Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Grampy and the Orange Couch

Recently I heard the statement that “...the only thing that is real is right now. The past is an illusion and the future hasn’t happened”. Before you think I’m going to get too metaphysical on this blog…think again!! Not my style!! I pondered the above mentioned statement for a while and then tried to find some situation in my life where I found it to be true.

A few months back, my sister and I were having a text conversation. We are getting pretty good at it. Whole conversations, mind you… not much text lingo. I think we are too old to have to learn a new language and with my compulsion for correct spelling… I just can’t slaughter words to fit them all in one text. Isn’t that why they created unlimited texting plans?

 My sister was trying to put together a photo memory book for our Aunt and Uncle’s 50th Wedding Anniversary party and she had asked my siblings and me for favorite photos and memories of spending time with them. So we were going back and forth remembering and laughing about several funny stories. So as she worked on the book, we traded text messages and spent the better part of the afternoon laughing our way through her project. It kind of felt like I was there working on it with her although we were on different coasts.

Meanwhile, one of our other sisters sent her an email with her photo and memories, one of which included the Christmas when Grampy threw up on the orange couch. She forwarded the email to me but through my laughter I could no longer text back. Resorting to old fashioned communication…I called her. We spent the next 30 minutes discussing the story of what happened some 35 years earlier and laughing till we could no longer breathe. My husband happened to walk in on me while I was on the phone and having seen my sisters and I in laughing fits on the floor before…. Shook his head and walked back out.

The funny thing was all three of us had a different memory of what had happened that day:
I vaguely remembered the day, but did remember fearing that something was seriously wrong with Grampy, who had a heart condition, and I remember Dad and my uncle had to take him outside after Christmas dinner because he wasn’t feeling well. To me, it was a serious medical condition.

To my other sister, she remembered that Grampy had had too much to drink that day and after vomiting on the orange couch had to be taken outside to walk it off.

My other sister, did not remember the incident but remembers making out on that couch with an old boyfriend one time and thinking how awful that ugly orange couch smelled!!

I’m not sure whose memory is the correct one. But it makes you think about how 3 people can experience the same thing and come away with 3 different stories. I guess that’s why our courts are so full of people wanting to tell their side of the story. I guess it was only "real" in the moment it happened but it left me/us with a “real” funny memory.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Option # 3

Ahhhh… the family vacation brings thoughts of relaxation, stress-free quality family time. A time to get away from it all and enjoy each other, a time to get refreshed to be able to return to work/school life ready to start anew. To some, the thought of a family vacation means bringing everyone…pets included.

 I used to think that way….

We have a second home near the Colorado River in Arizona where we love to lounge at the lake and ride sea-doos. We picnic and swim with family and friends and try to keep cooled off in the average 110 degree summer heat.  The dogs would frolic in the water and sometimes enjoy a ride on the sea-doo in the cove. We’ve been doing it since the girls were little enough to fit sleeping in the walk-in closet of the condo my aunt and uncle had, as the beds and couches were taken up by adults. In later years, the girls would invite as many high school friends as could fit in our home and we’d have wall to wall bodies and mouths to feed. Many great memories have been made at the lake.

As our family ages, it takes great planning for all four of us to get away at the same time. With both girls in college and summer jobs, a couple of days together was all that we managed to fit in that summer. Our youngest was about to leave for a semester abroad in Spain and we were looking forward to those few days together. Casey, our beloved family pet, was getting up in years and even though she tired easily, still loved going to the lake. Her tired bones were refreshed by the buoyancy of the water and after cooling off, she’d retire to the blanket in the middle of where everyone sat and after shaking herself off would lay down for a nap.

The week before we were to leave, Casey had a day where she was having trouble getting up and seemed unresponsive. Not sure what was going on, I resolved to take her to the vet the next day and see how soon the inevitable was coming. To my surprise, she bounced back the next day and greeted me when I arrived home with a renewed energy.

The morning after our arrival, we woke early to pack up the car and sea-doos and “claim” our spot on the lake. Our old neighbors and good friends had purchased a vacation home across the street from ours in Arizona so both families got unloaded and spent the day together. Kids, dogs, food, drinks, canopies, sunscreen, rafts, you name it… we had it with us.

The sun and high temperatures, a little higher than normal that week… about 115-120 really wiped everyone out so it was not unusual when we opted to have breakfast at home the next day and leave a little later for the lake. We were enjoying breakfast at our friends when our eldest daughter ran across the street to our house to retrieve something and found Casey gasping for breath. She ran to get us and instantly I knew the inevitable was here. Not living in Arizona permanently, I did not know which vet to take her to so I called my aunt and uncle who gave me the name of theirs. After explaining the dog’s condition, the receptionist told me they had no appointments that day. I explained that I didn’t think the dog would make a 5 hr trip back to California and could they make an exception. Leaving the girls' friends at our house, we loaded both girls and Casey into the truck and headed off.

Our girls sat in the waiting room holding the dog who looked at me with lost eyes. Casey and I had a special connection. I had trained her as a pet therapy dog. She and I would volunteer to visit special education classes or nursing homes and she would play with the kids or lay there and let people love on her. Casey was a definite family dog but whenever she was spooked or something serious was going on… it was me who she came to for answers. She’d look at me with those eyes as if to say… “Take care of it, please.” It was those lost eyes that looked at me now.

I asked the receptionist, what were our options if the doctor found that she needed to euthanized. Option #1- we could pay $200 and have her cremated and keep her ashes. Excuse me but….not my thing to carry around anyone’s ashes…let alone a dog!! Option #2- we could pay $20 and she would be buried in the local landfill in the pet section. (One look at the girls faces, told me that this was not going to be the option we chose.) Option #3- she asked, when would we be leaving for home? Did we have a large freezer we could put her in? To which my husband says “Your uncle does.” To which I replied, “That goes beyond the call of family to freeze someone’s pet.” I explained that we were going home Sunday and we were here with several people who had taken time off from work to be here. We couldn’t just turn around and go home today (Friday). She offered to meet us at the veterinary office on Sunday morning and we could claim her body. Without thinking, both Fernando and I both agreed.

Well, the vet examined her and it was determined that yes, she had fluid in her lungs and most likely she had  a stroke the week before when I found her unresponsive and it was time to thank her for the love she’d give us but to let her go. We left the vet’s office with teary eyes, heavy hearts and an empty leash. It was tough to go back to our friends and try to muster up a happy face so as not to ruin their short vacation. While explaining to our friends what had transpired it finally sunk in to Fernando and I just what we had agreed to with Option #3.

So… on Sunday morning, we carried out Option #3. We loaded up the truck and headed off to retrieve our girl. The girls and their friends had their own car so they were going to sleep in, finish closing up the house and be on the road in a couple of hours. We got to the vet at the agreed upon time of 8am. The assistant wheeled out a metal cart with a large black trash bag with our frozen pet. Really? We were carrying our frozen pet home in a Hefty bag? Fernando put her in the bed of the truck and off we went. We drove off in silence for a few minutes before I burst into laughter at the insanity of it all. We decided that maybe we would take up my uncle’s offer of a large Coleman cooler to at least keep her “contained” in case she defrosted and started to smell. Really? Hadn’t thought of that happening? Funny but he actually said we could keep the cooler…he didn’t want it back. Wow… what great luck… a free cooler!

We got on the freeway when my husband looked at me and said “I left my wallet and ID back at the house.” Really? Let me recap for you….. Here we are… a white woman and a Hispanic male (with no ID) traveling through Arizona (the state that had just passed the Immigration law requiring you to produce ID if you are stopped) with one dog in the back seat and a frozen dog in a cooler in the bed of the truck. I sent a text to my sister who has a sense of humor like mine (twisted) and asked her “Has my life really been reduced to a National Lampoon movie or is this karma? If so, what did I do? Signed the Griswolds". She replied that she wanted me to send her a picture of the cooler.

Fernando and I decided that we would try to get her buried before the girls got home so that they wouldn’t have to see their beloved pet in her “Hefty/Coleman casket”. We hadn’t even gotten her loaded off the truck when the girls drove in. They came home early so they could help. With the help of our daughter’s boyfriend, Fernando dug her spot under her favorite tree that she liked to lay by and watched the neighborhood. After laying her in the ground and covering her up…. We did what lots of families do when burying their dead…. They argue!! I said it was not to look like a cemetery and our youngest who still worked her charm on daddy convinced him to put rocks around it and flowers and put an old garden stone with the dog’s name and paw print that she’d made in elementary school. Really? Let’s let everyone know? Unbeknownst to us (until the next day) the neighbor’s kids were taking their trashcans down to the street when they saw us “Having our pet’s funeral” and hid in the bushes so as not to interrupt. I explained that we did not in fact have a funeral for our dog but were actually having an argument. Really? The neighbors think we’re nuts? Well, I guess that's not a new thing.

So…. I’m rethinking my idea of vacationing with pets. But if you choose to bring yours along here’s my travel tips….
1.Bring a cooler larger than the size of your pet. (Call me, I have still have one you can borrow.)
2. Have a back- up plan.
3. Know the thawing time for your dog’s body weight and don’t travel further than that.
4. Laugh through life’s uncertainties. It makes for a good story… cuz you can’t make this stuff up!!!

R.I.P. Casey

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Giving up weight-loss

     I had an email conversation with one of my sisters last night that got me thinking about the dreaded subject of ….weight-loss. How much energy we women spend planning, trying different diets, purchasing items to help and agonizing over weight-loss!!! Why is it - the more thought you put into it…the less it works??

Our conversation went like this:

HER- She (our other sister) convinced me to try Bikram yoga and I went tonight. Holy crap was it hard. She says I’ll lose about 1300 calories every time I go so at this point, I’ve tried everything else, I might as well sweat it off. I called her afterwards and when she answered I screamed obscenities at her.
ME- HAHAHAHA…If she told you to jump off a bridge, would you? You know better than to try one of her escapades. (She is known for skydiving, bungee jumping, etc.)
HER- If she told me to do it and I would lose weight…I’d probably try it.

Bikram Yoga for those that don’t know what it is…. A 90 minute session of yoga practiced in a room heated to about 100 degrees with 40% humidity which induces profuse sweating. First timers often vomit, faint or need to leave the room.

So…hold on… the weight-loss is in the sweating or the fact that you puke when you do it?  If there is weight-loss in sweating how come I’m not skinny? I’ve been dealing with peri-menopausal night sweats for a few years now. Ask my husband….there’s some intense sweat coming out of me….nope, I’ve still got fat!

One needs only to look at my book shelf to see how much money I’ve been conned out of in my own efforts to lose weight… No Carb, Low Carb, Atkins, Flat Belly, Good Belly, Bad Belly, Belly Fat Cure, Real Age Workout, Core program, 8 Minutes in the Morning and the list goes on and on. Apparently, you need to actually follow the programs and not just read the books.

So…. with all my newly acquired wisdom of mid-life…. I’m giving up on the quest for weight-loss. It has not served me well. I’m appreciating the body that God has given me.  I have an obligation to myself (and my nagging Cardiologist) to have better health so I will continue to exercise daily and make healthier choices (Wine and dark chocolate are healthy…Thank you God!!). But I’m giving up on dieting. They say that you attract the things you think about so I’m choosing to attract good health. I’m thankful for what I’ve got.

I’m thankful for the larger cleavage that I now have…. it enhances my surgical scar and makes me look bigger. (Someone asked recently if I’d had breast enhancement surgery to which I said… No, I’ve found eating more to be a cheaper alternative.)
I’m thankful for the rounded belly…. I can’t see the old pregnancy stretch marks when I look down.
I’m thankful for the plumper cheeks…it fills out my wrinkles and I look younger.
I’m thankful that I can get out of bed, breathe and I’m learning to love this middle aged body.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Bucket list... Line 1

     Using reverse psychology on myself, I decided this year to experiment with NOT making any New Year's resolutions. I'm hoping that this will stir me into action to accomplish a few of those things that for years I have written down,  knowing deep down that I'd probably never get to them.

You know the ones....to be the same weight that my driver's license says that I am, to finish the degree that I have been working on since high school, to travel more, exercise more, learn more...all the while eating less, stressing less and the list goes on. What yearly was a list of resolutions has now turned into a bucket list. What????  No, no, no, I'm not dying! I'm just realizing at mid-life that those things you couldn't wait to be/learn/do as a kid became coulda/woulda/shoulda's in 30's and 40's and now, as my husband and I sit here in our semi-empty nest, those things have turned into my bucket list. Those things on the list which I'm hoping will bring me full circle with a renewed energy to break out of my comfort zone and try some new things in this life. Sorry but I will never be able to use the words "circle" and "life" in the same sentence without cueing in Simba.

     First step out of the comfort zone.... start a blog. Ever the multi-tasker I'm hoping to become techno-saavy, to try my hand at writing...anything... just for the fun of it, and to step out of the zone and let you all into the world that is me. You see, I've always been afraid to keep a journal for fear that once I was gone (as in...kicked the bucket...pun intended) someone would find that journal, read it and nodding their head say "Well... that sure explains a lot!!" Now in mid-life I am letting you in or should I say.... letting me out!

   Some have described my style of story-telling as a little like Erma Bombeck, a little Maxine...

 and some may say (ok, have said... if I'm keeping it honest) a bit of a twisted sense of humor. So... I hope as you read my blog that I can make you laugh, inspire you to step out of your comfort zone too, and to share some of the wisdom that has knocked me in the head more often than I'd like to admit.