Category Archives: Family & Life

Doggie Duty

A couple weeks ago Dan and I were asked to babysit– not for the grand-girls; but for my son’s dog–Nibbler.  My Ben and his wife, Jess, were mere days away from a long-scheduled and much-anticipated vacation, when their dopey dog managed to injure his leg, requiring several stitches.   Kennels won’t take injured pups, so they were forced to either find other accommodations for him or cancel their vacation — which would have been a MAJOR (and expensive) bummer.

Readers of this blog (there are least three of you… I should know, I gave birth to you), are aware that we have our own pup (Cleo),  and that we frequently rent out our spare room as part of AirB&B.   In their previous encounters Cleo and Nibbler had not gotten along particularly well, and we were fully booked with AirB&B guests for the week in question. So, we were a little apprehensive.

But –As I reminded Dan:  Moms are the ones you SHOULD be able to call when you are slightly desperate–Moms will do whatever they can to help out in a pinch.  Its in the job description. So, of course, we agreed to take Nibbler.

They dropped off Nibbler on Friday evening, and flew to Mexico early Saturday, with plans to pick him up the following Saturday evening. After some initial posturing and excessive barking, Cleo and Nibs got along   well. Nibbler was surprisingly affectionate, although Cleo got quite jealous of the attention we paid to him, and vice-versa.

Nibbler’s owners were very well-prepared and provided his bed, treats, medicine, portioned-out meals and a hard-plastic ‘cone of shame’ in case Nibbler showed signs of messing with his leg, and need to be restrained.  Nibbler did  not show any indication that his leg was bothering him the first day and we did not make him wear the cone.  This turned out to be a big mistake.   By Sunday night Nibbler had nibbled his stitches out and completely re-opened a nasty wound on his leg.

Three hours and $300 later, Nibbler had a freshly sewn up leg and his temporary caretakers had a renewed commitment to making him wear the ‘cone of shame’ anytime that he wasn’t closely supervised.

The hard-plastic cone surrounded his head, in order to keep him from gnawing on his extremities; but it effectively widened Nibbler’s normally narrow head significantly.  He clumsily crashed into walls, doors, and the backs of everyone’s legs–including those of our patient AirB&B guest.

Nibbler’s tummy was upset from his medications, and he wasn’t eating his kibble; so I cooked up a batch of rice and chicken…. essentially spoiling the crap out of both doggies for the rest of Nibbler’s stay.

On the final morning of his stay, the very agile Nibbler somehow managed to rip open a couple of his stitches, necessitating several anxious phone calls and yet another trip to the vet.  Luckily, this time, the damage was minimal, and a couple staples fixed him up.

We were all relieved when Ben and Jess arrived late Saturday night from a successful and relaxing vacation to collect their ecstatic canine companion — there is nothing quite like the joy of a pup reunited with his forever family.

I hear that Nibs has healed nicely from the safer environs of his own home, and Cleo has sadly returned to her diet of kibble.

 

End of Summer Ponderings

I write this on Labor Day weekend:  a bittersweet time of year as parents, teachers and students bid a wistful farewell to summer vacation and gear up for another school year.

Dan and I have had a busy summer with home projects and a big birthday bash that I threw myself as I mark another decade of living.  After much labor and check writing our log home is newly scrubbed and stained, and our new deck was in place just in time to celebrate my entry to the old geezer club!

We had a nice turn-out of friends and family for my birthday bash; providing a needed and well-time reminder to me of how fortunate I am to have these people in my life.  A few of us lurched around the badmitton court as a sherrif’s car pulled up,looking for the owner of a car that had emitted some sort of electronic alarm .  Turns out, they were at the wrong house: but still–our our party was bad-ass enough for the cops to make an appearance!

The end of summer brings the US Open, which this year is missing many of its marquee men (including my petulant fav – Andy Murray) to injuries; leaving the field free for Roger and Rafa to renew their rivalry.  And, OMG – the American women are ROCKING the open!   Even with Serena out (having just given birth to her daughter);  there is a bumper crop of young American women keeping pace with big sis Venus into the second week.

My own tennis season has been frustrating — I have the third set tie-break blues, having lost too many close matches by the narrowest of margins. However, I am thankful to be healthy ‘enough’ to be out on the court swinging away… at my advanced age.

Today Dan and I are going on a sight-seeing airplane ride as my birthday gift:  the next logical follow-up to last year’s hot air balloon ride.  Today I am pondering whether my predilection for motion sickness is something that I have somehow ‘outgrown’ or if it has stuck with me into this new decade of life.  We shall soon find out.

For next year’s birthday, I’m going to ask for jewelry.

Camping Caution

I am prepping to enter Monday’s Moth story slam, with the theme of ‘Caution”.   I will be reminiscing about one of my many adventures with Dan.  This is a preview of my entry.

A few years ago my husband, Dan, started a campaign to get me to like camping.    I’ve had some bad camping experiences before I met him;  and I am a huge fan of indoor plumbing.

Dan wanted to spend a week camping near Lake Superior, So, he decided we should go on a trial weekend camping trip, after which (according to his plan) I would be smitten by the camping bug.  Day 1 went well – but, by evening time, we had 42 mosquito bites, 36 of which were on my ankles.  In addition to being very tasty mosquito meat, I am extremely allergic, and didn’t sleep at all.  Day 2 brought a lot of rain—we quickly decamped and drove home amidst the deluge.

Needless to say, we rented a cabin for our longer vacation near lake Superior–  A beautiful, gorgeous cabin with a flush toilet and a solid roof over our heads.  We did many nature related activities such as hiking, canoeing and eating pasties.

Our canoe trip started out by visiting the canoe ‘guy’…  he had set up shop on the roadside in a trailer home.  In response to our knock on his door, he emerged amid a plume of herbal medicinal smoke—for which he assured us he had a prescription.  We hung out with the canoe dude for a while, before venturing out into the water… in a slightly impaired state.

We had a great time gently paddling through the water admiring the wildlife and beautiful vistas all around us – including a large family of ducks sunning themselves on a log.   We stopped at a sandbar for a rest and some lunch, before heading back down into the water.

We didn’t get far before someone passing us  asked if that was our backpack on the sandbar…. Upon closer inspection we realized we had left our backpack on dry land behind us…. we did the canoe equivalent of a   U-ey and went back to the sandbar.

What happens next is where Dan and I have a different recollection of events.  However, I am the one with the blog, so you will be hearing MY version –although Dan is happy to offer HIS version of events to anyone who asks.

I was at the front of the canoe, and as we arrived at the sandbar I stepped onto land and started heading towards our backpack, when I heard sounds of distress behind me… I turned around to see Dan, who had inexplicably managed to get tangled up in the branches of a dead tree that had fallen into the water near shore;  and he was slowly tipping over in the canoe, while emitting sounds of distress.   As I watched him tip over in slow motion, I yelled out:  “I will jump in and rescue you as soon as I quite laughing”!

In Dan’s version –   as I exited the canoe I pushed it backwards  into the current, carrying him directly into the  ‘punji sticks of death”:  which seems a tad over-dramatic to me.

Eventually, I stopped laughing, and Dan emerged from under the canoe.  We set the canoe upright, retrieved our bag, and headed back into the water;  retrieving more of our items that were now floating IN the water as we went. Once we were recombobulated,  Dan suggested that we go out into Lake Superior… That’s right, Dan wanted to go out into the cold depths of Lake Gitchigoonie…  right after capsizing our canoe in 18 inches of water.    Instead, we decided we’d had enough canoeing for the day – and stopped at a restaurant for a nice duck dinner.

 

A New Venture

A few months ago I wrote that we have an empty nest.  Having a 16.5 year gap between my oldest and youngest child has resulted in a longer-than-usual child rearing time-frame.  Daughter #2, aka Guzzy, moved out last October, and has not (yet) returned.

So – we did the logical thing, and rented out her room.  We dipped our toes slowly into the AirBnB waters… and now we regularly host a variety of guests who temporarily share our rustic (with A/C and other amenities) log home in the woods.   There is a young couple ‘napping’ (or whatever) in the room even as I write this.

It has been really interesting.  In the few months since we’ve been renting the room, we’ve hosted people from many states and countries of various races and multiple generations.  This experience has turned our home into a mini melting pot.

A few weeks ago we hosted a charming young man and his mom, on her very first visit to the States from China,  to see him graduate from the UW.  She spoke no English, yet her pride was obvious and it was endearing to see the young man dote on his mom.

Early one Saturday morning, we had a young and adorable Asian couple in residence.  After returning from taking Cleo from a walk, I heard a surprised squeal from the bedroom–the cause of which was immediately apparent.  Cleo had interpreted the sightly ajar bedroom door as an invitation to go in and ‘nose’ the young woman awake.  I sheepishly retrieved our overly friendly hound and shut their door firmly behind me.    Most of our guests really enjoy Cleo–but this couple did not appreciate her early wake-up call.

Another interesting couple spent several days with us exploring the area.  They live continents apart from each other;  but they regularly meet up at various locations in the US to explore together.   He was a talker!   We’ve had a model stay with us while she had a photo shoot in town (she was absolutely lovely — her legs came up to my armpits) and a surprising number of people stay with us for a one night stop-over in their travels.

Dan is an amazing host, and is generally more engaging with the guests than I am.  I tend to show them the basics and then retreat into areas of the house that are off limits to our guests, such as our den, which is where I am now.  We try to give our guests space, even as we share a space; and some prefer more conversation than others.  Dan tends to be more gregarious than me, and (unlike myself) he has the amazing ability to stay awake after 9:30 pm;  whereas, I am better suited for early morning conversation and engagement.

The extra cleaning and laundry is a bit of a hassle though.  Last night Guzzy spent the  night – but she had to sleep on the couch, because I had already prepped the room/bed for tonight’s guests. Of course, she is always welcome here — but she just might need to make a reservation ahead of time if she wants to stay in her (former) bedroom.

Weekend Respite

Lately, work has been more of a grind than usual…  the weeks are long and the weekends bring respite: Mother’s Day weekend was particularly soul-replenishing and served as a reminder of how blessed I am — with MUCH to be thankful for.

That Friday afternoon I spoke at an annual professional event (making good on a promise / threat I had made a year ago to do so) – the presentation was well received and followed up by a few drinks with former colleagues.  A very pleasant ending to a rough week.

I was on the tennis court Saturday morning, with a standing group of tennis friends; followed by a quick shower and a brief journey north with Dan to attend a family brunch.  The food was amazing and we caught up with various family members.  On the way home we stopped for a nostalgic stroll at Devil’s Lake State park – where we visited the ‘brick’ commemorating our marriage there five+ years ago.  (Our brick is located 3 bricks down from the one labelled ‘Tinkles’).  The park was jam packed with families out enjoying the much-appreciated warm weather.

That evening, we had date night and went to a movie, which was hilarious.  I highly recommend ‘Snatched’ with Amy Schumer and Goldie Hawn.

The next day was Mother’s Day.  #1 Daughter Kelly had already made a donation to school a third-world girl for a year in my name (awesome!).  Son Ben paid a visit to make us lunch and visit in the sun over lunch.  In the afternoon, I went to a concert with #2 daughter–by a choir she was a member of when she was in school.  My own mother had been a choir director, and her presence was strong as the chorale music filled our souls.

#2 Daughter and I finished the afternoon with a visit to my father, highlighted by watching the end of the Brewers game and an extended search for #2’s phone – which was eventually found in the cushions of a chair.

Lots of family, with doses of sun, nostalgia, tennis and music.  All in all, a most excellent weekend.

Time with the grands

I recently took a break to spend a few days with the just-turned-4 twin grand girls. Usually Grandpa and Auntie Dee Dee accompany me on weekend trips, which translates to a total of five adults doting on the darlin’s during our visits; one of those adults being their momma;  who is (understandably) their favorite go-to person in almost any situation.  This generally means that the girls are wound up over all the extra attention, and it is difficult to carve out some quiet one-on-one (or one-on-two) time with them.

So, for this trip, I strategically left Grandpa Dan and Auntie Dee Dee behind, and babysat the girls for a few days during the work week. We played with play-doh, we sang songs, we went on bike and scooter rides outside, we played on the swing set (going REALLY High), we read books, we played Hi-Ho Cherry-O (remember that one?), we did chalk sidewalk drawings, and so on.  A couple times I turned on a Peppa Pig video when I needed some time to prep for lunch or clean up a mess.  They adore Peppa Pig!

At one point while we were playing outside little X2 said I was a flower and pretend-watered me.  I spread out my arms like I was growing, and she gave me a radiantly beautiful smile.  My heart melted.  Little X1 made dozens of play-doh pasta pieces for me to ‘eat’, chattering and narrating every step of the way in both Spanish and English.

We made cookies; using both chocolate AND butterscotch chips and had great fun dumping in the ingredients, stirring, taste-testing the batter and randomly glopping the cookies on the cookie sheets.  Then… grandma made a mistake.  Grandma forgot that their gas oven burns hotter than most.  Grandma forgot that the extra dose of chips in the cookies means more sugar in the mix – and melted sugar tends to burn.

When the smoke alarms went off – both girls started howling and one wet her pants. I tried to console them, but had no idea how to turn off the smoke detectors.  Luckily, poppa Luis raced up the stairs (he had been working in his lower level office) to open windows and shut off the alarms before helping me console the traumatized girls.   Eventually the girls calmed, and Luis was able to get back to work.

Little X2 went upstairs to her bedroom and was sitting quietly in a corner by herself. It occurred to me that she was still scared and when I asked “do you want to sit in grandma’s lap and have a cookie?”  she quietly nodded and reached up to me.   She was sitting sweetly in my lap, munching a crispy cookie, when she wrinkled her nose, looked up and me and said “This is disgusting!”   We all had a good laugh over that!

The following day after a long walk, X1 climbed in my lap and I read her several books while she nestled into me sleepily, and my heart melted for a final time  before hitting the road back to Wisconsin.  It is just those kind of ‘small’ moments that I came for, and I was not disappointed.

This grandma gig is pretty sweet – even though I won’t be baking cookies again for awhile.

Eating Right

I entered a 14 day challenge where I work out, to adopt 10 healthy habits for 14 days.  This includes drinking water (LOTS of water), no alcohol, no soda, enough sleep, eating 6 servings of veggies a day, exercising, stretching, keeping a gratitude journal, and NO sugar.

Somewhat surprisingly, the toughest item for me has been ‘no sugar’ .  I already exercise and journal regularly;  I’ve gotten used to the water (and peeing all the dang time); and so far, have eliminated soda and alcohol from my diet, while adding more veggies.  I am regularly scoring 8 or 9 out of the 10 point scale.

However, my sweet tooth is a well-deserved legend in our household. There have been a couple days I’ve especially gone overboard with the twisted logic of “You’ve already blown it for today, so go ahead and splurge!”   A more healthy response would be:  That was a yummy muffin; instead of:  “Dang, I blew it already today, so I might as well go ahead and have the jumbo bag of M&Ms too”.

I have concluded that for me the threshold of zero added sugar is counter-productive and unrealistic, and I am done beating myself up over it.

Looking through another lens: as an eating disorder advocate, I am  skeptical of dietary restrictions; even when given with the best of intentions.  The very act of restricting can be triggering for anyone with a history or tendancy towards excessive restricting or binge eating.   My own response is on the ‘binge’ side of the spectrum.

Studies show that dieting for weight loss is unsustainable and unhealthy; leading to yo-yo results and counter-productive metabolic changes.  The truth is, what is a healthy weight for one person, is not necessarily healthy (or sustainable) for the next person.

There have been a several occasions where I’ve encountered so-called experts giving advice on how to reduce calories; with the assumption that ‘everyone’ is interested in losing weight. I try to diplomatically challenge their views — with mixed results.  Many people are completely entrenched in the believe system that ‘everyone’ should be skinny and that skinny = good health.

I recall a conversation with a young woman who was hospitalized several times for being severely underweight.  Even when she was close to dying, she continued to received a barrage of compliments on her figure and attention from men.

It is a very disturbing reflection on our society that a woman who is severely underweight and near death is considered the epitomy of attractiveness.

As an eating disorder advocate, I have heard versions of this story many times.  The pervasive attitude that skinny = healthy is also a barrier to recovery, as sufferers are reluctant to lose that identity.

The notion that we should all be skinny is not realistic or desirable. We should not all aspire to be size twos.  I will never look like Gwyneth Paltrow, no matter how many 14 Day challenges I do.  My short, curvy body is strong and healthy and is just right for ME.  We should focus on our own health and wellness, without comparison to or judgement of others.

It can be good to challenge ourselves to improve our habits; with a goal of being a better version of ourselves.  Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to walk the dog and then have a yummy spinach salad:  right after I take a pee.

 

An unusual morning

As usual, the alarm clock woke me up this morning before I was really ready to wake up.

As usual, I stumbled into some shoes and took the dog out for a walk:  it was darker than usual, which I  attributed to the cloudy weather.

As usual, I donned my work-out clothes and loaded my work clothes, laptop and other items that I would need today into the car.

As usual, I headed to the Transformation Center, where I work out three mornings a week before work.  The traffic seemed lighter than usual. Lucky me!

As usual, the parking lot was fairly full and music pumped loudly out the open window of the early morning Bootcamp class.

As usual, I grabbed my stuff and headed up the stairs, into the locker room to stash my items and change my shoes.

As usual, I filled up my water bottle and headed back to the room where my 6:45 Fit Over Fifty class is held.  At the doorway I stopped short, as there was another class underway with an instructor I did not recognize with a group of sweaty participants that I also did not recognize.

The truth came on me in a flash:  It was 5:45 … not 6:45 in the morning. After a few moments of chastising myself and retroactively fitting in the puzzle pieces from other clues in the morning, I concluded that there had been a serious user error when I set my alarm clock the evening before (an error I have since confirmed), resulting in setting the clock ahead by an hour.   In the IT Biz we have an acronym for this type of event:  PICNIC (Problem in Chair not in Computer/Clock).

I spent my bonus hour sitting in Starbucks sipping a plain coffee, writing this blog, choosing to savor my own personal doubling-down on daylight savings time… if only for a day.

We will see whether I am still smiling over my error when I play tennis at 7:15 pm tonight…  perhaps I will need another infusion of coffee at 5:45 pm as well.

Celebrating Life

Last night we celebrated my dad’s 90th birthday.  The extended family of 24 souls ranged from 18 months ‘old’ to 90 years ‘young’.

It was an inter-generational gathering of people with a great deal of shared history.  The grand-children (Most are now in their 20s and 30s) shared memories of childhood fishing trips up north with Grandma and grandpa–simple times ‘away from it all’ that they clearly still treasure.  My son, Ben, shared that grandpa knew the secret to beating him at chess… all he had to do was turn on the TV to distract his grandson.

My siblings and I shared memories of dad teaching us many things: to drive, hunt, play checkers, deal with adversity and more. Incidents from our youth and adolescence were  told from multiple perspectives.   MY memories as a then 10 year-old the morning ‘after’ one of big brother Doug’s escapades was something like this:

  • Why does Doug have a big bandage on his head?
  • Where is the Maverick (its was a car – in our case, a very bright yellow car)?
  • Why is dad so mad?

Doug’s memories of that incident were reminiscent of a time when the local police force was more tolerant of underage drinking.

The young and energetic great-grands were wound up with excitement and sugar, careening around the private party room with abandon–contributing greatly to the general merriment. At one point, we were grateful to have a couple nurses in our midst… let’s just say that blood is thicker than water.

We all felt mom’s presence as we looked at old photos and reminisced over our childhoods; prompted by many pre-digital, dog-eared photos, many of which look absolutely ancient to the grandkids–primarily due to the styles of the day (some of us REALLY got into the big hair and glasses of the 70s and 80s)!

We hope dad has many years with us– after a rough couple years, he is doing well physically, and remains mentally sharp.  Last night was a reminder to all of us of how lucky all are to have him, and each other, in our lives.

 

Single motherhood and empathy

Dan has been traveling for work for the last few weeks, which means I have been a single mom to our critters; a very independent and low-maintenance kitty and a ridiculously needy doggie.  My regular weekly schedule for working-out, working and playing tennis has been tough to sustain while tending to the needs of our attention hound.

The last few weeks have brought back memories of the years when I was a single working mother (to human children).  Then (as now) I was fortunate to have access to good day care and had family in the area to provide an occasional helping hand.  Even so– I remember the near-continuous sense of being pulled in multiple directions at once–there simply wasn’t enough of me to go around.

I recall the evening when son Ben announced at bed time that he needed 5 pounds of salt-clay for school…. tomorrow;  and mediating disputes by phone at work, because ‘Ben is such a butt-brain’. I honestly miss those days.

I recall the  married co-worker with one child, who had returned to work part-time.  She told me how hard it was to cope with all the demands on her time.  I stared at her in wonder and (it must be said) some jealousy, and retorted that if she subtracted the husband, added a child, and added another 24 or so hours to her work week, then she could commiserate with me.

In other words, I was a complete jerk.   Misery isn’t a contest… There is no prize for the person who has the most difficult life circumstances—-except for (maybe) a split-second of nasty smugness.  More importantly, we never truly know what a person is going through, even if we are familiar with their life circumstances.  Fast forward another 5 years and this same co-worker was a divorced, unemployed alcoholic.  Dang.

One of my personal mantras when I start feeling  sorry for myself is “You can visit Pity City, but you can’t live there”.  This mantra has served me well,  but for those suffering from debilitating mental illness, depression, addiction or other affliction, there is a deeper sense of despair that does not have a quick fix and cannot be remedied by a pep talk.

Guzzy’s eating disorder and recovery taught me a great deal about not judging others, being empathetic, and being grateful for small things.

Today – I am grateful that Dan is home for the weekend, and that no one needs any salt clay in the morning.