An American Highlander

Travels Through My Mind

Scars September 4, 2012

Filed under: ROW80 — charismaloy @ 1:23 am
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That which does not kill us makes us stronger.

Friedrich Nietzsche

 This handsome man has quite a story. His history gives his face character, but it never changed his spirit. I can’t tell his story nearly as well as his family can, but it is well worth the read and if I did it right, the picture should be a link to his story. This is Odie.

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Spec’als joined our family a year after I did. His full name was Spectacals because his markings looked like he was wearing a pair of thin-wire frames. In all of my memories, Spec’als lacked a tail. As a pup, he had chosen to ignore the boundaries that had been set for him, and while he and my dad were in the garage, dad turned his back long enough that Specs was able to run into the street. It was a total fluke of timing, as there were only seven houses on our street at the time, but a car came around the corner just as Specs ran into the road. He got lucky. The vet had to amputate his tail, but he walked away. He was a much more cautious dog after that, although the temptation struck occasionally to leave the boudaries of our yard, he avoided the street.

Below is another wonderfully sweet face, my baby sister. If you look to the right, tucked into the corner of the chair is her dog, Duchess of Coin. Okay, so we NEVER called the dog by her pedigreed name. She was copper colored, so we called her Penny. I can’t do much to improve this picture, as it was taken by my 13-year-old self with my very first Polaroid, and scanned into a computer nearly 20 years later. Both of these lovely faces have a long history, and either one could have given up. Nobody would have blamed them.

We started joking, not long after this picture was taken, that Penny was part cat. We could count at least 5 different times that she cheated death. She was the gutsiest dog I ever knew. She was already about two years old when we got her, and she was meant to be my stepmom’s dog, as my dad had come to the marriage with Spec’els. The dog had other ideas, and where you could find Tricia, Penny wasn’t far away.

This tiny dog moved from a city house to a small farm, and took offense to the piglets that came home the next spring. We went to the auction and picked up six piglets, two for us, and the rest for other families in the area that were unable to get to the auction. As we unloaded the piglets into the pen, Penny stood about ten feet from the pen and yelled at them. They ignored her, as pigs are wont to do, so Dad picked her up and placed her in the pen. It took her about five silent seconds to realize that not one of the six newcomers was less than twice her size, and she quickly vacated the area to resume her post ten feet away, where she resumed her barking. This was the indomitable spirit of this dog. It was a number of years later that she started playing cat.

While on a walk with my stepmom, leashless because she always stayed close, a larger dog ran up, grabbed her by the head and neck and shook her violently. The other dog’s owner was right behind, and had obviously been trying to catch his dog. He and my stepmom seperated the dogs, and he made sure that Mom had his contact info. Penny was incoherent, but breathing. It was the late ’80’s and like many others, our family had really been hit hard by the recession in Southern California. There was no hope of a vet, Penny would either pull out of it or we would have to say goodbye. Penny spent the rest of the day in a blanket lined box on the dining table, gently checked over by Mom’s sensitive hands to assure us that no bones were broken. There was no broken skin, so it was just a matter of how badly her brain was shaken. One or the other of us was with her at all times. With a large family, that wasn’t hard to do. By late that evening, she had roused herself and, though she had a few sore days, was soon back to her own self.

Some months later, my brother was playing fetch with our Australian Shepard. The dog was fast and we had long since taken to hitting the ball with a bat in order to get it far enough out that the dog wouldn’t roll her eyes at us in disdain. After going through far too many tennis balls, we started playing with a croquet ball that we had found. Penny liked to watch, and was usually a few feet behind the batter so that she didn’t get trampled. Until the day my older brother mis-hit. The croquet ball hit the bat at an odd angle, popped up at an angle, and came down behind Jesse. It caught Penny on the side of the head. We were sure we lost her then, and the possibility of a vet was unchanged. She spent three days on the dining room table, in deep shock, breathing shallowly, covered to keep her tiny body warm. Our first question in the morning when Mom woke us was answered by the look in Mom’s eyes. There was still hope in her face, but we needed to hear the words. She made it through the night. I checked for that look of hope when I got home from school. For three days, I saw hope in the morning. On the third, I saw smiles when I got home from school. She was still in the box on the table, but she was responsive. After that, she always walked at an angle but she aimed right and got where she was going, and she stayed all the way up on the patio when we were playing fetch. It was a sure lesson for all of us to be aware of our surroundings.

Both Spec’als and Penny lived a full life and died of old age at home with those who loved them.

The beautiful girl in the picture above and to the right? Most of her scar stories are her own to tell, but I can relate some. Due to serious self esteem issues during puberty, she failed to properly nourish her body. Soon after puberty, she developed Reynaud’s Disease. Doctor’s were flumoxed when this otherwise healthy middle schooler began showing symptoms of a disease that usually doesn’t appear until a person is in their 20’s. She was never able to join in any of the sports teams that she may have wanted to, as she could never predict when one of her limbs would loose circulation. She missed school more than once due to her right arm losing circulation, and her friends became accustomed to helping her carry her things. The girl is very pragmatic, when the doctors told my baby sister that she was likely to develop full blown Lupus, she responded with “I may or I may not, I don’t have it now.”

Some years later she developed an allergy so severe that it could kill her, and so rare that nobody considers the danger of a terribly common seasoning. She puts her life on the line every time she walks into a restaraunt. When her coworkers refused to avoid bringing her allergen into her presence and repeatedly caused her to be rushed to the ICU and be intubated (fortunately she worked in an ER), her doctor ordered her to quit working, and don’t even think about going back to school. He wanted her to live in a sterile bubble. The response of my stubborn and pragmatic sister? She moved to another state, found a better doctor, a workplace that would not try to kill her, and lives with the knowledge that any day can be her last, so she makes everyday as perfect as she can. That cute little kid sure grew into a looker, huh?

Bill Keane said, “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is a gift of God, which is why we call it the present.”

I would like to change that just a bit. Yesterday we were students, tomorrow we will be teachers, today is our time to BE.

In a conversation earlier this week, I told a friend, “The past makes us who we are today. If you leave someone in the past, there is no reason to be jealous. You learned the lesson of the day and moved on. That person became a part of who you are, but is no longer a part of your life in that way. I have many hurts in my past, I bear many scars, but each one of them has a story, a name, and a lesson learned. Lose one of them and I am no longer me.”

That was my yesterday. I will find a way to teach those lessons without the scars when my turn comes to teach. Today is my chance to BE. My scars may cause me to move oddly through life like Penny, I may be extra cautious and avoid dangerous places like Spec’als, but I still AM and I refuse to either live in those wounded moments or cease to BE.  Like Odie, I have good reason to snap at a friendly hand, but like him, I choose to smile.

Tomorrow is uncertain. I don’t have a medical diagnosis hanging over my head that some dread disease is going to drastically alter my life, and I often take for granted that I can walk into McDonald’s to use the toilet on a road trip without risking my life, but there are no promises of tomorrow. I will not worry about tomorrow. I will plan for it, I will prepare for it, but I will not spend my life in “what-if’s”.

Today is mine. I woke up this morning and felt the stiffness from the injuries of the past. I have a finger that may never function properly again and a shoulder that keeps me tossing and turning all night seeking a few hours of comfort. Like far too many of us, I have emotional scars that run deep. I know, as many of us do, that if I look too long at those scars I will live in them, unless I make peace with them.  A number of years ago, I was thrown from a horse and turned my forhead to hamburger. My friends kept telling me to use one miracle cream or another to fade the scar. I refused. I earned that scar. I went face first off of a horse onto the frozen prairie. I shouldn’t have been on that horse in the first place, at least not with that riding partner. He shouldn’t have put me in the dangerous situation that he did.

I learned that lesson, and I wear that scar as a certificate of completion. I am a student of the School of Hard Knocks. It is a perpetual campus. You never leave, and you only graduate on the day you shuffle of this mortal plane. Every course awards a certificate of completion. They all look different, but they all bear the name “scar”. Celebrate your scars. You survived that test, learned from it, and scars fade to a distant memory.

Show the world, that it does not change you, it only makes you stronger.

Upper picture- Happy Dance by Lynn Kelly Author via WANA Commons
Lower picture- IMG-2179 by ambernwest via WANA Commons

Almost forgot my checkin!!

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Round 3 Goals

1. Devote a minimum of one hour each weekday to bona fide work on each of the three both at-home jobs. This does not include FB, Blogging, Tweeting or other internet perusal, but may include improvements made to blog sites.

Spent most of this week working on these things, and didn’t get my checkin done last week because I as on a roll and didn’t want to lose  my momentum.

2. Finish Fantasies this round. If CM approves it, get it published.

Nope, although  I did some research on this, I didn’t get a single word written. Thought about it lots though!

3. Spend at least 20 minutes each weekday on housework and at least 2 hours on Saturday. Get SOMETHING accomplished in the direction of household maintenance each week.

Spent  two days working on this

4. Start eating more than one meal a day. Consistantly.

As usual, I get this accomplished on the days that I leave the house to work, but forget to eat if I am working at home. I am beginning to think I should just accept this about myself. On the days that I expend more calories in energy, I take in more, but I take in less on the days that I don’t need them. I may have to content myself with this for the time being.

Hmmm… Structure….. this could be interesting…… (this structure thing is not working…)

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7 Responses to “Scars”

  1. prudencemacleod Says:

    Great post girl, and one of my favorite quotes. Yes, we all have scars; they prove we were stronger than whatever it was that tried to grind us down. I guess we could think of them like merit badges, ’cause we earned them. 🙂 Keep on trucking and hold your head up high.

  2. Lynn Kelley Says:

    Wow, that Penny, what an amazing dog! And your sister, wow, very brave. I wish her all the best. And you, too. Yes, the scars are proof that we’ve lived hard and well. I like what Prudence says, thinking of them like merit badges! Those are some great photos. Thanks for letting me know! Take care!

    • charismaloy Says:

      Thought you might like to see your pic in use. 🙂 Yes, Penny was a piece of work, in her last days, she was arthritic and nearly blind in her good eye and was glad the kids had grown and gone as she enjoyed the quiet. She knew how to persevere, and outlived her contemporaries by several years.

      My sister is a fighter. You never could tell her “no”, or even “that can’t be done”. I guess that’s the Missouri mentality we got from Grandma. You kinda have to prove to us that it can’t be done, and more than any of us, she has spent her life proving that it can. I don’t think she really understands how much I look up to her.

  3. charismaloy Says:

    Shan, never forget that in order for wounds to heal, they need to breathe. Don’t hide your war wounds. Doctor them, and let them heal. Oh, one other thing, Kisses really do make it all better.


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