Sunday, March 29, 2009

Precious lessons, precious moments

I have now officially been back to work for 3 weeks, going on four. It has been a really nice process, getting back into the swing of things, made much easier by my jobs' willingness to let me get back to work slowly. I've been oh "phone duty" since I've been back, and have been able to take it at a slow pace: allowing both my body and mind to get used to doing something other than sit on the couch and type on the computer. Tonight, however, is my first shift OUT of the phone room and back into "reality". Not only was this shift throwing me back into the pool with my responsibilities of old, but it was a shift that threw me right in the deep-end: a shift in the emergency room.

I'm about half way through as I write this, and I'm doing pretty well. But, just like with everything else that has come along with this "experience", I'm learning (well, relearning)lots of lessons. Because I was in the "phone room" for a few weeks before I even went into the hospital, it's been (honestly) about 3 months since I've done anything BUT talk to clients over the phone. I have to now not only relearn all of the little processes that come along with working in emergency, but I also have to relearn how to interact face to face with clients and their pets; both of whom are often distraught over the circumstances that brought them to us in the emergency room in the first place.

A few of our policies have changed, so I am also having to learn and apply those on the spot; but even doing that, I'm finding that getting back into the groove is just like getting back on a bike. Sure, it takes a little time to get my balance and bearings, but after a little bit of practice, I'm cruising right along unassisted.

That assistance in coming back has definitely made a big difference too. I can always depend on our amazing doctors, technicians and fellow receptionists to help me along the way, should I need it. It is an amazing feeling to not only really enjoy what you do, but to enjoy it AND be surrounded by other people who enjoy it as well. I really love all of the people that I work with, and am eternally grateful for their patience, guidance and help that they have given me, even when they were busy. It's great being part of any team, but to be a part of a team that has the same passion that you do is a truly wonderful experience. And although a lot of the lessons from today have served as "reminders", this is one lesson that I had not forgotten. The support that everyone has given me has been strong all along; tonight is nothing new. And even before my latest difficulties, I was aware of how amazing everyone is here. This had been our veterinary hospital for several years before I started working here last year. I had direct experience with every ones loving care before I got to actually work directly with them. It was a dream come true to get the job here; I knew I was going to be part of something that would impact the lives of people and their pets. Through the good times, and the bad.

And that brings me to the biggest lesson that I have had to relearn since I started my shift tonight. Beyond relearning my job and its responsibilities and beyond becoming more aware of my limitations and my can/cannot do's, I've had to relearn the hard lessons of being a pet owner. The hardest lesson being the one we all must someday regrettably face: the lesson that our furry children have life spans that are greatly shorter than ours. And that some day, a day that will come too soon for us all, we will have to say goodbye.

I can't say that this lesson had been one that I truly "forgot". Just a few days ago I read a post about this very difficult subject at one of the blogs we follow, "Whippet Snippets". And I know all of us Sheltie-bloggers are aware of the scare that Gio and his mom (and brother Romeo) faced just last week. We never know when our beloved friends time will come; we just know that it will come far too soon. And we know that there is always that possibility for the "emergency". Even if our pet is young and healthy, there may be a day that something tragic suddenly occurs; maybe, like in my own case, it will not be life ending, but life altering. No one knows when they will come up, or what the outcome will ultimately be: that's why their called emergencies! But although no one is ever prepared for one, just know that caring people in terms of veterinarians, technicians, and receptionists will be there; maybe not being medically able to save your friend, but hopefully making the process of saying goodbye even the slightest bit less painful. No one can ever take that kind of anguish away, but maybe someone will be able to lessen it a little bit.

I am so grateful for my job...not only because having a job in this tough economy is a blessing in itself, but I am REALLY grateful to have MY JOB. I get to go to work somewhere that is a state-of-the-art facility with a great reputation (which I can personally attest to!), work with incredibly caring and compassionate people who truly care about the pets, their owners and coworkers, and do a job that touches peoples lives every day. And all of those qualities combined not only make going to work a privilege, but a pleasure. Even though some days are tough, especially those days spent in the emergency room, those tough days are the days that teach you the most important lessons of all: our time here is short, and our time spent with the furry loves-of-our-lives is even shorter. Make sure you make the most out of every moment with them. You never know which moment may be the last you will share. Don't live your days in darkness and fear, but in light and in love.

I'm glad to be back to a more "normal" shift at work, and glad to be learning (and relearning) some important lessons while I'm here, but I am going to be even more happy and grateful when I can go home and hug my dogs. Snuggling with them, stroking their pointy Sheltie-heads and entwining my fingers in their soft fur is going to be a wonderful way to end today; and a reminder to pray that I get to experience the same precious gifts tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Back to work, but still healing...

Hi everyone! Sorry it has been so long since the Shelties and I have updated; I was able to go back to work 2 weeks ago and it's taking a little time to get used to. I was supposed to go back part time (dr.s orders) but as business has been a bit slower and our hours are at full-time minimum (35-36 per week) so I figured that I would give full time a go. Looking back now, after two weeks have gone by, Im not sure that was the smartest decision. Ive been EXHAUSTED! Although I cannot be sure that it has been STRICTLY work that has made me so tired; Im still having some issues with bleeding (just part of the territory when you're on coumadin and Plavix) and I haven exactly been resting on my time off. The first week back wasnt so bad, but last week was the killer. I had been put on a 4 night schedule, and then Friday day. It was 5 straight shifts with all but one night. It was hard to get used to, and definitely took it's toll. But even being that tired from working, it was hard to say "no" to going outside when it feels like the never-ending winter is finally drawing to a close.

It's not like I feel obligated to be outside, but it feels like a tremendous waste if Im not. I have learned so much from this whole experience about not letting life's precious moments slip by; knowing that nothing in life is garunteed, including tomorrow. And I know that applies to not only my own life, but to the other lives I cherish so much. Having to leave my girls at home all day has made going back to work that much harder. I know that they are either curled up on the couch or on their memory-foam beds sleeping, and they really arent that concerneed at all about where I am or what Im doing, but I am the complete opposite. I think I have developed separation-anxiety! Sure, work is busy and I have to focus on the task at hand but during the down times it's hard to prevent my mind from thinking about them and fantasizing about the next adventure that we will have: walking in the woods or through open fields, running on the beach or kayaking.

Now, I know that my girls need exercise: theyre herding dogs bred to be outside moving their flocks around day in and day out. I also know what a well exercised dog looks like: tounge hanging out, look of glee on their face, and knowing that they are wondering when they'll be able to take a nap! And I know that exercising them is as easy as sitting on my back deck throwing the frisbee through the yard. Sure they love to do that, and it is a tool that I can use on days like today where we may not be able to do anything else, but...what fun is it? I know that we both like being outside hiking or taking a long walk much more. So thats what we've been doing. Hitting the beach last weekend, walking in Newburyport and at Woodsom Farm on Friday and then hiking some cross-country trails and walking at a park and playing Chuck-It on Saturday. But as juch fun as it all was, an as much as we all enjoyed every second of it, I think that the plan may have back fired.

In my attempt to enjoy life more and not letting any moment go to waste, Im afraid I wore all of us out. Im afraid I forgot that as much as we like being out there, enjoying the slightly warmer weather, the stronger sun and the fresher air, it is important for us to continue to take baby-steps. Im still not 100% and still have a long road of recovery ahead. If I continue to take steps at leaps and bounds rather than at a slower and more comfortable pace, then Im going to be on this road for a longer period of time. Im going to find myself getting more tired and more frustrated. Im going to look back and wish that I could do it all again, wish that I would have taken my time. And of course this also goes for the girls. They too have been cooped up all winter with out much exercise. Their little muscles and joints will also need some time to warm up, stretch out and adjust to a more demanding work out. Although they also love to be outside and will do anything or go anywhere that I ask, I have to keep their health and well being in mind. Just because we all want to, and our spirit is willing, doesnt mean that we can or that our bodies are yet ready.

So we, well I, made some mistakes this past weekend. We did too much, too quickly. Although yes, I did rest (I was so tired, I couldnt help but not to) I also pushed us harder than we should have been. We walked and hiked at about 4 different locations and played Chuck-It to top it off. Needless to say, now that the new work week has begun, I still feel tired. And I KNOW the girls do, because they are both sleeping right now! Heidi is stretched out against the side of the couch and Shelby is curled up in Heidi's crate. They are probably going to be thanking their lucky stars that I'll be gone today! They'll at least finally get to rest!

So as you can see, Im still continuing to learn. This experience is still teaching me lots. Im still going to be hard pressed to stop myself staring out the window day dreaming while I watch the beautifully setting sun, and Im still going to be itching to get out and enjoy the weather that I know will just get more and more pleasant, but Im also going to really try and remember to take it easy; to take it slow. Although I dont want to waste any of the precious time that I have, I also dont want to rush through it so fast that Im not enjoying or remembering it. I want to make sure that I notice the sound of the wind gusting through the pine boughs, making them creak and whine while they are pushed and pulled. I want to make sure I appreciate the smallness that I feel as I watch the waves crash against the rocky shore with the sun sinking slowly into the vastness of the sea beyond. I want to forever imprint the earthy, citrusy smell of nature (and their Quantum natural tick repellant!) that my dogs keep in their fur after one of our favorite walks. I love how that smell fills me up like drink as I wait for sleep to carry me away to my dreams.

So this is the goal for the days off that are coming up next (this Friday and Saturday). Sure we'll be out and about if the weather is nice and enjoying a bit of it, but I'll also take some time to read some of the books that are still lingering around from my work absence, catch up on everyones WONDERFUL doggy blogs, and maybe even watch some movies (yes, Lassie is included!) My girls will get to play more indoor games, and get to munch on a few more treats. You know, the stuff that Sheltie dreams are made of. I dont doubt that we will hit some "doggy stores" and do a few "field trips" as well, but I really am going to try and remain concious of the fact that we are still supposed to be RESTING. Im going to try to keep in mind that although the days seem beautiful right now, they are only going to keep getting better; if I wear myself out at this stage of the game, Im going to be REALLY upset at not having any energy once the seventy degree days hit. And of course my girls will be pretty upset too!!

Luckily the weather for this weekend is forecast to be cloudy and a bit rainy this weekend, so that will help keep me indoors and in the slow lane. The Shelties dont really like being out in the drizzle either (yes, they WERE bred to live on the Shetland Islands, home of some of the worlds wors weather!) so Im sure they too will be content just snuggling and hanging out. Although I will be thee first one to say that I have a long road ahead, and will be the last to say that this journey is over, I am so lucky that I have such wonderful Heart-Dogs to help me through this all. I know I still have much to learn, and I know that they still have much to teach. Lucky for me their love, patience and intuitiveness is never ending and unconditional. I will be forever grateful to my furry Sheltie-shaped Angels.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Part 2: My Mom's many gifts

So in my last post, I started talking about the amazing freedom I felt being out on the open water in a kayak. This brings me to the "craziness" I also mentioned. My mom actually BOUGHT me a kayak for Christmas this year. I was kind of sad and disappointed at first. I was in the beginning of my medical ordeal and felt weak and unhealthy. I felt like I had had my independence and possibly my life as I knew it stolen away; how dare she buy me something that I would never ever be able to use! But my mom knows me better than I think I know myself. She knew that it would be something that I would start looking forward to as I started feeling better. And she was right. A week or two ago, I was feeling so good, and so excited for the future, I went out into the garage, unwrapped it ( it was wrapped up because it had been shipped) and got in. I just wanted to get the feel for it; see how well the girls and I fit. I called the girls over and lifted Heidi in. This is where we hit a little snag. Heidi would fit in, but just barely. This is a sit-inside kayak, and there just wasn't enough room for my legs and the dogs to fit inside comfortably. Heidi was finally able to sit, but there was no way Shelby was getting in. I felt a huge wave of disappointment. I had taken a trip with the girls down the Saco river in Maine lat yearand it was WONDERFUL. As much as I enjoyed boating when I was a kid, being able to bring the dogs along made the whole experience better. It was a lot more fun. And that trip had increased my want for a kayak of my own ten-fold. Just look at these pictures!
So now that they wouldn't fit...I didn't know what to do. I did sort of have a solution, was going to be hard to pull off. When I had been shopping for Christmas, I went into a sporting goods store to buy my mom some winter gear because she's the one who snow-blows (I dont know why she doesnt trust me with doing it...). That's when I saw it. The boat of my DREAMS. The "Peekaboo" kayak from "Ocean Kayak". It was a sit-on-top, so it was easier to get in and out of (especially on the water). It has a clear window cut-out directly in front of the seat; I didn't so much care about using the window to look through: it was a perfect place for Shelby to sit! She likes being close to me in the boat. I can't have her sit on my lap, because that would make paddling impossible. So there was a seat for Shelby, but what about Heidi? Well, upon further inspection it looked like Heidi was all set too! There is a "jump seat" (which means a smaller, flat seat) on the bow built right into the plastic mold of the boat. Heidi LOVES riding the bow of the boat. This would be perfect for her. This boat was everything that I wanted. I went home and looked online to see how much it ran price wise. Yeah...the retail price was about 850$ That's A LOT of money. And that's just for the boat! You still need a paddle and life-jacket! When I got the kayak from my mom for Christmas, I figured I would use it this year, and save my money to buy the other one next spring. Maybe by that time the price would have gone down.

So, that was my master plan until the other day. I would just have to paddle without the dogs for a while. But an issue still remained. How to actually move and travel with it? For that, I needed a rack for my car. My mom said that she would buy a rack for me for my birthday. So we went up to the Kittery Trading Post ( to go see the racks. The rack was complicated a bit because I needed something to not only hold the boat on my car, but to help me get it up there too. We deiced on the extra piece of equipment, the Yakima ShowBoat. ( When we got to the store and had priced the rack, I asked about a kayak dolly so that I move it easier (put in on wheels, and pull to the water!) The sales associate asked me what type of Kayak I was looking for. I told her the "peekaboo". She said "we have those here in our outside boat yard, you know". I told her that I would go look at them after we were finished there, but asked if she could tell me the price before we went down. She said that usually they ran 850$, but that they were on sale. ON SALE?? For how much?!?! She said:


Are you KIDDING?!? That is two-hundred and fifty dollars off!!! I turned to my mom (who had an expression on her face that was a clear mixture of exasperation and amusement) and told her that I could NOT leave without buying this boat. I would never, EVER find this kayak this cheap. I could put half on one credit card, and the other half on another card. I was rambling this off as an incoherent babble. My mom, always the level head, said we should go and LOOK at it first, before I started whipping out my plastic. So we went outside (and then down stairs) to the outdoor boat yard. There was my baby: it was bright yellow. Yeah...I wasn't prepared for the "yellowness" of it, but at 599$ I would have loved it if it was puke green! It was on the bottom shelf so I was able to pull it out and and then see it up close. The one I had originally seen had been hanging from the ceiling of the store; I wasn't able to really get in it or handle it. I wasn't able to see or feel what 61 lbs. of kayak really felt like.

It felt heavy! Now that I could touch it, I started to pick it up and lift it over my head (as if I was putting it on my car). It was really heavy! I put it back on the ground, and got in it. It was dirty and had leaves and snow in it, but that's because it had sat around for so long. Apparently they (there were two) were on sale because they had been sitting around for months. We were told that when these two sold, they would not be replacing them. So I got in and sat down. It was perfect. Like it had been built just for me and the dogs. It was like they measured my little Shelby, and built the "window seat" just for her. And the bow was plenty big for Heidi. It had sturdy handles built in along the sides, bow and stern. Yes. I had to buy it.

My mom then brought up the subject of how to get it home. Hmmm. We had just gone to LOOK at roof racks, but now we were apparently going to buy one as well. The basic rack that my mom had planned on buying for my birthday had ballooned into the FULL kayak holding/loading rack. The very VERY expensive full kayak holding/loading rack. She said that she would put it all on her credit card and then I would pay her back so she could pay it off. She then insisted that I get a life jacket ("You are NOT buying or getting in that kayak without one!!") and then the paddle AND the dolly. I told her that all of the extras could wait; I wouldn't be able to get out on the water until at least May. There was no rush. But she said we might as well get it all now. I agreed because at least the "damage" would be done and I would know how much I was to pay back.

So we loaded everything up at the register. There was a lot of discounts offered by the KTP that helped a little. They kayak, of course had it's own huge price break. But when you buy a boat here, you get every accessory 10% off. And there were regular sales going on on some of the items as well. So although the bill shocked us both, it could have been worse (everything is relative). I will start paying an extra 100$ a month in addition to what I pay for room and board until it is payed off. Hopefully once my own credit cards are payed off, I can pay more than the measly 100 bucks.

So we left with WAY more than we planned know, especially since we only planned on looking! We had my moms car, so we brought all the pieces of the rack home and will drive them back up in my car on Sunday, when it is scheduled to be installed. The kayak is still there, as we had no way to bring it home on Tuesday. It will come home with us, on my newly installed rack on Sunday too.

I still cannot believe that my mom did not only buy me one kayak, but in fact, two. The other one may be bought by a friend of hers who has also always wanted one, and this will put a small dent in the exorbant amount of money on my moms card. Or my mom may keep it so that maybe we can kayak together. I'm not sure yet what might happen to my first "best gift ever". I just hope that my mom knows how important that it is to me, even if it didn't work out exactly the way that we both wanted it to.

The fact that she bought me something that important is really...amazing. Sure, she bought me something big and expensive. But that's not why it is important or why I think it is the best gift ever. It is the meaning behind it, and the sacrifice she made to get it for me. I felt terrible knowing that I had disappointed her by not being that excited about the first kayak when she first gave it to me. I know how hard she worked to buy it, and how much time and thought she had put into selecting it out of the hundreds of kayaks out there. But I just couldn't see past my own sadness at finally having something that I wanted so badly for so long, and knowing that I might not ever be healthy enough to use it.

But my mom was different. She knew better. Yes, she was disappointed at not being able to see the pure joy and excitement on my face when I had seen it for the first time. She must have been sad that instead of seeing tears of joy she had to see tears of pain. That's obviously not what she intended or expected. But she had hope for the future. She hoped, like only a mom can, that I would get better and I would be able to get out there and enjoy something that I had wanted so badly. I'm sure that she worried that she might be wrong and I might be right and I would not get well enough to safely be out on the water, but nevertheless she had hope. And yes, it turned out that she was the one who was right (as usual). It of course took a lot of time and a lot of healing, but I did get better. And I'm continuing to get better every day.

But I have not only improved because of medical intervention. I got better because of the amazing amount of love from my mom (and dogs) on a daily basis. The patience that she has had with me while I went through all of this has truly made a difference. She let slide when I lashed out in anger because she knew that at the root of that anger was fear and sadness. She never gave up on me, even when my attitude would have driven anyone else from the house. She could always be counted on for words of encouragement (even if I was not always up to listening) and always kept a brave and positive attitude for my sake (although I know what was happening was affecting her as much as it was affecting me.) The fact that she was able to do all of this emotional stuff for me ON TOP of doing everything else is just amazing. She was able to both work and make time to take me to doctors appointments, to parks and stores so that I could walk and build/test my strength, and keep food in the house. She had time to do my taxes (thank GOD...the money from the return has been paying the bills that have already started coming!) AND allowed me to pay my other bills first and then pay her with anything that remained (this was an issue that she NEVER pushed, but I felt like I had to do something for her in return for all that she had done for me...)

She did all that for me when I was sick, and now has done something just as important for me because I am better. The kayak means so much to me already...even though I haven't even been able to use it yet! It has given me something to be really excited about. I know what this kayak is going to mean to me when I am able to use it. Its going to give me freedom; its going to let me let go of all the things that have troubled me for so long. When you're out on the water, you cant help but be in that moment. You stop worrying about work, about doctors appointments, and about the little trivial things in life. You appreciate what is going on in the present. You notice more colors in the sunset and the gentle sound of the paddle and boat slicing through the water. But there is one more thing that I'm going to be aware of while I'm out there: I'm going to ALWAYS remember that it is because of my mom that I get to enjoy all of those things I mentioned. It is because of her and her only. Her kindness, generosity, selfless-ness and belief that things would get better allowed me to enjoy something that my heart has dreamed about for years.

She has always give me so much; she has made huge sacrifices and given me things at her own expense to try and make my life better and easier. Just allowing me to continue to live in her home has been such a huge gift. But with all of her gifts comes responsibility. Although she has given without the expectation of getting anything in return, everything that she has done for me has come with a lesson. Although I live here, I am responsible for room and board, food shopping, cleaning (although she does the bathroom), taking care of the dogs (which isn't a job when you love it!) and doing my own laundry (and some of hers if it is in line). Yes, I can "defer" a little on my payment to her, but I do have to get all of my other bills taken care of and do have to pay her back eventually (again, not that SHE pushes for this, but I try and make sure it's done ASAP). And now I have a kayak. It is up to ME to take care of it, be safe on the water, and get strong enough to load/unload it and use it. It is also up to me to pay back EVERY CENT of the expense. As goD as my witness, I WILL pay it all back. Even if I put off my trip to Florida this year, I WILL pay it all back. I am willing to make sacrifices too. A lesson that of course, was taught by my mom.

I am so thankful to her for everything she has done. And not just through this illness, but through out my whole life. I am strong enough to get through it all because of the strength that she gives me. And I am able to try new things and be who I truly am because of her love, her belief in me, and her support. She's always there to offer them; No matter WHAT crazy idea I come up with!

When I first walked into my "Canine and Feline Behavior" class in college, the first thing the instructor (the woman who changed my direction and focus) said was "I have the BEST dogs in the WHOLE WORLD". Now of course the whole class immediately went into an uproar. We all were convinced that WE had the best dogs on the planet. But the instructor only said it because of the point it raised: everything is relative. We ALL can be absolutely sure that we have the best dog in the world, but no one loves your dog as much as you do. And when it comes to the people in your life, the lesson is the same. I know that everyone out there believes that they have the best mom. But I know that to argue would be pointless. My mom is the best mom to ME. I just wanted to show everyone how special she is and how important she is to me. And of course how much I love her. I do not need a kayak. I dont even need to live in a house. I could be living in a cardboard box with nothing but the clothes on my back, and my dogs as companions, but I would never stop being grateful to, or loving my mom. She's done so much more than just bring me into this world: she's made sure I haven't left yet.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Getting back to good

So the verdict is in. After many MANY weeks of waiting, I can FINALLY go back to work! I called the doctor'f office on Monday (like I was supposed to) to get the results of my monitor. They weren't in (which I also expected...). So I called back Tuesday afternoon. They were in! The doctor said that I had a "significant" number of extra beats (yeah, no kidding...I felt them pounding away after all!) I had a lot of premature atrial contractions, but no prolonged tachycardia. I did not have any ventricular tachycardia...which is good, because that can be deadly. (Especially when you only have one ventricle!) As of right now, the only thing he said to do was just slightly up my morning dose of medication. I can't up or change it too much, because my blood pressure is so low. (It usually runs less than 100). I'm going to see him in a few weeks, and hopefully by then he will have some other options for me. In the mean time, I can go back to work (yay!!) He really wasn't thrilled about me driving, but as it is only 15 minutes away, I know the drive well and promised to drive safely, he said I could drive there. I still don't think I'm supposed to drive any where else for a while. I can probably drive to Lowell for the River Walk, but I'm sure I'm not supposed to go much further than that.
This, right now, isn't a problem. The weather is still quite cold (although we're expecting 50's+ this weekend!) and I don't want to be out in the woods somewhere with the dogs and then run into trouble. So for right now, we'll stick with the river walk. As every day goes by, I can do a little bit more and get a little bit stronger. I know that going back to work will wear me out, but hopefully it will make me stronger in the long run as well.
So, what does going back to work mean for us all? It means that I can get back into life's groove; get back on a regular schedule and back out into the real world. But going back to work has repercussions for life outside of work too. I'll no longer be home with my dogs ALL DAY. Their routines are going to change quite a bit too. But I don't want them to change too drastically. I have really enjoyed the daily things that we've been able to do together (while being trapped in the house) and don't want to change that just because I'll be gone from the house for 35 hours a week now. I'm going to try and make sure that we still get to do all of those special things; before or after work. I might not be able to do them all everyday, but...I'd still like to try. They're just little things, but they've definitely brought both me and the girls closer. They are things that we both enjoy. And not only am I going to be disappointing them by now leaving them every day for hours at a time, but try to take those things away too? I owe it to them to try and make sure that those little things still happen. They have done so much for me over the past few weeks; they deserve to still have special time with me when I get home from and before I go to work.
So I'm going to not only try and get the little things in (like brushing them every day, playing ball in the hallway until we can get out in the yard, etc.) but we're going to get some bigger special things in as well. When I was working before, my days off were Friday and Saturday. I'm hoping with every fiber of my being that these days don't change. It was nice because I would have one whole day to get everything necessary done (cleaning, food shopping, laundry etc.) and then the second day would be "doggy day". This was a special day where we did something or went somewhere we couldn't on the other days of the week. We would spend hours at the beach, drive to the mountains for a day of hiking and swimming, or go to a dog show. It was a really nice routine that we had; something really fun and special for all of us. I'm excited that I'll be able to do that stuff again. Spending so much time with the girls has been a really good and life changing experience. I've been shown how important we are to each other; how important they are to my health, healing, and sanity! I want to make sure that they are NEVER taken for granted and that they always feel special.
I know that going back to work is going to take some getting used to. For not only my body, but my mind too. I know that I will come back really tired for the first few weeks, and that I may not be able to anything too grand too quickly. But I'm OK with this; I think I would be having a harder time if it were warmer and I was able to drive further. Knowing that it was the first 60+ degree day and I could drive the 45 minutes to the beach would be torture for me if I didn't feel up to making and enjoying the trip because I was too fatigued. So hopefully this strengthening process with take me right up until the time when the warm weather does arrive and when I can travel extra distance it takes to bring us to our favorite places.

But something that is making the wait a little less easy to take, is something that happened the other day. My mom did something...a little crazy. And she did it for me.

I have wanted a kayak since I was probably 10 or 11 years old. I used to spend summers at my grandfathers camper in a really nice park on a lake in New Hampshire. I used to spend the long lazy days out on the water, both swimming and kayaking. It was absolute BLISS; heaven to a young girl who wanted to just escape the pressures of being a pre-teen and worrying about things that were important back then: boys, music and clothes. I just got to be alone with my own thoughts and really focus on what I wanted for MY future, without the input of my somewhat biased friends. Even back then, all I wanted to do was learn and think about dogs. I closed this love off for a while because it was an uncool subject to be interested in. Only when I was able to get into college did I really become comfortable with who I really was and what the passion was that was driving me. Those summers in New Hampshire let me be me for just a little while; it was liberating not having to pretend I was someone that I really wasn't. Trying to hide who you are and be something that you are not is exhausting. Although I still struggle with the insecurity of being a "loner" and being "different" because I spend my free time at agility class instead of bars, watch "It's me or the dog" instead of "The Bachelor", and spend more time and effort on my dogs diet than my own, I do feel more comfortable with who I really am. And that's been helped along by truly great friends (who actually ask me how my girls are...they acknowledge that they are MY kids!) and of course, my mom.

I didn't want this post to be too long, so In my next one I'll let you know just how much my mom knows me; what she has done for me and what she has given me...even if she doesn't know it.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Change of seasons, change of heart

The side yard: Friday

The same side yard: yesterday

The side yard one more time: today

I think Mother Nature must have a wicked sense of humor. Apparently she thinks its funny to tease people with beautiful warm spring temperatures one day, and then smack us with icy cold winter ones the next. Keep in mind that while you are out frolicking (or tossing around a frisbee) on those warm days, Mother Nature is plotting against you. She is bringing together several weather systems that, when joined, make up a huge mass of mess. And that mess is heading right for you. What, you may be asking, is the problem here? I mean, April (or in this case, March) showers bring May flowers right? Well that would be case if the huge storm steaming up the east coast right was bringing RAIN SHOWERS. But, alas. The storm headed for us here in New England is bringing snow. LOTS AND LOTS OF SNOW. It is forecast that we are supposed to be getting 10-15 INCHES! And Methuen, where Im located, is going to be right in the middle.

This isnt a storm that blankets ski country in Northern Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont. This also isnt strictly a coastal storm that slams into the Cape and Islands. No, this storm is supposed to wallop us here in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. The "strike zone" runs from Rhode Island up through central Mass and Boston, to the North Shore, Merrimack Valley, and Southern New Hampshire. The Shelties and I live in that snow-belt: North of Boston; the boundary between the Merrimack Valley and North shore; on the border New Hampshire.

Yeah. Just our luck I guess. I mean, Im not saying that I wish this bohemouth of a storm on anyone else. Lord knows we've all had enough of the winter weather. But this is getting just a bit ridiculous. I mean, I understand that it is only March 1st and we've technically got a few more weeks of winter to go. (The groundhog did see his shadow this year, right??) But I think every one is pretty sick of the winter. Everyone is sick of getting up and shoveling, spreading ice melt, and driving behind plows on the highway. Everyone is sick of the cold temperatures that bite at any skin left exposed between layers and layers of clothes. The dogs are sick of wading through chest height cold white soup, getting ice and snow balls tangled in their hair, and having to wear booties. They dont like being this inactive. And maybe, for me anyways, this is where the root of the problem lies.

This winter has been tough. For obvious reasons. Im usually pretty active in the winter, which in turn, means the girls are pretty active too. We usually enjoy our winter walks on packed paths through the woods and fields. We never go out when it is really bitterly cold, but on the milder days, we can usually always be found out of doors enjoying our strolls. But this year we've been essentially house (and hospital) bound. The few times that we have been able to get out and about have just been within the past few weeks. Other than that, we've pretty much been winter shut ins.

I think that this is really why I am feeling so sick of winter. I cant ever remember being "fed up" with a season before. I mean, I LOVE living in New England. The change of seasons here are unlike any where else. Usually one season dominates another. Sure, people in Alaska may see spring, summer and fall, but they are usually all rolled into one brief interlude between winters. And in places like Florida, theres only one season with slight temperatire fluctuations that give you variations of that season; that season being summer. In New England though, we see every single change of season with really bright and predictable differences. In winter we get cold temperatures and snow. Sure, some years it is colder and snowier than others, but every winter is fairly the same. Temps that range from the balmy 40's to the bone chilling minus teens. Then comes spring. Spring brings the milder temperatures and warmer breezes. The beginning of spring brings the surplus of water from winters thaw and April's showers. The end of spring brings the really nice warmth that allows you to spend all day outside, and the renewal of life. The trees become full again and the flowers bloom so fast and so bright, that the previous world of gloom and gray is suddenly transformed into a bright world of color. Then spring changes almost imperceptiably into summer. The start of summer brings warmer weather, but this warmer air is still laden with the perfumed scent of springs still blooming flowers. As the temperatures continue to rise, the real fun begins. Swimming in any kind of water you can find: pools in back yard, lakes and streams in the mountains, and in the ocean at the beach. All of the other really fun outdoor activities can restart too: biking, kayaking, and hiking. True, just like with winter, the exteme temperatures of summer can grow tiring as well. By then end of summer you are bored with and sick of the really blistering hot dog days of August, but just as you are growing weary of it, summer changes to fall. Fall truly is a season that may not be able to be fully descibed here. I just may not be able to give the season the justice it deserves. The temperatures cool back down again, but dont immediately get cold; only more comfortable. You can shut of the air-conditioners and throw your windows open wide. The walks can grow longer and more frequent now that your not having to go at odd hours like in the early morning or late evening to avoid the heat. Although the leaves on the trees and shrubs are nearing the end of their life's cycle, they really come alive. The cooler temperatures allow the foliage to explode with color: the rich red, orange and yellow hues paint everything that the eye can see. The whole landscape is transformed. People from all over the world come to see YOUR beautiful back yard. It really is something truly amazing to behold. This is the season when you are most grateful to live here in New England. But before you can get really used to and comfortable with the season, it changes once again. The end of fall sees the cool temperatures plummit into COLD temperatures. The beautiful colored leaves continue to wither and then fall away. The landscape once again becomes barren; but it still retains a certain beauty about it. The sunsets become earlier, and the skies become grayer: a sign of the snow and winter to come.

Although every season has it's own beauty and magic to it, once the novelty of the season has worn off, some of its charm starts to wear away too. And of course other things happening in life can affect your feelings about a season as well. This season has been hard not only on me, but on a lot of people out there. On his Bedlam Farm blog, author Jon Katz has been writing on this very subject for almost the whole of this winter. The tough economic times, changing world around us and our own personal situations have become a cause for great concern for us all. We find ourselves worrying more; living in fear of what is to come. When will the other shoe drop? What is to become of us all? I think that the bleakness of winter and the inability to occupy our time with more positive activities has lead us down a path of more anxiety about turbulance and turmoil that has surrounded us. But there is hope.

Spring will find us. It will come to us all. It is Natures way of reminding us that there are still things to look forward to. If we can just get through the gray murkiness of where we are now, we will find ourselves in a much better, warmer and more colorful place. And again, this is both in terms of the seasons and in our lives. If we put everything into perspective, we will stop worrying so much about the future, but be able to look at it with a more positive eye. We will be able to get back to basics, and really find out what is most important to each of us. If we can just get through this next winter storm, and look at the beauty of the snow as it falls and decorates our landscape for perhaps the last time this year, we will be able to appreciate it (instead of laothe it). And when the warmth and hope of spring finally does come, we will be able to appreciate that more too.

So Im going to try and keep my spiritis up through these last few weeks of winter. Hopefully the start of spring will also see the restart of my life. I'll hopefully be able to get back to work and ease a little bit of my economic worry. And just as the warmer weather arrives, I'll also hopefully be able to really get out and enjoy that too. But in the mean time, Im going to enjoy the flakes as they fall today, and really marvel in the beauty that will hopefully be the last of winter.
**For any one who has missed seeing the Shelties in this post, fear not! Here are some pictures of the girls on our recent walks; the one taken with the grass was on Friday (temps in the 50's!!) and the snowy ones were taken last night before the snow started to really fall and pile up (when I wrote this blog). The girls ask if you could kindly refrain from laughing at them in their coats and booties. They wear them to protect from the snow and ice. (And sand and salt used to treat the public path; which is why they're wearing them in the picture from Friday too!) I also apologize for the bright lights in the pictures (those would be the reflective strips on their booties, caught in the flash!) and the "Scarey eyes" on the girls (also due to the stupid flash). And as of right now, we probably have about 10 inches or so...I havent been brave enough to actually go out and measure!

Heidi sporting the latest Sheltie winter-wear

A picture of Shelby doing what Shelties do on lazy snow-days. "Im sorry, did you just ask me if I wanted to go out? In THAT??"