Why Dogs? December 18, 2018

Recently my Pack has experienced significant losses.

Thanksgiving weekend, Hannah and Molly pushed out the door with the faulty latch and disappeared over the horizon. I found Hannah’s body at the pound on Sunday, November 25, thoughtfully wrapped in two plastic bags. She had been hit by something, and her jaw was broken. She was still soft, so it was a recent event. Joe and Marsha helped me take her to the crematorium. Hannah MacKenzie was four years old.

Two days later, Wednesday, November 28, after Joe and Marsha continued the quest to find Molly, she was found at the pound. I went up on Thursday after work and bailed my girl out of Puppy Prison. She came home with a limp, a sore abdomen, and a new attitude – which we need to work on. Molly Regen is two and a half years old.

The following Sunday, Maeda Jayne, my 13-year-old, had what appeared to be a stroke, and was not well.

On Monday, Joe and Marsha picked up Hannah’s ashes and brought them to the house.

The next day, December 4, 2018, I came home to find Maeda struggling for breath, looking like it was going to be our last good-bye. It was. She and I sat together, exchanging memories and snuggles, before she took her last breath, wagged her tail, and was gone. The dogs outside began to howl.

Joe and Marsha came again to help take her to the crematorium.

On Wednesday, I passed Glorianna to a neighbor, because I did not have the energy for this shepherd mix puppy, formerly of San Carlos Apache Reservation.

On Wednesday, I found lesions on Freckles, and some odd growth around her lip.
She and I went to the vet on Friday. She was banished to quarantine for ten days. Freckles McGee is four and a half years old.

The neighbor brought Glorianna back home.

Molly and I are negotiating her responsibilities in the Pack.

She growls at everyone, including me.

She still gets sore if we walk more than a half mile.

Interlude: I celebrate my father’s birthday December 6, also St. Nikolaus Tag. On this day, I found a gold and sapphire ring in the mud at school. It fits, so I assume it is a gift from the Earth, my dad, and my dogs. Happy St. Nikolaus Tag, I love you, too.

The school where I work is fraught with trauma, violence, and daily overdoses of anxiety and chaos.
The nights have become impossible at home – nightmares, my own anxiety attacks, and the chemistry of grief.

Never mind that Christmas is coming soon, and my family in the East are not the Magi.

I am a wreck.

Many of my friends and most of the community wonder that I have a multi-dog Pack. Some have been gracious, even though they don’t get it. So, I am writing this essay as an explanation, of sorts.

Why Dogs?

Why dogs?

Because everyone needs to love someone and be loved in return.

Why dogs?

Because they get all excited when I’m around, anxious to spend time with me, overjoyed to just hang out. Not once have I ever heard them say, “Wow. I just wasted 70 minutes talking to you.”

Why dogs?

Because in the middle of the night, when the nightmares are too strong, I wake up, and lying next to me, against my body, their head or paw on my leg comforting me are good friends. Not once have they said, “Just drink a beer, and go back to sleep.”

Why dogs?

Because when we are playing, and a right hook catches my cheek, it is because we are playing, not because I confronted my mother’s addiction and her right hand cracked my face into the next county, leaving me dazed and confused, in tears in the kitchen.

Why dogs?

Because if I want to go for a walk in the rain, the snow, or on a cold day, they wag themselves silly with anticipation. They don’t sigh deeply or in scorn, asking, “Why kind of idiot goes out in weather like this.”
I do. Does this mean I’m an idiot?

Why dogs?

Because I like to hike, to camp, to travel, to explore. I don’t have a husband (divorced), an elder brother (former addict, now deceased), a father (estranged, now deceased), or other male relative to protect and defend me because sexist societal rules say I should not go out ‘alone’. If I had succumbed to the notion that ‘girls can’t/shouldn’t’, I would never have seen the Great Divide – in the dark because, on our way from Arizona  to Connecticut, 2015, I had to pull over so Hannah could piddle; from the southern end of the Rocky Mountains, 2016, when we headed north to avoid a tunnel; from  the northern end – which included my first sighting of sheep, mountain sheep, long-horn sheep. All this with dogs in the car, wanting to get out and take a look, too.

I cried with sorrow that the people I left behind were not there to share this with me. But, they’ve seen it on television, and for them, that is enough.
It isn’t even close.

Why dogs?

Because I love the sound of coyotes and to watch the night sky – especially when the coyotes are close, and my dogs howl with them.
I am more alive when we are outside, in the woods, among the coyote and the elk, the pine and the wild turkey. Among the Wild Things.

I don’t need to explain this to the dogs. They come back from their expeditions, grinning from ear to ear, covered in the weeds and mud of the local pond or creek, tired, exhausted, exhilarated.

They know.

They, and the illusion that minute measures of tent fabric will be enough to keep out the bear, the lion, the whatever that thing is that is breaking through the underbrush at three in the morning, make me feel safe.

One dog invites a visit from a stranger: “Need help setting up the tent?”

Nope.

Two dogs invite a conversation from a respectable distance as they gage my ability to set up camp alone.

Three or more? People nod and walk on, making comments like, “Nice dogs you have there.”
Morgen used to wag his 98 pounds at them. Duncan stood closer to me. Maeda Jayne, all husky and shepherd, gave them the ‘look’. Hannah used to bark them away.
I don’t know, but I get the feeling Molly has taken over the care-taking position, practicing her growling at the puppy, and her hair-raising barking at the Mastiff next door.

Why dogs?

Because God can’t be everywhere. He sends companions, guardians, protectors. But even they go away. Morgen is now romping through the Eternal Woods with my grandfather. Duncan is somewhere listening to Johann Sebastian Bach play the Brandenburg Concertos live – and waiting for me. Maeda Jayne is with my grandmother, swimming with the mallards and geese. Hannah? I don’t think Hannah has left just yet. Her Spirit is here, training Molly. Protecting our Pack.

Kyte, Bruno, and Abigail Fenstermacher, Meshach, Patty, and Sam, who came before, remember.

Why dogs?

Because it is lonely without them. Times are uncertain and I need reassurance. But, I wonder if Molly prefers to run free. Then I recall Hannah’s fractured jaw; the dead and rotting corpses lining the road where I found Freckles; the cold and rainy night Molly was abandoned; the emaciated bones and skin Glorianna wore the day we met.

I know that I cannot prevent violence. I can not stop addiction. I can not change society’s rules.
But I can live.

And I do.

With dogs.

 

January 2, 2016 Hannah at the Lake

Hannah at Roosevelt Lake, Arizona

 

img0030

Maeda by the Shetucket River, Connecticut

 

Get your hiking shoes … March 19, 2019

I might be claiming this for myself.
 
As I struggle with current events, I am reminded:
I survived my family the first time.
I sent a man to jail for harassment and sexual assault after the seven (7) women he raped could not. The women in our city had a brief respite from at least one (term I should not use in public).
I left the man who stalked me for 11 years with my mother, who was the source of contact information for him. I still tend to move like a rabbit running from a coyote.
I left a husband who told me and treated me like I was a waste of time.
I am living in my car with two dogs who spent the night roaming the desert and came back, tired, exhausted, but with hugs and snuggles.
 
I am loved.
I have a warm and toasty car, and some warm and toasty friends.
 
I am a survivor and I live a rich life.
It isn’t conventional, but it is mine.
 
My mom called Christmas Eve to let me know she is not well, would I come for a visit.
I went. After 27 years of silence, it seemed like a good idea.
While on the east coast, I collected the rest of my things – including Christmas decorations I haven’t seen in five years. I visited my ex and confirmed that leaving was a very good idea.
I visited friends and family who love me.
I ate good food.
I went to see the touchstones of my past.
 
I am not in the East anymore.
While traveling through the southern desert, I realized my skin tone matches the scenery – same colors, similar textures. I match. I belong.
Here.
 
Not in the nightmares of the early morning.
Not in the anxiety of mid-afternoon when I have to begin to decide where we’ll stop for the night.
Not in the panic unleashed by the bats in the belfry, the ghosts in the attic, the skeletons in the closets, the dragons under the bed – who collectively are out and about and totally driving me nuts.
 
But I have friends and family who love me.
So, while my paradigms are being shattered, along with my soul, I am aware that I am becoming someone new, someone needed, someone loved.
 
I am.
 
Me.
So, yes, the mountain is moving. Some days by force of will. Some days just as the dirt clinging to my shoes.
But it’s my mountain.
And it’s moving.
 
It sucks and I am not really enjoying this process. But wotthehell.
 
Get your backpack and hiking shoes or get the hell out of my way.
 
Amenamy

 

Ice February 20, 2019

Ice

February 20, 2019

Amy Lynn Reifsnyder

 

I’ve been sick.

I am sick.

You know, the headacheytossthesoup kind of sick.

My youngest dog has been, too. I’m blaming her mess on the new chewies she’s no longer allowed to have.

Me? I wish it was the chewies.

I’m sure it’s stress. Imagine …

Have you ever taken a running start and then let yourself glide on wet ice?
Well, imagine…

Imagine launching yourself onto a slippery slope, intentionally, knowing that you could fall, crash, slam, at any moment but in the meantime, Look, Ma! No hands! And besides, you were still moving forward, right?

Now. For unexplainable reasons, say you were sailing along, holding yourself up, giggling when you thought you might fall, relieved when you didn’t, and out of absolutely no where, someone drops a large, sharp-edged boulderleadstuddedwall smack dab directly in front of you.
You know you can not possibly careen around it.
It isn’t going to move.

And you’re going to hit it. Head on. Hard.

No chance of stopping. Nothing on which to brace yourself for the impact.

You just know you’re going.

And then, despite the Laws of Physics, you collide, crash, slam

And rather than a transfer of energy

The large, sharp-edged boulderleadstuddedwall absorbs nothing, and every particle, every molecule, every grain of sand or dead plant life that created this large, sharp-edged boulderleadstuddedwall suddenly shifts all, and I mean, all, of it’s restrained bound unified organized molten compressed disarray of destruction construction onto you.

And then it shatters. Crumbles. Falls apart.

And you, do, too.

My hands aren’t big enough to stop the collision.

My arms flail, trying to protect my eyes, my ears, my heart.

My legs have hit land.

I am destroyed. Broken. In pieces.

Me and the Boulder. Just like that.

Just like that.

And in real life without imagery or metaphor?
My mom called.
My mom.

Called.

Years of training and a swift backhand have taught me the value of going home immediately when Mom calls.
Even the neighbors know.

She’d call, and all the kids in a whistle-mile distance would turn their blanched faces toward me

Fearful.

Ame. You’re mom’s calling. You better go.

So, I did.
Go.

Along the way, I – I –

I don’t remember the trip East. Not right now. Not at 4:30 on a cold and frosty morning with a stunning full moon setting … and a bucket beside me, just in case.

I can’t remember anything past Audrey’s house. Past New Mexico.

Hell, I misplaced January once, and I missed Ohio on a previous trip. But there’s a big piece of Texas to Pennsylvania that does not come to mind.

My dad called. “Not my real dad” but the dad I grew up with. Where was I? Was I on my way?

Am I safe?

No. Really. That’s what he wanted. I didn’t delete the message. He wanted to be sure I was safe.

This could be funny if I remembered how to laugh.

The other one? After silence for five years, eleven days before he died, he asked me to forgive him.

Yup. Hallmark, I’ve got the script for your next holiday special.

Hell. I have more than one.

But I digress… I am stalling, trying to recall Oklahoma, Arkansas, Anything…

My cousin is a saint. She invited me to stay with her.
Ohmygod.

Apparently I walked around in circles repeating myself and asking questions that don’t have answers.

Thirty years.

Twenty-six if we count the phone call I got the Christmas after I got married. She missed the wedding but wanted to meet my husband and our foster child.
Hail Mary, full of grace …

Thirty years.

There is usually an expletive in the middle of that term, but I have tender friends who don’t approve of that sort of thing. Somewhere inside of me is the memory of once knowing how to be a friend. But I have forgotten.

Thirty years

Of anger, confusion, therapy, seizures, medication, mistakes, stupid living, faith, alcohol, and chocolate.

Lots of chocolate

Lots of walking

Lots of lonely. Lots and lots and lots and lots and lots of lonely…

Did you know, the letters in ‘lots’ spell ‘lost’?

Mistakes teach you things if you pay attention.

I tried. Oh, how I tried

To pay attention

But sooner or later, there is nothing to pay with

And now, here, on this clear and cold winter morning with a stunning moon setting

I have nothing. I am nothing.

I eat. I sleep. I work. I hug my dogs.

But there is a big piece of 28 to 58 that I can not recall

Laughter. Confidence. Determination.

Love.
I have nothing left.

My soul is broken

And I can not cry.

Ice.

Come. Lookit…

I hadn’t planned on taking a cross-country expedition with dogs this summer. But since my mom wanted to see me before she forgets everything, Molly and Freckles and I headed east… and north … and south …. and west.
 
We have re-established our unity as a pack, following the loss of Hannah and Mae.
We are home now, and Glorianna is slowly being integrated into our smaller family.
 
Time away was a blessing. Time together a healing.
Take to the highways – and then take the back roads in a place you’ve never been before.
Sleep in a strange bed (KOA,Motel 6, a friend’s daughter’s bed) or a strange position (in the car with two dogs).
Rediscover rain, snow, sleet, floods, lightning, and starry nights with constellations you’ve never seen before.
Look for alligators, and be grateful you didn’t see any.
Pray for the driver of the car that flipped onto the highway.
 
Remember where you came from, so you know you have the strength to go somewhere new.
 
Breathe deeply, unless you’re in Socorro, Texas. There you want to pray that the air cleaners on the oil stacks work better, and the EPA standards are increased, not removed.
 
We’re home now. But we’ll go again… we always go again…
It’s a cool planet. Come. Lookit …

The Story of the Prodigal Mother – Part 1 January 3, 2019

I’m going to make this quick because I am exhausted. Tired. Whipped. Overwhelmed.
Why? Because my mother, who has not intentionally spoken to me but once in the past thirty years – and that was twenty-six years ago – called last week. She said before she crossed the river, she wanted me to know where she had gone and what happened to her… “When can be get together?”

I live 2500-ish miles west of my hometown, for, as far as I am concerned, very good reason.
However, since I believe in all that Jesus – Forgiveness Thing, I loaded up the car with two dogs, Molly and Freckles, a couple different bags of clothing – possible funeral; hiking; everyday – some food, and what little money I had if I postponed paying a few bills.
I did not bring the Christmas cards and presents I forgot to post in the midst of the death of Hannah and Maeda.
I did not bring certainty or confidence, either.
After all, this is my mother we’re talking about.

The short version?

I met with her and my step-dad first.
The next visit included my sister, her husband, two of their children, one of their grandchildren; the three daughters of my deceased niece; and the eldest son of my deceased little brother.
I had seen my sister three years ago at my aunt’s funeral – the first time we have spoken in over thirty years.
I had met her husband there.
I had also met one of her granddaughters.

The son of my little brother I haven’t seen in twenty-nine years.

There is still one  more nephew I have never met.

I have a family. Not just two cousins (whom I love and appreciate dearly) and a dotty ninety-two-year-old aunt. (Please don’t tell her I called her ‘dotty’. Actually, she is amazing for her age, but there are times ….). I have parents again – no matter how brief this relationship might be. I have a sister, nieces, grand-nieces, and a nephew or two.

I have a family.

Merry Christmas! Happy New Year!

Who needs Hallmark Hall of Fame?

 

There is more to this. October 28, 2018

Dear Anybody,
I haven’t posted anything in a while. It  isn’t because I’ve been busy – and I have  been. It is because I have been feeling overwhelmed.
There are words for all of this, but they are scattered among the confusion and mayhem I have been trying to avoid.
In the meantime, I have begun an online “course” in gratefulness.
This is sponsored by people I do not know but who speak in a language I used to know and understand.
So, I decided I’d rely on them and their words to balance out the violence, insult, and condemnation that pervades the community where I have been hired to teach.
I’ll tell you about it sometime soon.
But for now, cherish your families, honestly compliment your partner, smile at strangers, and embrace the joy of living.

The following is one of the exercises. We were asked to choose one of four prompts. This is my submission.

My brightest light allows me to see …

Shadow Boxing

Amy Lynn Reifsnyder

October 28, 2018

My brightest light allows me to see that what I may perceive as mistakes in me are really opportunities for blessing. My pride, for instance, requires much attention. While I have considered myself better than others, more intelligent than others, more – whatever – I have learned that pride is not a particularly helpful thing when confronted with a community and a classroom of people whose values are diametrically opposed to just about everything I have ever believed in. I have found myself confronting my paradigms, my training, and my personal experience and coming up short. I have found that what I have believed to be true has been nothing more than cleverly disguised self-righteousness and pride. Consequently, the brightest Light is shining boldly into my shadow regions and casting out the fear and anger that have been skulking around in a drape, a mask of pride.

My brightest light allows me to see myself in a much more realistic pattern, which therefore allows me to become a New Creation.

When Water Does Not Cleanse

When Water Does Not Cleanse
September 15, 2018

The places I have lived
Are being hunted by a devouring god
Intent on wiping out the history of my youth
Waters rise and rage
Exchange destruction for memories of growth and laughter
Waterways swirl, enter homes,
Turmoil roils as it strips the walls,
Clears the basement
Molds the already decaying essence of my youth

Water rises, and I hear a song
Reminding me when Oceans Rise
I am still surrounded by Grace of a Higher God
One who understands destruction means Life, not Death

Waters rise
May my faith rise with it
To deny
This devouring god
Satisfaction of wicked intent

~ Amy Lynn Reifsnyder

Cape Hatteras, North Carolina – 1980
Chapel Hill and Wilmington, North Carolina – 1988
Ephrata, Pennsylvania – Hurricane Irene, when my family home was destroyed by rising water that did not cleanse

Found this while revisiting my past

Arizona is not a hasty lover. It takes you in slowly, and listens to see if you are in a hurry, and will pass her by. She does not put her best foot forward, but waits, patiently, to see if you will take your time, to wait, to see, if you will listen as she slowly, carefully, unfolds one secret at a time, enveloping you in love and understanding that is found in Solitude with Dogs on the edge of a lake, in the middle of the desert, at the edge of the world. Here. Lookit. This is who I am, says she, then wraps you up in dust and mirrors, showing you what Love looks like when it’s given for free.

When Water Does Not Cleanse ~Amy Lynn Reifsnyder September 15, 2018

The places I have lived

Are being hunted by a devouring god

Intent on wiping out the history of my youth

Waters rise and rage

Exchange destruction for memories of growth and laughter

Waterways swirl, enter homes,

Turmoil roils as it strips the walls,

Clears the basement

Molds the already decaying essence of my youth

 

Water rises, and I hear a song

Reminding me when Oceans Rise

I am still surrounded by Grace of a Higher God

One who understands destruction means Life, not Death

 

Waters rise

May my faith rise with it

To deny

This devouring god

Satisfaction of wicked intent

 

~ Amy Lynn Reifsnyder

 

Cape Hatteras, North Carolina – 1980

Chapel Hill and Wilmington, North Carolina – 1988

Ephrata, Pennsylvania – Hurricane Irene, when my family home was destroyed by rising water that did not cleanse

Strange but true – Who needs drugs when you have such a brain as I do?

Prayers please. I am being bombarded by negative energy, and an ongoing combination of physical weirdness…. Two weeks ago, I fell at work and sprained my left knee. Workman’s Comp and all that faldarol.
Next, We have three days of training, which means kids who already suffer from abandonment issues got a little testy with the sub.

I now have to use my “mean” voice more than  I like to.

Today? TOday (Tuesday) I had a migraine aura that required two meds and someone else to drive me and my car home.

Good. I’ll see if I can get to Dr. Charles for a tetanus shot; the leash burn from Sunday on the inside of the elbow looks kind of – ick.

No worries … until about 30 minutes later, an allergic reaction takes over my skin, my tongue, and my lips. The lady at the grocery store check out offered to have my whole order returned to the shelves while I went and got help. Kindness is not to be taken lightly.

Hello, EMTs, Paramedics, Emergency Room personnel, and several care providers.And drugs. Let’s not forget the copious quantity of antihistamines 1 and 2; antihistamine that provides stomach relief, which allow me to breath, which make me dizzier than before (I fell in the night, trying to get the dogs out to pee); and which put me to sleep. Include an anti-anxiety med to keep that dreadful feeling of “I’m-a gonna die if my breathing doesn’t improve” at bay.

Now for totally weird? I have not edited this part of what I wrote last night before going to bed. I do not know what sheep I was referring to, nor am I living in my brother’s house.

I will not be driving today. I will avoid the stove. I will avoid many, many things. This is weird….

“Next I’m at home. I may never leave. My left knee is in a brace; my right elbow is in tape; my knowledge of sheep continues to expand; and I am daily reminded that I am a usurper in my brother’s house. I just wish they’d give me the form.”

Any clues?

Feeling Skippy (you might have to be old to remember the program and the kangaroo, Skippy.)

 (Photo from GIF file on Facebook)

PS Be sure to let a friend go shopping with you, lest you come home without the prescription and a cart full of Hershey Chocolate bars, cereal, muffins, frozen coconut bars, and water…..