Tuesday, June 30, 2015

One of Those People

I never thought I'd be one of those people.  You know the kind.  Dog lovers... but not just dog lovers, EXTREME DOG LOVERS! Fanatical, over the top, dress-them-up, save them at all costs-people. I didn't get it. 


I've seen two separate neighbor friends whose dogs were the one constant friend & companion who saw them through broken relationships, moving, deaths and general loneliness with unconditional love. I understood their human/dog relationship more, but pragmatically still thought that wouldn't be me. What’s more, is I was judgy (yes, that’s a word) towards the extremes people went through for their pets.

Our family adopted a dog when our 3 kids were very young. In hindsight, it wasn’t the greatest time. A couple years went by and we had our 4th baby. I was in the midst of living with my yet undiagnosed bipolar disorder. The reality was that I was trying to cope with a life of severe depression mixed with the manic "highs" of anger and irritation while parenting four young children and soon after, helping my husband with his new business. (you can read that heart wrenching story here.)

We loved him and he was important, but with all of the other circumstances, he was “just” the dog.

Years passed, kids matured and we were in those beginning stages of thinking about getting another dog.  Almost as soon as that happened, our neighbor posted a picture on Facebook of this sweet little thing that needed a family. 


She put us in contact with her co-worker and we made plans to go LOOK at the dog. We were very clear to tell the kids we were just meeting her and seeing if she might be a fit, but we weren't going home with a dog. 

We stood on their porch and passed the puppy around. Dale and I were off to the side of everyone and he turned to look at me. I raised my eyebrows, flashed a cheesy grin and gave him a thumbs up. 




We drove home with a new puppy.

Her first crate was an upside down laundry basket.


The ensuing days months were spent naming, training, and playing with our newest family member. I was tether training her so she was always with me.

Ugh - the naming. Six people giving their opinions and insisting their  pick was the best. We actually all agreed on one name, but it was shared with a family friend, so we knew that was out. We all finally settled on Nala and had an appropriate naming ceremony for her where we sang the Lion King intro and Dale walked her around the dining room raised up like Simba.

I can't tell you what is different with her than with Bodhi. She’s smaller so she sits next to on us, sleeps next to on us and lies next to us when we eat. Bodhi was 3x her size and while he would be in the same room as we were, he didn’t have the access to the close proximity she does. I think the tethering training has a part in it. There was only so much training we could be consistent with when we had Bodhi given everything else. It probably mostly all boils down to good or bad timing.

One thing for sure, Nala is dear to us all and has become my shadow and friend. 

When I’ve been sick, she stays by me.  My son would joke that we were like Elliot and E.T. When more serious illnesses happened, like my sudden gallbladder surgery two years ago, she would not leave my side. When I was in bed for 5 weeks with Influenza this January, she was next to me the whole time. There’s no way to measure or test for it, but I can tell you for a fact that having her in my life has had a hugely positive effect against my depression. 

My social media posts became more and more about Nala. We've made her own Instagram hashtag. I've thought of ways to dress her up and just as quickly thought, “WTH!?  Who am I?” but then continued to entertain those thoughts. (I did finally buy her a piggy Halloween costume that she would have NOTHING to do with.)
I made her natural dog biscuit treats. (Thanks internet!) I refer to her nail trims as "pedi/pedi" (since she has no "mani").

We joke about her personality and traits.  She has a belly like a piglet and a butt like a waddling duck. She buries herself, or sometimes just her face, like a sand crab, she’ll give a teeny “baby lick” on your leg as she walks by, like a lizard and she walks on the back of the couch like a cat. Oh, and when most dogs turn in circles to lie down, Nala raises her front legs up and comes down on the bedding repeatedly as she turns like she’s a prancing horse.

I’m sure my stories are similar for many of you, but  again, I didn’t get it before. 

Last week I got it.

I took Nala in to get her yearly vaccines and have them check her for what seemed like a bladder infection. We’ve always taken her to a animal wellness clinic where they do affordable check-ups, vaccines, and non-emergency care. When the doctor went to ultrasound her bladder (they take a sample through a needle) she didn’t see enough urine to draw.  She gave us some pain medication for her and asked me to bring her back early the next week.  When we came back to try again, she identified what she thought were stones in Nala’s bladder.  She gave me some referrals to a traditional vet’s office where they would need x-rays to confirm.  I made the appointment with the vet and the next day Nala started to decline. Quickly. I called the office back to see if they could get me in that day instead of the next, but they were booked. As the day progressed, it was obvious things weren’t ok. Her breathing was labored, she was panting and would even let out little groans. I called the vet again, trying to hold it together, and barely doing so.  She referred me to the veterinary emergency care and we drove right over. 

Over the next few hours, we learned that yes, she has bladder stones that at some point have to come out. What was most urgent however, was the stone lodged in her urethra. Since her body couldn’t get rid of the waste, her kidneys would start to shut down and give off enough potassium that would stop her heart. The vet said it was good we brought her in and that she probably wouldn’t have lasted until that night. 

There were two procedures. The first was to clear her urethra, and that was an immediate issue. The second was surgery for the stones. If they weren’t cleared, not only would she be in mild to severe pain, but it would happen again. The option they gave was to do the first procedure immediately, and then I could choose for them to do the surgery, or bring her to my regular vet. (that I’ve never actually been to before.) The hospital gave me their estimate that includes a low to high range. Guaranteed it will be at least the low number, but it could also go as high as the second. Oh, and you have to pay for the higher cost in full right now.  I called the vet’s office with the estimate in hand. Best ballpark with the line items, their low estimate was only $100 less.  Their high end was about $450 less. Taking into consideration the risk factors of moving her putting her under anesthesia twice, I decided leaving her in one place would be best.

I was trying to decide this all by myself, because I couldn’t get a hold of my husband at work. I was freaking out over the cost. The potential bottom line was way more than I expected, (isn’t it always!) way more than anything we would ever decide to spend without talking about it first, and way more than we said we would ever spend on a dog.

Remember the “not getting it” I talked about?  We used to matter-of-factly say we had a dollar cap on animals. Not out of callousness, but practicality.  We have four kids and a responsibility to provide for them.  How could we justify spending so much on an animal? On the other hand, it’s a life.  I believe God created animals and the Bible says God told Adam, “Be responsible for fish in the sea and birds in the air, for every living thing that moves on the face of Earth.” Gen 1:28 (MSG)

My husband called and we talked through reality.  Either we choose to approve everything, or we walk away…from her. We would have to relinquish her.  I mean, that was the choice we were looking at.  The animal hospital is dedicated to the health and welfare of animals so of course they would go forward with her treatment.  Then they would release her to foster care until they could find another home for her. 

We chose her.  


And we chose to put our hope and trust in the Lord that He would provide the money. There isn’t an unrealistic expectation that provision comes from a bucket of money falling onto our porch. I’ve been trying to think of creative ways to earn money or work with a flexible schedule.  My mental health has been in a good, balanced state for a while, but we’re all too aware that something like a big change in stress/routine etc. such as a traditional job, can upset that. A few people mentioned gofundme. After some thought, I figured it would be worth trying. I know I've given in the past to help out people, and the idea of lots of people pitching in a little, makes sense to me. 

In the mean time, I am tending to my girl as she heals.  She’ll have quite the battle scars after her stitches come out (where I’ll follow up with the fabulously helpful vet I’ve yet to meet). She can’t use stairs, so I’m carrying her up & down to go outside since our old house is raised above ground level. I’m crushing pills and hiding them in her food. I’m sleeping in another room with her so I can take her out every couple of hours, and so she won’t try to jump up on my bed to sleep as usual.  And as much as I shake my head at this myself, I am feeling the princess ice chips.  Little Miss does not drink nearly enough water.  I’ll add some to her food, but that’s all she’ll drink.  She has however, shared my love of ice ever since I’ve known her. I break them into tiny bits to be as gentle to her teeth as I can. I wish I knew where I could buy that awesome pellet ice.

Anyhow, it’s all worth it. She’s worth it.  However long I need to sell things on Craigslist for is worth it. Having her has made me less judgy against other pet lovers. That’s worth it.

She’s more than just “a dog”, she’s family.

If you'd like to help with Nala's medical costs, please click here:

thank you

Friday, May 15, 2015

5 & 5



Blah... That's how I feel at the moment. The digitizing of life: streamlining things to make it faster and easier... is never as simple as I expect. I've gone through shock, despair and anger and settled today on blah.

I learned the hard way to BACK UP MY CRAP! About 5 years ago, when my old laptop died, I was devastated to lose all of my digital photos.  I may have even sobbed off & on for a few days. Thankfully, my brother-in-law took pity on me and worked his IT magic to restore them all. Yay!!!  Since then, I have been a huge proponent, loudly when I can (even if that's just ALL CAPS), for people to BACK UP YOUR CRAP! 


Now, I use an online cloud backup that doesn't cost an arm (let alone an arm, leg & spleen like iCloud) that backs up every night.  I also use Time Machine, though honestly, I don't quite have as much confidence in that...I'm not sure why. I also use an additional external drive for just my photo library.  You see, I've learned my lesson. 


Unfortunately somewhere along the way, I created two iPhoto libraries. I must have "pointed" iPhoto to the external library one time and started working from there. When that was disconnected, it used the library on the computer. (I wondered why I kept getting the "rebuilding library" notice.  I haven't made it a priority to go through the folders and copy over the ones that weren't duplicated. 


I use the cloud daily because it's set up automatically.  For some reason the Time Machine drive got "full" (even though it's supposed to delete the oldest one). When I made it a priority last week to get back on the ball with my external drives, I decided to just wipe the "full" Time Machine drive and start new. (cue music..."wah wahhhh"). I'm pretty sure I lost the unduplicated pictures in the iPhoto library that I forgot to copy over. 


It's just so frustrating...the irritating quirks of the maintenance of life. I'll look to see if I have those photos...later.



Laments:


1. Time lost due to technology issues.


2. Photos (potentially) lost due my error.


3. I have to get up at 5am tomorrow. ugh. 


4. I re-injured my tailbone. It makes doing Stupid Yoga™ (one of the lowest rated exercise on the Suck Meter) very difficult. 


5. People who tell me to "Have a nice/good day!". Oh...I was having an awful day, but since you said so...




Gratitudes:


1. Memories and time with people are more important that photos. (repeat to self)


2. All the wonderful things technology brings: connecting with people in a click of a button is only one.


3. How many times can I list my dog? Her unconditional love, her soft fur that really is therapeutic for me to pet and her sweet temperament.


4. There are only 19 days left until summer vacation (12 school days)!


5. I know what's for dinner tonight. 



Have the day you have!





Friday, May 08, 2015

5 & 5


It's Friday!!!! 

Not that there isn't more to be done on the weekend, right? For some reason though, when Friday comes, it breaks up the daily routine. Also, it reminds me that we are one week closer to summer vacation! (27 days!) On to the 5&5, and feel free to chime in with some of your own!

Laments:

1. I drank a cup of coffee late in the afternoon. Ok, two cups. It's 1:30am...

2. My tailbone is owie. I broke it long ago, but every so often it reminds me.

3.Grocery clerks who do not properly bag items.  Is this really so difficult? Especially when I pre-group them on the conveyor belt?

4. Carpeting in my house.

5. Did I mention I *chose* to drink that coffee?


Gratitudes:

1. Friends. Authentic, loyal, long time, new, but genuine.

2. Games. I love Words With Friends. I've always loved Scrabble. No one else here does. Yay internet & apps!

3. My limbs.  I know this sounds weird, or like there's a punchline, but it's real. When I had the flu and was down for so long, my limbs were weak, lethargic and rubbery. I couldn't drive, I couldn't walk much and for the first 2 weeks, I could barely even hold my phone up even to push the button to voice text. I am so very thankful that they are back to normal, and I'm thankful to have them. On a kinda related note, I saw this on Jimmy Kimmel. Ahk!?!?



4. Summer Fruit. I saw nectarines in the store yesterday. I know better than to fall for that trick. It's way too early for nectarines that aren't shipped across the Americas to be sweet and ripe. But oh...it's coming. (the Macinaw Peaches, Jerry!)

5. Mail. Personal, handwritten, in the mailbox, mail. Bonus if the stamp wasn't cancelled! 

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

5&5


There are days I have so many gripes coming off the tip of my tongue, that my list would be more of a 500 & 5 (Thankfully, there are others that are weighted the other way). I mentioned this to a friend, and she shared what she does when she's lying awake in bed.  She uses the alphabet to list things she's thankful for.  Some things are the same every time, such as "a" is always for for her aunt, but other things vary.  It was a great exercise for me and so my gratitudes are my first five:


Laments:

1. Oh how my eyes are turning against me. Now, I totally understand I have had good eyesight for so long, and have never needed glasses until a couple of years ago.  So yes, I am thankful for that. However, this is still my reality and getting used to it is frustrating and annoying.

2. The crackle I hear in my knees.  (Ok, I wasn't starting out to have an age related theme here, but I see how these two make it sound like it.) Note to self: must start taking glucosamine.

3. Selfish Selfensteins who continue to turn left out of the school parking lot each morning/afternoon when it is CLEARLY marked NO LEFT TURN during those hours. (Horns are appropriate on these occasions.)

4. School vacations are over until summer vacation starts.

5. Dog fur...dog fur...dog fur...




Gratitudes:

a. Avocados...especially when they are affordable

b. Bible. I take it for granted, but I'm thankful for the truth, encouragement and guidance it provides.

c. Cars that work.  Before we saved up for our Yukon, we were squeaking the last of the van's life out of her.  The last couple of years were rough, and the very last one included trips to the mechanic every other month.  I am so very grateful to have a reliable, running vehicle.

d. Dale

e. Entertainment.  I love tv, movies, magazines, audiobooks, music and books.
(Oh the horrors, I'm not afraid to say, traditional books are last.)

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Why I Almost (but still kinda) Quit Facebook


I used to give a lot of my time to Social Media (facebook in particular). More than I’d like to admit, really.   I gave it my time, my attention and oddly, some of my heart.

I’ve really loved being able to check in with people throughout the day. Some are people I see regularly, and others are people I wouldn’t be able to stay in touch with as often without it. I’ve heard people denounce social media proclaiming its evils and how we need to have authentic, face-to-face encounters. I do have authentic face-to-face relationships, but I also enjoy the connections I’ve built through social media.  Some of those connections, I’ve built into “in-person” friendships. This has been the case, in varying forms, since I joined Facebook almost 8 years ago.

Recently, I’ve realized that more and more of the personal stuff I’ve always looked forward to reading has disappeared.  Now, I log in to see endless quiz results such as “What Kind of Tree Are You” (I guess Barbara Walters was really on to something), or “What Disney Character Are You?”. Of course, there are also plenty of posts allowing me to easily click a link to read political, religious or entertainment content.   Don’t let me leave out the animated (and creepy) ads for how to shrink my belly fat (are these targeted ads?) among others. 

As a fledgling blogger, I like the ease of being able to push content this way, and of course I always hope that what I say resonates with people in a way that they would want to “share”. I just wish the individual pages were a little more balanced with the personal touch that in my experience, is almost gone.

The kicker for me, came a couple of months ago when I came down with the flu.  This was no stomach bug, or respiratory ailment that I always called the flu. This was influenza of the rotten kind. The kind that gave me the “ah ha!” to finally understand why every year, caution and warning aimed towards babies & the elderly went out.  It sent me to the Urgent Care three times.  I had a fever for five days, I didn’t eat for a week and barely kept down any fluids. (bummer those 7 pounds came right back- pthhh) My limbs were weak and my arms shook so much that if I needed to text someone, I could only voice text. (which is “fun” when you can’t fix what autocorrect screws up!) I was exhausted, couldn’t sleep and I had a constant headache.

All of that to say: a) Next year I’m getting the flu shot and b) I dropped off the face of the internet and it didn’t seem to matter.

Now please hear the intent of what I’m saying.  This isn’t a victimized pity party. (ok, I did cycle through that for a couple of days, but thank God that’s all it was.)  What I realized is the relationships I called meaningful, were less so than I believed.  I was off social media for a complete week, before popping onto facebook just to offer a free week in Tahoe we couldn’t use. Other than that, I was off for 2 ½ weeks before I heard from anyone.  I received a message from a long time friend with whom I have only occasional facebook interactions. I was pretty touched that she even noticed.  After a month, I heard from a friend that I had almost daily interactions with. Five to six weeks later, a (literal) handful of others reached out.  The part that got me thinking though, was that none of them were the people I thought of as friends, who I interacted with on a daily basis.  Interacted - where I commented, they commented, we conversed, etc.  I was really surprised. 

As I thought about it more, I wondered why I should be surprised.  Facebook, in particular, is “all about <the collective>  me”: What I’m doing, what I’m looking at, where I’m going, what I have, what I rant about, etc. There are a lot of people who really are interested in engaging in those things reciprocally, like friends would.  Through my experience though, it seems they are the minority.  

I’m a good friend, a loyal friend, and I’ve realized over the years, I expect the same. Because of that, I’ve been burned, and I’m sure a lot of it is my own doing by expecting or hoping for the same (too much) from others.  But there have also been those people who seemed to want that kind of a friendship when the reality is they want it as long as I was doing the work. If I called, texted or reached out and if I set up the coffee, lunch or hike, then all was good!  If I never instigated or even followed up on the occasional “hey, we should get together” comment with “sure!” , throwing out specific dates and times, nothing would happen.  When I stopped being the one solely pursuing these people, the superfluous relationships (that mostly drained me) stopped. After a brief moment of licking my wounds, I realized I felt more freedom. This was in part due to letting go of the frustration and frenzy I felt by doing the relational heavy lifting so to speak, but it was also in the knowledge I gained of how I was putting my unrealistic expectations onto other people.   I expected them to be a friend they weren’t able to be, at least not with me.

I’m trying to find the balance of using social media day to day. I’ll probably rely heavier on my blogging account and Twitter, and use my personal account for lightly browsing here & there. After all, there are still the people (like my long time friend who first messaged me or the across-the-street neighbor who moved 2000+ miles away), that I love being able to keep in touch with more regularly and the personal account easily affords that to me. (And let’s face it, the computer has ruined our penmanship!)  

Seriously though, social media does help us to keep in touch, including my family and friends with whom I do see regularly. I’m just learning how to sort through the rest who mutually feel the same.