Living Life’s Moments: Things I Learn From My Dogs

I love dogs. This is no big secret. I like living with them. I enjoy being around them. I have loved a few dogs during the span of my life so far. Each time I lose a beloved dog, I swear it will be the last time. Because losing hurts too much. And yet, once a little time passes, I sign up for it all over again: all the laughter, all the love, and all the tears, too. I am one of those people who needs at least one pooch in their life at all times.

I love watching my dogs live their lives. It’s fun to try and figure out what they’re thinking at any given moment. With my current pups, I often believe they aren’t thinking anything in particular. This is okay. I’ve known “thinking” dogs, and I’ve known goofy dogs, too. My fuzzballs fall somewhere in the middle of this spectrum. They think about how to get extra treats and how to wriggle into their favorite spots on the sofa. But, overall, they are goofballs. They are happy dogs. This is the main thing. I love seeing a happy dog with a silly grin on its face.

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Both of my dogs love to bask. They have vastly different styles, but they both seem to get immeasurable joy out of sitting in the sun.

Fae has a favorite corner in our yard. Winter tends to be hard on our back yard. Between off and on freezing temperatures and the cycle of snow piling up and then melting, all of the grass in our tiny yard dies off every winter. It leaves behind a muddy, mucky mess. Once the weather turns nice and warms up a little bit, the grass starts to grow back in her “sun spot”. This is the moment Fae has been waiting for, all winter long.

She doesn’t camp out there right away. She spends some time scoping things out, first. After all, Fae is a cautious princess-dog. For a few days before true spring-like weather hits, she inspects her corner each time she heads outside for a potty break. She sniffs all around, as if checking to see how well her grass is growing and if all the muddy bits are covered up yet. Once the grass has come in nicely and we get our first string of balmy days, she is a maniac for her sunny corner. She whines every five minutes or so to go outside, and, when I check on her, she is always there: in her basking spot, stretched out with her eyes closed and her face turned toward the sun.

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Shiner likes to bask, too. I’ve thought about this, and I’ve come to realize that basking is not a simple thing when you are a black and white dog. Being mostly black on top — where the sun normally hits — Shiner has to be a bit more pragmatic about things. He enjoys running around in the yard, acting like a goofball and dodging the sun’s rays for a bit. After about ten minutes, he’s had enough of outdoors, and he wants to come in. He is bossy and usually wants Fae to come inside with him, but she is good at ignoring his subtle (and not-so-subtle) cues. Eventually, he gives up on her and heads inside on his own. There will be no outdoor sun worship for this boy.

Shiner has a basking spot in our kitchen. There is one place, near the pantry and next to our sliding glass doors, where the sun hits for a good part of the day. The floor is white linoleum, and the sun heats it nicely through the glass door. It is toasty warm and comfortable. But, even better, this spot has a floor vent for our air conditioner. Shiner likes to spread out here, half in the sun and half over the vent. He looks at me every time and sighs with contentment. Truly, he has found the best of both worlds!

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From watching my dogs, I’ve come to realize basking isn’t an active sort of thing. It’s more of a close-your-eyes-and-sit-back activity. There is something indulgent and hedonistic about it.

I love to watch both of my dogs worship the sun in their own, individual ways. They seem the very definition of “peace” and “contentment”. They are happy and comfortable and completely at ease with their place in the universe. They are living in and for that one moment in time. They are feeling every, single second of it in the best way possible. They aren’t worried about what might happen tomorrow — or even in the next ten minutes. They aren’t stressed about getting everything done, or about how they are going to keep from disappointing all the people in their lives who count on them. They aren’t wondering what’s for dinner or when dinner might be or, even, whether or not there will be dinner. It is enough, in that moment, just to sit in the sun.

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I watch them … and smile … and think to myself, “I want to live like that.”

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Feeling Sad

 

I live half a country away from the place my heart calls “home”. It’s a 2-day car ride. It’s a 3 to 4 hour plane ride. In terms of quality of life, the place where I live might as well be on the moon. It is that different. It’s more expensive and more stressful and filled with people who are, at best, inconsiderate, and, at worst, downright mean. We’ve been here for fifteen years, which feels like an eternity in exile. In many ways, I feel I have adjusted to living here. There are even things I like about it. But the longing for home and to be with my family is always there. It’s an ever-present ache deep down inside me. Some days, I’m okay. Other days … not so much.

Today was a “not so much” day. It didn’t help that the weather was gray and muggy, threatening rain all day long. Or that I woke up with a headache. Today, my anxiety was through the roof. I felt I couldn’t breathe, like the weight of this place where we live was pressing down and down on me, until I would be ground to dust beneath it. I’m tired. I think that might be the best way to explain it. I’m tired of living here. Not the kind of tired that can be cured with a good night’s sleep, but the kind of tired that makes you feel worn thin in all the important places.

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Today was my daddy’s birthday. He turned 87. And I wasn’t there. I couldn’t be there to eat lunch with him. I couldn’t be there to give him a gift and watch him open it. My daughter and I sang Happy Birthday to him over the phone, but it’s not the same. I’m half a country away, and I miss my family.

A few months ago, it looked like we might be able to move back home. My husband was interviewing for a job in our hometown. He had cleared every hurdle with flying colors. He got nothing but positive feedback at every stage, from everyone in the managerial chain. He was called back for a second interview, and then a third. The company even insisted my daughter and I come to town with him to look at houses. And then … everything went right down the drain. There was some last-minute political maneuvering within the company, and my husband ended up on the losing end. It was one of those “friend of a friend” things.

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It sucked. There’s no nicer way of putting it. It just sucked. It still sucks. It was like, for one moment, the heavens opened up before me. I could look forward and see the future. I could see all of my closely-held dreams, moments away from coming true. It’s stupid and more than a little ridiculous of me, but I can’t let go of it. I still want to go home. I still have that dream. I still feel blindsided by the way the whole thing went down. Months later, and I’m still blindsided by it. I think my sweet husband has moved on from it so much better than I have. But my heart is still grieving.

I want to be with my family. I hate how morbid it sounds, but I want to have time with my parents before it’s too late. I’m lucky they are both in good health. They are rather curmudgeonly and set in their ways, but they are relatively young at heart. But, still … How many more birthdays will there be? Today, it really hit home for me. Just a few short months ago, it looked like we would be packing up to move by the time the end of May and beginning of June rolled around. Instead, it now looks like we are forever stuck in our same, old, fast-paced rut.

Today was my dad’s birthday. He turned 87. I sang Happy Birthday to him on the phone. And then, I hung up and cried.

The Junk Drawer

There is a neighborhood near where I live. I love this neighborhood. I’m not sure exactly what it is about it that attracts me so, but the attraction is undeniable. There is something homey and lovely about this neighborhood. It’s not exactly old, but also not exactly new. It’s a grid of sidewalks and broad streets lined by well-kept houses with beautiful yards. It is full of bird song, and, sometimes, I even see bunnies or deer, if I walk in the back parts of the neighborhood, where it connects with a city park. There is something that’s just so … “Norman Rockwell” about this neighborhood. The houses, for the most part, aren’t big or fancy. Some have been added onto over the years, expanding to settle in and fit on their lots. Some seem to have been unchanged since the day they were first built. It’s not the kind of neighborhood you would drive through to ooh and aah over the houses. It’s just a normal, everyday neighborhood where people go about the business of living their lives. They go to work. They come home. They tend to their yards. Maybe they drink coffee on the patio and watch their kids play. Realistically, I know there is nothing special about this neighborhood. Nothing at all.

And yet, this neighborhood never fails to give me happy feels. This particular little spot on the map calls to me on a soul-deep level. It’s not too much of one thing or another. It’s just a whole lot of “normal”, and I think this is a big part of why I love it so. I’ve always wanted to live in a neighborhood like this. I’ve always wanted to have a cute, not-too-large and not-too-small, house. I’ve always wanted to have a beautiful yard full of flowers and budding trees and birdsong and the buzzing of happy bees. In my imagination, there would be a porch in front and a patio in the back, both perfect for sitting quietly to enjoy a cup of tea and a book. Maybe, if I were lucky enough, even a nice spot for getting busy with my writing. My kitchen would be warm and welcoming and homey. My closets, table, and hallways would be uncluttered. My floors would be honey-colored pine, and they would always be clean. I would be organized and good about putting things away. In short, I would have all my shit together. And life would be the most perfect kind of beautiful normal I could make it.

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I’ve never lived in a house like that. Or in a neighborhood like that. I grew up in the country, so we didn’t really have neighbors. I mean, neighbors existed, but we never saw them because everyone lived far from each other. We might as well have been all alone. There were no sidewalks. There were no manicured yards or perfect flower beds. Not that I regret the way I grew up. I don’t — at all. I had horses and cats and dogs. I was able to experience fresh air and nature and hard work, all of which are beautiful and wonderful things. At night, I could sit on our front porch and watch the stars come out while listening to the scurrying night sounds of life around me. I loved growing up this way, and a part of me wishes I could live in the country, even now.

But the other part of me, the realistic part, knows that I will never live in the country again. My husband is a city person. He needs activity and things around him. He doesn’t like being alone with his thoughts or with the quiet of nature. He gets bored easily. So, that part of me — the part that knows I am destined to be a city dweller for the rest of my life — has wished for a plain little house with a big yard and beautiful flower beds in a quiet, welcoming neighborhood. Instead, I have a townhouse. It’s in a teeny cul-de-sac neighborhood with six other houses. My house is too tall and full of stairs. The closets are too small, and my family tends to hoard things. Seriously, we never clean out our junk. My house is laid out in a way that is aesthetically pleasing, but it isn’t practical. It lacks storage space. The kitchen looks large and inviting, but, in reality, it is too small for more than one person to be in there at a time. It’s hard to find a place to put the Christmas tree. There isn’t enough space for an office and a guest room. My flowerbeds tend to be overgrown. I’ve found I’m not good at weeding them. They don’t seem to have enough dirt, so planting anything is difficult. All the front lawns have to look the same; it’s an HOA rule. Our backyard is smaller than a postage stamp, which means it is constantly muddy and torn up from our dogs.

But, really, the only thing wrong with my house is that it’s not what I wanted. It’s not the kind of home I ever imagined having. It’s not the kind of house I wanted. I was so excited when I moved here and we started looking for houses. My excitement lasted exactly five and a half minutes, because that was about how long it took for sticker shock to set in where property values were concerned. Even so, I was pregnant when we moved in, and I was ready to nest. I wanted a home I could put my heart and soul into, a place I could LOVE. But we had a long-term houseguest when we first moved in, and I quickly discovered my husband didn’t want to do anything new to the house. And I was too pregnant to do any of it myself. And then, I had a baby and a toddler and a little kid. So, life just kind of zoomed by me. I think I gave up. I gave up on the possibility of loving my house. Instead, this house, in my mind, is the compromise my husband and I made. We never planned to stay here. It was a “temporary thing”. We have now lived here for almost 15 years, partly because the economy unexpectedly tanked and partly because my husband hates change. And I am beginning to believe this is the only house I will ever have.

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This is where that neighborhood I love so much becomes dangerous to me. Even as I enjoy my walk through there, taking in the smells of flowers and the sound of birdsong, I feel this aching longing inside of me. I am proverbially standing on the outside and looking in, just inches away from what my heart wants. But still impossibly cut-off from those hopes and dreams. It makes me sad, sometimes. And, sometimes, I can feel my depression creeping in on me.

And that’s when I have to remind myself about the junk drawer. As I walk these sidewalks and look at these houses, it’s so easy to think about how perfect and beautiful they look on the outside. When I see the swings and the toys in the yards, I think about happy children running and playing and screaming in delight. When I see the flowers blooming all over the neighborhood, I think about quiet cups of tea on a perfect patio. Each house looks kept and loved and beautiful on the outside. It’s easy to think that life on the inside must be perfect, too. It’s easy to fall into the trap of believing that all these people have everything figured out, that they have managed to do what I seem to have failed at in magnificent fashion. In contrast, my mind thinks about my own unmade bed, my overgrown backyard, my overstuffed closets sorely in need of a good clearing-out.

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But, if I think about it, really hard, I bet every single one of those perfect-looking houses has a junk drawer. I bet they have at least one place where all the flotsam and jetsam of life ends up collecting. One place where they put all the things they can’t manage to toss or all the things that don’t seem to have a place. And, if there is a junk drawer, maybe there is also a cluttered table top. Maybe there are times when the people who live in that house can’t get along. Maybe they sometimes yell at each other, or they are late for dinner, or they forget to put gas in the car. Maybe their kids have problems in school. Or maybe they are sad over the death of a relative.

And then, I feel a little better about my own life. Because, maybe, my life looks perfect from the outside, too. I know my bed isn’t made. I know my kitchen table is cluttered. I know I have an overflowing junk drawer. But no one else knows this.

The point isn’t that I’m happy thinking about the potential unhappiness of strangers. I’m not. I actually hope the lives of all these unknown people are as perfect on the inside as they seem on the outside. The point is this: None of us has a perfect life. We all have to compromise, here and there. We all have to make the best of things. We all have to learn how to be happy with what we have. We all have to learn to count our blessings. But, in spite of not being perfect, life is beautiful. My life is beautiful. I have a husband I love. And he loves me back. I have a daughter who laughs with me and plays Pokemon Go with me. I have two dogs who love to snuggle with me. I laugh, every day. I love, every day. So, yeah, it’s not perfect — not on the inside, and not on the outside, either. But this life is mine.

And, once I learn how to cherish that idea, maybe I can start learning how to fall in love once again — with my beautifully imperfect life and with my unexpected house, too.

A New Hair Day … Again

I got my hair done recently — maybe a week ago or a week and a half ago. My natural hair color is just about the same as my skin tone. I think I’ve talked about this before, probably more at length than anyone cared to hear. (Or … read …?) But, the short story is this: In my younger years, I was a natural white blonde. As I got older, it turned to more of a honey blonde. And then, in my early to mid-twenties, a strawberry blonde with golden highlights. My twenties were great for my hair. I look back at them as my best hair years, by far. Heading into my thirties, I already had a good deal of gray interspersed throughout my head ‘o’ hair. And the hair that wasn’t gray was starting to turn into a mousy sort of ash blonde. I have very fair skin, and my natural hair color doesn’t present enough of a contrast with my skin color. I’m not sure how to explain it, but I look like I’m all one color. The ashy blonde of my hair makes my skin look sallow and ashy, too. And, thus, I become rather invisible in my natural color, which caused me to turn to dye. I was a bottle redhead for a number of years.

I had my daughter in my mid-thirties, and pregnancy wasn’t kind to my body. Or to my hair. For several years after my daughter was born, I did nothing at all with my hair. I didn’t cut it. I didn’t style it. I didn’t color it. I barely even brushed it. I would like to say this was because I was too busy being a super mom and having all kinds of fun with my growing daughter. But that would be a lie. The truth is that I was depressed. I suffered from depression for many years before I finally sought counseling for it. I felt like my hair was thinning, but I didn’t know what to do about it. Frustration plus depression all added up to: “Screw it. I’m not going to care any more, because it takes too much damn energy.” It’s not a great place to live, but I floated there for a long time.

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Eventually, things got better. That’s a really simplistic explanation, but I could write post after post about depression. And this isn’t about that. It’s about hair. I started caring once again. It didn’t happen overnight. But it happened. Once I started caring, I didn’t want to be invisible any more. So I went back to dying my hair. I started out quite normally, moving from a dark brown to the darkest, blackest of blue-black. And then … I took a deep breath and decided I would try “crazy” hair colors. I had always wanted blue hair, and my stylist was fun and supportive and completely willing to give it a try. She didn’t treat me like I was silly or ridiculous or insane.

There is no going back. It’s like I crossed some sort of no-man’s land that exists only in my mind. Or, maybe, like I finally found the truest, most honest form of my own existence. I’m not sure how to explain it, really. I’m an introvert. Like … Introvert, with a capital “I”. You would think I would hate having crazy hair, because people notice it. Some people love it, and they aren’t shy about telling you so. Some people hate it, and they aren’t shy about glaring at you in disapproval. But I love it. I freaking LOVE it. It’s like I wasn’t truly alive until I started going crazy with my hair color. It gives me joy and makes my spirit lighter. It makes me feel, really and truly, like ME.

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My latest hair adventure is something I like to call “Grunge Mermaid”. I wasn’t expecting it to look exactly like this. My last hair color had a very ocean or mermaid look to it. It was two kinds of blue with a little bit of green thrown into the mix. Having been off of my beloved blues for a while, it felt refreshing to have my favorite color back on my head. This time, I thought it would be more of the same. That’s the thing I love about crazy hair adventures. You kind of know what you’re going to get, but not really. And, so often, the reality far exceeds any expectations.

My latest hair is bright blue. And peacock green. And red. And even a little bit white, where some of the bleached strands show through. It is bright and vibrant and kind of like “KAZAAM!” up in front. In back and on the sides, it is this unexpected mix of colors that look like the ocean and graffiti at the same time. It’s the best hair yet. I say this every time, and I think it’s true every time.

I’m already thinking about what I want to do in a few months, when this hair fades. Purples were good. Maybe it will be time to revisit them. Or, I could go pink once again. One thing is for sure: I hope I never have to go back to “normal”.

 

An Interesting Outing

I think I live a pretty boring life. I don’t mean this in a bad way or a negative way. I just mean it as the truth. I look at blogs where the owner/writer seems to have a constant stream of daily adventures to post. Ditto with Instagram accounts or Podcasts. (I don’t actually listen to any podcasts. I just read the descriptions of them and think about how interesting they sound. I know. I am strange …) And then, I think about my own life in comparison. For the most part, my life is a never-ending series of “same old, same old”. I don’t have daily adventures. I don’t even have weekly or monthly adventures. I am a creature of habit and routine. I suppose no one wants to admit to this, but I’m pretty much okay with it.

But, every so often, an interesting day or outing comes along and surprises me. Like today …

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I had a nice walk this morning. This, in and of itself, isn’t interesting. I didn’t see anything unusual or bizarre in my wanderings around my little neighborhood. But I got to start my day off feeling rather accomplished. And then, I got to have breakfast with my sweet husband — an even bigger treat! I indulged in two glasses of iced cold brew coffee, which has had me buzzing all day. I love that giddy coffee buzz!

This afternoon, I headed out to my favorite restaurant for a late lunch. It’s Tuesday, which means my favorite dish is on the menu. I mentioned I’m a creature of habit, right? Um … yeah. My server had pink hair, which is wonderfully interesting. As you guys may know, I currently have blue hair with some red/pink and teal/green mixed in at the ends. It was fun to encounter a kindred spirit.

On the way home, I saw a man standing at a bus stop. He was holding up a phone and yelling, and there were three police officers surrounding him. The police officers weren’t doing anything. They didn’t seem aggressive or even overly perturbed. They were just standing there with their hands on their belts. Perhaps this, in and of itself, is aggressive? They do have guns on their belts, after all. But I don’t know. I was driving, and the scene went by quickly. I hope everything turned out okay for everyone involved.

A little ways up the road, I was in the left lane approaching a traffic circle. The left lane and the middle lane (the one immediately to my right) both go straight through. The farthest right lane curves around into the circle. My light was green, as was the light for the lane next to me. So I picked up speed in order to continue through the light. The truck in the lane next to me did the same. Just as we were approaching our intersection, an 18-wheeler started to run the red light from the circle. The cab of that truck darted out into our lanes of traffic, and we all had to slam on our brakes to avoid a collision. It was a near miss. You could hear the squeal of tires on pavement and smell the burning rubber. It was nerve-wracking for me, but, I’m sure, not as much as it was for the driver next to me. The truck cab was blocking his lane completely. It was fortunate he had good brakes on his vehicle.

I don’t mind admitting my heart was beating a little faster after that incident. But I continued on my way. I went through that intersection, then a couple more intersections. On the third or fourth one, a car suddenly stopped and put their emergency blinkers on in the lane to my right. A couple of cars started to swerve into my lane, right where I was, but they ended up going around into the right turn lane. Another lucky miss!

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My normal route home takes me through a small and quiet neighborhood. Usually, the streets in there are deserted in the middle of the day to early afternoon. I don’t mind telling you I turned into that neighborhood breathing a sigh of relief after all of my unexpected adventures on the road. I was home free, I thought.

Not so! I stopped at the first stop sign. I saw no one coming, so I started on my way. Just as I turned the corner, another vehicle came out of nowhere. It raced around the corner in front of me, going so fast that its momentum carried it out into the middle of the street — right in the path of my car! Luckily, there was no one around, and I was able to swerve out of the way. But it was a close call.

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I’m home now, safely ensconced in my comfortable office chair in front of my computer. I love to hear the click-clacking of my keyboard. It is soothing away the surprises and near-misses of the afternoon. I would like to say I refuse to go back out into the world, but I don’t have that luxury. In about ten minutes, I have to pick up my daughter from school. Surely, I have had my share of “interesting” for the day. Right?

The Grumps

I’ve got me a case of The Mean Grumps. I would say I just woke up in a bad mood, but I’ve been in a bad mood for the last several days. So I’m not sure I can write it off to something as simple as waking up with the grumps. I mean, I did wake up that way. But several days in a row? Ugh.

The most annoying thing about it is that I can’t put my finger on any exact cause. I think it’s a case of a lot of little things piling up to feel like big things. I feel unsettled and frustrated and annoyed. But not with any one thing. With everything.

It’s not really that things are going so wrong. It feels more like nothing is going right at all. My life seems to be flying away at the seams, leaving me to chase down thread after thread. It feels I will never be able to catch them all. I try to step back, take a deep breath, and remind myself that I don’t have to catch them all — not all at once. I can start with one thread. And then move on to another and another. And yet, when I think about doing that, I feel itchy and impatient all over. I don’t want to go thread by thread. I want it all different NOW. I want it all fixed NOW.

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And yet, I know thread by thread is the only way to go. The problem is that the thought of it makes me so tired. I feel exhausted by it. There are so many tasks, both physical and emotional, facing me. And, honestly, I don’t want to do them. When I think about going step by step and putting in the work and hours and mental and physical effort needed … Ugh. It makes me want to curl up in a ball and let the world pass me by. It all feels like Too Much.

As I was lying in bed this morning, it hit me: The Grumps. I turned up my ceiling fan to make the room cooler and cuddled up under my blankets and thought about how I didn’t want to get up at all. Wouldn’t it be much better to stay there, in bed? Yes, it would be. And that’s exactly why I had to get up and start on my day. Even though I knew I would make little progress on all the things I needed to do. Even though I had me a case the The Mean Grumps.

They Say It’s Your Birthday

Today is the anniversary of the day of my birth, better known as my birthday. I sat down to write this post in order to reflect on my thoughts and feelings about the turning of another year in my life. But … I dunno. As soon as I started typing, I realized I don’t really know how I feel about today. Or about the year that has just passed.

I don’t feel bad about it. Not really. At the same time, I don’t feel fantastic about it, either. Like many things in my life right now, I feel kind of “meh” about the whole thing. It’s sweet to be remembered by my dearest friends and my beloved family. That part is always great. I love feeling loved. Dessert is good, too. I don’t let myself have dessert very often, but I splurged a little bit today. There was also my favorite dinner at my favorite restaurant. This was good.

But how do I feel about life? About my life? That is the tough question, isn’t it? I think that’s the question that has kept me up for the last two nights, tossing and turning while my family sleeps.

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If I’m being honest with myself … And, really, I should be honest with myself at least once a year, right? So, if I’m being honest with myself, I have to admit I’m not where I would like to be in my life. There. I said it.

I am not where I would like to be with regard to my weight and weight loss. At this time last year, I felt pretty good about my weight. Well, that’s not true. At this time last year, I was stuck in the midst of trying to help my husband recover from his heart attack and surgery. So I have to go back a few months before this time last year — to November or December. At that time, I felt pretty good about my weight and weight loss goals. I had lost quite a bit of weight (almost 50 pounds!), and I felt optimistic about things. I wasn’t where I wanted to be, but, for the first time in a long time, I felt like I could at least see that goal and a clear path toward it.

And then, the heart attack happened. My life has been in a constant state of stress ever since then. We went from panic and stress and anxiety over the heart attack and surgery to panic and stress and anxiety over my husband’s work situation, as well as panic and stress and anxiety over my daughter’s school situation. I am ashamed to say this, but I gained back a lot of the weight I previously lost. Not quite all of it, but enough to make me feel as if I am starting over again, from Square One. It’s … frustrating. And disheartening.

It doesn’t help that I’m stuck in this darn boot. It hurts my back, and I can’t exercise. This contributes to my frustration. Even with the high pollen counts wreaking havoc on my allergies, I want to be outside walking for an hour a day. I am mentally ready to try and get back to normal, to the extent I can. I am mentally ready to throw myself back into exercise as a stress relief. But it seems my body and mind aren’t quite in synch at the moment.

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And then, there is the other horrible sink-hole in my life: my writing. Or, should I say “lack thereof”? I am nowhere near my writing goals. I’m so far away from them that it sometimes feels as if I am going backward. I can’t see a light at the end of this tunnel. I can’t even see the tunnel.

My creativity is … stuck, for lack of a better word. Or, maybe that’s the perfect word. It’s what it feels like most of the time. I have all these ideas and thoughts and THINGS inside my head, wanting to get out. Begging and screaming to get out. But when I sit down to let them out, nothing happens. It’s uncomfortable and horrible and scary — a constipation of the creative part of my brain. The ideas are there, but they are mired down in a flood of anger and frustration and guilt. Plus, there’s all this emotional baggage from my childhood, and there are all these secrets. Secrets I’ve kept my entire life in order to protect others. But it seems like, the harder I have to hold on to these things, the less room I have in my head for creative stuff.

I’m sure the constant state of stress in my life isn’t helping. I keep waiting for things to settle down, but I am beginning to think this isn’t going to happen. My husband is mad at me over the writing thing. I am mad at me over the writing thing. It’s just not a good situation. I’m not sure how else to explain it.

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And there you have it. The state of my union, or something like that. I feel like my life is topsy-turvy and constantly whirling out of control. I feel confused about this a lot of the time. I can’t figure out how or when this happened. It seems like, one day, I had everything figured out and under control. And then, the next day, it all went to heck. Maybe my husband’s heart attack was the downturn. Or maybe everything was a mess even before that, but I didn’t realize it. It’s funny how fragile life can be, how one thing can turn everything on its head.

Here’s what I know. I can’t control the things around me. I can’t control my daughter’s annoyingly inconsistent teachers. I can’t control the stress and worry around my husband’s job and our living situation. I can’t go back in time and make the heart attack never happen. But I can control myself. I can make a plan, and I can do my best to get my own mind back on track.

Hopefully, I will be out of the boot and into a brace this Thursday. If so, then it’s time to get moving again. I will have to be patient with it, but I am determined to work my way back to a good exercise routine. I am researching different strength-training exercises, and I plan to incorporate those into my routine, too. I know from experience that this won’t be easy. It is hard to stay motivated and in motion when sitting still is easier. Well, it’s physically easier. I need to remind myself that it’s not mentally easier.

And I’ve decided to start journaling again. I need a quiet space where I can let go of thoughts and feelings and secrets I’ve kept inside myself for far too long. When I started this blog, I intended to talk about them in here. I quickly realized that was not going to be possible. Maybe it will be one day, but it’s not possible for me right now. I’m too afraid of offending people I love. Not that any of them pay a bit of attention to my blog. But it would be just my luck they would stumble into one of the posts where I talked about my childhood and my feelings and emotions surrounding it. But I still need to let these things go. I need to release them into the ether so I can make room for newer, better things.

It’s time to make a move and see what the coming year will bring.

The Saga of My Ankle

I have my first broken bone. I am firmly ensconced in the latter part of my second twenties, and I have my first broken bone. When you’re a kid, you expect to break a bone here and there. The world expects this, too. It’s a badge of honor, in a way. When I was a kid, I kind of wanted to break something. I realize now how macabre this sounds. And how stupid. But I was a kid. I was the definition of stupid innocence, as we all are when we’re kids. I was a quiet kid, and I tended to be invisible most of the time. You know … out of sight, out of mind. There was a part of me that thought the attention would be kind of great. I wanted a cast everyone could sign. Maybe they would write messages on there or draw cute little pictures. It would almost seem like I had real friends. It would almost seem like I was a real person, just for a little while.

But let me tell you this: Having your first broken bone in your second twenties is not any of those things. It’s not expected. Or neat. Or cool. It is attention-grabbing, but, as an adult, you are pretty much past wanting this kind of attention. Or any attention, unless you are a reality TV star or internet celebrity. There’s something that feels slightly sad and a little bit pitiful about having one’s first broken bone in the twilight of one’s middle age. This is probably just me. I feel there is something poetic about having my first broken bone a scant two years before I’m eligible for AARP membership. And by poetic, I mean slightly terrifying, a little bit confusing, and, yes … also kinda funny.

Is there anything that can make us feel our own mortality faster than breaking something on our bodies? I’m not sure, because that’s how I’m feeling right now: old. And mortal. And old. And fragile. And mortal. And old. Did I mention mortal and old?

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The other really bad thing about breaking a bone in one’s youngish “old age” is that people always want to hear your story. They see a cast or, in my case, a boot, and they want to know what happened. And how it happened. They want all the gritty details.

When you’re ten or twelve or some other “kid” sort of age, there is usually a good story. It is a story of adventure and excitement and good intentions gone bad. It is a story of trying new things, and, maybe, failing at it. But the point is in the trying. That’s hero territory. It is a story of epic proportions and, most importantly, fun.

I feel this is generally not the case once you pass a certain point in adulthood. Once you’ve passed a certain age, any broken bone story is going to be boring at best. Mostly, it’s going to be ridiculous. Maybe I’m just speaking for myself here. Because my broken bone story is just that. If you looked up “ridiculous” in the dictionary, I’m pretty certain my broken bone story is in there, somewhere. Looking ridiculous. But, of course, I’m going to tell it to you. I realize you are likely dreading it, but I’ve typed this much of an entry already. You have to know you’re not going to get away without having to hear it. Because it might be ridiculous. But it is my story.

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And, like most of the slightly ridiculous incidents in my life, this one started with my dogs. Oh, how I love my dogs. They always make life a little more interesting, don’t you think? My life would be a lot more boring and a lot less muddy without these fuzzy goofballs.

My Springer Spaniel was the key player this time. He likes to charge the door when he’s excited. He has developed a particularly bad habit of trying to do this when we leave our house through the garage. I have worked with him on this. And I continue to work with him. We are making slow progress.  So, a few weeks ago, our neighborhood’s lawn care people were outside our house, on the front lawn. My boy, always excitable, was even more interested in getting outside to say hello to all these strangers. I was backing out of the house, telling him to stay, and I tripped over the step down from our house into our garage. And then, I tripped over our vacuum cleaner, too. Because we are silly humans, and we store our vacuum cleaner right next to the step into the garage. In retrospect, this is probably not a great idea. I came down, hard, with my right ankle twisted under me. All of my weight on one spindly, twisted ankle.

It all happened so fast. That’s the funny thing about it. In a moment or two, I managed to pull ligaments and put a hairline fracture into my ankle. I earned myself a few weeks in a lovely boot for my trouble. All of this, of course, after I walked around on it for a couple of weeks, trying to pretend everything was fine. I come from (fool)hardy people, what can I say?

But that’s it. The long, the short, and the painful truth of it all. I’m 48 years old. I tripped over a step and a vacuum. And I broke myself. I have to go now. I think I hear old age calling, and she wants to have a chat with me about my careless habits.

Hello, Spring!

Spring is officially here. I don’t know what date WordPress will put on this post, but I am sitting here typing it at 8:55 PM on March 21. Which means it is the second day of Spring. I generally don’t enjoy Spring. I am allergic to dust and trees and grasses and weeds and mold and all kinds of flowers and … Well, probably a lot more things than I can remember to list in here. Basically, I am allergic to every single thing Spring brings. Instead of being able to enjoy the warm breezes and the soft sun on my face, I am forced to double and triple up on my allergy medication and drive around with my car windows closed and the a/c blasting full force. On any normal year, I do not greet Spring with open arms or joy in my heart.

But this has not been a normal year. It has been a year of stress and disappointment and worry and more stress. Winter was supposed to bring us mounds and mounds of fluffy, beautiful snow, according to our seasonal forecasts. Instead, it brought us warmer than average days and rain. Lots and lots of rain. Which, in turn, meant all the things I am allergic to bloomed in the Winter, too. There was no relief for this hacking and sneezing allergy sufferer.

I don’t dislike rain, by the way. I am from a place where it doesn’t rain nearly enough, so rain holds a bit of a special place in my heart. There is something kind of magical and mysterious and fun about a gray and rainy day. But … we have had months of these types of days. If I’m being honest, I have to admit I am more than a little sick of rain. I am also sick of my muddy yard and the dog foot prints that are all over my floors.

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So I was ready for Spring this year. The idea that it was quickly on its way, coupled with the unseasonably warm temperatures we have had for most of the winter, had me thinking of pastel colors, flowers, and buzzing bees. I was ready for the smell of fresh earth and green grass, even if I had to enjoy these things in extremely short bursts. And I thought it was beyond time for some bright colors in a world that seems to have gone all too gray.

Today, Spring looks like a fluffy white, slushy mess outside my window. I got so excited about Spring’s arrival that it seems I forgot about our annual March dumping of snow. And it arrived, right on schedule, today — just in time to celebrate Spring. It’s cold. It’s wet. Everything is frozen. In short, things are unexpectedly unpleasant.

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But … school was canceled. And it will be canceled again for tomorrow. My sweet girl and husband were both home today, and we nested inside our house. We laughed and joked. My daughter and I played a video game together. We had home made tortilla soup. I watched the dogs playing in the snow. We were all warm. And safe. And together. In short, things were unexpectedly awesome. I can’t think of a better way to welcome Spring.

Christmas Is Over

I know what you’re thinking. You just read my post title and thought, “Well, duh! It’s been over for months, Crazy Lady.” Perhaps you also gave your computer screen the stinky fish-eye, just for a moment. It’s okay if you did. We all do it, from time to time. Only our pets know, but they won’t tell anyone. Probably. Well, I’m confident the dogs won’t, because of the whole loyalty thing. And I’m pretty sure the cats can be bribed into silence.

Remember how I posted, sometime in January, about keeping my Christmas tree up for the duration of that long and dreary month? I did exactly that. I kept the tree up for the whole month. I even turned it on every single day in January. I hate January. But that’s not the point.

It is now mid-March. And my Christmas tree is still standing proud in my living room. I still turn it on, too. I know this seems crazy, but it is more of a joke between my husband and me at this point. The tree has served its purpose. It celebrated a joyful Christmas with us. It got me through my January doldrums with its cheerful ornaments and colorful lights. In a month of gloom and doom and gray, rainy days, the Christmas tree gave me a glimmer of hope and happiness. If it was up to me, I think the tree would stay put all year long. I have a problem, guys. And yet, I don’t see it as a problem. Which probably makes it more of a problem than I realize. Or something like that.

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But here’s the thing. All good things must come to an end. The Christmas tree is special. Putting it up each year is an occasion of joy and celebration. If it stayed up all year long, it would stop being a special thing. I know this in my head, even if I don’t know it in my heart. The truth is this: I’m not strong enough to put the tree away. Because I like it too much. And I want to continue liking it for always. But too much of a good thing is still too much.

Luckily for me, my sweet husband understands this in his head and his heart. He is sweet enough to humor me through January by leaving the tree up and lit. But today, he decided to draw his line in the sand, daring my insanity to step over it. He got the ornament boxes out of the garage. And he is downstairs right now, stripping ornaments and lights from the tree.

I, of course, am up here in my office like the coward I am. Christmas is over. But I don’t have to show it to the door. Thankfully, there are stronger people in my house for that task. Good-bye, Christmas Tree. For now. I shall eagerly await your arrival next year.