good doggie

We lost our wonderful pet, Sadie, a few months ago. It was a tragic event for all of us, of course, and the pain I felt was so raw and real. It literally took my breath away. She faded quickly from a cancerous lump, and even after surgery to remove it, she still couldn’t beat it. Watching her last few days, her struggle to move and breathe, broke my heart.

It’s very true, when you lose a dog, you lose a family member.

As part of the grieving process, I immediately went to look for another dog. I’m not sure why this was, maybe I was looking to replace the hole in my heart as quickly as possible. It’s a little funny how you can learn and get to know different rescues and animals available for adoption with just a few websites: petfinder.com and adoptapet.com were my personal favorites.

I did stop looking when I realized I was in no way ready for a new dog.

But then the quarantine occurred. And my husband went on a stretch of trips and trainings that left me home alone for an extended period of time. I missed having the other creature in the house, looking over us. I missed the companionship a dog provides. I missed the quick clean-up of food drops from my messy eater kids. Dogs bring joy into every house and I needed that vacancy filled.

A good part of this social distancing age is everyone wants a dog now. The rescue operations around me are very competitive. After spending hours researching and selecting dogs that look perfect for our family, I kept finding out they were no longer available. Suddenly, getting a rescue is like a job application- I needed personal references and our previous dog’s medical records.

Another, selfish, part of me wondered about Golden Retrievers. Even though I believe in “adopt don’t shop”. My family has always had Golden’s, and I know they are amazing family dogs. So, I also started looking into buying a new puppy.

This proved just as difficult. Finding a reputable breeder is confusing online, and golden puppies are scooped up quickly. It almost became a game. My husband, who had the refrain “I DO NOT SUPPORT THIS”, got into it as well. Sending me links, leads, and letting me know he was just as obsessed as I was.

Then, yesterday morning, as I was sipping coffee and going over my Sunday papers (I get physical papers delivered every weekend) I saw an ad in the local classifieds. For Golden puppies. I called. Yesterday we drove to meet the litter of 6-week-old puppies. I fell in love with this sweet girl…

And the rest is history. We are bringing her home in two weeks.

I’m honestly conflicted about buying a puppy, but we were able to meet the parents of her, see that they are well kept, and it’s not a puppy mill or anything like that. My oldest hurt the most when we lost our dog, and one of the first questions he had for me was how long we could expect her to live. When I’d show him available dogs for adoption he’d do quick mental math on the life expectancy- “Mom, she’d only be alive for another 4 years, that’s too quick”. I like knowing, as long as we take good care of her, we can have as part of our family for another 10 years. I think he likes that too.

Now, instead of looking at doggy profile pics and crossing fingers, I have hours to fill by looking up puppy training philosophies and making sure our home is puppy ready. Apparently a new puppy is just as difficult as a newborn human. I’m anxious about raising a dog the right way. But I know this puppy will bring joy, light, and fun into our home.

In two weeks Captain Princess Summer Rose (there’s a story behind that name lol), or Summer, will integrate into our household and I simply can’t wait.

the boredom curve

I’m going to admit something that is going to make me sound like an inattentive mother. I’ve gotten exceptionally talented at ignoring my kids. No, no, hear me out. Like millions across America right now, I am home with my children. Unlike before, there is no out-of-home activities to cart the littles to. In the past, a great distraction in the day was a trip to the local park or the library. These days are no more.

So now my days are predictable and routine. Life revolves around snack time and meal time, and I prioritize my workout time (thank you, Peloton). Beyond that, there isn’t rules. My fourth grader is excellent at keeping to his school schedule, but the littles have free reign on the house.

I have learned a secret trick to parenting them. When they say they are “bored” and have nothing to do, if I just sort of ignore their cries and leave them be…. they find something to do. Luckily they have each other as playmates. So, without fail, within a few minutes, they distract themselves and play.

It seems like a revelation to me. How many lists and schedules and ideas are we sending to each other at this time, trying to fill this void of sheltering in place? And, for the most part, all this planning is for naught. Sure, I give the kids some direction, but for the most part, I can be totally hands off. There might be whining and a few tears, but they are very good at entertaining themselves. I don’t have to fight them, I don’t have to say platitudes like “Only boring people are bored”. I just let their cries wash over me and then watch the miracle of free play and creativity come out.

***

My neighbor and I had a pseudo-play date yesterday. It was gorgeous here in suburban New Jersey, and after a family bike ride we saw them in their front yard playing with sidewalk chalk. The kids did an excellent job of staying 6-feet-apart from one another, and I had some much needed, in person, adult communication. (for reference, my husband is currently out of state for training, he worked last week quite a bit, and wont return home until this weekend)

I admitted to her that my kids don’t seem bothered by all this societal change. Because, they don’t. They haven’t begged to leave the house beyond a bike ride or a walk in the neighborhood, and to them going in the backyard is just as great as a field trip to the park. The other day I had to force my eldest into the van with his father to get take out food, I assumed he’d miss riding in the car since it’d been 3+ weeks since his last outing, but he didn’t care.

My neighbor said the same thing. It made me think about all the distractions and events we are always carting our offspring to don’t really matter. The kids, at least my kids, are just as happy at home with us around all the time. We have a way of over scheduling and over stimulating our kids, and it might not matter. Maybe we are over complicating everything and this return to just sticking it out at home is good for us, like a juice cleanse for ourselves.

My eldest is sad about not seeing his friends. He misses school. My littles say they miss preschool as well, but, they just accept than they can’t go right now. The kids are handling this social change much better than I am, and most adults I know. They are so amazing at just living in the moment, not looking into the past or future, and this life outlook is something I try to keep during these “troubled times” (as they say).

Life is slower right now, but we all have our health. We are happy in our self-appointed quarantine and have everything we need right now. Our boredom is a privilege and as my kids show me every single day, boredom isn’t something than needs fixing. If I’m feeling anxious or like acting out, if I just let the emotion ride and then dismiss it as quickly as it comes, I too am on to the next thing.

journey to the front lines

I’m really good at sheltering in place. For the most part, my life isn’t that different from before the ‘rona hit. I’m patriotic just by never leaving my house, except for our daily walks around the neighborhood, which are patriotic in their own way… neighbors popping out to chat from their front door (we stay on the sidewalk, well within social distancing guidelines).

But, after two weeks at home, my fridge got low and few days ago, and I had to make the Costco run. The first Costco run since our state (New Jersey) put all the official restrictions in place. In a matter of 14 days, the idea of leaving my bubble caused anxiety. My husband has been working, flying around the states, but I’ve been quarantined and the prospect of a routine shopping trip suddenly felt like a big deal.

Something so simple and basic, all of the sudden, daunting. I didn’t know what to expect.

The whole drive there I felt that nervous energy. The steady stream of thoughts went something like this: Will I encounter friendly people, or aggressive jerks? Will I find items I need? Is there an item limit? What if people yell at me for shopping, for buying so much? The last time I’d gone to Costco (the day after the official Oval Office broadcast from our president) there’d been armed cops in the toilet paper aisle.

I’m generally not an anxious person. I’m outgoing, yet as I age I do find myself more weary with crowds and closed in environments. And since I’ve become such a shut-in, this tendency to fear crowds really lit up.

I purposefully went to Costco in the late afternoon, knowing I was possibly missing out on some items, but hoping to avoid long lines.

Luckily, there were no lines. I walked right in. The staff was the same efficient, busy workers they always were. I tried to remind myself to stay 6-feet away from everyone, which is kind of hard in aisles. I took my time and found everything I needed. Sure, eye contact was minimal, and most people had masks or plastic gloves on, but otherwise it felt normal. I made small talk with a few customers and employees, my first in person communication with strangers in weeks.

I needed that.

I think I’ve been spending so much time wrapped up in my little hovel, consuming news, isolated from real world experiences, and because of this a simple routine task became suddenly something to conquer.

It makes me a little nervous for when life becomes normal again. Ever since the Colorado movie theater massacre, I can’t sit in a dark movie theater without a nagging worry. Am I going to have even more issues in crowds in the future? Will the practice of wearing masks in public eventually become the norm in American society? Back when I was a flight attendant, it wasn’t that uncommon to see tourists from Asian countries wearing masks, and this was a decade past SARS. Are we about to turn into a nation of OCD germaphobes?

It’s a fine line between awareness and paranoia. I have faith that we will get past this massive hurdle, this massive challenge. One day life will return to is chaotic mess. I know I need to lead by example for my kids, so I keep trying to take it one day at a time, and trying to get out of my own head and worries about the future. And if all I need to do to remind myself things will go back one day, and the world isn’t a scary place, is just a simple shopping trip every 14 days or so, so be it.