Surrounded by Dogs


It’s not often that I don’t have a dog or two -or 5- near me. One could say they must follow me because I have food -and I sometimes do but I often don’t and I don’t share all the time. I also am not the person who feeds them most of the time.  My husband and my kids do that job. But our dogs (my dogs) are my comrades. Lemon our yellow Lab prefers the company of my son -Luke- and I am her second choice when he’s not home -I love their love for eachother.  The other pups -my boys-are my shadows much of the time. One might move to a cooler place on the floor in the hallway outside my office or bedroom- but they are always near me. Is it because I’m their leader? Am I their leader? I don’t know what they think. I’ve always had a comfort being around animals especially dogs.  But my husband always is amazed that they follow me around like the I am the Pied Piper. 

It’s something that I don’t take for granted -this affection – but it is something that I’ve come to be used to in my daily life that I don’t always notice it. They are just there. And I need them to be there.  Dogs have been a calming force much of my life. When I felt alone or scared at times in my life there was a dog there to comfort me. They were my PTSD dogs long before there were such a thing. 

We usually are all quiet as we sit in our spaces either in my office or in my bedroom –  Unless the UPS man comes. Then it gets a little wild. 

In the last couple of months I’ve been out of sorts. My spirit is down and my physical body is in pain. I’ve waxed cranky and sad and sometimes downright angry. There have been days where I felt like there was just too much dog near me. I felt crowded impatient and claustrophobic. I’d shoo them out of my space.  It really wasn’t them at all – but yet in my angst I’d push them away.  

 I’d shoo them away -but they never went very far from me. They might lay in the hall or go sit by my husband or ask to be let out. 

 My old English sheepy -Ridley just doesn’t understand cranky or mad. Or the word shoo or off. He doesn’t leave when asked and in fact comes closer to offer his head for pats. Rudy is like glue to me. He doesn’t shoo he just curls himself a little further away to give me space. 


When I’d get back to my work or stop wallowing in my crankiness I’d notice later the dogs had moved back in closer. And I realized that I didn’t feel claustrophobic any longer. I’d feel a sense of calmness and I felt cared for.  Loved. 

This pattern has continued and as I looked around me today I realized that they may know what I need better than I do myself sometimes. 

It’s what comrades do for eachother…..

UPS?

Bee stings and love

I got stung by a bee today on my foot.  It wasn’t the bee’s fault – it just got caught up in my flip flop. I felt awful for the bee. I should have had boots on but maybe I would have squished it anyway but I would have avoided the sting. 

As I was jumping around freaking out about the sting – and calling to my sons and husband  for some help – I began to cry.  

I was scared. I’ve alway been afraid of bee stings. I have a fear that I will get allergy to the sting. I don’t have one I’m just afraid I will become allergic. 

I was so afraid of bees as a kid I would put myself in perilous situations just to flee from them. Once I nearly made our bus driver crash as I ran up the aisle of the bus screaming BC a bee was buzzing somewhere in the back. The driver slammed on the brakes of the bus and I went down flying head first into the seat. She was steamed at me. She didn’t care that I hit my head. She just yelled at me to sit down. So I did trying to hide my tears and my shame.

 I remember getting out of the bus and holding a little terrarium that I had made in art. We used layers of colored sand and placed a little succulent inside and put a top on. I was so excited about that terrarium and when I got off the bus I was finally able to compose  myself BC I was away from the bee and the embarrassment. I began to take inventory of the damage to myself and my belongings. My head throbbed but I was ok. I held up the terrarium and all the insides lay in ruin. The layers of sand were mostly blended together and the little succulent was unrooted from the sand. 

The tears began again. I cried a lot when I was a kid. I think some people became immune to my tears. But not my mom.  I took myself and my broken artwork into the house and tried to explain in choked words to my mother what happened. I can’t recall exactly what she did but I know she cured the tears that fell and the terrarium was fixed enough so the little plant was rerooted. I remember that terrarium sitting with all its imperfection in our kitchen.  My mother hated to see me sad. 

These days I’m not so scared of bees that I run from them. I even will catch them if they get into the house so I can free them into the wild.  If I find a bee in the house it’s their lucky day. 

We did have some of those bees that burrow into the siding of the house and somehow they began making their way inside. They didn’t meet as kind an end. They were nasty and they came in by the dozens. It took an exterminator and my husband a number of attempts to get rid of them.  We still have blobs of spray foam  bulging from holes in the siding of the house. We haven’t had a swarm in two years. I hope they don’t return- they deliver a nasty sting.  I don’t know what the purpose of those bees are but I know they aren’t good like honeybees. 

Speaking of stings – the one I got yesterday hurt! I began crying out of fear and pain and as I sat wimpering on my porch waiting for my kids to grab some ice and baking soda I wondered if today was the day I’d be allergic to bees and have to be rushed away to the hospital. It would be bad timing BC my husband had to take one son to an encampment that was over an hour away. If I had to go to the hospital I would ruin that. 

It turns out that my sting didn’t even swell much. Maybe she didn’t get much venom in as I pulled my foot up fast when I felt the bite. I saw her in the grass and felt badly for  her.  My fear of bees has grown into a respect of nature ( unless nature is living in the walls if my home). 

But I wonder where those tears come from. Well the tears I think I get. They are from frustration and fear. The frustration BC I haven’t been able to catch a break lately. I am dealing with chronic nerve pain from the cancer surgery and though it’s been two and a half years since surgery I am still dealing with this issue. It’s been worse in the cancer aftermath than the actual treatments were. My life quality of late has been less than subpar and I know those tears wait on the edge to come. All it takes is a little bee sting and a dose of frustration and fear and the dam breaks. 

It’s funny or odd how an old fear can take hold of us and wash over us in an instant. I knew in my brain I was most likely not allergic to bees but the fear was seperate from the rational thought. I just had to let it wash over me. It would pass in time. 

I was a fearful kid – every week I had a new fear. Fear of germs , fear of touching boys ( my parents must have loved that -but it definitely was gone by the time I hit puberty), fear of ticks. So many fears. 

Some of the fear followed me into adulthood and I developed a pretty major anxiety disorder in my 30s that I try hard to stomp on as best as I can. Some new fears arose that I learned had a fancy name called phobias. The phobias that remain aren’t life altering. I don’t eat shellfish BC I’m scarred of allergic reactions. Though I ate shellfish to the gills (pun intended) when I lived in Boston. But one day somewhere back in my 30s -maybe- I just cut off the shellfish eating out of fear. It’s not a big deal and I actually don’t miss not eating it except once in a while I’ll see my hubby eating shrimp or a crab cake and want a bite. Hubby always is willing to share and I am sure often wonders why I have this fear. But he loves me warts and all. 

I am warty. But we all are aren’t we? Or is that a delusion I convince myself of?  It’s taken years for me to love myself for the whole person that I am. And some days I fail at that. 

As I sat on that porch with my husband who was trying to comfort me as my mom did so many years ago – he made me feel safe. I knew I was being a little silly but I found the tears cleansing and maybe I just needed that cry. For an instant the child in me took over- the one who had so many fears. She may have been fearful but she was a good girl and had a loving  heart. She still does. 

After a bit I told my husband he could get back to the million things that he was working on. I picked  myself up and went inside to wash my face off and put on some socks and boots. 

I saw my kids who had seen me crying and had tended to me as I sat  on the porch and I wondered had I been comforting enough to them when they got stung? I probably tried not to show my fear to them when they were the ones hurt. I never wanted my kids to be fearful the way I was. I knew that the fear can hold you back and can stigmatize a kid. But was I too stoic with them? Did I make them feel safe? I hope I have. 

Even now as teens they act like they don’t need me but they do. I’m the tough one – the strong one. I get stuff done. But over the last couple years they’ve seen me at my worst – on my knees asking for Gods mercy. Do they think less of me? 

I hope not. I hope they see a human. One that stands tall for them but one that can fail and one that can cry in the face of fear. We are all a combination of feelings. We have to let them out and embrace each one because that is the essence of who we are and we need to love ourselves. 

As I saw each teen in the aftermath of the bee incident I said “I just get scared that I’m allergic to bees for some reason.  I know it’s silly”.  Each one in there own way said they knew and it was ok. Each one said they hated bee stings too.  Each one asked me if I was ok. Some sweetness from often seemingly uncaring teens. It’s in there. 

I went back to the chicken area to finish what I was doing before I got stung. The sting was still a bit painful but I had myself fairly convinced that I would be ok. I turned to see my husband looking at me. 

“What’s up?”

” I’m just making sure you are ok.” 

“I’m ok I think. I just hope I’m not allergic. ”

” If you were allergic you’d know by now” 

“I know it’s silly to be scared like that.” 

“It’s how you feel and that’s ok.”  

He gets me and he loves me. My kids try to get me but they love me as only a teen can love. That’s comfort, love,and safety all rolled up into the messy thing called family. 

And I’m ok. I’ll wear boots next time. Sorry bees. 

The Greatest. 

To me Muhammad Ali was the greatest.  Not really because of the fighting. I find fighting barbaric really. But when I was a young girl I watched him fight and I watched him talk. I came to love him for his talking and his banter with the late Howard Cosell. I see the genius and the genuine love in that relationship now.

When I was a kid our home revolved around sports. My dad ruled the tv and we got to watch our shows when he wasn’t watching either news or sports or the occasional sitcom – he didn’t like too many of those.

If you wanted to watch tv you watched what dad was watching. So I watched a lot of sports and because of that I continue to watch sports. I get comfort from it. I sort of find it funny that coming from a sometimes very chaotic home that I took sports as a thing of comfort with me into the future. I think it’s BC it was a time of bonding with my dad. A time when there wasn’t arguing or me feeling like I didn’t fit in.

As a girl I was sort of foreign to my dad BC I was a girl.  As a wimpy cry baby girl I was even more alien to him -he didn’t know what to do with all that. I had a younger brother who was much less alien and more relatable to my dad than I was. Perhaps my love of watching sports ( I played some sports but honestly they were just for fun) comes from the fact that sports watching was a time that my being alien wasn’t an issue. We all sat and watched together and rooted together.  I can’t count how many Redskins games I watched with my dad and how many we attended together. Even now if we get together we inevitably will watch a sports game. It’s become a common bond in a way.

So I remember Mohammed Ali so well. We would watch his interviews with Cosell and laugh at his chants a rhymes. We would mimic his famous phrase “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee….” We would watch his fights or if I couldn’t stay up for a fight I would hear my dad cheering  in the family room.  There are many hours of me hearing sports from the confines of my room. Me laying in bed under my pink sheets in my pink room with pink paisley border-door open because I was afraid to close it at night- listening to my dad watching sports. It’s when he seemed most happy I think. Sports brings him joy in a way that other things might not.

I am finding myself very saddened by the loss of Ali. I think for me his death represents the fast passing of time. The little girl who wanted so much to be part of her fathers life is now grown and still feels the same. Where did those years go? I wonder if Ali felt the same.

That little girl that revered this black fighter and laughed at his rants  and rhymes didn’t realize he was a one of the first gorilla marketers before that was even a thing. She didn’t really know what he stood for in the world of black people and in the history of fighting. She just knew her dad loved watching him so she loved him. And that young girl -now woman – feels the passing deeply. She will never forget the cheers from that family room -someone else’s room now. She will never forget the laughs this fighter brought to her life and she will never forget her dads joy.

RIP

Little visits from beyond?

The first time it happened was in the grocery store about 3 weeks ago. Kevin walked over to me as I stood in one of the aisles. I had left him a couple minutes before perusing snacks one aisle over.  I forget now what I was even searching for but when Kevin caught up with me he asked me if I had been calling him. I shook my head no and asked him why. He had a puzzled look on his face and he said “I heard someone whispering my name..they said ‘Kevin, Kevin’. ”

“It wasn’t me.” I said. “And nobody was near you?”  He shook his head no.

“It was like someone was standing near me whispering.”

Then the thought popped in my head and came out of my mouth in a flash. “It was your dad!” I said. “It was dad!”

We went on to discuss this possibility as we perused the shelves of that grocery store. I think it gave Kevin some comfort in the wondering if his dad was somehow trying to reach out.

We know he is around or at least we believe him to be. Every night since he passed last December he has been sleeping with my mother-in-law. After 68 years of marriage I can certainly understand why he might not want to leave his bride. I believe he is there- if you knew my mother-in-law she is very lucid and she would not talk about it unless she felt something was happening. She says she knows it sounds crazy but she  “feels” him there at night and she feels his breathe. I also believe it because I believe there is thin veil between here and there(where we go after we die). We just cannot see past it- but sometimes little things happen that remind us that the here and there are closely connected.

This past weekend Kevin and I foolishly decided to build a chicken coop (more on that later) -we were doing work outside on the covered patio that leads into the gym section of our barn. I left Kevin with my son Zach who was helping him- as I had to pick up my other son from work. When I returned we got back to work and out of the blue Kevin said ” I saw my Dad today.”

“What? Where?!!!” I asked rather astonished.

“Out of the corner of my eye sitting on that chair. I saw him twice” He was pointing to our plastic adirondack chair that we pulled out for rest breaks.

“What did he look like? Did he say anything?” I was excited and stunned all at once. And kind of jealous because I wanted to see him too.

“He looked younger…like when he was our age.” (which is 50ish) ” He didn’t say anything. I just saw him there.”

I asked him if that upset him, or scared him. Kevin said it didn’t and he said it actually brought him comfort.

Kevin's dad made this some years ago. It hangs over the workbench in our garage.

Kevin’s dad made this some years ago. It hangs over the workbench in our garage.

I am not surprised Dad showed up when Kevin was building something. Kevin’s dad loved to build things. He finished their family homes entire basement and created a cool buffet area that houses the TV but had a built in sink. He made bookshelves for his home. For us he made a toy chest and a table that detached from it’s base so you could turn the leg structure around and that would change the height of the table as my kids grew. He had that sort of mind. He liked making things that served a purpose but they would have this twist of engineering. He was a master at acrostic puzzles and sudoku – at least up until the foe dementia took away his mind.

In time my kids outgrew these items so they now reside with great- grandkids and hopefully they will continue to be passed down through the family. Maybe they will make their way back to live at with my future grands we might have. I am sure each of Dad’s sons can list off items that dad lovingly made for his family. Mom joked he always cut himself every time he made something.

“He is probably here to help you along.” I told Kevin. “For moral support”.  Kevin laughed. Kevin is not a natural do-it-yourselfer.  He has had to become more self-reliant since we moved to this farm. There is always something that needs to be done and sometimes those things cost lots of money if you get others to do them. So Kevin has learned along the way to do a number of things.  This coop is our first major build. But thanks to good plans and maybe a little mojo from Kevin’s dad, we are chugging along.

Last evening Kevin wanted to build two more walls for the coop. It was a nice evening and I looked forward to getting outside and helping him. I mostly read the plans and tell him the measurements of the cuts and the stud placements. I also occasionally measure stuff.

When we got down to the barn I told Kevin that I hoped his Dad would show up. I told him he had to be around because he couldn’t stay away from a project. I had just reminisced the day before with my mother-in-law about the time he came over to our old home and helped us put up a play set for our then young kids. Kevin still says that it was only because his dad pitched in that that set was put up the right way!

Kevin making cuts to the wood for the coop wall.

Kevin making cuts to the wood for the coop wall.

At one point last evening Kevin’s drill bit was starting to strip. I asked him if he had more and he said yes. Except we didn’t have any down at the barn with us they were up at the house in the garage. I suggested to Kevin that maybe we could text our son, Luke, and ask him to grab one and bring it down.  Yes we were feeling that lazy!  I was about to do that except all of a sudden Kevin looked down where he was kneeling at the end of the wall he was building. “What’s this?” He said as he reached down for something.

“What..Oh my God..” I said as I registered what he was now holding in his hand.

“How did this get there?” he wondered as he held up a drill bit- just the one he needed for his screws.

We looked at each other. “Your Dad did that.” I said. I sat there thinking it through. Kevin had just loaded material onto the patio the night before and he was working at building a side wall which he had laying on top of the t1-11 boards that would eventually be the siding of the coop. Kevin had been kneeling there for like ten minutes and he had not seen that bit there. I had been standing nearby and we measured for square and Kevin would have had his face right where that drill bit was – but it wasn’t there then. A few minutes later it was just laying there near his knee.

“Wow – that is amazing.” Is all I could say.  I got up and walked into the gym to grab something and when inside I just stood there in amazement at what had just happened. “Thank you Dad” I said to the air.

And I swear I felt him near me.

At lunch today Kevin and I chatted about the drill bit “incident” again. He told me he finds all these little signs very comforting.  I am glad he finds peace in that. I know how much he misses his dad. I know how much I miss him.

My son Zach said after he heard that his dad saw his grandfather  “We see what we want to see”. Ever the skeptic I suppose.  Perhaps that is true. Maybe hurt hearts want to believe in signs from those that have gone through that thin veil before them. Or just maybe that when we are open enough to really “see”, that veil opens up just enough so someone we love on that side can let us know they aren’t far away.

Thats what I believe…

Thanks Dad – you are welcome anytime…and maybe keep helping us with this coop.. we need it  ….luv u….always…

 

Thoughts on busy-ness

Whew long time no post. I actually wrote this post a week ago but didn’t have time to edit it- how apropos to the topic of this post! —

Kevin, my husband, and I were chatting recently and he said something that made me think.

“When I talk with people I rarely ever tell them anymore that I’ve been busy because it seems like everyone is busy and my being busy isn’t more important than there busy ”

Well…wow – that’s true I thought to myself. Then I began to do a self check  as I do when someone says something very smart -do I push my business out there in convos I asked myself-and by goodness gosh I do. Because I’m freaking busy. Like so busy that I forget all the stuff I did in a day and sometimes even become paralyzed with all the stuff I need to do. I’m so busy that I’m taking time to write this in the car in a traffic jam inYork PA as we drive back from helping my mom because when I get home I’ll be too busy or tired to write. But Kevin’s is right we are ALL busy and my busy does not trump your busy.

I need to stop putting my busy in other people’s face.  Unless I want to vent a little. Venting feels good.

So now I wonder am I busier or has middle age just made me more aware and less resilient than when I was young?

When I was young I could get up and head to work after being out late the night before – I could work a full day and then go home walk my dog and head to the gym and maybe even go out again to meet some friends.I used to drive back and forth to the beach in a day -I baked in the sun in-between.  I took night classes for my MBA after work. I never got an MBA -I got married and then things got super busy.

Why do I feel so much more busy now? Perhaps it’s because I have others to worry about -kids, husband, aging parents. I manage their schedules, I worry about their health, their grades,college possibilities(I have a whole other post just about that), I drive people around. And I work. It’s insane and maybe my menopausal brain can’t process it all as well as my younger brain could.

I’m in the the middle of life- middle age. Nobody warns you that being in the middle isn’t only the sagging body and wrinkles that seem to come overnight. We are often caring for growing children and caring for aging parents. We often work full time while juggling the other stuff. Nobody warns you how that can keep you up at night and super busy during the day.

But isn’t our world just busier overall? Or is just my view of it that has changed?

Middle age, oldster, youngster.  We are all busy. My own daughter works two afternoons a week and one day on the weekend while going to cosmetology school while she still taking her high school courses.  She is busy. I don’t remember being that busy as a teen.

Sometimes I think the technology that I love so much makes us that much busier BC we have so many things that can be done right at our fingertips. Just take the app Yelp. Awesome app. But if I want to find a restaurant near where I am or going I can just look on the app but lo and behold the app shows me lots of restaurant choices and then I need to read all the reviews. In the olden days I may have asked a friend for a recommendation or I may have just stopped at a place that looked good. Now I get out the app and check how many stars a place has. I leave nothing to chance and I spend lots more time making sure I choose just the right restaurant. I love (many emoji hearts) my smartphone but you get what I am saying -yes?

Let’s face it, we all are on the busy train going somewhere. Until we aren’t.

Sometime in our lives we might actually miss the busy because we can’t physically get on that train anymore. I have been derailed a time or two temporarily. When I had cancer and was getting treatment life as I knew it kind of stopped. I had to limit my focus on my health and my family and my recovery. Other stuff had to take the back seat.  I began to miss the things that I had fretted about before. I saw things in a different way. That being busy may be stressful but being unable to be busy is also stressful.  As I recovered I was so happy that I began to have the endurance to be busy. I thought I would be able to temper my busy with my new look on life that having a serious illness can give a person. But no – I seemed to have jumped back on that busy train – it can suck us in so fast.

There needs to be a balance – I suppose- and I look hard to find it. I do know that when I get overloaded with things my mind sometimes goes inert. I become unable to do anything unless I break each thing down into smaller tasks. Or I delegate something to someone else. Maybe this is a good thing. This inertia. It at least gets me to realize I need a break.

Busy isn’t going to stop I am afraid. So maybe there is a way to enjoy it whilst in the middle of it.

All of us need to take some time to unplug and breathe. Spend time with the family if you aren’t so sick of them BC you’ve been driving them all over or picking up after their messy selves. Read a good book. Or binge watch a show. I know that is not unplugged in its true sense but for me it’s a distraction from my own crowded mind. And there are so many great shows to watch- yes?

I even try to meditate but thats a work in progress for me. I have read how good that is for cancer survivors and I maybe a good way to still my mind. Oddly, for the months that after I completed my cancer treatments I was able to sit still for long periods and just be. Maybe this is as close to good meditation that I will ever get. Time would go by and I would just be sitting…sometimes at the end of the bed and other times at my desk. I would lose track of time and an hour would be gone. It was rather strange. Unfortunately this was during a time that i was frustrated that I could not tolerate busy at all. I was tired out from the treatments and I became depressed as well. Which is not uncommon after cancer treatments I have since found out.  I would become tired and overwhelmed after doing just a few things. So my ability to just drift into some zone wasn’t as much as a blessing to me as a curse back then. Sometimes now if I am tired i can get into that zone- but again I lament about wasting time and not getting things done.

I am sure some of this sounds familiar especially to women.  We want balance and when we go to take a breather – we often feel guilty.  I am trying to learn my limits and allow myself to take some time out of the busy. I actually appreciate the busy more when I give myself that break.  Right now I am finishing this post sitting in my mothers sunroom. Its so quiet. I hear the faint sound of traffic outside and my golden’s soft snores. I came for an overnight with my husband to check on my mom but these visits have also become a welcome break from the home-front for a day. I can get a moment to breathe and then go back recharged to my busy life.

I really want to appreciate my moments even the busy ones because I have the opportunity to be busy.

So I’ll try not to tell you how busy I’ve been unless I need to vent once in a while.

My busy doesn’t trump your busy and really now that I’ve written all this stuff about busy – I realize busy isn’t bad at all. Being busy can be a gift. We just need some balance.

Adventures of a little dog….

My mom’s dog ,Suki, was pretty confused that first night after I left my mom in the hospital after her back surgery.  Kevin and I walked into the door of my mother’s house and went to get Suki from my moms bedroom and she looked past me and Kevin in what I think was a search for her mom.  My mom and Suki hadn’t been apart much in the four years that my mom had her. They were a set. So it didnt surprise me that Suki would spend much of that first evening in my moms home popping her head up at every small sound in hopes that maybe my mom would walk in the door.


But it made me a little sad for her.

I had no way of telling Suki her mom was ok and they would be together again soon. Well- in a few weeks after my mom got through recovering in a Rehab Hospital. I kept trying to sit quietly with Suki while sending her pictures in my head of what my mom was doing. I tried to settle her with my words of assurance but she didnt understand.

Suki was a rescue dog. My mom and step dad (who recently passed) fell in love with her on Petfinder. They had been looking for a corgi mix. It had be a few years since their chow corgi etc mix had passed and I knew my mom was missing having a dog.  The time had to be right as both had health issues and the size of the dog needed to be manageable.

My mother ever the Anglophile had a soft spot for corgis ever since she saw the royals of England kept them as their breed of choice. So when they saw Suki (aka Foxy) online it was love at first site. She was the perfect size -about 15 lbs- and a good age -4- not too young not to old. So after a call to the rescue Foxy began her life as Suki -which means beloved in Japanese – with my mom and stepfather.

She looked part Corgi and we still wonder what else is in her though i am convinced there is terrier in her. She has an affinity for sticking her nose in small spaces and chasing my chickens and ducks. There may even be some chihuahua in there. We have talked about getting her DNA done. Maybe we will.

Suki came from another family where the owner got sick and couldn’t care for her anymore.So I  wondered if the  absence of my mom would be more upsetting for her because she had the loss of an owner in the past.  I know I was putting my human feeling on her but that first night I know she was confused and distressed.

I am thankful that she knew Kevin and me because I think that may have helped her some during her time of distress. She finally settled down late in the night. In the morning she ran back to my moms room and jumped on the bed and looked at me. I decided to feed her in there but she didn’t eat much. I knew it would take some time for her to adjust to this new situation.

After breakfast we took off early to get back to the Maryland to get home before the blizzard that was on its way to dump a ton of snow on our farm. We  put Suki in her crate in the back of SUV and off we went.  Rudy my Golden Retriever -had also accompanied us to PA so he was some company for Suki when we were at the hospital and in the SUV driving back to Maryland.

Suki did well on the trip. She didn’t whine or pant. She seemed to take the ride as an adventure.  Suki seemed to settle in quickly. She let my other dogs -all much bigger than she-know who was boss. She has this major growl – it sounds more lioness than tiny dog but it gets the point across very well.


The one thing I admire about dogs is their adaptability.  They have such a way of dealing with change. Suki claimed our bed that first night as a safe spot and she curled up a began to snore -and she does snore.  She got up in the morning to a giant blizzard but still managed to figure out a good spot to do her business. She didn’t cry or act upset that my mom wasn’t around. I was glad. It’s a thing dogs do for survival. I wish I was an ounce as adaptable.


She would sometimes stare wistfully out the window of my office. I suspect she was staring at all the birds because my feeders are just outside that window but I did wonder sometimes if she was thinking of my mom. She would perk up when a car came but that’s just dog curiosity -I think -but she was certainly cute staring out that window.


When I told my mom about how well Suki was settling in she was worried Suki might forget her. I assured her it would take more than a few weeks for her pup to forget her. But she still worried. They hadn’t been apart ever for this long. I told my mom this is Sukis big adventure.

Suki could easily be a farm dog except she may want to eat my chickens and ducks. She likes to chase them that’s for sure. The birds soon realized that the little fierce thing that was chasing them was on the other side of the fence so they have begun to become somewhat immune to her sudden moves.


Weve weathered a blizzard  and we have had nice  walks up the lane to meet the neighbors horses. There was a lot of growling by her at first glance at the horses.  She was just feeling her shortness I think. We walked in the fields. She has gone to Tractor Supply where she was well received. Of course that’s Rudy’s favorite place and he knows if he sits nicely or puts his feet on the counter he’ll get a treat. Suki was a bit surprised that she would get a treat  just for standing in line. She left with a new harness and some yummy canned food.


I have never had a small dog. I have had many dogs over the years and they have always weighed well over forty pounds. So having a little girl like Suki is new and it’s pretty cool. She does manage to take up more space in the bed between Kevin and I every night and sometimes I wake up and see her laying up next to Rudy at the foot of the bed. Sometimes I would wake squished and hanging half off the bed with Suki pushing at my back and Rudy laying in the path where my legs  needed to be.  I have no idea how I ever sleep at all. No wonder I’m so tired!


But small dogs are pretty cool. I have not gotten used to her in the fray with my other dogs though if they step wrong she tells them off. I know little dogs hang with the big guys all the time. It’s amazing that this 17 pound ball of fluff could be boss over the five big dogs but she has set her intentions.

One thing about little dogs is their portability. It’s been easy for me to take her places. She fits in any car even if  it’s stuffed with junk. She would prefer to ride in my lap even if I’m driving so the passenger has to hold her or we put her in her crate for the ride.

We took Suki to visit my mother in law. Suki took to her right away and part of me thought how great she could be as a therapy dog. She’s the perfect size and perfect temperament. Well she can be a little tiny bit  leery of men at first but that only lasts a minute then she is right up next to them asking for pets.

Suki and my mother-in-law



My mother in law said ” Tell your mom I really like her dog”. I think so – since no dog would ever be allowed to jump up on the couch mom Sweeney’s home and Suki took the liberty without any human correcting her.  Suki decided my mother in law would be her friend. She just seems to have that ability to engage a person without being nudgie ( a thing i work on with Rudy all the time)It is amazing how dogs can brighten a persons day. It certainly seemed a good thing for my mother in law.

Years ago I did therapy dog work with my greyhound Jay jay Star – she was a natural- she was calm and her breed drew attention wherever we went so making our rounds in a nearby nursing home was an easy choice. She became quite popular with many of the residents. Of all the things I have ever done therapy dog visits were one of the most gratifying and heartbreaking all at the same time. I loved making people smile but I often got into the car and cried – nursing homes aren’t always the easiest places to visit. But for some reason I think I would like to  do this work again someday. Being with Suki made me think about it a bit more.

Last week when we went to see my mom in the rehab hospital we were able to have my mom wheeled into the vestibule of the building to have a visit with Suki. It was a big moment because my mom was so fearful Suki would not remember her. I was pretty certain that she would remember and she didn’t disappoint.

Is that you up there , mom?

She jumped up on my moms lap and it was clear she knew who she was. I think Suki was confused as to why my mom was at this place and not at her home and when we had to take my mom back into the building Suki was not happy. Kevin had to pick her up and put her back into the crate in our SUV because she kept trying to pull him back into the building. I felt badly about confusing her but I think the visit was good for my mom. She had been visited regularly by a few different therapy dogs while she was in rehab and by the way she spoke about the visits I know it was a highlight of her day – but not the same as having her own beloved dog next to her.

My Mom and Suki

Suki’s visit with us is coming to an end this week. My mom has a discharge date from the rehab hospital. It will be time for both of them to get on with life together. I will miss her. She was an easy charge.  She has been comforting in her littleness. But having six dogs here made me feel a bit outnumbered so it will be nice getting back to a more mangeable(?) five.

The last few weeks have been tough for my mom and it was often hard for me too as I couldn’t do anything to fix my mother in her discomfort. She had to get stronger and more mobile on her own with the help of her therapists.  I am a fixer – a planner- I don’t like it when I can’t make things better. And as I learned – sometimes you have to stand back and let life happen and help where you can. In my case taking care of my moms dogs was a way I could help and Suki helped me feel less helpless in a difficult time–didn’t I tell you she would make a good therapy dog?

It’s always something….

gildaThe new year really came in like a steam roller for my family. From the loss of my father-in-law in late December to some issues with my teens to my mom’s back surgery which came just before a blizzard which drove me from being able to stay to manage her care post-op to getting home to deal with two and half feet of snow that hit our area and kept my kids out of school for a week – it has been an eventful new year thus far.

What a difference a week makes. Here we are post blizzard and the roads are cleared, the snow is melting and the kids are back in school (thank God).  My mom has been moved to a rehab hospital in Lancaster, PA where she is making good progress towards regaining strength and mobility. It is a slow process but she is in a very nice facility and seems to be comfortable there. The next road for us is to find a place for her to live in Maryland near us as we would like to have her down here before June. So that means a lot of research and visiting places. Not to mention the packing up and decluttering of her home in PA so we can get that sold as quickly as possible.

I am again reminded by my friend Donna – “It’s always something” – a quote she sent me recently from the beloved Gilda Radner playing Roseanne Rosannadanna.

It is always something.

I remember when I saw the slogan “Shit Happens” years ago on a bumper sticker on some car someplace. I remember thinking how funny that was. But I don’t think I realized how true that was at the time. Shit had happened in my life but up until then the crap hadn’t really hit the fan. As we age shit really does happen and some of us get a lot of shit and some of us are luckier and we get less. But it Happens. What a wise quote – it grows with you – and we aren’t alone because everyone has shit happen! It is comforting in a way – yes?

It really comes down to how we handle it all – right? Some days we want to put our heads under a pillow and not face the day, sometimes we long for a bottle or ten of vodka so we can drink ourselves into oblivion and forget the shit that surrounds us. Other times we stand with mighty fists trying to face down our shit and other times we plod through just trying to get to the other side.

It is always something – it is always going to be something. And that really stinks when you think about it. But it is what makes life life. We are just always trying to deal with – or duck – the shit. Sometimes there are things to be learned from these events and sometimes they are just things to get through- maybe in the end we are wiser,stronger, more grateful, more loving, or we have an epiphany and sometimes maybe we are in shell shock for a while. I was in shell shock after my cancer battle- it took a while to make my way back to feeling like I was living life not just getting through the day. Maybe sometimes we get through but we are left with questions. I know I sometimes just have endless questions and I drive myself crazy with the asking because sometimes there are no explanations.

For me what gets me through the hard times is faith. Orange slushies and wine are a help but my faith in the fact the someone wiser and greater than I has my back is what I cling to when crap hits the fan. (I know some are reading this and wondering how I can write about my faith and crap in the same sentence- well it kind of feels good. And both are part of my life).

Faith may seem cliche’ to many and maybe it isn’t the go to for all of us. Faith is an important tool in my “dealing with life” toolbox. Sometimes when I am drowning in crap I forget to rely on my faith- it is when I am feeling so lost and like nothing will give that some little niggle comes into my head that reminds me that I have a wonderful God watching my back. I may not like the circumstances I am in and I may not get the outcome I pray for but faith is what calms my waters. We all should have some type of go to.

Whats gets us from one end to the other of this life- where it will always be something- takes a good amount of strength and hopefully a sense of humor (and hopefully a go to) because it is so much more fun to laugh than to cry. Have you ever had a good cry and then it pivots into a laugh – maybe bc someone said something silly to try to cheer you up or you are in the midst of a good cry and your dog farts and you have to laugh or urn to another room? It really is so weird – this life. That we can ball our heads off one minute and then snicker like a ten year old in the next.

This life – it can be ugly and depressing and scary and sad and it can be so joyful and gorgeous and silly and light- there is crying and there is laughing – sometimes life is faith and crap in the same sentence. Life is amazing…

and I am grateful for it….well maybe not the crap part…but the rest is pretty cool…

 

 

 

 

 

Just wake me when the ball starts dropping…..

celebration-horn-300x243I love the week between Christmas and New Years; the world just seems to slow down. I think I am going to spend the last few days of this year chilling out – maybe read some. Maybe sleep. One day we will visit family from out of town who came to see all of us after my father-in-law passed away last week at the age of 91. I am emotionally exhausted and I need to take a breather.

I want to wind the year down quietly. We were supposed to go skiing in Western Maryland this week and those plans have been put on hold. Not only because of my father-in-laws death – we still may have gone for a night or two- but also because there is only one slope open at the resort – and it is supposed to rain for the entire time we booked our place. If it happens to look more promising in the next couple days we can make the two-hour trek up to the resort and stay a night. I don’t ski anyway – I was hoping for snow tubing – which isn’t open. It is almost like the universe is saying, “just take a breather Anne”.

I have never been a big New Years Eve celebrator. That is not to say I haven’t tried to celebrate it but it always turned out flat- I never felt the elation when that clocked clicked into the New Year.

Maybe going from 1999-2000 was kind of exciting as my mom, my husband, and I sat up waiting for the some catastrophic event to happen because someone forgot to re-program the clock in some important computer somewhere. Nothing happened- which was reason to celebrate- I suppose.

I can recall yet another New Years Eve memory – one of me puking out the passenger side window of my boyfriends car… it was one of the rare times my parents allowed me to go out on New Years Eve in high school. That didn’t end well.

New years Eve is too forced a night for me – and there are too many nuts out drinking and getting behind the wheel. These days, Kevin and I don’t go out – the entire family falls asleep watching TV -after eating some yummy but not good for us food and I normally wake to the countdown of the new year and then wake whoever is piled on the couch and we sleepily cheer and hug and then we head to our respective beds and sleep away the first hours of the new year. It is lovely.

A couple years ago I awoke at 12:02 am and jumped up. I missed the turn of the new year! I always wake up. And as I woke from my haze of dismay I looked over to see my son, Luke, staring at the TV.

“Why didn’t you wake me?” I asked.

“Oh sorry.” He said “I didn’t want to wake you.”

“I told you to wake me before the ball dropped!”

“Oh – but your were really asleep…”

Gah! You can’t win with teens. I woke Kevin up and we went to bed – maybe just a little off kilter – amazing how our night of not celebrating still had a small iota of celebration in it such that if we missed that ball drop it was still a bit disappointing.

I hope someone wakes me this year if I am asleep. Wake me when the ball drops peeps!

As for resolutions, I stopped making them a long while ago. They never stick with me. I have resolved to quit cussing many times – well that didn’t work at all – my world loses a little color if I cant use salty language from time to time- ok it is more often than time to time but I like a lot of color in my world.

One year we had a cussing jar. We set it in our family room if Kevin(who rarely cusses) or I cussed we would have to put fifty cents in the jar. I think we collected a few dollars – not because I didn’t cuss- I just got plain irritated at the jar and the kids telling me I cussed- so they stopped telling me. Cuss jar forgotten – resolution forgotten.

Then there is the eating better resolution. I already eat pretty well and the things I eat that aren’t great for me I really enjoy eating. Like bagels.. I love them. I eat gluten free bagels most of the time and usually I only eat a half at breakfast. So on the days I want to eat one really super-good gluten filled bagel I am going to do it – and I am going to like it- ok maybe I have a bit of guilt but it’s short-lived. This same thing applies to cookies, ice cream and chocolate.

Do not deny me chocolate when I need it (I am feeling the urge now as I write…I think there is a piece of Ghirardelli in my freezer- Kevin is checking – God love that man. Yes – score – a hidden treat has been found.).

In the past I have resolved to pray more, read the Bible more, meditate more, better serve my fellowman, love more. More, more, better, better – those words just cause too much pressure and undo stress I think. So now I don’t make resolutions.

Eating better or praying more or being more loving aren’t bad things in themselves. They are all good things but there is something about these things when they come as a resolution in the new year that makes it seem required and for me that is too much pressure – what if I eat badly, what if I don’t pray for a few days, what if I am in a really crummy mood and not very loving for a day or two? Have I failed because I didn’t live up to my resolution?

Face it – most of folks who don’t make a resolution don’t live up to them. We are only human after all. I have realized that there are areas where I could strive to improve but if I don’t -I haven’t failed…I have just been human.

So this week I am going to be thankful for the year I am leaving behind. It was a tough year in many ways but it was also a year I learned much, and it was a year where I had much joy and many blessings.

I will look toward the next year with hope. Hope for a good year financially, and a good year for my teens -that they face their own challenges with strength and fortitude because being a teen these days is really hard.

I will pray for health and safety for my family. I will pray for my friends and for this world that seems riddled with anger and hate. I will hope that-though quieter- that love will win over loud nasty hate. I will always hope for peace…maybe it is lofty and a pie in the sky dream but I hope for it anyway.

In 2016, I hope I have more joy than hardship. I hope that when I am faced with the tough times I have the strength to get through them in one piece – and I pray that I will have my eyes wide open enough to see and cherish the many joys that will surely be part of my days. I hope that I will end the year a bit wiser then when it began. For that I will be grateful.

And I will always be grateful for chocolate.

Happy New Year!

 

 

Don’t Forget Fido!

 

If you read my blog you know I am a crazy animal lover. I am especially partial or partially nuts about dogs. Dogs have been an important part of my existence ever since my childhood– they loved me unconditionally when I needed it. Dogs were and still are my solace.

I had a friend that I once used as a rescue referral that told the rescue “ If I was a dog, I would want to be a dog who lived with the Sweeney’s”. I considered that a compliment. When you are a dog at my house you are part of the family.

My pets are spoiled- pets in America today have it good. I know from the ads on TV that the pet supply industry is big business. Americans spent $56 billion on their pets last year (info on that here) and I helped build that number. I should be proud! Does everyone get gifts for their pets? Probably not, but I know many who do. I have my limits on my spoiling but I am definitely among those that love to indulge their pets from time to time with toys and other sundries.

When it came to holidays and pets I haven’t always bought them gifts for Christmas. I figured they got special treats and gifts all year long and, really, they have no idea it’s Christmas anyway. They just act excited on that day because they pick up the kid’s vibes- and mine -but it is so cute!

I know they don’t need these things. I just like to think they need these things but that’s my own issue – but I say -who cares! – they seem to like getting gifts and it makes me happy to give them stuff.

For the last two years we began to do Secret Santa for the humans in our home. I am not sure who it was (probably me) that decided it might be nice to add the dogs to the Secret Santa game. We each pick a pet name – we keep it a secret- and go and shop for something for the dog and they get it on Christmas day – they might even get a wrapped gift if their “Santa” wants to wrap it.

I can picture their faces when they get their gift. They may not know what Christmas is but they know a dog toy when they see one!

This year we almost didn’t do the Secret Santa thing for the dogs. I almost nixed it (I know – scrooge) because we each already picked a person in the family to buy a special gift for – with a $30 limit. I guess I didn’t want to stick anyone with having to buy another gift.

It turns out that my son, Luke, really wanted to do the Secret Santa – The Dog Version and he’s as cute as my dogs and has those eyes that melt my heart so we put the dog’s names in a bowl and picked the dogs names. We had quite a laugh that we were keeping this a secret from each other! Would we spill the beans to the dogs if we knew whom we each had?!

Ok so what was the limit going to be? I asked.

Luke said $30.

Really? $30 – per dog?

I felt that to be a bit excessive especially since I would essentially be the one buying the gift my son’s would be giving their dog. It’s easy to set a limit when you aren’t ponying up the cash!

The limit was set at $10.

I chose bandannas for my pick – Ridley – our newest dog. I have become big into dog embellishing. Not dressing up per se but I like a dog in a nice bandana or fun collar.

Ridley is one big giant fur ball(I just saw Star Wars and am thinking of renaming him Chewy) of an Old English Sheepdog and he is quite pleased wearing bandanas. The other dogs (excluding my perfect dog Rudy) think bandanas suck and they try to rip them off the dog wearing them. Rudy is also a bandana wearer and many of his have been found in the yard in shreds. Hate is ugly.

So I asked the humans in my family for purposes of this very important blog to tell me who they chose for their Secret Santa – The Dog Version – and what they got there dogs and why. I promised not to tell their chosen dog.

Luke had Lemon our witchy and super smart yellow lab – and he bought her that new yellow Frisbee. They are very close –those two—“she would have asked for that if she could speak” He said (I am so glad she can’t speak to be honest- she would not ever shut up). Lemon is quite the Frisbee dog. But she will eat the Frisbee if you leave her alone with it. I give it a week until its in shreds.

Kamilla chose Pierce our collie/shepherd mix. She got him treats because she thought, “he would enjoy them”. Yes you had him at T-R-E-A-T. He can spell. Those treats will be gone in 30 , 15, 10, 5 seconds.

Anyway – where was I? Suki – my mom’s Corgi mix. She is a little fiery spark plug and she already has a mountain -and I kid you not a mountain- of stuffed toys. When we visit my mom’s home there are always new stuffed animals – around but she has her favorites – her birthday cake, and her banana, and she has a kangaroo that has a baby in the mom’s pouch. I don’t understand that one at all – and I am wondering if my mom didn’t get that off of the Discovery Channel website and is trying to pass it off as a dog toy.

Suki isn’t a stuffy destroyer – which my dogs are – and my dog, Rudy, often goes with me to visit my mom and he has tried to de-stuff Suki’s stuffy’s many times but for such a small dog she packs a wicked snarl and Rudy has only managed to steal and gut one toy from her.

Kevin drew Suki’s name. I asked him today what he chose and why. He chose…a stuffy(another one?)… it’s an elephant. So why did Kevin choose the elephant I asked…”It was cheap- it was in the $3.99 bin” he said. Well I burst out laughing at that one. I don’t know why I was expecting a much deeper answer. It’s a dog toy- he wasn’t going to put much thought into it.

My son has Rudy our Golden and he bought Rudy a Bandana. Why I asked- “because you told me to get him that.” Well he is right I did give him that gift idea. I am excited to see what he chose for him. Rudy looks so good in bandanas!

Have I gone through all six dogs yet? Nope — I missed Reese our pit mix. Well he’s one lucky guy because my mom chose him, and Kevin also bought him a new Washington Redskins collar yesterday. Hey we are contenders this year- in a terrible division but we are in the mix so a new collar showing our support was perfect. And Reese just likes anything – well except for getting his nails clipped.

My mom- who officially chose Reese – had already gotten all the dogs gifts well before we picked names and I forgot to ask her what she got them. It didn’t occur to me until now that the gifts she bought for them would have been enough and we could have saved the money and not bought them anything else- but what fun would that be? Zero fun. I vote for fun.

Yesterday, I went out shopping for some last minute human gifts but don’t you know when I was in Home Goods. They have grown a once very small pet section into a small pet store inside their store. Wouldn’t you know that I found a huge deal on a huge orthopedic pet bed. It was way over the $10 budget we set but I had to get it for Ridley who is old and would appreciate (at least I thought he should appreciate) such a bed and maybe he wouldn’t need to sleep on the couch all the time. If it doesn’t work out for him – and it might not because he really loves couches – I think it could be a decent guest bed.

I got caught up in the fun of it and my pets deserve it because they make me happy. Giving to them makes me happy. I like happy. Lately I have needed some extra happy. They don’t have be able to pick a name to give a human a gift -they give their gift of love everyday. Well the dogs do – and the cats do sometimes when they feel like it – and my horses give some love on Mondays and Fridays only because horses are like that -and the Chickens and ducks never give us love but they give us eggs so all in all it is win/win with our little group of critters here in our farm.

PostScript: Ridley got his new bed. He looked at it, stood on it, circled around on it, sat on it, got up and went over to the couch got on it and went to sleep. I had a good giggle over that. I laughed harder when Pierce ate all his treats in a nano-second and Rudy attempted to eat the package the treats came in. Every single dollar spent was worth it- these guys make me smile everyday!

Merry Christmas to you and yours….

 

  

    
    
  

The sad under the happy 

IMG_2130
We checked into the Marriott on a balmy December Saturday. It was unseasonably warm for a Christmas celebration weekend in Baltimore, MD. My husband Kevin and I were there to see the Christmas Parade in the harbor. We splurged on the hotel – we were celebrating my 52nd birthday a little early as my birthday falls three days before Christmas and it is often very busy around that week that any getaway would not work.

There was a beautiful Christmas tree in the lobby and the hotel bustled with visitors. There was a doorman and valet parking and a bellman. The room with a view of Baltimore Harbor did not disappoint. It felt a little decadent- a little too much- but it felt really good to be able to splurge like this. The last two years had been really, really hard. Serious illness and then debt from the medical bills, another home that we had been renting out but losing money on was on the market but wouldn’t sell, and loss of income for various reasons from our jobs left us in bad financial shape.

We had tried various ways to dig out but it just seemed like things were getting worse. Finally for many reasons we decided to file bankruptcy. It was tough but in light of having faced cancer it wasn’t as scary as it may have been otherwise. Then just when we thought things were looking up – our other house had a contract for sale on it – the bank decided to foreclose. It really was a stressful time.

So here we were five months later in a hotel in Baltimore celebrating and splurging a bit. Kevin began a new job in October with better pay. Things are going better. We have a little room to breath.

We had a nice time tooling around the harbor and Fells point each time we go I see something new. Each time I get a better feel for the city and its charms.

This time there was quite a celebration going on in Fells Point. There were bands and vendors in the square. Some vendors had hot libations like spiked eggnog and cider, and some had clothing, others jewelry. I had to stop and photograph the dogs – there were so many dogs. The Fells Point area is very dog friendly. A fun looking band was taking a break promising to start up again soon.

Kevin and I hustled and bustled our way through some bars and some appetizers. We felt the holiday buzz. We watched the boats in the harbor from our room – not the fanfare I thought it would be but the boats that participated were done up nicely. I can hear people cheering for them from our room with the harbor view.

It was fun and one could get caught up in this great place and how perfect it all is. And it is wonderful. I love it there but each time I go I also see the other side. The sad side. The sad under the happy.

I see the homeless person on the corner asking for a dollar or two. I see the hustlers in the crowd doing their thing angling for money.  I read the warnings in flyer that said to watch out for people dressed in character suits asking for money as they aren’t part of this event or that. The flyer warns that they are just trying to get your cash. In the evening I see a man alone on a set of dark building steps head in his hands. We quicken our steps but I don’t think we need to fear for ourselves. Part of me wants to see what’s wrong.

Some social workers and even non-professionals say it is unhealthy to give money to the homeless because they may use it to buy drugs and alcohol. I decided long ago that this may be true but I don’t really care. I feel good giving them money and it is not my job to judge. It is my job to love and to show compassion.

I feel badly that I can’t help them all. I feel badly saying no – but sometimes you have to. Sometimes it’s as simple as having run out of cash in your own pocket.

I think my guilt over splurging on the weekend and having to say no to the needy sometimes comes from way back.

When I was young I grew up in Potomac, MD an affluent area outside of Washington, DC. I didn’t realize it was affluent until I was maybe 10 or 11. Perhaps that is the age that differences dawn on you in your awareness. I remember going to the Redskins games on Sundays. We always had season tickets and sometimes we would park outside the stadium on someone’s lawn for a small fee. We had done it for years but at some point I realized these city kids in their worn clothes in front of their worn homes lived very differently than I did. I was kind of embarrassed by that.

Later when I started college my best friend and I were attending the same school. When we went to orientation some other freshman asked us where we lived. When we said Potomac, MD they gave us a hard time. They joked that we were rich kids and I really didn’t like it. So I began to say I was from Rockville, MD (affluent now but then more regular middle class).

I was never comfortable with the label. I was never comfortable with wealth for that matter. I am sure it is because it represented more negative things to me than positive. I grew up where money was over- valued and I spent much of my life not valuing it enough. I was not a saver and I spent and spent – rejecting what had been drilled in me from youth. I think there was a happy medium and maybe I am just beginning to understand it.

I still carry the guilt of being some “rich” kid (though we weren’t rich by todays standards). In my world money did not bring happiness – for me giving away money or spending it did. I feel badly sometimes when I indulge on myself and if I can’t give to everyone I meet on the street. I need to let go of that and I am working on it. I deserve to splurge sometimes and celebrate.

After the boat parade, we head to Mustang Alley’s a bar and bowling Alley (cool right?) for a little bite to eat. In a bar there are two holiday parties going on and people are exchanging gifts – doing that elephant exchange thing- all laughing at the silly gifts. I watch as one woman takes the gift from her officemate. Though I can’t see what the gift is I know it was something everyone wanted just by the groans. The place is full of cheer. We head back to the hotel for dessert in the hotel restaurant. I just want to eat there because it feels good to sit in the pretty restaurant and sip coffee and have dessert.

I am so drawn to Baltimore – the happy and the sad. My connection runs so deep that sometimes I dream about buying a small studio for weekend getaways. Kevin and talk about how great that would be to have a little place in the city.

There has been unrest in Baltimore lately. The news of the riots saddened me. But it doesn’t take away from my love of the place. It is the reality of a city. There are problems – just like anywhere but more magnified because you have more people in a city thus more diversity – and thus more differences and some of those differences lead to anger and unhappiness. Maybe if I lived there I would feel differently about it all. Maybe the charm would leave me. But right now it is a place I love to visit.

I am not a city person by nature. I grew up in the burbs and now I live in the country. I love the country and have been drawn to nature and the outdoors my entire life. The city is such the opposite of where I live. The energy and the pace are so awakening.

When I was 22 I lived for a year in Boston. I was fresh out of college and moved there on a whim (ok I followed a boy) and I was taken by the juxtaposition of the wealth and the poverty. I remember one morning leaving my apartment and a homeless man was asleep in the entry of the building. The stench of liquor was pretty fierce. My boyfriend was disgusted that this man was in the vestibule. I felt happy he was able to find a semi-warm place to sleep.

I rode the subway to work and had a bit of a walk to my building everyday and I had “my” homeless person that I took care of each day. A number of my coworkers did the same. A few cigarettes here and a few dollars there- a muffin or a coffee some mornings- it was the best we could do I suppose. By the time we left for the day our homeless charges had moved on and were replaced by others. But we knew ours would be back in the morning.

It became part of the scenery. We would see guys in the common hustling the tourists with their card games or the ball and cup game. We would watch. It wasn’t the haves and the have-nots anymore when you lived there it was just all part of the city.

On the way out of Baltimore, I see the stadiums that sit next to a neighborhood where children who grow under their shadows. They hear the games but may never be able to go BC their parents can’t afford it.

As we drive onto the freeway, I see a small wooden fort next to the a creek – there are some plastic chairs sitting out front right – it is next to the fancy new Horseshoe casino. Does anyone know who lives there? Does anyone check? I wonder. It’s gone as fast as I see it. But I can still see it in my mind.

I’m actually grateful to notice these things. This is reality. This is what makes life bittersweet. Poverty is everywhere- it is just magnified in the backdrop of the city. I want to fix it but I realize I can’t – I can only do what I can do. The guilt may be something I am always working on.