightening conversation with my friend Alex who has moved to D.C. She’s a year younger than myself and we’d lost touch a bit in between when we met each other and WorldCon, but we were both pleasantly surprised to discover we still got along famously. My mother had talked to someone and mentioned she had a daughter (yours truly) running around con, and the response of said stranger was, “OH! The hot chick!” Alex mentioned that the second she had started acknowledging that she was, in fact, not ugly but actually attractive, people started looking at her differently. There was a lot of negative feedback.

I’ve decided to do the same. After that conversation, I have decided that yes, I am attractive. Yes, I have my share of talents. No, it’s not going to be easy convincing my subconscious that I am deserving of love, respect and, yes, maybe even admiration for being pretty, but that’s not the main point. The fact is that I can’t spend my whole life hiding and being ashamed of who I am, what I look like. I had a friend who loved me unconditionally and the best thing I can do to honor her is to try and transfer her unconditional adoration into something productive, empowering. (Or maybe just a little silly.)

san fran

In San Francisco, I spent some “quality” time with my kid sister and looked at houses with my parents, who are 99% sure they want to retire to San Francisco. There is a house on Euclid in Berkeley that looked extremely promising. It was built in 1992 on an “earthquake proof” foundation, is a mile away from the UC Berkeley campus (where I had an interview, hence the formalish dress), is sound-proof and wonderfully located. The feel is similar to our current house in Heidelberg; my parents love it. It had only been on the market for three days when we went to view it. We’re hoping the offer will go through.

I got my hair cut in San Francisco because I decided it was time for a change. I decided this an hour before we went off in search for a stylist with free time on their hands. And then, the same night, I colored it and purchased a supervillain t-shirt the next day while exploring San Francisco and its crappy Museum of Modern Art with my long-time friend Jerri.

Photo 98

I met Meg and her friend Summer, who took me down to San Francisco’s Pier 39 to see sea lions. I love sea lions. I love anything that is basically the nautical equivalent of the retriever brand of dog. They are total hams, very vocal and pretty damn smelly, but extremely adorable. We tried on a bunch of silly hats while I pretended to look serious and classy in mine. I garnered a bunch of compliments for said hat and am sad that I did not purchase that $25 Kentucky Derby style hat that looked absolutely smashing on me. I am making due with my cloche, though.

Photo 103

We arrived back in England around noon today and I finally, FINALLY have a dental appointment for tomorrow morning. With the guy who dismissed my complaints about my tooth, which resulted in me living off painkillers for about two weeks. My tooth, by the way, is still not better. I am going to murder him if he gives me the holier-than-thou shit again. Oh, and my mom will be in the room with me. I think she can hurt him a great deal more than I ever could.

I might try and come up with a more comprehensive summary of my last two weeks, but my mind is blurry with lack of sleep. I decided you guys looking at pictures would be a lot more interesting.

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Adjusting Period

July 27, 2009 at 7:13 am (Life) (, , , , , , )

On July 24th, we went in to have my sweet baby girl, Elena, put down. I hadn’t seen her since we’d brought her in on Wednesday morning. It was heart-breaking. The second she saw me, she started crying and whimpering. Her eyes had that slightly drugged-out glaze you get when you are constantly on pain killers so your existence becomes bearable. Her customary greeting dance made her even more frustrated because her body was not doing what she wanted it to.

The only reason she was sitting at all was because the vet staff had propped her up against a wall. She nearly fell over in her desperate attempt to reach me when I entered the room and settled down in her cage. All she knew was that she wanted to leave and go home, that her body was not working. Her hind legs and tail were limp, her stomach swollen from all the air she’d swallowed with her frenetic panting and the fact her bowels were not expelling anything without help from the vet technicians. It took a while for me to settle her down enough so I could prop her up onto my lap. She struggled. She thought we were going home.

She cried for the entire time I held her. Multiple times she attempted to get up and leave on her own. I managed to keep it together for most part with some brief lapses into crying. I’d tried avoiding that. I didn’t want to upset her any more than I had to. At some point, my mother joined us and took pictures because my brother had requested them. She only left for five minutes to take care of arrangements; a private cremation, paying the bill, checking to see if the vet had cleared out the waiting room yet.

The vet and the technician settled her out onto the floor. He held this absolutely gigantic syringe full of medication – my mother later told me he’d used a third more than he really needed to in order to ensure Lena’s end would be quick and absolutely pain-free. The consultation was brief. I was basically prepared. I did not, however, know how quick things went. I just watched in horror, Lena’s head in my lap, until my mom told me, “She’s going. Say good-bye now!” I ended up whispering, “I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you” over and over even when I felt her just go . . . limp. My mother says the dog settled against me in her final seconds, contentment obvious, and just heaved a sigh of relief, which was to be her last breath.

I started sobbing pretty much immediately. The vet’s face looked a little drawn, he didn’t like putting animals down any more than any normal person would. “Why did you go out and do that, you stupid dog?” I stroked her face for a while the vet checked her pupils for signs of life. I then realized how downright obscene it felt to hold the mortal remains of my best friend, that it felt like holding a ragdoll, that it was just downright freaky how just every bit of tension had left her body. Even when dogs sleep, there’s a small amount of tension in their bodies that lets you know they’re still among the living. Lena was just completely still, her eyes open and staring lifelessly. I dropped her head like it was an intensely hot object and scrambled away, then ended up breaking down as my mother held and rocked my. The vet technician was clearly hurting, too – she asked if I wanted to spend a moment with her. I think I was so distraught I ended up half-shrieking that that was no longer my dog even as she handed me a few tissues. I was hysteric. A mess. Now I wish I had taken her up on the offer, but at the time, all I wanted was to get away from that thing, that disturbingly limp semblance of my best friend.

I wound up walking out of the back room in a half-catatonic state. The back room, where the vet technicians take turns answering phones, billing and whatnot, also houses their pets when they’re at work. Three very curious, friendly noses had already greeted me as I walked through to the kennels. I didn’t have the energy to fend them off on my way out. I sat on the floor and let Lotti, the tripod doxie mix, and Madison crawl all over me in their efforts to console me. I’m not sure I would have made it through the day had it not been for those two dogs.

The vet staff was incredible. They let me sit there for as long as I needed, talked to my mother and I and were generally supportive through that intensely traumatic experience. They cared. That was a blessing.

Now the house just seems too quiet. Wherever I look, there’s something to remind me of Lena. The food and water bowl are still in the kitchen, the latter filled sometime on Wednesday when I was still trying to convince myself Lena was going to come home. Her toys are strewn throughout the house. Her leash is on the floor of my bedroom. Her bed is tucked between the wall and my bed, there is dog hair all over the floors. Lena’s ashes will arrive in about two weeks, give or take. I am still unsure as what to do with them. Part of me wants me to stop being so obsessive about this dog and just bury it somewhere, but another part of me, the one that is still hurting and probably never will cease hurting, just wants to keep them in an urn and just take them wherever I go. I don’t even know how the hell I would take an urn full of ashes through an airport. With my luck, my suitcase would be selected for a random search and they would wind up tossing everything in the garbage.

It will take some time getting used to the silence and the hurt, and the void that is left in my heart. I do feel like a part of me was ripped out, trampled on and then left for dead. Every day is a struggle to go on. The days drag by and I somehow manage to keep my shit together during the day, but it all comes crashing down in the evenings, when dark creeps in on me and takes away any bit of rationality I may have left in me. Sleeping is an ordeal. I seem to hear Lena falling to the ground and screaming every time I close my eyes. Sometimes I just end up curled up in a fetal position, hands over my ears in a failed attempt to block out the memory. I can barely drag myself out of bed in the mornings.

My mother tells me I am at that point where I am processing, solely missing. But I don’t think it’s true. I just feel numb. I keep hoping I’ll wake up and it will all turn out to be an awful, elaborate nightmare. And I’ll look down, and there she’ll be, splayed out on her side, nose and paws twitching, snoring and snorfling in her sleep. It’s hard. I wish it had never come to this.

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A Heavy Heart

July 23, 2009 at 7:31 am (Life) (, , , , , , )

There has been a lot of silence on my part lately; partly because my life is just not that exciting, and partly because a lot of emotionally draining events have taken place. The one I am most concerned with occurred yesterday.

My dog, while chasing a deer, jerked something around in her back, keeled over and started screaming like there was no tomorrow. Her hind legs and tail are completely paralyzed. After wailing and twisting in agony for a few seconds while I stared in horror, she managed to throw herself onto her stomach and somehow managed to drag herself through half the yard on two legs, towards me. It was like watching war footage in which a soldier has lost his legs to a mine. I ended up screaming my head off for my mom to come downstairs while I raced to the dog, made her lay down and tried to calm her down.

It turns out even my mother heard the dog scream in pain – while she was on the second floor of our house, in the shower. Our house is a solid brick building and pretty good at naturally dampening down noises. My mom managed to fly downstairs, onto the lawn. I called the vet. I managed to barely keep it together. I don’t even want to get it into Lena’s panicked struggling when she realized we were going to move her, she was definitely going into shock and so was I.

We left her at the vets. They took x-rays. One of her discs has been compressing her spinal cord because she has an arthritic vertebra. When she ran, she must have jostled something and thus cut off feeling. The dog is high as a kite on pain killers from what I know, they’re treating her with steroids in hopes of the swelling going down. She has a 50-60% chance of recovery. If she doesn’t, we’ll have to put her down.

This is the most traumatic, awful thing that has ever happened to me. I just can’t forget how she screamed and fell. I’d like to express my thanks to everyone who’s been so supportive and willing to listen to my obsessive ramblings about the state of my dog. I am not ready to lose her yet. I want for her to live and chase stuff until she is eleven, twelve, thirteen, then pass away in her sleep the way she deserves. Yes, she may have injured herself doing something she loves and because she leads a high quality life, but she is still in pain right now, in a cage in a strange place and not home.

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Life Goes On

July 15, 2009 at 7:16 am (Fun, Life, Music) (, , , , , , )

Since I am in England and this is where I can get all my health care, I decided to do the full shebang. I went in for a refill appointment last Thursday and am now all stocked up on the various medications I was running low on. Yesterday, I had a dental appointment since it has been over a year. One small cavity and a cleaning – I get the cavity taken care of next Tuesday.

The technician doing the cleaning was a lovely, bouncy young lady, maybe five or six years older than myself. Her office was covered in music paraphernalia, including an ukulele on the wall, various pictures of Elvis, some certificates of competitions she’d entered and several decorative guitar statues. Our shared love for music made for a good time.

When it was time for my cleaning, she handed me her iPod and told me to pick what kind of music we’d listen to. Navigating an iPod Touch was a little confusing at first, but I managed after a while and then settled for Lady GaGa telling her that she amused me. The technician laughed and said, considering I was majoring in classical music, that was a strange choice. “Yes, but she’s so absolutely batshit crazy that you can’t help but sort of like her. Besides, she actually has TALENT.”

We proceeded with the cleaning, all the while talking about Lady GaGa. At one point I stated I hoped her second album wouldn’t be about fame again, because it just gets tacky after a while.

“I heard she’s gone bankrupt, like, four times now!” the technician exclaimed. “How does that even work? I mean, seriously. She’s making a lot of money.”

“In that case, I suggest a cover of ‘Gold Digger’ for her new album.”

She laughed. It was probably my wittiest moment in weeks.

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