Sweet Pleasures

Three rubber ducks in foam bath

Three rubber ducks in foam bath (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Tomorrow, I will take a long, hot vanilla-sugar bubble bath and soak until my fingers look like large raisins. Afterwards, I will put body lotion on so my skin feels silky soft, maybe I’ll clip my toenails and paint them pink without rushing. I will do everything today at my pace.

I will drive to the diner in the next town to order the best tuna sandwich on multi-grain bread to-go. I have exceedingly high standards for tuna fish sandwiches and this is the only place that I will eat it in.

I will clean the clutter in my room just enough that I feel I have accomplished something, I am no neat freak but mountains of clean laundry (3 baskets) makes me feel uneasy. I will sort them and put them away. I hope. The worst case scenario is that I hide them, once again, which is a guilty compromise.

Maybe I will take myself to a movie, in the early afternoon. There just so happens to be a bakery on the same street that sells only cupcakes, yes, just cupcakes. I will stop in to buy a vanilla, pumpkin spice or banana cupcake with vanilla icing. The key is the vanilla icing.

I can’t decide which book to read next, there are two hardback books grinning in front of me. “Pick me” says one, “pick me” says the other and yet I have opened up both books, read a few pages of each and have stopped. Tomorrow, I will read the first fifty pages of both books and then decide. The rule, when I was growing up was to read twenty pages, but now, that I am older, I have changed the rules to fifty pages. How can you judge a book by a mere twenty pages?

When I am cold, in the afternoon, I will make myself a cup of hot chocolate and not the instant mix packages that are hidden in the pantry. Real hot chocolate made lovingly with milk that I stir slowly, and add melted chocolate or chocolate syrup, I am not that fussy. I will put many marshmallows on top. I will drink it out of my big, bright, yellow mug that my best friend gave me for my birthday, she knows that yellow is my favorite color.

Maybe I will take a nap, or meet my mother for lunch and if I can’t sleep I will cuddle with my dog on my bed, her body closely aligned to mine so we both feel safe and warm. Tomorrow will me “my” day and I will go to my local shops and browse. If I see something I love and can afford I will buy it as a gift for myself. Who says gifts have to come from other people? Who knows me best? Yes, I do.

More importantly I have a secret plan to do a good deed or as many as I possibly can, I will do some anonymous acts of kindness knowing in my heart that is the biggest gift of all.

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There’s A Wonderful Advantage To Getting Older That, I Bet, You Don’t Know

English: An anxious person

English: An anxious person (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

March 2013

I thought I was having a psychotic episode, the mere word itself terrifies me. Random words kept popping into my head like kernels of corn and it made me more nervous than I already was (if that was at all possible.). I took a low dose of  Xanax, a prescribed anti-anxiety medicine and waited, it didn’t help. It had always worked before, why not now?  That freaked me out too. I thought for sure, I was going out of my mind and it terrified me.

My husband was away on a business trip and I was home alone with our dog, Jax, during one of the worst blizzards; they were forecasting winds up to 60 miles per hour, major power outages and two feet of snow. I have been alone plenty of times before and have enjoyed it tremendously, but this time felt like one continuous nightmare, that lasted five days and nights. Jax stayed close to me and if the heat went out I could always cuddle with him, luckily when you have a dog you really don’t feel as alone.

Since I couldn’t calm myself down, I was sure I was having a psychotic episode and my huge fear of being restrained in a mental hospital/jail loomed in front of me. I’m not sure if I could have made myself any more anxious if I tried. I stayed up late, reading and listening to calming music, trying to take deep breaths until I was so tired that I fell asleep.

I had a planned appointment with my therapist a few days later and I couldn’t wait to get there. I told her my anxiety medicine didn’t work. She calmly said; “You should have taken two.” Her answer to my question about it being a psychotic state was ” “you are too old to start having a psychotic episode now.” For once, being older had a huge advantage. The one thing I could be thrilled about getting older. We had an advantage, who knew? That DID make me happy. Rejoice, older men and women!

She said it was just anxiety and “why wouldn’t you be anxious, alone, with a huge storm coming with howling winds that frightened many people?  The power could have gone out and instead of struggling with the ten page detailed instruction manual that I was obsessing about I should have just shoveled on more blankets and waited until the morning. Then, I could beg a neighbor to help me or as my shrink suggested “go to a hotel.”

I owe this woman a great deal of thanks, she is an incredibly smart and wonderful person. I like her and I trust her and if there is something serious we stop our talking and kidding around immediately and she has solid advice. Some people, even now, in the year 2013, still have a stigma about seeing a psychiatrist to  work out a problem. I just don’t get that, if you had trouble with your car, would you hesitate taking it to the mechanic? You just need to make sure, in both cases, that you go to the RIGHT person, the right match. I’ve met many frogs who called themselves therapists, this woman is a gem. A natural gem.

PS How many people are getting anxious just watching this dude?

*Weight Watchers For Dogs?

LexiI brought Lexi, my dog, to the vet a few months ago to get her nails trimmed, something I know I can’t do. She is a very willful and strong dog, I can barely give her a bath. After they were finished, the vet technician came over to me, sat down beside me and said grimly “Lexi needs to lose 2 pounds AGAIN.” My first thought was to laugh heartily and say “Who doesn’t?” but the look on her face prohibited even me, which as my kids can tell you, is very, very hard.

After suppressing my laughter and pretending to look chagrined, she informed me that Lexi needed to start adult food mixed in with her puppy food and go down from 3 meals a day to two. My first thought? Good luck to us! That dog, lives, breathes and does anything for food. She, absolutely, takes after her human parents. I think I will give her less food for lunch time and wean her off it that way. Come on, a girl dog does have to eat and I took her on an extra walk today. It’s so beautiful out that I will take her to the dog park later and she can run and play with the other dogs just like she did yesterday.

Were vets always like this? I don’t think so and I know it makes sense to keep them healthy but we’re not talking obesity, we’re talking two pounds. It’s the winter, harder to take her for long walks when it is so cold. Not a good enough excuse? Fine, I will also decrease her food, poor thing.

At least this time it was only two pounds and I didn’t get yelled at like I did last time. When she was a pup, we took Lexi to a (horrible yes, you, Peter)) puppy training class where she learned nothing except how to sit (which she already knew.) The instructor bribed the pups with a huge amount of treats and Lexi gained ten pounds in a month. I am not kidding. When I went to the vet after that, I didn’t say a word but the technician started yelling across the room, standing up and shaking her finger at me saying: “No, no,  no- way, she’s FAT.” I was a little offended on Lexi’s behalf. She may have gained a few pounds but saying it across a crowded room was embarrassing. At least for me. I totally blame that stupid trainer, I knew I should have gotten my money back. Damn.

Now, Lexi looks fine, she looks sleek. I want her weighed this time. We’ll show old Weight Watchers For Dogs what we have done. And we didn’t even count points or calories either. So there. I’m bringing her in tomorrow, I’ll let you know how WE do.

*this has nothing to do with the Weight Watchers Corporation, it’s a parody for dogs.

Honoring Someone Else’s Pain

Postavaru Mountain - ROMANIA

Postavaru Mountain – ROMANIA (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sometimes the hardest thing we can do, when a friend is suffering, is nothing. It goes against our natural instinct to nurture and comfort and try to make people feel better. However, we need to think of what they want and not do what we feel comfortable doing.We need to honor their wishes, respect their needs. I identify so very well with this particular pain, I lost my best friend, Callie, my dog, less than a year ago. My friend, everyone’s friend, Judy Judith lost her dog Max the other day. He was not only her dog-friend but ours, he was an icon and part of all our lives. We all knew him, and apparently, he knew us too. He wrote us letters.

His name was Max. The dog owner of the wonderful blog “Creativity to the Max” helped by his “human,” Judith Westerfield, one of the loveliest and intelligent people I know. Those who know her adore her, those who interact with her form her wide fan club and fall in love with her. She is direct and honest and she will tell you what she thinks, good or bad, directly, no matter what, and when she says something you wrote is good, you better believe her because if not, she will theoretically smack you on the head over cyberspace in a loving way, of course. She is also extremely funny and she makes us laugh.

To know that she is in pain is killing me. When my dog, Callie, died a few months short of a year ago, Judith was there for me, telling me it will hurt but it would get better, Selena told me about the Rainbow Bridge that I had never heard of before. Maureen and Rosemary and Lorraine and Tammy and other friends supported me and helped me through it. I relied on these friends that I have never met in person. These friends on-line had become family, our own family, they knew the right things to say, there was no drama between us (okay, maybe just a little), no childhood memories or lapses in judgment. They were here to listen and to support and encourage; I am here for them as well.

Friendship is both about being there for someone when she needs you but, even harder, stepping back, when she asks you to. We are all stepping back in honor of your request, in honor of Max. We will miss you, Max, and we will hurt because we know our dear friend Judy Judith is hurting. Don’t worry, Max, you can count on us to take care of her for you. In memory of you, Llliiiiickingly yours, Lexi-Pro and her human friends.

Mellow Yellow Monday – My Home

Yellow Flowers

German Shepherd
German Shepherd (Photo credit: Rennett Stowe)

Yellow flowers

Yellow door
Yellow door (Photo credit: LondonAnnie)

Finally, I live in a small white house that has a yellow door. Imagine just locking and unlocking my door every day, several times a day, makes my smile light up like a jack o’ lantern. I don’t like too flashy or bright colors but rather, warm and welcoming. Framing the house, and in the small garden, are yellow flowers, all different kinds, but easy to take care of and maintain. In the warm weather, I sit in my garden and slowly  sip my hot tea, with cream and sugar, and I take a few moments appreciating this lovely bit of a place. My big, rescue dog, named Shep, lies beside me and I stroke his fur and he puts his head on my lap. I marvel at how wonderful my older life has become, feeling the sunshine on my face and how much I appreciate my simple life here, at home.

I Blame My Dog 100 Percent

Dog sunny Day Afternoon

Dog sunny Day Afternoon (Photo credit: allert)

It’s not my fault that I fell yesterday, really. It’s HER fault. My dog, (mega-puppy) pulled me so hard that she knocked me down on the driveway to greet our neighbors across the street. Granted, I am not strong. I have Fibromyalgia and NO balance so that is my “fault.” She left me lying down on the pavement. Twice. What happened to dogs being loyal? Not this one. I tried to get up and what does she do? She yanks the leash again and down I stay with another set of bruised knees (on top of the last set.)

I didn’t have time to drop the leash, this girl is fast and strong.  Not to mention that she made me drop my Fribble! To those of you who don’t know (and I am a recent convert) a Fribble is a milkshake that Friendly’s makes from soft serve (my friend Mark said it was from ice-milk so I’m not 100 percent sure if either or both are correct.) It’s cold, thick, creamy and utterly ( those of you who really know me, I was tempted to say udderly) delicious. Lexi made me drop my coveted vanilla Fribble all over the driveway and the rest of the day went downhill after that. Thank you Lexi.

So, with bumps and bruises all over, I limped into the house with super-puppy in the hands of our neighbor and my husband helping me up and inside. It’s time for the big guns to be called. I know I have a balance issue and yes, I know I am not strong but this is getting ridiculous. My husband is threatening to call the canine police trainer and have him come out and train Lexi to behave. He was here once before and always said she was a willful pup; I hate to break her spirit but she needs to learn to behave before I break my spine. Before he comes, I am trying to train her myself, with a very short leash and many clicking sounds.

I can always go back and get another Fribble but I can’t afford to be falling anymore. I love my dog, returning her is NOT an option. (You know who you are who suggested this) She is now sleeping on my bed, keeping me company but I do need to train her so she doesn’t pull so much. I have tried every leash in the universe. Lexi, you’re a cute puppy, but I have never met a stronger, more willful puppy anywhere. Even my friends agree that you are incredibly strong for one so young. I’m hoping you will mellow and I know you will be a great dog. You are now seven months and yes, still a puppy. When exactly do you become an adult dog and calm down? For my part, I will try to do some strength building exercise slowly, I promise. We’re in this together.

The Healing Powers Of A Puppy

When our dog, Callie died, I thought I would never feel happiness again. She was my first dog, the most gentle, shy, docile animal on the planet. She was scared of everything and only wanted reassurance and comfort; she loved my lap and my bed. She was frightened of external stimulation, loud noises, new people, she just felt safe with her family. We, of course, got her from an animal shelter and adopted her at six weeks; she had already been adopted at four weeks by another man. She was sweet and loving, and could read my feelings better than anyone else. Callie saw me through my father’s death, the most painful experience of my life. When I cried, she licked my tears and wouldn’t leave my side.

The risk you take of getting a shelter dog is that their past is somewhat of a mystery and you need to accept that. The dogs or puppies do come with some baggage, but really, don’t we all? I’m definitely a rescue dog person, I can’t, personally, see the need to go to a pet store to buy a pedigree but it’s just my personal preference.

Callie was an amazing first dog, she was not a problem for one second except that she was  afraid to socialize with other dogs, wary of new people and was anxious. Our backyard was fine for her, walks were okay but she needed to stay close to home and she hated the car. I always dreamed of taking her to the beach or a lake so she could swim but she got near water and ran away, terrified.

When, from one day to another, she wouldn’t look me in the eye and yelped quietly twice, I brought her to the vet, he told us that there was a mass on her spleen and he needed to operate. Once he operated he saw that 75 percent of her body was filled with cancer. We were in shock; there were no signs. She didn’t even trouble us in her pain, her last, dying days. We did not want her to suffer,  the vet suggested we end her life while she was in surgery and we agreed. With the lovely technician, Stephanie, covering her face with kisses, Callie left our world, without suffering any pain. Pain was for the human beings she left behind, extreme pain.

I didn’t think I could get over it. I cried, all day and night, she was my girl. We understood each other and for at least a solid month I was depressed and nothing could get me out of it, except time. I found I also needed to be near other dogs so I visited other animal shelters. I wasn’t ready to adopt but being around dogs helped me heal. I went to shelters about twice a week, looking at the older dogs, smiling at the puppies, asking about volunteering. Each time I thought I was honoring Callie, little did I know I was helping to heal myself.

My husband and I went to a couple of shelters together, he was definitely not ready to adopt but he was open to looking. We looked together but there wasn’t a dog that “felt” right and that was fine. A couple of weeks later, I went with my friend, Sarah, and what I was looking for was sleeping right in front of me, curled up like a little cinnamon cupcake. I loved her immediately, or rather fell in love with her. I did walk around the shelter (not really seriously) but I came back to “my” dog and asked to hold her. It went quickly from there, adoption procedures were started, I welcomed her to our family.

Yes, I thought about my chronic illnesses, Fibromyalgia and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis and my age, 55 with a new puppy. It really is like being a mother to a newborn. Did I doubt myself? A couple of times. Did I regret it? Not for a second. Is it challenging? As Sarah Palin used to say “You Betcha.” I wouldn’t change it for the world.

Lexi is NOT Callie’s replacement, there is love in my heart for many people and now I know, many dogs. She is nothing like my first dog, my first love. She is a rambunctious, rebel-rouser, biting, jumping, super-active pup. She has found the stairs and climbed up them in three days; we had to train Callie to go up them because she was so scared. Lexi is fearless, too fearless sometimes and we need to work to reign her in. As you can imagine, my nickname for her is “Marley to the Max” based on the wonderful book “Marley and Me.”

How can you heal a broken heart? Many different ways, of course. For me, I welcomed a homeless puppy into our home. One crazy, willful, gorgeous, “*mutt-a-gree” dog with big brown, rebellious eyes and short, warm, silky fur. Do I still have my chronic aches and pains? Yes. Do I feel them more? Sometimes, but I can’t concentrate on them, I don’t have the time. Am I happy? Absolutely. Did I do the right thing? For me and my family, for our new puppy? Without a doubt, yes. There is no doubt about it, we saved each other. each other.

*ASPCA

**Lexi, 10 weeks

DEDICATED TO STEPHANIE

Saltwater Tears

dog fetch

dog fetch (Photo credit: mallix)

I decided that if I cried while swimming in the ocean, it wouldn’t count. I knew there was no logic behind this but it felt like tears would just blend in with salt water. So, while swimming in- between the high green Florida waves, I would cry, sob sometimes, because my dog had died a little more than a week ago.

Many years ago I used to be the kind of person that saw a sympathy card for a dog and I would roll my eyes and think to myself ‘it’s just a dog’ for goodness sake. That was before I ever had a dog. Once I had a dog, who became so ingrained in our family’s lives, things changed. I am grieving the loss of our dog; more emotionally, of course, than the rest of the family.

When I think back on the night before she died I could kick myself. I wasn’t open to receiving her messages like I usually was because I was too upset. But, she told me in the blinks of her eyes that she would be leaving, she was saying good-bye only I wasn’t ready to listen. I know now. Thank you, sweet girl.

Before we took her for surgery I gave her the talk I had given her many times before. I cradled her soft face with my hands and whispered to her my same speech: “You know I love you Callie, I love you so much, we all do but I promise, not to let you suffer. I know you don’t want to suffer pain and I don’t want that for you. I love you too much.” Once I kissed her and nuzzled her she happily went off with the technician at the veterinarian, I didn’t know I would never see her again. I felt optimistic, not a feeling that comes naturally to me.

When the veterinarian called, from surgery, my heart stopped. He had opened my dog up and told me that the mass he had found did indeed turn out to be cancerous. Not only was it cancerous but it had spread to 75 percent of her body. He said “thought what we had said about not wanting her to suffer and this is what he would do personally if she was his dog, he would not wake her up.” I agreed, rationally, as did my husband. In no way, did we want our dog to suffer; I had made a promise to my dog and I was determined to keep it.

After that, reality set in. The healthy looking dog I had cuddled with this morning was dead? How could that be? She had no symptoms at all except for two very quiet little yelps, that I hadn’t even heard, two days before and then she returned to her old,  self. She ate, she played, she climbed up the stairs and jumped on the bed in her usual position right next to me. By moving her neck around she showed me where she wanted to be scratched and I obliged. The only sign that something was different was that for a brief period of an hour or two she wouldn’t look at me and she hid under my husband’s desk and her eyes would not meet mine; she looked away.

I had kept my promise to my dog, I had not let her suffer any pain. I told her how much I loved her and what a great dog she was. I told her how the whole family loved her. All the right things were done. I understand that it was a shock, I understand she is dead. I cannot understand WHY my mind keeps forgetting that when we come home from the airport tomorrow she will not be there, on the other side of the door,  barking and whimpering, eager to welcome us home with her gentle, wet kisses.

I don’t know how to handle that, I think it is just one more thing to get through and yes, I will probably cry.

What Makes Me Cry

old dog

Imagining myself in the future with my old dog, in the veterinarian’s office. My dog is older than she is now and very sick. She can’t be cured and paying thousands and thousands of dollars for treatments that will just prolong her pain and make her suffer is not what I want for her. It’s been hard enough to look at her these last few months and hear her whimper in pain, I cannot see my beloved dog suffer. I made a promise to her. They are ready to put her down, that’s the easiest, kindest way of saying it, I know. The vet and his assistant said I could wait outside, that it would be easier for me but I know in my heart I can’t do that. I adopted this puppy when she was six weeks old and she looked into my eyes then, wide eyes with expectation and she crawled on my lap, snuggled and never left. I promised her I would never leave her; how can I leave her now when she needs me the most? I’m sobbing but I go inside the office and I go around to her head and look into her eyes and tell her how much I love her and how much joy she has brought into my life. “My girl, my sweet girl” I whisper between my tears, ” I love you so much.” The vet looks at me and asks me if it’s okay to inject the needle into the IV. Part of me wants to scream “no!” but I have no choice, it’s time. I don’t want my dog to suffer anymore; we have been suffering together for a while now. I nod my head and it only takes moments before she inhales deeply and then is silent, her body still, frozen. I break down and sob hysterically and they let me have a moment alone with her. I’ve never loved an animal like I have loved this dog. She was my girl, my baby and I feel lost without her. I made a promise that I would not let her suffer and while I know logically that I did the right thing, my heart has been shattered and I feel overwhelming sadness and pain. I’ve truly lost my best friend, and it’s killing me.

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Simple. Sweet. Joy.

Happy Day

It’s been a long time since I’ve had good news so when I got some today, I wasn’t sure how to handle it. It took a moment to process, I think I was in shock. It took thirty seconds to register, settle in and then feeling came back to my body. Dusty old joy  spread through my body in seconds, like warm, milk chocolate melting in your mouth.   I had been subconsciously waiting for another bad thing to happen since I had known nothing else in a very long time. I had prepared myself for more bad news; after all when you have had month after month of bad news every single time without a break, that is what you expect.

Today, there was a new ripple in the water, the new crescent of wave turning over in my mind. The ocean, my image, of all that is good and strong, minus the sharks that are taking bites out of innocent swimmers. Yesterday, just yesterday I was at the veterinarian’s office with my dog, Callie. I found a lump and told the vet that I was not going to leave until he found it, because I couldn’t find it again. My dog was also itching and scratching everywhere like crazy. The veterinarian finally found it and I was with my dog as the doctor pulled out the incredibly long syringe and plunged it into the back of my dog. “If it were any other place, I wouldn’t even biopsy it but since it’s right on the lymph node I want to be safe…..” I nodded weakly. I admit, first I turned around so I wouldn’t have to look at the long needle but then I swung back sharply and held my dog’s paws and looked into her scared eyes. I wanted to be there for her so I kissed her on the neck and held her still.

The doctor told me to call Wednesday or Thursday, Thursday to play it safe but today, a mere one day after the procedure there was a message from the receptionist that said my dog did NOT have cancer. I played the message and then I called the office, just to be sure, really sure. I thanked them about thirty times and I was so grateful that they had called. I hung up and I was silent. Then, I whooped for joy, hugged my sleeping dog and cried. I cried with happiness, a feeling that has been lost to me for such a long time. I understand that I will know sadness again, of course I will, but today I felt happiness, sweet happiness, in the purest form. Thank you. I appreciate it more now, but you probably know that already.