Puppy-Parent Pooped

I am writing a bit sleep deprived which makes me “puppy pooped”, not to be confused with our puppy, who poops (wink).

Raising a puppy is very much like having a newborn but with tons of puppy kisses and belly rubs – hers, not mine, although that sounds divine come to think of it.

We picked her up the first weekend of February. It involved an overnight trip for the five of us coming from Ohio traveling to this absolutely wonderful breeder named Pamela in Virginia. That isn’t normal, making an overnight trip to get a dog. Many people just get a puppy locally or otherwise don’t give a lot of thought to breeders unless they are looking for a classic purebred dog. There is also a big push in the United States to get a dog from a local dog shelter since there are so many abandoned dogs, but that wouldn’t work for us, for reasons I’ll describe below.


Starting about the Wednesday before pickup, I began to feel real anxiety about getting a dog. Very similar emotions coursed through me, reminding me of the night before giving birth or buying a house, this realization that you’re about to change your life in a major way and you pray that you’re doing the right thing.

Everything about it felt right leading up to that point, you see. I did my homework. I felt very good about the breed, about the breeder, about the breed’s compatibility with our family and the age our kids are right now. I felt good that our kids are old enough to handle the puppy properly and love her, to help care for her, but mostly I had to be ready to take on the responsibility myself.

This was, in my mind, my dog. I always thought if I got a dog, I would get a little one. I’ve had my eye on Yorkies for years but hearing that they weren’t necessarily wonderful with kids was a deal breaker.

My husband was against the idea of a puppy for the longest time even though he’s more of a dog person than me. It was devastating five years ago for him to put down Monk, our basset hound, after 14 beautiful years together. It tore him apart. He routinely describes it as one of the worst days of his life. But even he was ready at this point, ready and excited to welcome a new pet.

Then again, I totally expected I could get him on board after showing him endless pictures of precious Maltipoo puppies for weeks on end. He really is a big softie and it worked.

I may have shared this conundrum before too: my oldest has allergies to certain dogs, mostly big breeds, and he was understandably apprehensive about bringing a dog into our home. He was the one who remembered what it was like to have a pet in the house. However our younger two kids desperately wanted a pet as they didn’t really remember life with Monk all that well, and I didn’t want to deny them experience during childhood. Really, how do you balance the desires of all kids?

Well, we hedged our bets and decided we would become a pet family once again.

Naturally the anxiety kicked in overdrive the few days before pickup. I was having a hard time falling asleep. I could tell my breathing was shallow and I had to actively concentrate on deep breathing. My stomach felt queasy. I knew this was a Very Big Commitment, easily a 14-year one, and the thought of my oldest breaking out in hives and having to rethink the decision was nauseating. I most definitely didn’t want him to think we valued a puppy over his health. I was virtually certain he would be ok but there was a tiny little bit of doubt in my mind, and plenty of doubt in his.

All that gave away the night before pickup. I pretty much collapsed into bed and was running on adrenaline over the happy thoughts of getting her. It was a pleasant, excited drive to Pamela’s house. She greeted us with a big, warm smile and introduced us to our new pup who we named Zoe, the puppy’s litter mate, Samson, who was waiting to get picked up that same day, and the puppies’ mother. All jaw-dropping adorable.

My children melted at the sight. I will never forget how utterly charmed they were by these precious wee babies. Even my oldest smiled so broadly his dimples popped on both cheeks!

Pamela gave him Samson to hold and my daughter held Zoe. I will never forget what happened next. My oldest whispered to me, “Mom, she needs a puppy buddy. Let’s just take them both,” and as he nodded his head toward the door, he continued whispering, “Let’s just go…” It was surprisingly mischievous for him to suggest. If only Samson wasn’t already promised to someone else, we just might have done it!

Whatever anxiety I had about a dog virtually disappeared once we laid eyes on Zoe for real. She was as soft and small and sweet as we saw in the photos and video before-hand, although it is surprising to hold a puppy that small. It really is like having a newborn. You forget how small newborns are, too, until you hold one again and remember.


I was uncertain what to name her, which is odd because I’m pretty good at naming things. First I wanted something unusual, about me or my life, and that just became too hard to narrow down. A friend of mine suggested Lumi because she said she thinks of me as someone always trying to bring knowledge, be positive, and shine a light on matters. I have got to admit, that was an incredibly lovely sentiment! Yet the name Lumi didn’t roll off my tongue, so I didn’t run with it.

Since music is such a big part of my life, I spent time mulling musical names. I briefly considered Tempo, but it hit me that I really love both the sound of the word cello and the sound that instrument makes. I immediately thought of a woman who I worked with on a training project once, and her name was Chelo. I learned it’s a name of Spanish origin meaning “consolation or comfort”. It was another one of those aha moments since I had hoped this puppy might fill the void of loneliness that has marked much of my life.

We called her Chelo for a couple of weeks before pickup, mostly trying to get my daughter to buy into the name. Her first pre-teen reaction was, “Mom, it’s weird. I don’t like it.”. I was going to pull the Mom-veto on her since the boys liked the name, but wouldn’t you know, something about her reaction planted that tiny seed of doubt that it wasn’t quite right. I wanted all of us to be bought into the name. While Chelo sounds so lovely, we’d be spelling her name and explaining what it meant forever.

My daughter wanted to name her Athena after the Greek goddess of wisdom, but that didn’t fit 100% either. Our puppy was too tiny to be an Athena, even as I warmed up to the name. I certainly fit the unusual but beautiful criteria I had.

The week before pickup I had just listened to fantastic podcast about creating a powerful alter-ego for yourself. One woman named hers Ziva after the NCIS character Ziva David. Boom! I thought that was it. I held my breath looking up the meaning of Ziva, then sighed in relief when I learned it means “radiance, brilliance, and light”, which aligns itself nicely with the Lumi sentiment my friend suggested. Still, something continued to nag at me such that I wasn’t 100% sure. Our puppy wasn’t exactly exotic looking, and part of me felt that a dog named Ziva needed to be mysterious.

We even tried Ziva for a few days but it became pretty clear to me, as it did all of us, she’s really a Zoe. Zoe means “life” and that’s what she brings to us. Enormous waves of life in a teeny tiny body. I don’t care if it’s a common name for a dog, it fits her perfectly. We are completely charmed by Zoe Grace.

For the record, our breeder gave her a middle name of Grace upon birth, and we felt it was lovely so it stuck.


Our breeder recommended that someone stay full-time with Zoe for her first week at home, and luckily for me, I was able to arrange to work from home that week. America needs to get on board with “pet-ernity leave”, if you ask me. I work for a company that sells pet food, so one would hope my employer would be sympathetic to the demands of acclimating a new puppy to a home (and they were!)

Seriously, pet-ernity leave should be a real thing. I suppose we Americans should master maternity leave, and paternity leave first, but wouldn’t pet-ernity be incredible?

Our week together was wonderful. I got a feel for Zoe’s schedule: when she wakes, when she’s rowdy, and when she sleeps which incidentally is much of the day, again, not unlike a newborn. We bonded, and started potty training. I got a feel for her personality and she got a feel for our home, which we have slowly introduced to her one room at a time. We’re onto week three and she’s doing great.

We are too. Zoe has brought a lot of laughter and joy into our house, and dare say the kids have focused their attention on her and not as much on gaming and bickering with each other. I had my fingers crossed for this sort of outcome, but W H O A. Our oldest comes home and coos all over her, and he’s teaching her tricks and commands. She’s already figured out “sit”, and we’re now working on consistent delivery of “down” and “roll over”.

It’s rather poetic that her gotcha day was in February and she is a real-live valentine. I can hear my mother, who’s passed, singing as she often did, “How much is that doggie in the window, the one with the waggily tail,” and it’s almost as if my mom is celebrating the fact that we are once again a party of six with a little soul that delivers a very waggily tail.

Zoe is a little dream come true.

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It’s a Pup-date!

You may have heard we’re puppy pregnant (see Puppy Party Pooper) but not for much longer! Silonda here with a “pup-date”, get it?

We found a W O N D E R F U L breeder who, truth be told, is pretty far away from us, but hey! We’re road trip people and Saturday is the day a sweet little bundle of fluffy joy is joining our family. Fingers crossed the Polar Vortex/Arctic Blast is over so we can hit the road safely.

fullsizeoutput_2b3eThis sweet little baby is our puppy, Nora Grace, the name her breeder gave her at birth. It’s an absolutely lovely name, but not likely one we will stick with. Isn’t she a doll? I think she is seven or eight weeks old in this photo.

She is a maltipoo, a cross between a Maltese and miniature poodle. Maltipoos are known for being small, smart, friendly, hypoallergenic, and low shedding.

We cannot wait to meet her! Our only daughter is overjoyed that the boy-girl dynamic in our human family of five will be evened out with the addition of another girl. She has always wanted a sister.

You may have noticed our pup is not a black maltipoo like she had hoped for. We decided that the right breeder and the right pup is more important than the precise coloring.

Our daughter is a huge fan of YouTube makeup sensation James Charles, who apparently caters to his audience by calling everyone “sister”. I made the HUGE mistake of suggesting to our daughter that we could “go all James Charles and name the puppy, ‘Sister'”. Her eyes grew big and a giant grin formed on her face, which told me I screwed up big time.

No, no, we are not naming her Sister, nor are we going for Athena, Kiwi, or Smores, her other choices.


Naming a dog is a big deal.

I’m not one to go for conventional names. I like avant garde choices, so Daisy, Gracie, Lucy, and the like won’t do. Besides, I already have a great niece of the human and canine varieties named Lucy so that truly doesn’t seem like a viable choice.

Part of me wanted to shoot for Lola or LuLu but neither of those names go well or roll off the tongue all that easily with our last name of Louie.

I wanted to pick something from my life for this sweet little baby, and after much conversation as a family, I think we have name ready to go. Four out of five of us have bought into it (our daughter being the lone hold-out) but until we see our pup and get to know her, I won’t reveal it. I’m shooting for something easy to say that sounds lovely and is a reflection of my life but not too cutesy.

Have I mentioned that my husband had a basset hound named Monk who lived to be 14? I met Monk and Ryun three years into their relationship. ♥️ Monk was named after Thelonius Monk, a jazz musician, which is appropriate for my husband who is the same.

Monk lived a long and happy life, and honestly was The Best Basset Hound Ever. He lived up to his name: chill, quiet, loving. When he was four or five, we thought he was lonely and got him a brother basset who we named Cannonball, after Cannonball Adderley, my idea.

You can guess what happened. Cannonball lived up to his name, too.

There’s an old adage that children live up to our expectations of them but I’m beginning to think he same is true of pets and the name we give them, which makes choosing THIS name all the more important.

I want little “Nora Grace” to know she is loved and an important part of our family already. We’ll keep you posted shortly after February 2, our puppy’s Gotcha Day.

Stay warm!

 

The Joy of Planning

close-up-composition-data-669986I’ll admit that I am a planning geek. Who knew how much joy it would give me to organize my activities by hour, by day, by month or even to break down big goals into little, easily achievable ones?

This is a highly valuable skill at work, but that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about the tools we use to get our personal lives in order. Let me tell you about a few that I really dig. Mine cover the gamut of online and hard copy tools, because I still get a thrill from long-hand planning.

Did I mention I’m a geek? I’ve embraced that aspect of myself, so it’s ok. Loving yourself has gotta start somewhere, right?


Online Planning

Microsoft OneNote

Oh my heavens – I don’t know how I survived before my coworker Travis showed me this little doozy. Now I open it and use it all day long like I do with email. I won’t get into a long description of how it works, but if you have it among the suite of Microsoft applications, use it.

I create a new page for each meeting I attend so I can take notes. I draft simple project plans on new pages. My front page, however, is a to-do list “dashboard”, and I’ve organized it by “Today/Immediate”, “Soon/This Week”, and “Low Urgency/Eventually”.  It’s really easy to add a task and move it around my dashboard and anything you add in is automatically saved.

I have a tab for Work and another, separate tab for Personal, with several pages underneath each. God knows as a mother, stuff just pops into my head at all moments of the day, and I take the time right then and there to write it down or else I’d forget.

For each task, there’s even a little place to put a check-mark in the box which I do to indicate that progress has started (e.g., I have a call out to someone and I’m waiting for their response). Once a task is complete, I remove it from the page altogether. Sometimes, if the item is noteworthy enough, I move it to an entirely different page where I keep track of my major accomplishments throughout the year for performance evaluation and resume-building purposes.

You name it, it’s out there on my OneNote. I keep dibs on Christmas and birthday ideas for the family, home improvement ideas, thank you cards that I should write, and vacation spots I want to visit during the year. I get a certain kick out of putting a check mark next to the places I have visited during the year once the trip has finished, because half of the joy of traveling is anticipating where I’m going and reliving the memories once it’s over.

Let’s just say, my team got a glimpse of my OneNote dashboard and they were frightened, by the number of things that I track. They got a glimpse into how my mind works! But honestly, before I found OneNote, I wasted time recreating endless lists, took notes in tablets, notepads, and Post-It notes that sometimes got lost or disorganized. That simply is no longer a problem. OneNote is far superior.

Google Calendar

In the early days of child-raising, my husband and I struggled to keep our calendars organized and in sync, so we landed on creating a Google calendar. We were able to merge his music studio calendar (online for his students and their parents to see) with our family calendar and we even gave our sitter access to it so everyone would know who needs to be where and when. This way, we can access the calendar while at work, at home, or on the road by iPad or phone. Each family member’s entries are color coded including whole-family activities. Every soccer practice and game, dance rehearsal and competition, doctor appointment, school concert, marching band rehearsal and competition, football game, basketball game, birthday, and trip are captured online for all of us to see. It’s been a challenge to get our kids to consult the calendar but at least we parents and our Godsend-of-a-sitter know it’s there. We’d be lost without it.

iPhone Reminders

Oftentimes I am driving in the car, and the flood of ideas hit me – phone calls to make, prescriptions to pick up, etc. Sometimes as I listen to podcasts on my 30-minute commute to work, I’ll learn the name of an author, book, website, or product I want to check out. Boom! I dictate these entries into my iPhone Reminders and then periodically transfer those into Google Calendar or my OneNote at work.

We’re an Apple family so we’ve created a family-shared Reminder list for needed groceries. This list doesn’t get as much use but still, it’s there if we need it.

Excel

Yes, plain old Excel. I start off every work day with three entries: 1) three contributions, big or small, that I have made to make life better for someone else, 2) three things I’m grateful for, and 3) three intentions for my day. Each one of these is on a separate tab and I like being easily able to scroll through the list as it grows over the year. I also use Excel to write down my big goals for the year. I organize them by category…health, finance, career, spirit, family, recreation, and friends.

Hard Copy Planning

Ink+Volt

This is my second year using this planner. I know there are ton of planners out in the market and maybe one day I’ll gravitate to another but let me tell you what I like about this one.

First of all the size: it is a 6″x8.5″x1″, hard cover book with a cotton texture cover. I bought one in red, my favorite color. It holds up over a year’s use. It’s small enough to pop into my purse and take with me. It’s also big enough that the pages stay open when you want to write in them. (Actually I prefer hard-wire-bound books for that reason, but Ink+Volt doesn’t offer that option.)

There are sections to plan out the year, the month, and the week with thoughtful essay prompts to guide your week. For the planner in me who still love to write out big goals in long-hand and experience the satisfaction of checking them off the list….the really important personal goals for the week…this has been my near-constant companion.

Now I do love me some happy-colored pens, but I don’t have time for stickers…and some women love Erin Condren planners with the colorful boxes and inspirational quotes…but I’m a little more straight-to-the-point. My organizationally-challenged musician husband loves his Ink+Volt planner. His is green, his favorite color and he is lost without it.

Fitlosophy’s http://www.GetFitBook.com

I ❤️ Target, so much so that I have a residential requirement to live within so many miles of that store every time I have moved. Perusing the fitness aisles at some point this past year, I picked up a journal for myself and my sisters as mother’s day gifts.

Man, I love this thing! First of all it has prompts for you to name three things you’re grateful for. There’s a section for you to articulate your health intention for the day and something that you appreciate about your body. There are fitness prompts for free-form essays, a tip of the day, and then a section to rate your movement, nourishment, and mood.

As someone who has been on health auto-pilot for too long, I began using this journal too, to get me attuned to my physical being. I found it incredibly helpful, so much so that I bought another version of this for my daughter who is growing into a health-conscious young lady, courtesy of her holistically healthy dance studio.

Now you might have noticed that I use Excel and Fitlosophy for a gratitude journal. I do both. I haven’t settled on which version I like better, plus I don’t think you can overdo gratitude.

Big Life Journal

Given I have such a love for planning, it would be a crying shame if I didn’t teach my kids how to do the same! For Christmas this year, each of my kids got one of these journals, including the teen version for the oldest, and I gave one as a gift to another child in our extended family.

Still too early to know how it’s going but I want to teach them the power of visualizing a goal and making it a reality.

Ultimate Student Planner

To help our teen son juggle the demands of his school and extracurricular activities, I found this planner on Amazon which reminded me a lot of the very first one I bought in college to help me keep track of various deadlines and obligations. He has always struggled with organization and planning, kinda like my husband has, so it has been a challenge to get him to use it consistently.

However, score one for the win column: I helped my son with cleaning his room just the other day, and it meant purging a lot of kid stuff now that he’s a full-fledged high school teen. I’m proud to say his mama’s organization genes are starting to rub off on him! He tidied up his desk, reorganized all of the drawers, and pointed to his planner on the desk corner. He told me on Sunday night, he logs into the school’s communication system and finds that all of his teachers have the assignments and expectations for the upcoming week posted online. He makes entries in his planner as needed and showed me some examples.

I nearly fell over. There may be hope for him!


Now, I will admit it might be time-consuming to juggle the various tools I use but this process works for me and it really doesn’t take me much time at all because I enjoy it. It’s not to say that some items don’t fall through the cracks as they most certainly do.

These various methods and tools help me stay organized but more importantly, they serve as a kind of mindfulness meditation. Call it prayer in writing, if you want. Call it planning with purpose. It’s become a daily routine and I feel harried when I haven’t referenced any of these tools.

What’s your favorite life planning hack? Care to share?

 

Photo by Bich Tran from Pexels

 

 

How Full is Your Love Bucket?

johnny-brown-498577-unsplashA few years ago I encountered a book entitled How Full is Your Bucket by Tom Rath. It was a fairly quick read but it revealed the story of how powerful words are to a person’s spirit.

He started the book by explaining tactics of the North Koreans during the Korean War. The most effective technique North Koreans used on their prisoners was not physical torture but psychological, achieved by withholding letters from home and telling the prisoners they were forgotten by their family. Unloved. Worthless. As I recall, prisoners who were otherwise untouched and well-fed died of broken hearts and spirit.

Something about this insight shook me to the core.

The author wondered if negative words could have such a drastic effect on people, what sort of impact would the opposite have? He said to imagine that each of us walks around with a bucket, and to scoop from our own and pour it into the bucket of those around us. Our serving is a kind or encouraging word but even as you do this, your bucket never empties. It remains full.

The imagery of this resonated strongly with me. Now, I have always tried to be a person to say a kind word to those around me. Maybe it’s a function of age, but as I get older, I am fearless approaching complete strangers to compliment their hair or smile and I take the time to look them in the eyes when I say it. I don’t flatter. I don’t lie about the things I say. My words are deliberate and genuine, and I honestly try to work at it every chance I get because God knows people need a lift.

At home here with the kids, we’ve got this thing in the mornings. Our kids are a little like me when they wake up. They aren’t completely awake. They don’t bounce out of bed completely conscious, totally happy, with their full “morning strength”. Morning, daresay, is when they are feeling most vulnerable.

Like a thousand parents before us, we stir as the kids crawl wordlessly into bed in the wee hours of the morning. Some days I can just sense it, and I quietly ask,”Do you need your love bucket filled?” and they silently, gently nod with their little heads.

And this is when we spoon and I curl up around my child with my arms tucked across their belly and I start to whisper words of love and encouragement into their ears. I tell them how much I love their smile or spunk or laugh. How grateful I am that they are part of our family. How much they were wanted. How proud I am of their effort. How beautiful I think they are in body and soul. How very much I love them and always will.

And sometimes, even after the words have stopped, we hug just a little bit longer while the full effect slowly drips, drips, drips into their love bucket, kinda like a coffee machine. And the hearts of my children are full until the next time.


At the suggestion of my friend Carol, I finally read the The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman a few years ago and learned I am a “words of affirmation” kind of chick who appreciates some “acts of service” on the side. I probably could have guessed my primary love language sooner than my late 40s but it was validating to understand myself and others around me much better than before.

It explains why I fell incredibly hard decades ago for someone who wrote songs about me. They were among the first words of affirmation I had ever received. Those words were so potent, they linger with me even today. And I’m still a complete, total sucker for a kind, personal word. I wish I didn’t need it but it’s like I was born with a hole in my bucket. Or maybe a hole got punched in my bucket…I don’t know.

Over the years, I realized that it isn’t normal or psychologically healthy for outsiders to be the primary ones to fill your love bucket. This should come from your family of origin. I vowed I wouldn’t let that be an issue for my own kids. Ever.

So when it comes to my kids, it’s entirely possible I am doing this more for me than for them. I don’t know if it’s the hugging and sense of warmth and safety they crave more or the words, but they get both from me. Actually, my husband and I used the Chapman book to understand what our kids need and I do know, and I have adapted my style accordingly as Chief Administrator of Louie Love.

How full is your love bucket? What are you doing to fill those around you? Got your ladle?

Photo by Johnny Brown on Unsplash

Why Liberals “Overreact”

lindsey-lamont-1309647-unsplashBy now everyone in America has heard about the encounter between a Catholic high school student and a Native American man this past weekend in Washington DC, both of whom were in town for separate marches. You could predict how Americans would part like the Red Sea in their interpretation of the events.

As you may have guessed by now, I hold some pretty liberal views. I heard about the latest controversy, and then checked a few different news sources so I wouldn’t get an unfairly unilateral story. And when I was done, I shared a meme on Facebook in support of Nathan Phillips who appeared to be a peacemaker in the situation.

My high school friend – let’s call him Doug for purposes of this story – responded to the meme. What struck me initially is that I heard from him at all. We both moved away from home to different cities and have seen each other rarely over the last 30+ years but we’re friendly when we do see each other. We don’t have a lot in common but I would say there is genuine affection for one another.

I’m a prolific Facebook user; he is not. I’m pretty sure I can count on one hand how many times I’ve interacted with him on social media over the years. Despite not having a lot of interaction with Doug, we’re still friends and I like that.

The second thing that struck me is what he said in his post.

“The only thing I saw in the video was the kid standing there as [Phillips] beat his drum in his face.”

To which I replied, “Then you don’t know the whole story.”  I had planned to leave it at that. Doug was more of a jock back in the day, not one to be interested in current events. So not only do I never hear from him, the one time I do, it actually has something to do with politics.

That’s C U R I O U S. But ok.

I still hadn’t planned to get too engaged on the topic. See, I have a tendency to explain my points rather thoroughly, shall I say. I’ve learned that no one cares, thinks about, or dissects anything to the degree I do, so I figured it was better off limiting my response. (Case in point: I am writing a blog post about this, a couple of days after the fact!)

However, I do know that Doug is a Trumpster, and right or wrong, I took his response as short-hand he thought the whole high school kid/Native American thing was being blown out of proportion.


Yeah, well you know what I did. I engaged, and the conversation played out pretty much like I thought it would. He remained unmoved in his viewpoint and I in mine, but he made a couple of comments that resonated with me for a couple of days. I didn’t bother responding at length on Facebook, because again, he made it known how little he cares, in contrast to how much I do. To paraphrase, here’s what he said:

  1. The Native Americans and the Black Israelites were “nut jobs” (direct quote) and the high school kids were passive victims.
  2. I/Liberals believe name calling by the Black Israelites is “ok” whereas smiling on the part of the high school kid is “cruel”.
  3. Left wingers blow things out of proportion.
  4. Chants of “build the wall” were redacted and it was clarified that the students were doing school cheers.
  5. Liberals lose their mind over everything.
  6. Who has time to get upset over every little thing?
  7. “Smirks” are considered offensive.
  8. Liberals act like Trump is the apocalypse…but has he actually made my life that miserable?

So here we go:

  • From the sounds of it, the Black Israelites were disruptive and rude, and trying to get a rise out of anyone within earshot. Maybe they are “nut jobs”…I don’t know. I should have called out their bad behavior, and I didn’t. However, I don’t consider the Native Americans present to be nut jobs, and I think it is wrong to call them that. These high school kids were not passive victims. They were wearing MAGA hats, which I consider to be today’s equivalent of the KKK white hood, the only difference being they have no problem being SEEN wearing one.
  • What the Black Israelites did was wrong. I should have called it out. We should all be calling them out on it. However the high school kid was not simply smiling in a friendly gesture. He was smirking and defying Phillips in a non-violent but very active way, and it was wrong.
  • Trumpsters think “left wingers blow things out of proportion”. Blowing it out of proportion? No, I wouldn’t say that. I would say liberals are calling out every instance of hate, fear, and lack of normalcy every chance we get because social norms and values are disappearing before our eyes in the proverbial death by a thousand cuts. Maybe this is the time I came of age politically, but it seems to me that Mitch McConnell established an environment that involved complaining and criticizing every.single.thing the (Obama) administration did, even when the administration was doing good. Republicans accepted this sort of hyper-critical behavior as normal a decade ago; they just don’t like it now that the tables are turned.
  • Perhaps chants of building the wall were not said. But their high school chants were not benign and innocent. Shall we link to the photos of the students in blackface mocking a black opponent during their high school basketball games?
  • Liberals lose their mind over everything….yes, yes they do. Who has time for that? I do! Social norms are eroding before our eyes. I will not remain quiet. There is a famous circa 1950s poem by Lutheran pastor Martin Niemoller as follows:

First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.


Let me tell you a little story, circa 2008 give or take a couple of years. The exact date is marginally important because we all know how the financial markets tanked in 2007 resulting in wide-spread job loss in 2008 for years thereafter.

I was a trustee for our small church. We were trying to sell a piece of land on the church’s property. We struggled to find buyers, but we had at least one.

Shortly after learning this news, our church president, who I’ll call Thomas for purposes of this story, stood before the congregation during a parish meeting to tell them we had been given an offer, but it was well below our asking price. Still, it was an offer. What he shared next stunned me.

He went on to say the buyers were Indian and that made them notoriously stingy. Cheap. And he was inclined not to sell to them.

I was shocked to silence. I couldn’t believe my ears. Here was a man I respected in the big scheme of things, who stood before a body of Christians and stereotyped the buyer based on their ethnicity.

I was so shocked, but I said nothing. I didn’t want to derail the proceedings because it was really about whether we should accept, negotiate, or decline the offer. But I was horrified by what I heard.

And then I was ashamed of myself for saying nothing in front of that group of people. It was the first in a long time that I heard anyone display prejudice toward another ethnic group. I thought as a society we were past that. Remember, this was ten years ago. How wrong I was!

Fast forward a few months later to a subsequent board of trustees meeting at the president’s home. Thomas did it again. He mentioned the “cheap Indians” who continued to extend an offer he refused to entertain.

I can’t remember if it was official board business or the casual socializing that happened afterwards, but this time, I couldn’t stay silent.

I approached Thomas, trembling, chin quivering, with tears in my eyes. This giant of a man listened to me. I told him how shocked I was that he had to bring ethnicity into the conversation about the buyer each time he did it. I asked him why it was necessary to do that. Why couldn’t he just describe them as buyers who submitted an offer that was too low for our consideration, in his opinion. I explained that he didn’t need to disparage an entire ethnic group based on the actions of one party. I told him if they were recent immigrants, they may be supporting a family back in India, in which case it was entirely possible they were simply being frugal, and we didn’t need to be bitter about a whole ethnic group when we declined their offer. I told him I was ashamed that we characterized these buyers this way in front of our parishioners…what kind of Christians does that make us? What year was this anyway? I mean, didn’t this sort of Archie Bunker talk fade into the sunset decades ago?

I admitted to Thomas that he likely wouldn’t understand why I took umbrage with his blanket insults directed toward these people, but from the very youngest of age, I always tried my best to evaluate the character of a person and not their skin color. Was this the influence of Sesame Street? I don’t know… I told him I was ashamed I didn’t say something the first time I heard him make these comments. I told him I questioned what message was I sending as the mother of three bi-racial kids when I allowed someone else’s ethnicity to be disparaged publicly. Was I sending the message that my kids’ particular brand of Asian-ness is OK, but Indians, huh Indians (!)… THOSE are the people you need to avoid?

I told our Thomas that I could no longer stay silent because doing so meant I was sending mixed signals to my kids, and it was time I got crystal clear with them. They are watching me, and integrity is everything. I admitted to Thomas I had a lot of nerve calling him out about this matter within his own home, but it was something I had to say.

There I was, in my early 40s, cancelling my white privilege membership. “White privilege” wasn’t even a thing yet… It was years before anyone named it “white privilege”. But I realized then, if I am not an advocate for racial equality, who will be?

Thomas heard me out. He thanked me for telling him. He explained that he was speaking from his personal experience with Indians, as a long-time businessman who had lived overseas for several years with his family after getting an international transfer with his employer. I can’t recall if he apologized for his behavior, but he certainly had the largeness of spirit to understand where I was coming from. We hugged after this talk and I thanked him for listening. He helped me make this transition into a baby social justice warrior just a tiny bit easier.

Who am I kidding? I’m no social justice warrior. I’m a social justice cross-walk guard.

Like I said, this story happened over 10 years ago. Thomas passed away three years ago. I loved that guy. And to this day, I send air kisses to heaven to thank him for listening to me, and loving me even if I ticked him off.

But my God, if Thomas could so easily say things like that, anyone could. And so I’ve learned how true that is.

There is a certain level of irony that this particular church had selected St. Thomas, one of Christ’s disciples as its patron saint. After Pentecost, where did Thomas travel and settle to preach the word of God? India. Sometimes you just can’t make this stuff up.


  • Back to my friend Doug who wonders who has time to take umbrage with every little thing. I do. It’s my job now. Yes, I’m weary. Yes, it’s tiring. I need to take better care of myself. But I won’t let this sort of thing become ok.
  • “Smirks” are considered offensive? Yes….and at least Doug admitted that this high school kid wasn’t simply smiling in a congenial way. He WAS smirking. He knew exactly what he was doing.
  • Liberals act like Trump is the apocalypse. Funny you should say that. If you read the Book of Revelation in the Bible, and really listen to the description of the anti-Christ, he sounds awfully familiar!
  • Has Trump actually made my life that miserable? Funny you should ask that question of me too. So far, things for me personally are status quo. I’m a white woman, after all, so things are decent, but not fantastic. I’m not a white male. But make no mistake, freedoms are eroding. Social progress is reversing. And I have never been one to care exclusively about what’s in it for ME. I care about what happens to society as a whole. Plus Jesus said, “Whatever you do unto the least of you, you do unto me.” So I care about what happens to Americans, to refugees, to children, to people of all races… So what’s happening, and has been happening these last few years, is killing me.

These are the things I wanted to say to Doug but honestly, I don’t think he cares. If I had to guess, all he really wants is what is in front of his nose: a job, his friends, and some beer. He doesn’t really want to have a conversation about social justice and progress and American ideals and integrity and economics and prosperity and competition and world leadership and grace and integrity and #MeToo and race relations and truth. Obviously I can go on and on. No, these are not conversations Doug is really interested in having. Hell, he isn’t even interested in saying, “Hi, how have you been these last few years?” I could be wrong, but I’ve learned to trust my gut on stuff like this.

I can’t help the way I’m wired. And I can’t really fault the people who don’t feel as strongly as I do but I don’t have a whole lot in common with them. I long to talk to people who believe in the things I do. It’s not as much fun for me to fix broken things. It’s WAY more fun for me to take average or so-so things and make them AWESOME. However some days, you gotta operate in triage mode, and that’s where I’ve been for over two solid years.

If you want to call that liberal over-reacting, you go right ahead. I’m not the least bit ashamed.

 

Photo by Lindsey LaMont on Unsplash

 

 

The Cloak of Invisibility

There have been times in life when I felt like an outsider, most of my life actually. Instead of dredging up stories from my deep past, let me tell you what the last few years have been like.

I’ve lived in my current community for 14 years and worked at my employer for over eight now, and only now am I finally starting to feel a connection of some sort. It’s like I’ve been wearing the Harry Potter invisibility cloak. Some of that is self-imposed, running around as the working mom of three young kids in a new community. But some of that is inflicted on me. Of course in the latter case, that says a lot more about other people than it does me, but it doesn’t make me feel any better!

All of this sets up a pretty good case for therapy, to talk through why that is, and what that does to me mentally not to mention the very real physical health implications a lack of connection does to a body, but honestly I don’t have the time and don’t want to spend the money dissecting that because it is a never-ending quest.

adam-solomon-472458-unsplashI desperately miss those precious few times when I was warmly welcomed and felt totally loved and included, one of the gang.  I don’t have a posse…a group of friends to hang out with. My friendships are all one on one, spread out all over the US, and believe me, I value those, but frankly, I’m a little bit jealous of Taylor Swift and her squad.

And as a mother, I feel it even more acutely whenever invisibility affects one of my kids. You can imagine, then, how much this article a mother wrote about feeling invisible spoke to me. Take a moment to read it now. She’s got a great attitude and idea about how to manage the pain.

Sometimes the social anxiety, fear of rejection, and actual rejection was so bad, I had to stay at home. For example, there was a time when I sent my husband to dance rehearsals because he had thicker skin than I did. I told him about two young, affluent mothers at the dance studio. One woman had twins who played soccer with our daughter, so we had met her before from those activities. However she refused to acknowledge my greeting whenever I saw her, and she did the same with him. A wall had gone up, and she simply couldn’t be bothered with “others”.

My husband, being the guy he is, let’s most things roll off his back. He thought it was funny how she refused to acknowledge him, so he decided to turn it into a game. This woman and her friend always sat together and talked while our girls rehearsed.

He made it a point to greet them and gently engage them in conversation. They flatly ignored him, every time. This went on, week after week, for the nine months of dance season.

Never once did they crack. Never once did they show an ounce of friendliness.

Now my husband is a personable guy. He can carry on a conversation with anyone and he is well received the vast majority of the time by the people he encounters. But these women specialized in making others invisible. This isn’t a case of one-time preoccupation. This was a mission on their part.

I am reminded of a board meeting I attended. At the start of the meeting, one of my coworkers – someone senior to me – made it a point to go down the line to greet each of the outside directors one by one with a handshake but skipped me sitting in the middle of the line of them. Granted, he hadn’t seen the other people in a few months, but it’s not like I run into him all the time at work. It was remarkable. All he had to do was nod and say hello, but he literally ignored me while he said hello to every other human around me.

That was not an accident. That was deliberate. Believe me, I know to listen to my gut, and that guy is not the warm people person he pretends, or perhaps aspires, to be. How hard could it have been to say hello to me?


It makes me wonder what I have done to make people feel included, welcomed, in my social circle over these many years. Maybe I’m not that good at it. Maybe it’s been so long since I felt “at home”, I don’t know how to reciprocate.

It makes me wonder if our home is literally a safe haven for our kids. Do I cultivate that feeling of inclusion, full visibility, for them?

This brings to mind a funny episode. My coworker Doug was excellent at brokering introductions and making people feel welcome. He and our boss most certainly did that for me when I moved to Pittsburgh…he immediately made me feel at home there, and made it clear I was a welcomed addition to the team.

Doug knew of a coworker, Madison, who was moving back to Pittsburgh and would be working out of our office from that point on. He could not be there to take her to lunch her first day in the Pittsburgh office, but he knew I would be, and he asked me to welcome her. I was happy to do so.

Madison and I went to lunch that day and we invited another coworker, Joyce, to join us. Madison and I really hit it off, laughing and joking about a number of things, talking a mile a minute, such that the much quieter Joyce exclaimed, “How long have you two known each other?” We both looked at our watches and replied, “About 15 minutes!”

Just one. All it takes is just one person to help bridge the gap between unseen and seen, visible and invisible, stranger to acquaintance and maybe even friend.


My husband and I talk about where we want to live when we retire, and our current sentiment is “not here”. However, we don’t want to wait until retirement to make that move. We want to do it when we can perhaps influence where our kids will end up when they are old enough to be on their own, which means we may pack up and go while they are still young. And if we do this, we may voluntarily force all of us into a situation where we feel invisible all over again. Except with the next move, we will deliberately choose a place that feels like home before we go, more so than Ohio has ever done for me despite growing up in this state. It’s a risk, but we’re willing to take it.

You see, the risk of feeling invisible may not impact me as much since I feel this way all the time as it is, but as a mother, I worry about what this would do to our kids. Do I have the mental fortitude to help our kids through this sort of transition? Why is loneliness and invisibility such an issue?


Anderson Cooper said something poignant on CNN’s New Year’s Eve telecast earlier this month. The clock had struck midnight, all the songs had been played, and he and Andy Cohen were signing off for the night. Anderson acknowledged that New Year’s Eve can be an incredibly tough inflection point for a lot of lonely people, who no doubt reflect with melancholy on the year that had passed and maybe with some dread for the one ahead.

I was so touched that he said something to acknowledge these people who were no doubt alone, watching him on TV just then. For a moment, Anderson acknowledged those people…he saw them. In a way, I felt like he was talking to me. He spoke from a place of knowing, talking about one particularly difficult new year’s eve where his father had been very ill and ended up passing away a few days into January. He knew what it was like to stop for a moment and realize that the year ahead promised moments of pain and it would be tough to get through. One has to breathe deeply to muster up the strength to plow through what’s ahead.

It made me think of the years worth of new years, when my husband and I would crawl into bed after midnight, and I’d just cry in his arms over the feeling of invisibility and loneliness I felt living here. I can’t tell if that’s just the fate of a someone like me, a nomad who has moved around a lot, if that’s the small town where I live, or if that’s just society today. What does it take to belong?

Are there people in your life right now who need to be seen, to feel included? What can you do to help them in the coming days? What stories do you have to share on this topic?

 

Photo by Adam Solomon on Unsplash

 

 

 

Puppy Party Pooper

Parent fail. In the big scheme of things I did not commit a big, giant, honking parent fail but it feels like one. I hate failing anybody, let alone my daughter.

black-maltipoo-1
A black Maltipoo

My pre-teen daughter had her heart set on a black Maltipoo puppy and we found one in Michigan, about three hours from us. She wants to name the puppy Oreo, after her favorite cookie. But being new to the Maltipoo scene, and not exactly a natural born animal person, I have been taking my time learning about breeders and what questions to ask. I used to be really scared of dogs when I was little, and we obviously didn’t have one when I was growing up. My parents were not dog people, so it all still feels like foreign territory for me even though I married my husband but fell even harder for his adorable, three-year-old basset hound who lived to be fourteen.

Couple all the above with the fact that one of my day jobs is to be a risk manager, and the primary occupational hazard of that line of work is to think of the all the things that can go wrong. Needless to say I have been extra cautious.

I’ve learned you need to move fast in the Maltipoo market. Pups get scooped up fast. We were planning to make the trip to Michigan this weekend to see the pup in person and assuming we fell in love with her on the spot, we’d get her. I don’t know that I was 100% sold on the idea of black puppy, as I think the apricot and creme ones are very cute too, but the idea was growing on me because all three kids have very dark hair, almost black. She wanted a black puppy to look her and for it to be a girl so it would even out the boy/girl dynamic in the house.

Last night I wrote to the breeder asking for her address so we could plan the trip and agree upon a time. She wrote me back to say that her last black pup had been purchased, the runt of the litter who had a curly coat and a little patch of white on her chest that made her a perfect Oreo. I could have put a deposit down on her, but something told me to wait.

Parent fail.

I had to tell my daughter first thing this morning. It did not go well. You see, her birthday is next week and she was certain that she and this puppy were destined to be together.

I’m sick to my stomach. Now I feel like I made a mistake. Breeders tell me that nobody wants a black Maltipoo because you can’t see their facial expressions, and then sometimes the black totally fades away to little-old-lady gray. In other words, the black ones are hard to come by because no one intentionally breeds for them, and as far as I can tell there are only a couple available right now in the entire US. And I just gave up the opportunity to choose between three of them relatively close to us.

I ruined my daughter’s birthday, or so it feels. This is the perfect time for us to get a pup because life is a little quiet right now, unlike the rest of the year, but it certainly looks like that window of opportunity closed.

I know there will be other puppies, and the right one is out there, waiting for us, but right now I’m drinking a big, cold cup of “you suck”.

Call me the puppy party pooper. I’ve earned it.