Pets have the funniest ways to weave themselves into the fabric of Normal Existence. Amelia was no different, though her place was both larger and smaller than everyone else in the apartment. All of the things she’s left behind fill a storage tub.
An African Pygmy Hedgehog, she was a perfect excuse to keep the apartment heated closer to my desires because the cold could have her trying to hibernate. A night animal that could take or leave high levels of interaction, she was the perfect companion for late night writing sessions.
Caring for her was a constant level of mindfulness without being overly high maintenance. She was pretty good at letting me know what actions were annoying through a variety of huffing sounds and actions. Until the end. And then there was no warning. Now all I have are pictures and memories.
Thank you little pet for 5 1/2 years. They were too fast. Goodbye, Amelia.
I have never talked about my dad much. I never really wondered why, which is odd. I love my dad, and he’s an amazing man who helped foster my love for fantasy literature, and who helped me realized the importance of staying informed and involved in the political system. But when I share about my family, I tend to talk more about my mom and my sister. I’m not sure why. My family has always been the constant in my life. I’ve added some friends to that consistent level, but through everything, my family has always been there. Yet I’ve tended to consult and share more with my sister and my mom more than my dad, which probably adds to why I tend to not talk about my dad. But I find that now I want to share more about my dad, which will be very hard.
In October 2014, my dad was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. There’s no way to know for sure, but that diagnosis is what the doctor used to base his decisions on. His personality is also changed a bit as a result of his brain deteriorating, so he became a little less my dad with each passing day.
You might’ve caught the past-tense in this post. That’s because in the year since the diagnosis, we learned my dad had stage-4 esophageal cancer that killed him 5 weeks after it was discovered. And this finality has added another layer of pain and sorrow that I know I will spend the rest of my life learning to live with a bit better every day.
I am in the 3rd year of a 4 year PhD program, and the news added an additional level of stress. My schedule prevented me from being able to help guide my dad through daily decisions and help ease my mom’s stress. And when I think of the future, a sadness creeps in realizing that my dad would most likely not have understood or remembered what all the work the initials I will one day add after my name means. It has also been another season of attending numerous weddings and baby showers, which is yet another constant reminder of the many moments still to come that my dad will not be present for.
As I work on my degree, there is a part of me that carries this weight. But there is another part that realizes this too is part of life. I never expected my dad to live forever; I just didn’t realize I would lose him the way the shore by the ocean disappears – a tiny amount wearing off at a time before it is suddenly and entirely consumed.
Writing my papers this semester has been the hardest because in the quiet spaces I carve out of my schedule to capture what I’ve learned in my classes, these thoughts dominate. And my classes aren’t about grief or loss – they’re about pedagogy and learning and education. A case can be made that my professors have been more gracious and understanding of my situation than I have been. I am looking forward to being done with the semester. I am not looking forward to not having my dad around for the holidays.
I think the apartment I currently live in was built on an ant colony. We have them all year, but they’re the worst in the summer. Mostly they come in looking for water, but sometimes they find the cat food. And in very horribly moments they find the crickets (I am so very, very sorry, crickets).
See, I have a small mammal that adores eating crickets. I don’t always keep them on hand because she doesn’t eat them as fast as I would like, which means I have to then add crickets to the creatures that I have to keep alive. And they are tricky, sometimes. Plus, they are insects, so their life spans don’t always wait her appetite out.
My relationship with the crickets is complicated. I feel bad when they die in the cage they stay in until it’s time to put them in her cage to be eaten. Sometimes I think this is a silly sentiment, because I don’t feel bad when they get eaten. Perhaps this is because I have made their fate food, and when they die stuck in a tiny, plastic cage, their lives lose some of their meaning. And then part of me remembers that they are, in fact, crickets. But they are still living creatures, and I feel bad that I have cause their lives to be less than their wild existence would allow. When they are attacked in the tiny, plastic cage I’ve trapped them in by a horde of ants, I am horrified. As soon as I see their tragic turn, they get released in a effort to provide some space to live – because being eaten alive by an ant horde seems ghastly to endure.
And I am sure people will think that this response is unmerited for creatures that are generally despised. It is my philosophy that a person’s true nature is revealed in how they treat beings that are completely helpless. I buy the crickets for my small mammal to eat, because I have taken her from her natural habitat and shrunk her space to a 40 gallon fish tank. She seems happier when she has something to chase to eat (since most of the time she just has a bowl of food). But in doing so, I take on creatures even more vulnerable that I feel obligated to ensure only suffer when they serve as food.
At a time when so much is not good* in the world, remembering to care for the most vulnerable creatures that surround us seems to be the fastest pathway to making the world good again.
*A post about how I use the word good is forthcoming, because I see it carrying so much more weight than its typical use indicates.
The thing about the being in a PhD program is that there is a ton of thinking and a ton of writing, and it’s interesting; it just takes over your entire existence. And all the thinking and writing makes it difficult to have a life outside of the realm of school, which I’m finding even includes keeping up here.
Some of the things I’ve been thinking a lot about – comic books, video games, critical pedagogy, the non-monolithic-ness of popular culture, and how much I love the coffee shop that has opened in the neighborhood (though I wish it was open later in the day, because I have a hard time making it there before it closes at 7:30 L ). I’ve also been toying with the idea of re-structuring the layout of the site, because I would like to start sharing the reading responses that I’ve been writing. I think it would be more helpful to think of the writing as having to be more for an audience I don’t know. And then I could potentially get feedback that would be helpful, if I decide to take the plunge to revise the writing for potential article submissions…. But I also want to write silly reviews for all of the movies that I’ve seen, and I’m not sure that academic-type people would be as interested in the silly reviews (though I’m sure some would).
Basically, right now, my head is full of dreams and ideas that might turn into plans at some point in the near future. And I needed a study break from writing the early draft of 1 crazy end of the semester paper, so I decided to stop neglecting the site.
nor till the poets among us can be
insolence and triviality and can present
for inspection, ‘imaginary gardens with real toads in them’, shall
– excerpt from Poetry by Marianne Moore
I haven’t always loved poetry. It’s confusing and obtuse and frequently leaves me frustrated. But I can’t quit reading it.
Because in the cadence of the words there is truth. Poetry is the fastest way to share the indescribable elements of reality without music. Those real toads are especially difficult to deal with when their hardens are imaginary.
Which is why I hardly ever share the poetry I write.
Not that I write poems that often. In fact, I can really only write poetry when I’m surprisingly happy. And the poems are never very good. (Which is another reason I hardly evershow the poems I’ve written to anyone)
But, despite all the current madness in my life currently, I’ve been writing poetry. These ones would have to be revised (which I don’t have time for), so they’ll still probably never be read, even if they weren’t so revealing. I’m just glad to be writing them in all their terrible glory.
I’ve written a number of posts that are very self-reflective that I’ve never published. They’ve been coalescing in my drafts folder until such a time as I was ready for other people to read them.
Now is that time. For some of them.
Keep in mind you don’t have to read any of the posts. If you think you’ll think of me poorly, or like a real person with flaws, or you just don’t care, or some other take altogether, that’s cool. Don’t read them. I certainly won’t be grading you, and you’ll still be welcome to whichever posts you want to read and comment on.
Please do share your thoughts, questions, anecdotes on posts with comments! Sometimes the idea has to be shared in order to make room for new ideas. And if any of my posts do that for you, feel free to use the comment section!
(Though I will remove all names connected to me from comments, and will remove comments that are simply attacking or belittling me or anyone else along the way. This is my space, and I expect this to be a space of respect (which doesn’t mean agreement).)
It’s funny how most days are just days. They pass with very little of note occurring. And then some days are horribly sad, feeling as if the hope had left the world and the sun will never shine again. And then some days are packed to overflowing with all the joy and happiness of life, and the world can do no wrong.
And then there are days that have sorrow and joy rolled into one, and the day is remarkable.
Today was one of those days.
I had my first event as an admitted PhD student at Chapman University – a mingle with my cohort, current PhD students, professors, and staff. A time of joy an adventure and all the nervousness of a great adventure. A moment of joy as I begin the next moment of my life, being a PhD student.
It was also a day of sorrow. My sister’s cat died today. Snuggles was 18. We’d had her since she was 5 weeks old. We’d had her forever. To put this in perspective, I turn 30 this year. I’ve been crying off and on all day. Snuggles was a great cat. (Not as great as her sister, who was my cat Midnight. She died 3 years ago at 15.) I will miss Snuggles terribly, but not as much as my sister who looked at her and treated her like her baby. I know that heart-break, and it’s hard to explain if you’ve never felt like your animal was part of your family. But trust me when I say it hurts as much as having a friend die.
Days like this, that can’t decide which emotion to pick and stick with it, are some of the more difficult to deal with because people who only know 1 side don’t understand why you aren’t fully with them; they don’t realize you’re torn.
But I made it through. I’m sure I seemed kind of aloof to the other members of my cohort and some of the faculty, so I’ll have so work to do when I begin classes. Now is the time to be sad.
Tomorrow is another day, and hopefully this one will be easier.
“Spider attack! There are more crawling around lying in wait for you to close your eyes and drift off to sleep so that you are easier to subdue.”
This is my brain’s current screeching. Because I found this waiting for my on my drying rack next to my finally dry socks.
And HOLY-FREAKING-CRAP! it was fuzzy, and the jaw-things fluoresced that yellow color under the camera flash, and it released venom in that container right after this picture was taken!
Perhaps this was a baby Shelob, and I missed my opportunity to journey into Mordor and save the world.
But for once I don’t care if I missed my opportunity. Because seriously, this is one creepy spider, and I am terrified of spiders. (Don’t even try to convince me that this fear is stupid. I know it’s irrational. Just accept that I am afraid of their disconcerting movements and giant pincer-things and their disproportional ability to potentially kill me.) And I stayed up writing this out in an effort to possibly sleep at least a little tonight.
If you do, however, happen to know what kind of spider this is, please let me know. It’s free outside away from me, but I would like to know in case it brought along friends.