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Thursday, December 30, 2010

A Perfect Fit

I was shaving my legs in the bathroom sink when my then 22-yr. old daughter Stephanie, who still hadn’t moved out, barged in and informed me that her boyfriend was buying her a puppy for their upcoming anniversary. I dabbed my bloody leg with a tissue and told her no. Well, okay, I screamed “NO!” with the fierceness of a raging warrior and then rattled off a frantic shopping list of reasons why she couldn’t have a dog. “You’re never home, I’ll end up taking care of it, like all the other pets in this house, and you can’t afford it!”

My daughter stood there silently eyeing me, unmoved by my speech. Her narrow mouth turned upward forming an eerie coyote grin, and then without a word she confidently walked off. Stephanie has her ways of grinding me down to a fine powder when she wants something; therefore it wasn’t surprising to me that after a few days of constant pounding, she had obliterated my resolve like a Cheeto under a choo-choo and I had agreed to the pup.

I hadn’t told my husband about the pending pooch. I guess I was still hoping for the possibility that my daughter would opt for a trip to Vegas or a piece of anniversary jewelry. Stephanie decided on a female Teacup Chihuahua. I wasn’t thrilled with her choice seeing that the one time I had ever been bitten by a dog; it was by a scrawny Chihuahua with bulging eyes and teeth like a piranha. Stephanie showed me a picture of the puppy, which was posted online by the breeder. This little baby was so adorable that I immediately felt my hard heart softening, creating a doggy door right in the middle of it.

I tried to stifle my enthusiasm about the puppy. I didn’t want my daughter to think that I was a total sucker and could be won over so easily. “She looks okay” I said, as I nonchalantly walked away from the monitor. But once my daughter was out the door, I was back on the computer staring at the dog’s picture and counting the days left until she arrived. At this point I decided to let my husband in on the secret and showed him the picture of the ten-ounce puppy. I was hoping the sweet image would soften him, and maybe he would want her as badly as I did, but instead he simply grunted and said, “I’ve eaten steaks bigger than that dog.”

Stephanie decided to name the puppy Dutchess. That wasn’t my first choice but I figured best to let her alone on this one, after all it was “her” dog….for now. In the mornings, after everyone had left for work, I would pour my coffee and sit at the computer browsing the online pet shops for doggy outfits. Within a few weeks I had a hefty stash of sweaters, treats, and accessories, hidden away in the corner of my closet. I felt like a woman possessed. Here I was spending money on dog clothes while my toes were peeking out through the holes in my socks.

I tried rationalizing away my preoccupation with the puppy. “I’m out of work, which is leaving me with way too much time on my hands” I told myself, “plus I miss having little kids around.” Mine were in their 20’s, and although they still lived with us, I saw them more as annoying roommates rather than the adorable offspring I once worshipped. I decided that I had fallen victim to “full- nest syndrome” a condition that affects women whose grown children have long overstayed their welcome and seek to overthrow the household. Something I’d have to remember to email Dr. Phil about it.

I kept my affair with Dutchess hidden until one day I absentmindedly left the closet door open and my daughter stumbled upon my stockpile of doggy clothes. ”I knew it!” she exclaimed! “I knew you wanted a dog!” She teased and poked at me for a while until she finally grew bored with it and left. But on her way out she paused long enough to look over her shoulder at me, and spit, “Don’t forget…the puppy is MINE!” I cut my eyes at her, mumbled a few expletives, and padded back to the closet to re-fold the dog clothes.

Finally, late one night in mid October, Stephanie brought Dutchess home. I couldn’t wait to catch a glimpse of the baby. I stood staring in amazement as Dutchess wiggled around on the kitchen floor wagging her skinny tail and licking Stephanie’s face. Her eyes looked like big chocolate milk duds, and her head was way too large for the rest of her miniature body. I began to laugh at the spectacle; a relaxed laughter that released any apprehension I had about us getting a dog. Sliding down onto the floor, I let Dutchess smell my hand; but instead she began to wash my face with tiny kisses. Her tongue was like a small piece of pink felt that tickled my cheek bringing on another episode of laughter. As I lay on the floor, getting my face washed, I realized that I had already fallen in love with little Dutchess.

It didn’t take long for my daughter to see how much work it was to take care of a puppy; particularly one as tiny as Dutchess. Stephanie would appear in my bedroom late at night like an apparition. Exhausted, she would tuck the dog in bed with me and mumble something like... “help mommy …stupid puppy peed….can’t sleep”. Ah, how the young lack strength! I silently gloated as Stephanie’s desire to parent Dutchess faded like an over washed pair of jeans…. Just as I said it would.

Now, over five years later, we have all found our places in Dutchess's life. My daughter has since moved out, and because of her busy schedule has agreed to leave Dutchess with us. I still let her call herself Dutchess’s owner, but I have, through consistent parenting, been promoted to mommy; although Stephanie still sneers when I say it.

My macho son, Ben, is still amazed at the size of our 4lb canine and speaks to her in a squeaky little voice when he thinks that nobody else is listening. And although my husband Mike initially scoffed at the idea of us getting a Teacup Chihuahua, now I can’t seem to keep the two apart. Each morning they share a walk through our neighborhood, like a giant and a flea, oblivious to the spectacle that they create. And Dutchess.. well, her favorite place is snuggled contently beneath my fuzzy bathrobe, next to my heart, stirring only to change positions or investigate any kitchen noises. I sometimes have to catch my breath when I think that we almost didn’t get a dog, and am grateful that even though we didn’t know what it was that we needed, life generously brought Dutchess to us anyway.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Really Realistic Resolutions!

New Years! Resolutions made with good intentions…aiming at living right…living large….pushing forward and using my God-given potential as fuel to reach my goals. I have a shopping list of things I want to accomplish this year, although some of them are chronic…like a cold. Each year I include them and each year I forget them…usually by March. Losing weight is one such goal. When I was young I could eat a bathtub of French fries and not gain an ounce. If anything I was always too thin. But with bearing children came my womanly figure which included an over abundance of dimpling flesh accented with stretch marks. All the while my trim husband stayed that way; annoying the hell out of me. I’ve been engaged in the all too familiar battle of the bulge since then, and this year is no different.
Another chronic goal is to put off procrastination, but as you can see I’m simply procrastinating on procrastinating.
There are always new exciting goals that I want to complete. This year it’s querying agents for my novel. I look forward to doing this and will probably become so fixated on it that all my other goals will suffer. Funny how I only have obsessive compulsive tendencies with the things I like to do. I wish I could have a touch of OC with things like losing weight, exercising, and cleaning my house.
So, whatever your resolutions are, remember to be realistic. Only choose ones that are important…and attainable! If you’re addicted to cookies don’t ban cookies; simply adjust your relationship with them. If you’re unemployed don’t have a resolution to be a millionaire by 2012; find a job in 2012, and then take it from there.
I like having a spanking new year to work with. It allows me to have a starting point in which to make a fresh start in life. And if I screw this one up I know that chances are I’ll have the next year to try harder. That’s the beauty of the calendar; there is always another page to turn with a cute or inspiring picture to cheer me on.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Shake up Your Happiness!

The above song shook me a good way. It inspired me to contemplate, and pursue, happiness. And what better time of year to seek it than Christmas?
Sometimes you have to shake up happiness. Like a snow globe sitting sedately on the shelf, coated in dust, life can become predictable and boring. It’s when you take life off the shelf and give it a shake or two, that life takes on some excitement, much like the snow globe after a good shaking.
I often wait for life to hand me happiness. Like a hungry beggar I stand mutely with my little heart wide open, hoping that life will give me a handout. But it rarely does. Some people stay this way for years, lamenting their misery and blaming bad luck or the world for their lack of happiness.
My mother used to say, “You have to make your own happiness Leah.” Then she would patiently steer me into a direction of amusement by providing me with a piece of fabric and a needle and thread, or a box of Crayola’s and a sheet of clean white paper. Within minutes I’d be happily engrossed in my project as time swept swiftly by.
I guess I’m equating happiness with happenings. Unlike joy which I consider a more spiritual attribute. Happiness pacifies the flesh and mind, while joy comforts the spirit. The Christian mystic, Madame Guyon, said, “It’s better to engage in a mindless hobby than to entertain a spirit of melancholy.” Basically it’s the same message my mother gave me so many years ago. So now that I’m grown….well mostly, I know that I am responsible for creating my own amusements and happiness’s. If I’m miserable and bored it’s my own damn fault.
Today, make a plan for happiness. Go out of your way to find it. Think outside of your predictable little life box. Call an old friend, watch your favorite movie. Try something new like skydiving, or acting. Do the thing you have always wanted to do, but never had the courage to try.
Don’t wait for someone to change things for you. They’re all too busy trying to figure out their own plan. The path to happiness is yours to find and follow. So, shake yourself up a batch of happiness. With all the ingredients available to you, there’s no end to the possibilities.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Unwrapping Christmas

People all over the world are preparing for Christmas 2010. Holiday specials tug at the heart strings, while citizens race to the post office, eager to mail their glad tidings. The rich, wrapped in cashmere and Gucci, sip from crystal goblets, thankful for another successful year. The poor, cocooned in worn parkers and hand knit scarves, toast with tumblers of spiked eggnog, inspiring hope for an even better year.
Lighted trees sit center stage in penthouse, and row house alike, circled with a wreath of festively wrapped gifts. Stockings stretched with candy and loot send a shot of excitement to little eyes; proof positive that Santa really exists. But these are only a slice of what the season represents. Love Joy, and Peace….these are the true golden rings of the season.
Christmas stimulates our senses, fanning the flames of hope after a long year of indifference and struggle. Some say that Christmas brings out the hypocrites. Folks go to church that wouldn’t normally attend, and give to the poor instead of visiting the pub. But I don’t think it’s hypocritical any more than it was hypocritical for Scrooge to give Bob Cratchit a fatted goose. People are simply responding from the heart. From a place of nobility that lies buried beneath the have to’s and oppression of every day life.
Wedding songs and funeral hymns harmonize with the jingles bells and Noels in a messy world that slows for no one, reminding us that Christmas is not the absence of troubles but the presence of hope. I guess you could say that Christmas is life dressed in her Sunday best.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Sister Christmas

Life and Christmas are twin sisters. Life, is the responsible sister, who stays dutifully at home taking care of her younger siblings and aging parents. She cleans up the messes, fixes the meals, and balances the finances. Her beauty is lined with worry, and her clothing is dull and practical.
Christmas, because of her radiant joy, was chosen by the prince to be his wife. He moved her to his far away kingdom years ago, but each year he sends Christmas home with precious gifts, to her devoted sister, to celebrate their mutual birthdays.
It’s easy to see the contrast between the two sisters, and understand why Life might resent Christmas, after all, she’s been stuck with all the responsibilities, while Christmas has been set-apart, and pampered. But Life’s not jealous, because she knows that her sister, Christmas’s, joy and beauty are being preserved especially to remind Life of who she really is….. That she is beautiful, and rich, even though she may appear poor and plain.
Christmas gently fans the embers of hope for her sister, illuminating the things that inspire Life, and igniting the strength and faith that Life needs in order to carry on for another year. The reunion is so inspiring that the whole kingdom now joins in on the birthday celebration and exchange gifts in honor of the great love the sisters have for each other.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Forever Carded!

When a store clerk asks me, “Do you have our rewards card? “ I can never remember if I do or I don’t. So…out comes the over bulging wallet as I sift through the random contents looking for a card that I may or may not have, while the people behind me shuffle and sigh with annoyance as they wait. I finally give up; hoping my phone number will work in place of the card. The clerk then tries my home phone, cell phone, old phone number, and ET’s phone number, when all fails she then gives me a disgusted look and swipes her card so I can get the 3% discount. Good Lord! I should get a reward for enduring the inconvenience and embarrassment of digging for the card …enough with the discount cards!

Some give you the miniature ones to clip onto your key ring, I have eight on mine, and although they are easier to access, I still have to find my keys and then sift through the litter to find the right one. Why can’t they just give me a discount without making me baby-sit a little card for them? My wallet has to carry my debit/credit cards, pharmacy card, license, auto insurance card, library card, business cards, photos of my beautiful granddaughter, money, ect, this is just my wallet. That wallet then goes into my handbag which is already bulging with other survival supplies, and now my key ring is heavy with ugly little plastic cards instead of cute key ring ornaments.I feel put upon and abused by retailers and sometimes I find myself fantasizing about making the CEOs’ of these companies dance to a shower of ricocheting bullets for the entire length of time that it takes me to find my rewards card.