Thursday, February 26, 2009

I Love You...From 5 Ft Away

Cold and flu season has officially arrived in our house. Thing 2 has had two bouts of pneumonia, or a pneumonia-like virus and Hubby is now recovering from a viral bronchitis that sent him to bed for a day.

Thing 1 and I, the women and girls of the family, appear to be the steel magnolias (dare I jinx myself?). To be on the safe side, I have sent myself to bed early, taken to drinking echinacea tea with fresh ginger in it, eating more oranges and avoiding Thing 2 and the Hubby.

Easier said than done. Because Thing 2 is almost 11, isn't feeling well and now needs three breathing treatments a day, I kind of can't avoid him. Hubby on the other hand, is clearly an adult, needs no breathing treatments and is generally self-sufficient. Still, it is harder to avoid him than one would think.

Just last night as I was in my mad dash to go to a school event with Thing 2, I asked Hubby where the camera was. Note: I did not ask him to get me the camera. However, he took it upon himself to not only go and get the camera (thereby touching it with his undoubtedly infectious hands) but to also take the actual camera out and turn it on to make sure it was working. The faces I was making while this little manuever was going on would be akin to the expression on Eddie Murphy's face in "Daddy Day Care" when he went to check on the state of the bathroom after one of the children had "used" it.

Of course, Hubby took great offense to this. The fact that I then proceeded to lecture him by pointing out that I had not asked him to get the camera, but rather where the camera was, did not improve relations between us. In fact, after I returned from the event, he asked me for a hug. I told him I could ill afford (okay, pun intended) to get sick, so no hug for 48 hours.

Cold and uncaring? Go ahead and call me uncaring in this instance, but it is the cold part I am trying to avoid. Being the chief cook and bottle washer in these parts, I can't afford to get sick normally. Add to this that I have a very big event going on for work next week which is all on me, and you can see why I have turned into a germaphobe.

It isn't actually that I don't care. In fact, after wiping down the phone with disinfectant (I saw him on the phone last night when I came in.) I called hubby today to see how he was feeling. Of course I do care and I do still love him, just from a safe distance and armed with disinfectant.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Recess v. Recession

Recession, Recession, Recession. It is all we hear about, it is all we think about. Being inundated with the word, I have taken to examining it more carefully. It contains the word 'recess' in it. 'Recess,' remember that word from your school days? It was the highlight of our days. We could run wild through the playground and be carefree (particularly when the teachers were looking the other way.)

What we are learning as adults, though, is that there is a big difference between 'recess' and 'recession.' 'Recess' was a time to be giddy, to go wild. 'Recessions', as we are quickly learning, are a time to be paralyzed and fearful (to use the playground analogy, it is the position you assume when playing tag and you are commanded to "freeze").

Maybe, in order to get through this 'recession' thing, we could combine the most palatable elements of the two words. While we may no longer 'go wild' in terms of spending money and resources, maybe we can remember what 'recess' was all about. It wasn't about spending lots of money and having lots of toys. It was usually about one kickball and a bunch of friends. Even the kickball was optional when playing 'tag' or 'king of the mountain.'

So, I am going to play like it is 'recess' while being mindful of the 'recession' all around me. Instead of placating myself with new 'toys', 'trips' and other things that I don't actually need, I am going to gather family and friends around and 'play' (board games, outdoor games, Wii, etc.) until I hear the words: 'recess(ion) is over.'

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Dog Gone, part 2

Today it is officially a year since Kramer left our family. It is easier to write this from sunny Florida than wintry Connecticut where Kramer loved the snow. We have healed somewhat from losing Kramer and have a new love in our lives now, Hanna, who is so different from Kramer that Kramer's aura remains unchanged.

Here is what I wrote for Kramer last year when he left us:

Ode to Our Valentine: Kramer

Yesterday on Valentines Day, we said goodbye to you. Those who know me know that I don’t believe in Valentines Day and have labeled it a Hallmark Holiday. I always say, much better to do something unexpected for someone you love because you want to, not because the Hallmark corporate conscience tells you that you should.

Yesterday, we did the unexpected for you. We said goodbye.

You couldn’t get up and were in discomfort. I tried to help you but your legs had quit. I knew then that I had to put you out of your misery. It was no life for you if you couldn’t move. I never thought it would happen like this: that your mind would be fine but your body would give in. Strangely, it still was not a difficult decision. You told me in your way that you were done with this life. The raw chicken on the counter couldn’t tempt you, nor could you get yourself into the crate, though a homemade turkey dumpling beckoned to you.

Thank you for being such a great part of our lives for almost 15 years. You kept us laughing with your silly ways, from your first “suicide attempt” when you put your paw on the “up” window button in the backseat, while having your head out the window, to when you took a sudden, intense dislike to buses, trucks and any cars with especially loud engines, and lunged at these vehicles. I will always remember how you loved the arctic weather and how that first extreme winter you were in your glory, sleeping on your snow throne and forcing me to come out in pajamas and boots to chase you inside. You always wanted to be with us, though sometimes you changed your mind. Especially when we went swimming in Rhode Island and you swam in too. As soon as you could no longer stand, you tried climbing onto one of us in your panic. It was then we had to remind you that you were a snow dog, not a Labrador.

Above all, you were my best walking companion. Until the last week or so, you were always eager to go walking. You were a great walker, always at my side, never pulling. If you saw other dogs, you would moan in that cute way I will never forget. I wonder if your old British boyfriend, Jerry the Golden Retriever can sense that you are no longer with us?

It is very hard to be at home without you gone. Even though you mostly slept these last few months and had become so deaf that I could sneak out of the house to catch my early morning gym class without disturbing you, you were a constant presence in our home and in our life. I spent a lot of time yesterday telling you that I loved you and that you were a good dog. I know you heard me.

We rescued you from the CT Humane Society when you were seven months old. Your card said that you were given up for adoption because you were “too hyper, cannot control.” When we got you, you surely were that. You would jump all over us, pee in the house and leave a path of destruction of shoes, books and other items of value in your wake. We built you a cage in our first house and though you ate your way out of it numerous times, eventually you grew to like it and would go down there yourself when we were out. You were our world at that time, before Maddy and Will arrived. I used to take you for rides and dote on you. You were Diane’s boyfriend when the others didn’t work out. You liked using her lap as your pillow when we would return from Rhode Island.

You gave us quite a scare when, in your Krameresque manner, you ate your Preventic Collar and you were lifeless when we returned from a trip. We rushed you to the hospital and you came back to us.

You weren’t sure what to make of Maddy when she came home from the hospital, but you grew to love her and all the food she dropped, and you even let her ride you (as this was well before the arthritis set in). By the time William came around, you were used to these screaming little creatures that pushed you down the ladder of love. Though not to be outdone, you managed to get yourself sprayed by a skunk the first night William came home from the hospital.

When we learned we were going to England, we didn’t have time to get you microchipped and rabies tested for the 6 month waiting period. So we scrambled to find you a temporary home. Our neighbor Laurie and her kids took you in and gave you love for four long months until you could join us in England. They opened their hearts to you and you and their dog Mimi got along well. Finally, you arrived in the UK. We joked that everyone on the flight must have needed those Bose noise cancellation headphones. However, the man that delivered you to our house said that you didn’t make a peep from the airport to our house and that you only started barking when you saw me.

We were so happy to have you with us in the UK. Especially me, as I had my walking companion back. Together we explored the Esher and Claygate areas. You managed to get yourself in trouble right away of course, by stealing some food you shouldn’t have eaten and pooping all over the house. Your timing was bad. We had just left you with a young babysitter and the kids for a romantic getaway in Venice. The sitter took one look at the mess you had made and the anxious calls to Venice began. Luckily we had Judith, your faithful friend, to call upon. She came over, cleaned up your mess and took care of you. When you then became sick, she got the Claygate Vet to come and look in on you. She took care of you while the sitter bailed to her parents’ house, our kids in tow.

When we returned from Venice, it became apparent that on the boiled chicken diet that the vet had prescribed, you were becoming a giant chicken nugget. Food in, but no food out. I used my instincts and gave you some of my daily fiber pills, mixed with yogurt, and eureka, you were better.

Gradually the aches and pains and deafness began to set in. We had to make sure we got your attention so you didn’t panic when we stepped over you. We of course had to step over you because as usual, you chose to sleep right smack in the middle of the traffic flow. You started to moan and groan when you went to lie down and found it very hard to get up.

One day, you snapped at Will and Kara, our friend and babysitter. I took you to the vet and your blood work (which you needed to be sedated to draw) indicated that your liver was barely working. The ultrasound confirmed what we already suspected. There was cancer in your liver, spleen and pancreas. Dr. Gary, your new, much better vet, started to discuss biopsies and chemotherapy. I started laughing on the phone and pointed out that you had to be sedated to draw the blood, because you so hated going to the vet. I said that I wasn’t prepared to do that to you. You had lived a long, wonderful life and you were just going to ride off into the sunset in your own way. Dr. Gary understood. I asked him how long we could expect you to live, and he said six weeks to six months. That was almost two years ago.

With every vacation we booked, we thought to ourselves that sadly, this would be the last time we would have to ask Judith or Jill who also so loved you, to look after you. Yet, like the Energizer bunny, you kept going. Finding joy on your daily walks and barking at the table for the “clean plate club” that Chris had misguidedly enrolled you in. If we took too long to eat a meal, there you would be, barking for Chris’ plate to “clean up.”

We never thought you would make it back from England, yet we got to have seven glorious months with you. Until this last week or so, you still found great joy on your walks. Lately, however, I noticed that you started pulling back to indicate that you would much rather be home than on the walk. It was your own way of telling me that I needed to ready myself to walk alone.

The end came quick. You woke up early yesterday and barked to go out. Chris let you out and we heard you start yelping. You had fallen on the ice covered snow and could not get up. Chris had to put your leash on and pull you over the ice until you could stand. You could no longer stand in the kitchen and I got you to the door by pulling you with the leash and a miracle and you made one last jaunt to the bus stop with Will and I. In the mistaken belief that a bit longer of a walk would help to lubricate your joints, I tried to get you to walk past our house to the end of the street. You wanted no part of this and pulled back. I gave in. We went inside and you were not able to stand again. Not when I went and finally bought a muzzle and tried to help you, and not with the muscle relaxants I went to the vets to get for you as a last ditch effort. You spent the day in discomfort and I knew, with no uncertainty that it was time to let you go. When you soiled yourself, I begged the vet to move up the appointment so you no longer had to suffer.

You were a rescue dog and yes, we rescued you. But you rescued us too. We were rescued from an ordinary life. You were a constant companion and source of comfort. You kept us laughing and though we cry now because we miss you and are only now realizing the great impact you had on us, we are so happy to have had you in our lives. We are so happy that you were “too hyper, cannot control” for those other owners who gave you up (and named you Alaska! Yikes) because you came into our life and gave us joy and companionship. You will always be our Valentine.