Saturday, August 11, 2012


          For years my son, Paul, searched for a white Pomeranian because he wanted the contrast of a white haired dog with his own dark hair. I’m not certain what drew us into our local pet shop, but about eighteen months ago, we entered the store. I headed over to the puppies and kittens while Paul lingered around the snakes. When I saw two white puppies, labeled as Pomeranian, playing in their pen, I knew Paul’s quest had ended. One of the puppies had more cream within his coat, but the other was almost entirely white. Paul cradled that puppy in his arms, trying to decide if he should bring the puppy home. Not wanting to make an impulse buy, Paul reluctantly returned the pup to the store clerk. It didn’t take him long, though, to return to the store and nestle the dog within his arms again. We bought all the new puppy items we needed: brush, bed, ceramic bowls (with skull decorations), food, shampoo, and toys. The white fluff became a member of our family.

          After a few dips in the pond out back, someone suggested the name Koi for the puppy. Suddenly, we would all go Koi fishing as we dangled toys and ropes before the puppy to tempt him. Within days, Koi attached himself to Bridget. The older dog tolerated Koi’s too hard snips on her legs and ears. She allowed him to follow her through her daily routine and made room for him at the foot of our bed.

All of our pets have distinctive personalities. Rambunctious describes Koi perfectly. Our laid-back cat, Sassy, still keeps her distance from Koi’s tumble and tackle play. Padme, our other cat, has a commanding aura. I’ve seen her bat Koi aside even though he outweighs her by quite a few pounds. Bridget, at first, indulged the high energy of the puppy. Like any momma dog, she let him nip and swipe at her tail. Some evenings, she’d recline on her pillows on the couch and give me this bewildered look, and I suspected she wondered when the puppy would go home. Eventually, she pulled him into the unusual pack that we call family.

          Koi communicates through “talking” in sharp yips. An intelligent puppy, he noted easily where we kept the Milk Bones we used for training. When first going through training, he’d run to the tin and jump against the cabinet demanding his reward for performing the desired behavior: sit, come, leave it. During the day, he’ll yip a few times if he wants a treat, jump against the counter, and yip again. Both dogs love chewing on rawhide sticks, which I decided to store in the bottom drawer of the kitchen desk. Paul showed Koi the stash one day, and the puppy learned to open the drawer within minutes. Fortunately, he’s never made off with the stash. He’ll bark at the open drawer until one of us comes and hands him the stick.

          Kio mastered the art of flirtation early in his puppyhood. He’ll tilt his head left, then right and give his fluffy tail a little twirl in order to get his way. If you ask him, “Are you my friend?” he’ll give you a head bump and lick your cheek, looking very dashing and coy. When my mother moved in with us last fall, Paul rented a house in our neighborhood. The house had a “No Pets” clause, so Koi still lives here with us. We’re glad that we get to continue enjoying his charming energy.

Copyright 2011 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

Friday, August 10, 2012


Turning the corner of the hallway, I immediately noticed a few teachers clumped outside one of the classroom doors. Ohhs and ahhs floated through the air, piquing my curiosity immediately. My heeled shoes clacked against the hard, waxed tile as I joined the tight group to investigate.
           My heart quickened as I realized the commotion centered around a small, tri-colored puppy nestled against Sharon’s neck. The pup whimpered a little and tried to snuggle in even closer. Now my heart melted.
           “I can’t keep her,” Sharon said in dismay. “My husband doesn’t want to have to train a new puppy right now.”
          “May I hold her?” I asked as I stroked the puppy’s sleek fur. Sharon reluctantly handed her over. Now I lost my heart!
           In my hands I held a tiny beagle, terrier mix. Her coat, mainly black, shimmered blue in the light. A brown spot dotted her eyebrows above each eye, and the same shade of brown outlined her eyes and spread around her body creating a wedge between the black and white on her coat. The brown masked her snub little nose, too. I inhaled the sweetish musky scent of all puppies and knew I needed this little dog, probably more than she needed me.
           “Let me call home,” I looked over at Sharon. “I’ll see if I can take her.” The pup snuggled into my neck as I reached the Teacher’s Lounge. Dialing home, I quickly told David about the dog. After Dixie, my son’s dog died a few years ago, I’d sworn that I would only get another dog if all of the variables fell into place. I wanted a young puppy, a female, a tri-color beagle and terrier mix. Fate had literally handed me the dog for which I’d unknowingly longed.
           Of course, David instantly agreed to bringing the puppy home. He didn’t ask our son, who was still asleep. David volunteered to drive over to the campus within the hour to pick up the dog. I went back to Sharon, told her we’d take the dog, and followed her to her room where she had a little slip of sheet, some food and water, and a little box for the dog. She gave me the vet records since she’d already taken the puppy in the previous day for shots, de-worming, and a flea treatment. I offered to pay for all of these expenses, and she thanked me profusely since her husband was upset over her spending so much.
           David swung by the school a little over an hour later and found the puppy curled into a tight black ball on my lap. We shifted her gently into the box, and she settled back to sleep immediately.
           As David left the room, he asked, “ Do you have a name yet?”
           “No. I’m thinking of some possibilities. Maybe you and Paul can come up with some suggestions.”
           The day crawled by with me trying to come up with names. I’d found out more of the puppy’s story. A custodian had found her on the road side, with another larger, dead dog. The puppy, when he approached, was trying to nuzzle the dead dog as though trying to figure out why the other dog wouldn’t move. He was certain the other dog was the puppy’s mother. My heart broke to hear such a sad tale.
           Arriving home, I headed straight into the office. There sat David, puppy curled into a tight ball of glossy black. Before I could even say a word, Paul turned from his computer and said, “Her name’s Bridget.”
          “Bridget?” I queried as I kneeled down on the floor next to David. “Why Bridget?”
           “It’s one of my DAOC characters. She’s fast, intelligent, and bold,” Paul explained. “We figured she’d need a good, strong name to help get her settled.”
          “Bridget,” I whispered as I pulled the bundle into my arms. She woke up and instantly began licking my face with enthusiastic affection. Already she recognized me. “Welcome home, Bridget. Welcome home.”

Copyright 2006 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

Thursday, August 9, 2012

"First Impressions"

David, my husband, didn’t make a good first impression on my parents. As a matter of fact, he dressed so shabbily the first time he came over to their home in League City that I almost didn’t let him into the house.
His shoulder length light brown hair, streaked with blonde highlights from exposure to the summer sun, formed a tangled and windswept halo around his head. His t-shirt, yellowed with age, had no arms and had a chewed collar. I wondered if David had chewed the mangled fabric himself, or if one of his Westies had mistaken the shirt for a dead animal and mauled it.
I almost didn’t want to check out the rest of David’s attire, but my eyes shifted downward on their own accord. His shirt perfectly matched the condition of the bleached cut-offs he wore. Below the ragged hems of his shorts hung frayed front pockets. The back of his cut-offs had no pockets at all, and I fleetingly wondered where he kept his wallet and keys. However, a look at his hands answered that question. He carried a pair of relatively new Converse high tops in his hands, the wallet and keys stuffed inside. In horror, I looked at his bare feet.
As my mind wrapped itself around the image David would present to my parents, I heard my mother come up behind me and say, “Well, Lizzy, let him in!”

Over the years, David took quite a bit of teasing about his appearance on that first meeting with my parents. Being gracious and loving people, they set aside their misgivings and looked beyond the rags to find the richness of David’s character.
To this day, David always manages to find his favorite black and orange flower print shirt no matter how deeply I bury it in the back of his closet (I’m thankful he’s up-graded from the tattered white t-shirt). I do manage to keep him in respectable shorts most of the time, but I suspect he’s just humoring me. Although David does wear shoes now, he kicks them off as soon as he crosses the threshold!
Copyright 2005 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

David didn't change his "look" for the first few years of marriage!

This is the way I think David would like to dress every day! Oh well . . .

I'll admit, I like garb, too!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

"A Snapshot"

Moments of time stay frozen in my mind, like snapshots of my past. These moments weave together and create a blanket that I often pull out and in which I wrap myself. Small pieces of time, where I felt special as a child, a sibling, a wife, and a mother, make up this cloth. Some memories stay with me sharply, making me aware of how important life’s moments become.
           If I close my eyes and I inhale deeply, I can slip back to an earlier time. I can still catch the sharp, cutting scent of salt and brine as I opened the car door and let Galveston’s aromas enter my world. Gray waves battered against the sea wall’s granite, and sea gulls cried, “Feed me! Feed me!” as they swooped about our heads.
           Eagerly, I pulled Paul from his car seat, his teddy bear body warm in my embrace. He squirmed, twisting away from me, reaching for Poppy’s eager arms. My dad swung Paul onto his shoulders and headed toward the beach with David and me trailing behind.
           Ahead of us, I watched Poppy swing Paul to the hot sand, whip off the child’s sandals, and laugh deeply as Paul whooped with delighted glee. I quickly took off my own shoes, David mirrored me, and we felt the sun scorched sand grate against our feet. Paul hopped from foot to foot, skipping to the water’s edge to let the undulating waves softly stroke his burning toes. He dashed up and down the water’s edge and gloried in the wonder of salty sea wind, cool water, and rough sand. His small legs carried him back and forth into the waves and onto the sand. With wonder in his eyes, he turned to Poppy.
     Poppy bent to his grandson, pointed at a pile of sea weed. The two watched in amazement as crabs scuttled from the mesh. Paul’s giggle blended in with the cry of the gulls and the clang of distant ships’ bells.
           I realized the wonderful gift grandfather gave to grandson: wind, sand, seaweed and ocean. A world beyond the backyard and the pond at home. A world filled with wonder. At that moment, I knew just how special my role as parent made me. Mother’s give their children more than hugs and kisses each morning and lull-a-byes each night.
           In an instant, I saw how special my role would make me. I joined Poppy and Paul in a twirling, swirling dance in and out of the waves. As dusk fell, I held Paul’s small, warm hand in mine—making a link to our future.

Copyright 2008 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

All parents carry snapshots of the first time their child experiences some new aspect of our world. These mental photo albums, for me, provide a wonderful source for my writing.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

"Journey of Grief"

Life punched me in my stomach. A fierce blow delivered by a massive fist that pummeled me mercilessly. Bile burned my throat, and I tried to swallow back the pain, but an altered consciousness enveloped me, held me down against my will.

My dad died.

A few minutes of time changed my life forever. The path I walked so confidently heaved, buckled, and then tore away. The earth shifted and tilted. The wind whipped me off my feet and flung me into an angry ocean of grief.
For months, living weighed me down. Bricks stacked one by one upon my chest each night to where breathing became a challenge each morning. No one told me this pain would overwhelm me.
Some people offered support and kindness for a week or two. But the attitude became “snap out of it.” Other people confided that I’d been thrown into a huge, endless sea. It will take years, they said, to reach shore. And when I do reach land, nothing will be the same. So like Odysseus, my life is at the mercy of Poseidon as I flounder on the waters of grief.
During my first weeks, I’d break the water’s surface. My hands flailed helplessly as I gasped for air. My lungs ached from the pressure of the water squeezing me, forcing me down. My vision blurred with unexpected tears. One, two, three inhalations, and down I’d go again. Massive waves towered overhead and somersaulted me head over heels—down, down, down until I hit the sandy bottom and skidded to a grinding, painful stop. The abrasive sands of sadness peeled my skin and left me bleeding and raw. Then I’d slowly drift upward, limp and damaged, and float on the surface like a piece of flotsam
Wave after wave pounded me until waking, moving, sleeping, and thinking became impossible.

And this became my journey, my trip through grief that nears the first year’s anniversary. I don’t know when the bricks stacked upon my chest eased off. Eventually, I realized that in the mornings I could breathe without restriction. I do remember a day in March when I broke through the surface of the water and another tidal wave did not wipe me out. Instead, I stayed afloat. For the first time, I could feel the sun’s warm caress stroke my skin. Spring breezes sighed softly, and bird call filled the air. The hurricane force winds disappeared. Since then, I’ve sighted land. It’s distant still. A misty outline that I swim toward. I no longer float helplessly with the current. And although waves sometimes sweep out of nowhere to pull me under, it doesn’t happen as frequently or as fiercely.
I now know that eventually I’ll touch ground again. The tears that stung my eyes won’t fight for release. Once I make landfall, I’ll smile whenever I think of Dad. His corny jokes, hearty laugh, and sharp wit will come to me and I’ll welcome them with smiles and joy.

Copyright 2002 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

My father died unexpectedly on September 10, 2001. The support system that you'd expect to receive from friends and co-workers became overshadowed by the events of the next day. At the funeral home, the news ran as we discussed plans for Dad. As he was a retired deputy sheriff, many of his friends and colleagues were on alert, making a viewing within the next couple of days impossible. Dad wanted to be interred at Ft. Sam Houston Cemetery, but that had to be delayed for another three weeks. Everything became surreal for our family.

My father and my mother hiking on their property in Leakey, Texas.

Monday, August 6, 2012

“An Ending Begins”

Standing on the edge looking back—   
            So many decisions gone wrong   
                        So many decisions proved right   
                                    No way of tracing patterns   
            The child longs for easier ways—   
                        Rainbows, buttercups under the chin   
                                    Seeking security   
                                                Returning to the womb   
Standing on the edge looking ahead—   
            So many unknowns   
                        So many possibilities   
                                    No way of seeing patterns   
            The youth longs for challenge—   
                        First love, free falling from the sky   
                                    Embracing life  
                                                Escaping tight bondage   
Standing on the edge looking inward—   
            So many “what ifs”   
                        So many “if onlys”   
                                    No way of changing patterns   
            The elder dreams on of new beginnings   
                        Second chances, another step into sunshine   
                                    Gathering warmth   
                                                Longing to be young again   

Copyright 1996 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

Sunday, August 5, 2012

“Life’s Bloopers”

         Different people respond to stress in different ways. I hurt myself. I turn into this blundering, woebegone Charlie Chaplin who bumps and bumbles through the day. I fall up the stairs, tumble out of chairs, or ram into pieces of furniture. I spend a great deal of time looking at my bruised body and mumbling, “Where did that come from?” I don’t know why I have this response to stress, but it’s dogged me as long as I can remember.
         I can spend an afternoon showing off various scars that testify to the clumsiness that plagues my life when my mind spins with preoccupation. Anything that generates heat becomes my enemy. When calm, I can iron without worry, but the moment tension enters into the room, the iron finds a way to fall against my arm, or I manage to “press” one of my fingers. A little strain in my life means I must avoid the curling iron unless I want to display my warrior markings.
         About a month ago, I strained my left arm. The day-in-day-out repositioning of Mom tugged at my shoulder muscles and irritated my elbow joint. I’ve taken care to rest whenever possible, iced down the sore muscles, and resorted to Tylenol (or wine) whenever the discomfort peaked into the pain zone. My care paid off, too. Each day I’ve ached less and enjoyed more movement.

         Pulling myself off the injured list proved extremely short-lived. Yesterday, hands submerged in warm sudsy bubbles, I absentmindedly washed dishes. My attention drifted to gazing outside the window instead of paying attention to my task. I sensed David leaving something on the counter, but didn’t pull from my wanderings enough to register the fact that he’d set a pan, hot from the stove, into the pile. Needless to say, I will soon have another scar to brag about.

Copyright 2012 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman