I sit working at my kitchen counter, mulling over a pile of mail in front of me. Last weeks’ vacation is now a memory, and I’m struggling to fall in sync with everyday life. Outside, the clouds hang heavy and dark over the massive oak tree that sits in the open field across the street. They have threatened rain all day, but instead they brood overhead for a while longer.
Until a few days ago, I enjoyed watching the birds dart among the branches and listening to their songs float on the air. Today, I notice a silence. Their talk has been replaced by the dull roar of trucks dumping dirt in large, red mounds that mar the peaceful green of the clearing. The dirt is pushed around by a tractor, and the frequent dinging of the backup warning is only slightly muffled by the closed window.
The soil looks out of place like it belongs on a baseball field – rusty and heavy. Unexpected memories flood my thoughts, and I’m taken back in time to days when my sons were young and the after-school hours were consumed with baseball practices and uniforms were stained orange from heroic slides into second base or diving catches behind home plate.
For a moment, I am sad. An emptiness remains in my soul where those days of motherhood once resided. The sadness quickly passes, and a smile replaces it. The sound of boy chatter rises up in my ears, and the sweet, sweaty smell of them fills my nostrils in spite of their absence. The ghosts of a life that once was linger around me for a few brief moments, and then they dissipate into thin air.
The dinging of the tractor brings me back to the kitchen and my mail. Perhaps there will be more of those days if or when my grand kids come along. Until then, I’ll look forward to a visit with my oldest son this weekend and the adventure of a new photo expedition next month. Life is in constant motion, me with it, but oh the places a pile of red dirt can take you!
I’m not getting any younger . . . I hate to admit it, but I’ve learned that I have a need to begin employing some defensive dog-walking measures if I’m going to survive my dog responsibilities going forward.
We moved to temporary quarters in a townhouse late last year when our house sold a little more quickly than we’d planned. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but we quickly had second thoughts when our college-age son and his dog, Daisy, showed up for Thanksgiving. Oops! We no longer had a yard. So, you know what that means – taking care of business means walking the dog about four times a day. Rain or shine. Sweltering or freezing. Yep.
Yes, I know what you’re thinking. If she belongs to your son, why isn’t he walking her? My husband asks the same question all the time. All I can say is that when I look around for someone to whom I might delegate responsibility, I’m usually the last one in line – my son is out, working, or sleeping. I’m pretty sure my husband would let her potty in the house before he would take her out for a walk. Besides, walking her also gets me out of the house and moving – something I don’t do often enough these days. At the end of the day, maybe I’m just a sucker for a cute face.
Whatever the reason, it’s me and Daisy hitting the trails most often, and I’m no match for her youth, curiosity, and 75-pounds of power when a squirrel crosses our path or a tea-cup Yorkie attacks us in our own driveway. So, I’ve come up with a list of recommendations that I find helpful in the prevention of busting my sacroiliac or dislocating my shoulder when emergencies arise. In the interest of mankind, I thought it best to share them.
Prepare with the Proper Equipment & Supplies
Prior to departure, make an inventory of your supplies – harness or collar, leash, id tags (for when they run away from you), poop bags, etc. Wear proper shoes and prepare for inclement weather. If you don’t have enough hands, consider a jacket or pants with pockets or a fanny pack (don’t laugh) to hold your gear. Always carry your phone in the event you’re faced with calling for backup – assuming anyone in your household is within helping distance. If you must, call animal control. It also comes in handy if you ever have to take photos or video to prove whose dog started a fight.
Assessing Danger Upon Exiting the Home
Always make a quick assessment of the potential dangers when exiting the house. Any number of possible distractions, including but not limited to, lizards, rabbits, and birds, may be startled by your exit thereby causing quick movement that will send your dog into a hunting frenzy as your attention is on locking the door. An unsuspecting walker risks grave injury from sudden jerking of the leash. Oh, and it takes the dog two weeks to forget that one of those distractions was once there. Daisy leaps out in anticipation every time we open the door.
Hone Your Observation Skills on the Trail
Once on the path, remain alert at all times, scanning ahead for any potential danger – ducks, birds, frogs, lizards, rabbits, etc. – and remaining prepared to divert the dog in a new direction to avoid distraction and the possibility of sudden jerking and injury. This will include keeping an eye out for the folks that exercise and potty their dogs off leash. There is always someone that thinks the rules don’t apply to them.
Clean Up After Your Dog
Always walk with a supply of two or more bags for cleaning up your dog’s “business”. As sure as you don’t, they go three times, usually in someone’s front yard, usually with that someone peering through the window ready to pounce on you and report you to the neighborhood association for the infraction. Never mind that their dog’s “business” is still fermenting nearby in another neighbor’s front yard. Our HOA has recently designated pooping stations throughout the neighborhood. The thought of that made me giggle. I assume people without dogs came up with that idea. It’s like establishing doggy restrooms and expecting that owners are able to coerce their pet to poop on command exactly in that spot. I’m not saying it can’t be done, but I’m skeptical. My dog always goes in a stranger’s front yard. Just saying.
Know the Danger Zones
Repeated experience on the trail will educate you to areas of potential danger – habitats for rabbits, nesting ducks, yapping dogs, etc. Prepare ahead by securing the dog leash by wrapping any slack around the hand and looping through the opposite hand in the event that your brute strength is required to restrain your pet. I often imagine myself unconscious on the sidewalk for hours while Daisy sits protectively by my side after being the cause of taking my feet out from under me to begin with. I like to think I’m taking the extra measure of prevention – prepared for anything – and avoiding the outcomes of my imagination.
Biking with Your Dog
I’ve only done this twice, and it is my intention to stay to the path on my own two feet in the foreseeable future. I strongly recommend training your dog to run on the bike before you head too far from home – and maybe consider adding training wheels for stability. I have two scarred knees and one elbow from forgetting to let go of the leash when the dog crossed over in front of me or took off after wildlife. The effect is something like when you forget to let go of the rope when skiing on the lake. Nothing good comes out of it, and you wonder how you’re still in one piece when it’s all over. Daisy and I were victims of the Great Skunk Escapade while biking last year. I’ll save that story for another time.
Always Leash Your Dog
I’m guilty of trying to sneak Daisy out to an open area just across the alley from our garage for a quick potty. Going for a walk every time nature calls gets old. I’m not always in the mood to sweat or get rained on or freeze. Sometimes, I ‘m just not in the mood. Anyway, I pay for it almost every time I trust her to potty and come straight back inside. More than once, she’s bolted into the underbrush in pursuit of something I never see or hear. I fear the worst – an encounter with another skunk, contact with poison ivy, or having to explain to my son that she’s gone missing. All of it makes my stomach flip and churn with stress. On top of all that, she’s returned every time covered in these tiny burrs that result in anywhere from five minutes to an hour of grooming to free them from her coat. It just makes sense to save myself the heartache and put her on the leash. Last year, my bright idea to let her off leash led to the Great Swimming-in-the-Pond-for-Two-Hours Escapade. I’ll save that story for another day also . . .
Always Dress, Wear Shoes and Have Your Eyes Handy
You never know when you’ll be up in the wee hours of the morning for a potty call. I rarely escape unseen by one of my neighbors when this happens. It’s like they wait out for the entertainment of seeing what I’ll be sporting as an excuse for clothes in those silent hours of the day. I’m sure I’m quite a sight – hair all over the place, glasses (when I can find them), mismatched sandals, and my nightgown.
Walk in the Dark at Your Own Risk
If you choose to walk your dog at night or in the early morning hours, most of the precautions you might take in the light of day are wasted efforts. Short of donning a pair of night-vision goggles, you’re at the mercy of your quick reflexes when a surprise arises. Add to it the unlikely, but still possible, chance of encountering suburban wildcats and coyotes or running head on into the man-size webs of the spiders that drop from the trees after dark, and you’re just asking for trouble. I can tell you for sure that I’m going to do more damage to myself than the dog could ever do (and probably lose the dog) if the spider scenario presents.
Photo Credit: Simply Black & White Photography, Keller, Texas
Some days you just feel like you’ve pulled the arm on a coin slot machine and silver dollars are pouring all over your feet! That’s how Mother’s Day was for me yesterday, and I wasn’t even in town to spend it with my boys.
Instead, I’m away enjoying the generosity of my husband and anticipating a photography workshop several hours away from home. Since my youngest couldn’t be home from college in time for the big day, we had already decided to consolidate our Mother’s Day and Father’s Day celebrations in June, so I skipped out of town a couple of days early to visit a close friend that lives near my destination. Truthfully, I wasn’t expecting much to happen. Mother’s Day was on pause as far as I was concerned.
Maybe that’s why the flowers and text from my youngest son, phone call from my oldest son, and text from one of my shared sons lit up my sky like the 4th of July. (Isn’t that a line in a song?) It’s hard to express how blessed and overflowing your heart can feel at all the goodness in your life sometimes – just like those coins pouring from the slot machine. It just keeps flowing out in a stream that puddles at your feet and grows into mounds the longer it goes.
It’s the next day, and I still feel the glow of the gratitude to have such loving and giving young men call me mom. I’m grateful for their love and their appreciation for all I’ve given them over the years. In return, I am grateful to them for being one of the most significant sources of refinement that I have ever had. I doubt they will ever know the many gifts that they have given me that have molded me into a far better person than I ever was when I held them (or met them-I’ve been blessed with an extra helping of shared sons) for the first time.
For me, the true blessing in motherhood is in understanding that the experience will forever change me in ways that I never could have anticipated. I am a better human being thanks to the joys and challenges of being a mother.
I’m spending a lot of time these days looking inward and getting to know myself again. Like it or not, it is the fallout many women face when the kids go off to college, and “momming” is no longer a part of our daily job description. It happens regardless of whether we are stay-at-home or working moms. I have to chuckle at myself sometimes. Who in her right mind really misses doing all that laundry, volunteer work, sporting events, etc.? What we really miss is the connection with our kids, and we flop around like fish out of water trying to figure out how to do this next phase of our relationship.
Sometimes I feel sorry for my oldest son, Matt. Poor guy, he’s always been the guinea pig. I’m pretty sure I owe him an apology. I just hope he can forgive me and offers me special dispensation for doing the best I could with what I had during his raising years. Lacking the desired parent manual, I panicked when he left home for college all the way in Arizona. I suddenly feared that I hadn’t done enough to prepare him for “real” life. I remember crying the first day I dropped him off at middle school. The world have gotten a little bigger and a little meaner overnight, and I felt awful for having failed to let him know that he might be bullied or that his shoes would be stolen during gym one day. The day we turned our back to leave him in a city 1200 miles away, I crumbled feeling the weight of failure all over again. There were so many things we had never talked about. While it was likely that he would never be faced with most of them, I wanted to write a life manual with all of the things I’d ever learned or watch someone else learn so that he could reference it in a pinch! I wanted him to study it to be prepared for all of the what-ifs in life. Crazy mom!
In May, he wraps up his four years of college education, and I’m so proud of how well he has welcomed and accepted the responsibility of this transition to adulthood that this time offers. He’s learned a couple of tough lessons, and so have I. But as this spring rolls around, I am keenly aware that it is time for me to step fully back in order to let us both move forward into the next chapter of our life. I’ve finally begun to understand that I have no power to protect my sons in spite of my best efforts. I am acknowledging that we did a good job of raising them, and that the rest is in God’s hands.
I’m sure Matt will be miffed that Blake is the beneficiary of this new mom. Like everything else, Blake always gets the good stuff a little sooner in life than Matt did! I guess that’s the price us oldest children pay (I’m and oldest also). It’s tough to make this step, but I know that it is the only healthy option that allows us to grow a new relationship and propels me forward to be my new self. It’s the renewal and rebirth that spring brings…