Saturday, December 31, 2016

Welcome

"Tap your heels together three times and think to yourself, 'There's no place like home, there's no place like home.'" - Glinda the Good Witch

Please join me in welcoming our new girl to her forever home. We have decided to call her Glinda. Grover is in love and they get along famously.

We are adopting her from Boxer Rescue.  She is between two and three years of age. She came from a neglect situation but has been in a wonderful foster home for the past few weeks. Glinda is very friendly and sweet. We adore her already!

New Year's Eve, it seems, is the perfect time to tap your heels together three times and find yourself at home. Welcome home, Glinda!



Sunday, December 25, 2016

Christmas

I can't begin to tell you how many times I've sat down to write in recent weeks. I only managed to spit out two measly blog entries in December. December was a rough month. We never dreamed that we'd lose both of our dogs in 2016, and we are still reeling from Gretchen's death. I also lost my aunt Maureen at the very end of November. She lived in Texas so of course I didn't see her frequently, but she was a wonderful person and I'm so sorry her light has gone out.

So, I have had lots to say, most if it being downright pedestrian in nature, but the words haven't come. I can't let Christmas go by without a mention, though!

We've been pretty busy in recent weeks. We just fostered our first dog for our local humane society. I attended an orientation at the end of November and was asked to take an eight-week-old puppy the same day. We had her for three weeks and now she has been spayed and adopted. Lucy was a sassy little lass, and I'm so glad we got to be a part of her journey . . . even though her journey did include pooping behind our recliner. Grover was glad to have a little friend for a few weeks. We are hoping to adopt a companion for him very soon.

My mom visited in early December. We hadn't had a visit from her in a few years so it was nice to have her here. She even made treats for two bakes sales that came up while she was visiting (one for my church and one for German Shepherd Rescue). Most importantly, she was here for her granddaughter's big choir concert. After the concert, my mom and I went out for Indian food. My husband and daughter would not dream of putting anything other than pasta or pizza in their mouths, so I knew I had to go with a willing participant while I had the chance.

Most of my time over the past few weeks has been occupied with shopping/wrapping/shipping. It's the American way, ya'll.  I got everything shipped out on time and heaved a sigh of relief. As for my daughter, her list was surprisingly short this year. She asked for a bike, a keyboard (the musical kind), an iTunes gift card (those songs with inappropriate lyrics don't just download themselves, you know), and a power strip. No lie - a power strip.

My best friend had a guitar she wasn't using and offered to send it for the kid's use. I can't tell you how grateful I am for that.  It arrived a few days ago and I promptly hid it in the basement. I ordered the bike online a few weeks ago and then Mr. M put it together one day while our daughter was at a friend's house. It's really for the best that she didn't have to hear all the cussing about screwdrivers that were perpetually the wrong size. My sisters went in on the keyboard (plus a stand and headphones). I hid that stuff in the basement, too.  We have a storage area that the kid has always been afraid to enter. So, I put everything in that room and then unscrewed the light bulb just in case she decided to try any funny stuff.

My mom brought gifts for us when she came - she made a nightgown and robe for the kid, and got me a calendar, a wine glass, and a bunch of other fun stuff. My dad and stepmom also sent some gifts: Utz Barbecue chips (for me) and a hand-knit headband (also for me). The kid received gloves, a scarf, and a hat - also hand-knit.

In addition to the bike, the mister and I also got the kid a TV for her room. Oh, and guitar lessons that start on January 4th. And yes, we got her a power strip! Plus some clothes and pajamas and whatnot. One great thing about the kid getting a little older - Christmas doesn't involve as much packaging. She gets fewer (but more expensive) gifts than she received when she was little, but they're not as brutal as the toddler gifts. It wasn't too long ago that we spent the entire morning on Christmas just trying to liberate Barbie's microscopic shoes from their packaging. And trying to free Barbie's hair, which was always sewn into the box somehow. Whew! Glad to have those days behind us, though we look back on them wistfully, too.

This year, it was our turn to host brunch for our "in-town" family. I made chocolate chip pancakes and yeast rolls, and I bought some fruit salad because chopping stuff is way too much work. The other families brought casseroles, too. It was great to spend the afternoon with family. Even Grover was on his best behavior (he can be really fearful around strangers, but he did very well today).

If you're wondering what Mr. M got me for Christmas . . . well, I gave the boy a list. He got me some nice stuff (from my list): Vionic slippers, OOFOS flip-flops, wine, a yoga ball (Grover popped the last one - grrrr), and some soap. Funny story about the soap. I specifically wanted some nag champa-scented soap from Perennial Soaps. I gave him a link directly to that bar of soap. All he had to do was to put it in his virtual cart and check out. Instead, he got me every scent except for the one I wanted:

I mean, don't get me wrong here - I appreciate the soaps. I really do. I just need someone to explain to me how boys' brains work.

Me: "I'd like a single bar of soap in this specific scent that I love."
Him: "Nope, I'm going to spend five times as much to get you five soaps that aren't the scent you wanted."

Maybe you guys can think about it and let me know.

What did I get him? A Kindle Fire (he had an old one that wasn't charging properly anymore), one of those Harry's Shave Club kits, an alarm clock that can be used to charge other devices, Apple earbuds (because he left his out and Grover chewed them up), pajamas, a football calendar, a stormtrooper ornament, and a Marvel Comics trivia box. Our niece quizzed him on a bunch of questions from the box and he basically knew every answer - even to questions that seemed super obscure. I'm either really proud or really embarrassed. I'll give it some thought and let you know.

Merry Christmas to you and yours!

Our foster pooch



"Just hand me the other (expletive deleted) screwdriver!"

Our little Christmas tradition - we visit these old-timey displays every year.

Performance at a nursing home last week.





Monday, December 19, 2016

Read carefully, because I'll only say this once

A few weeks ago, the three of us packed up and headed out of town right after Thanksgiving. We had made plans to meet some friends (and their three kids) at a water park resort. Our families have been friends for a long time and in fact we are planning a 20th wedding anniversary trip with them in the summer. They got married just a few weeks after we did.

Our rooms at the resort were not yet ready when we arrived on Saturday. However, we were informed that in addition to the water park passes we would receive, our Groupon package included free passes to the indoor amusement park just down the hall. We decided to go to the amusement park first and kill some time until our rooms were ready. The first ride I spotted was a huge Ferris wheel. I don't think I'd ever seen an indoor Ferris wheel. I mentioned to my family that I wanted to ride the Ferris wheel at some point. I was also interested in the go-karts.

Most of the members of our group decided to hit a ropes course first. When I'd gotten dressed that morning, I'd put on my swimsuit under my clothes. My look-how-prepared-I-am plan backfired when our itinerary for the day changed. Without the proper "lift and support" that a chick like me needs and requires from a bra, I decided not to climb the ropes course. It just felt like a bad idea. I sat it out and took some photos of my daughter as she climbed higher and higher. After that, the eight of us filed into a small theater containing a virtual shooting game.  You probably won't be surprised to learn that I came in dead last (this is what happens when you are raised by pacifists and don't learn to shoot). Next, the kids got in line for a trio of climbing walls. While we waited, the four adults took turns paying a buck to sit in a massage chair that either felt really good or hurt like a sumbitch, depending on your perception.

Soon, we received text messages that our rooms were ready. We quickly formulated a plan to haul our luggage from our cars to our rooms, head to the water park, and then come back to the amusement park that night.  We figured we'd be all swimmed out but would be up for more fun. "We can do the Ferris wheel and go-carts when we come back," I said to my husband.

We spent a fun afternoon at the watermark. We bobbed around in the wave pool and rode all of the slides we could find (the place is massive). The grown ups shared a couple of overpriced adult beverages. The kids had a blast.

Later, we headed back to our rooms to shower and all that jazz. Our friends went out to dinner but we weren't that hungry so we just stayed in our room and had some snacks. Once they were done eating, we met them at the amusement park.  We rode the go-karts first.  What a colossal waste of time.  The go-karts were run by Goober Pyle and his cousin Gomer. I mean, it was just unreal. They couldn't seem to keep the cars moving around the track. My daughter wasn't tall enough to drive on her own so she rode with me. Our car wouldn't go faster than walking speed. "Let's not do THAT again," she said as we climbed out of our craptacular vehicle.

The kids all had game cards with cash on them and wanted to play arcade games. The games in the arcade area can only be played by using one of these cards. I played a couple of games with my daughter. However, my feet were starting to hurt.  Walking barefoot on concrete at the water park all day had not been kind to my stupid bone spurs and plantar fasciitis. "Hey, I'm going to sit down over by the Ferris wheel," I said. "I'll just find a bench somewhere around there."  That way, the rest of the group could come and find me when it was time for all of us to climb aboard.

I couldn't find a bench directly next to the Ferris wheel, but eventually I did find one that was unoccupied. It was a bit farther away than I had anticipated but not outrageously so.  And so I sat.  I watched people being flung around on the crazy ride that was directly in front of me. I played Words with Friends on my phone.  I checked Facebook. Eventually, my kid ran up to me and flung down some junk on the seat next to me.  It was her winnings from the games, the kind of trinkets that kids love and parents hate. Like miniature slinkies that always seem to come pre-tangled. She then turned and ran back towards the arcade. I assumed she was going to play more games.  "Just how much money was on those pre-paid game cards?" I thought.  I continued to sit on the bench, taking in all of the people and goings-on around me.

Finally, I saw our whole group headed in my direction. I gathered my kid's crap (I mean winnings) and jumped up from the bench. "Can we ride the Ferris wheel now?" I asked.

My husband gave me an odd look and quickly responded, "We just rode it."

The ride that was between me and the Ferris wheel had blocked me from seeing that everyone got on the ride without me. When my daughter had brought me all of her stuff, apparently she was supposed to ask me if I wanted to ride the Ferris wheel, too. You know, the ride that I had mentioned multiple times during the course of the day.

I know that my reaction would not seem "normal" to most people. I immediately felt like I might cry.  My daughter realized that she had made a mistake and apologized.  I couldn't seem to reset myself, though. As a mom, I sometimes feel like I am forever "taking one for the team."  I know that not everything is about me, but can't something be about me? Ever? It was the one bleeping thing I had wanted to do!

I turned and walked back down the long hallway towards our room. Everyone else stayed behind - I'm not sure if they played more games or what happened after that.  Later, both families gathered in our friends' room for games. I didn't want to give the appearance of being a jerk, so I went over and sat down for a few minutes before retreating back to our room. Honestly, at that point I kinda wanted my own room.

Here is what I think most people would think if they were left out of an activity: "No biggie. I'll ride it next time."

Here is what I thought: "I feel unloved every day of my life. This just proves that no one thinks I'm even worth the trouble to make sure I am included."

**********************

I'm going to tell you my secret now.  There are reasons why I am much more fragile than I want to be. I am generally pretty honest about the fact that I have vitiligo. It's hard to hide. However, what I generally don't mention is that I've also been battling alopecia areata for about four decades now. That's the fun thing about auto-immune disorders - you seldom get just one. Here's hoping for lupus and diabetes!

Why do I keep it a secret? (Well, as much as I can, anyway?) It's hard to articulate. Other than a few close friends and a brief mention of it at church one time, I generally just keep it to myself. When I talk to someone, I don't want them scanning my head and wondering what they can or cannot see. I don't want anyone suggesting a wig to me or telling me about their cousin who has it. And I mostly definitely don't want to hear "it's only hair." If you don't think it matters, pull out some big chunks of yours and see how that works out for you. I know that sounds mean-spirited, but that's just how I've internalized this stuff. What I do know, and what I can articulate, is the lasting effect these conditions have had on my self-esteem. 

I don't know what it's like to be carefree and ride around with my windows open.  Windy days drive my anxiety to a whole new level. Swimming in a public pool or water park is challenging at best. The only reason I do it is so that my daughter doesn't have to miss out on fun times just because of me. The reason I didn't start going to yoga until I was 40, despite years of curiosity about it, was that I couldn't bear the thought of having to hang my head upside down in front of other people. I guess the good thing about middle age is that you start to realize that people aren't looking at you as much as you'd feared they were.

If you've ever looked at me and thought my hair looked something-close-to-normal, it is only because I have had four decades of practice. My outward appearance is all smoke and mirrors and voodoo and black magic. I don't know what it's like to be wash-n-go (I'm sure jealous of the people who are, though). Getting ready to leave my house takes forEVER.

About a year ago, all of the eyelashes fell out on my left eye and grew back in with no pigment (thanks to the vitiligo). So, mascara went from being a decorative tool to a necessity.

I have to make sure I am never in a position where someone might need to touch my hair for some reason.  When I was in elementary school and the school nurse came through to check all the kids for lice, my mom made sure that the nurse took me into a separate room before poking at my hair with a tongue depressor.

When I get out of the pool, I have to wear a hat. I have to be careful about how frequently I wash my hair and have to keep wear and tear to a minimum as much as I can.

The list goes on and on.

I'll never know what it's like to have some cute haircut. I've had the same haircut all my life because it's the only option. I wrote a blog entry a few years ago about growing my bangs out. It wasn't entirely true. They fell out so I had to come up with a workaround (no bangs).  Eventually, enough of my hair grew back that I was able to have bangs again. Which was good, because no one should have to be subjected to my forehead.

Over the years, I have seen countless dermatologists. I have endured cortisone injections into my skull, time and time again.  Nothing really works well.  I know more than I want to about the growth cycles of human hair follicles. If hair starts growing again, it may take 90 days.  So, if it does grow back, one can never be sure if it was the treatment or if it would have happened without intervention. It's a constant process of grasping at straws and being met with shrugging shoulders and "well, I guess we could try . . . " from doctors.

At Kohl's a few weeks ago, I complimented the cashier on her hair. It was long and black and shiny. And it looked like she had about a bajillion strands. I compliment people's hair all the time. It's genuine, but it's also because I'm just straight-up jealous. My kid has hair that some people would sell their soul to get.

When I was a little girl, I understood that I was different and that being different was bad. Different is ugly. I learned that for girls, beauty and hair are tightly intertwined. I became hyper-sensitive to any comment about my appearance. I still am.  When I was a teenager, I would look at myself in the mirror and think, "No one will ever love you enough to marry you."  I was proven wrong, though, because someone DID marry me (sucka!) But, he can't understand the depths of my insecurity and pain.

So, when I was left off of that ride, it brought up every painful feeling I've ever had about myself. It felt like a confirmation of what I'd always suspected, silly as I know that sounds.  I've been feeling a little bit down ever since, but I'm working through it. I know that my husband and daughter were not being intentionally unkind. 

The good news, if any can be found, is that I've worked pretty hard to make sure my daughter doesn't pick up on this stuff. She thinks she's awesome (no lie: the word "awesome" is usually part of her user name on her apps and games). I just need to make sure she stays that way.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

G'Night, Gretchie-Goo


We lost our Gretchie girl today. She had been sick for a while and we just couldn't bear to let it go on any longer. By the time she died, she hadn't eaten in days and just looked miserable. I bought her a fluffy new pillow from Costco a couple weeks ago and she had scarcely left the pillow for days.

When we adopted Gretchen nearly eight years ago, she was skin and bones. She had been abandoned in a house and had not had a proper meal in a long time. Determined to make up for lost time, she promptly got chubby. We affectionately called her Fat Gretchen and sang, "Whoa fat Gretchen, bam-a-lam" to the tune of "Black Betty." Later, she slimmed down a bit but the nickname mostly stuck.

Gretchen was around two when we adopted her, and I had high hopes of competing in obedience and agility with her. I took her to lots of classes and her main response was: "No." She just wasn't having it. She did earn a CGC (Canine Good Citizen) certificate, but only by the skin of her teeth. The tester was a friend of mine so she may have even thrown us a figurative bone on that one.

Gretchen was technically my daughter's dog, so I know my baby will be hurting for a while. She sent me a heartbreaking text from school earlier: "Is she already gone?" Fortunately, my daughter is old enough to understand that we simply could not let Gretchen suffer any longer. As far as what took our sassy brindle Boxer down, we are assuming it was cancer (and the vet agrees that this is a likely scenario). She was tentatively diagnosed with pancreatitis and we did treat her for that, spending hundreds of dollars and trying to make her eat prescription food. After a while, my husband and I recognized the futility of it. We knew it was something more ominous than pancreatitis. Just getting the meds into her started to feel like an act of violence. I had to force them down her throat - and this was a dog who happily ate ANYthing, including poop. It struck me today how she had come full circle, in a sad and terrible way. She was, once again, skin and bones. I like to think that the years in between were good ones, though.  We sure loved her. She had the "fastest nub wag in the midwest" and even this afternoon, her nub still vibrated when I looked into her eyes and said, "You were a good girl, Gretchie-goo."

Our Fetchin' Gretchen was feisty but sweet. She threatened every dog in our neighborhood with physical violence, but she was always a devoted companion to her people. I think she was the only Boxer we've had so far that didn't have some degree of separation anxiety. She would happily follow a treat into her crate and not cause a ruckus once she was in there. I have so many good memories of her . . . like the time I stupidly took her to the dog park and she pinned a beagle within seconds of our arrival. Okay, maybe that's not a "good" memory but it was just how she rolled. She loved our annual trip to the cabin, a place where she was allowed to lay on the couch and got to spend long, lazy days with her people. It won't be the same without her.

I hope you are well and whole again, Gretchie. We miss you already.

She barely got to wear her new holiday collar. :-(