Still here…

I began the year with a trip to Charlotte for the annual reunion of my college roommates…It just so happened that two of our daughters were there for different sports competitions. I was so grateful to my friend, who drove me to my daughter’s four games and even stood out in the freezing cold rain with me to watch a little. Now that‘s truly a good friend!

A few weeks later, our oldest headed back to school in NYC.

I went to New Jersey to visit my sister and her faithful dog Daisy.

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Maybe she’s born with it? Maybe it’s Maybelline.

My friend Katherine and I woke up at an ungodly hour to board a 6 am flight to NYC to check in on our kids, who are both studying there…

We stayed in a hotel at Hudson Yards, right next to The Vessel.

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The Vessel

Our hotel bathroom must have been three times as large as the one in my son’s apartment…

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Teeny tiny sink in my son’s Lilliputian (shared) bathroom.

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Brobdingnagian Friday afternoon tea at Alice’s Teacup

On Saturday we went to Chinatown for dim sum and found ourselves wading through huge crowds that had come out for the Chinese New Year parade:

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This last Sunday my second son gave a sermon during the youth-led service at our church…

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IMG_0464So proud of him. So not ready for him to leave for college next Fall.

Meanwhile, Gingersnap continues her ruthless and devastatingly efficient campaign to conquer the universe with expressions like these…

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Why am I down here on the floor when I’m supposed to be enthroned upon your lap?

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That’s more like it.

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Even Chloe is coming around…

At the dog park today…

 

 

 

 

Being Well

The other day I had my final phone session with my “Be Well” health coach. This is a well-intentioned employer-sponsored program, which encourages you to scamper on a hamster wheel for a tiny handful of (taxable) hamster pellets. You are supposed to set two goals for the year – a health goal such as: “I will exercise for 30 minutes three times a week,” and a more holistic “fun” goal such as: “I will read three books a month.” My coach and I had been in touch throughout the year. He always seemed to call when I was in the midst of a catastrophic crisis. I suppose this isn’t so surprising, considering the fact that there seemed to be a fresh disaster every other day this year…In any case, he was well aware that I was far from meeting any of the goals we had made together.

“So, obviously I didn’t meet any of the goals I set back when I thought ‘working on music’ was something I was going to have the luxury to do this year. But I helped my sister weather a serious health crisis; I lost my beloved dog; I got diagnosed with cancer; I had two major surgeries; my kids got in a scary car accident on their second day of school, which totaled the car; and my dad is now facing his own serious health issues.”

There was a triumphant quaver in my voice as I concluded my speech: “But I still managed to be productive at work, to take care of my family, and I didn’t fall apart. Given the circumstances, I think that’s far more impressive than expanding my musical repertoire.”

I still didn’t get my handful of hamster pellets.

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After a month in the ICU, my sister was finally able to move to rehab. It happened to be on the same weekend I had been planning to be in NYC with my daughter, her quartet buddies, and their moms.

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It was a happy reunion with my daughter, whom I hadn’t seen in a month. My son spent the weekend with us too, and helped us navigate the city and transportation.

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Evening stroll across the Brooklyn Bridge

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At Dear Evan Hansen

By March I was back home…

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In like a lion, out like a lamb.

Our sweet dog Tallis had been sick for quite some time. We finally had to say goodbye.

IMG_6985.jpegOver spring break, we took a sleeper train to Chicago with our son. IMG_7765.jpeg

 

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Cloud Gate, “The Bean”

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In my parents’ garden

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Pre-Easter Hunt Warm-up

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Easter Egg Hunt

IMG_8053.jpegIMG_8060.jpegIn May I was diagnosed with breast cancer.IMG_8122.jpegIMG_8289.jpeg

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Upping her game with Pre-Formal warm-up in high heels.

 

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Middle School graduate

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My dear old Dad

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Chiles Peach Orchard in Crozet, Virginia

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The cat was rechristened Paloma, although she is still mostly called “The Cat.” She still rules the roost with a velvet fist.

In July I had a double mastectomy with immediate reconstruction.

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My parents came to visit after my first surgery.

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Look, Ma, no braces!

 

 

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1st day of school

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2nd day of school. The car hydroplaned off the road on the way home from school.

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We took a pic a day to document her recovery.

 

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Thank goodness for young skin!

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My boys

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My #1 Goalie

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Back to work after a couple months off to recuperate after surgery.

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Chloe

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I made it to half a century!

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Checking in on my New Yorker…

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We take Halloween very seriously at work.

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Apple picking at Carter Mountain Orchard

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Beautiful fall sunrise from my bedroom window

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Working on the FAFSA…

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After trying and failing to convince my husband to get me a puppy, I finally had to take matters into my own hands.

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My husband’s annual Christmas concert with his early music ensemble.

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The wolf shall lie down with the lamb…one day?!  To date, Chloe continues to ignore Gingersnap’s bouncy puppy overtures with icy disdain.

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They say people and their pups often resemble each other…

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Christmas with all the cousins in Princeton, NJ

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This may have been the best ten minutes of 2019 for me…

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On our way home from NJ, we stopped in Philly to check out Drexel.

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Happy New Year, Everyone! Be well!

When dog poop dictates your level of happiness.

My son recently sent me a photo of a pile of slimy dog poop in our mudroom with this caption:

“Mom in 2016 – WHY DO I LIVE IN A WORLD OF POO?!?!”

I’ve never lived down the moment I let rip that primal yawp of anguish after finding yet another pile of feces in the house. My children still mock me from time to time for it. They imitate my manic rage by goggling their eyes, overenunciating each word, and gradually crescendoing to the final, thundering “POO” before collapsing into hysterical peals of laughter at their mother’s expense.

Back in the good old days, my dogs would mostly do their business outside. With increasing frequency, we began finding little bombs left around the house. I had to start buying Nature’s Miracle in gallon size bottles. At first I didn’t understand that Tallis, our Shih Tzu (pronounced just as you might expect), was not trying to punish me with his fecal indiscretions. It was the first signs of illness.

Our dog has been suffering from constipation for years, and this has eventually led to his current diagnosis of “megacolon.” The silliness of the name belies a rather serious condition. When I first mentioned the constipation to his vet, my concern was lightly brushed off with a recommendation to add a little pumpkin to his diet. We tried this for a few weeks to no avail. It was clear that the situation was becoming critical, and I insisted that the vet take a closer look at him. I dropped him off in the morning and when the doctor called me at work and spoke to me in a hushed tone of compassionate concern, I knew the situation was grave. He took x-rays, ran tests, and finally referred us to another practice which had a specialist in internal medicine. Since then, we’ve tried all sorts of things to get things moving, including yogurt, lettuce, green beans, blueberries, Cisapride, Lactulose, and prescription dog foods. In the last half year, we’ve resorted to taking poor Tallis in for periodical enemas.

Every morning when my daughter brings the dogs back inside after their morning constitutional, I ask her for “The Poop Report.”

“Have the pups achieved pooition?” I ask, “How many?”

One-Poop-Days are typical. A Two-Poop-Day is cause for celebration. I actually find myself walking around with an extra bounce in my step on those red-letter Two-Poop-Days.

Two-Poop-Days call for more in-depth reporting. I press the dogwalker with probing questions…”What was the consistency? What would you say was the length and diameter?”

My children have learned to take this all in stride. They celebrate the increasingly rare Two-Poop-Days right alongside me.  They can’t help but inflect their Two-Poop-Reports with a happy little lilt as they describe Tallis’ accomplishments. We crow with delight at every single thing that issues from Tallis’ back end. Never before has man or beast been so fêted for so little.

Thus my son’s text, which continued…

“Mom in 2018 – Oooooooh tell me more about the consistency!”

When I first got my son’s text, I thought he was sending it to me to complain that he had to clean up the mess.

“No!!!” he told me when we discussed it later that evening, “I sent it to you, because I knew it would make you so happy that Tallis had pooped!”

I took our dog to the vet again last Friday for another enema. This time a doctor new to the practice called me to say that we needed to start thinking about “quality of life” issues. She suggested that euthanasia rather than an enema may be in order. After some fraught discussions, we decided we would try a different kind of prescription dog food and give him another couple of weeks. In the meantime, we’re going to shower him with lots of love, keep our fingers crossed, and hope for the day that we will once again live in a world of poo. TIMG_9754IMG_9751

Bewitched

I still haven’t figured out what possessed my son to bring a cat inside the house. Unlike his siblings, he has never once clamored or cajoled for a pet. Unlike his siblings, he has never once fawned over an animal. I save photos and videos of pandas to a folder for my daughter to coo over. I routinely forward my older son articles about fish, octopus, or other sea creatures. I don’t bother saving any animal-related photos or articles for Jiminy Cricket, because I know he’s not interested.

Once I took my children to a goat farm during kidding season. The youngest and oldest were rapturous with joy as they nuzzled newborn goats. Jiminy Cricket stood off to the side with his hands jammed deep into his pockets and politely declined all offers to hold a baby goat. A couple times I took the kids to a live butterfly exhibit. The rest of us stood forlornly with outstretched hands, trying in vain to get a creature to alight on our fingers. The butterflies floated right past us and straight to JC, who stood there – a picture of suffering – his body shuddering with visceral horror and disgust as they landed all over him.

The boy has never even warmed up to any of our own pets:

When he takes the dogs out for their morning constitutional, he squeamishly wraps the torso of the one who refuses to walk down stairs in a paper towel, so his hands don’t actually have to make contact with his fur as he carries him to the yard.

So why would this boy insist on bringing a cat into the house? I can only conclude that he was overpowered by some potent feline bewitchment.

And how are things working out, you might be wondering?

Well…the words pussy whipped spring to mind.

For the first month or so after my son insisted on bringing the cat in, she didn’t budge from his bedroom. She stayed on a cat bed in the corner of his room unless she had to use the kitty litter, which he had set up right next to her bed. When I suggested moving the litter to the bathroom so it wouldn’t have to be in his bedroom, he demurred and said he didn’t think the cat would feel comfortable having to leave his room.

After she’d been with us for some time, I asked my son if she was starting to explore her surroundings a little more.

“Yes!” he replied. “Now sometimes she’ll come up to me when I’m working at my computer. At first I’ll feel her little velvet paws on my legs…and then I’ll feel her slowly sinking her claws into my flesh! Sometimes I’ll come into my room and I’ll need to sit down to do some work, but I can’t because she’ll be sitting on my chair and she just stares at me and she won’t move.”

“So do you kick her out of the chair?”

“No!” he said, clearly signaling with his tone of voice how preposterous he found that notion…”I just go away and come back a little later.”

After another few months passed, I started to hear strange thudding noises at night. Eventually, I figured out that it was the cat running back and forth, up and down the hallway. I’m convinced she’s in training…probably to murder my son while he sleeps.

“I think the cat needs to get some more exercise,” I proposed to my son. “Why don’t we try to let her outside for a little? I bet she’s really bored in your room, and would love to go out for a bit to stretch her legs!”

“I really don’t think that’s a good idea,” he replied.

One fine morning, I decided to insist. “Let’s just try to let her out for a little bit! We’ll let her right back in as soon as she wants to come back!”

“OK,” he said dubiously. He made his sister carry the cat down the stairs and to the door. He said he was afraid the cat would scratch him, but I’m pretty sure it’s because he didn’t want her to think it was his idea to make her go outside.

The minute the doors opened, the cat leapt out of my daughter’s arms and tore back upstairs to my son’s room, where she’s remained ever since. (Except of course when she trains in the hallway to murder him).

Like clockwork, the minute we sit down to dinner, the cat starts paging Jiminy from the top of the stairs.

“Oh,” he says, a guilty expression washing over his face, “Excuse me.”

He hustles up the stairs bearing food to the cat, as she continues to yowl at him the entire way. I swear to you, it sounds like: “Get. Your. Ass. Up. Here. NOW.”

He responds, “I’m coming. I’ll be right there. I’m on my way.”

In a much lower voice so she won’t hear, he mumbles: “Geez. I’m going as fast as I can. You don’t have to keep yelling at me.”

He comes back down the stairs and asks, “Mom, next time you go to the store, could you buy some more Fancy Feast, please? I like to alternate it with the Iams so she can have some variety.”

“Sure, Jiminy. Gotta keep the cat happy.”

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You looking at me?