sharing my life experiences, reflections and insights as a mother, a writer, an Occupational Therapist and and a spiritual being having a human experience

Archive for September, 2011

Life with a dog… 11 months and counting

Our dog, Olive, came to live with us in late October of 2010.  She was our neighbor’s dog.  We met her as a cute little puppy and got to know her as we assisted our neighbors with dog sitting on occasion.   My daughter, the animal lover who has wanted a dog of her own, enjoyed helping take care of the dogs across the street.  She then had opportunities to take Olive for walks and got to bring her to our yard for visits.  My neighbor described that when Olive would hear Abby’s voice outside their house, she would get all excited and come running to the door.  Olive became my daughter’s best friend.

Then in early  2010, my daughter’s irrational fears, nighttime difficulties  and over hand washing grew into full-blown dysfunctional Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).  It was a crazy time for the entire family.  Through the most difficult times, she begged for a dog, saying that a dog would “make it better”.  We realized that a dog would not really make it better but as we learned to cope and help her navigate this disruptive anxiety disorder, we considered the idea of a dog.  We did witness how our neighbor’s dog, coming over and at times into Abby’s room could take her from a state of rage to a more calm and rational place.

Then in October, we learned our neighbor’s were moving due to a job change.  They were looking for rental property and could not find any that would allow all 3 of their dogs.  They came to my husband and I quietly and asked if we wanted Olive.  We did not have much time to make a decision.  We choose to take her temporarily and they agreed and had others who could take her if it did not work out for us.   We told our children it was only temporary to give us time to figure out if this was going to work for us.

I have had cats since I have lived on my own and am clearly a “cat person”.  My husband grew up with dogs but dogs who lived outside.  We would have been happy to continue through life without a dog.  Cats are self maintaining.  They bathe themselves and use a liter box. They can even be left home alone for a few days with plenty of water, food and clean liter boxes.   We have always been able to find someone to check in on our cats when we have been away.

So just prior to Halloween, 2010, Olive came to live with us and a few days later we watched our neighbors drive off in their moving truck- off to live several states away.  Olive was on her best behavior when we first got her.  I vividly recall that first night as we ate dinner, she sat quietly at a distance from the table.   We had to fix our fence to be able to let her run in the back yard and I can recall standing outside with her on a leash in the dark before bed.   Sometimes, I was happy to be standing outside in the quiet of my yard at night.

Somehow, after Olive came into our home, her place with my daughter changed.   The first few nights, Olive slept in my daughter’s bedroom but then something changed.  I am not sure what, other than Abby’s OCD- the part of her brain that is not functioning as it should and giving her false messages of danger. Olive was no longer an escape from her anxieties and fears but now part of our family and part of her issues.   Because we took Olive in on such short notice, we had no expectations for our daughter as to her role in caring for Olive.  We hoped she would take to caring for Olive and it would become her activity, something she enjoyed.  Yet, as time passed, we saw that Abby’s irrational fears and anxieties and inability to touch things now included Olive, feeding Olive, taking her outside, and even petting Olive.

We made our first trip with Olive over Thanksgiving and even my non-dog mother declared her a great  dog and she was welcome at her home.  Olive is a great dog with a wonderful temperament.  She is an ideal dog for a family with a toddler.  She gets along great with our cat who I think despite her air of superiority, is happy to have an animal companion.  She gives that away when she hides from and then jumps out at Olive, running from her, knowing despite being much smaller, she the cat with claws, has the upper hand.

At times, I do grumble about having a dog because I feel that we have the dog for my daughter and yet she can not usually do the simple things like feed her and take her outside.  Things are much better than those first few months~for Abby and with Olive.  Abby has participated in Canine Good Citizen Class with Olive and my sister has been coming about once per month and spending time with Abby and Olive with dog training.  Olive is more comfortable and now begs at the table and follows us when we have food.  She also is attention seeking at times and has wiggled her way between Jason, the toddler, and another person to get affection.  She likes to sit in our lap even though she is about 37 pounds.

Olive has become our family dog.  Jason calls her “my dog” and enjoys giving her treats- often many treats- but this makes for a good relationship with the two of them.  She barks a lot when she is outside.  She didn’t bark at all the first week or so that we had her.  She rarely barks in the house.  She is a great dog.  Yet, I do ask the question, “Why is there a dog in my house?” at times because I am still a cat person.

We are going to take our first trip where Olive can not come and so we needed to find someone to watch Olive.  Before Olive came to live with us, and we contemplated getting a dog for our daughter, we figured our wonderful neighbors across the street could dog sit for us.  The ones who gave us Olive and moved several states away.

I found a homeschool family with a young daughter who loves animals so much she started her own pet sitting business.   We had met them  several months ago and so they came over to meet Olive and will be coming over to take care of her when we are gone.   It feels good to hire another young girl who loves animals like my daughter with a mom that I know and trust.  I am not sure how Olive will do with us gone as she is so used to us being here during the day.  It is rare that we are gone for more than maybe 4 fours at a time.  Olive’s previous owners, our former neighbors both worked full-time and so she has lived that life.  Yet, she has been with us for almost a year and has grown accustomed to us being around.  I know we will pick up all the toys in the living room.  She has chewed a few toys on days when we were gone for a long stretch of time but only one toy per incident and I would say less than 5 times total.

I have come to appreciate aspects of life with a dog.  The happy, tail-wagging greeting whenever we return home.  Her unconditional love and acceptance of us as we are.  She listens well and can be trained easily with treats.  She does come when you call her (unless she is in pursuit of a cat or rabbit) and tolerates bathes and nail clippings as well hair cuts in a calm manner.   She is happy to go off in a corner when given a good bone.  She has learned to get off the couch when people are sitting on it~ well, will move as told, we are working on this.  Our youngest, Jason, has learned to be gentle and loves Olive.  Our oldest has learned to tolerate a dog in his home and even has helped to care for her.  I think having pets is wonderful for children.  We had a dog when I was young, but my sister, like my daughter, loved the dog and took full care of our dog.  I was very sad when our dog ran away from home and we never found him.  We only had him for about 3 or 4 years.

Olive is really a part of our family now even though some aspect of me still resists this.  When my husband had a heart attack and was in the hospital for 12 days, it seamed that Olive sat at the top of the stairs, almost watching over us but also waiting for him to come home.  I think my husband has bonded more with Olive than I have.  That part of me that still resists having a dog has not fully accepted that she is with us permanently now.  When our neighbors were still trying to sell their house, across the street from us, there was this possibility that they would move back but once they sold the house and new people moved in, that door closed.   It has been about 6 months now since that time.

My husband’s heart attack happened just shortly after our new neighbors moved in.  So now, that we are getting back to “regular life” do I find myself reflecting once again on life with a dog.   I feel that I am only now beginning to step back and reflect on life with a dog.  I know I could re read this post and likely want to re write it or start over.  Writing the post has propelled me in to thinking about it from a different perspective.  This post reflects where I am now (or where I was as a wrote it).  In my commitment to writing on a regular basis, I will share it for all to see.  Know that even now, I see it with a new perspective and possibly an altered title.  It is what it is: life with a dog, 11 months now and counting.

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Living outside of the box in a boxed up world: not for wimps!

How does one navigate in a closed-minded world full of rules and regulations that take on a life of their own when one has chosen to live outside the box?

Outside the Birth Box

Since I became a parent, my life has been a journey of exploration and discovery into unknown territory.  I gave birth to my first child in 1997, desiring a natural birth.  Yet, I had grown up in a culture where birth was portrayed as an evil experience requiring strong pain medication.  Just watch any sitcom or movie  from the 1980s and 1990s where there is a scene involving a woman in labor.   I also knew nothing about breastfeeding.  My mother had been discouraged from breastfeeding by her doctor in 1966 when she was pregnant with my sister, her first child.  She was also given sodium pentothal during labor in 1966 and again in 1969 when I was born.   Because I have always been a reader and researcher, I had discovered that having a natural birth and breastfeeding my baby was the best thing that I could do for my child.

And then my child was born, after being induced and then the inevitable epidural after a full day of increasing levels of pitocin.  We survived the hospital experience and the early difficult days of breastfeeding.  When my baby boy was 3 weeks old, I made a decision that would forever have an impact on his life and mine.  I attended my first La Leche League meeting.  La Leche League is an organization that provides mother to mother breastfeeding support, encouragement, information.  I was introduced to the world of attachment parenting and got to observe nursing mothers with babies and children of varied ages.   It was a new world for me.

Flash forward, 4 years later, I attended Bradley Childbirth classes before the birth of my second child who was born by nurse midwives in the most baby friendly hospital in my area and my daughter never left my side during our short 24 hour hospital stay.  I signed several waivers at the hospital to prevent standard procedures that my baby did not need.   And seven years later, my third came into the world in my quiet, dimly lit kitchen assisted by a Professional Midwife and her assistant.  And because he was born at home, we had to provide proof that I was pregnant and drive downtown to file papers to get his birth certificate and file for his social security number.  And if we had not done that, would he then not be really here? Born in my kitchen in North Carolina, but not a US Citizen.

Life Outside the Typical American Diet

Our diet has also evolved over the years. Granted, I grew up eating two veggies, one green, for dinner, fresh fruit and limited sweets.  My mother is 100% Italian and she cooked in way that looks very much like what is now called “The Mediterranean Diet”.  My husband and I decided to stop eating red meat about the time that our first child was born.  He wanted to lower his cholesterol and felt it was a healthier way to eat.  Over time, we eventually eliminated all meat but fish from our diet.  Later, I learned I was eating too much soy and way too much processed soy.  I added poultry back into my diet but we continued to eat many vegetarian meals.  I learned more about the importance of whole foods and over time greatly reduced the number of processed foods in our diet.  My diet changed once again when I learned my cholesterol was low and possibly too low to become pregnant and so I began to purchase grass-fed beef from a known source, yet my husband continued to avoid red meat most of the time.  When my oldest was about 8, he decided to become a vegetarian, not surprising because he grew up eating very little meat.

Life in a smaller, simpler box

When I became a parent, I was the sole breadwinner for our family.  After two years, we took a leap of faith and I reduced my hours to part-time and switched jobs to one with more flexible hours that allowed me to do my paperwork from home.  Our income was nearly cut in half that year for the second time in our married life. The first being when my husband quit his full  time job,  encouraged to do so by me, to pursue growing his business that he had begun a year earlier. We could write a book  on living on less and building savings before you have children.  Yet, most people have no clue about our simplified life and can not fathom how we live on the income we have had over the past 11 years.  I want to ask those people who live in large houses with perfectly manicured lawns, why do you live in such a large house and maintain a beautiful yard when you are never there to enjoy where you live?

The un-boxed life

As I give these descriptions of aspects of my life that are outside the norm or average way of living in America, I realize that it only shows a glimpse of how very different from society my life has become.  We live in a world but we are not of the world.  We drive cars that we purchased used and are now fully paid for; our house is over 40 years old; we have a gravel driveway; we have basic cable television- about 25 channels;  I make my own water keifer and nettles infusion and make smoothies adding green vegetables, fruit and coconut milk.  My first two children nursed until natural weaning- it was well past the toddler years- and I can give you a long list of health benefits for nursing past two years of age.  At my first La Leche League Meeting, I swore I would never nurse my child past the age of one.  We homeschool our children or more accurately, unschool, but I prefer to say we learn through living.  My husband and I have shared child care responsibilities over the years and often have worked alternating hours so the other  could be with our children.  Why would you give birth to children and then send them to someone else to raise them?  Why would you give someone else the joy of watching your children grow and explore the world?

When life puts you in a box

And then, my husband, Don, had a heart attack, May 4, 2011,  Cuatro De Mayo.   We had to survive in the system.   I was grateful to the hospital and all the people we came in contact with from the medics who arrived at our home and continue to be grateful.  Yet, after my husband was in the hospital over a week and we were looking to his coming home, I found myself feeling alone and lost.   Don was on continuous cardiac monitors for the entire 12 days he was in the hospital and only the last few days was he up walking around, his unit only.  He could not leave his unit.  Yet, they sent him home, unmonitored and with only a home health nurse who came 3 days per week and  because I insisted on that.  I even had to call the home health  company once we got home because somehow the hospital failed to inform the home health company that he had been discharged from the hospital.   Luckily, I had worked in home health care and knew what to do.

I was ashamed  to cry while I was in the hospital room with him.  I quickly wiped tears from my face when a nurse  came into his room.   Why is that?   Reality did not look anything like Gray’s Anatomy.  I saw him briefly in the emergency room before they wheeled him up to the “Cath Lab”.  And then I was led to an empty waiting area where we sat, me, my children and my good friend, for over 2 hours wondering what was happening and wondering whether Don would live.    A nurse finally came by to inform us that things were going well and if they continued to go well, he would be moved to the CCU and someone would come get us.  She had thought it would be about 30 minutes,and then an hour past and my fear intensified that something was wrong.  Thank goodness for my friend who was not in shock and knew to call the front desk and asked if he had been moved to CCU ~which he had.   There were no doctors holding your hand and standing by as you grieved and felt the emotions of the trauma you were going through- especially for me, the family, the wife of the man who had the heart attack. They treated my husband and took good care of him.  Yet, his heart attack happened to more than him, it affected his entire family, his wife and three children- aged 13, 9 and 2.

It was a traumatic experience for all of us and in some ways more so for us than Don because he has little to no memory of the initial events.  No memory at all from the time he went unconscious on our living room couch until he was awake in the CCU.  At home, when he was having increasing pain in his mid back and his neck, it never occurred to him that he might be having a heart attack. I knew and my 13-year-old son did too.    And those early days in the CCU are very blurred and foggy in my husband’s memory.  Somehow we survived and even became closer as a family those 12 days Don was in the hospital.  And then the bigger challenge, his coming home and continuing to recover in a home with three young  children.  And now, 4 months later, here we are.  Our life greatly altered on some levels and in other ways it looks as it did before.  Life will never be the same, experience changes you, changes your perspective.  My children never again will have the full childhood innocence of feeling like your parents will live forever.  Watching your father have a massive heart attack and cardiac arrest is not a typical experience for a child of 2, 9 or even 13.  The hospital staff kept saying that many 50-year-old men have heart attacks but what they failed to see was not many 50-year-old men have a 2-year-old child.   I personally did not grow up seeing family members have a heart attack in their 50s or any age really, other than my uncle who just two years prior to my husband’s heart attack, suffered a dissecting aorta at the age of 47.

Re-negotiating life and moving out of the box

We continue to navigate in the healthcare system and now the financial assistance system in our county and state.  I have come to realize that part of my angst comes from living a life outside the box yet needing  these systems that exist in our culture.  Systems we were never a part of before or not to the extent that we are now.  They want to put us back in the box but there is not a box that fits us.

Navigating in this world, in the American culture of  this millennium, while pursing life from a spiritual perspective is not a task for wimps.  I have learned that I do well under pressure and that I am a survivor in a crisis.  Adrenaline is addictive but one  can not continue to live with high levels of adrenaline running through your system.  Sometimes, the more difficult part of life is not the early trauma, but the getting back to regular life part, when the flood of support and assistance tapers off and when you are faced with the complexities of life and the new challenge of helping a loved one with a new medical condition to recover and live again.

Over time, aspects become easier but other factors emerge as stressful and challenging.  It is a process, a continual process of recovery.  I do not know how long the process lasts nor how long the intensity remains, yet here I am 4 months later, still feeling strong feelings as I recount and relive the experience.   It has been a roller coaster of ups and downs occurring within a life already full of uneven terrain.  I have moved closer to and further away from my spiritual side throughout the process.   I  have grown stronger, and more in tune with my spiritual self through my writing.   When I do not write, I often fall away from my true self and have found  myself sitting in the bottom of a lonely box.    Sometimes , I get up out of the box and other times, I need to just sit alone in the bottom of the box.  I see now that  I am a strong woman, even when I am sitting in the bottom of the box.

It takes strength to live in this world and each challenge makes you stronger unless you choose to stop and not move forward.  Unless you become permanently and completely dysfunctional and unable to care for yourself in any manner, you do become stronger.  The decisions you make and the life that follows are a matter of your perspective but know that you do become stronger,  you become more of who you choose to be.

Getting Unstuck: No more “trying to”

Recently,  I decided to let go of my story of loss.  I wrote out all of my losses over the past several years, all the big ones and decided I would let go of “my story” of loss.  What does that mean? I don’t know but what comes to mind is Debbie Ford.  And so I googled to jog my memory and found this wonderful interview with Debbie Ford.

I wrote all about the letting go of loss in another blog entitled, Letting Go of “My Story”…of loss.

Today, I would like to talk about the part of the interview that first caught my attention; getting unstuck in “trying”.

I was immediately drawn to read more of this part of the interview because I, too often, find myself saying that I am “trying” to do something.   I have had ideas and even visions of what I would like to do with my writing and yet, find myself frequently getting stuck.  Even though I was reading this interview to learn more about letting go of “my story”, I knew that what I was reading was extremely relevant.

At the above link, if you scroll to page 5, 3rd paragraph,   the interviewer, McGee,  speaks of something Ford once said, “Don’t say you’re ‘trying’. You’re either doing something or you’re not doing it.”  and asks her “How do we get unstuck in “trying”?”

Debbie Ford answers:  quoted from the text

I use the analogy in The Right Question of a car trip.  If you just say, “I want to have a better business,” that’s like saying, “I want to go to the South.”  Where in the South?

How much better do you want your business?  You need to get really specific, and yes, you may have to modify your course.  You need to start with a very, very strong vision, because then you can wake up every morning and say, “What do I need to do to get there?”

If you were going on a road trip, you wouldn’t look at your map once a week or once a month.  You’d look at it every day.  Say, “This is where I want to go.”  Then, ask yourself, “What can I do today to get there?”

That is where we’ve got to go with people.  Whether it’s a New Age retailer or an individual, we’ve got to inspire them to have clear and concise vision.  And know you can change your vision.  Maybe I say I’m going to New York, but all of a sudden I wind up in New Jersey and I love it. That’s  okay-you can change your vision. 

We need to be clear about it.  We have that picture, and we hold it in.  We have the intent to get there, and we’re taking those steps. We’re taking really good, strong steps.  I don’t think the universe can guide us.  I think our souls know. 

The above information  is taken from an article in the  New Age Retailer from Jan/ FEb 2007.  The author and editor in chief is Kathy McGee.

After reading that, I had the idea of creating a plan for my vision in the form of a map.  Instead of listing out goals and objectives in outline style, I need to create a map of my vision.  A map that I can write on and amend as my vision unfolds. Unlike, a travel map with clear highways to travel on your route, this map needs to be ongoing.  I can write out my vision with as many descriptions and specifics including financial aspects and then, I can either work backwards and add in possible things I need to do to get to the final destination.  Or, I can just start from today and list what I can do now to get to my destination.

My brain is busy with possibilities of how I can create this map.  I do need to let my right brain, my creative side, take the lead.  My left brain has already made the list, written goals, objectives and daily tasks, only to find myself not able to follow through in that format.  I think I need to keep this visual and start with a vision collage of what I would like my life to be like.  From that vision collage, I can then create my map.  I believe I need to plan to do just that and stop thinking about it, because then I am once again, “trying”.

So, I will make a vision collage.  This You Tube Video gives a good explanation on Vision Boards.    I also found this blog that describes the idea well, How to Make a Vision Board.  After I make my vision board, I will let you know where I went from there and how I am making my map.  Maybe you might be interested in doing the same or something similar.  I would love to hear about your vision collage, or road map to where you want to go.  Please share, for the benefit of all.

Four o’clock in the morning

It is 4:00 in the morning.

Sounds like the beginning of a song.

It has been awhile since I have woken around 2:30 am, unable to sleep and have come to the kitchen to my lap top.

Today, I went to my email not sure why I was doing that, seamed so frivolous, like I needed to do something of more importance like write but wasn’t feeling in a place to write.  Good decision as I came across the link to my husband’s Blog, “My Spiritual Spot”.  His most recent blog post called

Fickle Fart

I had to read that.

And so I did and then I read more and more

And found myself wanting to read things he posted prior to his heart attack as well as just after it.

I commented on his posts and finally in my last comment, found myself writing

delving deeply into my own thoughts, reflecting and expressing

For some reason, I am now frozen, unsure of what to say next.

I could say how reading other inspiring posts, helps inspire myself and helps me reconnect to who I really am and to remember who I am and my purpose here.

Maybe this blank feeling, this unsure of what is next, is only

space

breathing space

It is ok to be in the question

to just sit in the stillness

the quiet

the space between the words

this early morning time is space between the busy moments of my life

breathing space

and breathing is essential for living