Furry Roommates

Pets have always been a part of my life.  I grew up with dogs.  I think I was about 9 or 10 when we got our first dog.  It was a toy poodle and was a complete bundle of nerves. Who wouldn’t be with 4 kids trying to dress you up in doll clothes, running around in total chaos and constantly interrupting your peace and quiet?  Ok so maybe that was just me.  No wonder he didn’t seem to want to come when I called.

When we moved, unfortunately he kept trying to go back to the old house and didn’t make it across the busy road in front of our house.  Mac, our first Sheltie came into our home.   He was big for the breed which helped him hang with our growing family better.  He could keep up with the bike riding and skateboarding no problem.  He lived to the ripe old age of 17.  Then came McDuffy.  His stay was brief, shortened by Lymphoma.

These guys were all family pets.  They weren’t really mine; they bonded most closely with my Mom and Dad.  Partly because my siblings and I weren’t permanent residents in the house anymore but most likely because Mom and Dad were ones feeding and caring for them.

My first pet that was just mine was a Sheltie named Lily.  She was my sister from another mister.  Just as bossy and nosy as I am.  We were inseparable, until cancer shortened her life just shy of her 11th birthday.  It broke my heart to say goodbye, but I was looking into her eyes as she drew her last breath.

It took me a long time to get over losing her but I think I’m finally getting ready for another fur baby.  I’ve had a few practice sessions recently with a friends Lab and most recently my Mom’s Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.  He’s been a trip.  Still a puppy, his training isn’t the best and his primary focus seems to be loud squeaky toys.  Needless to say we’ve had a few accidents on the floor which I seem to have conveniently forgotten puppies do.  And when I’m trying to work, his drags in his squeaky toys into the studio.  If I don’t pick up on the hint, he proceeds to either consistently depress the squeaker or put it under something where he can’t retrieve it and then bark until I get down on my hands and knees to fetch the errant toy.  Who’s training whom here?

Having him around reminds me how much companionship dogs offer.  I miss that.  It’s a lot of work though and I’m rethinking that part of the equation.  No decisions yet but it does give me pause.

Raise Your Game

My Mom and Dad have been avid golfers for as long as I can remember.  My Dad started playing when he was young but my Mom didn’t pick it up until she married him.  She also started skiing when they got married.  But I digress.  We were fortunate enough to live in a small town with several pretty good golf courses close by so they were usually able to play somewhere.  Even if for a hole or two or to shag balls.  My Dad really enjoyed the game and the release it provided him from his stressful career.  For my Mom, I think it was a wonderful opportunity for her to find a moment of peace and quiet amongst the chaos of raising 5 children.  It’s blissfully hard to answer a million questions and referee the multitude of battles when you are on the back nine!

I always thought it was great that they shared this common interest.  They took golf trips together, went to golf school together and played together several times a week.  My Mom, being the great competitor she is, really worked at her game.  She has a great eye for analyzing a swing and for putting what she learned into practice. It got to the point she could play better than my Dad, who was no slouch himself.  In fact she plays better than almost the entire male membership at their club.  There’s quite a bit of grudging admiration in the men’s locker room for my Mom’s skills.  All of us kids grew up playing, with varying degrees of success.  I like being outdoors but the time it took to play a full round was time I wanted to use elsewhere.  So while I am proficient, I haven’t excelled to the level my parents have.  But I always loved playing with them.  It was really fun and the laughs we had were priceless.  Best of all, I always played better than when I was playing in an outing or a league.  Both my parents would give me tips, and my Mom especially was great at fixing my errant swing.  I played up to their game and was the better for it.

I thought about that last night when I attended a table read for the latest project I’ve been cast in, a short film.  One of the actors there had really prepared for the read, our first meeting as a cast.  He’d really thought about all the characters and had read the script multiple times.  He’d mapped out past histories and relationship nuances I hadn’t begun to think about.  His work got me thinking about decisions I’d made about my character but hadn’t formalized.  Made me commit to certain aspects of my role and who I was in the story.  Made me work out where I was going in this story.  In short, improved my game during our brief meeting.

It had been a while since I’ve been in a collaborative effort like this.  Voiceover can be a solitary business with no one to bounce ideas off of.  I was excited leaving the meeting and reminded that I should always try to work with those better than me.  Push myself.  Raise my game.  How else am I going to get that hole in one?

My Dad

Today is Father’s Day.  It’s a bittersweet holiday for me now that my Dad is no longer on this earth.  The avalanche of advertising that accompanies this holiday started becoming an irritation and a sad reminder of this fact.  Not that I don’t think about him every day and wish I could once again pick up the phone and hear his voice.  As I was sitting in church this morning, I was reminded of all the funny emails he’d send along in our daily correspondence.  They were usually tales of the latest exchange between he and my mother.  I’ve saved all of those emails and often go through them to laugh once again.  My thoughts then turned to his funeral and some of the great stories that were told.  Yes I know, I should have been paying attention to the priest but I have the attention span of a gnat.  There is one story in particular that always makes me laugh and my Mother is going to kill me for telling it.  But I’m pretty sure she doesn’t read this so unless one of my siblings tattles, I’m safe.  I should tell the story about bananas and how my mother used to send Dad to the grocery store with a list that included 5 bananas.  He would stand over the banana display looking and looking for a bunch that had 5 bananas and 5 only.  One day to his astonishment, he saw a woman walk up, rip 3 off a bunch and continue on.  What an epiphany!  He never knew this was a possibility in his world.  Yes this was a man with an advanced medical degree.

Instead I’ll tell one of my favorite stories, this one from the OR.  Dad had a wonderful relationship with the nurses, a rarity between nurses and doctors.  For all of his pseudo-chauvinistic comments, he truly liked and respected the nursing staff and the vital jobs they performed.  He treated them as collaborators and equals, which unfortunately doesn’t often happen.  And they in turn respected and had a lot of affection for my Dad.  So on this particular day, he was in the OR performing, yes, a hemorrhoidectomy which is exactly what you think it might be.  The patient is positioned butt high to the sky for this procedure and the workspace is rather, forgive me, tight.  The funny thing about surgery is TV gives the feeling of vastness when it portrays an operation when in reality it is really close working environment.  I once watched Dad take out part of a lung and was amazed at how all those hands were able to fit in such a small space.  Anyway, back to our story.  Light is very important in an operation and the key light that was pointed on the field kept drifting off mark.  Dad kept having to tell the dirty nurse (she’s not sterile so she does all things outside the sterile field) to fix the light, move the light, adjust the light until he finally reached a boiling point.  Without raising his head he yelled “The asshole.  Shine the light on the asshole!”  Well that poor struggling nurse with the light took one look at one of the other nurses, shrugged her shoulders and promptly flashed the light right at my Dad’s face.  And he just cracked up.  He knew he’d deserved it.  She got him back perfectly and he had the grace to accept it.

That’s one of the things that made my Dad a truly wonderful person.  Not only was he a passionate and gifted surgeon (spelled it right this time Dad!), he had a great sense of humor and a humility about what he did.  He treated people as equals and had no time for those who thought themselves better than everyone else.  A lesson he passed on to me.

Forgive me for rambling on longer than I usually do.  I just thought you’d like to know a bit about the hero in my life.  And sorry Mom.  Next time I’ll stop at the banana story.

Happy Birthday Dad

Today would have been my Dad’s 76th birthday.  He’s been gone for about 18 months now and while I don’t feel his loss as acutely as I used to, I still feel it.  The funny thing is I actually feel him around me more now than I used to.  I still miss being able to pick up the phone and call him whenever I get the urge.  I used to do that quite often, especially when it was a call about the latest idiocy from some government or large business.  He was so interested in the workings of these monoliths and how the right hand often didn’t know what the left hand was doing.

He would have loved this past weekend.  We were at a family wedding of one of my cousins, a niece he was particularly fond of.  She’d lost her Dad, my Dad’s old brother, in the mid 90’s so another uncle walked her down the aisle.  I can imagine that if Daddy had still be alive, he would have proudly stepped in for his brother.  The reception was wonderful with a really good band.  Dad would have been up the whole night dancing with my Mom.  They were great dancing partners having had so many years together to practice.  I love watching couples who have been together forever, there is no awkwardness in their dancing, they follow an easy pattern that is so indicative of their marriage.  I was sad for my Mom that she’d lost her partner but plenty of friends and family picked up the slack and she rarely rested.

I know it was Mother’s Day yesterday and I’m supposed to be lauding my Mom.  I am thankful for all she’s done and still does for me.  But my Dad was a pretty important guy to me and his birthday is a day that is very special.  Forgive me a bit of self indulgence.  Happy Birthday Dad.  Miss you more than I can say.

On Green Jackets and such

Last weekend was the Masters Golf tournament.  I’m a big fan of the event.  Not only did I watch it on CBS and ESPN, but I watched it on Masters.com before the on air coverage started.  Yes I’m one of those people.  I actually like watching golf.  It’s a side effect of growing up in a household of golfers, we all play in some form or another.  It’s something that links us together inextricably.  My Dad taught my Mom, he’d learned it from his Dad, and she got so good she regularly whipped his butt.  They in turn taught us.  Now my brother is teaching his kids and his wife is taking golf lessons.  It’s cool to see that chain continue.

Anywho, I’ve been fortunate enough to attend the event several times.  My Mom has passes that are hers through her lifetime.  That’s how they work, you get to keep them as long as you are alive.  You can pass them to a spouse but not to a child.  They have to be returned to the pool then.  I joke to my Mom that she’s bought herself a few more years of life support with those passes-“yes Mrs. Tierney will be attending the Masters this year”.  For me, going there is a really special treat.  Not seeing the golfers, you can see them at tournaments all over the place, including here.   The specialness lies in the course itself.  Augusta is this really small town and this is their Super Bowl.  The course is right off a main road and you enter a world of green when you go through the gates.  Of course, after checking your cell phone at security.  Every service building is painted green so as not to stand out amongst the trees.  The main clubhouse and it’s outbuildings for the members are all beautiful white with black shutters on every window.  The flowers are explosive.  TV really doesn’t do it justice.  For me, the course was the star, not the players.  Not to get overly dramatic, but I am an actress/drama queen, I was on hallowed ground.  What struck me was how do the players put all this aside and just play their game?  How do they not get all wrapped up into all that it is and just curl up into a ball at the first tee?  I guess that’s what happens when you are a pro at what you do, you recognize your surroundings but don’t let it affect your performance.

Recently I had breakthrough in my own growth.  I realized I was holding the microphone too dear, too precious in my mind and this was affecting my performance.  For various reasons, I was letting this get in the way of just being me in front of the mic.  I’d created my own Augusta National in my noggin.  Not the best of circumstances.  So now I’m working on fixing that.  Maybe I’ll pull out that cute green jacket I own while I practice.

Uncomfortable Changes

I have an ancient car.  Not quite a Model T but a pretty old one nonetheless.  It’s a 14 year old Geo Prizm with over 210000 miles on it.  You read that right.  I wanted to get a car to over 200000 miles and I reached that goal this past summer just outside of Memphis.  Oh and the car line doesn’t even exist anymore.  But my little gal keeps hanging on.  I had some extensive work done on it while on that road trip last summer, it helps to have a mechanic who’s a future brother in law, and she’s been running just great.  Just a few quirks, like I don’t really have any heat in it when I’m on the highway as the heat core is shot and needs to be replaced.  The part is pretty cheap but the labor is almost a grand.  And the back passenger window doesn’t roll down anymore.  And the check engine light is lit up again.  But she still gets me from point A to point B and she doesn’t look bad at all.  The paint is in great shape with no rust.  The body is dent free.  I did have an owie this past winter when a snow rut rolled me into the back end of an SUV with a trailer hitch that pushed out a bit of my bumper.  So she’s not without a blemish but overall she still looks great.

I know I’m waxing eloquently about a car, and not a very noteworthy one at that, but you have to understand something.  I’ve only ever owned 3 cars in all of my adult life, 4 if you count the 68 Chevy Nova I used to drive in high school that was really my parents car.  And this little car has a lot of memories connected to it.  I bought it with my Dad’s GM family discount so he’s still on the title.  And now that he’s gone, it’s still something that connects us.  And I used to cart the dogs back and forth to my parents house, first Lily by herself and then later we added Bailey to the trips when I shared custody of him with my parents.  I have many a memory of Lily in her cage on the passenger seat next to me checking in to see if this was going to be  a quick trip or one where she needed to settle in for the long haul.  When we got close to our destination, I’d let her out of her cage so she could sit on my lap and sniff out the window.  Her little paw on my leg as she emerged still makes me smile.  Bailey’s ear shattering bark from the back seat when he got bored or bladderful still makes me jump.  They’re both gone now as well but I am reminded of them frequently when I’m tooling around town.

The reason for all this reflection is I have the opportunity to purchase my Dad’s car, a 3 year old Camry in fantastic condition and kitted out to the extreme.  It’s a great opportunity and one I don’t want to pass up.  It’s just that I wasn’t ready to let go of my old car just yet.  Maybe I won’t.  Maybe I’ll just keep the old one and slowly make the transition.  I wasn’t given that choice with all these other losses.  I think I just need some time.  So I’ll take as long as I need to say goodbye.

Spell Check

I find myself in a quandary.  I’ve always considered myself a good speller and grammarian although I successfully hid these talents from my teachers throughout my academic progression.  The spelling talent was a gift of my Mother (along with a great sense of direction) and the grammar via my Dad, the English major turned surgeon.  Because of these gifts, I am quick to spot errors in the writings of others.  This isn’t a talent guaranteed to win you friends so I’ve worked very hard over the years to suppress my need to be right when confronted with the mistakes of others.  Although I was an absolute snot recently at a fancy party where I corrected a delightful gentleman on his pronunciation of Hermes.  Some things just can’t go mispronounced, it’s a crime against fashion and sacrilegious to boot.

However recently while reading several blogs and daily e-blasts from sources I respect and reference consistently, the spelling and syntax errors were so glaring and blatant they took me right out of the story and the experience it had been providing to me.  It was jarring to say the least.  And disappointing.

The quandary comes from the fact that I have recently taken on writing in a fairly consistent and public manner.  I am coming to realize the challenge of feeding this word monster regularly.  And the fact that sometimes in my haste, I may make a error just like I’ve been reading recently.  Top it off with the fact that I HATE to be found wrong.  I know, that may be a shocker to you but if you need confirmation, just ask any of my siblings.  My sister says I need 3 facts to back anything up before I’ll reverse myself on a statement.  I have no idea what she’s talking about.  But, statistically over time, I’m bound to make an error or three.  And that stinks.  I need to invent a thought check so what I’m thinking comes out coherently, structured correctly and spelled to perfection.  Not likely to happen, so maybe I’ll just slow down, re-read what I’ve written and if I do make a mistake, strive to do better next time.

Use Your Words

My Sister in Law sent me the nicest note of encouragement recently regarding my writing and posting.  She said she looked forward to reading them every day and she thought my Dad would be proud of how I was using my words.  Her phrasing made me smile instantly.  It was such the thing for a Mom of 4 to say and I could hear her saying it to one of her kids whilst they stumbled for the words that weren’t coming as fast as their developing little minds were wanting them to.

But the phrase “use your words” got me thinking.  I’ve always been a geek when it comes to language, at least in my adult life.  Scholastically not so much, in fact I even misspelled surgeon in a spelling test, not so good for the daughter of such a man.  But as an adult, with a voracious appetite for reading, some of that language sunk in.  To the point I became something of a collector of words.  Using them in a sentence correctly alway gave me a bit of a thrill.  I am the kind of person that actually uses the word harridan, proclivity and as evidenced by the previous sentence, voracious.  Not in an intellectually snobby way at all.  Finding new words was a treasure to be unearthed with glee.  The English language is endowed with wonderful words that seldom get taken out and dusted off.  Crossword puzzles were a great source of new material.  It became something wonderful to share with my Dad, the English major turned surgeon, and when he consulted me on a french word or phrase that he was unfamiliar with, a great source of pride.

I think these postings are a way to continue the conversation with my Dad, something I am no longer able to do.  I am able to craft a story and a message I think he would be happy to read as my SIL (our acronym for sister-in-law) pointed out.  I continue my hunt everyday for new words and thoughts and take an immense amount of pleasure in each post.  S-U-R-G-E-O-N.  Never forget that one!

Use your words.