Fur Babies Rock

img_4251Yes, as you might infer from the title (which could also double as a cool band name), this post is going to be one of those crazy dog lady sappy musings…

Back in college when I was writing a weekly column for the campus newspaper, I once was accused of having a happy-go-lucky, perfect world where nothing went wrong. When I read those words printed in an underground rag where someone had written a spoof of one of my columns, it felt like a knife stuck me. I wanted to defend myself . Are you kidding me? My life is not perfect that was the whole point. Isn’t there a place in the world for light-hearted thoughts? Don’t people want a break from reading about all the disasters, short-comings and negativity that regularly filled the newspapers and now cyberspace?  It wasn’t long after that, I retired my column from the paper.  For some odd reason, I let the criticism get to me and take away the joy I felt writing about the little things. As you can tell, I have a hard time letting go of criticisms (as I still remember this moment vividly and it happened over 20 some years ago.)

I’m not entirely sure why I felt the need to share that particular story as an introduction to this blog post besides the fact that this  is indeed another one of those feel-good stories I so enjoy writing. In fact a smile is crossing my lips as I type these words (can you see it.?) The topic of the day? Puppy love.

My first dog was a black and tan mutt, named Kip. I don’t remember much about Kip as I couldn’t have been but 4 or 5 when we first got him. I have a shadowy memory of him as little puppy with his liter-mates and bumping his head on a wheelbarrow.  Poor little thing had my heart right then. The only other memory I have is the cold windy night that my dad answered a knock at our door. The man on the other side inquired if the dog he’d hit was ours. My heart broke in two as you might imagine.

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Pedro and me, age 10

We had another dog in between, but the dog that captured my heart next was a brown chihuahua named, Pedro. One morning as my sister and I were getting ready for school, my dad called to this little dog walking along the side of our road. We got him a bowl of water and put him in our little shed. We put up a sign at the local market and notified the dog shelters, but no one claimed him. He became ours. He slept with me, he rode in my bike basket, my friends (you know who you are) and I dressed him up and put him in the toy box.

He was the best dog. For sure he didn’t know he was only five pounds. He had a loud bark and big balls. We never did get him “fixed” as my dad joked he’d lost half his body if we did. I have so many fond memories of Pedro. He was the dog of my childhood. He lived a long life and died when I was a junior in college. I came home from class and found him lying next to the step down into our family room. He didn’t come great me like he normally did and before I laid my hand to stroke his head I knew he was gone.  I called my dad at work sobbing. Dad buried Pedro under the lilac bush in our backyard. My heart was broken again.

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Piper and me, age 21

It didn’t take long before I was ready to let another fur-baby into my life, although it took much longer to convince my mom to let us get another dog (she’s really a push-over though as she’s has a dog of her own even to this day – love you Buttercup, the wonder puggle). Piper, a red cocker spaniel, was the fur baby of my twenties and early thirties. I loved that dog best I think. She was spoiled rotten. She’d get sad and mopey when I was out-of-town and get so excited she’d pee when I came home (yes I know that peeing thing was annoying, but that was her).

She was the first dog I actually trained. I took her to obedience class and she actually passed. She could sit, lie down, shake hands/paws and bark in that order too.  If I held up a treat, she go through all her tricks one after the other.  She liked to ride in the car and sit on my lap, ducking her head whenever we drove under an overpass. She curled up in the bend of my legs and rest her head on my booty. She didn’t enjoy other dogs and would pace back and forth across the top of the sofa, barking at them from her perch – she tolerated my ex-husband’s dogs at best, but she was the queen and she knew it. While Pedro inspired my action-hero story (see The Story Teller to read about his alter-ego), Piper got a poem, aptly entitled, Piper’s Big Eye.

My oldest was 18 months old when Piper at the age of 12 had a stroke while I was away shopping for the day. I came home and learned she was at the vet hospital. I hoped beyond hope she’d recover. I visited her and in my heart I knew she was suffering as she couldn’t move her hind legs and was so confused. The hardest decision I ever made was putting her down a few days before Christmas. For those who say, “it’s just a dog” I’d say you’re wrong and guess you’ve never loved a dog.

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Ollie, me and Maggie

For a multitude of reasons, more than a decade passed before I truly connected with another dog and in this case it’s a duo of dogs. After my divorce in 2015, the girls and I rescued a quirky Jack-Russell Terrier-mix puppy, name Maggie Mae. She is quite the character and keeps me on my toes. She’s helped us heal and has brought laughter into our home. My oldest really wanted a “fluffy” dog so this past February, we rescued 3-year old cockapoo. The girls named Oliver Queen aka “Ollie.”  He’s more laid back than Maggie and would rather lay in the sun than chase a rabbit. Sure they can be total pains in the ass when they chew a hole in the crotch of your favorite undies or shred a roll of paper towels and spread it around the living room or wake you up at 3 am to bark at a squirrel in the back yard or eat the last piece pizza in two rapid bites that you only left unattended for a brief moment. But, for all the hassles and frustrations they cause, they bring me happiness and comfort twofold. I love when I pull in the driveway and see them perched on the back of the chair watching out the window. I love when they race to the garage door to greet me. I love watching my girls play with them and cuddle with them. I love how the lick my cheek when they can tell I’m down. They are truly part of our family and we love them. Their lives are so brief, but they bring so much. I know we spoil them and give them a good home, but I sense they give us back more than we give them. Their unconditional love and trust is a gift I cherish.

I’d love to hear about those special dogs that had/have a place in your hearts! Please share in the comments below.

Fur babies rock!

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What Do I Know?

img_4197As I pulled into the driveway this evening after finishing up a long work week, my youngest came running into the garage to greet me.  She stopped short, looked at me and asked, “Why are you so sad, Mommy?”

It seems lately she’s asked me that question a lot. I am quick to reassure her. “I’m not sad, sweetie. I’m just tired.”  That is not a lie. I am tired. Some days I think I was born tired. My mini-me follows me into the dining room and continues to ask me, “What’s wrong?”  Again I reiterate that “nothing’s wrong.”  Yet, she continues her interrogation, “Please tell me!” she pleads. I’m starting to feel exasperated with her and try my best to convince her that “I’m fine.”  I’m not sure if she bought it or not though, but she finally let it go – for now.

I look in the mirror and study my reflection. I guess I do look a bit sad. I think I might just have resting, “sad face” and I force myself to smile. If you’ve followed my blog, you know I am filled with gratitude. So much so I should be shining with happiness, but my little one is right. I can’t put my finger on it exactly, but I have been feeling a little down lately.  I’ve turned to comfort foods and sitting on my porch with a nice glass of wine. I go out with my brilliant friends and I laugh. Yet still somehow deep down, I still feel an aura of sadness and negative energy seems to follow me around. I’m not quite sure how to shake it off. Do I  push myself outside my comfort zone and socialize more or turn into myself and go into hibernation mode to recharge?  I haven’t decided yet.

I think it comes back to the overall feeling of discourse that we as a county are amidst. Where ever you turn there is another story of despair, conflict and meanness. I know without a doubt that absorbing myself in that world does bring me down. I like to read and know what’s going on in the world around me. I thrive on on knowledge and looking at topics from different points of view. I whole-heartedly believe that there is more than one right answer. What I find most distressful is the lack of respect we seem to have for each other. With the popularity of social media platforms, it is easier to call people names and write them off as “stupid,” than it is to really listen to what each other thinks. We’ve let the “agree to disagree” mindset die and tend to quickly cast others with differing ideas as nefarious or stupid. If I elimated name-calling, arrogance and condensation from Twitter, my feed would be very short.  It is so easy to get sucked on to that band wagon — no matter what “side” you are on. Why can’t “both/and” replace the “either/or” mentality? People would be much happier.

A few weeks ago I went to a Joe Crookston concert in a neighboring town. He commented on how music can connect and bring us together no matter our differences.  He began to playing the beginning notes of a song that  he said everyone would recognize no matter how old or young, Democrats and Republicans and anyone inbetween. He then began to sing “Amazing Grace.” Sure enough everyone in the audience knew the words and joined in. His words resonated with me. It wasn’t more than a week or two later that Ed Sheeran’s song “What Do I Know” came on the radio as I was driving my kids from one activity to the next.

The chorus of his song goes like this:

“We could change this whole world with a piano
Add a bass, some guitar, grab a beat and away we go
I’m just a boy with a one-man show
No university, no degree, but lord knows
Everybody’s talking ’bout exponential growth
And the stock market crashing and their portfolios
While I’ll be sitting here with a song that I wrote
Sing, love could change the world in a moment
But what do I know?
Love can change the world in a moment
But what do I know?
Love can change the world in a moment.”

Music tends to move me and this song really nailed what I’ve been feeling lately. Music is a common language that connects and makes that world a better place. A song or a melody or the first bars of a song can take your back in time and lift your spirit.

Maybe I am a sucker for the happy endings and the positive beat, but it feels a hell of a lot better when my daughter asks me “what are you smiling about?” This weekend I’m going to X out of the negative. I’m going to binge watch the Hallmark Channell, sit on my porch with the sun in my face, and ask Alexa to play upbeat music in the living room:)

How do you pull yourself out of the doldrums? I can always use more smiles.

Gratitude = Happiness

Chowing on nachos with a good friend of mine, she reminded me that when life gets you down to focus on what makes you happy.  (Thanks Stace).  She pointed out that I have a good job and can pay my bills,  my children are healthy,  I have a supportive family and friends as well as a warm house to come home to.  She’s absolutely right. I know she’s right. I just need that friendly reminder when that pity-party band starts playing in my head – LOL.

Focusing on random aches and pains, complaining about the dysfunction in our world,  stressing over the minor obstacles in my life and pining after what I don’t have, absolutlely brings me down.  Yes, I do need to set goals and make little changes and take action to acheive my dreams, but I need to do so in a positive way.  I need to make time for myself and let myself be me. So I’ve come back to gratitude.  Remember what I am grateful for and reminding myself that I am enough and I have enough genuinely leads to happy feelings and drives my blues away.

Beyond those obvious “BIG” things I am truly grateful (my children, family, friends, health, home  and job), I played back the last few days in my life and found little things that I am grateful for…in no particular order:

  • Giving my cockapoo a shampoo and blow out at the self-serve dog bath with my teenager. He smells great and looks positively fluffy.
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  • Writing with a brand new gel pen. There’s next to nothing more satisfying than writing that first stroke with a new pen:)
  • Stocking up at the olive bar. (Need I say more?)
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  • Listening to the Coffee House channel.  Even though I am musically inept, listening to music while reading a good book lifts me up every time.
  • Eating a yummy waffle sandwich (Again, need I say more?)
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  • Watching an old movie in the dark. Just like a good book, a good movie is good for the soul (happy endings only, please).
  • Playing with a new fun photo editing app.
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  • Dropping my daughter off at her first job (brought back memories for another post).
  • Being reminded by my friends to keep on keeping on.
  • Writing this blog post and hopefully resonanting with other grateful people.

What random things are you grateful for?

Confessions of a FB Quiz Addict

20171003_222155000_iosYes, it’s true. I find it hard to scroll past one of those dumb quizzes that inevitable appear in my FaceBook feed without clicking on them. Because really, who wouldn’t want to know what the most popular words they use in their posts are or who has a secret crush on them?

I for one want to know what the color test tells me about my most dominant character trait is (kindness in case you are wondering) and I found out I’m an introvert by ordering a pizza (not that I didn’t know that already!)  Probably most compelling though are those quizzes that deem me a genius – you know the ones that proport to say that 90% of people don’t know the meaning of these 22 words or the like.  A smile of satisfaction crosses my lips when I find myself in the 10% that know them all. My fingers itch to press “Share” so my FB friends know how smart I really am (or not if you factor in the amount of time I waste taking these quizzes instead of sleeping) and they too can partake in the fun of quiz-taking. 90% of the time, my friends are also in that illustrious 10% of smarties. So, either I am surrounded by extra-intelligent friends or someother nefarious forces are in play. I tend to side with all my friends being on the genius level.

I am so lucky to live in such modern times that I get instant results for these pop-culture quizzes.  Back in the dark ages of my teenage years, I actually had to wait for my monthly issue of Seventeen to appear in my mailbox before I could indulge in such fun. I had to flip through those glossy pages to find the quiz that told me if that special guy was into me or not.  I had to carefully write down my answers on paper none-the-less and then assign a 1, 2, 3 or 4 to my corresponding A,  B, C or D answers. Finally, I had to exercise those math skills to get my total and find the answer to my burning questions.  Am I an optimist? a realist? a pessimist? Oh those insights gave me even more fodder to overthink the little things.

After completing the quiz of the month, I inevitably flipped to the last page to check out my horoscope for the month.  What did the stars have to say about my future?  Is an Aquarius woman compatiable with a Scorpio man? LOL. I confess though, I still click on those articles that appear in my feed. What do the psychics say about my career today? When will I meet my soul-mate? I admit I sometimes wish I had a crystal ball and could see which path I should take or avoid. I’ve even had a personal psychic reading just for the fun of it. Alas, even though she seemed to know things about my that I don’t know how she could her predictions have not come to fruition.

Last but not least, I had to skim over the “Top Ten” lists. Those are the best. You know the top 10 things a man is looking for in a woman or the top 10 things you should stop doing on a date or the top 10 things an older woman should never wear. I love how advice can be summed up in ten easy points.  Its no surprise that I also find myself clicking on these gems when insomnia grips me and I click on my Huffington Post app. You would not believe how many self-improvements can be made in 5 to 10 steps!

I’d like to say I’ll never waste my time again taking a quiz, reading my horoscope or checking out the latest top-10 advice column, but I know I will. I mean what else have a got to do at 2:00 AM when the dog is running around the yard and won’t come back in and I’m engulfed with a hot flash. I’m certainly not going to be able to fall back asleep. I apologize in advance if my sharing these distractions suck you in as well.

Anyone else give into the guilty pleasures of these time-wasters?

 

Fifth Grade Frustrations

img_4017My fifth-grader is having a school meltdown. I’m reminded of those toddler tantantrums of yesteryear that I thought were behind me.

“I can’t take it anymore. I hate school. I want to be home schooled,” She wails and rants.

I watch her scribble her homework out and then accuse me of  “not caring.” Tears roll down her cheeks as she tells me “I don’t get it” and “I don’t understand.”  The reality is I DO care and I DO get it. Learning life lessons is hard. Watching her learn them is painful,  but I know that I can’t and probably shouldn’t protect her from them.  Not everything comes easily.  Instructions aren’t always clear. Distractions make it hard to concentrate. Deadlines are stressful. Sometimes, you have to do things you don’t always like to do.  Not everyone is “nice,” including teachers.

As I retreat into my mind, I get quiet and thoughtful trying to figure out a way to help her deal with her emotions when she’s frustrated. I try to put myself in her place. What was fifth grade like when I was a kid? It’s a foggy haze that I vaguely remember. Was fifth grade this traumatic for my older daughter? I can’t remember. For my youngest though the struggle is very real. The part that breaks my heart most  is when I hear the words “I can’t” come out of her mouth.  Because, I know she most definitely CAN.

“What are you going to do?” she pleads with me.

“What do want me to do?” I ask.

“I don’t know. S-O-M-E-T-H-I-N-G!!! I need help!” she shrieks.

“What do you need help with?” I try to stay calm.

“I don’t know!” she screams.

I get down on her level and read through the math problems. Patiently, I try to explain the word problem to her. She tells me I am wrong and refuses to listen to me. (I am reminded of the scene in Airplane where the woman is hysterical (you know the woman with eggs coming out of her mouth) and a line of people are waiting to ‘help’ her get a grip.)  My daughter won’t be reasoned with. I want her to calm down and listen to me, but instead she screams at me, breaks her pencil and storms out of the room. I’m frustrated and she’s frustrated.  I’m at a loss on how to make homework time go smoother. Should I punish her?  Reason with her?  Ignore her?

She is very conscientious and is far from lazy. She gets down on herself when she gets a “B” and is afraid of being let behind. I’ve told her time after time I am proud of her for the effort she puts forth. She doesn’t need to strive for perfection.  She responds well to positive reinforcement. Last year she thrived trying to get the most “Dojo points.”  She’d get excited to do extra math problems to earn “dojos.” It got to the point where I’d ask her if it was “real” homework or just extra credit for dojo.  She’d get that look on her face and I’d know it was for dojo. Even though her motivation was to earn dojo’s, she was learning and excelling in her classes along the way. She loved to go to school and she loved to learn.

This year the paradigm has shifted. Instead of being rewarded for positive behaviors, the students (at least from her perspective) are punished for negative behaviors. She is fearful of doing wrong and getting “yelled” at. This is probably the most frustrating part for me as a parent. Failure is part of the learning process. Failure leads to growth. I want her to be encouraged to fail and try again. I dont’ want her to be afraid to fail.  I want her to be afraid to stop trying.  I want her to thrive. I don’t want her love for learning to be squashed by fear.  I also know that you don’t get a gold star for everything positive you do either. It’s a fine line.

Eventually she calms down enough to finish her homework and apologizes to me for taking her frustrations out on me. I give her a hug and accept her apology. I tell her I care and encourage her to focus on what she does like about school instead. If only we could skip over that hard part inbetween and get to the hugs quicker. I guess that can be said about most difficulties in life.

One thing’s for sure, I’ll be glad when fifth grade is over!

Does any one have any helpful tips for getting through homework?  Is fifth grade harder or is it just me?

The Small Stuff

Scrolling through my Facebook feed the past few weeks and months, I understand completely why  people sign off social media never to return. Today I’m feeling nostolgic for the fun vacation pics, cute pet photos and those first day of school smiles. Lately it seems it’s filled more with stories of devastating natural disasters, political diatribes and name-calling.

I know these conversations are important to have.  The world is full of strife and unfairness. People are mean. People are judgemental and cruel. People want to be right and which means others have to be wrong (but does it really?). Injustice is real.  I’m not immune to that. Pretending these issues don’t exist or abstaining from the conversation does not make them go away.  Life is not a sun-shiney highlight reel.  Yet, people are also compassionate and empathetic. People are generous and kind. People can compromise and right wrongs.  All of this is true.

I am blessed and lucky to live in a country where these converstations can happen. We are free to disrespect and disagree with each other as much as we want. Our military protects our freedom to do just that.  Freedom is what makes America, America. The Bill of Rights guarantees these freedoms.  However, tonight I am tired of reading about people bitching about how others are exercising their freedoms in away that disrespects their freedoms. It’s a Catch 22. It seems we want to exercise freedom and label ourselves the land of the free so long as everyone expresses that freedom the way we want them to.

So tonight I am exercising my freedom to take a break from the heaviness and bleakness  from the contradictions and hypocracies and focus on the small stuff that made me smile today instead.

  1. A foggy sunrise as I took the trash to the curb.
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  2. I hot cup of coffee from the corner gas station (where all the clerks know my name).
  3. A text, an email, a tag, a like and a walk around the block with good friends (far and near).
  4. Creating chalk drawings on the driveway with my girls.20170925_230836663_ios.jpg
  5. Watching my daughter’s face light up as she put together her new clarinet and showed me how she can play a few notes.
  6. Noodle soup. Mmmm.
  7. Throwing popcorn in the air and laughing as my dogs take turns catching it in their mouths.
  8. Piles of folded clean laundry (that I didn’t have to fold!)
  9. Whimiscal clouds scattered across the sky as I drug the empty trash can back to the garage.
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I once read the key to happiness is focusing on what you are thankful for and those simple gifts that make you smile.  Serendipty those little surprises in life are right in front of your eyes if only you open them wide enough to see them. That’s what this blog is all about.

I think I might be on to something.

 

 

The Story Teller

20170919_230223573_iOSSometimes as I read back over my words, I amazed that they came from the depths of my mind.  Did I really write that I muse.  I try to think back to my former self that had those particular thoughts on that particular day and remember. What was I feeling? What else happened? What circumstances led me to write those exact words? If I’d written them at another time on a another day would they have been different?  As I look at an old blog post, or journal entry or some odd story I wrote, I am reminded of how human I am and how far I’ve come.  My journey has taken many twists and turns yet my words still remain true to me.  The same themes thread their way through my life connecting them together and giving me a voice that the shy little girl within me would have a hard time speaking aloud. I have changed and grown but I am still the same. I am me uncompromised.

I watch my daughters as they are becoming young women. I am filled with pride and hope and love. They are finding their own voices each in their unique ways. A smile comes to my lips when I find the little stories and essays they have written. The letters and notes I find. They too have a love of expressing themselves in words and creating a story from their imaginations. Of all the quirks and neuroses I have passes on to these two this is the one that I am grateful to have inspired in them.

20170919_225524589_iOSA few months ago my fifth-grade daughter and I were down in the dredges of our basement, trying to organize our “craft” room. She came upon a tote in the back corner labeled “writing and stuff” and pried off the lid. (Yes, we were supposed to be putting stuff away.)  Here eyes got wide and she became so excited as she found a pile of old and I mean OLD stories that I had penned back in the day. She took them upstairs and made me read them all to her.  I laughed as she did she as we landed upon her favorite, “Pedro the Great.”  Ahhh good old Pedro the Great was inspired by my childhood dog  chihuahua named, of course, Pedro. In my little tale, Pedro is a diso dancing super hero. I illustrated it myself (as you can see in the picture above.)  I explained to her that I was the exact same age that she is now when I wrote that story – fifth grade. I told her we didn’t have computers (way back then in the old days) and had to use a typewriter (what’s that?”) and used markers to draw the pics. She was even more impressed when I told her that my teacher read it to our class. I have no recollection of how that came to happen – I think I must have asked her to read it and she humored me. I was proud of my story though and she encouraged me to write.

20170919_222745525_iOSI hadn’t given much thought to Pedro since that evening until I came home from work a couple of days ago tired and ready to veg. Usually when I come home the girls are watching TV or doing homework or playing outside, but on this particular day, she ran into the garage to meet me.  In her hands was her very own story, “Maggie the Magnificent.”  MTM is also a super hero dog named after our Jack Russell mix, who I’m not sure I would describe as magnficent (based on the growing pile of chewed up bras, undies, pens, shoes and Barbies in her wake or the number of times a week she wakes me up a 3 AM to pee), none-the-less, my daugher’s version of MTM is larger than life. My daugher was so proud of her story and I could see my ten-year old self in her. I loved her story.  She wants to get it published now and I encourage her to follow her dream. Her fifth grade ambitions are much higher than mine.  She’s working on the sequel now as she doesn’t want our other dog, Ollie, to feel left out. I agreed, he should get his story too. And, I can’t wait to read it.