Tag Archives: friends

Birthday Magic

21 Dec

Image: m_bartosch / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Yesterday was a good birthday. Let me count the ways:

  1. While I love my work, I was able to leave a bit early, and a minimum of annoyance happened throughout the day. While at work, I celebrated with a colleague who shares the same birthday by giving her a mix tape/CD that I made for her…I think she will like it.
  2. I got my new license, sliding in just under the wire 15 minutes before the BMV closed.
  3. I ate dark chocolate (during my last two conference calls of the day, phone on mute).
  4. My friend Ali Cloth gave me a yoga gift certificate and some beautiful flowers. Plus a great card with this hilarious message: “It’s so nice to have friends that are worth the time….otherwise I wouldn’t keep hanging around your ass.”
  5. Lots of people wished me happy birthday, thanks to the electronic reminders at work and on Facebook. It really is the best thing just to hear/read people say/write it!
  6. My husband made the most fabulous dinner: Medium rare filet mignon, giant baked potatoes with sour cream and freshly cut chives, and a lovely salad.
  7. My husband bought me the best birthday cake from a new bakery close to Graceland. Fluffy white cake with three layers of chocolate ganache and a butter cream icing (not too much, not too sweet). And hey, guess what’s for breakfast today?
  8. My kids and husband bought me a new set of Fiestaware (lime green)–since they know I like practical gifts. They also got me a new necklace and earrings, since they also know that I like personal gifts. Added bonus: The dishes came wrapped in a very large sheet of bubble wrap, which made a thunderous popping sound as I jumped up and down on top of it.
  9. And then, my kids and I watched all of “The Simpsons” Christmas episodes. I always believe it’s good to end the day with something sublime.
  10. Today, as I have my second piece of birthday cake for breakfast, the world will officially begin to become a brighter and better place. So even though it’s raining cats and dogs in Columbus, Oh. and becoming more like a rainforest by the second, the days are getting longer. Take THAT, crappy wet weather.

And that, my friends, is the making of birthday magic.

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So Muchmas

19 Dec

Image: John Kasawa / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

I really am blessed. I have all of my family members around me, happy and healthy, as we close in on the holidaze.

Counting down, it’s just six days to Christmas. We had my family over yesterday. I enjoyed seeing my nephews, niece, sister-in-law, Mom, and Dad. I missed seeing my brother (but to be fair can see him anytime because he’s in town.)

My husband cooked up a big pancake breakfast, and I made real hot chocolate and smoothies for everyone. It felt good to get the house cleaned up and host a shin-dig. I particularly enjoyed watching my 3-year-old niece open her gifts (art stuff) and experiment with her new watercolors, paintbrushes, and over-sized SpongeBob coloring book.

There’s a bittersweet-ness to the holidays that has me down, though. I wish I felt closer to my family of origin. At this time of the year when everybody gathers around, there’s a sort of expectation that everything’s perfect. Well folks, it isn’t, in so many ways. Everybody has their story about this–nothing to feel ashamed or sorry for myself about–just reality.

My challenge this year, I think, is to break free of the expectations around Christmas. How much to spend. How much to feel that overwhelming sense of togetherness. How much to givegivegivegive. And forgive. How much to expect. That’s the problem with the holidays. It’s the “much-ness” that gets me down.

There’s an expectation that this time of year is the coming together of all that is good in life–family, acquisition, food and drink, generosity, the overall milk of human kindness. Yet when all of the pieces don’t come together it’s easy to feel disappointed and resentful. Like I am not working hard enough or am not innately good enough to attract that fairy dust of muchness around me.

In the end, families, friends, and life in general will be what they will be. Children will appreciate what suits them and not me. Parents will be themselves–not the superheroes that I at times imagine them to be. Friends will remember or not remember that my birthday is tomorrow and that I do not want a combined birthday-Christmas present (TAKE NOTE!). Husbands will be unnecessarily grumpy or inexplicably kind. And I can choose to take it all too seriously–or let it go and let it be.

Bite Me

15 Aug

Image courtesy of Bedbugger.com

My family has the adult equivalent of cooties: bedbugs.

No two ways about it. Confirmed by two different “bedbug experts.”

How did we get them? Who knows. Possibly through my travel or from a patient of my husband’s. We’re not dirty people, but there’s nothing like bedbugs to make you feel downright gross. It’s an instant source of shame. So pleasant to let your friends and family know about your newest guests, and how they can identify them under their own mattresses, behind pictures and electrical outlets, etc., etc.

Do many people get them? Yes, they do. We are not alone. I found a cheeky site called the Bed Bug Hub, hosted by the National Pest Management Association, reporting that:

Bed bugs are THE most difficult pest to treat, according to 76 percent of survey respondents, more so than cockroaches, ants and termites. As for where infestations occur, residences top the list with 89 percent of pest professionals treating bed bug infestations in apartments/condos and 88 percent treating bed bug infestations in single-family homes. Respondents also report other common areas, with 67 percent treating bed bug infestations in hotels/motels, 35 percent in college dormitories, 9 percent on various modes of transportation, 5 percent in laundry facilities, and 4 percent in movie theatres.

Did you read that? Why yes, it’s entirely possible that we got them from a movie theatre. But most likely, from my travel and overnights in hotels.

And, not surprisingly:

[T]he emotional and mental toll of experiencing a bed bug infestation can be severe and should not be taken lightly. Survey respondents report that 99% of clients who have had bed bugs were “upset and concerned” and 77% said such customers were “very upset and concerned.”

No doubt. Believe it. This is no fun. I think that I am better at imagining things are okay than my husband is. He hasn’t slept for nights. It’s not the bugs bugging him. We’ve only found a handful of them, truth be told. We are not in the “infestation” category by any means. But the worst thing about it is thinking about all of the potential consequences if left untreated. And the reason they’ve become more prevalent is because a lot of people cannot afford to treat them so just leave them be.

It’s the thought of the bugs, including where they are now and where they will be hiding tomorrow, underneath or behind something where we cannot see them.

And it’s the reactions of people once they find out that you have them. Many make the assumption that it has something to do with your hygiene…that it’s in some way YOUR fault. The truth is that bedbugs don’t discriminate: They like everyone’s blood, whether clean or dirty. They only come out at night, and what attracts them is warm-blooded people. The suckers are miniature, diabolical vampires.

Because of all this we are taking DRASTIC measures. Yes, I do mean DRASTIC. They must and will die. We are paying $3,200 for a combined heat and chemical treatment conducted by a professional exterminator. Here’s what they do:

  • Heat up each area of the house to a sustained temperature of 120 degrees. This will kill most of them.
  • Apply pesticides that kill the remaining bugs, including any eggs. (Did you know that they can lie dormant for 18 months? Just think of it…)
  • And then, we wait to see if they reappear. Because they are also killed by temperatures below 23 degrees, we are seriously considering a safety net treatment of our own in the winter, which will begin with us draining out our pipes, opening the windows, and leaving the house for a day.

Here’s what WE have to do before the exterminators begin their work:

  • Throw out and/or move out a bunch of stuff. Not because it has bedbugs, but because there’s a combined supply of an extra house’s worth of furniture and all-around stuff in the basement of our house, which we recently bought from my in-laws and where my nephew lived for a couple of years. As of this moment, my front yard is channeling the theme song from “Sanford and Son.” It’s full of items for the dumpster, which will arrive tomorrow. (More about my neighbors’ reaction to this in a minute.)
  • Wash everything–clothes, linens, furniture covers, anything fabric. Put it into sealed plastic bags. If it’s clothing that cannot be washed, dry it for 20 minutes at the highest possible heat. I even washed balls of yarn that I haven’t yet used for knitting.
  • Everything we wear out of the house at this point comes from a sealed plastic bag that ensures the clothing is bedbug-free. Everything. I cannot reinforce how much of a pain this is.
  • Vacuum everything, everywhere. Put bedbug covers on the beds. Do some spot treatments in the rooms where we’ve seen the bugs.
  • Repeat everything above as many times as necessary until it’s time for the exterminators.
  • Move all furniture away from the walls in every room and pray that our veneered furniture survives 120 degrees.

While the exterminators do their work, we get to go on a special bedbug vacation! Translation: We rent an affordable somewhat nice nearby hotel for two nights because we have to be away for that long. And we cancel our camping trip to Kelley’s Island, because instead we’ll be here doing post-exterminator cleanup.

So, this is going to be a $3,500 proposition all told.  Cha-ching.

The significant effed-upness of this was on my mind today when my husband told me that neighbors had called our area commission to complain about the furniture in our front yard. Bite me. We spent all day on Sunday getting it out there and the dumpster is coming tomorrow.

Our biggest mistake was our honesty in letting people know (and putting signs on the stuff) that NO ONE SHOULD TAKE IT because of the bedbugs. I’m convinced that this is the reason for the hulabaloo. How many people in our sort of upscale Columbus neighborhood have had bedbugs and not told their neighbors? I’m guessing more than a few.

And then we have the other side of the continuum. What percentage of the population will take furniture that possibly has bedbugs? From my personal estimation, a significant and disturbingly large number of not so discriminating fellows (all men, it’s true). In one situation, a man took a table that he was going to give to his daughter. Two hours later, I noticed that he’d brought the table back. Smart daughter!

There were probably 20 people who took furniture from the yard yesterday, even though it was clearly marked and we verbally warned them. And when I went out to the car this morning, at least a few people had gone through the piles and taken even more. I have to say that I was pretty shocked. Clearly, not enough people have been through this to know the real deal of bedbug removal. It ain’t pretty.

People don’t listen, and they don’t want to. They do not take this seriously. I’ve got spraypaint all over much of the furniture and on all of the trash bags with clothes and fabric stuff. And now we have some schmuck calling us to complain about our irresponsibility?

Bite me. Better yet, bedbug bite me.

We did talk with someone from the Columbus Health Department earlier today (after a very unhelpful call with them last week when they referred us to their website), and while at least this time they were available, they actually suggested that we have the furniture destroyed. My husband asked if a bonfire would work. I don’t think this is what they had in mind. Then on second thought, they said that what we’d done in terms of marking the furniture would do the trick. I’m glad we did the right thing, as embarrassing as it has been.

If I were not a nice person, I would wish the curse of these bedbugs on the person who called the commission. I guess it’s just one of those situations where you try to do the right thing and you just can’t please everyone all of the time.

I told a friend tonight that I’m going to install my 74-year-old father from SE Ohio on the front lawn. He will in no uncertain terms and with a highly unpleasant attitude tell nosy and judgmental neighbors to mind their own bedbugging business. In less polite words than that.

In closing, bedbugs suck: Blood, money and time.

Know the signs and do whatever you can to avoid getting them.

Greensleeves, Anyone?

14 Feb

I thought I’d post this photo of the chandelier in my in-laws’ house. This was custom-ordered by my father-in-law. It is an awesome piece of metal and glass, but it’s a bit heavy for our taste.

My husband went to Columbus Alternative High School, where many of his friends were involved in the Society for Creative Anachronism. I can see many of these friends in pre-17th century garb dancing below this chandelier, with “Greensleeves” as the soundtrack.

We have been consulting with family members to determine who will get this when we take it down and install a lighter replacement. I believe that we’ve found the one who will truly appreciate and care for this piece in perpetuity, but we need to confirm the transfer of goods with my father-in-law first.

We’ll follow the journey of this chandelier, from its removal and replacement to a posting of the piece with its new owner. Stay tuned!

The Company of Canines

25 Aug

I never knew how much I enjoyed the company of dogs until I didn’t have a dog. Over the past month, I’ve said goodbye to two canine companions—one expected passing due to old age and another unanticipated loss initiated by behavioral issues. Neither was easy, and both were quite different grievings.

IMG_0085Hera was a dog we adopted from the Humane Society as a puppy, back in 1993. My husband and I had been married for just three years when we brought her home with us. We were young and so was she. Her passing is a milestone in our relationship that bookends her adoption. We took her on vacation, worried over her every need and trained her to be a civilized beast. She was the smartest dog I’ve known. Despite being smaller than most of the dogs we had as buddies for her, she out-maneuvered every other dog. She was the canine equivalent of a chess champion. If she wanted a toy, she pretended that she was in love with another fetch-worthy item until the dog who had the toy she wanted couldn’t help but drop it with unwitting greed. Hera thought well into the future, a quality that most dogs lack.

Her face was unique. She had a black mask like a raccoon’s, and it grayed with age so that by the time she died it was 100 percent silver and quite striking. The last few years of her life, we had to call her name loudly even when standing next to her, and cataracts made her eyes mood-ring cloudy and she was apt to run into things. When she stopped being able to get up reliably on her own—at all—and seemed to be just biding her time, we made an appointment. She really, REALLY hated being carried around and resented us terribly for it. Her time had come. The vet came to the house, and the family gathered around Hera in the back yard on a beautiful day. It was a very peaceful passing, and she is forever resident underneath the big pine tree at the back of the yard.

IMG_0295Mobley was a big black hundred-pound mess of supposed Black Lab and Newfoundland melange. Since he didn’t like water and couldn’t retrieve to save his life, I am not entirely sure about his rumored lineage. His head was disturbingly large—providing ample breathing room for a sadly undersized brain. No dog welcomed the world of the backyard in quite the same way as Mobley. Every morning, he could not wait to get outside. The phrase, “He could not contain his excitement,” does not begin to describe Mobley’s insane exuberance. I was routinely knocked over by him either in his goings or comings. I still have bruises and scratches to prove it.

Mobley was only six when we had to make the decision. A heart-wrenching decision. We had invited very good friends to come to the house to say their goodbyes to Hera. They brought their dog with them, and I should have told them not to. As he got older, Mobley became more and more aggressive towards other dogs similar in size to him. Instead of telling our friends to take their dog home, I locked Mobley in the house behind two closed doors while we visited with Hera, our friends and their son and dog in the backyard.

Everything was fine until circumstances went awry. Children came in and out of the house. Doors were opened inadvertently, and Mobley got into the backyard. As he burst out the back door, I knew it was going to be bad. And it was. Mobley viciously attacked my friends’ dog and grabbed its throat in his jaws. He would not let go. We did many things over the course of 10 very long minutes to get the dogs apart. My girlfriend was smart enough to think of turning the hose on the dogs, so that finally we were able to separate them.

My friends’ dog was terribly injured. Both my friends and I had been bitten. That night, my friends spent all night in the ER after taking their dog to MedVet. I went to the urgent care. We all got tetanus shots. As for Mobley, he  knew something bad had happened. He just didn’t know that he caused the problem.We were grateful that we had the presence of mind to send the kids all into the front yard while the dog fight was in process.

I rewound and replayed the entire series of events over and over in my mind all week long. I should have told my friends not to bring their dog. I should have locked Mobley in an upstairs room. We should have worked harder to socialize him. Why were we such miserable dog-owners? My failure to control my dog surely made me unpardonable, I told myself.

Mistakes were made, but there’s no rewind in real life. Decisions were imminent. We had to really be grown-ups about this. Because after things happened, we realized that we could not in good conscience adopt Mobley out to another family knowing that this could happen again. We knew we couldn’t keep him safe from other dogs. He could vault the fence and was strong enough to pull us over when leashed. We’d had dogs that we were able to find homes for in the past, either dogs we’d owned ourselves or fostered. And we knew that we had worked hard to train him. There was just something weirdly off with him, something that affected him early in life when his social skills were developing, so that once we adopted him at 2-3 years of age there wasn’t much that could be done. Perhaps he had been trained as a fighting dog. Who knew? He had been rescued after living with numerous owners before us. His behavior was getting more erratic. During a walk during his last week of life, he snapped at a person who wanted to pet him. He was not a bad dog, he was just a dog who would never really change. Although incredibly loyal and devoted to humans, he was a loaded gun with other large dogs.

We talked with our friends whose dog got hurt more than once a day for the week afterwards. And we talked with the family that owned Mobley before us. We told them what we were thinking. That despite the fact that Mobley was true and good in most ways, we felt that as his owners the only responsible choice we could make was to put him to sleep. Sadly, everyone agreed. The affirmation was both validating and painful to hear.

Mobley was a dead dog walking. Because there were bites to humans during the dog fight, we had to quarantine him for 10 days in the event of rabies. And so we bided our time. In some ways it would have been easier to put him down right away, saying our goodbyes and taking swift action. Our house was already quieter for having had to say goodbye to Hera that same week. But we knew that our decision to say goodbye to Mobley was the right one. His former owners came over for a visit. We took him for his last few walks. And we loved him for who he was, nothing more and nothing less.

The passing of Mobley was like his life: tumultuous. We took him into the vet. Because of his size, and because he got nervous around shots, we wanted to be able to help things go smoothly. Well, they didn’t. The vet had to give him two doses of a sedative to get him calm enough for the shot of sodium pentathol. He had to be double-muzzled to keep from biting the vet. And then the anesthesia had to be administered three times because he was so full of life. I am sorry to say that he just would not go quietly. The entire event took about an hour from start to finish. We were physically spent from helping to keep him still, and emotionally worn out from the trauma of making the decision and then seeing it through.

The kids were with a neighbor during all of this. On the way home, I talked with the mother and apologized that we were so late, explaining why. She said, “Well, God didn’t mean death to happen that way.” She didn’t mean to be harsh, and I wholeheartedly agreed with her sentiment. And I wouldn’t wish it on anyone else, dog-owner or dog.

It’s been about a month now since everything happened. I hesitated about posting this. Judgment from people about situations like this can be quite cutting. Fair warning: If anyone comments about the decision, giving advice about why we should have chosen differently, I won’t publish the comment and probably won’t read all of it. I just can’t second-guess the choice we made. Making the decision was difficult enough.

I believe that as animal “owners” we become the stewards of our animals. They are like family members. If you’d asked me a year ago whether I would ever consider having to take this course of action, I would have said no. And I would expect most people to not really understand getting to the point of having to make this kind of decision for an animal in their care. It is truly the worst possible decision to make.

We have been healing, but we’re missing our dogs. Hera and Mobley were incredible companions. We know that their souls have moved to the great beyond. With some trepidation, we are taking steps to get a puppy that we can train from the ground up. We’ll see where this goes, but if I had to guess I’d say that we will soon again be in the company of canines.

Social Media Musings

13 Aug

This summer has been an interesting set of firsts for me in social media:

  • I got my first “commercial” offer on the blog–an incentive to run a contest. Gratifying to get asked to help promote a publication as lofty as Harvard Business Review.
  • Just a few weeks ago, I friended my mom on Facebook. It’s been interesting. She will not let me help her to post a picture of herself, but she was very interested in joining the fan page for Elvis and her church. She’s a bit lonely out there right now. I don’t think that there are many septuagenarians on Facebook. But my mom is not afraid to try new things, and I am quite proud of her.
  • I made the decision to “defriend” some people on Facebook who don’t interact with me anyway, in person or online. I am all about having quality interaction with the people that share back with me—not those who share nothing or just include me in push messaging that I’m not interested in. Life is too short to waste time. This defriending lightened my load in terms of friends but gives me more time to read and enjoy content from people where the friending is reciprocated. In case I accidentally deleted someone who really does matter to me, I made sure to let folks know that they should give me a shout to refriend–just as a safety net.

Nothing revolutionary here. Just some social media musings.

Mother’s Day Reflections

10 May

IMG_0473I am republishing this post, originally entitled “Home Alone,” from December 2008. It seems fitting to reflect back on this today, Mother’s Day…Read on:

For the first time in years, I recently had the experience of spending six days at home, without my family. I’ve been on long business trips before, but it’s different being at home alone. The best perk: I had our sole bathroom all to myself. And that was only the beginning.

The quiet was amazing. Quiet enough to quickly finish crossword puzzles. Quiet enough to startle both dogs when I burst out laughing while watching Old School. Quiet enough to start a new knitting project, if I had been so inclined. Or not. So quiet that it was downright boring at times. The dogs looked at me, I looked at them. We collectively heaved a big sigh.

I did enjoy the time. I’m thankful that I had the chance to hang out with important people in my life. My Mom, who took me to dinner and a movie, and bought me a terrifically chic and extremely practical machine-washable black dress. Go, Mom! My friend Jason, with whom I commiserated about being perhaps overly trusting of people and perpetually unaware of people’s maneuverings at work. But not having regrets about looking for the best in people. (I’ve found that huevos rancheros at Starliner Diner bring out a good amount of candid discussion.) And my friend Diane, who’s there for me no matter what. Especially when we are having a delicious dinner at the North Star Cafe. Or eating Trader Joe’s real French dark chocolate truffles.

Six days sans family helped me to renew some friendships and eat out more than I have during the past year. And it helped me to remember why I am so happy to be distracted by my family. Like any parent, I can admit to having had daydreams about what life would be like without them. I would be free to do (fill in the blank). I would have more money to buy (fill in the blank). I would more effectively fulfill my creative potential and become known worldwide as a superstar in (fill in the blank). But through their absence, I was reminded of their incalculable worth. Practically speaking, they put a schedule and discipline into my life that I don’t have without them. My own internal controls are not as clearly defined without them. I actually accomplished LESS while they were gone.

And they open my heart in ways that it would not normally exist. I can all too happily get lost in work. As my husband said before he left, “Oh great, now you can work 14 hours a day. How happy you will be!” Ouch. But true. My natural inclination is to exist in my brain for long stretches of time. It’s an escapist’s indulgence.

But my husband and kids have a key to my heart, that keeps me in the present moment with them. Even if I lose my patience with them, they win me over every time. I love the smell of my son’s spiky hair when I hug him, the kindness of my daughter who is fair even when under pressure from her little brother’s heckling, and my husband’s thoughtfulness to buy me lunch as a surprise during the work day–when as he knows I often forget to eat lunch.

So, home alone is nice for a few days. But it pales in comparison to the beautiful chaos of my normal family life. I am much happier to be in my small home when it’s filled with the three people who mean the most to me, even if home not alone means not having the bathroom to myself.