Sunday, July 25, 2010

New Quilt Project

I'm excited. My first attempt at making this star block went well. I saw the design on another pic online and decided to give it a try. I penciled it out on graph paper first to figure out how they did it and size mapping. Wee ha!

Friday, July 23, 2010

The Written Art

The following are my two favorite essays written for my summer college Composition I class. (If you don't know what the heck I'm talking about, check out today's post at my Farm blog.) I enjoyed writing them and decided to share.

The first story was the first writing assignment; our class was directed to write a short essay about a memorable event. The second essay was an assignment we received near the end of the semester, and we were asked to write about a memorable person. Both stories were to be from personal experience. Thanks for stopping by, and I hope you enjoy the reading!

Story #1:

The Day I Met Jack

     Ordinary days can turn into something special, so long as you keep your eyes open to the world around you. It just so happens that one sunny June morning in Dayton, Ohio my eyes were open, literally. My morning started earlier than usual when I drove to the E-check station for inspection. For those not familiar with this process, it’s a required step for new licensing or renewal licensing of your car in the state of Ohio. They hook up a hose to your muffler and use a computer system to measure your car’s emissions. Blah, blah… exciting stuff, right? Well, the location of this E-check station forced me to drive some unfamiliar city neighborhoods. The winding streets were lined on both sides with parked cars due to the lack of driveways, and houses were typically 1920’s bungalows with old, peeling white or tan paint colors and postage-stamp front yards. With my windows open,I could smell exhaust fumes, hot asphalt and fresh cut grass. The sounds of children playing and radios blaring could be heard over the quiet engine of my Dodge Neon. I had my eyes open and was driving slowly, just in case any kids or critters ran out from behind any of the parked cars and into the road. It’s then that I first saw him. He was rather thin, and he walked across the street with a very bad limp. I didn’t know it yet, but this is the day I was to meet Jack, the coolest cat I’ve ever known.

     Alright, so it’s a black and white cat limping across the road. In my experience, when you stop to help an unknown animal, they will usually run and/or hide. However, I am one hundred percent an animal lover to the core, so what the heck? I had to try. I parked the car to the side of the road and walked about twenty feet to where it looked like he had gone. There he was, just sitting there on the street beside the curb. I approached using the soft feminine voice reserved for wary animals, “Hey there buddy. Do you need some help?” He didn’t run and even lifted his head for an incoming scratch. Pee-ewe! From just a few feet away I could smell the tell-tale putrid-sweet odor of infection. He held up his front left paw, swollen, and the apparent source of lovely odor. Taking a quick survey of his overall condition, I checked off: severely underweight, not neutered, and short hair so thin you could see his skin in patches all over his body. The decision was simple for me… where he would live after this was something I could think about later. However, right now this poor guy was going to get some much needed medical attention.

     I then told him the plan, “I’m gonna help you out big guy. I work for a veterinarian, and I’m on my way there right now. Ready to go?” I picked him up loosely around the belly and hugged him gently to my chest as I walked back towards the car. He didn’t fuss or fidget one bit, so far so good. As I opened my door I half expected him to panic, start clawing and make a run for it, but he didn’t. I placed him on the front passenger seat next to me, and he just lay down calmly and looked at me. Oh, what a look! Even though I’ve always been a softie for all critters big and small, I had considered myself more of a dog person, up to that day. In an instant, he won me over with that one simple look. It was a wise, knowing look in his beautiful green eyes that bespoke mountains of trust. Put into words his one look would have sounded like this, “I know you are going to help me. Thank you. I’m not scared of you, and I will just chill out over here while you take us where we need to go.” In a split moment several thoughts swirled through my head. Wow! Trust in me? You don’t know me, and here I am taking you away from all you’ve ever known. Yet, here you sit with some inner courage and grace that could rival the Dali Lama’s.

     That day started in an ordinary way, but became something special when a beautiful friendship began. Many years have gone by since then, and I have never regretted the choice I made that day to stop the car and help a limping cat. Jack easily found his way into everybody’s hearts who ever met him. I was gifted seven glorious years with Jack before the Good Lord called him home, and I could write an entire story filled with humorous anecdotes and loving tales of my big mitten-pawed friend. I will never forget the day I met Jack. With that one look he touched a piece of my soul and made it shine.

Story #2:

Dr. Smith, My Back-stabbing Bruté

     Oh, the people you “love to hate,” or is it the people you “hate to love?” I suppose in the case of one Ms. Carolyn Smith, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, it could go either way. Who was Dr. Smith, to me? She was my boss, my teacher, my confidant, my back-stabbing Bruté, and after all, just a person. Even though she wasn’t the poster child for high morality and ethics, she made a positive impact in my life; her presence in my life gave me surprising insights into my own personal limits and capacity for love.

     In the beginning, my outlook was bright; I had finally started to fulfill my life-long dream of working with animals. Barely twenty years old, and I had just started working as a veterinary assistant and receptionist in a small-animal, suburban veterinary clinic. The owner of the clinic, Dr. Carolyn Smith, seemed so charming and trustworthy upon first impression. Little did I know, there lurked a darker, volatile side within her congenial demeanor. In the first few weeks, I’m sure there were clues I missed, but hindsight is 20/20. Anyhow, many instances are still very clear, at least in their emotional contexts. One such instance -- the first in fact -- shall forever be remembered as “the pencil incident.” I had only worked there for a couple weeks, and I stood at the front desk helping a client check their pet in for an appointment. As we talked, another client stood quietly to the side, browsing our product shelves. One facet of my job was to write on each client’s chart the appointment dates, medications, surgeries, etc. Unbeknownst to me, Dr. Smith had walked up behind me to look over my shoulder. Before I understood what was happening, she grabbed the pencil out of my hand and threw it across the counter. She then proceeded to yell at me about how one is to, “…never, never, never, write in a medical chart with anything other than a pen!” I had never been told this “no pencil” rule until now, but before it had time to sink in, the humiliation washed through me. I recall looking up in embarrassment at the client who was standing at the front desk, and her, being very quiet and obviously uncomfortable. At this point, the doctor turned a smile upon the client then rolled her eyes in a conspiratorial way and said, “New staff.” Without another look in my direction, she ushered the client into an exam room and disappeared from view. This was the end of the bright beginning for me, and the start of my downhill slide into submissive acceptance of my boss’ rude, dominating ways. Dr. Smith’s abusive behavior shocked me in a new way. You see, my own mother had often “blown up” about little things and yelled at me frequently throughout my childhood; however, my own father played the dominant role during my childhood, always staying calm and cool. To see Dr. Smith “blow up” set a new scenario for me because my leader wasn’t staying calm; what was I to do? Well, being naïve and young, I did just what I had been raised to do, listen to my elders and obey. How was I to know that by not standing up for myself right then and there, I would get stuck in the rut of playing the victim for the doctor’s future hateful tantrums?
     Consequently, as the months came and went, so did her abusive tantrums, along with many employees at the clinic; however, I and a handful of others chose to stay. Why would I stay? I’ll tell you why. Dr. Smith had a soft, caring side for animals. Keep in mind she saved her tempers for employees only, never for the pets or their owners. On my behalf, and the others that stayed there in her employ, I could tolerate the abusive behavior so long as it was never directed towards the animals; I’m sure that would have pushed any one of us over the top. As for her softer side, it also showed itself to us when we brought personal problems into work with us. For example, if one of us had marital problems, a death in the family, or best friend troubles, she would coax the troubled employee into her office and encourage them to confide in her. During my time there, I was struggling in my own personal life, and I can remember crying and “telling all” more than once. After confiding, I would walk out of her office feeling comforted and nurtured. Besides her softer side, another positive attribute of Dr. Smith’s was her willingness to share her veterinary knowledge with the staff, and give us responsibilities above any formal training you may have received. For many of us who had never been to college to study animal medicine, this held immense appeal. We were like dry sponges, soaking up every bit of animal know-how; plus, the added responsibilities gave us variety and challenges. Minus the moody boss, and the crappy pay, it was my dream job. Why shouldn’t I stay?

     Eventually, about two years into my employment, my tolerance for her naughty behavior started to peak. Oddly enough, it wasn’t the frequent temper tantrums that put me over the edge. It was something that cut much, much deeper. Lisa, one of the other assistants who had only worked there for a few months, suddenly took a noticeable dislike of me. Seeing as we were friendly up to that point, and I couldn’t recall anything having transpired between us, I was puzzled. After a week or so of her snubbing my attempts at conversation and avoiding my glances, I decided to confront her, “Lisa, you seem mad at me. Did I somehow ‘step on your toes’?” Lisa answered, “No,” without even meeting my eyes. After a bit more prodding on my part, she finally confessed that she had shared a “heart-to-heart” with Dr. Smith; apparently, the good doctor had told Lisa that I was badmouthing Lisa. Seriously? I had said nothing of the sort to Dr. Smith, or anyone else for that matter. In fact, I quite liked working with Lisa. I was dumbstruck. Lisa and I talked it out and decided that Dr. Smith might be playing games with our emotions. From that point forward, she and I began to watch the good doctor for other such deceitful machinations. My eyes were starting to open. At twenty-two years of age, one doesn’t usually have a lot of bosses to compare, but I was beginning to see many things that just didn’t seem right. For instance, Dr. Smith’s complained of other employees’ work performances, gossiped and speculated about their personal lives, all while they weren’t in the room. Seeing her behaving in such a way, and my own inability to speak up about it, began to stick in my side like a thorn festering with infection. Comparing notes with other co-workers, we discovered the doctor’s duplicity was widespread. Apparently, she often plotted us against each other. We speculated it was to gain control and keep us all “on her side.” I started to feel resentful anger build inside of me. It reminds me of how I once saw a waiter squeeze a handful of lemons over a table full of demanding women that had made him run to and fro for half an hour straight; apparently, they were the last straw in his already bad day.

     Well, fourteen years after the fact, I wish I could tell you what my last straw was. I wish it were some juicy story to keep you enthralled. Unfortunately, all I can remember was that I had finally had it. One day, when she had had a tantrum about some inconsequential thing, I turned on her. You know, like the little, scared dog in the corner that chooses to bite instead of cower. That day, that little dog was me. I told her that I didn’t like her bullying me around. Words such as, “enough” and “respect”, were flying all about. I didn’t even yell, just raised my voice a bit louder than usual and stood with my shoulders up, chest out and face close to hers. Inside, I was rather surprised at myself and especially at her reaction to my gutsy defense. She said, “I’m sorry.” She actually backed down right away and apologized. If only I had tried something like this sooner! The next few months flew by, and Dr. Smith seemed to respect me now. She didn’t blow up at me anymore, and I spoke my mind more often. Apparently, standing up for myself had put the two of us on a more even playing field. I’d like to say that I even became brave enough to confront her about the entire “Lisa incident”, but I didn’t. I just wasn’t ready to be that brave yet.

     Irrevocably, my personal life turned in a new direction, and I decided to move out-of-state. I used this excuse to quit Dr. Smith’s veterinary clinic. I say “excuse,” because some part of me just couldn’t seem to leave. The economy wasn’t in a depression or recession, and I certainly wasn’t staying for the low pay. Why did I stay for over three years working for that woman? Part of it was my youth and inability to speak up for myself. Part of it was the fear of leaving something familiar, and the work that I truly enjoyed. However, if I’m being totally honest, part of it was because I loved Dr. Smith. I hate to admit that to myself, but it’s true; in fact, I never saw it as “love” until I wrote this paper. I don’t mean the kind of love you have for your parents, your children, your lover or your best friend. It’s more the kind of love you have for another human being who you’ve come to realize is just a person. Sure, she had plenty of faults, but deep down she was so insecure about herself that she had to surround herself with animals and people whom she thought would love her. Even though she burned the trust I once held for her, some part of me still remained loyal to her charming and quirky ways. I didn’t understand all of that then, and I probably don’t completely understand it now. I do know I can be grateful that she was in my life to teach me that standing up to a bully will empower me and most likely defuse their energy. She was open to sharing her knowledge about the wonderful world of veterinary medicine, for which I will always be thankful. At the time, I thought she had taught me to slow down and choose carefully whom I might trust or not. In hindsight, I see that trusting her wasn’t a mistake, but simply a byproduct of being human. When I think of her now I actually smile. Thank you, Ms. Carolyn Smith, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, for being there so I could learn from you.