List Me, Baby!

(C4ward March Blogathon Day 4)

Five Goals to Achieve Sometime Before I Die

  1. Create jewelry items that tribal dancers buy, love, and wear while performing.
  2. Perform a solo at a major bellydance event like TribalCon.
  3. Travel to New Zealand, and maybe Australia too. DH & I don’t really care that much for travel, but we could make an exception for this.
  4. Become an ATS® Sister Studio and/or Gypsy Caravan Collective Soul Certified dancer
  5. See the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights). Just because.

Five Goals to Accomplish in the Next Five Years to Move Towards Achieving The Above Goals

  1. Keep learning new jewelry skills and honing the ones I already have.
  2. Have professional photographs made of my work for advertising and festival entry purposes.
  3. Research New Zealand  & Australia to determine where to go and what to do while there.
  4. Attend and perform at as many bellydance events as possible, either solo or with a troupe.
  5. Take at least two of the Collective Soul certification levels and/or retake ATS® General Skills and Teacher Training I.

Five Goals to Accomplish in the Next 12 MONTHS… as if it were the last year of my life!

  1. Take as many ATS® classes as possible.
  2. Get the Gypsy Caravan DVDs and start working with them.
  3. Perform at least one solo at Oasis, Open Mic Night, or Northside Tribe’s own show.
  4. Draw up a will!!!! (gotta be practical somewhere)
  5. Make sure my husband and son (at least) know how much I love them.

What I Noticed when Making the Above Three Lists

  1. None of the items had anything to do with my profession as a college professor. Basically, I’ve achieved every feasible goal there and I’m just maintaining status quo.
  2. Setting goals for my little nanobusiness of making jewelry is HARD because I don’t want to turn it into a career per se. I don’t want to get so serious about it that it takes the fun out of creating stuff.
  3. Tangible goals for my bellydancing hobby is easy enough because I’m such a newbie at it; the problem is that my age is working against me there.
  4. Some practical things really should not be put off.
  5. There’s a lot of DO-ing on the list, but in truth, I wouldn’t have to do any of these things except #5 (and #4 for practical reasons) on the 12-month list, and I’d be happy.


It’s taken me a while to get to the point where I can write this post.

We noticed shortly before Thanksgiving that Donovan, our youngest cat, was looking a little thin for him. I kept an eye on him for the next couple of weeks, and by the second week of December it was clear that he was indeed losing weight. I wasn’t sure how much because I couldn’t find the record of his last vet visit, but I remembered him being generally around 14 pounds. When I weighed him, he was down to around 10 1/2 pounds.

That alarmed me, especially when I realized that he wasn’t being his usual energetically squirrely self. We took him to the vet that Monday, December 12. When Dr. Globerman felt his abdomen, she immediately said she felt something there that she didn’t like. The x-ray she immediately took told the full tale — as I had feared as soon as she spoke, it was cancer, aggressive and fast-spreading. There had been absolutely NO sign of it four months earlier in August, when Donovan had gone to the vet because of an absessed bite wound on his shoulder.

Given how rapidly the cancer had progressed and how far it had spread, Dr. Globerman said that in her opinion, surgery would not buy a lot of time. She didn’t even suggest chemo. Since we all knew that Donovan was a very nervous and anxious cat in the best of times, and that he was a very hard cat to medicate, I made the difficult decision to not make his last weeks a nightmare of stressful treatments that were unlikely to delay the inevitable for long.

For the next two and a half weeks, we cosseted Donovan as much as he would let us during his decline. He had established his “home base” in my studio, so I set up a comfortable bed for him in his chosen spot under my worktable.  His food and water bowls were placed in there, right by his bed. He would still get up and come out for visits, and often in the evening would come snuggle in his usual spot on our bed for a while as I read or knitted.

Donovan had no appetite to speak of and in fact had trouble eating anything — he’d bite a piece of kibble and the pieces would fall out of his mouth. So I would fix him a bit of canned “junk food” like Fancy Feast or Friskies, well watered down into a soup. He could lap up a little of that at a time, but as the days wore on even that didn’t interest him. Finally, the only thing he would really even try to eat was the Friskies “Natural Sensations” treats — he wouldn’t even eat Greenies!

It broke my heart to watch him growing weaker and weaker, but I didn’t want to lose him before I had to. I knew he would let me know when it was time to go, and when I got home from dance class on the 29th, he did. He came out of his bed and quietly wailed to me when I came in the room.

The next day, Friday, December 30, we took him to Dr. Globerman’s and sent him on to Rainbow Bridge.

R.I.P. Donovan, March 2003 – December 30, 2011. You left me far too soon, sweet boy, and I terribly miss your snuggly, silly self. I’ll meet you at the Bridge when the time come — in the meantime you can cuddle & play with Iris, and Andrea’s Bellacoolah and Mincot and Piglet, and all the Good Mews kitties there.


Thanksgiving Break Lessons

…was far too short, and far too full of people for my taste. A family Thanksgiving dinner and a family milestone birthday party within four days were gatherings that were just too big, too noisy, too crowded and chaotic for my peace of mind, and that was with one whole branch of the family missing entirely.

After all these years, I should learn to not let my one sister get on my nerves, period end of story. I should learn not to speak my mind to my older nieces because they have not developed an ability to filter what they hear and say. I should learn to arrive late to crowded gatherings, and leave early, to lessen the risk that my tolerance of crowds will run out prematurely. I should learn that there is just no pleasing some people. I should learn that thinking of myself is not selfish, it’s sanity-saving.

Grief is a funny thing

I really didn’t cry at all when Dad died last month. But I have been in tears off and on all day today thinking about the three Good Mews cats that were euthanized in the past two and a half weeks. As I read the tributes to Theo on Facebook today, and contributed my own comments, the tears just welled up and overflowed.

So of course the analytical side of me has to try to figure out why. It’s not like I had adopted Pops or Marley or Theo myself. They aren’t the only Good Mews cats I’ve known and loved to cross over the Rainbow Bridge — there’s Sargent, and Wonder, and Harry, and Samantha and Louise, and Gideon, and Relish…I could go on and on. I didn’t have the bond with them that I had with Iris, and that I have with Sarah and Mr. Boots and Donovan.

Maybe it’s that these three were special even among special cats. Maybe it’s that I shed my tears for Dad as I watched him battle his pulmonary fibrosis and heart problems for the past seven years.

Maybe it’s that I feel I CAN let myself grieve openly for these babies because, though I loved them, they didn’t mean nearly as much to me as Dad. It’s safe to shed tears for them.

Why I haven’t been blogging

There are multiple reasons, of course. It’s not like I’ve been totally incommunicado. I do post a lot on Facebook and I Tweet fairly often. That isn’t blogging of course; much of it is just curating & sharing other people’s links & photos & articles.

I have been busy doing things, just not blogging. Andrea & I have been trying to grow Copper Dancer Designs, with a reasonable amount of success. We are In Good with one of the Atlanta-area art festival promoters, which sets us up for a nice show schedule. That means that, given the lousy economy, we are doing well locally. The next step is to beef up that online presence…in my spare (YAH! RIGHT!) time. We are both realists and know that this will never actually support us, but it should be good for a nice little supplemental income in the long run.

I’m still dancing. Bellydancing. Who would have thought it? In fact, bellydancing spun off its own semi-collaborative blog last spring, Thursday Nights at Windy Hill. I say semi-collaborative because I asked all the Thursday Night Ladies if they wanted access to write. So far Mary has put up one post but that’s it. Since it needs some love, I may do some of this month’s actual NaBloPoMo posts over there, with just a pointer from here. I have several topics for there that I just haven’t gotten to. I should really write out some of my current dancing quandary,  because that just might give me (and maybe others) some clarity.

I could write about work, I suppose, but why? It would just be kvetching, and no one wants to read my kvetching. Hell, *I* don’t want to read my kvetching — it’s just so much of the same sh*t, different semester. BLEAH!!

So what else? I battled depression all winter & spring, and Dad finally lost his battle with pulmonary fibrosis last month. Neither of those makes for good blogging huh.

It’s not all bad, though. I fell in love with Tybee Island over Memorial Day. I’m cleaning up my diet little by little. I’m teaching myself to knit. Mary & I did very well dancing at the Red Light Cafe show, bringing honor to the Older, Heavier Dancers (neener, neener).  The home life is quietly wonderful.

Maybe there is stuff to write about. Maybe writing about it will be another tool in the battle against the bad stuff.

My tribute to Dad

I wrote this for Dad’s memorial service.

Julian Whitfield Benson,Jr. May 1, 1932 – October 8, 2011

Dad’s Memorial Service October 12, 2011

Thank all of you for coming out to honor and remember my father. Most of you know of his many accomplishments over the years, so I’m not going to recap those. Instead, I’m sharing a couple of my personal memories today – things that didn’t appear in his obituary. They are small things that might not mean much to others, but they are close to my heart.

Dad loved the outdoors – we all know that. When I was about 9 he took my sister and me on an overnight hike with the Trail Club, from Woody Gap to Neal’s Gap, camping overnight down at Lake Winfield Scott. I don’t think he was prepared to have a pair of short-legged cranky weights figuratively shackled to his leg slowing him down, but he didn’t show it. Instead, he made it a memorable trip for us. I remember we sat on a rock outcrop eating cheese sandwiches for lunch and talking, with him patiently answering our endless questions. It was a special day, just him and us, and to this day that was the best cheese sandwich I’ve ever eaten.

Most girls want dolls & such when they are young. Not me. Dad knew that. He made sure I got the kind of toys I really wanted – books, a microscope and a chemistry set, more books, a Kenner Girder & Panel Monorail kit, even more books. He even got me a Digi-Comp I and started me on my programming path by showing me how to program it to count to seven! In binary! No wonder I’m a geek today! He believed all of his children could become whatever we wanted to be, and did his very best to encourage that in all of us.

Even my painful memories are precious. The night Mother died, we girls were staying with Dad’s parents. Once I knew she was at the hospital and that Nanny and Grandpa had gone over there, I stubbornly refused to go to bed until they got back. So I was sitting on the floor when Dad, Nanny, and Grandpa came in. I’m sure the last thing Dad wanted to see at that moment was his ten-year-old daughter rushing at him asking “Is Mommy okay?” But as he hugged me close and told me she was gone, I knew that it would be tough but he’d make sure it would be all right in the end. The next morning as he told my sisters, I sat beside him thinking, “Dad has to be strong for us, so I need to do my best to be strong for him.”

During his last hospitalization, as I sat with him one morning, my little-girl voice spoke up in my head saying, “That’s not my daddy! Where’s my daddy?” I know where he is now – he’s out there hiking a new trail, one that’s challenging enough to be fun but not so challenging to make it like work. He’s enjoying deep breaths of the fresh mountain air and seeing beautiful new vistas, with boots that fit perfectly and a backpack that is just the right weight to carry comfortably. I’m hoping he’s met up with some of his old hiking buddies already – Larry Freeman, Joe Boyd, and all the others! Maybe in his travels he’ll even find a chance to stop by and give a little technical advice to that young whippersnapper Steve Jobs. May your trail be smooth, Dad, and may your journey be peaceful. I love you.

Meeting Lexie and Lenny

My brother Chris is a fellow animal lover and rescue volunteer, recently joining forces with Our Pal’s Place here in Marietta (I use the phrase “joining forces” advisedly because my brother is a force to be reckoned with!). Among the many tasks he takes on for them is being K9 coach, trainer, and friend of Lexie, a pit bull mix that many other rescue groups, even “no-kill” ones, would have deemed “unadoptable” and had euthanized.

Chris has been chronicling his adventures with Lexie both at his own blog and on the Our Pal’s Place website and newsletter. I have followed the story with great interest, particularly when in chapter 2 a small, fearless orange and white kitten introduced himself to Lexie. Lenny, as the kitten was soon named, and Lexie have become the best of friends and live together in the Learning Center at OPP.

On Saturday, Chris and I finally meshed our schedules and Gary and I traveled to OPP to meet the pair. I freely admit I am a cat person rather than a dog person, but both dog and cat won my heart immediately. In the hour we spent there, I saw exactly what my brother has accomplished in the months he’s been working with Lexie. It’s a facet I’d not seen before of the man I still think of as my “baby brother.” Her trust in him and love for him is so clear! I also got quite a nice little introduction to the nuances of dog behavior, as well as my own share of slobbery dog kisses (something which I do NOT allow from just any dog). Of course Lenny was not omitted — he got as many rubs and ear scritches as he would permit.

Watching the two of them interact was so cute! Lexie is a good-sized and rather rambunctious dog, while Lenny is a small-to-average sized cat; yet Lenny is clearly in charge but lets Lexie THINK she is. I’m used to seeing very bonded cat pairs, but I’ve never seen a dog/cat pair quite like this.

I also could tell what a challenge Lexie has been, and still is. Given the “hard cases,” medical and behavioral, we take in at Good Mews (including this year’s socializing of three completely feral adult cats), I really applaud groups that don’t just concern themselves with the easy rescues, but are willing to work with the challenging animals as well. A dog like Lexie is well worth the effort!

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