Posts Tagged ‘Home’

Dogs Make Good Neighbors

Four-legged Neighbors

Ruthie and Happy sure know how to be good neighbors.  They’re polite and respectful to one another.  They always greet each other with a bark or if there is time, several dogkisses!  They are good friends.

Happy has a busy schedule of walks, playing and sleeping, but she enthusiastically remembers Ruthie on her way home from her morning walks.  Ruthie is always happy to see her friend and neighbor, the dog, Happy!

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When it Rains it Floods

The Art Tree

Little Treasures of Home

The first thing I reached for when the creek started rising, was a picture of my son at the ocean when he was about five years old.  It’s my favorite photo.   He’s wearing a little pair of blue jeans rolled up above his ankles, walking in the sand and looking down at the waves barely covering his small bare feet.

I placed the photo carefully in the plastic tub I was using to hold my most cherished belongings.

I wasn’t ready for a flood, but I should have been.  Along with my rental lease when I moved six months ago, I signed a statement informing me that the apartment is in a flood zone.

I didn’t read the paper I signed.  I was desperate for a place to live. 

An unexpected bed bug situation in an apartment my son had recently moved into interrupted my search for a rental.  Suddenly, my son was without a home and I had a deadline to find myself a place.  We were tired.  The winter weather was cold and I was in severe physical pain.  Neither of us were able to continue looking, so we each rented an apartment in the flood zone.

The rain started late in the afternoon.  I hadn’t watched the news and was not aware of pending thunderstorms.

My dog, Ruthie, tried telling me the rain storm was unusual.  She barked loudly as soon as it started.  My gut grabbed me for a moment.

I opened the door and looked outside.  I could feel something different.  The rain was loud.

There were two birds here that I’d never seen before.  Cardinals were rushing to the feeders, getting more wet by the second.  As the rain continued, the birds kept feeding.  Water had soaked one cardinal’s wings and the poor bird struggled to stay in flight.

I quickly realized that everything in my home means a lot to me.  I’ve downsized and what is left isn’t replaceable.  Anxiety set in.

Family photos, art and crafts that either my son or mother created, and my pretty wooden clock that my sister gave to our immediate family members one year for Christmas, all went into the plastic tub.

I wrapped my little sculpture of a girl holding a bouquet of orange flowers to her face that my mother gave me for a birthday present about five or six years earlier.

Then of course, there’s the beautiful hand carved wooden spoon that I love.  My son made it from a large piece of Cherry when he was thirteen years old.  Without using power tools, he worked for many weeks chiseling, carving, sanding and shaping the wood.  How in the world can something like that be replaced?

I spent the best of four hours, while the downpour continued, putting things in high places, packing them in the plastic tubs and lastly, unplugging electrical devices.  I packed bags of clothes and necessities. 

Management sent a messenger to tell tenants to evacuate the parking lot.  Everyone moved their cars to higher ground.

Anxiety had me distressed.

Image of Haw River water currents

Currents Meet

Then, my son came over.  He was completely calm. 

At first, I was upset by this.  I mean, how could he be so calm, I wondered, when our homes might be flooded any moment!  I needed his help packing, I thought.

I felt disoriented.  I honestly wished I could have afforded a hotel, but since I couldn’t, then I was planning on driving to my mother’s home.  

After several hours of packing and listening to the downpour, along with seeing the families of other tenants come and go, taking their loved one with them, fatigue was overcoming me.  I would likely have to surrender my pride and perhaps, accept the invitations offered to us by two friends for nearby refuge.

My son had earlier gone to the store for water, drinks and snacks.  While I was running around packing stuff, he lied down on the floor with Ruthie and whispered in her ear.  This obviously relaxed her and since she is such a sensitive dog, I was grateful.

Within a few minutes, Ruthie was lying on her back with her legs in the air.  You know a dog is alright when they do that.  My son gently rubbed her little belly and continued talking softly to her.  

Ruthie and I both needed what he had to offer during the crisis.  I suppose he needed it too.

The worst of the storm came at midnight. 

The fire department and Red Cross had waited for hours on the other side of the bridge.  They had a rescue truck in our parking lot.  The water started to seep into the front door when I called them to say I was ready to leave.

Ruthie wouldn’t go outside.  I would need help carrying her to the rescue truck.  I was beginning to wonder if they would have to carry me as well.

My son had disappeared just before the water starting to come inside.  He’d gone to check on his own place.  I don’t think he realized how bad the situation could have been, until he saw the water rise to the level of my doorstep.  I had begged him not to leave because the water wasn’t only standing in our otherwise grassy lawn, but by that time, there was a current.

I didn’t want to leave without him.  I waited.

Within about fifteen more minutes the water started to go down.  I had a feeling the worst of the storm had passed, but the rescue team suggested that we leave in case of another downpour.

The water level had gone down enough so that Ruthie would walk on the sidewalk.  Three firefighters were at my door.  My son had told them I needed help.

“Where is my son?” I asked the men.

“He’s at the club house playing pool,” one answered.

Apparently, he wasn’t alone.  Floods are common and expected at this property.  Management opens up the club house for folks to gather, watch TV and play pool.

Ruthie and I walked with the men.  They carried my bags.  They were most enthusiastic about their duty, which fire fighters tend to get.

I had only seen three men, until we rounded the corner of the building.  There were six more waiting for us.  I couldn’t believe my eyes!

Ten strong beautiful men waiting to rescue me!

Thank you for visiting dogkisses!

Note:  I was right about the storm’s end when the creek reached the level of my door and fortunately, we didn’t have damage to the inside of our homes.  I did not refuse the help when one of the men offered to lift me up on the back of their truck.  How could I?

Pond Life in the Neighborhood

Now, if I could just get a nighttime shot of the Bullfrogs I love listening to by the pond.

Home ~ An Elusive Sense

An elusive sense that something was different caused me to take notice. 

In fact, it was just after the James Taylor bridge where we had turned toward the city, that a distant place inside me seemed to wake up.  My mind whispered long forgotten memories of a place I had once called home.  

sunlight, sky, branches, clouds

“You’ll have problems no matter where you go,” my former landlord remarked, after I told him I was moving. 

We were standing by the entrance to my front deck, beside the septic tank, where sewage was overflowing on the ground.  I held my tongue.  That particular problem wouldn’t be moving with me, I thought to myself.

We don’t have septic tanks in my new place. 

We do however have a history of flooding, so in a way, I guess the landlord was right.

Still, you gotta choose your battles in life, and I guess, the problems you’re willing to endure.

The street lights wake me up at strange hours of the morning.  I’ve been too busy to stop, unpack or put curtains on my windows. 

Pieces of me are in boxes, bills and various important documents spread across my floor.

I’ve yearned for the dark nights and shadows of trees.  They were my trees.  I especially miss the birds that lived among them. 

I felt I abandoned the birds, and in a way I did.   To tell why would take a lot of writing and it might be as hard to write, as it was to live.

There’s a big, puffed up and confident Mockingbird living in my new yard.  This bird rules the bird station.

mockingbird beautiful

The eager territorial bird has communicated its high status to all the feathered ones (except for the hawk).  They believe this Mockingbird too.  Even the large loud Bluejay gives the pretty white and grey bird the space it demands. 

I wonder what this means.  I wonder if the Mockingbird has something to say to me and if so, then what could it be?

One day, I’ll look back, I hope, and recall the beauty bestowed so freely in those woods where I lived.  I know I’ll remember the trees and beautiful moss that bloomed in springtime.  I’ll especially recall that the land and the wild ones that lived there was the place where Mother Nature penetrated my spirit.  

I’ll recall too the nights when after a day of chasing butterflies, and later watching birds,  the color of nature flooded my mind.

I have a new friend.  He’s an elder with great tales of sailing across the waters of Maine.  He reads me poetry and knows all the great literature!  We sit in his kitchen drinking instant, but good coffee.  On occasion, he calls to recite Shakespeare. 

Below, is the first poem he shared during our first visit together.

“Hope is the thing with feathers

That perches in the soul

And sings the tune without the words

And never stops at all.

And sweetest in the gale is heard;

And sore must be the storm

That could abash the little bird

That kept so many warm.

I’ve heard it in the chillest land

And on the strangest sea,

Yet never, in extremity,

It asked a crumb of me.”

Emily Dickinson


Ruthie Mae likes our new home.   She has a furry neighbor friend named Happy.

Amazingly, there are as many birds here as in my wooded yard.  

I haven’t seen the beloved Mourning Dove, but we have a pond that’s home to a Great Blue Heron.  I dreamed of this bird two nights before I moved here.  I had seen it swoop down close to me, then powerfully and gracefully, back up again it flew. 

Upon waking, I heard the spirit of the bird say it would carry me to my new home.

Astonishingly, I worked without pain during the rest of my move, even while sleeping on a hard bamboo floor.

A Red-shouldered hawk lives here too.  Every tenant I’ve met mentions the hawk.  It perches not too far from my door on low branches of trees by the creek.

hawk is our neighborhood friend

Keeping an eye on things

I live by water, with birds.  I like that.  The mail carrier wears a postal suit (including the hat), like olden times.  I like that too.

The locals hold the vibe of this city’s heart.  That’s what felt different after we crossed the bridge on moving day.  I remembered the heartbeat of the people here, and I felt it run through me. 

I am glad to be home, again.

Thanks for visiting my blog, dogkisses, and please feel free to leave me your comments.

A Spring Break

I’ve been dreaming of a vacation.  I’ve gazed at beach houses and found a lovely little place.  Pets are allowed.  The building is a light pastel like the color of seashells.  The beach there is quiet, especially in springtime, and you can talk to locals at the coffee shop.  Surprisingly, the rent is quite reasonable. 

The only problem is that I can’t afford to take a vacation, so I’m going to see my mother. 

“You can nap and I’ll cook you three meals a day,” she told me last night. 

I don’t think any place on earth could offer me anything better! 

 

Food, Sharing and Connection

Sharing meals is good for the body and soul

Shared Meal

Image Credit: Quinn Dombrowski via Flickr

 

I’ve developed a relationship with raw beets.  I’m not in love, at least not yet, but who knows?  Almost anything is possible.  I never imagined myself regularly eating beets, but I am. 

The goal is to eat one beet a day, raw, which I wrote about in an earlier post.

It’s not as hard to eat beets, as it is to take the time to prepare food and eat it.  I forget, but I’m getting better at remembering.  Having an appetite helps.

I baked a chicken yesterday.  I used coconut oil, which is another new addition to my diet, added some onions and garlic, along with a bit of sage that a friend gave me just the other day.   The whole day smelled of good food.  It was calming and reassuring. 

Later in the evening, I realized how little I had actually eaten earlier. Hunger struck me.  I was tired.  My son however was up.  He quickly made me a sandwich.  I think he enjoys the act of handing me a plate of food.  It is rather like a sacred moment when the plate passes from his hands to mine.

There was more to that sandwich than the physical nutrition.  I could feel the energy when I took the first bite.  It made me feel alive.  The images of my having prepared it flooded my mind, along with the way I had felt in the process.   Knowing I had helped prepare the food that was waiting for my son to make me that sandwich was pretty cool too.  There was love in that chicken!

My relationship with food has been difficult for a long time.  Eating has been a challenge.  It hasn’t always been that way.  I used to love food and eating it too.

In my thirties, I experienced a personal interruption in this essential part of living.  At first, I found myself not eating at particular meal times, with a particular person.  Eventually, I realized after losing weight without trying, along with parting ways with the person who bothered me so much that I couldn’t eat around him, that the reasons behind my abstinence from food ran deeper than my feelings about that relationship.

Memories of my grandmother’s modest but lovely dinner table started to frequently occupy my thoughts.  I remembered the good feeling of coming together for meals.  No matter what was going on, we sat down to eat at the same time every day.   I deeply desired that sense of connection to family and I guess, in a more expansive way, to community and our planet. 

I’ve talked to psychologists from time to time about the problem of not always being able to eat.   They basically each said the same thing, which was that they had never known anyone with the same reasons as I had for not eating. 

The most interesting approach to solve the problem was to write the benefits of eating.  I was seeing a fourth year resident at the medical school.  He was very bright and open-minded.

The best benefit of eating that I could come up with was that food would give me energy to walk my dogs.  In a daily journal, I recorded meals and checked off subsequent dog walks.  This helped for a while, but my problem didn’t go away.

When you lose the desire to eat and don’t get it back, something is wrong.  I learned in therapy why I chose not to eat at particular times, but a later tick borne illness added a new dimension to my relationship with food.  Nausea and other symptoms of post-infectious disease syndrome causes a loss of appetite.

I eventually met a therapist who had also studied anthropology.  She helped me understand an important part of my dilemma, which seemed simply about being human.

With time, especially as my son grew older and later moved out, I learned that I really don’t like eating alone.  I need a connection at mealtime.  I need other people. 

Having my son around to share meals with is a blessing.  I think I’m getting stronger too.  I hope he is.  He’s learned a lot about cooking.  

We need a cow bell, but for now, the wonderful aromas coming from my kitchen will do.

Thank you for visiting Dogkisses’s blog.

Homeless with Dog

People and Pets

Her name was Free.

“A day-tripper,” I had jokingly called myself before that day, which was the day I became homeless.  It was also 9/11/01.

My headlights on my otherwise wonderful little Subaru didn’t work.

“You can go to Walmart parking lot to sleep,” a teenage friend of my son’s suggested.

My son said I could sleep on his sofa, but I gratefully declined.

I had just moved out of a house where the well water was seriously contaminated.  Eventually, sewage backed up into the bathtub.  My landlord was twiddling her thumbs across the street, where the water was good.  I’d had no choice but to leave.

My furniture was in storage and I’d made a good plan, but like all plans, you need a backup.  I failed to make one.

I had obtained a house sitting position from a friend who was leaving for one month.

She was flying to Connecticut on September, 12th, 2001.  Her house was in town and convenient for me to go look at rental places.   She said my dog was welcome.  Like I said, it was a good plan.

I moved out of the sewage filled house a few days before my friend’s scheduled flight.   After bringing in drinking and cooking water for an entire year, living beside people who put rebel flags in their yard and a few times called me in the middle of the night to tell me that I was, “going to hell in a hand-basket,” things were looking up for me.

I used the first few days of my transition freely.  My dog and I went to my favorite camping spot on Mt. Pisgah.  I would meet my friend and get her house key the night before her flight.

That morning I packed my things.  It was foggy and quiet on top of the mountain.  I was the only camper, which is how I liked it up there.  I had my coffee and took a slow walk around the campground with Free.

That afternoon I drove down the mountain into town and decided to visit my son and use his phone to call my friend.  I walked inside his apartment and as usual the television was on.  I sensed something was wrong.  My son and several friends were sitting there with stunned looks on their faces.

“Do you know what happened Mom?” my son asked.

“No.”

“We’ve been attacked by terrorists,” he said.  I thought for a second that it was another conspiracy idea one of his friend’s had.

I didn’t have my glasses on and couldn’t see the details of the television footage.  “What is that?” I asked.

“Dude!” one of the visitors said.   “It’s the Twin Towers burning.”

I watched the billowing smoke on the small television screen for a few moments.  I was confused.  I didn’t know what to think or feel or do.

Terrorists I thought.  What the hell does that mean exactly?  I wasn’t used to hearing we’ve been attacked.

I walked outside and called my friend about meeting her for the house key.  Being a day-tripper meant I needed to work my plan before dark.  Shelter was on my mind and time was getting away from me.

The basic necessities in life call you to action no matter what else is happening.

“Everything is cancelled until further notice.  I don’t think I’ll be flying anywhere for a while,” my friend said.  “I’m sorry,” she added.  “I know you were depending on staying here while you looked for a place, but I’ll be working since I can’t leave.”

My friend worked at home as an acupuncturist.  The environment was not right for my dog and I to stay there with people coming for quiet healing sessions.

I didn’t know where to go or what to do.

The thought of sleeping in my son’s apartment was intolerable to me for several reasons, one of which was the condition of his girlfriend’s cat’s litter box and another was the hippies who drifted in and out from all parts of the world.

My son moved out when he was sixteen to travel across the country with his girlfriend.  They returned after a couple of months, got jobs and rented an apartment together.

I never imagined that my son would leave home that early, nor had I imagined I would ever be on his or anyone’s doorstep wondering where to sleep.

I’ve learned in my life that anything can happen.  Things we imagine could never happen to us, can and do.

I knew many people.  I had many friends.  I’d be fine, I thought.

I assured my son I was safe for the night, but when I told him I was going to the nearby Blueridge Parkway to sleep in my car at one of the look out points, he became worried.  “I wish you would stay here, but Walmart would be safer than the parkway Mom,” he said.

I wasn’t going to Walmart to sleep.  I knew that much.

Free was with me and I felt that she would keep me safe.  I figured the parkway would be quiet at night.  I soon discovered that my son knew more about that than I had.

I left my son’s apartment and went to a place where I could think, The Waffle House.   Free slept in the car.

It was late Autumn and the weather was nice, but that would soon be over.  Winter was on the way, which I suddenly became acutely aware of.

“James!” I said.  “What a surprise seeing you here.”

He pointed to his table.  A woman smiled and waved.  I assumed he was on a date.

James was an eccentric, but level-headed man in his late fifties.  I knew him from downtown Asheville.  We often found ourselves in the same groups; gathering around coffee, artists and good conversation.

I told James of my unexpected plight.  I tried to keep myself together, but James was an odd character.  Being around him made people want to tell the truth.  His eyes filled with compassion and understanding.

“Here, take this,” and he put a fifty dollar bill on my table. “Go across the street and get you and your dog a room tonight.  I know the owner.  I’ll call him and tell him your dog won’t hurt anything and he’ll let you stay.  The price is forty-five even.  That’s all I have now or I’d give you more.”

James always did show up at the strangest times.  People often talked about him downtown.  The hippies thought maybe he was an informant.  They were a little paranoid.  Others thought he was with the CIA and some spoke of him being an angel.  They said he would show up right when somebody needed saving from a situation.  I’d seen it happen a few times myself.

“Thank you James.  I really appreciate this.”  I remember him holding my hand for a minute before returning to his table.

I don’t remember anymore the order in which the events occurred over the following weeks after 9/11.

I remember feeling numb about being homeless.  I listened to the radio stations reporting on the tragedy every day.  I felt like I didn’t have the right to feel bad over my situation.  My family and I were alive and this became the most important thing in my mind and heart.

My family lived four hours away.  I wanted to stay in the mountains to be near my son.  He may have moved out, but he still needed a parent.  I just had to go about it in a different way than most parents of teenagers do.

The friends I had either couldn’t or in a few cases, simply wouldn’t let me stay with them because I had a dog.

The way people treated me when I didn’t have a place to live surprised me.  Perhaps the tragedy of 9/11 had an effect on their perception of my situation as it did mine.  I’m not sure, but the people whom I had considered close friends sure changed when they feared I might ask something of them.  I don’t know what they thought I would ask for, other than a place to sleep for a few nights and a phone during the day, which I quickly learned was too much to ask.

I think people are scared that if they help someone a little, then the person will take advantage of them and never stop needing the help.

Other people quickly assume that no matter what the situation, like a bathtub full of sewage and contaminated drinking water, that if you’re homeless, then you got yourself there.

Three nights of sleeping in my car on the Blueridge Parkway was enough.  My son was right.  Walmart parking lot would have been safer.

My next plan was to rest for a couple of days at my mother’s home, which was about four hours away.  I needed to recover from shingles.  I needed a bed.  I needed to know that somebody cared if I lived or died.

My only and older brother called while I was there.

“Hello,” I answered.

“Michelle!” my brother said surprised.  “What are you doing home?”

My brother and I had always had a knack for using humor to talk about hard times or difficult emotions.

“Well,” I responded. “I’m homeless.”  It was the first time I had used the word and I used it casually hoping, I guess, that we would laugh about the situation.

“You’re what!” he screamed.

“Homeless,” I said, truly clueless about what was coming next.

Fortunately, the time I was homeless lasted less than three months.

Telling how it all came to be, what it was like being homeless and all that happened as a result is a lot of telling.

The family ordeal over the harsh words my brother said to me over the phone that day had a strong and long-lasting impact on me and my heart.  My relationship with my brother has never been the same.

I could tell about the amazing cell phone my mother helped me buy.  Amazing not in features, but in power.  I haven’t charged it in years and it still works! 

The phone was my connection to my son and Mother.  I’d never before felt such a strong need to be in contact with the both of them every day, as I did during the weeks following 9/11.  I wanted to know where they were and that they were both safe.  I wanted them to know I loved them.  I was scared.

I could tell about the beautiful camping area Free and I stayed for a few weeks and what happened there, but that story stands alone.

I could tell about the mysterious way I met the housing inspector who knew about the bad water where I had lived and who offered me a garage apartment without charge, which is where I stayed for one month.

The photo above is my beloved Free lying beside the bed in that apartment.  It was a brand new bed with the plastic still on it.  The place had hot water and power.  I was very blessed.

Mostly, I remember the radio.  All day, every day and at night, I would lie there on that bed beside Free with a camp light on and listen.  

I remember having to take medication for anxiety.  It was a very hard time. 

I called hundred of landlords, but nobody would allow a dog.

Finally, I received a call from a woman whom I had never heard of.  “I’m calling you about the rondette,” she said.  I had never heard of those either.

“I’m not sure you have the right person,” I said to her.  I assumed the place she was describing would be way out of my price range.

“Oh yes,” she said in her self-assured way I would learn to like.  I wrote your name and number down to call you back about it.”

“Okay,” I said.  “How much is the rent?”  A rondette on the side of a mountain sounded pretty cool.

I gasped when she told me it was only $350.00 per month.  “Do you allow dogs?”  I asked her right away.

“I’m actually leery of people who don’t have dogs,” she said laughing.  “Tell me about your baby.”

I was there shaking hands with her within an hour.

It was a magical beautiful place.  There were old time flowers growing in the garden by the bedroom window.  They smelled like my grandmother’s face and hand creams.  Windows surrounded the little space.  From the small, but very green and cozy backyard was a view of the city below.

“I don’t know if this place is big enough for you and your dog,” she said.

I liked her.  We had on nearly the same outfit and literally, the same brand of shirt, same color and same size.  A purple soft cotton LL Bean button down.  

She turned out to be the best landlord I’ve ever had.  She was trusting, helpful, kept her properties in great condition and rented below the fair market price.

“If you don’t rent the place to me now,” I told her, “tonight we’ll have to sleep there,” I added, pointing at my little Subaru.

Her eyes widened, but I had told the truth.  The garage apartment had been rented to a family and I had to move out.

“Call it home then you two!”  She smiled, handed me a key and went on her unusually merry way to a funeral.

It was home and it was sweet.

Free learned to walk backwards in the small rondette

Free in her chair in our little rondette.

Free bit his nose to remind him it was her home and he was a guest.

Tiny visits and curls up in my new bedroom.

From this room I could literally watch the old time flower garden grow.