Monday, January 24, 2011

Welcome Cherry Blossom

We picked up our puppy Friday evening. When we got to the breeder's she said, "Let me bring out the puppies" and my heart skipped a beat. We had been told that she would pick out our puppy for us, but since she was bring out two puppies, maybe we would have a choice. This turned out to be the situation. Both puppies were happy playing and very affectionate with us, they both licked us enthusiastically. But while the breeder left the room for a little while my husband and I looked at one another and almost together said, "the light one is for us". We had an immediate favorite. In the car home I said to my husband, "what was it about her that made us pick her?" and he thought for a few moments and said, "she was more relaxed". It was precious when the breeder returned the puppy that we would not be taking to her mother. Our puppy sat and gazed at the door that her playmate had disappeared from and was very still with puzzlement and sadness, for indeed she had never been without the company of her siblings.

Sitting and looking at you with a steady gaze is something that Cherry is good at. She just studies your face, waiting. Catching the intelligent gaze of a German Shepherd is what I think I love about the breed the most. I don't have a picture yet of her looking at me with a studying air about her. I was taking photographs of her without the flash on and the shutter speed was so slow that very few pictures came out in focus. But I will take more pictures, and try to capture what I see as her best quality.

Our puppy might be fundamentally laid back, but she is oh so many other things as well. We are going to have to do a good job socializing her because she has a shy streak. Not around us in the kitchen, here all she wants to do is play and explore. She gallops when she is happy, like when you call her name and she comes to you. She will run with great leaps in the air and her paws go "thud, thud" as they pound the linoleum floor.

But when we have visitors she hides in her crate. When she is picked up by a stranger she shakes. There are many things that cause her to shake. The cat walking by. The garbage can outdoors. A running car motor. In fact, for the first time today I got her to walk to the end of the street. The street where we park is a dead end and very quiet, but in front of our front door is a street that has moderately heavy traffic and she has been afraid to go walking near it. I took a plastic container filled with doggie treats and shook it as we walked toward the busy street. Every few feet she went forward I rewarded her with a treat. Eventually we made it to the beginning of the street. More treats, and then she turned tail and tried to make it as fast as she could back to where our driveway begins and familiar territory.

Last night we went out to rent a movie and my husband held her in his lap in the car. At first she shook and then relaxed. My husband entered the store holding her and again she shook but then relaxed. He got the man working behind the counter to pet her. Tomorrow I am going to my therapist's and I have permission to take her with me. I'll put her crate into the back of the car, then put her in it. This is the way I drove to the vet's yesterday. What was encouraging at the vets was that in the waiting room Cherry happily went up to strangers and licked their hands. So she is friendly, that might beat her shy streak. At my therapist's all I want is for him to feed her treats, and if he's willing, hold her. My therapist's office is in a library (a library where people bring their dogs believe it or not - that's the luxury of a sleepy little town) and I hope to get the librarian to socialize with the puppy as well. I'm a little desperate for as many strangers as possible to handle Cherry. I even went as far as to approach a teenager chipping ice across the street and asked if he would hold her. He said no but his mother came out to see what was going on. I've forgotten her name, even though sometimes we wave to one another. I explained to the mother that my puppy needed strangers to hold her and the mother took Cherry into her arms. She said, "is she shaking because it is cold outside or because she's scared of me" and I said, "a little of both". So we went indoors. Never been in their house before even though we are neighbors. The mother swayed back and forth while she held Cherry and eventually Cherry stopped shaking. Then her son came in and agreed to hold the dog as well. Cherry even went as far as to lick both their hands, a very welcome sign.

Funny thing is, I am a shy person. It is hard for me to approach people I don't know well. But I want the best for my dog. I care about her personality growth. So I'm really pushing myself in contacting people to come over to the house. In two days a woman from Church is coming over to do some volunteer work (the pictorial directory, still not finished) and I had to reverse plans - we had set it that I was to go to her house. For the past year I've been working at her home. But I called her asked her for the favor to come over to my house. I said please, spoil my dog with treats. And she laughed and said that a dog she once owned peed with fear whenever someone new entered the house. So she knows the consequences if I don't socialize, she knows what I'm trying to avoid.

Cherry is lucky that she has emotional, caring owners. She is so sensitive that she could be easily ruined. Perhaps most German Shepherds are like this. The vet told me yesterday that she defiantly recommends puppy kindergarten. But this put me in a terrible predicament. The breeder said that she used to teach puppy kindergarten, and then one of the puppies got sick with parvo (because they were too young to receive the vaccination) and gave parvo to all the other puppies and some died. "Never again!!!!!!! No kindergarten, no Petco, no Petsmart, no place where other dogs go, you are smart enough that you can teach her the basic commands, sit, stay, come, down, and you are smart enough to make certain she gets a lot of socialization!!!!!!!" said the email, with all those exclamation marks. I promised the breeder that we would guard our dog's health and not take her to where there were other dogs until she had her three series of shots, at about 16 weeks of age. So I repeated all this to the vet and the vet shook her head. "I've seen so many dogs euthanized because of bad behavior, the number of deaths from euthanization way outweighs the number of puppies that get sick" she said. "You can wait until her next vaccination at twelve weeks to start puppy kindergarten". So there it was, two conflicting advice, both given with the most urgent regard.

If Cherry weren't a shy German Shepherd, if she were say a Labrador Retriever which just wants to love everyone and be loved by everyone I wouldn't worry so much about puppy kindergarten. But in puppy kindergarten there is puppy play time, where the dogs at the same age play with each other (they need to be socialized with canines as well as humans) and then you play games like pass the puppy, where everyone sits in a circle and you pass the puppy to the person on your left. It is a lot of fun. But you get advice too, as to what to do about nipping and other undesirable behaviors, as well as how to teach basic commands. For instance, I've forgotten how to make a puppy go into a down. I could research the command on the internet. Already I've watched videos that teach the come command and it was very helpful.

Teaching commands doesn't just make an obedient dog, it makes the dog subservient to you and it establishes a hierarchy of control where you are at the top and the dog knows that it is at the bottom. Dogs want structure. They want a hierarchy. And if you don't step up to the plate, and take control, they will think that it is their job to be in control, and trust me, a dog's idea of being the leader is wild, untamed and dangerous. German Shepherds, because they are so smart, want to know exactly the way the world works and what is their place in the hierarchy. I used to think that all a dog needed was love. That was before my beloved German Shepherd puppy Plum tried to take a huge bite out of my shoulder. Her attempt at control, and dominance, taught me that I had to be stronger. My will must never break, it is her will that must be undone. So now I look at my puppy and think "you think you can get your way? You just don't know that I have more patience than you, and that in any contest of wills, I will wait you out, never waiver, and I will always win because I'm a human and you aren't." My husband told me last night that he could never think like that, that it isn't his personality, but I know that you can be trained to think like that, and that it didn't come naturally to me either at first.

Several nights ago Cherry was confined to her crate in our kitchen and my husband and I were out at the grocery store. When we entered the video store I suddenly started crying. Concerned my husband asked what was wrong. This is what I said. "I know its really neurotic but I'm afraid that while we're away our house will catch on fire and Cherry will die." It was so hard for me to be parted from her. It was so hard for me not to have my eye on her every minute. And I was sleep deprived. Cherry was waking us up at three in the morning, howling because she needed to go to the bathroom. And then she howled when we tried to put her back in the crate, so I had to go into the kitchen with her. I had to be awake, either giving her bathroom breaks or correcting her on what to chew. She really wants to chew the bottom of our sofa. So you say no, pull her away from the sofa, and put a toy in her mouth. By now she knows that toys can be chewed on at any time, with any level of aggression. She gets praised for playing with her toys. But I make a horrible noise when she tries to chew my shoes or the ends of my coat. "Epp!" You have to constantly watch her, guide her, and if she piddles or poos, catch her in the middle with a loud "NO!" When she goes to the bathroom outdoors she gets praise, the command "get busy" while it is going on, and after, a doggie treat.

Going outdoors is a bit of a production. You put on your coat and shoes and she immediately knows what is coming next. Then you go to the door and she has to sit pretty and still while you clip on her leash. She must sit again when you take the leash off. In one day she learned how to do this. Also, at various times I take a treat and say "sit" and give her the treat while she is sitting. Once the leash is on Cherry you ring the bell that hangs next to the door and say "Outside" as you open the door. Eventually she will ring the bell when she wants to go outside and alert us to her need. And as you brave the cold, don't forget to grab the treat cup so that after she goes you can reward her. She definitely knows to pee outdoors. So many nice things happen when she pees outdoors. And I'm encouraged that the last time she peed indoors, it was right in front of the outside door, as though she had thoughts in that direction.

Today I had a missed opportunity. My husband got up before me and took care of the dog at 4:30 in the morning. She had two hours of play before he left for work. When he left he put her back in her crate, and for the first time, she didn't whimper and howl. So I could sleep. But my sleep was horrible, for I must have been listening for her sounds. I dreamed that Cherry was drowning. Alarmed I woke fully. I looked at the clock and only twenty minutes of sleep had passed since my husband left. It was 7:05 am. Pre-Cherry I might sleep until 9 or 10. But ever since Cherry has arrived I have lost morning hours of sleep. My medication makes me sleep 10 to 12 hours, but instead I sleep 7 or 8 hours, a luxury for most, but not enough for me. So this leads to days that are foggy and emotionally fragile. Last night my husband said that my cheeks were red. He even got a mirror to show me, he was so concerned. I said it must be a consequence of being over-tired. Sunday my mother visited and said that I had bags under my eyes. And yes, last night after saying that I was so tired I wanted to cry but I couldn't cry, I did indeed weep tears of exhaustion.

I'm giving Cherry Blossom my all. Today I sat in front of a vine that grows in our bathroom and sketched from life exactly 5 leaves. That was all I had concentration for.

And I have not mentioned my newly formed extreme respect for mothers and their newborns or toddlers. My sister currently is living with one of each. My admiration for what she goes through has never been so high.

There are moments of reward. This morning I took the sleeping puppy on the ground into my arms up on the sofa. She must have loved the warmth of my body because she stayed sleeping for another half an hour. As I looked at her this entire time, stroking her soft fur and smelling her, I thought "this is as close as I will ever come to holding my own baby."

So call me a happy wreck.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Pulling hair

It is so exciting to know that I have no obligations, no interruptions, and that when I wake, after I have shook off the drugged feeling of medicated sleep, I can draw. I started a new drawing yesterday and had to stop only when my concentration quit me. There were still visions dancing in my head. A figure here. Two figures there. What are the two doing, fighting or playing leap frog? I don't know until I put pencil to paper and until I have a new day with new powers of concentration.

There is a wealth that some artists have that isn't measured by money. I see it as a mental wealth; the ability to draw for hours upon hours. To meter out their concentration as steady and abundant, this the gift of others, not me. A local art school has drawing classes where they draw from life, hiring a model, and I know I would be lucky to last for forty-five minutes. That would be all that is in me. And yet sometimes this class has marathons where they gather and draw for many, many hours. It boggles my mind, what some others are capable of.

This drawing, "Pulling Hair" was started in for a class that I took over two years ago. I started the drawing and it lay unfinished in a sketch book. It was fun to finish the drawing - I dare say that there are elements of good creativity in it. To draw the braided hair I took two sneakers and braided their shoe laces together then drew what I saw. But the untidy hair that is being pulled will be the most fun to paint. I intend to use a pallet knife and brushes and to make it as wild as can be, many shades of yellow. Or is she a red head and needs shades of orange? I haven't decided upon a color scheme yet, but one thing is for certain. All the outlines are intact. It is truly a primitive drawing, all done from the imagination. No real hands, no real feet, no real faces, only the shoe laces to make a believable braid. And the cat? It came from an artist's book of cats - cat pictures all painted, no photographs. So I copied the cat, stole the cat. Even though there are two cats in the house it was easier to copy. So perhaps the claim that it is all from imagination is false. But those dresses, patterns I made up. And the basic premise, one woman pulling another woman's hair, that was all my own. It has just a touch of violence about it. Maybe more than a touch. I think I'll put hair pulling in my next drawing as well. You don't need a sword or a gun, just your fists to inflict harm. No blood, just a little agony.

I've barely painted with a pallet knife but the experience was so profound that I am incorporating it into this painting and my next one. Here it is hair that will be depicted by the scraping and blunt and smeared lines of the pallet knife, but in the next drawing it is a blue cascading waterfall that will be constructed using a pallet knife. I'm interested in a painting where different techniques are used. I'll have my usual blending and layering of transparent paints with the tiniest of brushes. Truly, I've walked into an art supply store looking for the smallest brushes they sell. But the down side of using tiny brushes is that it takes so long to paint and in my case boredom sets in.

I tried explaining to my husband that the death in November of my German Shepherd has shaken me to the core. I don't feel depressed, indeed I look forward to the puppy that is waiting for me at the breeder in New Hampshire, but inside of me a little spark died when my dog died. I told my husband that it feels like my ambition has abandoned me. I simply don't care about getting ahead in this world. That is not a natural state of affairs for me, I tend to be always scheming how I'll have another art show, or write a book and get it published. I used to like to push myself to work toward a goal every day. But since my dog died I've noticed that I do what the day requires of me, and find something to occupy my time, but I'm not pushing in any direction. Thus the conclusion that my ambition has abandoned me.

But my husband saw a different phenomena. He said that my ambition has been redirected toward getting another dog. I put in the energy and the drive to make it happen, from emailing breeders to telling my family that the only Christmas presents I wanted was money to cover the costs of the next dog. And truly, step by step my home was transformed to welcome the puppy. We bought baby gates to keep her confined in the kitchen. We bought all the supplies a new puppy might need during multiple trips to different dog stores; a pink collar, a pink leash, a leash that attaches to our body for training, a leash that is 50 ft long for training that essential word "come", soft treats cut into small bits and plastic containers to hold them, so that the container might be shook and make a distinctive sound, signaling that a treat is coming after the command is given. Of course there was the heavy large bag of puppy food, and some canned food to mix it with for taste, there was the washing out of my dead dog's own puppy bowl, (how on earth it was saved and found is a little miracle after 9 years, a small metal bowl for small puppy meals served three a day). We bought a smaller crate for the puppy to be house trained in, when crated they will hold their pee and poop for fear of fouling where they sleep. So many tiny steps, even, the last, done just yesterday.

We went to Wal-Mart to buy some ribbon. Pink ribbon for Cherry Blossom. The ribbon is so that a bell can be hung at dog nose level. Leave the house, and say "outside" and ring the bell each time. Eventually the trained dog will ring the bell with her nose when she wants to go outside to go to the bathroom. A ringing bell to alert anyone near that the dog has a physical need. Fair play, since she won't be allowed to go in the house. As the dog grows, and nose level changes, we can shorten the ribbon and up the bell goes.

And then there was the very big task of vacuuming carpets, rolling them up, and storing them in the barn. At the age of 6 months housetraining should be complete, and hopefully the dog will have good muscle control over its bowels. Then the rugs can go back. But I'm uncertain. The rugs might go back once the dog has stopped its chewing phase. We are being careful. I took all the magnets off of the lower part of the refrigerator. I don't want my museum art magnets chewed. Once the dog is left alone in the house, we will see if separation anxiety causes her to chew.

I told my therapist that some of my ambition is gone because my dog died. He said that apathy is a part of depression, and that what I may be feeling is apathy. It could be apathy. I just didn't care very much about being creative for a while, but I will admit that is changing. The drawing "Pulling Hair" is finished, the next step is to transfer the drawing to gessoed board. Inbetween steps I will work on the drawing I started yesterday. Two paintings should be going at one time. When one is wet I can work on the other.

When puppy arrives I must spend my days in the kitchen and paint or draw there. The kitchen table which always has a decorative table cloth and runner, as well a flowers and candles (my little pretty display in the middle of the room that screams "domestic") has been replaced with a bare table covered in a long strip of brown craft paper. Don't want the puppy to pull at a table cloth, and I need a place to paint and to accidentally drop paint. My art table is in a room that is unsuitable for a puppy, so, at least until spring, I'll be setting up my table easel on the kitchen table. The light there isn't as good as in my art room. In the art room there is a line of halogen lights bolted to the ceiling above my work space, aimed down at me. In the kitchen there is just a regular lamp in the ceiling to my right, and to the further right a big window. Behind me there is little light and no light to my left. Have to plan all small scale paintings that can fit on the table easel. The drawing that I've shown here in the beginning of this blog entry is only 8" by 10".

A new puppy and new paintings. A finished drawing and an unfinished drawing that is begging to be filled with detail.

Life is pretty fun.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Puppy Visit

Went yesterday to visit the puppies. Now they are 9 days away from being legal to sell. A puppy has to be at least 8 weeks old to be legally parted from its mother and sold to a new owner.

The car ride into New Hampshire to get to the breeder takes an hour and 20 minutes. During that time I had a hard time concentrating on the road. Good thing Mike was driving. It was like I couldn't wake up, but it was 12 noon. Either it was my illness affecting cognitive abilities or else I had a bad medication interaction from the night before. But I had done nothing different with my medications and I had gotten a full night's sleep. Very frustrating when your head isn't working correctly, even when it is not particularly noticeable to other people. I kept telling myself that when we got to the puppies my adrenaline would kick in and I would be able to focus just fine on the little monsters. This is exactly what seemed to happen. But on the ride home I again had trouble with concentration and sleepiness, it was like my brain didn't want to work and was with-holding intelligence and awareness from me. Schizophrenia is so much more than just the stuff that's absurd, painful and delusional - it is a brain malfunctioning at the very root of conscious awareness. At least when I falter, this is the way it goes. There is less of me that is alive. Schizophrenia kills little pieces of me, but leaves little pieces to be aware and observant of what is missing.

I had a good method of luring a puppy to me. All of us were sitting in a kitchen but the puppies were either most comfortable circling the breeder (she is familiar) or exploring their surroundings. You had to do something, or else the puppies would ignore you. I noticed that my husband would lean forward and put his face almost to the floor, and then immediately as many as three puppies at one time would bound forward to lick his face. Whenever a face was put within reach the puppies would respond by licking it. Pick up a puppy and put it near your face and the same thing happens. They are so young, but they know faces, even human faces, are a point of communication and power. So a face near ground level attracted a puppy. But what I did was to scratch the floor as though I were digging for something. This too would attract a puppy - they would wander over to see what you were uncovering. Perhaps it was the clicking of my fingernails against the linoleum floor. Anyway, play digging got puppy's attention. The breeder put out two orange tangerines, perfect round objects, and I tried rolling them and getting the puppies interested in a rolling object but only a few responded. Not yet there developmentally I guess.

The breeder sat in a chair and snipped each puppy's toenails. The puppies didn't mind, so I noted that this is a habit I must continue when I bring mine home. Plum Pudding hated her toenails clipped, only a groomer or the vet could clip them and that left too much time for them to grow long. Another thing I'm going to do a lot of is putting my hand inside the puppy's mouth in case I have to give the dog medication. For Plum we would put the medication in meat and feed it to her that way. I was afraid of putting my hand in her mouth because I didn't want to get bit. What I'm not going to do is brush my puppy's teeth. We will also need to give puppy a bath in not too long a time, getting it used to being cleaned in the tub with soap and water. All the new experiences I have to put puppy through so that it is a well adjusted dog. Finding families with children is important - I know of one bi-polar mother of a four year old and a two year old and I'm thinking that I will offer to take puppy to her home to play with her children. I want the dog to play with children. It will be hard for me to invite myself over, she is very nice and I don't think will have any worry or misgivings, only, I am shy to ask. Everyone in my peer support group that meets Wednesday evenings at the local hospital will be invited over to my home to play with the puppy. You want as many strangers as possible to handle the puppy. Of course supervised visits, because God forbid the puppy should have a traumatic experience, dogs will remember. I trust the people in the mental illness peer support group as good people, with the exceptions of some of the members of a local group home. Those people are very sick and most are sweet, but hidden cruelty is a possibility, some I can't get a read on. I am uncertain what they are capable of because of the severity of their illness. They are outside of ordinary in terms of their personality.

Once the puppy has had its distemper shots, (it takes a series of shots for this disease), I can take the puppy to public places where there might be other dogs and I can take the puppy to other dogs to play with. My husband as a child knew another child who had a puppy that died of distemper, the poor thing wasted away, so the disease is real and it is out there. I want my dog to play with other dogs, but some of the people I know don't have much money for vet visits and their dogs could be carriers for distemper. My husband said that the disease is like that, a dog can have it but not get sick, merely pass it on to others, or it can get sick and die. Better safe than sorry. Need to keep the puppy at home for about three weeks, the space of time for the vet to give it all its shots. One place that will be fun to visit with the puppy after its had its shots is a coffee house in downtown Brattleboro that allows dogs. I love cappuccinos.

As we drove home from the breeder's we stopped at two pet supply stores. It feels a bit like we are preparing for the coming of a baby. This weekend and next the kitchen will be transformed. Yesterday my husband installed one baby gate, today he installs a second. Then the puppy can run around the kitchen but not get to the rest of the apartment. I practiced hooking together and collapsing the metal crate that will be used to housetrain the puppy. When the puppy is put in the crate it holds it's bladder because it takes the small space as a den, and instinctively it shouldn't want to mess its den. Open the crate and immediately take the dog outside to relieve itself. We should be able to sleep through the night if the puppy is in its crate and have no messes. When I take the puppy to the vet the crate is put in the car so I can drive without a puppy underfoot or going to the bathroom on the car upholstery. This weekend I take down all the Christmas decorations, next weekend we roll up the rugs that cover the kitchen's linoleum floor and take down all the art magnets on the refrigerator door. Chewed magnets are a health risk. The magnetic pieces can bind to each other in the intestines and it takes surgery to get them out. I know this about toddlers, the same must be true for a puppy. Unhappily, this drive to take no risks with the little one's health led to a fight between my husband and I.

Several days ago I said that the dog would be getting dog food and nothing else because I thought that human food was somehow involved in my last dog getting bloat and dying. However my husband thought that it was the chews we gave Plum after her meal that caused her to have bloat, and more, that a dog not getting delicious human food was depriving it of one of the greatest joys in living. We were so opposed to how we were going to feed the dog that my husband said a hurtful thing; he said if we had ever had children we would have divorced over fighting how they would be raised.

In my household we don't talk about divorce. That's a no-no. That my husband had no confidence in us working out a problem was to me an upsetting idea. You are supposed to fight and struggle within a marriage and yet keep the marriage going; it is a lot of hard work but you are supposed to put in the hard work and endure conflict for the sake of the marriage. But what I said to my husband, after he told me I loved this puppy more than him, and after he said he wanted nothing to do with the dog (since I wouldn't budge over how it was to be fed) I told my husband that the essence of the issue with food was bloat. All I cared about was that the dog not get bloat. This was what was causing me to be argumentative and dig my heels in. So I told him let me do research on bloat on the internet. And the next day I spend three hours doing exactly that.

Turns out that giving dog canned food, or else real meat, is good for their digestion and avoiding bloat. There is nothing wrong either with giving the dog human food (with some exceptions that cause gas) or chew toys after dinner. Both of us were wrong in thinking we knew what killed our dog. So when my husband got home from work we sat in bed and went over all the research I had printed out from websites and discussed. We found it then very easy to compromise. We would feed the dog a combination of canned food and dry food. The bloat causing factor is how much water you give the dog around feeding time, if there is exercise around feeding time, and it is better to give two smaller meals, breakfast and dinner, instead of one big meal. Bloat is the second killer of dogs after cancer. And so few people know what precautions to take. If I had spent three hours doing research on bloat while my dog was alive she would still be alive today.

So while my husband and I experience joy at the idea of the new dog, we have anxiety and conflict as well. I am very strict on ideas of safety, my husband is very invested in the dog being happy. I have made a resolution to stop saying the one thing that I have in the past used as a weapon against my husband, "at least no child I raised would grow up to be a stripper." In our fight over the dog, when my husband told me we would divorce because our ideas on child raising are so different, I pulled out that old line. It is a hurtful thing to say and I'm not certain why but I'm putting it to rest. Reality is I don't know what would happen if I were to have become a mom. I could have raised a drug addict that stripped to support her habit. I doubt it, but one never knows. Why should I be so self assured about my powers as a mother?

Know one of my greatest horrors? Besides another case of bloat? Having a dog that pulls on the leash. I hate walking downtown and seeing these humans practically tripping over their own feet because they are being pulled so fast by a dog that is choking itself while it is straining at the end of a lead. I see dogs walking people, not people walking dogs. I will do anything to avoid that behavior. And I know how much work and discipline it takes not to give in to the dog's instincts to be in control. My husband and I will be going to obedience training classes, both of us together. I want a dog with certain habits, it is up to me to see that it develops these habits. It is up to my husband as well and I think he is the weak link. My husband isn't a big on on discipline. For instance, I keep telling him I'm on a diet and he keeps on bring home fattening foods as "treats" for me. Donuts, pizza, pieces of pie. But I'm hoping that if he becomes educated about dog behavior, he will become effective. So obedience training classes for both of us.

Oh Lord, the little puppy will have a very short attention span.

I remember being in obedience training class and everyone's dog was behaving much better than my dog, even though I had practiced hard with her.

I hope I don't worry too much and forget to have fun.

Friday, January 7, 2011

San Fransico Magnets

I went to San Fransisco to celebrate Christmas. My husband, mother and I stayed for a week as guests of my sister and her husband. My sister put us up in a hotel across the street from their apartment. The apartment was in central San Fransisco so it was easy to walk to Chinatown and just about any type of store you could imagine. Mornings were free, because we didn't want to interrupt my sister's family, her husband slept late and she had her hands full with taking care of her three year old daughter and her six month old son. So mornings my husband and mother and I went walking, and it became my wish to visit the major museums in town and collect art magnets for our refrigerator at home.

The trip was difficult because of my illness. I loved seeing my sister and brother who just a month ago moved out to the area and is supporting himself as my sister's nanny. My brother is trained as a massage therapist and hopes to start his own business. He is looking at the challenge of moving from the East coast to one of the most expensive parts of the West coast as a challenge. He has a lot of belief in himself, at one point during the visit he said that he has the tendency to make his dreams come true. Not many people can say that this is the way they operate. He loves where he has found an apartment, just steps away from his back door is a wildlife preserve with miles of trails for hiking and mountain biking. My brother is very healthy and looks ten years younger than he really is. He is a survivor. I am not. I am fragile. I survive, but it is with the grace of others whom I am dependent upon.

Sometimes during the trip I felt overwhelming fear. It is hard to look at great art when you are experiencing anxiety. I was afraid of losing connecting airplane flights, I was afraid of not finding taxis, I was afraid of even saying something that would displease my sister. Sometimes the muscles in my upper back ached from all the tension that were in them.

But the days had a rhythm to them, a morning adventure upon the town, an hour or two of rest and a little more medication, then afternoons and evenings with my sister and her kids. I learned that I am not one to immediately bond with a child, it was the right decision for me not to have children. I do better with owning a dog. The energy my sister expends with her children is mind boggling, and she has a nanny and a night nurse hired to come into her home and help her. Some of the time she makes extra work for herself, she is careful with her children to the point of being neurotic about their feeding and sleep and general wellness and safety, but this doesn't harm the children, it just makes mental stress for herself. My sister was always a perfectionist and has the tendency to worry.

My sister asked that I come to California and live close to them. To fold up my life in Vermont and start a new one just so that I could see her family more often. I told her that when her husband becomes a billionaire I would do so. She asked if it was possible I do so just if he becomes a multi-millionaire. Its sweet that my sister loves me so much, but she is used to people marching to the beat of her own drum, that's what having money does to you. It makes you used to being in charge and getting your own way. Its funny. She has a three carat diamond on her finger that is so pure that in the sunlight it sparkles with all the colors of the rainbow, more big diamonds in her ears, and she wears old navy sweat pants and a coat that she got for $15 at a used clothing store. All their china is miss matched and her husband sleeps on the floor in their gigantic, penthouse closet. That's so the children and his wife don't wake him. When I visited my sister last I saw that on their bed they were using a tee shirt for a pillow case. The husband owns his own internet company and drives a Porsche. From one angle they are rich, from another angle they are poor. They are so busy living the height of civilization that sometimes they skimp, too busy, too distracted, too forgetful, and they endure the strangest situations.

My sister told me a story. The night nurse was telling her ways that she could be helpful. "Can I do this for you and can I do that for you?" was the way she was talking. And my sister said to her, "Will you just be my friend?" It was supposed to be a joke but in a way it was no joke. Her husband works such long hours that she rarely sees him and it is understood in their family that he earns the money and she takes care of the kids and the apartment. If it weren't for all the hired help my sister might be very lonely.

So I got a good view of another person's life and I concluded that I preferred my own life. I am certain that my sister feels the same way - she has always wanted to have children be the center of her life. And she loves diamonds. I was passed down the diamond earrings that her old boyfriend, fifteen years past, gave her - tiny things but real. I wear them all the time. They remind me of my sister. And they make me feel cultured. I can feel sophisticated in thrift store clothes and cast off diamonds. I guess so can my sister, even though she doesn't have to wear thrift store clothes.

Right now I am at a cross-road in my life. My therapist yesterday was horrified when I told him I had given up on my book project, what I spent the last year working on. Today I drew cats. They weren't cats from my imaginations, they were cats from pictures in books. They are part of a larger composition with two elegantly dressed women, one whose upper head is blown off, just intended to be a mass of smeared red. I can't seem to avoid violence in my artwork. Drawing cats was slightly boring, just compare, analyze, correct, compare again. Wish to work only in a limited sense from photographs because I get bored quick. I'm straining to go in a new direction with my art. Have to buy more art supplies. On my list; a pallet knife. Painting with a pallet knife will loosen me up. Wish for tiny details and big smears.

I'm going where the wind blows me. Working, but not with any long range plans. I'm praying, when I pray, for strength to walk this road that seems to be enveloped in fog. I would like, and I do ask God for this, for a style of painting that will sell. I would like to sell artwork. But I don't know if the talent is in me. More then this, I don't know if the fate is for me to sell my work. Some of what you get is luck, some of it is hard work. I'm starting, just barely, but I think I'm starting to ramp up to doing hard work.