April 3, 2014

24 Hours

24 hours ago my life was completely different.

24 hours ago I was almost happy.

24 hours ago I didn't know that my life was about to take a drastic turn.

24 hours ago I was sitting on the couch, watching tv, waiting for the US friendly with Mexico to start, with Princess curled up on my legs, just as she did almost every single time I sat on the couch. If I was sitting, she was next to me.

24 hours ago I didn't know that Princess would only be with me for four more hours.

23 hours ago Princess threw up, which isn't exactly abnormal for dogs. She didn't seem to be breathing very well, though, so I woke my parents up for backup. She settled down, though, and got back on the couch with me, cuddled up a little closer than normal. I knew she wasn't feeling well, but I thought it would pass. My parents went back to bed, thinking she was ok-ish.

I went to bed after the soccer match was over. Princess wouldn't get up because she was sick, so I carried her little self to bed. I've done that a million times. I've carried her all over the place because she's so stubborn, but she's only 50 pounds and easy to carry.

She snuggled in really close, like she does when I'm upset or she's upset. She was still having trouble breathing, but only sometimes. I wasn't sleeping because I was listening for her in case she needed me.

She needed me. I just couldn't do anything to help her.

An hour after we went to bed, Princess started throwing up again, or trying to. She wasn't able to sit up. She was choking, but seemed, I don't know, sort of paralyzed. I tried to help her up, so she wouldn't choke, but she was limp. She couldn't support herself. And then she had what seemed like a seizure.

And then it was over.

I lost her. I lost her. I lost the only reason I've had to be happy in 4.5 months. I lost the only reason I get out of bed some days. I lost the most precious little girl who threw herself at me every time I walked in the door, who ran into the room looking for me every time she came in from going outside, who would sleep on her back with her tongue hanging out, who snored louder than an old man, who insisted on a belly rub every night before going out for the last time and before going to bed, who would sit like a little meerkat with her paws in my hands for as long as I would sit on the floor with her.

I lost my little dog who had the saddest eyes, who mourned her brother's death for months, who was so much like Dewey that it is like losing him all over again.

I haven't recovered from Dewey. I was only surviving because of Princess. Now she's gone, too. There is no dog pushing their way through two other dogs to get to me when I walk in the door. There is no dog that looks for me first thing when they wake up. There is no dog curled up on my lap. There is no dog to sleep in my bed.

For the first time in over 20 years, I don't have a dog.

I don't have a dog who sleeps on me.

I don't have a dog who wants to be as close as possible to me.

I don't have a dog who thinks my only crime is not paying them constant attention.

I don't have a dog who puts me above everyone else in the world.

I don't have a dog.

February 8, 2014

AHA 2015

I'm fairly certain I've never posted a CFP on my personal blog before, but we're getting down to the wire and can't find a third panelist. If you think anyone would be interested in joining our panel, let them (and me) know. Spread the word, please!


A colleague and I are trying to put together a panel for the AHA meeting in New York next year based around our mutual research interests. We intend the panel to explore examples of historical interaction between early modern empires and dissenting religious groups. Specifically, we are interested in how empires used or abused religious groups to pursue their own imperial goals, and how dissenting groups in turn adapted imperial patronage or persecution to toward their own ends.

My paper will examine non-English Episcopalians in the aftermath of the Glorious Revolution who sought the British government’s aid to secure toleration for their faith and to help them preserve the structure of their churches as their institutions were swept away in Scotland and Ireland, and various American colonies.

My colleague's paper will look at dissident Presbyterians from Scotland and Ulster in the British Atlantic in the late seventeenth-century. His focus will be on the transatlantic networks they formed to help their religious kin and fellow countrymen evade English imperial oversight in an era when the Stuart dynasty was trying to crack down on their type of dissenting Protestantism.

We hope to solicit proposals for two more papers that can both complement and expand this topic as we conceive it. Though our collective focus is largely British and Atlantic at the moment, we would welcome proposals that deal with other empires elsewhere in the world as much as papers on similar themes. This panel currently has a chair/commenter that we are very excited about. If you are interested in being on the panel, please get in touch with craig.gallagher@bc.edu by February 12th, as the AHA submission deadline is February 15th.

January 2, 2014

I HAVE HEALTH INSURANCE.

Can you tell I'm excited? I am.

I haven't had insurance since I moved back from Canada and last month, thanks to Obamacare, I finally, finally, finally qualified for Medicaid because of the lowered income requirements. I was rejected twice before because, as an adjunct, I barely made too much money - just not enough money to actually be able to afford health insurance. In August I was denied Medicaid because I made $72 too much per month. In October, after my summer job was over, I was told to reapply and then denied again because I made $2 too much per month.

Two dollars.

I know there has to be a limit, but in what world does an extra $2 or even $72 mean someone can afford health insurance? It was so frustrating. I shed a tear or two over this, out of sheer frustration alone. Finally, though, a case worker called in December because they were reviewing applications to see who would qualify under Obamacare. I more than qualified, especially since I won't be teaching next semester and have only my part-time job to rely on now.

My card already came in the mail. I called today to choose the plan and primary card provider I want. Tomorrow I get to call to make an appointment for a physical. A physical! Woohoo!

December 23, 2013

A Year in Review

I hate 2013. 

There, I said it. It's the end of the year and I'm not at all sorry to see it go. It's been the worst year of my life.

Let's look at my resolutions for the year, shall we? First up, finish my dissertation. Nope. Not even close on that one. Next up, find a job or post-doc. What is the point? I'm not even close to finishing, so why waste my time on the job search? Then there was the goal of reading 52 new books this year. Umm...I think I read ten or twelve. Maybe. I did read Pride and Prejudice twice (again). Reading for pleasure got preempted by the dissertation and stress and worrying over Dewey. Finally, there was the ever-lofty "take better care of myself" goal. Ha. I did yoga maybe twice this year, but I did lose thirty pounds. Then Dewey got sick and I ate my feelings the past three months because it was better than crying constantly, but I did that, too. I told you I was bad at resolutions. Maybe 2014 will be better resolution-wise.

I'm trying to pinpoint what exactly was so horrible about this year and I don't think it was any one thing necessarily, but a compilation of a whole lot of crap. 

Certainly, this wasn't a great year for teaching. Only teaching one class over the winter semester was terrible. It wrecked all the progress I'd made on my giant pile of grad school debt and seems to have cost me my best friend because I couldn't afford to go to her wedding in the Bahamas. We haven't talked since June and, before that, it was pretty strained, although I thought it was getting better. Then she didn't call or even text me for birthday, so I guess it was more strained than I realized. This semester was a really rough semester for teaching. I had one class that was great - good students (some not so good, too), good chemistry - and one class that started horribly, but picked up towards the end for some of the students. I just think 8:00 classes shouldn't exist. Trying to get this class to do their work, much less talk about it, was worse than pulling teeth. The number of students that failed the class is shocking, but it's impossible to pass them when they didn't do the three major assignments. Accepting that was difficult.

More difficult was losing three dogs this year. Winnie, technically my uncle's dog, but she grew up at my parents' house, with Dewey when they were puppies. She was Dewey's girlfriend and mother to the adorable duo of Princess and Tank. Then we lost Tank the day before my birthday. I thought that was horrendous, but I wasn't in any way, shape, or form prepared for what was to come - saying goodbye to Dewey. I dreaded it for years, since his first diagnosis with cancer, but November 25th was the worst day ever. Or maybe it was November 26th, when I woke up without him for the first time. 

I know he is not in pain anymore and that's what matters and I know that it gets easier over time, but living without him is hard. Every day there has been something that has reminded me of him, of how much my life revolved around him. It's been four weeks and there hasn't been a day that I haven't looked for him or called for him or wanted to hug him. I also realize I sound like a lunatic, but I'm hoping you won't judge. It was just me and him for a long time and those years were some of the toughest of my life.

Until this year. I can't wait to say goodbye and good riddance to this year.


November 29, 2013

The End of AcWriMo!

That's all, folks! How'd you do? Did you accomplish your goals? Create some habits to help you write all year long?

I hope you all had a better end to AcWriMo than I did. I think I wrote 500 words these past two weeks and most of that was last week, not this one. Life took over this week and nothing was done. 

Still, I learned a lot about what I need to do to finish the monster. I found out that planning exactly when and what I will write works for me, at least right now. A year ago, it didn't work so well, but more structure seems to help these days. I still need to work on making the writing a priority that doesn't get swept aside in the face of more immediate needs, like grading or emails or lessons.

Despite the fact that I only accomplished one of my goals - the introduction - I wrote more this month than I have in a long time and I feel like I'm in a good position for December and beyond, too. 
I'm going to count this as a success because I really, really need one right now.

Let's celebrate with a little Queen, shall we? 



November 28, 2013

The loneliness is palpable.

In an episode of Sex and the City, when discussing her lack of a boyfriend, Carrie Bradshaw told Charlotte, "The loneliness is palpable." That line always struck me as heartbreaking because, even at my lowest of lows, I've never really felt that way.

Until now. Now I know.

Thirteen years and almost three months ago, I fell in love at first sight. He was the absolute cutest puppy I'd ever seen. He loved me instantly, too. 

It was absolute chaos because there was something like three or four litters of puppies at once (I promise this was a very reputable breeder of champion show dogs, not a puppy mill!) and they were super excited to have two visitors - my mom and me. We were there to pick up the latest addition to my parents' gang of show dogs, back when they used to breed and show golden retrievers, too. My parents were excited because of the parentage of this puppy and because the breeder, a friend of theirs, said he was the best she'd seen since the puppy's father was showing and my parents loved the looks of his father.

I could have cared less about any of the show dog talk. I was there for the puppies. So. Many. Puppies. My mom hates driving in the mountains and didn't want to go almost to Pittsburgh alone, so I said I'd go. Puppies, after all, particularly golden retriever puppies, are irresistible.

When we first got to the kennel, the breeder showed us the puppy that was to be ours. He stacked (that's dorky dog show talk for how dogs are supposed to stand in the show ring) perfectly. Everything about him looked perfect and he was only six weeks old. I loved him right away.

In a room full of adorable golden retriever puppies, I sat down to play, to break up vicious puppy battles, to rub puppy bellies, to have my hair chewed on. Our puppy ran around the room twice, noticed me sitting down, ran full speed at me, and then slammed on the brakes, put his head on my foot, and fell asleep. Needless to say, I was hooked. This was supposed to be my dad's dog - he'd even picked out his name: Dewey - but my poor dad didn't stand a chance. 

Dewey and I were inseparable. No one existed outside of our happy little puppy cuddles bubble and that didn't change in the thirteen years we had together. Dewey lived with my parents and I visited him as much as possible, sometimes coming home every weekend just because I couldn't stand being away from him.

When I moved to Canada six years ago, he went with me. There was no way I could leave him behind and my parents finally caved to years of begging them to give me to him. I was so excited. He was so excited. 

Everything about Canada was an adventure for us. Neighborhood walks were new because my parents lived in the country with a giant backyard, so Dewey wasn't used to going for walks and I wasn't used to walking a dog all the time. I met so many people over the years because of Dewey. He was not afraid to walk up to anyone, convinced they absolutely wanted to pet him. He was so handsome, why wouldn't they? Dog parks were new to us, so was going for hikes or going swimming in lakes, his most favorite activities, second only to eating and sleeping. 

He quickly became a mascot of sorts for my grad student friends, who all loved him. Most of them found him just as hilarious and charming as I did. The first time I invited a friend to my apartment in Canada, Dewey was clearly put out because she was sitting in his spot on the sofa. After an hour or so, he was sick of sitting on the floor and started staring at her, not so subtly communicating he was unhappy with her being there. She thought he was so cute that she offered to sit on the floor! The first party I threw, another friend was sitting on the floor with a plate of food and Dewey sat next to her for quite some time, hoping to be fed. Eventually he gave up and just grabbed a quesadilla off her plate, which he scarfed down while remaining seated right next to her. He didn't even have the nerve to look guilty. Why should he? He loved when I had parties. The food was everywhere and no one could resist his face. The parties had a time limit, though, and, if he was up too long past his bedtime, he became visibly annoyed. He'd frequently climb up on the couch, bulldozing his way over people, lay down, and then slowly but steadily push them with his feet. It was his couch, after all. Friends would stay at my place because I lived very close to downtown. One friend in particular stayed more than anyone and when Dewey woke up in the morning, he would be delighted to find her sleeping on the couch...until he realized she was on his couch and not moving. He'd whine right by her face and whine and whine and whine. That's not a sound you want to hear first thing in the morning, especially when you're hungover. If she didn't make room for him in a satisfactory amount of time, he would jump over her, stomping ungracefully all over her, and lay down behind her. Like I said, it was his couch.

I struggled with depression in Canada. I still do, but he helped. There were too many days when I only got out of bed to feed and walk him. Even then, I couldn't wait to get back to bed. He would cuddle with me, as if he was just trying to make me feel better by sheer closeness. And he did. I slowly get better. I went to the doctor because of him. I went on an antidepressant and through counseling because of him. I couldn't stand to neglect him, so I got help for myself. I'm not exaggerating when I say he saved my life. I wouldn't have done any of that if I had been on my own.

He had many health scares over the years. I cut short a summer research trip in Scotland four years ago because he had to have some lumps removed. I didn't regret it for a minute, especially when the vet decided to remove all seven lumps and he was in so much pain. He was diagnosed with kidney disease three years ago and a thyroid condition last year. He had serious eye issues, like cataracts, glaucoma, and P.U.V. that started three or so years ago. Through it all, though, he was fine. I know that sounds crazy, but he was. We adjusted his diet, added some prescriptions and a lot of herbal supplements, and he was ok. He was happy. 

This summer he had this disgusting skin condition that, after months of vet visits and tests, turned out to be skin cancer, which is fairly aggressive and fast-moving in dogs. At his age, the treatment is as bad as the disease, so I promised to just keep him comfortable and happy as long as I could and then to let him go when I couldn't.

I thought I had months. I hoped for a year. In reality, by the time, he was diagnosed, I had less than two months. Two weeks ago I was hoping he would make it to Christmas. Last week I hoped for Thanksgiving. By Friday night, I was hoping he would make it to Tuesday, so I could get through my Monday classes and spend all day with him Tuesday before letting him go. It was clear that he was hanging on for me. It was also clear that he was barely hanging on. By Saturday, I was hoping he would go peacefully in his sleep. Sunday, I hoped I could get home from class Monday in time.

Monday, I can honestly say, was the worst day of my life. Saying goodbye was beyond painful. How do you say goodbye to a dog that is more than a dog? A dog that is your best friend? A dog that is your life? How do you walk out of the room, leaving him there? I still don't know how I walked away. I don't remember leaving the vet's office. I remember holding him and then I was home, sitting in my mom's car in the garage, trying to force myself to walk in the house, knowing that Dewey would not be there to greet me, that he will never be there to greet me again.

My parents still have three other dogs, including Dewey's daughter, who I adore and who worships me, but it is not the same. There is a giant presence missing. I am at a loss as to what to do. Before he was sick, my focus was on playing with him and cuddling with him and having fun with him. When he was sick, my focus was on keeping him comfortable and happy. Now what do I do? The house is so empty without him here. I am so empty without him here.

The loneliness really is palpable.

November 22, 2013

AcWriMo Week 4

It's week three! How are we doing?

What were your goals for this week? What did you achieve? What do you want to achieve for next week? How will you get there?

If, like me, you feel a little underwhelmed by your AcWriMo progress, remember the immortal words of Bob Marley:

"Get up, stand up! Don't give up the fight!"