Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Do You Believe in Fate?

I was lying on one of the patio lounge chairs this afternoon, taking a much needed break from the computer. The sun felt warm but not hot. As I looked up to the sky, I smiled and quietly said, "thank you God for giving me Leslie". Because, deep in my heart, I know the big man upstairs had something to do with the recent changes in my daily life and he is also preparing me for what's yet to come.

I should back up a bit and share how we came to meet. About 14 months ago, we decided to get a golden retriever puppy. Our first golden had passed away the year prior and our daughter was pushing us hard to get another dog. But she was leaving for school in the Fall of 2008 and we were soon to become empty nest parents. Partially out of fear of being left alone with just me around, I believe my husband agreed to take on the responsibility and costs of another dog. We got the most beautiful, block headed golden retriever puppy and started some vague attempts of training and discipline.

We both believe in the most basic of dog training principles especially the old saying, "a tired dog is a good dog". So, every morning and every evening we take Wrigley for a walk. We live on a golf course that graciously allows us to use the course before and after the golfers play, just so long as we do not leave special "dog treats" in the grass. Being able to allow your dog to run unleashed is such a luxury. It's as if we are on some farm in Kentucky or a grand estate in the English countryside.

During this time, my life had changed dramatically. All my work and volunteering positions all ended in the summer of 2008, so I was not seeing many people anymore. I started this blog and spent countless hours learning how to add videos and join social networking groups, etc. Most of my waking hours, however, were spent alone. I had not planned this time frame well, as I was quite devastated when the kids all left for college. And Bill was working long, hard hours at his office so Wrigley and me were left to fend for ourselves.

One evening when Wrigley was about 7 months old, we ran into a woman who had a golden retriever just 2 months older than ours. Owners of Golden's always immediately like each other for the sheer fact that they choose to own a golden, so we struck up a conversation. She was delightful and friendly. Her dog, Tucker, however, was not at all interested in Wrigley. He went for the throat and attacked our little puppy letting him know, without a doubt who's the alpha dog in this new relationship. I thought to myself, what a crying shame, I would have really enjoyed getting to know this woman. We parted with apologies for our spirited little puppies all wound up.

A few days later, we saw Tucker and Leslie walking towards us on a morning walk. Wrigley dropped down and waited for Tucker to approach. Tucker came up and in some dog body language, they both knew it was okay to play together. Let bounced around like babies rabbits. They tumbled and raced for each other. The humans breathed a collective big sigh and we felt relaxed enough to start a conversation.

Leslie has the kind of voice you could listen to for hours. It's almost an English accent only she resides from Florida. She could have a lucrative career reading for the books on tape. And she's got this unique combination of being one of the kindest people who also has a cutting wit about her. We decided we should walk together each morning. The two dogs became the best of friends. Her thirteen-year old Golden walks with us, too, and the two younger dogs are mindful not to get in his way.

They both have now been neutered and Wrigley is now 20 pounds heavier than Tucker. Sometimes he likes to challenge just who's the alpha dog. We have had several dog altercations, and at times, carried water bottles with vinegar to separate the two dogs. We will not allow our dogs to get in the way of Leslie's and my relationship.

The morning walks are my "safe place" to talk about anything from my fears about Bill's work, to being an empty nester to politics and the economy. I have no idea how she does it, but I always return home feeling better and happier than before the walk.

We have other people who join us on these walks and in the evening, too. The course has actually become a pooch park. The dogs love it, but the people love it more. There is not one person in the group that I do not adore. Maybe dog owners are just more special than other people, I do not know the answer to this question. But, they have become my extended family.

As life's uncertainties come up this year, I feel a layer of protection and comfort due to Leslie and all my "pooch park" buddies. I do believe in fate and that someone set this all in motion for me, which really helps me to understand the saying we repeat in church, "thanks be to God".

Friday, January 30, 2009

I Found a Giveaway I am Capable of Doing

Finally, I came across a giveaway that's easy to do and is offering something I could really use!

The name of the blog is House of Rose which I got to from Preppy 101.

Anyway, if I ever decide to do a giveaway, this is exactly how mine will work, too. And I have a pretty good idea what I'll offer, too. It's something we all could use. Stay tuned.

But first, head over to the giveaway and enter!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

One Week Remaining before the Kids head back to College, but Who's Counting?

There is a sense of urgency in the air around our house this week. Both Jonathan and Laura head back to their perspective schools for the second semester and I feel like there is so much to be done and said before they leave.

First, I need to make sure they have written the thank you notes to the relatives who were wonderfully generous for the Christmas holidays. Of course, this isn't my problem and they should be the ones thinking and worrying about getting these getting off (and maybe they are), but I still place these kinds of responsibilities on myself as their Mother.

With Laura, I still want to give her some practical survival study skills and tell her more ways to keep healthy and not get sick during the colder winter months. She's lived her whole life in sunny Arizona and this winter in Pennsylvania's going to be a bit of a shock! I think she's going to love the climate change so it's not like she's going to be unhappy. I feel like I need to simply have her 'prepared' for what's coming. Also, she needs to spend an hour or two with Bill to go through her budget and her finances to make sure she's on track.

Jonathan is the harder one for me right now. He's the senior and will be graduating this May. We'd all be crazy if we didn't worry just a little bit about having to go out and get a job offer this year. (He's actually has been offered one job in Columbus, Ohio but it may not be exactly what he's looking for). Just talking adult to adult about jobs and opportunities and the future makes me feel better and maybe it's helping him, as well. And I sort of want to understand where he would be willing to live for future visits.

Jon's older brother took a position with a company right here in Arizona, so we can get together fairly often and I am just now (as I am writing this post) realizing that most probably, Jon will not be coming home after graduation. Well, maybe for a "vacation" before he begins his new job, but maybe NOT! Just got the chills....trying not to cry. Wait a minute...I'll be back in a few minutes.....

F*** !

Friday, December 19, 2008

Home for The Holidays: Take One

Close your eyes and picture the Budweiser Holiday commercial with the carriage and the Clydesdale horses and the snow-covered paths and the jiggle bells ringing. The group of the carriage are arriving for what looks like the perfect holiday break, gifts in tact and smiles on their faces. (I know your humming that song right now, aren't you..)

Now open your eyes and bring yourself to Arizona, 2008:

It's 55 degrees (a little chilly to us) and we are sitting in the airport cell lot waiting for a call from a child returning for Christmas break from college. You pick him up curbside and you notice that he has a giant bag just like that seen in the commercial, only you recognize that it's his dirty laundry bag. Ho, Ho, HO!

Immediately he starts fiddling with the car radio and the Holiday music is gone, in a blink of an eye. His eyes are blurry (finals?) and his nose is red like a cherry (it's cold in Ohio?) and talks a mile a minute about his life at school.

The minute he gets in the door he's on the floor messing around with the puppy. Wrigley loves the attention and asks for more. They run around the house, knocking beautifully set-up Christmas displays down until they collapse in the kitchen. Wrigley is lopping up water from his bowl and Jonathan is asking for a soft drink. Welcome home, JB.

He moves swiftly to Laura's room where he screams loudly to scare her. The laughter that follows rings all through the house.

Big brother Andy and girlfriend Kim arrive. The house begins to rattle. A basketball game is turned on.....every one's hungry. When is dinner, Ma? It's time for boys to tease and question Laura about her social life. I listen carefully....

Presents are scarce but they few still sparkle under the tree. Wrigley wants that fuzzy snowball placed on the biggest package and plans his strategy to get it while we aren't looking. We make a fire in the fireplace and may open the french doors if it gets the house too warm.

I am watching this scene and am filled with love and joy and wish that I could slow down time, if only for a week.

My family commercial may not work for TV but it works just fine for me. Hmmmmm, hmmmm, hmm...hmm.hmm; la,la,la,la..da.da.da.da..da.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Bucking The System, Being The Problem Parent

While there are some sad parts to being an empty nest Mom, I don't miss the fundraising "opportunities" we had during their high school years at all.

My children each played three sports a year during high school. They did so because they have an abundance of energy and my house would never have survived if they had come home right after school. And they were talented and gifted in their abilities to run fast and score goals so the coaches encouraged and recruited them to join the teams. It all seemed like such a perfect set-up until I attended the first parent-student-coach meeting and learned how they must also excel in salesmanship.

The Team Mom announced that for this year the kids will be “selling coupon books for fast food restaurants that everyone truly needs, but don’t worry, going door-to-door only to the people they already know”. My son groans but we reluctantly took our minimum allotment of coupon books with the promise to the coach that we will have these sold in no time. Two weeks passed and the coupons rested comfortably on the kitchen counter. Andy came home from practice and said that he needed to bring the money from his sales in tomorrow. I don’t want him to bother the neighbors and he has no desire to be a fast food coupon salesman. I buy all ten $20 coupon books and that Christmas, the mailman, the 5 community guards and the newspaper delivery man all feasted on fast food thanks to our family.

After several sports seasons, I decided that we’re not going to take it anymore and my budget could not handle this added expense either. I practiced in the mirror my eloquent speech, hoping not to offend the Team Mom who was doing such a great job organizing the team or to anger the coach who might decide not to play my son due to his crazy mother.

The meeting began as always, they announced that this year “we are so excited about buying the kids these amazingly plush warm-ups for the kids that will only require selling 45 calendars at $30/each”. They pass around a sample of the sweatpants and I swear, they put Ralph Lauren sweatpants to shame. “Oh, I almost forgot”, the Team Mom gushes, “if they sell 50 calendars then their names will be engraved on the back pockets!” That was my cue. I politely raise my hand and suggest that perhaps a less expensive and thinner weight pant would work better seeing that we live in Arizona where it is ungodly hot most of the year. Everyone turned around and stared at me. Did I not love my athlete/son? Don’t I want my son to have this amazing sales experience and be a team player? Silence filled the room for what felt like an hour, but without skipping a beat, the Team Mom stood up and started passing out 50 calendars each, telling the kids that “they have an extra week to sell because she knows they all really want their names on the pants”.

Behind closed doors of the Team Moms and the Coaching staff, I became known as the ‘Problem Parent’ but I had gained a new level of respect from my children and their teammates who really just wanted to run, jump and score and could care less about anything else.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

College Kids Gone Wild

From Dickinson Parent ENews: "With a healthy dose of irony, Laura Stone '12 (left) and Susan Higham '09 pose with a "No Dumping" sign that was dumped in the Conodoguinet Creek."

How often are we bombarded by the media telling us horror stories about the 16-26 year olds' being selfish and self absorbed? We see the crazy drunken parties where mammallary glands are all the rage. We hear about kids quitting jobs just so they can sleep in and have no qualms about such behavior. Are these stories accurately depicting our youth or is it just more sensational reporting?

My experience with people in this age range finds them to be incredibly giving and focused on the important things of life. If they do partake in some of the type activities described above, it is only as an escape from their normal life routine, not the other way around. In many ways, I believe this generation does a great deal more kind and thoughtful acts than when I was growing up and attending college.

Take for example, on a Saturday afternoon in south central Pennsylvania, a group of college students from Dickinson cleaned up a creek that happens to be used as a dump by some people. Now, I can honestly tell you this is not how I spent my college Saturdays!

My daughter was involved but all she really told me about it over a telephone conversation was she and some friends were headed to the Creek. I thought it was for a picnic or an outdoor party. But as you can see, they worked very hard doing some nice for the community as well as for the local environment.

I would guess that many of you out there have similar stories to share and would agree with my assessment of the fate of today's youth. Why then is the media so quick to make them out as useless contributions to society? Why can't they write columns and tell about events such as the one described above. I've got a good idea. Let's all email the TV stations and newspapers and complain and make the suggestion to start giving us a more accurate depiction of our wonderful and caring children. Spoken by one very proud, empty nest Mom.