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Thursday, August 08, 2019

That Chihuahua Lady or, Apologizing to Twelve Year Old Me

That Chihuahua Lady. This is what I will henceforth be known as. 

When you have one Chihuahua mix you can say, well, he was small and I was in an apartment and people go, oh, okay, well that makes sense. (Because what kind of wimp in their right mind WANTS a shivering little cat-dog?) But when you have two…the gig is up.

How did this happen you may ask. Recently I signed up to do short term fostering with the Montgomery County Animal Shelter. Duke was my first foster. I don’t know if it was the worried look in my eye (how big will the dog be?) or the two tiny toddlers I had behind me, sniffling and clutching my thighs in an effort to keep me as close to them as possible.  Maybe it was the crazy short hair or the ‘BETO’ t-shirt I was wearing.

Whatever it was, the young woman showing me the short term fosters cocked her head to the side and veered away from the door we were going to go through and down the hall to the ‘new intake’ room. A few seconds later she came out with the most pathetic looking ball of tan fur I’d ever laid eyes on. He was all brown eyes and tiny cat paws and shaking all over.

Inside I was like…another tiny, timid little dog, just what I need. But outside I was like..’ohmygosh he’s so sweet yes, we’ll foster this guy!’ Sometimes I’m a mystery even to myself.

So the next day we go back to get the little guy, to foster, you understand, and as soon as I got him in my hands he sighed, leaned up against my chest and laid his head around the curve of my neck, just like Toby did eleven years ago.

Guys, I didn’t even make it to the van and I turned around and snagged the nearest worker and said, no. No, he’s mine, and he’s coming home with me forever. Today. Now.

And they said…no.

Inside I cried like a baby girl but you know I’m a big girl on the outside so after pleading and begging like a full grown TODDLER I relented. We came back the next day and the rest is history.

Two things happened when we got him home. One – during a full out tantrum where Benji is kicking and screaming way too close to the hot stove where I’m cooking spaghetti, Duke, just with us for twelve hours at this point, walked right over and sat next to him and let him pet him in that rough, I-can’t-watch way a two year old does.

And then he laid down on Benji’s tummy and Benji calmed down instantly. 

Two - he's only two but his favorite thing to do is hang out on the couch and watch movies with us, or hang out on the patio watching the 'bigger dogs '- my two kids - run around on their new ATV's like crazy people in 100 degree heat. Sigh. He's perfect. So. I’m going to man up and admit what I am…That Chihuahua Lady. 

Da, forgive me. Twelve year old me who imagined a house full of tame wolves and Huskies and Great Danes and Golden Retrievers, to you most of all I offer my humblest and sincerest apologies. But hey we still eat ice cream for dinner sometimes so...there's that.

Friday, July 26, 2019

Magnum 357's and Other Things I Talk about Now

“Does the gun bother you? Really?”
Asks my incredulous UBER driver about the 357 magnum she has in the driver’s console. I stare at the hard gray plastic, envisioning the gun resting inside.
Safety on? Maybe. Loaded? Definitely.
I look back up at her, age indeterminate but based on the amount of gray in her hair and the desert sand cracks in her face I’m guessing she’s a hard living fifty-five.
“That depends,” I say. “How often do you practice?”
“Yeah, at the gun range. How often do you practice?”
“Well I’ll tell you the last few times I went I shot, you know, not right at the head per say but the guy there told me he’d be dead for sure. Ah, not that, I mean, I’m a good Christian woman I wouldn’t want to kill anyone.”
“So, you’ve been at the range in the last month?”
“The last two or three months?”
“If I want to hit the target I will,” she says with that steely defiance of a woman with her guard up. She won’t meet my eyes in the rearview mirror anymore.
Based on the rainbow band on her sun visor holding in the tickets to an old Lady Ga Ga concert ticket, and based on the length of her hair, shorter than my father who is bald, I’m assuming she’s gay. She confirms it later when she talks about her partner, Doris. Being gay in Texas, that earns some respect. It takes guts to be gay in Texas.
I soften my approach.
“Here’s my only problem,” I say, and I launch into my ‘I-grew-up-with-guns’ speech that always puts gun carriers at ease and lets them know I’m not judging.
“My only problem is that people carry around these loaded guns and never practice. And never practice the way police practice in the academy, simulating real-world situations where your adrenaline is going at least a little. If you’re going to carry a gun, you should be at the range at least once a month. And certainly not…never.”
She nods. She sees my point. We move to safer ground, the pros and cons of UBER verses Lyft.
            So, to her question, did I feel unsafe? No, not really. If she really needed that gun she probably wouldn’t have time to open the console to get it, and even if she did, she’s more likely to shoot herself in the foot than anyone around her. Not that she didn’t seem capable, but if you aren’t practicing it, and you never know what it’s like to have to fire when your nervous system is in panic mode, odds are you’re going to be wildly ineffective.
            The problem isn’t nice old gay ladies with magnum 357’s who drive strangers around town for a living. The problem is the culture that tries to sell her safety lies in the barrel of a gun. It doesn’t. Period. 
            In any case we spent the rest of the time having a lively and hilarious discussion about a question brought up by a book I just read ‘What do we need men for?’ by E. Jean Carroll. After all, I’ve always found what links us together far more fun then what divides us, eh? That isn’t just the Canadian in me, that’s the human in me. I gave her a good tip and jumped out at my destination, a steakhouse in Hughes Landing. What a semi-vegetarian is doing at an expensive Texas steakhouse is for another time okay? No one has time to read more than four hundred words at a time.

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Exciting and Terrifying Beginnings

Alright alright I know it’s been awhile. I haven’t dropped the ball I promise I’ve just been juggling other balls while I kept this one tucked under my chin.

It’s time to release the ‘blog’ ball once again. Let it fly!

Let me tell you right off I’m in Canada (yippie!). The flight here was as wondrous and glorious as air travel can be with a five year old and a two year old and a tiny dog. No one threw up, no one did number two in their underwear, the dog waited until we landed to have diarrhea so all in all it was perfect.

First night here we all crashed hard after some home made chicken noodle soup (thanks dad!) and the second night the universe tried to kill me.

It all started with the alarm clock Benji had been playing with during the day. It went off at three pm and I turned it off, eventually. I had a nagging thought I should probably just unplug it but I’m still learning to trust my own instincts. (How old are you again?)

Old enough to know better. At 13 minutes after midnight the alarm clock blared to life and I was in Ben’s room and pulling the plug from the wall before I woke up. Once I did wake up I realized I was holding the top part of the cabinet (which was sitting prettily on top of the chest of drawers) and every single precious breakable thing mom owned had slid and shattered on the floor at my bare feet. It, too, was sliding slowly to the floor except that I was holding it up with my shoulder.

“Um. Bill?”

Bill, having heard the alarm go off but was resting comfortably in the knowledge that I would get there faster being both younger and quicker, heard the crash and reached for his glasses.

Benji sat up bleary eyed in his bed and miraculously didn’t cry and didn’t try to run to me over the glinting shards of glass bears and figurines scattered on the floor.

“BILL!?” by now Bill had gotten his glasses on, carefully pulled his feet from the tangled sheets and walked to me.

I’m not struggling because I’m like She-Ra from carrying around Benji’s 31 pound frame all day. I waited patiently as he flicked on the light and surveyed the damage. Then he stepped in glass in his bare feet all the way to me to put up the falling hutch. How he didn’t get any cuts on his feet is beyond me. He was very, very careful.

We put it back on top of the dresser and stared around us in amazement. “Where do I start?” I remember saying. Bill looked at me mutely. Bill may be in management but I’m the boss in situations like these and I ordered him about like a general.

“Take Benji to your room. I need shoes. Shut the door behind you. I’ll clean it up.”
And I did. From 12:13 to 12:45am I swept and carefully placed large broken bear bums and Precious Moments heads into the blue plastic garbage can.

When I was done Bill wandered back in and shook out the mat onto the floor and then went back to bed.

I don’t know if he went back to sleep but I laid awake for two hours waiting for the adrenaline to dissipate.

Anyway, that was the exciting and terrifying beginning to my Canadian vacation.

While I was overthinking everything after the incident I thought maybe this was a good analogy for life. Sometimes everything precious to you (or to your mom) gets shattered in a random, unexpected way. You may be left in the middle of your wreckage of a life and wonder what the blazes to do next.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed when you’re looking at the whole picture. I am speaking from experience, and not just in regards to the broken figurines.

Luckily all we ever need to do is the next step, and then the next. It’s terribly simple and yet so hard to do. But if you can allow your monkey-brain panic-thoughts to fall away and focus on what needs to be done right now, I think everything will be okay.  At least, that’s what I believe.

Or maybe the trick is to eat a lot of lobster and home made spice cake. I'll try that too, just in case.

Sometimes it takes a good fall to really know where you stand. Hayley Williams.

Thursday, May 09, 2019

HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY! Also, SAHM Survival Guide eh?

Happy Almost Mother's Day!

Have you called your mother lately!? I call my mom so much she's like...sweetie I love you but maybe stop calling me more than five times a morning while I'm at work?

In any case, it’s time for an episode of…SAHM Survival Guide eh?

The anxious stay at home mom (or dad) survival guide. The antsy stay at home mom (Or dad…you get the idea) survival guide? The full of self-doubt stay at home mom survival guide?

What I’m aiming for this week:

1) Staying calm in the face of tantrums and chaos. Keeping my sense of humor when Benji is screaming and tearing off his pants and throwing them in the dog’s water bowl and now the dog is really thirsty and Ellie is needing some quiet cuddle time on the couch and we are already ten minutes late for school.

2) Keeping my own joy and balance in my life, and in that vein staying healthy not just physically but emotionally, intellectually, spiritually and socially. Let’s face it, we’re complex beings full of layers of wants and needs and desires and they can’t all be fulfilled staying home with the kids all day, every day. A good life needs change, and growth, and room to expand. And a reliable babysitter! And, really, a nana and papa close by.

3) Letting go of my desire to control their relationship with each other. I want them to build a close relationship, one that they will both learn to treasure and count on now, tomorrow and twenty, thirty years down the road. I’m learning to surrender my referee compulsions and let them work it out on their own.

4) Disabusing myself of the notion that a good parent is an anxious parent, one who has worried about and foreseen every difficulty and planned and arranged to have them all systematically removed for them. Wow even writing this I am realizing how much I do this and how much it needs to stop, like, right now.

I do NOT have all the answers. I have found a few that work for me, and I’m willing and able to write about it, and willing and able to put myself out there and share my hopes. My desire is that this connects with other SAHM’s out there. Or anyone, really, who struggles to care for another person and still maintain their own identity.

Let’s leave you with some action plans, yeah?

1)   Begin the morning consciously, whether that’s reading a bible passage or praying or meditating or even just laying out the day the way you want it to go. Then forgiving yourself when you can’t because the baby has jumped up into bed with you at 530am wired for sound or your dog throws up on your pillow. And then sits in it. And then licks your face until the lovely doggy-puke-breath odor rouses you. I can’t make this stuff up people.

2)   You need a physical action plan you can do at least three times a week. It can be an expensive gym, or your bike, or your own two legs. It can be swimming or climbing a rock wall, it can be with the kids or without but you need it. Your body needs it. Heck your brain needs it. Exercising lowers your risk of cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s/Dementia and depression. Boom, boom, boom. You don't just want to be around when your own kids have kids, you want to be healthy and active able to enjoy them. Don't forget to forgive yourself when you skip the yoga class to work on a poem about working out instead sometimes. (Who does that!? Me. I do.)

That’s it folks, some concerns I’ve had I’m sure I’m not alone in, and some action plans I’m putting together for myself to have my best life possible.

Really lastly, if you’re a stay at home mom and you can’t fit in an exercise routine easily try this neat trick that works for me. Start doing 5 pushups a day. Then drop and do 5 pushups whenever you think of doing pushups. Maybe not in HEB but if no one’s around and you’re not in the middle of a parking lot…go for it. It adds strength amazingly quickly and the fast progress you make encourages you to go for ten, then fifteen pushups a day. Just in time for sleeveless shirt weather. You’re welcome. Now go forth and drop and give me five people, your shoulders, and your future grandkids, will thank me.