Tuesday, January 25, 2011

When Do You Decide it's Time to Say Good-bye?

He is your friend, your partner, your defender, your DOG.
You are his life, his love, his leader.
He will be yours faithful and true 
to the last beat of his heart.
You owe it to him to be WORTHY of such devotion!

Gautille Family 1996--Pirate 2-years old

But what happens when you have to decide when he has the last beat of his heart?

If you have read my blog, you know that I absolutely adore three things in my life:  my husband, my children, and my doggies!

We currently have three dogs.  But the dog I want to talk about is our oldest dog, Pirate.  Pirate was brought into our family 16 years ago.  He without a doubt is the smartest, sweetest, most loyal dog I have ever had in my lifetime.  

A year ago, I thought we were going to lose Pirate.  His health was failing, he separated himself from the family--stayed in our bathroom, slept 90% of the time and had a difficult time with hind leg weakness and pain.

We brought Ellie into our home a year ago, and the once slow, old, sleepy, recluse dog came back to life!!  Ellie brought life back to Pirate, and in turn Pirate protects her, he taught her the ropes as it relates to house training, he loves on her.

Ellie brought a bounce back in his step, he began to hang out in the living areas with Ellie and Ducati (Adam's dog, who currently lives here).  

He was playful.
He started to swim again.
He played, chased, loved...
We really saw a remarkable fullness of life back in our sweet old Aussie.

THEN, in one year we saw an incredible transformation in Pirate--a sweet puppy reinvigorated him through the course of a year.

But a year later, we now see a very confused dog.  His hearing is going, his eyesight is fading, he seems to walk in circles...not quite sure where to settle or where he belongs.  He has also forgotten the house training he taught Ellie just a year prior.

There are days he just wants his head rubbed and does not want to leave my side, and then there are days when he sleeps, eats, goes outside and then sleeps again.

If he were in pain, this would not be a difficult decision.  Selfishly, I can't stand the accidents he has on a daily basis in the house.  He doesn't seem to even know he has done something wrong. Did I mention that he jumps in the freezing pool?  We have blocked off for fear he won't be able to pull himself out of the pool.
So the $50 million dollar question is--How do you know when it's time to say good-bye.  We mentioned to our kids that we need to start to prepare for the inevitable with Pirate--and now the kids have labeled us murderers for even considering the thought of putting Pirate down.

Everyone says the dog will tell you when it's time.  We will get a signal from him that we are keeping him more for us than for his health and well-being.   So for now, we love this confused, wandering dog, who delights in a head or butt rub.  He sleeps most of the time, but seems content  being close to us.  (The pooping in the house the vet said is a sign of senility.) 

I love this dog so much, and don't want to let go too soon.  

So for now, I Lasso every moment with Pirate!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Facebook and Friendship and the Steel Nation

Me(TX) and Michael (FL) visiting my brother Brian (CO)
My husband recently gave me an article that was posted on the front page of USA Today with the headline that read something like:  "We Don't Talk Anymore" --essentially commenting on the Twitter, Facebook, email, Linked In, Blogger and texting world that surrounds us--also, all of the simple pleasures I happen to enjoy on my laptop!  While I will admit my kids tend to text versus call, they do communicate.  The article had a good point about person-to-person communication skills being effected by the techno media bombardment...however, personally I feel blessed that my kids are personable.  I have seen them handle tough conversations in person, and monitor one-another on blog and Facebook postings--or so I've heard.  But for ME this whole social networking world is fun.  

It's been over a year since I first signed onto Facebook.  I caught a lot of SERIOUS flack from my youngest daughter for being on this social media outlet--primarily because she couldn't wait to be a college student to be able to be on Facebook.  But by the time she entered college this social network opened up to the entire world to join...including 50 year old moms!  To answer your question you may be pondering right now...no, we are not friends on Facebook, I am also not friends on Facebook with my son...it's some kind of code of conduct for parents and their kids...so I'm told by my twenty-somethings.  My married daughter has "friend-ed" me though, so I don't feel like a complete goober.

Quaker Valley High School
home of the Quaker Valley Quakers...yes Quakers!
I was skeptical at first about my desire to step out and be somewhat of a voyeur into my Facebook friends lives...but the unexpected joy came when out of the blue I discovered people, old friends that I have not heard, nor seen since I left high school.  Very cool.
The Sewickley Bridge
 The other interesting part is the individuals I dialog with many are friends that I didn't really know that well in high school.  I am not sure if it's the social media aspect or the mere fact that we grew up in a wonderful little town together.  But there is something about growing up and living in a great little town like Sewickley, Pennsylvania that has a strong thread of  family, culture--or just the very pride in recognizing where we all came from from...

Many of us have left Sewickley--heck, many have left Pennsylvania, but with each friend I have "friend-ed" on Facebook, or Linked In with--the "Burgh" is there, in their heart!  They may be in another part of the country, but the roots of Pittsburgh are still imprinted, firmly planted in the very being of who they are...

The last few football seasons have been especially exciting, because while my FB friends are all over the country, the Steelers bring out the closeness, the unity, the "Burgh" in all of us.  I have four brothers and one sister...we are all in a different state, but we all bleed Black and Gold.  Facebook has allowed us to show our spirit in a big way.  It has nurtured friendships that would otherwise would be nonexistent. 

The rally cry of the Steelers, the terrible towels postings, the play-by-play for those of us who didn't get the game in our city...all posted on Facebook by high school friends.

I don't know if the Steelers will win the AFC Championship on Sunday, and win an opportunity to win Super Bowl XLV on February 6th in the city I live now...Dallas...but I know the black and gold will wave, the spirit will splash the walls of Facebook from those whom I have reconnected with through this thing called Facebook--and win or lose...the Pittsburgh Steelers fans will lift their terrible towel and their favorite team with a great deal of love and pride!

Lasso a WIN against the Jets!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

This is a Home Where Children Live

This time last year Joe and I were sending our son, Adam back to finish up his senior year at Baylor University...and our daughter, Jenna, back to Benedictine College for her sophomore year.  This was our second year to be home without kids.  Our dog, Pirate had just celebrated his 15th birthday and I was very concerned about his failing health.  I also  kept thinking that when Joe traveled for work, I would be alone if we lost Pirate.  So I set out to find another incredible, lovable Australian Shepherd.  

As luck would have it, right before Christmas I got my puppy Ellie--Pirate and Ellie were settling into their new co-existence.  Joe and I were settling into ours too!


Ellie and Pirate

Joe continued to fly for Southwest Airlines about 15-17 days out of the month...and I was working long hours for a nonprofit.

Kathie, Jeff Schroder from CBS web show 
and Pres. of CCA Scott Orr

Needless to say, the house had a sense of order, a solace that I surprisingly relished, because I honestly dreaded being an Empty Nester.  In the 24 years I have been a mother--I can honestly say that for the first time...within the last two years anyone could drop by the house on any given day and my house was presentable!  I could have an uninterrupted conversation in person or on the phone...Joe and I got use to being alone too!  In fact, we often referred to our Empty Nest status with delight as HONEYMOON II!  

But alas...that was all to change.  Jenna decided she wanted to take another career path, and came home in the spring to attend community college with the plan to go on to Cosmetology in the fall of 2011.  In the meantime, she would be living at home.  

Kathie and Jenna

There's more!
That's not all--Adam, graduated from Baylor University in May. 


Ducati and Ellie meet!
While he anticipated attending grad school in the fall, he decided to sit out a year, teach private trumpet lessons and play anywhere they would pay him to play trumpet, guitar, or sing...

...oh, and he too would be living at home...with his dog Ducati...his plan now is to go to grad school in the fall of 2011.  

Sweet Ducati

Oh, and our oldest daughter, Sara married her college sweetheart Ryan in June!

I adore our adult children...just not all of their stuff.  So the summer opens with Adam insisting that in order to prepare, and stay in tip-top shape with his trumpet playing he really needed a piano.  I told him we were not buying a piano, nor were we putting a piano in our home.

However, after searching all of the local resale stores, he sent me message: 

Getting 5 guys to help move = 2 large pizzas 
Purchasing a dolly and floor pads= $25
Buying a fully functioning upright IN TUNE piano from resale= $62  
Seeing my mom's face when she saw the piano in the garage= priceless

So let me paint a picture of my NEW solace--there is my sweet husband, Joe, Pirate and Ellie...Jenna, Adam and Ducati...my husband, three dogs and two kids.  (So much for worrying about being alone!)
In the center of my house there is an ugly (sorry Adam) upright piano that IS IN tune.  The living room has become a trumpet studio with music stands, sheets of music, trumpets and trumpet cases.  The entry way has large acoustic electric guitar amp...not to be confused with the electric guitar amp...that actually resides in his bedroom.  His bedroom...her bedroom...dare I even go there?  And what about their bathrooms?  My beautiful home is often littered with food bowls, pop cans, water bottles and wrappers.  My kitchen cabinets have no glasses in them because they are all in Jenna's room. 

Adam is not the only offender...Jenna typically has her clutter spread out in the game room--or more accurately--her stuff has spilled over from her bedroom to the game room.  There is typically colored paper, scissors, a hot glue gun, a camera and laptop.   

Now, we also have the challenge of not worrying about the kids as they come and go.  

Dinner.  The truth is when Joe is on a trip I have been know to select between two dinner choices...cereal with or without milk.  Now with two other adults in the house, I feel compelled to cook...a real meal...utilizing the food pyramid or four food groups--I keep getting confused on what is appropriate now...but there are times when a meal is in the oven, or even worse, ready to be placed on the table only to discover that the kids have made dinner plans, or they are working, or they have already eaten or they just don't like what is on the menu.  Frustrating.

I know what you are saying..."Whose in control?" or "Who trained whom?"  And as much as I can gripe about the junk, not to mention truly detest their lack of housekeeping skills and where they choose to put their STUFF ... I love hearing Adam's music in the house again.  I love seeing the projects Jenn creates.  I love seeing even occasional "sightings" or glimpses of these young adults while they transition into adulthood.

As moms, we often brood about the changes and passages our kids go through once born.  We revel from the moment they enter the world, marvel infancy, exhausted at trying toddler-hood, invigorated as they hit school-age, dream of their potential as they move into their teens, beam as they are launched with their high school diploma.  As our children move through these milestones, as a mom--I find I morphed into a new stage of motherhood--sometime with love and compassion, moments of brilliance, times a miserable failure...but always with motives of deep, unconditional love.

So while I sit here blogging about the downside of having my kids living back at home I can't help but recall the poem I savored as a young mother:

by Judith Bond
You may not find things all in place,
Friends, when you enter here.
But, we're a home where children live,
We hold them very dear.

And you may find small fingerprints
And smudges on the wall,
When the kids are gone, we'll clean them up,
Right now we're playing ball.

For there's one thing of which we're sure,
These children are on loan.
One day they're always underfoot,
Next thing you know, they're gone.

That's when we'll have a well kept house,
When they're off on their own.
Right now, this is where children live,
A loved and lived in home.

I really love having them home...because I really love them.

Once again, I Lasso the Moon with love!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Christmas is Officially Over--Welcome to 2011!

Well,  yesterday OFFICIALLY marked the end of Christmas--going by the tradition of the Twelve Days of Christmas.  I think the Twelve Days of Christmas is often thought to be before Christmas, but are the twelve days from Christmas until the beginning of Epiphany (January 6th; the 12 days count from December 25th until January 5th).

So here it is, January 7, 2011.  In my home the Nativity, Nutcrackers, 
 Santas, snowmen, sleighs and angels have been stowed for another year.  Lighted garland and outside lights have been put away.
The yuletide trees have been strategically positioned by the curb for recycling--however, the never-ending task of picking up the remnants of pine needles seem to be a constant housekeeping chore.   My house feels a little like Cindy Lou's felt when the Grinch stole Christmas from Who-ville!  Pretty bare.  The holiday carols have ceased, the bake goods consumed, shopping or should I say cash for shopping has been depleted.  The family and friends gathering for holiday cheer had its finale New Years Eve. But I feel like that the joy of Christmas is still
ever-present in my heart.

I think many of us can remember the first Christmas we learned the truth about the magic of Christmas involving a jolly old elf and his team of flying deer.  As I grew older into my teens I really struggled with embracing the true meaning of Christmas.  I really wanted the joy of Christ birth to be the focus of Christmas for me, rather than a laundry list of "would love to have" gift list.  But it just wasn't there for me...
BUT then it happened...  

When I was in high school, I had the privilege of teaching 4th grade Sunday School at St. James Catholic Church, in Sewickley, PA.  Mind you, I didn't know it was a privilege at the time!  There was a request or should I say a desperate appeal for volunteers to teach religious education to the youth in the parish.  I thought it was something I could do for my church--I probably need community service hours...so at 16 years of age, I accepted the challenge and the responsibility to teach 9 year olds of our parish about our faith.  Once I got in the routine of classroom procedures and got to know the children of the class, not to mention familiar with the curriculum, I discovered week-by-week I was putting in more and more effort in enriching the kids experience on Sunday.

When Thanksgiving came, I was informed by the religious ed office of the church that the 4th graders were to "perform" in front of their parents.  It was suggested that it be something related to The Christmas Story.  Well, we could do a "reading", or reenactment of the Birth of Christ for our "performance"...but instead I got into a discussion with these youngsters about what they thought it must have been like to be in Bethlehem to see baby Jesus.  Then we started a brainstorming session on who, and what was there the night of Christ's birth.  We made a list ranging from the stable, the shepherds, the Wise Men and of course the holy family.  I then asked the kids to take any of the items we listed or if they had one of their own they could use it.  But they were to personify an item found in the nativity.

 The students took two Sundays to work on their papers in class.  Then when all of the papers were completed, we shared them as a class.  One-by-one I heard 20 young children from my class describe how they were the manger who held Baby Jesus and tried very hard to keep him safe.  One student was the star, who was so proud to beam brightly announcing the birth of our Savior.  One little girl wrote about being the hay and how she tried very hard to be soft and warm.  All of the papers were touching--it was truly amazing how each expression of the embodiment in human form an aspect of the nativity was written with their hearts.  The paper that stood out to me the most was the little boy who decided to personify the stable.  He spoke about how sad he was that his shabby little structure was the only place this family could go at night.  He continued to talk about how as he witnessed the baby being born he knew this was special and important and that he had an important job to do.  So he stood strong and firm to protect the precious family that stayed inside him.  Hearing these children highlight a special part of the birth of Christ was a pivotal moment for me.  While these 9 year olds were anticipating Santa Claus they were also preparing for why the season is really special.

So the big day came when each 4th grade class presented in front of each other and in front of their families.  I selected five volunteers to read their special papers.  But the audience was so intrigued by each story, they asked if each child would share his/her paper.  At first I was giddy with excitement that my students' work really stood out.  Then I saw the tears in the eyes of the parents.  And I felt the tears stream down my face.  I realized then that the tears were not just tears of pride for my students' work, but tears that for the first time Christmas WAS about Christ being inside me.  It was about the greatest gift I have ever received, the love, mercy and grace from Our Father, who sent His son for me to have eternal life.

Yes, Christmas season has officially ended, but the true blessing is that Christmas is every day-- if you give love and kindness generously, reach out to make someone feel special or appreciated or feel needed...then we can all feel a lot like the little boy in my class who choked up when he talked about how lucky he was to be chosen as the stable--because he got to have Christ in him on that special Christmas night.

I Lasso savoring the last moments of the Christmas season!