Archive for the ‘Children and Parents’ Category

We got a dog.  A puppy to be exact.  fugee2Not a teeny tiny puppy.  Not the pee all over the house kind of puppy, but the occasional pee and poop in the house kind of puppy.  I have always considered myself a cat person, and I will admit it, I used to have some disdain for dogs and dog people.  In my mind, they wanted the submissive instant love of a dog.  The undying devotion.  The creature that would only see them as good, no matter how badly they behaved.  And to me that was a cop-out.  Life is not like that!  Cats to me were more self-contained and dignified.  You usually had to work to get their attention and affection.  That felt more honest and real to me.  Part of me felt obliged to choose the harder path (the German part?), even though in ways cats are easier because you can ignore them and that doesn’t really work with most dogs.

Since our cat died about 8 years ago, I steadfastly said, No more pets!  I didn’t want another creature with a shorter life expectancy than me.  And I felt that two boys and a husband were more than enough to fill my plate.  And I wanted freedom.    But over the past year, I have started to wonder about adding a pet to the family.  My kids (16 & 12) are a lot less demanding and I can feel more room in my life.  I began spending a lot of time thinking about the idea of pets.  What are people looking for when they get a pet?  I didn’t want to fall to my kids’ pleadings alone.  They have always said they wanted a pet, but I knew they weren’t ready to truly be part of that until recently.  Being the mother and generally the holder-together-of-all-things-emotional, I knew I needed to wrap my head around the idea of a pet before going forward.  I unofficially, and party unconsciously, began a year of research.

The first thing that struck me when I talked with many people about their pets was what a pain they were.  Our friends cat who loves to eat wool (especially cashmere), another friend’s dog who is scared of men and pees inside sometimes, another cat that lost all the fur around its butt (apparently quite a site to behold) and has feline HIV, as well as the cost of hiring dog walkers and finding suitable places to board said pet when you go away.  And then there is the shit-factor.  Call me prissy, but whether it’s having to pick dog shit up outside, or scoop it out of a litter box, I am not a fan.  Add to all that the intrinsic needs of another creature.  I am such an empath, that it literally causes me distress not meeting the needs (or perceived needs) of others.  In short, why get a needy pet???

I kept coming to the same conclusion.  Keep life simple and clean.  Don’t complicate things.  But the thought kept coming back and kept coming back, and I finally started to look more closely at what is/could be positive about having a pet…and even the inner knowledge that this time a dog (a dog!) might be the right choice.  Over time I have come to see the value of that undying, no-questions-asked love.  I know it has the potential to bring out the best in people…the humanity, ironically.  To be met with undying devotion is an opportunity to step up, and I wanted that for my kids and in the vibe in our house in general.  As they get older and in some ways more self-absorbed (natural!), I wanted this for them.  Someone to take care of.  And for my husband, I told him he deserved someone who loved him unconditionally.  And I really meant it.  Of course, I love him unconditionally on a deep and important level.  But if he leaves his underwear on the floor, I am not going to lick his face.  If he is late to pick up the kids, I am not going to wag my tail when he gets home.  I am too cat-like to do that.

After a false start and some drama (not going in to that here), we took the plunge.  We met Fugee (then JoJo) at a Rocket Dog Rescue event in December.  She had been turned in by two people…probably drug addicts who realized they couldn’t care for her.  We all agreed she was the one and took her home the same day.  As my father-in-law would say, “She landed her ass in the butter.”  She now has four people who love her and dote on her. Here are just a few of the moments that make me happy we took the plunge.

  • All agreeing on a name.  From The Fugees (a music group that chose the name from “refugee”).
  • Watching my older son take care of Fugee after she got spayed.  He felt so bad about putting the cone on her head at night so she wouldn’t lick the wound, but he did it because he knew it was necessary.
  • Having my younger son put Fugee into his afternoon schedule (yes, he creates one every day) each day after school.
  • Seeing both boys have more fun together with Fugee as the thing that unites them.
  • Witnessing my husband’s pure delight at having this creature love him and loving her back.
  • Doing puppy training as a family.  Not easy, but so interesting to see how we all react and what comes naturally or not to each of us (possibly another blog post!).
  • Knowing that I listened to my gut and let it win this time.
  • Focusing on the good and not the poop I had to pick up on the floor this morning because it is raining and somebody doesn’t like rain!

 

Remember the days when an ice-cream was enough to make you happy or shift the mood?  Or a chocolate bar?  Or any delicious food thing that felt special?  I remember realizing in a concrete way when I was a teenager that those days were over.  Going to Baskin-Robbins was no longer going to cut it.

I had a similar realization yesterday about my older son:  his ice-cream days are over.   His depth of feeling and comprehension on a gut level of how difficult/disappointing/frustrating/sad life can be has hit a new level.  That’s not to say that things didn’t upset him deeply, even at a young age.  It’s just that before, even the worst things could be soothed by ice-cream or something like that.  When he was just over two and half years old my father died.  I still remember him walking in the room before we told him.  He knew.  He knew and felt that something big had happened.  And, without having the words to describe it, he knew it was sad.  But that sadness or feeling, whatever it was, didn’t step in the way of pleasure.  In fact, there was room for both.

Now he’s a teenager with more independence, more complicated hopes and dreams, more pressure on himself and surely from others.  And I feel sad for him that his ice-cream days are over.  As I watched him struggle the other night, I immediately thought of making and buying food he likes.  I had been on a semi-cooking strike …protesting the lack of appreciation I sometimes feel from my family for all the food I make, but seeing him struggle my instinct was to feed him, both physically and metaphorically.  And although food may not provide the cure-all that ice-cream once did, I believe that it nourishes him in important ways.

 

I wrote this post nearly three months ago, when I had recently come back from a month-long trip to the East Coast.  I never managed to push the Publish button…I’m not sure why.  Too busy?

This article in the NY Times really resonated with me.  The author, Tim Kreider, starts out:

If you live in America in the 21st century you’ve probably had to listen to a lot of people tell you how busy they are. It’s become the default response when you ask anyone how they’re doing: “Busy!” “So busy.” “Crazy busy.”

I was already cringing by that point, hearing myself say those words.  And then he goes into something I’ve written about in this blog, and also thought a lot about.  Choice.  Busyness is not a choice for everyone, but for many people it is.

It’s almost always people whose lamented busyness is purely self-imposed: work and obligations they’ve taken on voluntarily, classes and activities they’ve “encouraged” their kids to participate in. They’re busy because of their own ambition or drive or anxiety, because they’re addicted to busyness and dread what they might have to face in its absence.

We create the circumstances that make us busy.  I sometimes think I’m a slacker because I actively try not to be too busy.  I hate being too busy!  I’m not at my best when I’m running in ten directions at once.  There is no time to think.

Writing this blog gives me time to think.  If I see it that way it doesn’t feel like something that makes me busier, but instead something that makes my life richer.  So, if you’re still hanging in there with me, please expect more.  Soon.

How busy are you?

P.S.  A friend wrote me this morning and reminded me of the great ending to the article…for those of you who don’t read it, here it is.

I suppose it’s possible I’ll lie on my deathbed regretting that I didn’t work harder and say everything I had to say, but I think what I’ll really wish is that I could have one more beer with Chris, another long talk with Megan, one last good hard laugh with Boyd. Life is too short to be busy.

A couple months ago, a friend sent me a link to a TED talk about vulnerability.  I was traveling and didn’t get around to watching it until a couple days ago.  I realized right away that I had already seen the talk, and although I couldn’t remember any specifics, I remember liking it so I kept watching.  I liked it again.  And then I watched a follow-up talk the speaker, Brene Brown, did, also at TED.  This time it was about shame.

Main messages:

vulnerability = good

shame = bad

I figured I must have already written about vulnerability, but I couldn’t find anything on my blog specifically about that, so I thought I’d do it.  I definitely haven’t touched shame.

(Aside #1:  I just finished an article in The New Yorker about the phenomenon of TED talks, and had a pang of feeling cliche to be writing about another TED talk on my site!  The article is very interesting and points out what you kind of know after watching a TED talk:  they are skillfully produced.  And produced to pull you in and make you emotional.  I had to ask myself if I’m just another tool who drank the kool-aid.  But I decided, screw it…produced or not, these two talks bring up a lot of important things and if they give people something to think about and examine about their lives, then so be it.)

(Aside #2:  I watched the videos up in Bolinas, where I was providing moral support for my younger son who was going to a camp up there with a friend.  I was only supposed to stay for two days and then leave him for the rest of the week.  But my son was struggling.  He’s very attached to home and family and he has a hard time stepping out of his comfort zone.  He doesn’t like to feel vulnerable.  Every time I talked with him about staying alone, he would tell me to speak more quietly.  He didn’t want his friend to know he was nervous.  He was embarrassed.  And then I realized I was also feeling vulnerable because I know that some people feel I am too soft with my son.  And I know I am sometimes, but I honestly don’t see the point in pushing him too far too fast.  But at the same time I know he needs to become independent and learn to cope in uncomfortable situations.  What was the “right” thing to do?

After I dropped my son and his friend at camp yesterday morning, I drove away.  Headed back to S.F.  I was struggling with my own fear that it would be hard for him, and knowing it was time for me to get back.  I felt like I should rush home and start working, but then I saw the sign for Stinson Beach and thought there was absolutely nothing so pressing that I shouldn’t take a little time to unwind.

I walked and thought, and thought and walked.  I thought about vulnerability and shame and how closed off so many people are.  I felt glad that my son could recognize his vulnerability and I, mine.  And we could still move forward.

He’s coming home this evening and I will hear all about it.  I did get a text at 6:30 a.m. this morning.  Nothing wrong, just reaching out.)

My asides aside, I think both TED talks are worth watching and hearing.  It’s a good reminder that as uncomfortable as being vulnerable is, it’s what gets people closer together and what brings us to new places.  And, we all have shame.  Don’t let it rule your world.

I feel like “letting go” is a big theme swirling around my world lately.  I have clients, friends and family struggling and stepping up to let go.  What are they letting go of?  So many different things:  twenty-plus years in the same house and all the things that go with that, a relationship that was already over, a desire to know, a past life that is now only a shadow.

Why is it so hard and often painful to let go?  There are as many answers as there are scenarios, but one thing they all have in common is that letting go means moving into the unknown.  That’s why even letting go of things we know are not good for us or bringing us what we want is hard.  At least in our dissatisfaction we know where we stand.

What are you unwilling to let go of?  Imagine you have a closet or a house or a box of the things you don’t want to/can’t let go.  How big is it?  What’s in there?  What are you ready to let go of?  These can be actual things, but also ideas or beliefs or people.  I challenge you to start letting go.  Little by little.  Not when you’re under pressure and have no choice, but now, while you’re strong and making an active decision for yourself.