Without Me

The day after Christmas, I woke up feeling just a little bit “off.”  At first, I thought I had probably just overdid a bit over the holidays.  But as the day wore on, I felt worse, not better.  My throat hurt, I started coughing and I felt a little achy.  By the next morning, I was well and truly sick and stayed that way for most of the week.  The good news was that I tested negative for Covid three times, but the bad news was that I was absolutely miserable and unable to do anything other than lay around feeling sorry for myself.

4F20ECF8-0FF5-4683-8705-FDA15FC89E5ETypically, I spend the week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve relaxing and getting together with friends and family.  The work of the holidays is over by then, but the decorations are still up, the kitchen is stocked with cookies and other Christmas goodies, and there’s plenty of time to enjoy it all.  I hated missing out on all that, but as the week went on, I also began to feel guilty about all the other things I wasn’t doing:  walking the shelter dogs, keeping up with my blogging, hosting a small family gathering for my out-of-town sister, and even basic housework.  (I emptied the dishwasher one day and then had to go lay down for three hours to recover.)

Even worse, I was supposed to be spending at least part of that week helping my daughter care for her newborn son.  Her husband was working and her older son’s daycare was closed for the holidays, so I had promised that I’d be around to lend a helping hand.  But even if I’d had the energy, I couldn’t risk going anywhere near her house.  I didn’t have Covid, but I was still sick and probably contagious.

So there I was, not only sick but feeling very guilty about being sick.  I remembered how hectic caring for a newborn and a young child can be, and how grateful I was for any and all assistance.  I hadn’t seen my out-of-town sister in months and hated the thought of her going back home without us getting together.  I knew that every day I wasn’t at the animal shelter meant that the other volunteers had to walk even more dogs than usual, and that there was a chance that some dogs would miss their daily walk altogether.  I even felt guilty about not keeping up with the comments on my latest blog post, or keeping up with my friends’ blogs.

The silver lining in all this mess was that eventually I realized that sometimes I’m not going to be able to do the things that others want or need me to do, and that I need to stop fretting about it and simply accept it.  There are going to be times when I can’t live up to either my expectations or the expectations of other people, and I have to learn to be okay with that.  Stuff happens, plans go awry, and sometimes, I just need to go of the ridiculous idea that the world will crash and burn if I’m not carrying my fair share of the load every single minute.

My daughter made it through the week without my help; the blogging world kept right on going without me, and the shelter dogs all got their daily walks.  Go figure.  My sister was even able to stay in town long enough for me to recover and spend time with her, but she would have forgiven me if I hadn’t.  Because the truth is, none of us is indispensable.  Some of us just need to be reminded of that now and then…….

Looking Back

It’s hard to believe it, but 2021 is almost over.  It’s been a rather strange year…not as bad as 2020, but not as good as I had hoped for either.  Like many of us, I had believed that this would be the year that marked the end of the pandemic, but this nasty virus seems determined to stay with as long as possible.  Still, we’re learning how to deal with it and making great strides in the areas of vaccines and treatments.  I honestly believe that eventually modern medicine will prevail, and hope that day comes sooner rather than later.

On a more personal note, it’s been a very busy year, filled with lots of peaks and valleys.  We were dismayed last Spring when we discovered that my husband needed to have a major surgery that early tests had indicated he could avoid, and discouraged when he ended up spending over 21 days in the hospital.  But we were thrilled this Fall when subsequent tests showed that his cancer is finally gone, and we began wrapping our minds around the fact that the cancer patient was now a cancer survivor.  Making that transition takes a bit of time, emotionally.

We had visits from out-of-town relatives we hadn’t seen in over a year, and were able to take a much-anticipated Florida vacation with all of our immediate family.  We were able to include my mother in our Thanksgiving and Easter dinners this year, and to gather as a family to celebrate her 91st birthday.  Those are among the many moments I’m grateful for, and were all the sweeter because I no longer take such things for granted.

This is also the year I was fitted with “Invisalign” braces to correct some ongoing dental issues, but I can’t honestly say I’m grateful for that because I discovered (after I handed over the check) that they are supposed to be worn for 22 hours a day and that I’m not allowed to eat or drink anything but water while wearing them.  Note to self:  always read the fine print before embarking on new procedures.  Still, when it’s all over and my teeth are finally aligned correctly I’m quite sure I’ll feel the gratitude.

FullSizeRenderBest of all, this was the year we added a new grandson to our family, and I realized once again just how quickly I can fall in love with a little bitty person I just met.  One of the nicest things about families is how there is always enough room, and enough love, for one more.

Wishing everyone a very happy New Year, with sincere wishes for a wonderful 2022 for all!

Something New

One year, my husband and I went out for dinner on the night after Thanksgiving.  The soup special was called something like “Turkey Medley,” and it was one of the best-tasting soups I’ve ever had.  Somehow, the cook had managed to include almost all of the flavors of a traditional Thanksgiving dinner in one soup…the turkey, the dressing and the roasted vegetables….all of it.  Right then and there I decided that the following year, we were going back to that same restaurant on the day after Thanksgiving so I could have that soup again.  And this time, I planned to take extra home with me.  So you can imagine my disappointment a year later when the waiter informed me that the soup special that night was clam chowder.

IMG_1071I think it’s only natural to want to repeat something that we’ve really enjoyed, and sometimes we’re able to do just that.  My husband and I fell in love with Sanibel Island the first time we visited and it’s still one of our very favorite vacation spots.  But if I’m honest, I have to say that our first visit was the best, because we were discovering someplace brand new, and to us at least, quite wonderful.  It’s the same way when I like a movie so much that I go back to the theater to watch it again.  I still like it the second time I see it, but I don’t really enjoy the movie as much as I did the first time.

And this is something I have to remember each year as we move into the holiday season, because  Christmas is a time when I find myself trying, often subconsciously, to relive the happy moments of past Christmas celebrations.  But the truth is, I’m no longer a child so I don’t feel the almost unbearable excitement of waking up on Christmas morning and knowing that there’s a pile of presents for me under our tree.  My son and daughter are also grown up now, so the joy of watching their excitement on Christmas morning is also a thing of the past.  I’ll cherish those special memories forever, but the truth is that they are not going to be repeated.

And that’s okay.  Because if we spend all our time trying to recreate the things we enjoyed in the past, we’ll never be able to appreciate all that the present has to offer.  It’s true that I’ll never again celebrate Christmas as a young child or as the mother of young children, but there’s still plenty of fun to be had in this holiday and in all the ones that will follow.  For the next few years, I’ll enjoy being the grandmother of small children, which has it’s own benefits.  I get to share their excitement and joy, but their own parents have to do most of the work of preparing for the holidays.

My husband and I have been back to the restaurant that served that fabulous soup many times, but it’s never been offered again.  Clearly, it was a one-time experience.  But we have tried other menu items and specials, and many of them were absolutely delicious.  Which just goes to show, I think, that sometimes we have to let go of the past in order to fully appreciate the present…..

The Voice of Reason

There’s no point in denying it:  I’m a creature of habit.  When I shop for new clothes, I usually come home with outfits that are essentially new versions of the worn-out clothes that I’m replacing.  People are often shocked when they learn that I’ve been a volunteer dog walker at a local shelter for almost twenty years, but it seems normal to me.  I’m perfectly happy going on our annual Florida vacation each year, and my husband and I eat at our favorite restaurant so often that the manager not only knows us by name, he also knows our preferred choice of wine.

IMG_0631And things just get worse when Christmas rolls around.  I drag out the same decorations each year and place them where I always have always placed them.  OccasionaIly I get daring and add something new or give away a decoration I no longer care for, but if I look at photos of our Christmas celebrations in the past ten years or so, my house looks basically the same.   There’s just something about Christmas that makes me embrace tradition even more that I usually do, and I guess that’s why I was really looking forward to the holidays this year, because it meant I could get back to my “normal” celebrations.

But you know what they say about the best laid plans…..they really do “often go astray.”  At least where I live, the pandemic is under much better control than it was last year, but it’s still a factor that has to be considered in our celebrations.  Beyond that, our daughter was expecting her second child in mid-December.  Not knowing when the baby would actually arrive and how comfortable my daughter and son-in-law will feel being a part of family celebrations means we won’t be able to make our usual plans for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day this year.  “We’ll see how it goes” has become our new mantra, and rightly so.

And while I understood that our family traditions couldn’t be guaranteed this year, I still clung to the idea that all of my other Christmas traditions would proceed as normal.  Never mind that this resulted in a schedule that became so hectic I couldn’t possibly keep up with it, I stubbornly refused to cancel even a single gathering or commitment.  It’s the Christmas season, so I had to carry on as normal, right?

Luckily, I have a friends who are not only willing to confront me with truths I’m not willing to admit to myself, but they are able to do it with tact and kindness.  It takes a special sort of person to be able to say to you, “What in the world are you thinking?  You can’t possibly manage all this!” in such a way that I not only took no offense, but actually believed cancelling a few of my commitments was my idea.

As we move into what is often a far too hectic holiday season, my hope is that we all have that friend who will gently speak the truth to us.  Because we need to hear, and believe, that it really is okay to slow down and simply enjoy the season, doing only what doesn’t feel like “too much.”  And maybe, if we’re really lucky, that’s a truth that will stick with us well into the new year……

Keeping The Faith

I was hosting Thanksgiving dinner this year, so when I first heard the news reports of predicted turkey shortages, I was concerned.  I hurried to my local grocery store early in November to place my order for a fresh turkey, just to make sure I would have one.  But the clerk at the meat counter told me that they weren’t taking orders for turkey or anything else this year, and that he wasn’t sure they would have any fresh turkeys for sale at all.  He told me that if I wanted to be sure to have a turkey for my Thanksgiving dinner, I should buy one of their frozen ones right now, before they ran out. 

I thanked him and went over to the inspect the frozen turkeys.  They were covered with frost, and when I scraped off the label in order to read the price, I was shocked to see that it would cost $37 for a 14-pound turkey.  Call me cheap, but I just couldn’t make myself pay that much for what looked suspiciously like a turkey left over from last year.  I decided to keep looking, and that if I came up empty-handed, we could always celebrate Thanksgiving with a nice lasagna instead.

Luckily, I found a store that was happy to take my order for a fresh turkey, and while it wasn’t exactly cheap, it was free-range, so that made the price easier to accept.  Much harder to accept was the sight of the literally dozens of turkeys, both fresh and frozen, available in every grocery store in the days just before Thanksgiving.  All that worry, all that schlepping from store to store searching for turkeys, and it turned out that there were more than enough for everyone.  I haven’t felt quite that conned since the days after the Beanie Baby craze, and I could blame that one on my kids.

No one who knows me well would ever call me an optimist, but even I have had enough of the doom and gloom predictions that seem so relentless these days.  Yes, there are very real issues to worry about and I’m quite sure that there really are bad things coming our way.  But I also know that not every dire prediction comes true (the predicted turkey shortage certainly didn’t) and that perhaps the time has come for me to be a little more discerning when I decide how I respond to the constant reports of how “the sky is falling.”  Because maybe it is, but maybe it isn’t.

IMG_1069 2We actually had a rather nice Thanksgiving this year.  The vaccines allowed us to gather as an extended family, and for that I was thankful.  I was even more thankful that my husband’s long battle with cancer finally seems to be over, and that we will soon be welcoming another grandchild into our family.  Also, I managed to cook the turkey without setting off the smoke alarm, which doesn’t always happen.  All of which is to say that, even in these troubled times, there is still a whole lot of good going on.  We just have to be willing to see it….

Home At Last

IMG_0344When Mom and Dad first brought me home from the animal shelter, I was still young and very naive.  I didn’t realize that people have tons of rules, and that I was expected to memorize and obey all those rules if I wanted to live in peace with my human family.  I had to learn where I was allowed to sleep (my dog bed, my crate, or the floor) and where I wasn’t allowed to sleep (everywhere else, apparently).  I had to distinguish between the dog toys that I was encouraged to play with and the children’s toys that I was forbidden to chew on.  Most importantly, I discovered that while it’s perfectly acceptable for humans to “potty” inside the house and that they even have designated rooms for it, I am expected to go outside every single time I have to relieve myself.  (And if you think squatting in the yard first thing in the morning when it’s ten degrees outside is easy, you’ve obviously never had to do it.)

Luckily for me, I’m a pretty smart dog.  I’ve memorized almost all of the rules, and I’ve also figured out that if I do need to break one or two, it’s best not to let Mom or Dad know.  Take my sleeping arrangements, for instance.  I know for a fact that the most comfortable place to sleep is the living room couch, but Mom and Dad don’t like to see me on it.  So I make sure they never do.  I wait until they are out of the house before I climb on the couch for a nap, and when I hear them returning, I just jump off and run to the door to greet them.  It’s a great system that keeps all of us happy.

I’ve also figured out that if I’m a little hungry, all I have to do is go stand by the back door until someone lets me outside.  Because every time I come back inside, I get a dog biscuit.  Mom and Dad argue all the time over who started that tradition, but it doesn’t really matter, because it’s set in stone now.  So whenever I want a snack, I just “ask to go outside.”  Then I stand on the back porch for a few seconds, scratch at the door to let them know I’m ready to come back in, and voila!  I get a dog biscuit.

But one of the nicest things I’ve learned is what happens when the holidays roll around.  Thanksgiving is next week, and already Mom is bringing home tons of groceries in preparation for the big feast.  There will be lots of food and I know some of the leftovers will go in my supper dish.  And this year there will be two little ones at the table who I can count on to toss some tasty tidbits my way during the meal itself!  A few weeks after Thanksgiving comes Christmas, which is even better because Christmas means extra food AND presents.  What more could a dog ask for?

51A4A3C2-A7FE-49C0-B318-67D49D6D1DB5I’m actually pretty proud of myself for how well I’ve adapted and I know that I’m lucky to have found a loving family. Because there are lots of dogs still living in shelters who would give their right paw for a chance to finally have a real home.  Just something to think about, for those of you who might have room in your hearts and home for one more…….

Walk Away

4C65EDDE-AE5D-497A-8094-C6A3821D6AE7A couple of weeks ago, I was trying to make prints of the photos from our recent family vacation, but the local camera store’s site which I often use wouldn’t upload over half of them.  Frustrated, I called the store and asked for help.  The man I spoke to was very nice, but said that the site must be acting up and suggested I come into the store and load them directly onto their equipment from my phone.  

I drove to the store and asked the young woman behind the counter for directions on using their equipment.  She told me bluntly there was no point in doing that, because obviously the files for my photos were corrupted.  Which was annoying enough, but the little smirk that accompanied her words made the situation worse.  I wondered aloud how some of my photos could be corrupted when others, taken at the same time and with the same phone, seemed to be just fine.  She began a long explanation of the many ways photo files can be damaged, but none of them pertained to my situation.  When I tried to tell her so, she told me, sharply, not to interrupt her before she was done speaking.  

And that was when I realized there was absolutely no point in continuing our conversation.  She was not going to admit that the problem could be on their end, and I was not prepared to believe there was anything wrong with the photos that wouldn’t upload to their site.  I would have asked to speak to a manager, but I knew that I was very, very close to completely losing my temper and I didn’t want to take my anger out on someone else.  So I simply turned away and walked out of the store.

The older I get, the more I believe that simply walking away from confrontations is often the best way.  There is rarely any good that comes out of arguing with people who have already made their mind up, or trying to negotiate with those who treat others like idiots.  While I will always believe that being in relationship with people who are different from me is a good thing and that the world needs more, not less, communication, I also know that true communication can’t be one-sided.  Both parties have to be willing to respectfully engage, which means that there is no point in trying to talk to someone who refuses to listen.

So I went home and logged into the site of a company I’ve used many times to make photo books.  And you know what?  All of my photos uploaded successfully, even the supposedly “corrupted” ones.  I didn’t even have to wait for my prints to be mailed to me, as I was able to pick them up at a local drug store about two hours after I ordered them.  I’ll admit that there’s a part of me that wanted to take the prints back to the original store and show them to the rude clerk, saying,  “See?  I was right!”  But I resisted that urge, because I know it would be both petty and pointless.   I have my vacation photos, neatly displayed in an album, and that’s good enough for me.

Lost and Found

I thought I lost my wedding ring this morning.  I had just finished walking a dog at the animal shelter where I volunteer when I noticed that the ring wasn’t on my finger.  The dog I’d been walking seemed to pride herself on pulling very hard throughout our walk, so it was very possible that it had somehow slipped off my finger while I was clutching my end of the leash.  I searched for my ring diligently, carefully retracing our steps and even doing a thorough, if rather disgusting, search through two trash cans full of used doggie poop bags.  But I didn’t find it.

My wedding ring is a plain gold band that’s not particularly valuable, and not a family heirloom.  But it has obvious sentimental value to me, and I wasn’t happy about the thought of it being lost forever.  A couple of my fellow volunteers suggested renting a metal detector to look for it, and while I thought that was a good idea, I wanted to go home and search my house and car first.  And lo and behold, we found the ring hiding in my jewelry box.  How it got in there I’ll never know, because it’s the one piece of jewelry I always wear.  I never put it in my jewelry box, as far as I can remember.  But it’s a mystery I can live with because it has a happy ending.

I’ll admit that while I was looking for my ring I didn’t really believe I’d find it.  There were so many places where it could have slipped off my finger that I thought the chances of finding it again were very small, even if I used a metal detector.  I had resigned myself to the fact that the ring I’ve worn for decades was well and truly gone, and thought that I just needed to accept that fact.  But it was found, and now it’s back on my finger, where it belongs.

The truth is, sometimes things that we believe are lost forever can be found again.  And as we are starting to cautiously move out of a time when the pandemic dictated so much of our lives, I’m hoping that some of what we lost during the past several months can also be found again.  I’m hoping that we can find the patience and compassion that has been sorely missing as we deal with people whose reactions to the pandemic were not exactly the same as ours.  I’m hoping that we can find our sense of community again, and remember that we really are “all in this together” and that what affects one of us often affects all of us.

45E59CA4-A803-44A6-B235-04E02D8E44EFThere is no doubt that we have been through some very trying times,  and that some of us have faced devastating losses.  It’s easy to believe that most of the good things we took for granted before the pandemic have been lost forever, but I honestly don’t believe that’s true.  There are still so many reasons to be hopeful….we just have to keep looking until we find them.

All Together Now

If the past couple of years have taught me anything, it’s the importance of being flexible.  So even though I’d been very much looking forward to a Florida getaway with my family, I kept telling myself that there was always a possibility that the trip wouldn’t actually happen.  I told myself this even as I arranged for our house/dog sitter, packed my bags, arrived at at the airport and all the way up to the moment when our plane actually took off.  It was only once we were safely in the air that I finally drew a sigh of relief and allowed myself to believe that this much-anticipated vacation was truly beginning.

It’s not that there was anything particularly special about our trip.  We weren’t heading to an exotic destination, or checking something big off our “bucket list” or even treating ourselves to something new and different.  We were just renting a vacation home for a week and our only plan was to relax and spend time with our family.  I know it may sound boring to some people, but at this point in my life, it struck me as the perfect vacation plan and I was more than ready for it.

3859E432-F548-4257-89B5-54F1E547F1AB_1_201_aAnd things went mostly according to plan.  As we settled into our house, I soon realized that relaxation is a rare commodity when you’re vacationing with a three-year old and a one-year old.  (I’d count myself lucky if I could muster up just one-tenth of their energy and stamina.)  But that was just fine, because I also realized that although sharing a house with active little people may not be relaxing, it sure is fun and entertaining, especially if they happen to be your grandchildren.  There’s something pretty special about stumbling out of bed in the morning and being greeted with big smiles, hugs, and an enthusiastic, “Yea!  Grandma’s up!” I mean, my husband and I love each other dearly, but mostly we just grunt at each other first thing in the morning.

Sharing a house with our kids and their families for the week also gave us a chance to reconnect in ways that just don’t happen in our normal, day-to-day life.  Late night conversations around the hot tub when the little ones were safely tucked in bed, working on a jigsaw puzzle together, or even just sharing a meal as a family were gifts to be savored.  Even sitting back and watching others interact was special, because I knew those interactions were strengthening family bonds that should last long after my husband and I are gone. 

Now it’s over, and I’m slowly adjusting back to a life that is both more solitary and hectic than the one I enjoyed while on vacation.  I’m actually a bit more tired than before I went, but that’s normal because travel is wearing and so is catching up on all the chores that waited patiently for my return.  The weariness will pass but the memories of our time together aren’t going anywhere, and wouldn’t trade those for anything in the world…..