Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Labradoodles are horrible at keeping secrets.

So, it seems that the number one way to deal with a stress fracture is to pout. I've been doing a lot of pouting, and a lot of couch-sitting. And a lot of being super-mature, obviously.

A few days ago, I had just had it. I'd run errands and been to the grocery store, and I was beyond wiped out. Everything is hard when you can't walk normally. Woe, woe to me!

So, I retreated to bed and Netflix. And it was cold. And my husband was out of town. And so I threw a sheet over the bed and hoisted my 80-pound labradoodle up on the bed so that the entire pack could Netflix and chill.

Big Doodle loved it. Looooooved it. He stretched out and sighed repeatedly, signalling that he was finally - finally! - up where he belonged. Cue the song from "An Officer and a Gentleman."

But the thing about Netflix and chill is that it can't last forever. Especially when your husband is on his way home from the airport, exhausted, and hoping to collapse into bed. So, after several hours on the bed, I attempted to convince Big Doodle that it was time to get on his own bed. Off my bed.

This did not go well.

Big Doodle stood up on the bed, circled his wagons, and then flung himself across the bed. If you doubt that a dog can take up an entire queen-sized bed, you are mistaken. Now, not only would My Guy not be able to use the bed, but I wouldn't either. There was only space for Mr. Stretchy, Big Doodle.

I got him up again. He sighed, acted like he was going to get off the bed, and then collapsed with his head on my pillow. He then proceeded to look as pathetic and adorable as possible.
Of course I took a picture.

Finally, I scooted his booty to the edge of the bed, and little by little slid him off the edge. He let out a noise that can best be described as "pissed-off yowling."

I stripped the extra sheet and all its dog hair off the bed and felt pretty pleased with myself. I'd gotten rid of the evidence before My Guy came home! The Doodle-on-Bed would be our little secret.

Except Big Doodle didn't get the memo. For the rest of the night - nay, for the following 3 nights - he worked his way around the bed, resting his chin on the mattress and sighing heavily. Sometimes the sighs were accompanied by a pissed-off sneeze. Other times, a forlorn "Hern" sound. But it was always pathetic.

It took about 3 minutes for My Guy to get fed up with the drama dog and ask, "Why is he doing that? Did you let him on the bed?"

Meeee? Nooooo!

Thursday, January 21, 2016

In which I consider eating glass. As you do.

So, about a hot minute after I was all, "I have a stress fracture and haven't gone to the grocery and now we're going to starve and die unless I go to the grocery and use the motorized cart to give oblivious and rude shoppers tickets?" Yeah. Well, I determined that I had just enough stuff in the house to cook up some tortilla soup.

I was totally Becky Home-Ec-y. I was stretching my grocery dollar. I was being creative with my ingredients on-hand. Sure, the recipe called for an onion that I didn't have. No problem! I'd use a pepper and throw in a little garlic. It would be a taste sensation. I was the best wife on the planet, and a culinary visionary.

While the peppers were simmering on the stove, a stack of cookbooks on top of my fridge collapsed. This sent a very cool antique jar careening across my tiny kitchen.

Miracle of miracles, the jar didn't shatter. Yahoo! Sure, I'd just learned that I had a broken bone in my foot. But that was evidently the extent of my crap quota. I put the jar back on top of the fridge and straightened the books.

You know where this is going.

The books collapsed again. Either I have a poltergeist or I live in an old house where nothing is square. Either way, the books collapsed and the jar flew off the top of the fridge. Again.

Then? Then, the jar didn't shatter. It ... self-obliterated?

The metal lid was left. But there were no large pieces of the jar left. The glass had hit the edge of the stove and exploded into millions of teeny, tiny shards. My kitchen didn't look like a glass had broken. Instead, it looked like I'd dropped a box of glitter.

I wasn't doing the best job of keeping it together anyway, and I have to admit: this broke me.

When My Guy got home about 20 minutes later, he found me vacuuming the kitchen counters and drinking right out of the wine bottle. As you do. Because there was no other way to pick up the glass, and I needed some liquid assistance.

He asked what I was doing. And I may have cried a tiny bit when I explained that it had NOT BEEN A GOOD DAY.

Then, we both stood over the pot of half-started soup. I rested my head against my husband's chest, and we silently stared into the abyss, trying to decide if the soup-to-be was filled with glass shards.

Finally, My Guy said, "That's totally going to kill us. We should order Chinese."

This is adulthood.

And yes, for those keeping track? This wasn't the first time I considered whether or not food filled with shattered glass was edible.

Friday, January 15, 2016

I've taken empathy too far.

The good news? Big Doodle is doing well. He's limping, but it's our new normal, and he's getting around like a boss. Thank you for all of your kind words and support. They have done wonders.

The bad news? I am also limping. Because I have a stress fracture.

What the what?

Yes. Like athletes do. Except I'm not an athlete. I just walk a lot. Except now I'm walking in The Shoe of Awesomeness. You know, just in case someone might have thought for a split second that I was cool.

The podiatrist was really nice and got me in basically the second I called. While I waited in the exam room, I gazed upon a chart of all the bones and tendons and such of the foot, and I realized that I know nothing about feet, despite the fact that I have 2 of them. I was going to have to tell the doctor about my pain via grunts and pointing.

But I guess podiatrists are genies. They're like veterinarians in that they're accustomed to sussing out a problem with minimal input from the patient. I guess when I barked and started panting hard during the exam, he knew that I had a stress fracture above my third toe.

I got to choose between a big ol' boot (DAS BOOT!) and a sleeker shoe. Believe it or not, this is the lesser of 2 evils.
Women be buyin' shoes!
Yes, you'll be seeing this on all the runways during Fashion Week.

I texted My Guy a pic of The Shoe of Awesomeness and an explanation. His response? "You'll just have to sit and look cute for 2 weeks!"

That was pretty adorable. But the joke's on him when he figures out I didn't go to the grocery store. I'm going to sit and be cute and we're both going to starve and die. Or I could just go to the grocery since I am allowed to walk a little - but where's the fun in that? Or maybe I could go to the grocery and drive around in one of the motorized go-karts! And I could put a flashing light on the go-kart and write tickets to people who have zero grocery etiquette and leave their carts in the middle of the aisle and act like they've never been to a store before, ever!

So many possibilities. This Shoe of Awesomeness might really be awesome after all. I'll keep you posted.  

In the meantime, if you need me? I'll be wrapped in an ace bandage, sporting The Shoe of Awesomeness, and rolling my eyes. Oh, and bringing sexy back. Obviously.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Grace.

I'm trying to have it. Grace, I mean. I'm trying to appreciate the every day joys and not worry about the couldas or shouldas.

So it is loving an old dog.

He's had bladder cancer since at least last summer. I've been driving him 40 minutes each way to the holistic vet, sometimes once a week, sometimes every 2 weeks. They all love him, and he gets very excited when he figures out where we're going. He lets them pump him full of all kinds of things, and he is never upset or afraid. He is just his loving, happy self.
"Thank you for choosing to adorn me with a Christmas bow and not a disco elf costume like that of my smaller canine brethren."
But I've been upset and afraid. I'm doing that for both of us, although he'd never ask me to carry that mantle.

At Christmas, I got a call from our beloved dog sitter. Big Doodle was limping. Like, really, really limping. She offered to take him to the emergency vet. "Oh, we'll see how he's doing when we get home tomorrow, don't worry about it," I said.

She wasn't kidding. Our boy wasn't using his back leg at all. Seemed to have no concept that he even had a back leg. Drug it around like it was an almost-forgotten security blanket.

More vet visits and 10 days of the entire family avoiding all stairs in solidarity, he has some use of his leg. Maybe this is the best it will get. Maybe it will get better. It probably won't get worse. But we're starting to really look at his quality of life. We have this privilege and burden.

For his part, Big Doodle is happy, if perhaps a bit bored. He's not in pain. He's not sure why we're not going for walks - I guess he doesn't see the correlation between "I can't walk" and "Why aren't we walking?"

He's sleeping a lot. Like old dogs do. And he is old, even if he never got the memo. He's 11 years young, and still as sweet and spazzy as when I met him almost 7 years ago. His dad and I had a blind date, and agreed to walk dogs to get to know each other. Big Doodle was my charge, and it was instant love. The joke is that I married My Guy because I fell in love with his dog. Like most jokes, it's funny because there's a kernel of truth to it.
"I've always had a way with the ladies."
I know we have done and continue to do everything we can for this sweet dog. But I'm having trouble letting go of the idea of fixing it. After a certain point, there's nothing to fix. It just is. And we've had wonderful bonus time with this fine, fine boy.

But it's hard.

It's hard, and I have trouble getting out of bed in the morning. My legs work just fine, yet it's the guy who's down a paw who has to convince me to get moving.

I'm trying to embrace the grace, to enjoy these days for what they are. To let go of expectations or desires and to be present. To savor what's here.

What's here is a lot of dog pee. And I'm trying to laugh about that. Because maybe I could get a giant squeegee like they use on astroturf. And that would be kind of cool.

But what else is here is a big ol' dog who is happy to be here, who feels just fine and is glad to see us. There are no greater riches.

Friday, January 1, 2016

2015: A Retrospective

It's that magical time of year when I binge on "Best Books of the Year" lists and "Hey, Remember These Folks Who Died" retrospectives. There's just nothing like the week between Christmas and New Year's for media that was lovingly created months ago for this, The Week of No Working.

In that spirit, I should have written this post eons ago, or at least kept notes throughout the year. But no. No, I'm going with the events that are still memorable at the end of the year / beginning of the new year since I couldn't even get this posted remotely on time. Here are the highlights of my 2015:

Greatest adventure: I could say going to the UK or doing a "I'm 40!" fake triathlon. But really, those experiences and those of their ilk have one constant: My Guy. Not to be all sap-o-rama, but marriage is a great adventure. Everything is more fun with him. I try to remember this when I'm trying to figure out where I could hide his body.

Best medical revelation: When I did my annual health assessment for insurance, I learned that I'm on the verge of being a junky. Evidently, all sleep aids automatically put you in the "elevated risk" category for substance abuse. Oh, OK. Today, I use melatonin. Tomorrow? Heroin. Of course.

Most poignant reminder of our frailty and the precariousness of our every day: Oh, my sweet, sweet Big Doodle. We've had our ups and downs this year, and every day I'm thankful for your kind eyes and loving disposition.
"I have cancer? Is that like a rawhide?"
My husband's favorite discovery: Chopping spinach before putting it in a salad. It's easier to eat than those awkward, unwieldy leaves. Direct quote that I am not making up: "Chopped spinach is the greatest development of Q4." Yes, he speaks Corporate.

Best gift idea ever: For my birthday, my family filled a container with little slips of paper, each stating something that one of them loves about me. I ugly cried while reading the slips. It was so humbling. If you need a gift for someone you love, do this. If you need a gift for someone you don't love, don't do this, because it would just be an empty container. Just regift them an empty container and don't mention that it should have love notes in it but you don't love them. You know.

Most joyful movie-going experience: Star Wars. Duh. I felt a thrill at the opening credits and was delighted throughout. It was like being a kid again, but with beer. Because they sell that at theatres now.

Most life-affirming gathering: All of my cousins, aunts and uncles, and various and sundry kid-type people gathered for a family reunion. There were 34 of us, so it was a gigantic undertaking. Huge kudos to my brother who coordinated the event and organized things like photo slide shows, Q&A sessions, and surveys. When my grandma was in her 80s and not in the greatest health, she attended a family reunion and reported, "It was better than any medicine." Now I get it.

Funny, these highlights tend to focus on the people in my world. That's hard for this little introvert to accept, but whatever. As long as we can be together and not, like, actively interact, that's cool.

What were the high points of your 2015?

Monday, December 21, 2015

Why I highly recommend giving slightly outlandish gifts.

Eleven years ago this month, I moved out of the house I'd shared with my boyfriend of 7 years. We broke up, and I was completely broken.

I moved into The Apartment of Despair and everything was just ... wrong. I didn't have any plates that could go in the microwave, so I ate most of my meager meals off the same Pyrex pie plate. Since I suddenly found myself with 2 dogs and no backyard, I tried to navigate walking a psycho dachshund on ice. It did not go well. And my freelance business was ... fledgling at best. I knew it was going to work out, but times were hard.

I got a job working holiday retail, which gave me a reason to leave my apartment. And I tried to figure out how things were going to come together financially. When I decided to leave Ex-Ex, I had exactly $25.35 in my bank account. I'll never forget it. I was so ashamed, and wondered how I had gotten there, both financially and emotionally.

Christmas was to be a pared-down affair. The big gift for the family would be that my brother would fly home from Ireland, where he'd been living. We didn't need any other gifts. I think this was my mom's clandestine way of ensuring that I didn't feel like I needed to spend money I didn't have. We were just going to hunker down and celebrate being together.

There were a few notable gifts, though. Poochie brought with him a huge Milk Tray chocolate assortment. His coworkers from the factory in Ireland had chipped in and purchased it as a going-away present since his visa was expiring. These people were all Indian and Middle Eastern immigrants who assembled belts that jiggled your gut for supposed weight loss. To a man, they sent most of their earnings home to their families. These kind folks adopted Poochie, and had him to their homes for holidays. He brought their kindness home to us.

There were also envelopes from our grandpa. He was still reeling from the death of his wife of 69 years. It had been almost 3 years, but after 69 years ... that's barely a heartbeat. But he was doing his best, playing a little golf, going on a few excursions at the assisted living facility. He still wrote his letters referring to "we." It was both heartbreaking and a case of, "well, of course!" They had started their married life together on a farm in western Kansas during the depression. Their love was an example of "through thick and thin."

Poochie and I each got an envelope. Our folks had no idea what was inside. I opened mine first.

The note read:
Christmas brings memories of happy times of celebration with our family and great appreciation for all the thoughtful and caring things that you do.

Your grandma's legacy continues to grow in many ways. It is my pleasure to share this with you during this holiday season. Enjoy!

With love,
Grandpa

And there was a check.

In the grand scheme of things, it wasn't a ton. But to me? It was a gajillion dollars. It was rent and groceries and being able to breathe. It was moving forward instead of being moored to the idea that I had made huge, irreparable mistakes.

I cried. Ugly cried. The kind of sobbing you don't want anyone to see, except I was doing it at Christmas. I couldn't speak. Too much mucus.

My family couldn't figure out what was in the envelope and why I was so emotional. My brother opened his similar envelope, and everyone figured out quickly that I was good ugly crying, not bad ugly crying.

In all the photos from that holiday, I look rather raw. My eyes are red. I'm too skinny. But there's a glimmer of better things to come, of resilience.
A different Christmas. But just as magical.
And that's what I think about when I hear great stories about Secret Santas, people handing out cash at thrift stores, or folks covering bills for others. You just never know how that not-so-big-to-you kindness will size up for the recipient.

For me? It was king-sized. It was huge. And it reminded me that everything was going to be OK.

Have you been the recipient of such a life-changing gift? Warm my heart this Christmas and tell me all about it!

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Book recommendations for your last-minute holiday shopping needs.

If you're like me, you kind of hate leaving your house. And you probably aren't quite done with your Christmas shopping. And time is running out. It's a cunnundrum.

But! Never fear! Use the crap outta that Amazon Prime membership and order the just-right book for those hard-to-shop-for folks on your list. Here are my recommendations.

For your angsty teen-aged niece: When did teen girls get so scary? They dress better than me and I'm pretty sure they're judging my sensible footwear and OMG, teen girls are terrifying! But, all that aside ... you can smooth things over and buy some street cred with Rainbow Rowell. These novels are technically young adult, but I've read them and they are wonderful - engrossing and smart. Consider Fangirl: A Novel or its new followup, Carry On.

For your father-in-law who thinks everything made after 1950 is crap: The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown. Because this book is about some hard-core dudes from when men were men. This book has it all: pulling yourself up by your bootstraps; sports; and beating Nazis. If you liked Unbroken, you'll like The Boys in the Boat. If you haven't read Unbroken, well, that would make a good New Year's resolution. You won't be sorry.

For the wanna-be fabulous folk in your life: Modern Mix by Eddie Ross. OK, usually, I only look at the photos in decorating books. Show me, don't tell me. But this coffee table book combines gorgeous photos with text that's engaging and gives you permission to do yo' thang. Eddie loves flea markets, color, and dishes. And this book is both inspiring and empowering. When it comes to decorating, your stuff doesn't have to match: it has to go. And you deserve to live in loveliness.

For the naughty girl and/or felon: The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters. Because it seems like just another thriller set in post-WWI London and your mom asks to borrow it when you're done reading, but then you get into it and it is ... steamy? And you realize that you skimmed over the cover blurb that called it "volcanically sexy?" And it offers a nuanced view of what it was like to be gay less than 100 years ago? And also, murder?

For the history buff or the slightly nerdy teen-aged boy: One Summer: America, 1927. So, I love Bill Bryson. His writing reflects his genuine curiosity about the world and is so engaging. This book covers just a few months in American history, but what a few months: Lindburgh, Ruth, Ford, Capone. I learned a lot, and found myself wanting to know more. And isn't that the greatest gift?

For your friend in need of a change: Sometimes, you've got to mess up and get lost to figure things out. Lost & Found by Brooke Davis is a lovely novel about just that. There's the little girl who's living in a department store; the elderly man who runs away from his nursing home; and the old biddy who hasn't left her house in 7 years. And then? Well, stuff happens. It's funny and heartbreaking and life-affirming and I just loved this book.

For the young reader who isn't yet an angsty teen but might be starting to figure out that you aren't cool: This might be your last chance to share a book from your childhood. Or mine. From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L Konigsburg is a novel that I loved as a kid. I reread it a few years ago and it's just as magical. Claudia and Jamie run away from home to ... The Metropolitan Museum of Art, of course.

What did I miss? And what books are you giving (or hoping to receive!) this holiday?

Friendly reminder: When you shop through my links, Amazon throws me some spare change. You know, to pay my library fines. Because sometimes I borrow books instead of buying them. Because I'm not made of money. And libraries are awesome.