Little Things

I got a letter from the gas company today, threatening to turn our gas off if we didn’t contact them immediately to schedule a safety inspection for our gas meter.  I had already scheduled the inspection and it was completed three days ago.  According to the inspector, our meter passed.  I don’t know if the inspector failed to turn his report in, or if the gas company sent the letter before he did so, but the upshot was that I called the gas company’s customer service department and was on hold for a long time before getting a recording saying, “All our representatives are busy now, please leave a voice mail and we’ll get back to you soon.”  That was three hours ago, and I’m still waiting.

In the grand scheme of things, this is not a huge problem.  I’m sure it will get sorted out eventually, and even if they do turn our gas off temporarily, we have electric space heaters and I can cook in our electric toaster oven.  But it is annoying and something I’d rather not deal with.

Lately, I’ve found myself getting far too annoyed at “the little things.”  When a neighbor decided to keep her trash cans at the curb next to our driveway, I was really offended, and not just because it’s against the city ordinances.  It bothered me to look out my window and see them there.  I got upset when there was only one checker working in the store on a busy Saturday morning, resulting in a long wait to check out with my groceries.  It seemed that the little things were adding up, and I was reacting with both anger and impatience.

Which meant that it was time for a good old-fashioned “attitude adjustment.”  Yes, life has been difficult for the past two years and continues to be in many ways.  But the reality is that if I can pay enough attention to the little things to become annoyed by them, then I can also pay enough attention to the little things to react in a more positive way.  The trick is simply to pay attention to different little things.

fullsizeoutput_507dRather than look out my window and see ugly trash cans, I can focus on the beautiful daffodils or the lovely purple buds on our young tree.  Instead of being frustrated by how hard it is to schedule family gatherings at holidays, I can be thankful that my son and daughter live close enough that we always get to celebrate the holidays with them and their families.  I can be thankful that my husband and I are able to eat inside our favorite restaurants again, be grateful that today’s storms didn’t cause any damage in our area, and thrilled that one of my favorite shelter dogs was finally adopted.

Yes, the little things do count, and they do have a very real effect on our moods.  But the good news is that the positive little things add up just as quickly as the negative ones, and they produce a much, much better result.  And the choice of which little things we pay attention to is ours……

Sweet Dreams

IMG_1065Sometimes it’s hard to be a dog.  I mean, I know I mostly live a good life:  I’ve got a nice home with  a loving human family, a big yard, and my very own basket of dog toys.  But I can’t help but noticing that at my house, there are certain glaring inequities between the lifestyles of those who walk around on two feet and those of us who walk around on four paws.

I’ve written before about the fact that humans get to use an indoor bathroom, whereas I am forced to potty outside, no matter what the weather.  It seems especially unfair when it raining or storming, since those are very scary situations and all I want to do is hide inside and hope that I live to see another day.  And don’t get me started on the perils of icy porch steps or searching in vain for a spot in the yard that isn’t covered in snow or sleet so I can finally do my business.

But the biggest discrepancy (and the one I find hardest to accept) occurs at mealtime.  My parents eat three meals a day, plus snacks.  Sometimes they eat out at restaurants, bringing home the leftovers, and other times Mom cooks.  My favorite dog bed is in the kitchen, so I’m right there while she’s cooking (or reheating) and the delicious aromas just make my mouth water!  When the meal is finally ready, I prance around the kitchen, wagging my tail and in general letting them know just how happy I’d be if they fix a plate for me, but does that ever happen?  No, it does not.

IMG_1527Mom and Dad might feast on a huge variety of meats, pastas, vegetables, fruits and breads, but do you know what I get served?  Dry dog kibble, that’s what.  Twice a day, every day.  Yes I know that there are plenty of starving dogs in the world who would happily make do with kibble, but do you have any idea how hard it is to see and smell so many tasty foods, day in and day out, and never get offered more than one tiny morsel of it?  Trust me, it’s enough to drive a dog crazy!

I’ve tried to let my parents know how I feel.  When they’re eating, I sit right next to them and stare at them imploringly, whining a little now and then to drive my point home.  All that gets me is the aforementioned tiny morsel, and that’s after they’ve cleaned their plates.  I even tried ignoring my kibble in the hopes that they’d serve me something better, but Mom just said that a hunger strike would do my waistline a world of good.  (Body shaming may be a no-no for humans, but clearly it’s still acceptable for us dogs….yet another inequity.)

Don’t get me wrong, I really love my parents.  And I know they think they’re doing the right thing by feeding me the dry dog food.  But that doesn’t stop me from hoping that they’ll eventually figure out that what I really want is to eat the same food they do, served in very generous portions.   A dog can dream…..

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!

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……

Just Be There

We’ve had a rough couple of weeks in our household, and things are just now returning to normal.  Once again, my husband had a surgery that went well and a recovery that didn’t.  Honestly, he’s spent so much time in a hospital lately that I seriously considered hauling in his favorite recliner chair and repainting the walls of the room his favorite color.  I figured if he had to be stuck for so long in a hospital room, we may as well make it nice.  Luckily, he was released before I gave in to the urge to redecorate his surroundings and now he’s back home where he belongs.

I’ve always found that when difficult times arrive, I spend all my time and energy just coping, and don’t really “process” what’s happened until later. But now that things have finally calmed down, I find myself looking back over the past few weeks and realizing one very important thing:  there is no way in the world I would have managed without the amazing support of so many caring people.

Hospitals have always been scary places for me (I tend to faint at the sight of blood), but I found out they’re even scarier when the patient is your loved one and and they aren’t doing so well.  And you know what helped me deal with that fear?  The nursing staff who were unfailingly cheerful and attentive, and who always took the time to reassure me when I needed it.  Being an advocate for a patient in a hospital is exhausting, both physically and emotionally, but seeing how good the nurses were at caring for my husband made it so much easier to bear.

I’m also incredibly thankful for the many friends and relatives who took the time to call and text, keeping track of my husband’s progress and offering nonstop encouragement and support.  There were times when those texts were the lifeline I needed to stay (or at least try to appear) calm and strong, and other times when they  provided relief from the boredom of sitting in a hospital room day after day, or gave me a much-needed laugh.  Friends and family are gifts, and you never realize just how much of a gift until you’re in a tough spot and they’re right there with you every step of the way.

It was also a gift to see so many people reaching out to my husband in his time of need.  He had more people praying for him than I could possibly count.  Cards arrived almost daily, some from college friends he hasn’t seen in decades, and all of them helped raise his spirits.  One of his old friends sent him personalized copies of the books he’d written about his own battle with cancer, and the tips for staying positive helped enormously.  Frankly, my husband isn’t usually much for reading, but he not only read those books, he took one of them with him when he was readmitted to the hospital and read from it daily.

This post is more personal than what I usually write, and I hope I haven’t overdone the detail.  But the reason I’m sharing it is simple.  The next time someone you know is going through a tough time, please reach out and offer them your support.  Don’t let fear of intruding or “being a pest” stop you.  Because even if they don’t have time to acknowledge it or respond to you, your care and concern will mean the world to them.  Trust me, it really will.