Wait Your Turn

For the past few days, I’ve spent far too much time shopping for a pair of shoes to wear to my son’s upcoming wedding, fruitlessly trudging from store to store in search of the one-inch heel, black, patent-leather pumps that I need to match the dress I plan to wear.  All that time in the local malls quickly revealed two equally depressing things.  The first is that no one is selling the shoes I want (at least not in my size and without a toe so painfully pointed that it could double as a drill bit), and the second is that all the major retailers think the Christmas season is upon us.  And I started my shoe shopping before Halloween.

img_0950Now don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas just as much as the next person, and probably a whole lot more.  It’s my favorite holiday.  I actually tend to go a bit overboard with decorating my house, putting up two Christmas trees, covering almost every horizontal space with Santas and nativity scenes, and stringing lights all over the front of my house.  This year, I may even light up the garage if I can talk my husband into it.  But none of those decorations are going up until after Thanksgiving.  I don’t want to begin my Christmas celebrations so early that by the time December 25th actually arrives I’m already tired of Christmas.

Personally, I hate seeing the stores decorated for Christmas in  October or early November.  I don’t want to see television commercials proclaiming “the holidays are here” two months before Christmas day.  This is still Fall, for goodness sake.  The leaves are still turning colors on the trees, people still have pumpkins and mums on their porches and I haven’t even started thinking about how my family is going to celebrate Thanksgiving yet.  This is not the time to worry about Christmas shopping or wonder exactly how many extra strands of outdoor lights I’m going to need this year.

We live in a time when it is already increasingly difficult to be mindful of our surroundings and to “live in the moment.”  We are constantly distracted by our cell phones, computers, etc., and bombarded with information from all over the world, most of which is both disturbing and overwhelming.  It’s a struggle to even recognize the “here and now,” much less appreciate it.  I just don’t think we need to add this constant pressure to rush through the present by looking ahead to a holiday season that is still several weeks away.

Yes, I love Christmas and I am truly looking forward to it’s arrival.  But meanwhile, I want to fully experience the season that I am actually living in.  I want to savor the cooler weather which has finally arrived,  and to really notice the trees that are suddenly sporting such beautiful colors.  I want to live in this moment and this day.  Yes, I know Christmas is coming, but it needs to wait for its turn.

Twilight Years

This morning I noticed a rather strong and disgusting smell in our basement.  It’s not unusual for us to spot the occasional mouse down there once Fall arrives, which my husband promptly dispatches.  (One of perks of being married is having someone else deal with unwanted house guests.)  Judging from the smell, we assumed that one of our mouse visitors must have died down there, so we called in our dog Lucy to help us find it.

Lucy has always been known for her keen sense of smell and her willingness to chase any small furry animal that dares to cross her path.  She came downstairs and obeyed our command to “find it” by sniffing eagerly around the basement walls.  Then she froze in front of the recliner on the family room side of the basement, staring intently underneath it.  “Good dog,” I told her, getting down to peer underneath the chair.  Only to find out that what had caught her attention wasn’t a mouse at all, but her favorite red ball.   I pulled it out and handed it to her, and she trotted off with the satisfied air of a dog who had done her job well.  And just so you know, after she left my husband and I found not one but two dead mice down there, and one of them was very, very, ripe.

img_0034I supposed I should be annoyed with Lucy, or at least disappointed that the dog who used to be able to sniff out a rawhide toy stored on the upper shelf of my closet in two seconds flat seemed to be unable to locate a very pungent rodent carcass.  But Lucy turned fifteen this month and this is just another reminder that she is aging, far more quickly than I would like.

When she first came to live with us, Lucy was eleven-months old and had been turned into the animal shelter as a stray.  Although she seemed quite calm when we picked her out, we quickly discovered that was only because she was still feeling the effects of the anesthesia from her recent spaying.  Lucy was actually a bundle of energy, almost scary-smart, and had very little inclination to follow the household rules.  I suspect most families would have promptly returned her to the shelter from whence she came, but instead we fell in love with her and learned to live with her eccentricities.  For her part, she did learn what “sit,” “stay,” “leave it” and “come” meant, and sometimes she even obeyed those commands.  Later, I added such useful phrases as  “Get off the dining room table!” and “Get your furry butt back in bed!” (spoken at five a.m. on a Saturday morning, when Lucy decided she needed breakfast) to her vocabulary as well.

But for some reason, I didn’t believe that a dog as energetic and smart as Lucy would ever age.  I couldn’t picture her no longer being able to hear anything but the loudest noises, and not even waking up when someone knocks at our door.  I couldn’t fathom a time when she would be willing to substitute a short walk around the block for her usual forty-five minute treks through the neighborhood.  I didn’t envision a time when she would hesitate before climbing a flight of stairs, as if debating whether the effort was worth it.  But all those things, and more, have come true in the past of year or so.

img_0992I know we are now living in Lucy’s twilight years, and that her time with us is drawing to an end.  To my mind, the only thing truly wrong with dogs is that their life spans are far too short.  We may have another year with Lucy, or we may only have another few weeks; we have reached the stage where either is possible.  All that we can do is enjoy the time we have left with our loving, neurotic, and smart little Lucy.  And if that means we have to sniff out our own dead mice, then so be it.

Falling Down ?

img_0919It’s taken a while, but the cool weather of Fall has finally arrived where I live.  And I’m not especially happy about it.  I’ve been feeling a bit down all day, ever since waking up this morning and seeing that the temperature outside was only 56 degrees with no sunshine in sight.  I know there are lots and lots of great things about Fall, and I appreciate most of them.   It’s just that I’m not ready to let go of summer, and the weather today is forcing me to recognize that the summer of 2016 is well and truly over.

The days are already getting shorter, which means that it won’t be long before I’m waking up in darkness.  I spent part of last evening digging out my sweaters and light-weight jackets since it’s already too cold to go outside without wearing one or the other.  Despite my careful attention, many of my annual flowers are looking tired and withered, and it’s only a matter of time before there will be a frost which kills them altogether.   Within weeks, I’ll actually have to turn on the heat and deal with the dry skin and static electricity it always generates despite our humidifier’s best efforts. I may be a Debby Downer, but honestly, I find all of this rather depressing.

But there’s no sense in fighting the inevitable and I certainly don’t want to spend the next few weeks wallowing in self-pity, so I have decided that I need to stop thinking quite so much about all the things I will miss about summer and focus instead on the things I really won’t miss at all.  Sure, it’s hard to forget about the backyard cookouts, the pleasure of jumping into the refreshingly cool water of a swimming pool on a hot summer day, and the convenience of walking outside anytime without having to put on any extra clothing whatsoever.  Not to mention the fresh fruit and tasty tomatoes.  But I’m going to try.

From now on, I’ll bear in mind that the arrival of Fall means I won’t have to circle the parking lot of the grocery store in the futile search for a parking space in the shade so the inside of my car won’t feel like an oven when I’m done shopping.  I can even buy ice cream without worrying about it melting before I reach home.  I’m going to remember that the time is rapidly approaching when I  won’t have to do any more yard work:  no watering the potted plants, deadheading the flowers, trimming the bushes, cutting back the ivy, and fighting a no-win battle against the weeds.

And best of all, no outdoor bugs.  I’m not sure if the cold weather kills them or, like bears, they simply hibernate all winter, but for whatever reason, they go away and I am grateful.  No more bees buzzing around my ears when I walk out the back door (they love the crepe myrtles we were silly enough to plant right next to the back porch), no more carpenter bees drilling holes in the eaves and (finally) no more mosquitoes!  If I were ever trying to argue that God does make mistakes, exhibit “A” would be mosquitoes.  The world would have been just fine without the pesky little buggers.

This new attitude must be working, because I’m already feeling better.  It’s time to break out the Fall decorations, stick a few pots of hardy mums and some pumpkins on the porch and hit the mall in search of a couple of new sweaters.  And then I’m going to come home and bake a pumpkin pie.