Monday, February 8, 2016

The Challenge

That guy I married - he thinks he knows me so well. I keep a family calendar on the refrigerator to list doctors' appointments, when I'm going to the grocery store, etc. A few days ago, my husband stopped in front of the calendar and tapped his finger on Sunday the 7th of February. "Hey, why does it say 'Super Bowl Party?'" he asked.

"Because I am going to a Super Bowl party," I responded. "At church."

He laughed longer and louder than was necessary. Okay, he's got me there. I care very little about football and in fact had to ask him who was playing.  I honestly did go to the party, though! He couldn't attend because he was working. About a dozen people gathered at church to eat snacks and watch the game. I brought my semi-famous vegan chocolate chip cookies. I brought the leftover cookies to work this morning because I had already eaten enough of them to make myself sick. I am not kidding. I felt like my stomach was actually a bit distended when I went to sleep last night.

Speaking of my semi-famous chocolate chip cookies, I have issued a challenge to myself. Starting on February 16th, I'm going to give up sweets and alcohol for 30 days. When I told my other half, he laughed almost as hard as he did when he found out I was attending a Super Bowl party. "Um, maybe you should just choose one or the other but not both," he said. Hmph! The more he thinks I can't do it, the more determined I am to prove him wrong.  He does know me pretty well, though (he's had almost 24 years to study the phenomenon known as Claudia). 

I chose the 16th because my birthday is on the 14th and, I mean, there may be some indulgences that day. Anyway, wish me luck. There is going to be some serious I-told-you-so action at my house after the month is up. We'll just have to wait and see who is saying it. 

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Just like riding a bike

I took my foster dog, Agent, to an obedience class on Wednesday. The rescue for which I'm fostering him holds classes every week at a local high school. I hadn't done any formal training in several years. I was amazed at how quickly it all came back to me. Heel. About Turn. Left About. Halt. It was like hearing an old song and still knowing all the lyrics. I had a great time. As for Agent, I'm not sure how much fun he had. He definitely has not had any formal training. He's such a goofball. He stole one of my snow boots out of my closet last night. I was told he is around seven but if he is seven, I will eat my keyboard. Anyway, we'll be at class again this Wednesday. I'm excited to get back into training when we get our pup in the spring. Of course, taking a Boxer to class is an adventure in itself. In Wednesday's class, there was a one-year-old Boxer in attendance. He was being trained by his young owner (high school age, I think). While the other dogs were heeling in a rectangular pattern around the perimeter, the Boxer was chewing his leash, jumping on his owner, and just generally filling the slot of "class clown."  I laughed out loud and then realized that might seem rude. I was there with a shepherd so the girl wouldn't have known I have a lot of experience with Boxers. After class I told her that I was laughing with her and not at her. Watching her struggle with her dog gave me flashbacks to when I took Lucy to her first classes years ago. She was actually rolling on her back while the other dogs had to walk around her in their heeling pattern. She went on to earn a CD and several Agility titles, so it is technically possible (though maddening) to train a Boxer.

In addition to brushing up on my dog training skills last week, I had to revive another, less desirable skill: cleaning up vomit. The kid came down with a stomach virus on Wednesday night. Thursday morning, she expelled the contents of her stomach in the bathroom . . . onto a toilet with a closed lid. So near and yet so far. So, on Thursday and Friday, her dad and I switched off on staying home with her. I worked from home in the mornings and he took over in the afternoons so that I could go into work.

I need to back up a bit and tell you that my daughter is terrified of the act of vomiting. I am not exaggerating. I've tried telling her countless times that vomiting is just a fact of life, but she is not buying it. If one of the dogs dares to cough, she runs into the other room for fear that the cough might be followed by a flow of half-digested kibble hitting the carpet. She is equally as afraid of being the one who vomits. On Thursday evening, she got up from the couch to use the bathroom. The act of moving from horizontal to vertical was just enough to set off her rumble-y tummy. She hurled into a plastic trash can I had given her just in case.

Thereafter, she refused to get up to pee. At one point she tried to convince me that if I would just carry her into the bathroom and hold her horizontally over the toilet, she would be fine. She could then pee without, technically, sitting up at all. I pointed out some logistical issues with her plan and she eventually gave up on the idea.

On Friday, she still felt yucky so we kept her home from school again. The vomiting was mostly done by then, thank goodness. The real bummer is that the last meal she had eaten before getting sick was tacos. Tacos are her favorite. We eat them at least twice a month. They're great because I can make them quickly so they are good for weeknight meals.  As you know, when a particular food is expelled from your stomach and then leaves your mouth at high velocity, you are not a fan of that food thereafter - at least not for a long time. So, now I have to take tacos out of the rotation, which sucks.

On Saturday, we were invited to her cousin's birthday party. You'll never guess what was being served for dinner. We brought along some mac and cheese for the kid, but it didn't really matter too much anyway because she was more concerned about eating cake and running around with her cousins. And then, all hell broke loose. The kids were in the playroom when the birthday girl puked. She, too, had been battling this bug that's been going around.

My kid then lost her mind and ran to the front door, nearly in tears, demanding to leave immediately. My poor sister-in-law, meanwhile, was nursing a migraine while facing a fun little clean-up job (I think my niece was kind enough to puke on a blanket, which was helpful). So, we said our good-byes and left the party. Our daughter was crying on the way home, scared that she was going to cycle back through the same bug again. We did our best to reassure her.

Honestly, I hope she gets over this by the time she is a mom. When the inevitable stomach bug hits, moms don't really get to say, "Sorry, no can do."

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Dogs and Snakes and Stuff

The kid and I volunteered at a huge pet expo on Saturday. She helped out in the reptile education area while I hung out in the German Shepherd rescue booth. I am sure I was not very helpful. I'm not what you'd call a stellar salesperson. I did manage to sell a few doggie bandanas, but only because people thrust money into my hand and basically insisted that I give them a bandana in exchange. I tried not to get into too much trouble when it came to shopping at some of the other vendor booths. I bought some dog treats for Gretchen and Agent (my foster dog). I also bought a tee shirt to support the K9 program through one of the local police departments. Oh, and I bought a $700 pretzel when my kid wanted a snack.

She and I actually drove down the night before and got a hotel room. The expo was held a couple hours away from our house. I knew the kid would want to go swimming, so that's what we did. Well, she swam while I drank Merlot out of a plastic cup because your no-glass-by-the-pool policy can't stop me, Comfort Suites!  At 11 p.m., she was still awake and was showing no sign of pooping out. I knew we had to get up fairly early, so eventually I just pulled the plug and forced the child to go to sleep. As I'm sure I could have predicted, she was very slow-moving the next morning.

Getting her major award.
I had told her I had a surprise for her, and the not knowing was all but killing her. I started to realize that she thought she might be getting a snake or a crested gecko. That may happen eventually, but not anytime soon. So, I gave up and told her what the surprise was. She was selected to receive a Junior Heroes for Animals Award. Sure, I'm the one who nominated her and sure, maybe they gave the award to every kid who was nominated, but still, I thought it was a nice little recognition for her. The award was given to her on Saturday afternoon at the expo. I will say that she was the only kid who accepted the award with a snake wrapped around her hand. She had to leave her post in the reptile area so she brought her little friend along. The expo was so crowded (12,000 people passed through) that it was hard to get from one part of the building to another. The crowd sure parts when people see a snake coming through, though.

All in all, it was a good day.  I did have a rough moment when I spotted some cushioned dog beds at one of the booths.  "Oh, Giddy would love one of those," I thought.  And then I remembered. Waaaah!  The kid was unhappy when I made her leave her post at 2:15 (we had been there for over five hours at that point), but my feet were killing me.

On our way back home, we stopped at Trader Joe's for some goodies. We wandered the store separately (they have all sorts of good vegan stuff there) and then checked out. As we were pulling onto the highway, Her Highness threw a fit because . . . wait for it . . . she had forgotten to pick up a box of Snickerdoodles. That, my friends, is how you know you're tween did not get enough sleep and that she definitely should have gone to sleep when you told her to.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

The P Word

When people tell me, "I support rescue, but I also want a puppy," I definitely understand the sentiment. Many dog lovers do both - raise a puppy and also adopt an older dog later on. I often tell people, "I think everyone should raise a puppy from the ground up at least once." Well, unless you're a cat person, I guess. Cat people are excused from this assignment.

I have indeed raised a puppy from scratch. Lucy Annabel came to us back in 1998, right after we bought our house. We lost her to cancer when she was 8 1/2. Oh, how I loved that dog. I still miss her. She was my sidekick. My right-hand girl. We also adopted three dogs over time: Karl Lee (who was Lucy's contemporary), Gideon, and Gretchen. We've also fostered countless dogs.  Some of those dogs were puppies, which is what caused me to adopt the mantra, "I'll never have another puppy. Never." Puppies wear out their welcome pretty darn fast.

I was pretty sure I never wanted another puppy until . . . recently. The Mister and I have been talking and we are toying with the idea of getting a puppy. Gideon's passing is still very fresh (I got all teary at yoga last night just thinking about my boy), so it's not like we're going to bring home a pup right away. But, we're pondering it.  I am currently fostering a German Shepherd. He's a very nice boy and he gives me something to focus on besides my grief. I fostered Boxers for 15 years and often had a brown (fawn) shadow. Now I have a black one. Agent is quite attached to me so that makes me feel needed. Gretchen is being unusually conciliatory and has not given the new guy the business like she does with most foster dogs. She is also getting used to this new concept of being smacked in the face with a long furry tail (something that does not happen in a house full of Boxers).

If we do get a Boxer puppy, we might end up being in a weird spot. I have spent much of my adult life crusading against puppy mills and backyard breeders. I would not buy a pup from either source. However, I can't really afford the going rate for a pup from a reputable breeder. I knew of two breeders recently who each had a fawn male available (I can only get a male because I think Gretchen will not be a fan of any doggie who has a vagina). One breeder quoted $1400 and the other quoted $1600.  I am not in any way suggesting that these prices aren't fair - I'm just saying that I can't afford it. So, that makes it tough.

I think we'll just wait and see if some opportunity arises on its own in the next six months or so. I am not so sure I'd want to housebreak a baby dog in the middle of winter anyway. My reason for wanting a pup instead of an older dog is that I'd like to get back into Agility. I competed in Agility with Lucy and it was a lot of fun. I thought maybe I could get Gretchen into Agility but I took her to some obedience classes and she basically gave me the finger the whole time. She had no interest in it at all. If I can start with a pup, I think I have a better shot. Who knows, I may want to get involved in other stuff like therapy work, etc.

If I get a puppy and then start complaining about poop on my carpet, please feel free to say, "I told you so."

Thursday, January 21, 2016

If there's worse news a person could receive, I just don't know what that would be

I went to see my podiatrist today. I've been battling pain in my feet since Octoberish. After talking with a yoga instructor, I came to realize that the pain was caused by plantar fasciitis. I then made the mistake of seeking guidance from the interwebs. Plantar fasciitis is so common that virtually everyone has had it at some point. And all God's children have advice for ya. I have been trying a bunch of different things (downward dog seems to help because it stretches the feet) but I couldn't be sure what might be helping and what might be making things worse.

Dr. D took x-rays and confirmed the diagnosis. He threw in some bone spurs for extra fun.

Here is where things took an ugly turn.  He said this: "I want you to get some Crocs." Lord. Have. Mercy.

Talk about karma. Do you know how gleefully, how relentlessly, I have mocked Crocs?

He clarified that he wants me to buy the Croc slides, like these:

They would mostly be for wearing around the house. Apparently they have some sort of arch support and since my arches have gone off duty, I need that sort of thing. When I went back to the office after my appointment, I mentioned my predicament to a couple of co-workers.

Craig said, "I can't ever speak to you again."

Ryan said, "I would rather have my feet cut off than to wear Crocs."

Other co-workers looked at me sadly and passed along their heartfelt condolences. 

So, yeah. I haven't ordered the buggers yet. I need a little more time for this to sink in. In the mean time, Dr. D. recommended an over-the-counter orthotic that I can try (I purchased a pair and have been using them, but he has a recommendation that maywork better). He wants me to check with my insurance to see if custom orthotics are covered. He also started me on Meloxicam (an anti-inflammatory).  And finally, he gave me some exercises to do (some of which I was already doing on my own). Before I left, he had an assistant wrap my feet to give arch support. I'm wondering if I can try to do this on my own because the pain has diminished considerably just from the wrapping.

I have to go back in two weeks to see how things are going. It sounds like my career as a marathoner is out the window. And I guess my days of wearing cute shoes are over, too. Man, this bites.

Let me know if you need my address so you can send me a sympathy card.

Even Gretchen said she won't be seen with me anymore if I buy Crocs.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Just trying to be a decent human being and whatnot

A couple weeks ago, I drove to a local Wells Fargo branch during my lunch break at work.  I needed to speak to a banker about closing an account. I was invited to sit in a small waiting area to wait for someone who could help me. I sat down in the standard-issue lobby chair and pulled out my phone. Because, you know, it's 2016 and no one is capable of just sitting quietly for five minutes with no stimulation whatsoever. A minute or so later, in my peripheral vision I saw an older lady walk into the bank and head towards the teller windows. She was just a few feet from me. I don't know what happened, but all at once she went ass over teakettle and was suddenly face down on the floor. I quickly shoved my phone into my purse and ran over to help. I knelt down on the floor next to her.

"I think I broke my glasses - are my glasses broken?" she asked me. I could tell she was pretty upset.

I leaned down and took a look at her glasses. "Don't worry, they seem fine," I told her.

"My knees!" she exclaimed. "Did I trip on something? I just don't know what happened."

I didn't know what had happened either. I had just walked over the same patch of floor that she had slipped on. I chalked it up to bad luck. By then, the banker for whom I had been waiting and a teller were there to help, too. Collectively, we decided to get the lady back on her feet.  I grabbed a chair from the waiting area and they helped her up and eased her into the chair. "I'm heavy!" she said. I think she was a little embarrassed. She was a petite lady, though, so I doubt she weighed too much at all.

She sat in the chair for a few minutes, rubbing her knees, and absorbing what had happened. I felt bad for her.

I went over to sit down with the banker to talk with him about closing the account. "Thank you so much for helping," he said. He said it at least twice more after that. "It was nice of you to help her."

Well, geez. What kind of human being would I be if I had not tried to help a nice lady who had fallen down within six feet of where I was sitting?

I've never considered myself to be a Good Samaritan type or anything like that, but if the opportunity arises . . . sure, I'll help!  Last week my daughter and I were headed to Subway to grab a bite before doing some grocery shopping. As we were driving down a fairly busy road, I thought I saw something out of the corner of my eye. Sure enough, there was a small white dog trotting down the sidewalk. No leash, no collar, no person nearby. We've had a lot of snow recently so I was somewhat amazed that I had even spotted the dog.  I wasn't sure what to do. I turned on my hazard lights, pulled closer to the sidewalk, and hopped out.  I called to the dog and was able to get pretty close, but he/she turned and ran farther down the sidewalk. I got back in my car and drove about half a block. This time, I turned into someone's driveway and hopped out again.

The dog did not appreciate my attempts to help and clearly thought I was up to no good. Again, I was able to squat down (taking on a non-threatening posture), turn my gaze away, and speak softly to the dog. I put my hand out. He/she gave a slight lip curl in reply.

I was kicking myself for not having a leash and collar in the car. This dog had neither and was going to be hard to catch. I couldn't believe no one was looking for him/her. The dog was one of those little frou-frou lap dogs, the kind that requires regular visits to the groomer. The dog was at a healthy weight. I didn't know the breed but I think it was something like a Shih-Tzu. Don't ask me - I'm a "big dog" person.  As I squatted in the snow, with temperatures hovering in the mid-20s, I felt like telling the dog, "I don't even like your kind! I'm just trying to help you out!"

I looked up and down the street. It was about 5:00 so a lot of people probably weren't home from work yet. I was convinced that someone must be looking for this dog.  I saw a house that appeared to be occupied.  I trotted up the front walk and knocked on the door. I could see through the window that there was a dog on the back of the couch. A Sheltie, I think. A man opened the door.

"I'm so sorry to bother you," I said, "But there is a small white dog running up and down this street and I wondered if you know whether someone on this block owns the dog?"

"No, I don't know," he responded.  Then he said, "Yeah, I saw him running up and down here a few minutes ago. I wouldn't bother with it if I were you. It'll be fine." I could tell that he thought I was a looney-tune for trying to help the pooch.

"Um, okay, thanks," I said and headed walked back down the walkway.

See, if it had been me . . . if a dog was running up and down my street on a cold day when there was a foot of snow on the ground, at the very least I would have brought the dog into my garage and kept him/ her warm until I could find the owner. But not this guy, I guess.

I'm sorry to say that eventually I did give up. I had spent a half-hour trying to catch the dog and because it was such a busy road, I was worried that eventually I would annoy him enough that he'd run out into the street. I still worry about that ornery little dog. I hope he/she got home safely.

So, yeah, I wasted my time and didn't manage to help the dog in the long run. But you know what? I'd like to think that I taught my daughter, who was sitting in the car and keeping a visual on the dog the whole time, that you should try. You should always try to help if you can.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Every Lesson Must be Learned the Hard Way

Last weekend we journeyed to a resort out of town to celebrate Mr. M's 44th birthday. We usually go up there for my birthday in February, but this year we can't do that because I'll be in Virginia, visiting my delicious new niece. We didn't want to miss out on our annual trip, though, so we decided to go for my guy's birthday instead. We left work early on Friday. We had some concerns about the roads because the temperature had dropped and there was just enough precipitation to cause much iciness. My other half loaded the car while I paid a bill and adjusted our thermostat.  He had already picked up the kid from school. She was doing her part to get us out of the house by staring at her iPad. Before long, we were on the road, dropping our dog off at for boarding and then heading north to our little getaway spot.

After making a couple of stops along the way, we decided that we may as well grab dinner before checking in at the resort. Because my husband can't make decisions - ever, no matter what - I helpfully chose a pizza place that has vegan pizza.  It was so good. I was excited to have the leftovers for the next day, too.

By 6:00 or so we had checked in and had settled into our two-bedroom suite. P was exhausted from working late the night before, so he dozed on the couch while the kid and I watched TV and whatnot. At around 7, my daughter asked if she could go swimming. I had not brought a swimsuit because the artist who did my tattoo made me promise that I would not marinate in chlorine while the tattoo is still healing. However, I was fully prepared to sit poolside and read while the kid splashed around and made friends with strangers.

"Sure thing," I said.  "Go ahead and put your swimsuit on."

"Where's my bag?" she asked.

"I don't know - in the other room?"

She shook her head and then we realized: we had not brought her duffle bag.

At this time, I need to go back in time a bit and explain a couple of things. In an effort to push my daughter towards a greater degree of personal responsibility, one of the few jobs I give her is to pack her own stuff when we are going out of town. On Tuesday, I picked her up from school and told her that the next day, I would bring her duffle bag up from the basement so that she could start packing. As promised, I handed her a spacious Disney World bag on Wednesday and told her not to forget about her swimsuit, socks, etc. On Thursday, I pushed her harder because I couldn't help but notice that the bugger was empty. Finally, she halfheartedly threw some of her crap into the bag. The next morning (the day we were leaving), I checked the bag and then reminded her about all of the things she had forgotten to pack. She also had a separate tote bag full of entertainment-type stuff for the trip, like her iPad, a book to read, etc.

Just to be clear: all she had to do was to throw her gear in a bag and then make sure the bag made it into the car. We had a huge pile of stuff that we were taking along. I had one bag just filled with baking supplies (to make my man a birthday cake). So, it doesn't really surprise me that he didn't notice that one bag was missing.

So it was that on Friday evening, I had a crying tween on my hands. The gravity of the situation hit her quickly - and hard.  No bag = no swimsuit = no swimming.  I know this was probably one of those "teach her a lesson" moments, but I decided to bail her out.  Fortunately, I'd only had a few sips of wine at that point (we'd stopped at a winery along the way).  So, I hopped in my car and headed back "into town."  It was about a 25-minute drive, but the roads were bad so I proceeded carefully. We were staying only about an hour and fifteen minutes from home but I really did not want to drive that far.  I headed towards a Walmart and kept my fingers crossed that they would have swimsuits.  They did not have swimsuits. Damn!  I picked up some socks, underwear, toothbrush, and a couple of inexpensive outfits for her (leggings and tee shirts).  I guess that was her punishment: she had to wear Walmart clothes for the weekend. I still needed to find a swimsuit.  I knew there was a Target on the other side of town, so I called over there to inquire about swimsuits. Hallelujah! They had them in stock. It was only 10 minutes or so to get to Target but I called first because the roads were getting worse and I didn't want to drive over there if I didn't have to.

When I arrived at Target, I quickly found the swimsuits and picked one out for Miss Only Thinks of Herself.  Moments later, I was back on the road and ready for my "relaxing weekend." By the time I returned, I had been gone for about two hours. I quickly refilled my wine glass and got back to the business of relaxing, but not before I delivered two ten more lectures on the topic of: "next time I tell you to take care of your own stuff, just do it."  I then sat by the pool for the next hour while Miss New Swimsuit That She Didn't Really Need Because She Has Plenty at Home swam.

Guess how much this baby dress costs?
Nope, you're wrong. $74.00
The rest of the weekend was pretty uneventful. On Saturday, I made a birthday cake and the kid and I did a bit of shopping. My husband is a huge fan of apple pie so I stopped at a pie place (seriously, that's all they sell) and got him a miniature apple pie - to the tune of $10.00. The proprietor went to great lengths to get me to join their "Pie Club," but I politely declined. I didn't have the heart to tell him that I don't like pie (even vegan pie).

For dinner, we decided to go to a Mexican place that was really close to the resort.  The resort was full of guests so we figured that maybe the restaurant would be crowded, too.  We figured wrong - we were the only people in the restaurant.  After dinner, there was more swimming. I'll be glad when my daughter is old enough that I can comfortably send her down to the pool by herself. For now, I don't mind sitting poolside. I watched some odds and ends on Netflix. I've just started watching Sherlock, which seems good so far.

We also ate cake (I have an amazing recipe for a vegan mayonnaise cake) and played some games on Saturday. We played Jenga for the first time. We were the last family on the planet to buy that game, I guess. We also attempted a round of Junior Pictionary, which resulted in many tears from the tween. We gave up. I felt kind of bad for her. Her dad and I have been together for 24 years and can practically read each other's minds. So when it comes to guessing the other person's drawing . . . sometimes we don't even have to put pencil to paper. Well, she just about lost her shit over that.

Finally, we ended the day by watching the Packers-Cardinals game (while the kid played Minecraft). I don't usually sit and watch football with my guy, but I didn't have anything else going on so I decided to humor him. I'm not sure if he really likes watching football with me, though. I think I've asked him to explain the whole "penalty declined" thing to me one too many times. (I always think of it like: "Excuse me, could I interest in you in a penalty?"  "Um, no thinks. I would like to decline your penalty. Thanks for the offer, though.") During this particular game, I asked him to explain why the kicker and the punter can't just be the same person.  You should have seen the incredulous look he gave me.

"What?! They are two separate jobs. For starters, the punter has to kick the ball from his own hand."

"Okay, but in both cases, it's just a dude swinging his leg and connecting with a ball, isn't it?"

He shook his head sadly and gave up.

So, that was our weekend. It started out with a minor crisis but ended up to be pretty relaxing. The temperature had dropped to 0 by the time we checked out of the resort on Sunday. Some poor dude went outside to start his truck and let it warm up . . . and promptly locked his keys inside with the engine running. So, when you're having a bad day, remember that guy . . . frantically shoving a fishing pole into his car with frozen fingers while another dude yells, "You've almost got it, bro!"