Posted in Anxiety and Depression, Blogging, Children, Identity, Life, NaNoWriMo, Organization, Pediatric Feeding Disorder, Pets, Writing

2020 Was Lame, but NOT the Worst Year

Welp, it’s time for the annual “Oh hey it’s January!” blog post, which makes up probably three quarters of this blog since I started it. πŸ™„

It’s been trendy since January 2nd of 2020 to bemoan what a horrible year it is / going to be / has been. In many ways, it has been a stinker of a year, full of all sorts of mayhem and dumbassery, perhaps more than most years. But . . . This year has actually yielded some major blessings that I would not have taken advantage of, grabbed onto, or even noticed for what they were if everything hadn’t been thrown completely off-kilter.

I do feel like I’ve gone through at least ten different personality changes over the course of the last ten months. It’s been a weird mental journey, and I’m still not exactly sure where it’s going to end [Narrator: “Little did she know, it would NEVER END.”], but where I am is certainly different than where I was earlier this year.

Like, seriously, I can’t really figure out where my brain was two posts ago. I was feeling incredibly vulnerable, but also too outspoken (even though I didn’t say anything). “Now” Me doesn’t really recognize “Turn Off Comments” Me. I do recognize that I went through some kind of state of wanting to talk into a vacuum or scream into a void — while never being able to materialize any words on what I was thinking, and also being afraid of releasing anything that did materialize into the ether where it could be . . . what, criticized? Noticed? Read? What the heck do I have a blog for, again?

(FOR THE RECORD, I kind of want to go back and shake that version of me and explain that it was stupid. But I wouldn’t have been able to see that back then, because I hadn’t yet made the transition into this mindset I’m in now. All versions of me are very good at making things awkward, but Fragile Me has gone through some toughening up since August. The moth has emerged from the cocoon. Well, mostly. Anyway, ignore that dumb post where I was out of my mind. Comments are staying on.)

This year has presented some great challenges; things I didn’t really want to have to deal with, but did because I had no choice. Some of them were choices I could have put off, but my life has improved since making the choice to not put them off. Some choices were scary as all hell . . . but I am so glad I made them that I can barely contain my gratitude for what I now consider were blessings that had to be revealed at the Right Time.

That was convoluted. Let me be more specific . . .

THE OBVIOUS:

  1. We’re saving money on gas and bridge tolls. This extra money allowed us to give more charitably, but also afford groceries for two adults being home all the time, when up until February it had been mostly me at home, and not always that often. It also helped us pay off debt accrued in October 2019, when we had a bunch of expenses and the fear that we wouldn’t have a paycheck if they messed up my husband’s orders again.
  2. We sold an old, less-functional car and bought a far more practical vehicle for our family. Yes, more debt, but absolutely worth it. And now we are in a financial place where we can afford it.
  3. KITTENS! (Duh πŸ˜†) The fact that we’re home far more often now makes it possible to care for pets, and they have done wonders for my mental health. Also challenged it, because one of them developed pneumonia a few weeks after we adopted them, and has only JUST been given a clean bill of health — and, once again, we were fortunate to be able to afford the vet bills. We couldn’t have last year.
  4. We took the time to have a large chunk of garage storage hauled away. It’s only a fraction of what we need to get rid of, but it was going to be very hard to do it all by ourselves (mostly baby and little-kid stuff, as well as old, sentimental junk that I couldn’t just take to the dump). Paying someone else to do something with it was absolutely worth every penny — and I’m going to do it again.
  5. We replaced our water heater. It has been ailing for at least two years, but we just didn’t have time (or money) to deal with it. It was stupidly expensive (financial challenge), but now I can take hot baths again, which is a decent replacement for not being able to go to the sauna at the YMCA (we canceled our membership — more money in our pocket, I suppose, even if it means we’re back on our own for exercise motivation). This also works wonders for my mental health, and sore muscles. I’m loving it! Glad we didn’t put it off further! (Side note: This house was built in at least 2009. When the water heater guys came to install the new one, they told us our old water heater had been built in 1992 (!!!). I was 31 when the house was built, and 14 when the water heater was built. It was probably what my husband called “new old stock”, but WOW. I feel much better knowing that both the water heater and expansion tank have been replaced sooner rather than later.)

THE NOT-AS-OBVIOUS:

  1. Because so many people were staying at home and cancelling their medical appointments (and, sadly, probably losing their medical insurance; or, less sadly, moving out of this crazy state), two slots opened up this Fall with the speech therapist I wanted at the clinic where the boys had occupational and physical therapy. It does mean I’m driving 40-something miles round-trip twice a week to take them to their appointments, but it also means they are actually improving with the help of the right therapy, and we have a great advocate for the boys’ medical issues, if we have to see other specialists (N just had an endoscopy done — upper GI — and bloodwork, and will have an allergy test done later this month, because we think he may be very allergic to nuts). I didn’t have that before, and was afraid to pursue testing for either of the boys, because doctors don’t exactly know what Pediatric Feeding Disorder is, much less how to treat it.
  2. I deleted my NaNoWriMo account in October, and will only be participating in the future on a personal level, with close friends. I wasn’t thrilled with the confusing updates to their website, which shaved off several years of my participation history, anyway — among other issues I was having. I’ve gotten to a point in my life where I don’t really need that community, because I’ve got one of my own. It was actually kind of a quick decision, once I decided to do it, and I haven’t been unhappy with my choice at all.
  3. While I’m still heavily involved with the local symphony association, I quit the chorale (choir 1) in early September. I already had too many Zoom meetings for the symphony, and the “rehearsals” I was attending for a community choral ensemble (choir 2, same director) were just about all the virtual “rehearsing” I could stomach for the week. It wasn’t fun and it wasn’t helpful or edifying. I also didn’t want to subject myself to having to sit through the dominant conversations during the “social” time, which was not only not social, but a major waste of my own time, and also caused nothing but stress and frustration. I’ll go into that in a little bit.
  4. In mid-November, after 10 years of participation, I quit the ladies choral ensemble (choir 2). This is a big one — a major blessing in disguise that I would never have recognized for what it was without being forced to take a break. I’ll also go into that shortly.

A little inner voice I’m prone to ignore had been nagging me for some time for a break, or a rearranging of priorities. I really needed to stop being so busy with my activities and focus on the boys more. That seems obvious, but when things are moving at a constant pace, it’s hard to find the point where you can break away from them — especially if you’re committed, and it’s the thing you get to do away from home that is kind of adventurous and challenging, and even athletic.

I was extremely resentful of these lockdowns for putting the brakes on everything. I wanted a break, but I wanted to make the choice — I didn’t want to be forced into it. However, if I’d been honest with myself, I would have been able to recognize that nothing short of forcing me to take a break was going to make me take a break. I’m still resentful of the lockdowns, but no longer for that reason. πŸ™‚ I am still upset that, despite the extra time with my family, I can’t make my normal escapes, because everything is stupid right now. This is another reason I’m glad we replaced the water heater. Drinking tea or wine while soaking in a hot bath behind a closed door makes me far less hateful of everything if it’s too cold and dark outside to sit in my hammock in the sun.

ANYway . . . In the before-times, as much as I loved singing and being a part of a team and blending my voice with others and performing — and all the things that came along with being a part of two choirs with very different repertoire — I was beginning to chafe. I won’t go into much detail on exactly why, but suffice it to say that I was definitely needing a change. I would have disavowed this on the basis that I was just tired and had a bad attitude sometimes, and eventually I would get over myself and be a better team-player — but that wasn’t the true problem.

After the lockdowns, when I learned that the chorale would still be “rehearsing” over Zoom, I stressed a little before notifying my director that I would no longer be attending. I was 99% convinced she would understand, knowing that I had a lot on my plate with the changes the Symphony was trying to make to the subscription model in order to keep the doors open while live performing arts were essentially being crushed to dust (she was in the same meetings I was), and that I was still choosing to stay in her smaller ensemble, despite the challenge of “rehearsing” over Zoom. What I didn’t tell her was that I loathed the idea of being forced to socialize with those who would dominate all conversation (read: listen to people talk about politics while I’m attempting to maintain a neutral expression), and not ever be able to talk about what I wanted to talk about, because my beliefs are not exactly tolerated by the status quo. There were only a handful of people I socialized with at rehearsal, anyway, and none of them were outspoken in the virtual format, either. Not to mention, when I rehearse with a choir, I rehearse with a group. Rehearsing by myself over Zoom (because you can’t sing as a group over Zoom) is neither something I want nor something I need — and especially something I should not be forced to do. I have means of learning music that does not require trying to hear the accompanist through my computer speakers while singing by myself. It had been frustrating enough sitting in the rehearsal hall late on a Tuesday night (or several nights the week before a concert), twiddling my thumbs while the director spent 45 minutes helping the men learn their parts, when they really should have picked up that information in sectionals. I could not subject myself to that over Zoom.

As time marched on, however, it became very clear to me that I just could no longer participate in any virtual “rehearsal” — pretending that we were still a choir, being reminded every week how “dangerous” it is to do anything outside our own houses (I’m sorry if you also subscribe to that narrative — I will not be responding to or even approving comments telling me why I’m wrong), and trying to learn songs in the most tedious way possible. It was frustrating, soul-sucking, not at all self-improving or group-edifying. Not to mention, we were trying to break into the “virtual choir” video world, and, honestly, we were rushing it. Few of the members (in either choir, actually) are either capable of that kind of solo work, or even technologically equipped. On top of that, I resented being forced to languish through a “rehearsal” that wasn’t helping me learn anything just so I could participate in stressful, rushed video performances that just weren’t in our bailiwick. But it was being made mandatory that we attend all the virtual “rehearsals” in order to participate in the videos.

No. I had to draw the line. If I wanted to do solo work, I would do it independently. If I want to be in a choir, I want to rehearse as a choir. There are some members who do benefit from that kind of rehearsal, but I’m not one of them. Unfortunately, even after voicing these concerns — and not being the only one who held them — participation in “rehearsals” was still going to be mandatory, even if the director did back down from further video production goals.

Additionally, I was looking at a very stressful few months, outside of choir participation, and the thought of scrambling to get home after church in order to spend two hours in an activity I was growing to hate was NOT how I wanted to spend my Sundays. But it’s hard to say “this is demoralizing and I hate it” to a group you do love, and into whom you’ve poured a lot of time and effort over the course of a decade.

I had heart palpitations for days before and after. I almost went to the ER, because I was afraid the stress was doing damage, and I was going to have freed myself from it just to go die of apoplexy.

But then I didn’t die. And, to be 100% honest, I’m intensely grateful to have finally given up my choir commitments. I get my Sundays back! No more taking the boys to my parents and picking them up late on Tuesday nights while my husband is gone! No more driving back and forth in the dark and rain to spend maybe 30 minutes of 2 hours actually rehearsing! I can get sick during concert season and it won’t matter! No dragging my sick butt to rehearsals, either (not that that will happen anymore, I bet), to sit in the back and not miss any important notes, or dragging my poor kids to rehearsals when I can get babysitters (especially when we’re all sick)! No more busy summers full of rehearsals and concerts leading up to a weekend retreat that takes place less than a month before the next season begins, because we couldn’t do it early enough to get two months off! No more— Um, I need to stop, or I’m going to get into the more personal reasons for leaving, and those don’t need to be publicly aired. Not right now, anyway.

Will I miss it? Sure! But not as much as I’m going to enjoy not having to do all that AND homeschool my kids, pay closer attention to their therapy, teach a homeschool co-op class, get my house under control, take care of two cats, and be mom and dad while my husband travels. Since we have so much newfound time at home, I can build up my editing business if I want to, and even start writing again. I sculpt clay now, and I want to improve my sewing skills. I also want to host a podcast, do radio plays with the boys, and maybe create my own music recordings. It’s time for a change, and it appears this is the time the change will happen.

I’ve never chosen a word for the year, though I know several who have (or several homeschool parents who choose a word for their homeschool year). I’m not that fancy. I usually go with the traditional half-assed resolutions that I give up on halfway through January. But, this year, a word got stuck in my brain, and it’s practically surrounded by flashing lights and filled with glitter, and pretty much impossible to ignore — so I guess I do have a word for the year: CREATE.

I can create new crafts, new words and stories, new ideas; I can create space in my house by decluttering; I can create ways of helping the boys learn, and make time for school, fun, and adventure; and I can create a better routine that will bring us closer to God and each other. No sweat, right? πŸ˜‰

Go count your blessings, and have a great 2021!

Posted in Anxiety and Depression, Life, Pets

Pandemic Pets

In March of 2019, our old, evil cat, Ember (my Kittyface McGrouchypants), finally passed on after a fairly quick decline. We had a feeling the writing was on the wall when she started having trouble jumping up even half a foot to get on the bed or use the litterbox properly (she did try, at least), but she finally reached a point where she couldn’t lie down without help, could barely get up without help, eventually had to be confined to a bathroom with her litterbox, and was just so old and miserable that we couldn’t let her continue like that. So we took her to the vet for her last appointment, and she was off to reign Kitty Hell for all eternity as their new queen… (We joke, but she was my cuddly cat for 18 and a half years, and I did kind of miss her. Kind of. She made our lives somewhat hellish in the end, but nevertheless interesting. She’d always hated the kids, and really anything else that wasn’t me or string cheese. We probably weren’t as sad as we would have been if she’d died more tragically or younger.)

In August of 2019, we put down our 12(ish) year old Golden Retriever, because the writing was on the wall for her, as well, and we could not put her through the next few months of prolonged pain and suffering in order to just keep her alive out of obligation and guilt. She was beginning to have trouble going up and down the stairs; struggled to get up after laying down for hours, waiting for us to get home, on a hard floor because she was incontinent and we couldn’t keep her anywhere else in the house but barricaded near the door downstairs; had constant UTIs and ear infections, despite all the antibiotics (and mitigating tactics to keep down yeast overgrowth); and, finally, a panel of scans and bloodwork came back looking dire (and needing more expensive scans to diagnose what looked very much like something fatal, before even more expensive therapeutics to slow down what was going to kill her eventually, anyway). We were about to hit a point in my husband’s career that might have made it difficult to pay for vet bills, and we were going to be gone from the house for long periods of time in the following months. If she lost the use of her legs, I wasn’t going to be able to get her in and out of the house while my husband was gone, and she was going to spend more and more time alone on a hard floor, because we couldn’t trust her on carpet. Besides that, if she stopped being able to go up and down stairs, she’d have to live downstairs, away from everyone, and that was just not the quality of life we wanted for her. We just had to make a decision that is hard to make for a pet, but in the end is the best decision for them.

The next few months were the first time my husband and I had been pet-free since early marriage (we’d only been married four months when we got Ember). It was…liberating, to say the least. We didn’t think we wanted pets for awhile, especially since we didn’t know what the future held for us, job- or location-wise, and if my husband was frequently TDY for work or school and the kids and I had a lot to do outside the house, it just made sense to not get more animals that needed time and attention we might not be able to give them.

Then the lockdowns hit, and we were ALL home, ALL the time. My husband was suddenly working from home. Everything we were supposed to do outside the house was cancelled. Anxiety grew, Suddenly, I s[]tarted craving animals — walking in areas of my rural “neighborhood” (outside my housing mnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[

(No no! Too early! I’m not ready to introduce you yet! GET AWAY FROM MY COFFEE!!)

Ahem, AS I WAS SAYING…

Anxiety grew, emotional flooding became more frequent, and if I managed to get outside for a walk (the only form of exercise I had access to or space for at the time), I would hope that by visiting other housing developments in my area, maybe there would be some dogs that would come out and say hi and let me pet them, or walkers who didn’t mind me petting their furry companions (of the four-legged variety — lord knows there are a lot of shaggy, unshaven humans out right now, too). My kids and husband might have been getting pretty fuzzy, with no opportunities for haircuts, but they didn’t exactly purr when I tried to hug them (especially my youngest, who makes dodging affection a competitive sport).

So we started talking about getting a dog, and maybe a cat. Or a cat, and maybe a dog. Or a couple of cats, and eventually a dog. Cats would be simpler, we figured, because trying to get our yard laid out with a fence and landscaping was something that was going to take more time, and we wanted something sooner than that. So we looked through the adoption websites, waffled a bit, then finally made the decision to actively look for a pair of cats to adopt.

I’d found a couple on one site that were from a local Humane Society (nearer our hometown than the town we live in now, maybe 30 minutes away), but that particular Humane Society branch had the WORST Covid-avoidance schedule, to the point where we could be waiting months to meet any cats at all, and by that time, there wouldn’t be any left that we’d looked at online, let alone any kittens. They want you to check their appointment calendar (could differ, depending on the kind of animal you wanted to see — so you couldn’t even make an appointment to see all the animals) right after midnight on the day that is two days from the day you’d like to make an appointment, to see if any slots had opened. If the month was full, you would have to do this every day to get anything that month, because otherwise the calendar looked completely full. This was an unsustainable search for me, so I abandoned it, especially after the one cat I really wanted to meet was marked as adopted before I could even check the scheduler after midnight that day. They have a ton of cats for adoption listed on Petfinder and Adopt-a-Pet, but I had to scroll past them all while searching, because I couldn’t put myself through that kind of Sisyphean torture every day.

My husband had been TDY to teach a class for two five-day sessions, but had agreed before he left that we could look into any cats I thought were interesting or worth meeting while he was gone. After that Humane Society cat hadn’t worked out, I decided to wait till he was done with that TDY, so we could all visit any potentials together. The Saturday morning after he got back from the final session, I called a local PetSmart to see if they had any animals we could view that day or that weekend (because not a single one of these stores post their policies for meeting any adoptable animals, and each store is different πŸ™„). They listed four cats, two of which were a pair of bonded female kittens — exactly what we were looking for. I tried to make an appointment to see the kittens, but apparently there was an adoption pending for them. They said they could put us on a waitlist, though, and call us if the adoption fell through. I said okay, expecting that those weren’t an option anymore. So I looked up another PetSmart that had a different viewing policy, about 20 minutes and a toll bridge away, and we all took a field trip to go see those kittens.

We didn’t get to that other PetSmart soon enough — all the kittens they had there were going to be adopted by the time we got to them, since we were about fourth in line and there were maybe two left that weren’t already pending. So we abandoned that idea and went back home. I was surprised by how sad I was for the rest of the day, even while I was kind of relieved — because were we really ready for kittens? Or cats? Or pets of any kind?

The next day, I had a total brain fritz. I mistakenly thought that, if the first PetSmart I’d tried to make an appointment with hadn’t called me by the time slot they gave me, we could still arrive for the appointment and view the other cats — maybe…if they were still there. I’d managed to locate the other cats they’d listed (young adults, maybe three years old), which were sheltered with a different local Humane Society, in a different county but actually closer than the one our hometown (maybe 10 minutes and a toll bridge away). Their appointment policies were far less stringent and unrealistic, so I thought that at least maybe we could get some information about them — either from PetSmart or any representatives they had there — in order to try out that shelter next (they didn’t describe their cats at all, other than age and how long they’d been at the shelter, so it was difficult to see whether the cats we were looking from there might get along with other cats, people, dogs, etc).

So we showed up at PetSmart at 1pm Sunday afternoon. They were short-staffed — as everyone is right now — and were kind of unsettled that we’d shown up when we didn’t actually have an appointment, after all, because we were on the waitlist. OOPS. My bad!

BUT! They did let us see the kittens, anyway, mainly because the adoption pending for them had been pending for some time, and we’d shown up just after things had calmed enough that their adoption-room person was free to help us out. I was totally thrilled — even if we didn’t get to adopt those kittens, getting to hold them for a bit would fill my cup for a little while. We were even allowed to fill out an application for them, in case the other adoption didn’t go through, and the gal said the owner of the shelter (a kitten rescue in yet a different county, kinda nearby) would call us if our application was accepted.

That night, the shelter owner did in fact call me, SO glad we went in that day to see the kittens — because she was literally about to go pick them up and take them back to the shelter, since they’d been at PetSmart for nine days already (I guess there was some time in there when they had to keep the kittens out of the normal adoption area, because one of them sneezed, and they needed to be kept under observation for a little while — or so I understand it). The shelter owner then asked the important screening questions they have for adopters: do you plan to keep them indoors, and are you okay with having two litterboxes in your house for the next 15-20 years (because they will be indoors)? Of course my answer was a resounding YES, because I do not want an indoor/outdoor cat and all the fun that comes along with that (worse than having two litterboxes in my house, honestly). Then she said that her liaison at PetSmart (she referenced him as a male, but we didn’t speak with any male employees, overt or otherwise, so we must have been surreptitiously observed by him somehow) had called her earlier that day, while she was on her way back from the eastern side of the state, to tell her we were the perfect couple for the kittens, with perfect kids — like, he was totally impressed with our children, especially. This, of course, warms my mother-heart, because we really did luck out in the kid department, even with all the food issues. πŸ™‚

What a happy accident! We weren’t supposed to go in that day, but because of my mistake, they found the right applicants!

Anyway, we were advised to call PetSmart for the earliest possible time to do the rest of the paperwork, pay the adoption fees, and pick up the babies. I did that as soon as I hung up with her, and we made an appointment to pick them up the following day — Monday, at 5:30pm. That gave me time to find some supplies and clear out some space for the old, wire dog crate that we would keep them in at first and at night, until they got used to the house and we got used to them getting used to the house (the baby gate in front of the stairs lasted all of two days, before they were jumping it and escaping to the uncharted jungle that is our downstairs).

And now we have two of the most adorable, sweetest, relatively mellow kitty sisters, who don’t hate children and are just the best emotional therapy ever! This is good, as the days I can spend out in the sunshine are numbered, and the daylight hours are getting shorter every week. This winter could be rough if we’re still dealing with lockdowns and face-shaming, but I suppose it will be less hectic, since almost everything we used to be involved with is either postponed or cancelled. More time to spend with purry furballs, I guess!

As you could see earlier, they are very curious about the computer, and like to walk on the keys and drink my coffee if I leave my desk. But they are super snuggly and purry and funny, and the best decision we’ve made this year. πŸ™‚

Meet Nelly and Nova! (Those are the names they had at the shelter, and we liked them so we didn’t bother to change them.)

Nelly wants the camera
Nova’s widdle cheetah face and tiny paw.
Nova steps on Nelly’s face — “Get out of my close-up, sis!”
Nelly sleeping like a jungle cat
Purring in stereo earlier this morning, while I gave up any hope of doing anything two-handed for the next half-hour. Nova is behind me and I’m holding Nelly. This is bliss.

(Comments open on this post, because, well, KITTENS.)

Posted in ADD, ADHD, and EFD, Anxiety and Depression, Life, Organization, Pets

This Has Been a Wild Year

I wish I could say that I got a lot accomplished, but I honestly feel like I’ve been dodging meteors for months. Maybe a few got me. I’m not sure. I should check for missing parts.

It hasn’t been a bad year, mind, just one of adjustment. Either I’ve been more aware of my ADD issues, or they’ve just become more prominent. Depression and anxiety have remained about the same, but my determination to power on through them (when I can, anyway) has strengthened a bit. It’s gotten busier, but maybe it’s not so much busy as the activities are just spread out more?

I’ve been parenting by myself for the majority of this year, I think, and 2020 will be no different. Well, maybe it will be different but I’m not going to expect it to be. The first half will definitely be mostly me. This is also not a bad thing, per se, just an extra level of busy to integrate into daily life. The boys are getting old enough that I can leave them home alone for an hour or so while I go to the store, but anything else requires a 20-minute (or so) drive to either a sitter or my parents’ house, as well as a pickup time that is 20 minutes PLUS however long it takes to get out the door. Also not a bad thing, but exhausting when it’s a week of late nights. And I miss my husband while he’s gone. It’s probably not entirely a good thing that I’m kind of used to him being away, but it’s not like I can really do anything about it. Our marriage is strong and it’s not really putting a strain on our relationship. There is an adjustment period when he comes home, but we get through it.

It’s amazing what one can adapt to, given the need. I might not like the need, but I have no power over it, so I must accept it and adapt. And keep a sense of humor — if I don’t laugh, I cry. And I hate crying.

Speaking of crying, I’ve discovered that my grieving process is…not normal. I shed a few tears, and then I’m done. But inside, I’m working to make sense of the death. If it’s a death that makes sense (old age, long-term illness, explainable medical condition), I can accept it. I will still miss the person and feel sadness, but I don’t shed tears anymore. This year’s deaths:

  • My cat, (put down) in March: old age, loss of function
  • My dog, (put down) in August: old age, potential cancer
  • My next-door neighbor (the one we called “Grammy”), in October: very sudden brain aneurysm — this one is still painful
  • A guy I’ve known online for almost two decades, with whom I’ve played Words With Friends for the past few years, in November: long fight with ALS
  • A woman who worked at a church and watch all the kids while moms attended a Bible study, December: long fight with breast cancer
  • My mom’s cousin, who sent us old family pictures and silly emails, December: old age, natural causes

This list doesn’t include a couple suicides I heard about from previous acquaintances. Neither does it take into account the anniversaries of friends we lost last year. In this regard, it’s been tough.

But good things have happened, too: I’ve lost some weight and inches for the first time in ages, and been going to a Pilates class semi-regularly (when the boys have PE at the Y); I’ve learned how to edit video while being a part of a YouTube writing group; I have a bow, arrows, and a target and can start practicing in my backyard now (left-handed, even! I’m a better shot with a left-handed riser); I started teaching choir for a homeschool co-op; I had two solos in our Symphony Christmas concert (I’m not happy with them, but everyone else seemed to think they were great so I’ll take their word for it πŸ˜‰ ); I’ve helped develop a logo and tagline for our Symphony, as well as started writing press releases and proofing marketing materials; and I’ve been editing for actual money, which is just about as close to a dream job as I’ve ever gotten.

Conversely, my house hasn’t gotten any cleaner (except for a drastic reduction in pet hair); my kids still have too much video-game time and not enough school (but they’re still whip-smart, amazing little men); we’re really bad at therapy homework (but the boys do, at least, like their therapists); and I suck at wrangling and being super-proactive about insurance issues (not that I can really have much impact when the errors lie in a realm even the representatives can’t access — though I could have started the alternate-insurance process much sooner and made more progress before the holidays… It’s such a long story); I’m tired all the time, and have had trouble getting up before 7:30 or 8am, which sets me waaay back (I’ve just ordered a sunrise alarm clock and a therapy light to help combat this); and sometimes I feel terrified of being put in charge of anything (even my own children), for fear I’m going to screw it all up and disappoint everyone around me.

So, as you can see, this year has been something else. I’ve grown, I think, amidst the chaos. But now my brain is finally shutting off. I really should go to sleep now, so I can get up earlier than 7am. I guess I ought to set an alarm, too…

Anyway, I hope 2020 is short on deaths, but long on growth. If I make any resolutions, I might post them. One of them is to blog more in 2020. But I think I’ve been recycling that one for years. Oh well! Maybe this is the year I actually achieve it? πŸ˜‰

Happy New Year, everyone!

Posted in Children, Mommyhood, Pets

Meet Ladybug!

A long time ago, when we first bought this house, we had intended to adopt from some friends a sweet, well-behaved, loving, and calm Pembroke Corgi, who really needed to be an only dog in a home full of people who will pay oodles of attention to her all day long. My boys could be up to that challenge, boy howdy. We were getting ready to prepare to bring her home after our second child was born.

However, before that happened, we got a call from our friends to let us know that they just discovered this beautiful, sweet dog had lymphoma, and not long to live. 😦

She had to be put down a few months later. I wasn’t extremely heartbroken, because she hadn’t been ours yet. I hadn’t seen her (or our friends) much in months. Life just kind of got in the way. Perhaps providence. I don’t know. But I really wasn’t sure how we would ever find another perfect dog like her for us.

Fast forward a year or so: I left my boys with some friends from church one evening while I was at a choir practice, and when I went to pick them up, I met our friends’ newly adopted Golden Retriever. She was about a year old, a little timid, but sweet as could be and the perfect energy level for my boys (which meant too much for me!). My friends mentioned that another set of friends from church, who are getting ready for a big cross-country move, were trying to find a home for their older Golden, because they just didn’t think the move would be good for her.

I kind of wonder if God put a few of these Golden Retriever owners in my life at this time to get me ready for this new addition to our family, because Ladybug would be the fourth Golden Retriever (maybe fifth, if I count an older one who died a few months back, who belonged to the people who just adopted the one-year-old) I would encounter in a few months’ time. One of my friends owns two Goldens, that are her ninth and tenth in her adult life, and tells me there is no better breed, especially for raising boys. She said she couldn’t have raised her three boys without her Goldens.

I thought about it. At first, I didn’t want to promise anything. I wasn’t sure I could be a big-dog owner. I’d tried before, and I couldn’t handle it. I was sure I would need something with big-dog attitude, but of a controllable size (like a Corgi; I really wanted a Corgi). Well, in truth, the big dog I’d tried before was not a dog I had any business trying to own and train myself. He needed special keeping, and I was definitely not a good match for him. Bringing him back to the shelter was not, on the face of it, my proudest moment, but looking back, it was a very smart move on my part. He was aggressive and too energetic. At this point in my life, I KNOW I could not have handled him, especially since I found out five days after bringing him back to the shelter that I was pregnant with our first child.

Since then, I’ve researched Corgis. I’ve looked up adoptable older or senior female dogs who just need a loving family and a good home to spend the rest of their days. But I didn’t know if I could do it. We don’t really have a good yard set-up (yet) for a dog, nor a fence. We could adopt a sweet dog, but if she was a runner, we would be forced to stay outside with her the whole time she was going potty, rain or shine. And what if she wasn’t good with cats, or children? Most petfinder sites are good at screening those, but I found my first dog through them, and they did NOT have the full scoop on Maxie. I just wasn’t sure whether to trust them.

Enter my friends from church. Suddenly, they have to find a home for their dog in a matter of weeks, and here I am, wondering if I was going to make a big mistake by asking them about it. Was I setting myself up for heartbreak? Failure? Future bad behavior from my cat, who still resents the fact that we brought children into her territory? (She’s not aggressive, just irritable.)

I talked to my friend, then agreed to meet with her and Ladybug at a local park, so we can see how she handles the kids, the strangers (both men and women), strange dogs, etc. Fortunately, all those things were present! A family brought their dog, which was the same size as Ladybug, and sat not far from us. The dog was off-leash and came to say hi to Ladybug at one point, and Ladybug, though a bit stressed, did not react at all. She did not react to men coming to talk to her. She did not jump on my boys or lick their faces. She was pretty much perfect, and I couldn’t help but feel that she would do just fine with us.

She is six years old, has gorgeous curly hair on her chest and hindquarters, the sweetest brown eyes, and such an immensely loving disposition that transfer to our house was nearly seamless. I say “nearly”, because she does have an issue with submissive urination. After a couple days of cleaning up messes because she didn’t want to go do what I wanted her to do, and didn’t like it when I approached her to correct her, we’re starting from the beginning with some crate training (to get her comfortable with smells and sounds, and so she’ll realize that she mustn’t mess the crate, since that is where she will be spending a lot of time), then we’ll work up to “who’s the boss” (roped to me all day, following me around while I do daily stuff, learning sit-stays and down-stays), and hopefully we can get her more confident around us so that she won’t feel like she needs to wet herself, her bed, the floor, her crate, or anything else because she feels threatened or timid.

Tonight was great, because we all went for a walk, and it only took a quarter or a third of the walk to get her used to my walking rules (walk next to me, behind my husband (for today); don’t pull; sit when I tell you (she’s kind of hard-headed about that one sometimes); and stay till I tell you (that one, too)). By the end, she was barely pulling on the leash, and I could hold it loosely looped in one hand while she walked next to me and Sweetie. She even mostly ignored the boys when they turned around in the stroller to call her. Such a smart girl! πŸ™‚

She is still getting used to a potty schedule, but as far as I know she has had no more accidents in the house after Friday morning, when I decided we’d go back to crate training for a while. She’s been a good listener, has let me clip her toenails without complaint (or peeing!), put in her ear medicine in (she’s fighting yeast infections, which should hopefully clear up soon), and has been happy to play ball in the yard with the kids. She hasn’t barked but once. She would rather be by my side or chasing a ball — and bringing it back — than running off into the sunset. And she’s a calm car-rider.

But the best thing about this dog? I’m not a total big-dog failure! And she’s so dependent on our love and companionship that I feel like I can actually be a good leader for her. She’s helping me be a bit calmer toward the boys, especially since loud noises freak her out a bit. πŸ™‚ AND I’m getting the house cleaned. Slowly, but she’s good motivation. πŸ™‚

I’m really glad we could help our friends out, because they were so worried about finding a family for her, especially if it would have to be strangers. And she is just about as perfect a dog for us as we could ever ask for!

Here she is, lookin’ for love:
Ladybug outside

Pie torturing her:
Ladybug inside