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I’m not a Dog Owner

On Tuesday this past week, my husband and I did one of the hardest things to date. We brought our beloved dog, Tinkerbell, to the vet to be put to sleep.

Tink’s health has slowly been declining over the last 6 weeks or so. It started with diarrhea that wouldn’t go away and progressed to refusing to eat, even her favorite things she wouldn’t touch. Then it got to the point where she had stroke like episodes where she would collapse and lose consciousness. She would awake disoriented and shaky. After a few days of this, we had the very tearful talk deciding to end her suffering.

Those last few days were so emotional and I walked round red eyed with my throat tight. O and I took her for short walks around the yard. I kept her with me as much as I could, having her lay by me while O and I watched TV or played, taking her in the car with us no matter where we went, and in general just doing stuff at home to spend as much time with her as we could. We did her favorite things which included going to the park and letting kids pet her. We visited my family farm one last time and giving all those that loved her a chance to say goodbye.

The appointment was quick. They gave her a sedative to put her to sleep then gave her the injection. It was only a few breaths after that and she was gone. We stayed with her the whole time, whispering to her that things would be better soon, that we would be okay without her guardianship, that we would miss her so very much, that we would never stop loving her. My husband and I cried shamelessly and I clutched the box they had put her in so we could transfer her back to our family farm to be buried.

We chose a spot that overlooks the driveway and swing sets near some lilac bushes. This is the best guard dog spot where she will be able to watch all the kids play and still keep an eye out for anything that could harm them. These spots were extremely important to Tink. My husband and I prepared her final resting spot together. The ground should have been soaked with our tears. After she was settled, I don’t know how long we sat there, sharing memories, already missing our wonderful dog.

The next day, I started the painful task of packing up her things. We are giving her toys to her dog friends. She was one of those dogs that never ruined her toys, she just liked to carry them around and snuggle with them. When she was younger she’d play fetch when she felt like it, but she treasured every one. I want to make a shadow box with her collar so I was browsing through pictures to use. This helped confirm our decision. She was a powerfully built dog with a beautiful shiny coat and rippling muscles. She was athletic and loved to play. Since her deterioration was slow, I didn’t notice how very sick she had become. As hard as it was to say good-bye, to make this decision instead of letting her die on her own, it was the right one.  I had terrible doubts sitting in that room waiting for the vet to come in. Had we tried everything? Maybe she could bounce back still if we did something different or tried yet another new food? Waiting would have been selfish and I’m glad we went through with it.

For the first time in over 20 years, I’m not a dog owner. Right now, I don’t want to be if it’s not Tinkerbell. What I really want is my healthy dog back. I wanted her to help teach my son what it means to have a four-legged best friend. I wanted her to be there to watch over us for many more years. No other dog will do right now. It’s only been a few days, and I know things will get better. I won’t call for her to take her out. I won’t reach for her leash when O goes out to play. I won’t look for her water bowl to fill. But right now, I don’t want to be a dog owner.

Tink as a little puppy, she knew she was pretty then
Tink as a little puppy, she knew she was pretty then
Happy girl
Happy girl
Always on guard
Always on guard
She loved us just as much as we loved her
She loved us just as much as we loved her
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Finding a happy me place

The last year and a half has brought significant changes to my life: a new city, a new job, being a new mom to name a few. Any one of these changes on their own would be stressful, so to have them happen in short succession was particularly challenging. While it was happening, I thought I was handling it well and I probably did deal with all the changes as best I could but I can look back with honesty and say I wasn’t happy. I wasn’t exactly unhappy though either. The best way I can describe it that I was living in a house with some of the lights turned off. There was enough light to see by, enough that I didn’t realize what I was missing, but once I finally got all the lights on, life got fuller, brighter and so much more vibrant and rich.

Part of turning the lights back on it doing things I enjoy even if they don’t include my son. My mom guilt is intense and overwhelming at times. Why did I have a kid just to pawn him off on someone else? I’ve slowly come to terms with this. I can leave him with other people. He enjoys doing things without me. In fact, it’s important that he learns to do things without me. The people I leave him with love him too and love spending time with him. I created a mantra I recite to myself when it gets tough. It addresses my mom guilt and sometimes low self-esteem. It goes like this.

For together to be our favorite place, we need to be apart.

To love my family as a whole, I will love every part. 

So, in the spirit of being apart, I made plans a few months ago to do just that. This past weekend was spent with a group of amazing women. A few times a year, they gather under the guise of quilt retreats. Yes, a lot of quilting occurs, but after being away for more than a year, I can see there is so very much more. These five days are filled with pretty much everything that I need to recharge and return to life a better person. In no particular order these are:

  1. Quilting and crafting: Of course this is necessary at a quilt retreat. It’s no secret that I like to create pretty much anything. Fabric is a really great medium with endless possibilities and is a joy to work with. Even in the scope of quilting, the options for projects are vast. Quilts themselves range in size, intended use, and intricacy. And then you have your quilted table runners, wall hangings, place mats, bags, and the list goes on and on.  I started quilting about 7 years ago. I had done some garment sewing before that and it was an easy transition. I’ve lost count of the number of quilts I’ve made and the people I’ve made them for. I do know that every single one is special and unique. Each one took my time and thought. Most of the people I have given quilts to understand this on some level, that quilts aren’t just pretty blankets. They are extremely personal and hold so much feeling. It’s such a pleasure for me to make a quilt with a specific person in mind, to go through the process and experience the fabric taking shape. It has to be because if you look at it for what is really is, cutting up fabric to sew it back together again, it seems insane. Some would argue that most artist toe the line of crazy and quilters are no different.
  2. Good food and drink: The last few retreats I’ve attended, I’ve also done the majority of the cooking and food prep for meals. Someone else purchases the food then I set it out and cook when needed. Many people would balk at making meals for 18 people but it doesn’t bother me. I really do enjoy cooking and the sense of accomplishment I feel when a meal is served and everyone is enjoying themselves. Additionally, there is always good food, not just what we eat for meals but good snacks that I never buy o make myself. We joke that it’s important to eat no less than every two hours to avoid feeling faint and there is never a shortage of food to accommodate this. Good food always is a key part to a good time. And let’s not forget happy hour, or more like hours. Sometimes a little liquid courage is needed to tackle some difficult blocks. We’ve developed an impressive bloody mary bar that has become a staple.
  3. Scenic Running/Biking Trail:  The retreat house we visit most frequently is right along a really nice path. It’s shaded, mostly flat, and goes on for miles. This trail in particular is so very peaceful. It crosses very few roads and is sheltered by thick woods on each side most of the way contributing to a sense of isolation and privacy. Running for me is a kind of therapy. I can tell when it’s been a few days without a run. I feel unsettled and edgy. It doesn’t matter if my body is tired, my mind needs the runs to remain in a healthy place. I run every day at retreat, not always far, but the fresh air, the near perfect trail are too enticing to pass up.
  4. Friendships with like minded people: The women who attend retreat are united in their love for quilting. Even if they are new to the art, by the time Sunday rolls around they are already thinking about their next project and coming to the next retreat. Beyond that, the ages and the background vary greatly. I have yet to find anywhere else that allows me to befriend women in this way. Additionally, some of these women I only see at retreat, but like old friends, it’s as if no time has passed. They remember what is going on in my life, and I theirs, and I know when they ask about it, they care about my answer and it’s not just small talk.  You will never meet a more caring and accepting group. I am so lucky to call these people friends.

I had a really good time and finished a quilt top that has been taking up space in my closet for too long. I ran 11 miles. I finished the book I was reading. I slept through the night. I had at least one bloody mary a day. I got to catch up with friends. I got to talk about O and show off some pictures of him. I missed O too but not as much as I worried I would. I got to think about me and what I wanted. I don’t feel bad about planning to go again and looking forward to it. I found a happy place where I can go to be me again. Just me and not mom, not wife, just me.

Furry Family

My dog, Tinkerbell, a fawn and white boxer, age 10, has been pretty sick the last couple weeks. She’s barely eating and has frequent diarrhea with intermittent episodes of vomiting. Yeah, I know, poor thing! In her 10 years, she has been remarkably healthy. A few things here and there, a few eye infections, some teeth pulled, everything has been easily treated but nothing really serious until now.

She has had runny stools for nearly 2 weeks. We visited our local vet earlier this week and was given instructions of using imodium and some special food to get her eating and get her digestive system calmed down. After 3 days, there was really no improvement and the vomiting increased for periods of time. Yesterday, she threw up 10 times in the span of roughly 3 hours.

We headed back to the vet. I feared the worst. Obviously, something is wrong, really wrong. Tink has always had a sensitive digestive system, puking to some extent is normal for her, so is some loose bowel movements, but not this prolonged. The next step was to run some more diagnostic tests, mostly various blood tests, testing a stool sample, and a few x-rays. Of course nearly everything was negative and in normal range. Her x-rays showed she had a lot of gas in her intestines, no blocks, really nothing conclusive. The only thing that was slightly abnormal was the test they did to measure pancreatic functions-but only slightly. Because this was really the only thing found, the vet decided to treat her for pancreatitis. Tink is on a steroid pill and special low fat food that she gets small amounts of 6 times a day.

Did I mention Tinkerbell is 10 years old? This dog has seen me through so many things. She is an amazing dog. Everyone says that about their dog, but I’m not the only one who says this about her. She hardly ever barks but when she does its serious, making you pay attention to whatever she has been alerted to. She is incredible protective of her family. When I lived alone, she always positioned herself between me and the door. I would be doing dishes and she would be sitting at attention at my feet, her back to me as she watched the door, listening to all the people that walked past. We were once walking with my young niece and nephew when she noticed a man sitting on his steps across the street. He must have looked suspicious because I watched her change her position to ensure she was between that man and the kids. We walked past this man twice and both times she was eyeing him as she put herself in his path. Tink is very much in tune with my husband and his anxiety. Often times, her bouts of illness coincide with his anxious episodes making me aware of something that isn’t always noticeable. She watches little O like a helicopter parent. When he was very small, she would pace and go from his room to our room until we responded to his cries. It was like she was saying, “Hey, don’t you hear that? He’s crying! Why aren’t you fixing it? Hurry up and fix it! He’s crying!” All this on top of the emotional support that this dog has leant me. Her silent presence has gotten me through countless hard times.

Happily, this new treatment has seemed to begin to help. The vomiting has ceased. She gobbles up this food like she will never eat again. Her stools are slowing getting thicker. At this point, I’m hopeful that we’ve found something that will give her a chance to feel better. Additionally, her mood is up. She is more restful and willing to play and in general wants to be with us. To me, its clear she feels better than she has. But we aren’t all the way out of the woods. She’s not quite completely back to her normal self. She gets up and night and has to go out immediately, softly whining until I get up to take her. It’s difficult to differentiate between what is just her getting older and what is residual signs of illness.

With all this, my husband and I had to have ‘the talk.’ How far do we let it go? What measures do we take to help her? At what point do we call it? While I was waiting for the test results at the vet on Friday, a man with tears in his eyes brought in an old dog clearly not well. The dog looked lumpy, like maybe he had some growths that were taking over his body. The man brought him in with red eyes and I watched as the vet tech exchanged leashes, slipping the blue slip collar, a vet standard, around his neck and lead him to the back. The red eyed man walked out. Sitting there, it was the worse time to be a bystander as I was fairly certain this dog was walking his version of the green mile. Of course, my eyes also began to tear. I am not ready to say goodbye to my great dog. I don’t want to have to make this decision. I don’t think there is anyway to prepare for it either except to take advantage of the good days. Play with her when she wants to play, go for walks when she feels up to it, have her with us whenever we can. It might still be years if we can get through this but if we can’t it might not be. The only definite plan we have is to do our best to enjoy the time we have with our furry family member.

Claiming by body back

When I was pregnant, I craved candy, fruity candy like Starbursts so that’s what I ate a lot of. There really was no self control available. I gained about 35-40 lbs from a starting point that was higher than I wanted it to be. My plan was to breastfeed my new baby and was confident that the extra 500 calories a day would be all the extra help I needed to shed the baby weight. I had it in my head 9 months on, 9 months off, no problem. And some of that weight was the baby and all that extra stuff that comes with them right? True, but not 40 lbs worth. When things were all said and done, I was about 20 lbs. over my pre-pregnancy weight. Yikes!

I went back to work and fell into a maintain rut. I wasn’t gaining weight but it wasn’t coming off either. I ate when I was hungry, did my best to eat well, walked when I could, but with sleep deprivation and the stresses of a newborn, taking care of me wasn’t a priority.  At one point I decided I wasn’t going to worry about it until after I was done breastfeeding. I breastfed O until he was about 11 1/2 months old, roughly the middle of January this year. I made a late New Year’s resolution that I wanted to spend the next year claiming by body back after it had been hijacked by my baby.

I’m getting back on track and basically starting at zero. I’m motivated and ready to commit to something. I chose an eating plan, started the couch to 5k program, found some Pilates videos I liked on YouTube and so far I’m down about 8.5 lbs. My mental health has improved as well. I’m getting out of the house, I’m making plans to be with other people, I’m talking to my husband more, I’m more engaged with my son, in general I’m just more animated instead of feeling like I’m experiencing life from inside a bubble.

To achieve results, I’m not doing anything fancy, no shakes or pills or meals out of a box. I’m eating less food that is higher quality and I’m working out 4-5 times a week for at least 30 minutes each. It sounds simple, but making good choices and finding time is a struggle, I know it is for everyone. I made a decision to make this is a priority, I included my husband in on it so he could support and encourage me. Even still, it isn’t always easy and I have to plan a little. I maximize nap times, only focusing on things that are difficult/impossible to do with a one year old on my hip-like running on a treadmill. I get creative with my time, working out late at night after work when O is already asleep. I include O when I can. He ‘helps’ me cook and we talk about what I’m doing or I push him in the jogger when we go running. One way or another it works and my juggling act is worth it.

My planning extends to eating. I’m following the Mayo Clinic Diet.  Learn more about it here or buy the book here to get started. You count servings not calories using the food pyramid that is adjusted to your weight and goals. Big thing for me was to cut out sugar completely. It was really really hard to do but the first week I lost 4 lbs and after that I was on board. I’ve been doing it for about 3 weeks and continue to decrease each week.  My clothes have already started to fit a little better. I’m not perfect but I keep to the plan as much as I can.

But eating is only half the battle, weight loss success for me also relies on increased movement. I really love Pilates. You don’t need any equipment really and it’s effective. I can feel the next day that I worked out. And there are a ton of free videos on YouTube to pick from. Bonus is you can do them anywhere. I’ve been able to do a Pilates video while O plays in our living room.  He drives his cars on my head while I’m doing it, but I’m doing it.  Additionally, I’ve been following a Couch to 5k app that I got free in the app store. There are a bunch out there but they are all very similar. It lays out an easy to follow plan that gradually increases your running time. It really does start from the beginning too. That first week was more walking than running and just for a minute or 90 seconds at a time. It doesn’t tell you how fast to run, you just have to run. I’m finishing up week 5 right now and I ran 20 minutes straight without walking and felt great. I also got a neat baby bike seat for O that I’m super excited to get installed and use. He loves riding in his stroller so I’m hoping he will also love this.

Slowly but surely I will take back my body. I know it’s not going to be the same and I’m okay with that. I just want to feel more at home in it. I’ll post again with my progress. I’m only just getting started.

Keys to Planning a Great Party

My youngest sister is getting married in June. I have the great privilege of being her matron of honor along with another one of her dear friends. I take this role seriously and have been planning her bachelorette party pretty much since she told me I was to be her MOH, pinning ideas on Pinterest, asking endless questions about her preferences determined to make this party one of the best she’s ever been to. Bonus for me is that I really like to plan events. I love how all the details come together in the end for one awesome time. Here are my tips to planning a great party.

Tip One: Pick a theme but don’t go overboard

A theme allows you to keep your party on track, give you a color scheme to work with and ideas for gifts and games. Its easy to go overboard, and for me it just ends up being a waste of money. I really loved the Kiss the Miss Goodbye theme that was all over Pinterest. I’ve got plans for a super cute picture frame to commemorate the evening. I asked everyone to wear black, like we are mourning sending her off into matrimony, with pink accessories adding a hint of fun and nod to her wedding colors, and of course their favorite lip stick. I’ve got fun little lip stickers to use however we please.

Tip Two: Games are not competitions-pick ones that even the playing field

Games are meant to be fun, nothing too crazy that make people uncomfortable but just interesting enough to help break the ice between everyone helping them to form a bond that will span from this party through the wedding. The game I’m most looking forward to is modified from a Christmas drawing on your head game I found online. Our drawing will be more adult themed. Points are awarded for how well the drawing turns out. I picked this one in particular because it has the potential to turn out a little ridiculous and no one is good at drawing on their head. The prizes show my craftiness. I made cute little makeup bags and stuffed them will spa stuff. Keep those simple as well, people aren’t at your party for the prizes.

Tip Three: Listen to your guest of honor

I emailed my sister pretty early on to determine just what she was looking for in a party. I stuck to her wished and did my best to fulfill her suggestions. It took a considerable amount of time reviewing crowns to find one that met the only requirement from my sister, something super sweet. I was under specific instructions to keep it classy, so nothing crazy in her veil or weird necklaces. Because I’m such a crafty person, I ended up making her veil. How perfect to have some one-of-kind things for my one-of-kind sister. She is going to be the definition of classy bride-to-be when we go out!

Tip Four: Have a loose schedule and be flexible

We have firm dinner reservations, that is the only thing we must do all night at a specific time, eat dinner. Clearly a pretty important thing to commit to. Otherwise, keep the schedule loose. Paying games and eating snacks once everyone arrives at the hotel, go to dinner, then more drinking and dancing after that. The group will go where we like. If one place seems great, we’ll stay awhile, it if turns out to be a dud, we’ll move on.

Tip Five: Keep Calm and Plan Ahead

What allows me to be calm during events is to plan, plan, plan and then plan some more. Other people don’t work this way and that’s okay for them, but not me. I have to work out nearly every scenario that could occur and have a plan in mind. I make list after list. I’ve had a bag packed for two weeks that I’ve been adding to as I think of things I need to bring. I’m considering asking them to use the buddy system so no one gets left behind. I’m a firm believer in plan for the worst and hope for the best and it has served me well more than once.

There you have it, my tips for planning a great party that is sure to be memorable and enjoyable. I will be a little stressed tomorrow but not nearly as stressed as I could be. Everything is going to be great and I’ll go down in history as the best matron of honor my sister could ever have.

Oh did I mention I got us a selfie stick for the night? I found one for around $8 which seemed worth it, check it out here. My sister is so very excited for this so even if everything else falls apart, she will have some cute pictures of herself.

What is the most memorable party you’ve been to? What made it memorable?

Teething Nightmares, at least they would be nightmares if I slept

My little one has never really consistently slept through the night. As a very small guy he would get up every few hours to eat but then went right back to sleep. After hearing some horror stories from other moms I took this and was grateful. But then I’d hear stories of babies who slept 6-8 hours chunks and I was envious, deeply envious. One friend posted about a book that they read and after following this guide, their child was sleeping 12 hours a night. 12 hours straight! With no waking! I had to have this book, so I took a few days to read it and upon finishing cried and cried and cried all while snuggled by new baby which this book pretty much said I was messing up because I was holding too much and that’s why he wasn’t sleeping well. I’ll note this was only a few weeks after O was born, hormones were not stable, at all, I was sleep deprived and still healing from an intense labor. In hindsight, I’m well aware I was not in any sort of appropriate mindset to handle something like this, but the damage was done and even now I’m still pretty sensitive about sleep.

About a year later, we are still struggling with sleep, but only staying asleep. He is fantastic at falling asleep on his own. For naps, I can put him in his room when he shows some tired signs, close the door and he’s out within 20 minutes or less most days. At night, we have a bed time routine we follow, and he falls asleep quickly at nearly the same time every night. But without fail, he wakes at least once if not few time each night and I can count on one hand the amount of times he has slept through the night. There is always something. When he was tiny, it was a growth spurt. As he got bigger, it was gas or some other tummy troubles associated with being on a more solid diet. Right now I’m blaming it on teething. He just cut one of the eye teeth, which I’ve been told are particularly awful. I can see the telltale white gums on two other canines in addition to 2 other molars that haven’t fully broke through. So I get it, he’s really uncomfortable and in pain.

What I don’t understand is how my small boy who is charming, curious, and active during the day, turns into a raging ball of terrible horribleness at night who will seemingly do everything in his power not to fall asleep. Do his teeth only grow at night? Rationally, I know he’s uncomfortable, which wakes him up and keeps him awake, which makes him overtired, which makes it even harder for him to fall back asleep. However, in the middle of the night when I’m counting down the hours until I have to get up the next day, dreading having to function on next to no sleep, all I can do is hunker down and get through it. It becomes a desperate battle of wills to see who will break first and I’ll be honest, it isn’t always the kid.

In the waking hours of the next day, when my happy boy is back, I know that this too will pass. The teeth will come in. He will sleep soundly at some point. As he raises his arms up to me and babbles about his plans for the day, I am reminded of the wee hours of the morning, when he finally succumbed to sleep. It was the best thing to have him snuggle on my lap, limp bodied, chubby little hand resting against my cheek, and the darling little smile that came across his finally peaceful face was the perfect ending to a challenging night. Oh yeah, that’s why I am happy to do this. That’s why I’ll go on with my day only a little worse for the wear. I’d do most anything for that dimpled smile, that stolen moment that I never would have gotten or even noticed had I not been put through the wringer to get there. Yes, I can do this.

What motivates you to get out of bed and tackle another day?

So I’m Starting a Blog

I’m at point and position in my life where I need an outlet and purpose for some free time. As a newer mom, my little one is just one year old, you might wonder how I have free time and some days I would agree with you that I don’t. But my introvert tendencies nag at me to take some alone time to recharge in order to be a functioning person. I recently moved with my family away from the place I had called home for the past 10 years leaving friends and a familiar lifestyle. In addition, I have serious mom guilt where it’s sometimes, almost always, difficult to spend time away from my kiddo if it’s for personal reasons. I’m okay going to work but going out with friends or even just taking an hour to go get my hair cut happens infrequently and only when I can’t put it off any longer. This is because I worry people will think that I’m one of those moms that leave their kid all the time.

I know, I shouldn’t worry about what other people think. It’s just that being a mom has been the only thing in my life that I’ve been certain of so it is extremely important to me that I do it well. In addition, it’s a strong personal identifier and I feel I lack those. My current job doesn’t include a clear cut title that I list off when people ask about me. I quilt but I don’t just make quilts so the label is limiting to me. I used to be a runner, I want to be again very badly but it’s one more thing I can’t say that I am without it feeling like a bit of a lie. The reasons and excuses continue with other labels but it remains that since becoming a mom, I feel like it’s my beginning, most of my middle and my end.

So here I am, striving to be more than a mom and most importantly, being okay with it. I’m hoping this blog can help me to do that. Don’t get me wrong, I love my little one and I truly love being a mom. But by sharing my other experiences and talents, I think it will help me to embrace an identity outside ‘mom.’

Thanks for reading! I hope to have another post soon.