October, 2018

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A Handful of Miracles

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No. 111, Whimsy.

Whimsy didn’t start out in this direction; she didn’t even start out with this name! But something happened of great significance in my life and it caused a little hitch in my step. My little buddy Teddy, that feisty, stubborn, cairn terrier companion of 12 years passed away. A creature named Whimsy was the source of two smaller creatures that are helping me to heal. Therefore, No. 111 is a Rainbow Bridge of sorts; named for Whimsy and dedicated to my little Teddy Bear.

Thus begins the description for Whimsy the Witch. You can see her page HERE.

I wasn’t going to write about this, but Teddy was such an important part of my life that I simply have to. Because how things went at the end of Teddy’s tale were nothing short of a handful of miracles.

Teddy came into my life less than a year after I moved here to Iowa. Being a newly single, newly working mom was tricky enough. Trickier still when school let out that first summer. Adam was still reeling from the divorce so there was no way I could leave him at home alone at barely a decade old for hours on end. Enter my friend Jennifer to the rescue. She had relatives with a farm just outside of Rolfe where several children, cousins all, would spend the days playing. Would Adam like to be part of that group? What, hours in the country, running through cornfields, helping with the garden, not to mention there was a pool? YES.

Teddy and Adam in the early days.

In addition to the children, it was a play group for all the pets of the cousins as well. I had long been trying – and failing – to get a dog for Adam. The two that we’d had were left behind with my ex. I felt their loss almost as keenly as I did the loss of my marriage. We’d searched for just the right dog everywhere with no success.

One morning as I was walking Adam to the front door of the farm, a passel of dogs came bounding up behind us. I only had eyes for one. The cutest little Cairn terrier I ever did see. Not too big, not too small. Just right.

“Now, THERE’S a dog!” I exclaimed.

This apparently set off an idea in his current owner’s head. Teddy was one of several dogs in this family, and though he was the smallest of them all, he wanted to be king. This was never going to happen. So she offered him to us. And for $10 and a plate of homemade chocolate chip cookies, Teddy Bear was ours.

Being an old-fashioned, modern Witch, of course Whimsy rides a vacuum instead of a broom.

Years later, when Adam needed to stretch his wings and so moved to live with his father in Massachusetts, Teddy was mine alone. I work from home so we were together more than most. Through the good times and the bad, the feasts and the famines. The noisy days of his sitting by the window and barking at leaves, or the wind, apparently. And the quiet nights when it was just he and I alone in the dark. He was my confidante, someone to say “I love you” to, another heart beating in the house.

We grew old together. I found I could no longer simply leap off curbs when walking. Teddy, the dog that I used to walk for miles and he still wanted to play fetch when we got home, could barely make it around the block.

For several weeks he was on a few medications and didn’t want to walk at all. I was consumed with whether or not his quality of life was good. He wasn’t in pain, but was he having any joy?

Since Whimsy was an unconventional doll, that helped to distract me because she took some thinking. This vacuum for example, made from a plastic silver butter dish. It took some doing to get it to balance and stand on its own.

Needing a second opinion, I took him over to my sister Julie’s house. She knows him well. Julie and Scott’s dog Toby is Teddy’s best friend. For the first time in a long time I saw Teddy’s tail wag again, and he even barked! Julie thought he was doing fine. And he was still enjoying the treats I baked for him after all. Comforted, I took him home.

The following day was beautiful. I put Teddy outside so he could enjoy the Autumn weather. But I knew he was an old man, and I noticed he wasn’t sleeping. He seemed to be spending all his energy on simply breathing. Finally in the early afternoon I could stand it no longer. I took him to the vet to see if they could help him breathe.

Because it was harvest, our vet, who is also a farmer, was out in the fields. Cheryl called him and told him what was going on and he recommended some shots. I carried Teddy into the little room and placed him on the high table and wrapped my arms around him in preparation for the treatment. Cheryl was rummaging through the cupboards looking for the medication, so it was just Teddy and I alone for that moment.

I kissed his head and Teddy looked up at me and into my eyes in a way that he hadn’t for a very long time. It was such a direct, thorough look. Then his whole body relaxed, and the heavy panting that had become the soundtrack of my life, ceased.

I thought he was slowly going to sleep. Cheryl took one look and knew what was happening and told me. Teddy was dying. As he took his last breaths, with me still not believing that this was the end, I thanked him for everything and told him how much I loved him, just in case. And then he was gone. Just like that.

I included a little picture of Teddy on Whimsy’s adoption page. I’m not one to take a lot of pictures, so this is just about the only one I have.

Reader, I knew the time was coming and I hadn’t planned to be there when it did because it would have been too hard. But because of how things unfolded the choice was taken out of my hands. It was, in it’s way, a small miracle; one of many. A miracle I happened to take Teddy to the vet at that moment so I wasn’t alone when it happened. A miracle he got that last visit with Toby the night before. A miracle that I didn’t know he was going to die, so I was there to hold him and say goodbye. I’m so grateful for that last look from Teddy. As painful as this has been, I wouldn’t have changed a thing

Gracie and George. It’s impossible not to smile with two kittens afoot.

Finding the right dog can take awhile but I needed another heart – or two – beating in this house. Enter once again Jennifer, who let me know of a friend whose cat had just had kittens. She and I connected, and now George and Gracie are helping me to heal. Their mother’s name is Whimsy. So, thank you Whimsy! Thank you Melody! Thank you Jennifer! And thank you Teddy. I’ll see you again, little buddy.

No. 110 Blossom the Geisha was adopted by Linda L. of Portola Valley, California. Linda’s becoming quite the O.L.D. friend! Thank you, Linda. And thank you truly for all of you.

And with that, I leave you! On this Halloween eve, you’re my favorite!

If you haven’t read the poem “Rainbow Bridge” and you’ve ever lost a pet, I highly recommend it.

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One Fond *Yosuru

I confess, I’ve been wanting to do a Geisha for a long time. So when this girl arrived, and her name was Blossom, which is kind of Geisha-ish, and she didn’t mind removing her wig – as long as I sent it along with her (which I will) – then she was absolutely game… 

Thus begins the description for O.L.D. (Once-Loved Doll) No. 111, Blossom the Geisha. You can see her adoption page HERE.

I’ve had an affinity for all things Japanese since childhood. Growing up in Hawaii, there’s a huge oriental influence. Talking with my Mom last night, here are two stories in particular. They were such a part of our family history that Julie’s the one that mentioned them to me when I told her my next O.LD.’s theme – and she wasn’t even born when they occurred!

Left to Right, Dad, Kenny, Mom, Dennis, January, Me, and Carol.

They happened 50 odd years ago. We lived on the less inhabited north shore of Oahu, which back then was rather primitive. My parents had learned of a professional photographer who lived on our side of the island. Most things were in Honolulu, and it was hard to get all the way there for a more formal photo and still keep five kids looking fresh, what with the heat and winding roads and frequent barfing that would take place en route.

It looked a lot like this.

So my parents marked this much closer find on a trusty map, dressed us all in our Sunday best, and off we went.

“We kept driving and driving, farther into the jungle and I wondered, ‘How on earth can there be anything out here?'” my mother recounted. “Finally we came to this little shack in the middle of nowhere…”

The Foundling.

The photographer, a tiny man of Japanese descent, “didn’t even pose us, and I think he only took one shot. When we finally got the photo weeks later, he proudly announced that Kenny, currently the youngest, had his eyes closed, but not to worry! He, the photographer, had painted them in…”

Thus this picture became not only a piece of glossy card stock, one of many photographs dotting our scrapbooks over the years, but a memory that gave us laughs back then and still does to this day.

The family, sans their kids. They spoke little English, and we no Japanese, but somehow we communicated very well.

Another very strong memory from our childhood is when we sponsored a family from Japan. I remember them very well, and in talking to my mom was surprised to hear that they only came to our house two times for dinner on two separate visits from Japan with the meals very far apart, because they made such a very strong and warm impression on me. They were so kind and generous and I felt such an affinity for them and from them.

It was a doll similar to this. She made the clothes for her herself!

They wanted to experience an American meal, so my mother and Auntie Anne, who was also living in Hawaii at that time, set out to make the most American meal possible, which of course included Jello. Jello was hard to make in Hawaii, as it was “so darn hot” that it wouldn’t properly set.

They put out silverware, but the children from the family weren’t able to eat with forks and spoons. So my mother found some chopsticks, and they ate everything, including the unstable Jello, with ease.

We exchanged Christmas cards with this family for years to come, and the wife sent my mother and Auntie Anne Japanese dolls in full dress as a thank you gift, along with an assortment of seaweed wrapped crackers that I adored.

Kankashi flowers, made with an open flame, petal by petal.

We’ve always had oriental art and trinkets dotted throughout our house, as much a part of the decor as any throw pillow or bookend, even beyond the Hawaii years. And little Japanese lanterns were a family favorite tradition on our Christmas tree. So of course a Japanese doll was somewhere in my future!

It was finally the time. I learned a lot in my research, like how a kimono is always worn left over right unless you’re in mourning, as well as how to make Kansashi flowers in the traditional Japanese way. And that the wooden shoes are called “Geta” and the socks with the split toe are called “Tabi.”

I used balsa and wood with red velvet cording to make these Geta shoes.

Since we don’t have massive fabric stores, and for once I didn’t have on hand the kind of fabric I wanted, searched the fabric section at the craft store, worried I wouldn’t find anything that would work. Christmas to the rescue! Freshly arrived for the coming holiday this red with metallic gold was just the thing. I heaved a dainty sigh of relief when I found it.

Speaking of my mother and talking to her last night, guess who won the last doll, No. 110 Mona? My mother! When I see her occasionally bidding I say, “Aw, Mom!” beneath my breath and actually right to her. When she gets outbid I tell her, “OKAY MOM!! STAHHHP!!!” This woman has a MIND OF HER OWN. I think I come by my stubbornness honestly!

But she rarely bids, and only on dolls she likes. She knows me so well, and knows how hard that first doll back after a long period away was and how nervous making it was to get back in the saddle. Her reaction via email SAVED ME. She LOVED this girl and said I hadn’t lost my touch! PHEW. My mother is one to say what she thinks, so this meant a lot to me. And now she finally has an O.L.D.! Thanks Mom! YOU’RE MY FAVORITE MOM EVAH and one of the best human beings I know.

You know who else is my favorite human, as we get our first flurries of snow? YOU. You’re my favorite.

*Yosuru means “embrace” in Japanese.