We did something recently I said I’d never do. We got a puppy. Actually, we bought a puppy, so that makes two things I said I’d never do, and if you know me in real life, you’re probably sick to death of hearing about said puppy, and also kind of wondering what the hell got into us.
If you don’t know, I’m a big fan of ready-made dogs, the house-trained and temperament-tested and ready-to-fit-into-our-family kind. Adult dogs. Turnkey dogs. The last time I had a puppy, I was six. I distinctly remember picking her out at a pet store at the Karcher Mall. I remember her long ears and stubby legs but I don’t remember any housetraining issues or sharp puppy teeth or the endless chewing, although I’m sure those were part of the picture.
Introducing Norman: now nine weeks and twelve pounds of pure, angsty want all of the time. Unless he’s unconscious, Norman doesn’t do less than 100 percent of anything. Norman is also hypoallergenic and of a breed that is supposed to be pretty cuddly, which checks off a couple of boxes for us and is the story of how he ended up here. Colin picked out the name before we’d even brought him home. Otherwise, I think by now we’d want to call him something that better fit his nature.
Last week there was a grey-haired guy at the climbing gym.
Most of the time, there aren’t a ton of people at there at all, which is how we like it. Thing is, I happen to be the self-appointed official climbing gym over-thirty spokesperson, thank you very much. It’s an official position I just made up and also one for which I’m looking for sponsors, in case you’re wondering.
The climbing thing feels good. Like accomplishing something. Anything. Even if all that means is new callouses and ruining my manicure on purpose. I know we’re supposed to be leaning into this pandemic with all kinds of commitment to wellness and self-care and whatever else, but this has been a weird year for maintaining any kind of fitness. Besides this, the only other thing I’ve accomplished in 2020 is gaining about fifteen pounds without trying.
I started out with good intentions, diligently plotting a twelve-month half marathon calendar in January. Now, at regular intervals I get Google reminders for events that would have happened if 2020 hadn’t imploded. Goody.
As it is, I can’t muster the enthusiasm to run more than two miles at a stretch these days anyway, and I haven’t replaced road running with anything else. I haven’t been to my regular gym since March, of course, which is about the time being indoors with other people lost appeal.
But the climbing gym has a people-counter on their website, which is handy. We’ve learned the times it’s likely to be just us there, along with the guy at the counter, and maybe one other dude who looks like the Hercules cartoon character from the eighties (I’m not exaggerating either, who knew you could recreate that haircut in real life?)
Ladies and gentlemen, an announcement: we’re getting an
emotional support dog.
I know. This is a big deal. We already have Penny the Wonder Dog. Why would we want another? I’ve been told she’ll be our last dog, and I’m pretty sure she thinks the same, or at least the only dog we’ll have while she’s around. So, like I said, a big deal.
Late last week, as we pulled up to an event center at the base of the Wasatch Mountains, I flashed back to the moment we arrived at a hospital more than seventeen years ago. I felt the same kind of excitement and fear now as I did back then, minus the Lamaze breathing.
“I have no idea what’s
about to happen.” I told Mike.
We’d been looking forward to seeing our son, but for most of the past six weeks, knowing he was safe and also not under our roof, what I’d been feeling mostly was relief. After a difficult year and excruciating last three months, we’d needed the respite.
I should start by letting you know I’m no sex expert. Sex isn’t even really what this is about, but I think a disclaimer is necessary if I’m going to post anything remotely related, considering how much traffic comes my way since I wrote that thing about pineapples––really just speculation on whether our neighbors were swingers (jury is still out on that)––which was picked up by a porn aggregator site that now regularly steers about a third of my blog traffic this way.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not one to complain about an
audience, ever. But I think whether you’re here for the pseudo-porn or the
more regular fare of random, inane stories, it might be good to switch up to higher-brow
entertainment once in a while, just sayin’…
Anyway, where was I? …Right. Boffing. Boinking. Bumping
Uglies. The Horizontal Greased-Weasel Tango. Or more specifically, straightforward
conversations with teenagers on the topic.
Five years ago, this
summer, one of our boys made an off-hand comment about homeless people being “scary,”
and I realized our privileged children needed an opportunity to rub shoulders with
some of the more vulnerable members of our community. We started serving dinner
at your shelter on a monthly basis.
As volunteers, we
have served families with young children, older couples, adolescents the same age as
our own boys, and young men and women dressed in work coveralls or collared
shirts. We’ve also served the folks we expected to see when we began, people who
hold signs on street corners, and the gentleman in the stocking hat we pass
each Sunday as he enjoys a cup of coffee in our church lobby.
We’re not demonstrably
religious people, but we tend to find volunteer activities that conform to our values,
which happen to align with the teachings of Christ. He’s the one, you’ll remember,
who directed us to “love one another.” He also said something about “that
which you’ve done to the least of these you’ve done to me.”
supposed to be an “onto” and a “thy” in there, but you get the point.
We’ve received far
more than we’ve given in this effort. I’m almost embarrassed at my satisfaction
in the hearty thank yous and well wishes and wide smiles we get as we pass trays
across the counter.
I was on a run one morning a little while ago and disturbed
a family of geese, two adults and about half a dozen goslings. They darted out
from their grassy spot on the canal bank and began crossing the road.
I passed and they settled again—right in the middle of the
road actually, a few of the babies plunking themselves down on the dappled
pavement. A car approached, slowly, and I kept running, figuring the geese would
get out of the way eventually.
Except they didn’t. I turned to see two more goslings had settled
onto the asphalt, the parents in no hurry to move them along. The woman in the stopped
car shrugged at me.
I returned and tried shooing the geese off to the side. The
mama closest to me hissed, so I squirted her with my bottle, and then aimed the
water at her brood, who finally decided it was time to stand and continue
crossing. Momma kept hissing as they all got to their feet and meandered off.
The woman in the car rolled forward and thanked me as she passed.
Stupid goose mom,
I thought. So focused on me, she can’t
see her whole family’s about to be squashed.
Then I realized how appropriate that metaphor was for me, in
light of the ass-kicking parenting has given us these past few weeks.
Earlier this week, I was walking the dog and I came across the house of my new favorite neighbor.
I don’t know if he does this every year for Halloween, just started this year, or maybe someone new moved in and is distinguishing him or herself as the new neighborhood Halloween master. I’d never even noticed the house before now. Up until recently, the house next to it, the one closer to the main thoroughfare, was much more noticeable, mostly for being a complete wreck.
I don’t ever remember being that little girl who envisions her wedding. I don’t remember setting any particular expectations of parenthood, or thinking about what my first house might look like.
There is one little daydream I have long entertained, though, without really ever thinking about it: that of our kids going to the same university their dad and I were attending when we started dating.
Since the boys were little, we’ve been taking the six-hour drive North to Moscow, Idaho, for a football game every fall as often as possible. There were years we couldn’t make the time, or waited too long to get a hotel room, but there was a while when we made it a regular habit.
We joked about indoctrinating our kids as future Vandals. We bought all the swag, we took tours through living groups, we showed them where we’d lived and hung out. They dug it. And who wouldn’t? The Palouse is ridiculously gorgeous in the fall when we would visit, and the 130 year-old campus is the picture of time-honored tradition, with cobblestone lanes weaving through stately brick buildings. I’m sure most of it doesn’t look much different from when my grandparents attended in the 1920s.
For someone who has such a crappy memory, I remember pretty vividly that time I was late in my third trimester with our first son, feeling ginormous and crabby. Summer was coming, friends were gathering for an outdoor concert in the lovely late spring weather and I, too tired to go out, bloated, with a bladder squished to the size of a peanut, wondered how forty weeks could seem like such a long time.
This was just the worst.
Then we were bringing home our baby, all 8 pounds and 21 inches of never-seemed-so-small and me huddled in the back of our car. I rode, holding his head steady in the impossibly large baby carrier, wondering what would happen if he just stopped breathing in the middle of the night, or failed to thrive, or to develop the muscle tone necessary to ever hold up his head, or the ability to reach out and grasp and learn. Or how terrible it would be if he came down with some horrible disease and we had to watch him suffer.
I took him to work with me, the first in our office to try out our new baby-friendly policy. I tried to breastfeed discretely in staff meetings at first, but after a while I didn’t care who saw my bare boob because I had carted in seven carloads of baby gear that morning like I did every morning and would lug it out that evening like I did every evening, with him in a carrier on my chest. I was perpetually exhausted and covered in spit up and not getting anything done and sometimes I wondered if my back would snap right in two.