Thursday, April 22, 2010


The fence along the back border of our yard is a Squirrel Highway. Neighbors on both sides have ever-overflowing bird feeders, so dozens of little fluffy gray vermin make their way along our chain link every day, gorging themselves at one and then traveling to the other. Lucy used to occasionally get excited about them. Cliff has never shown interest. Jack? Well, that lil' pup is a true hunter. When he sees them, the stalking begins.

I know, I know! Amusing, right? It's so funny to watch him try his darndest to catch one, but fail miserably every time.

Well tonight I was poop scooping along the back fence and I found a tail. Um, yeah. A squirrel tail. At first I thought it was Cliff's squirrel toy, but I quickly realized IT WASN'T. IT WAS REAL. I was fascinated and appalled at the same time. I picked it up and saw the bloody stump at the end. Cliff came over, gave it a whiff, and snatched it out of my hands! I had to chase him around the yard to get it back (thankfully, given his disc disease, it was a short chase) and as soon as I got it, Jack grabbed it from me! I tried to yank it back, and we ended up ripping it in half. OMG, it was awful. I threw it over the fence into the neighbor's weeds. What the hell happened? Did Jack actually rip it off some squirrel? Was the squirrel running along the fence, outracing Jack, and got it caught in the chain link and it ripped out that way? There wasn't a body anywhere, soooo...

Oye, oye, oye--!

So much for the cute lil' innocent face. Unless the Spirit of Lucy Past came back, we know who's guilty around here...


Monday, April 19, 2010

Longest Blog Post Ever.

I think I’ve finally broken through the Creative Barrier that has been up since Lucy died. I’ve been piddling about with a few linocuts, but at odds and ends, here and there… lots of other things vying for my time. Therefore, this will hereafter become known as THE LONGEST BLOG POST EVER. Seriously. I'll sprinkle it with recent pics, though, so maybe that will make it more interesting?

I accepted an offer on my house, and have been busy house-hunting in Syracuse (which is fun but time-consuming, and houses are being gobbled up so fast due to this gov't rebate!). When my realtor sat down and asked me what I was looking for in a home, I was a bit nervous to tell her that everything I wanted revolved around Clifford and his spinal/neurological problems- one floor living, or at least one bedroom on the first floor so we could live down there; easy access to the backyard with minimal stairs; and a preferably flat backyard so he wouldn’t have to struggle as he got older. You know, some people just aren’t dog people, and give you funny looks for stuff like that?? But I give her credit, she didn’t laugh at all, and took down everything very seriously in her notebook. After Cliff’s considerations, I wanted either a large room for my art studio. Something affordable for one person on an administrative assistant’s salary… modest… but in a safe location. City, country or suburbs, I didn’t care- I’ve lived all 3, and like them all.

I've found the PERFECT house for us, but I learned tonight that someone else has decided it's perfect for them, too. This means that we'll have to start a bidding war I guess, and I really didn't want to pay full price. :o( Sigh, we'll see how it goes...

And on artwork. I’ve been struggling to do a piece in honor of Lucy. I’ve started a few now and just feel… empty… about them. So that’s tabled for now. I don’t know whether it’s because my drawings stink or because the idea of a “memorial piece” makes her death more real so I want to avoid it? I dunno. I’m hoping inspiration will hit at some point.

 Sooo… looking for inspiration… I hit the university library (my new job working at a huge university is awesome… the library is 5 floors, truly heaven!). Every lunch hour I went to the printmaking section of the Fine Arts floor (yes… a whole floor for the arts… and almost 20 shelves of printmaking books!!!) and combed through books. There was a huge coffee-table volume on Margaret Preston that I was especially drawn to. Her linocuts were bold and striking, and colored so beautifully. And get this… I was flabbergasted to find out they were hand-colored! HAND COLORED! I almost put the book back when I read that, but I’m glad I didn’t.

Hand-coloring a block print is exactly as it sounds… making a one-color linocut (usually in dark ink) and then coloring it in with paint. Many printmakers do this, but for some reason I always thought of it as a second-class technique and therefore avoided it. Shouldn’t a true printmaker color her/his images using multiple blocks or the reduction method, with inks and not paints? Wasn’t hand-coloring bastardizing the traditional printmaking process and shoving it into the murky realm of “mixed media art”??? Blah blah blah… I am a die-hard traditionalist in most areas, I admit (I just –finally- ditched my Record Player last month, don’t laugh) but the more I looked at Margaret Preston’s art and googled other hand-coloring block print artists… the more respect I had for the technique. To tie two different media together is a tricky thing- and as I experimented, I found it wasn’t easy at all! How the heck did they do it?

Last weekend was beautiful and sunny, and I went outside and sketched my forsythia bush which was flowering in all its sunshine-colored glory (spring is truly gorgeous in New York State. The taxes STINK and Albany is a political disaster, but it’s worth living her just for the seasons and nature, truly). I worked right on the block, not on paper first (which is rare for me) but enjoyed the process. It was much more spontaneous drawing directly on the block, and I might try it again in the future? After completing the drawing, I blocked the pencil in with marker and moved to my backyard patio, where I carved in the company of Cliff and Jack.

Then, after I was finished carving, I printed the forsythia image (along with a Loon block that I had laying around), dried them overnight, and then began playing around with hand-coloring. Fun!

I must admit… I have not painted in a LONG TIME. Having a brush in my hand instead of a pencil, pen or chisel was strange and awkward. I found that most “hand-colorers” use watercolor, but I didn’t have any so I used gouche (opaque watercolor) that I had laying around. I used some colors that were pre-mixed and dried on one of my palettes from years ago, so… well, it came out crappy and muddy. The gouche also left a “film” over my black ink, I’m assuming because it’s opaque (duh, Jennifer!). Soooo… I then dug in the cobwebby boxes of my art buffet and came up with some acrylics. Thinned down enough, I thought they may work but found they also left a “film” and dried a bit choppy (maybe that was my uneducated application). So yesterday I went to the store and bought some W & N watercolors (sigh, afterwards I found a perfectly good tin in my art cabinet, lol) and used them. Much better results! I was happy, but the color isn’t bold and strong, like ink… it’s, well, delicate and transparent like watercolor LOL. I don’t know if I like it or not. Have to ponder on it for awhile. When it comes to color, I like it full-on and strong… so I need to think on this for.

In other “big steps”… I can’t believe I did this, but I donated blood to the Red Cross last week. When I was in elementary school I somehow cultivated this huge fear of needles in my head, and that stupid fear has dogged me throughout adulthood. I’m also TOTALLY skeeved out by the inside of arms, especially wrists and the inside crook of your elbow. The fact you can see the purple lines of veins under your skin, and feel your pulse in those places, just grosses the heck out of me. I remember one time in high school health class we had to take our own pulse and I got so light-headed and skeeved out that I almost vomited on my desk. Anyway… now at the ripe ol’ age of 32, I’ve decided it’s time to conquer my fears. I want to fly on a plane again. I want to go back to Poland. And I want to donate my blood because it’s important to help others, right??

So one day last week I noticed that the Red Cross was on campus and that our school was being pitted against another school in a competition… who could contribute the largest percentage of blood to the Red Cross? Perfect timing! I could kill two (well, three) birds with one stone- show school spirit at my new job AND donate AND conquer my fears. I filled out the paperwork. I studiously avoided making eye contact with anyone laying on the hospital cots getting worked on. When the counselor brought me back for health questioning, I was SO proud of myself and didn’t nervously blabber on and on about my dogs (although I DID have an opening- one question was, “Have you been in contact with someone else’s blood lately?” And of course between Lucy’s and Clifford’s dentals, and Lucy’s last day on earth vomiting bloody foam, and Cliff splitting his tongue open during his malignant hyperthermia episode, I had—so I asked the counselor if she meant just human blood or did dogs count-? She gave me the strangest look and said she didn’t know, but she’d make a note on my chart LOL). Anyway… they put me on the cot closest to the waiting area (where a gazillion students sat watching me), made me lay down but I had to “wear” a paper blanket like you get at the gynecologist’s office (because I was wearing a skirt and didn’t want to give the kids a show LOL)…embarrassing!  As they proceeded to prep me I got more and more skeeved but took deep breaths and tried to stay calm…and then, unfortunately, I had a rare reaction halfway through the draw and my arms ended up temporarily paralyzed from the elbow down, I was slurring and lost a bit of vision. I had 3 nurses around me and they made me drink a carton of milk (apparently the reaction was from a lactic acid build-up in my muscles or something??) which was totally gross. But worse was the humiliation of going down in front of all the students! They said it was a rare reaction called “tennis” or something? It sounded a lot like “tetanus.” I wish I remembered exactly what it was called. It was so humiliating. I ended up being there 2 hours, as all these young’uns came and went without a problem or fear at all. And here Granny Jen couldn’t make it through… sigh.

Two hours later. The nurse came over to me, sitting shame-faced in the Recovery Area, and told me, “You have good color and are so strong! Just think, the blood you donated today will save THREE lives!”

At that point, I didn’t care whether my blood saved lives or got thrown in the dumpster, but Good Karma is Good Karma I guess.* After I was forced to finish my milk and a carton of juice, I was released to hobble back across campus to my office, my arm brown with iodine and a bright red bandage.  Thankfully my boss and coworkers were very sympathetic despite my extra-long lunch break, but I stayed late after work to make it up just in case.

Well, I think that’s all for this installation. I need to plan my posts out better, so they aren’t so terribly long! Oh well. If you’ve read this far without falling asleep, give yourselves a candy bar—you made it!


*Hopefully this Good Karma will be put towards the purchase offer war I'm about to wage over 'my' house LOL. Please? God? I'm a good person and I REALLY like this house-!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Smiling Boys

Down and Out

Haven't written in awhile, arg! Things have been busy... I put my house on the market and am planning to move closer to my new job... can I tell you how stressful it is keeping your house "museum clean" for showings?:oP

Poor Cliff. He went in for a dental this week, as the vet found an abscessed tooth in the back of his mouth. It was a molar (which I guess is considered a major tooth). I also wanted to have his back right leg x-rayed since he's been having such a hard time walking.


7:15 AM: Drop Cliff off at the vet. They tell me that they'll call when he's out of surgery.

7:15 AM--1:00PM: Bite fingernails and try to concentrate at work.

1:00 PM: I can't wait anymore! I call to check Cliff's status, and find out he's on the table being worked on.

2:50 PM: Dr. G calls me to say that Cliff is finished. The x-rays are fine, but there is some dysplasia in the hips- they couldn't even extend Cliff's leg all the way. BUT.. there is less osteoarthritis than expected. Three major teeth- all molars- were removed during the dental. A strange finding: Cliff's right leg muscles are much larger than his left, which is odd because Cliff's right leg is the lame one. If anything, the LEFT leg should be bulkier from being used more. Vet palpitated for tumors or masses but didn't feel anything. Made a note in Cliff's chart for monitoring. I get all the details on his recovery care and hang up feeling fairly happy about the outcome.

3:30 PM: Vet receptionist calls and asks if I can come to pick up Cliff asap. He's screaming, crying, really stressing out. "He wants his Mommy," she says.

4:30 PM: I roll into the vet's parking lot. Dr. B, who has come on duty after Dr. G., meets me at the door. It's NEVER a good thing when the vet meets you at the door, let me tell you!! "Your boy gave us quite a scare," she said, and brings me in the back room. Clifford is laying on the operating table, drenched, shaking like crazy- beside him is a tub filled with ice-- apparently he was so stressed that his temps skyrocketed from 98 to 107!!  They had to give him an emergency catheter and ice bath to bring his temps down. He was so upset that he pooped all over, bit his tongue and split it, and nicked a few of his toes. He didn't have a stroke or seizure (thank God!!) but 107 is dangerous territory for a dog! When I came in back... poor Cliff!! Laying with his big feet in the air, both legs shaved, catheter in, bloody muzzle from the dental, bloody tongue, bloody toe, trembling and wet-- I almost lost it. He looked so elderly and frail-!!

I sat with Cliff for awhile, trying to keep him calm. The vet explained that she thought this was stress-induced BUT it might not be... we could transfer him to Cornell for monitoring (since they closed at 6 and Cornell is a 24 hour facility)... or I could bring him home and then rush him to the ER vet in Syracuse if his temps skyrocketed again. I decided to bring him home. We kept the catheter in in case he needed fluids again. And with that... we got Cliff down from the table, helped him into the car, and went home.

I'm happy to say that once Cliff got in familiar territory, he was MUCH more comfortable. He had some difficulty laying down that evening (I'm assuming stiffness from being manipulated for xrays) but ate half his chicken/rice dinner and gulped his antibiotics and pain killers (etodolac and tramadol). His catheter came out this morning... and he's doing great! I have to say though, from this experience and Lucy's dental... I will be MUCH more hesitant to put an older dog under anesthesia again. Both of these instances were my fault, because I was too lax with tooth brushing and hand-scaling the past couple years and their mouths got bad... but never again. Once Cliff's mouth heals, he and Jack will be getting nightly brushings. No excuses!