Monday, May 14, 2012

Tails: Mother’s Day might be over but keep in mind…

Yesterday was Mother’s Day and as many children and husbands frantically searched for the right bouquet of flowers or a sparkly jewel to give mom in appreciation for all that she does that no one ever thinks about – other Mothers weren’t so fortunate.

Ever wonder where all those puppies in the window of a pet store come from?  For every puppy that is sold in a pet store there is a mother dog wasting away in a wire cage.  Each time a puppy is bought – a mother dog is forced to make more cute puppies.

Many organizations, including the Humane Society of the United States, have begun marketing awareness of puppy mills with Mothers Day.  It makes sense.

While the message to rescue, adopt, and save dogs from shelters is growing and people are listening – not enough word gets spread about the dogs sitting in puppy mills across the country who are chained to a lifetime of breeding.

I will be descript because I think the topic deserves some uncomfortable realizations.  I believe that people need to really visualize the life these poor dogs lead.

My most horrible story is that of a mother dog in Kathy Bauks care (I use that term loosely as she did anything BUT care for dogs) – a woman in Minnesota who ran one of the biggest mills in the US.  There was a video taken by an undercover investigator detailing the plight of a mother dog, I believe a Shih Tzu or other small “popular” breed whose leg was broke while giving birth because Kathy yanked the puppy out herself and then left the mother dog to die in wincing pain.  No one checked on the mother dog again until she lay dead in the crate she lived in her whole miserable life.

That story will haunt me until I die.

And, if there are still disbelievers out there – here is one that should make you think twice about supporting any part of a pet store who sells puppies…  My little Penelope, a Shih Tzu I rescued at an Amish mill auction – whose claim to fame that day was that “she’s a good mother about to go into heat.”  I cannot lie – I put too much money in a miller’s pocket that day to get her out – but any dog who is treated like a machine needs a second chance at life.

And treated like a machine, she was.  She was 4 years old when I got her and took her to the vet to be spayed.  My vet said that he had never seen anything like it – her little uterus just flopped out it was so overused.  Saying she was overbred would be an understatement.

Penelope and the poor dog who died at Kathy Bauk’s hell hole are only two dogs out of thousands who suffer every year – all in the name of a dollar.  All in the name of the next designer dog toted around by someone like Paris Hilton.

Mother’s day might be over – but the plight of mill dogs is not.

Not everyone can physically rescue a mill dog but there are things anyone can do –spread the word: share what they know about puppy mills, stop spending money in stores that sell dogs, donate to rescues who help mill dogs, volunteer at shelters, write to legislators asking them to support stronger regulation and enforcement of breeding facilities.

My Mother’s Day is over – but my wish for the next one is that thousands of mothers in the mills are freed this year and adopted into homes full of love.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Truths: Her life, my expectations

I remember being in high school and talking with friends about having children.  Our biggest, naïve and ignorant concern was “what if they were ugly and unpopular?”  I know that sounds extremely shallow – but we were teenagers – everything about us was shallow and self-centered.

As we moved into our 20’s and having children seemed to be a closer reality we worried if they would be healthy.

After our children were born and healthy – we worried about their development.  Would they walk soon, when would they talk… were they behind – or better yet, were they above average?

Soon our children got to school and we worried if they would make friends, if they would be nicer to the teacher than they were to us, or if they would be gifted.

Once in school, we started signing them up for extra curricular activities.  For Abby it was soccer – though I had hoped she would like dancing.  Sure, she tried it and cheerleading and horseback riding but she liked soccer.

When soccer became a part of who she was – she added basketball… we gave hip hop a shot – but she stuck to “real” sports.  (Much to my dismay)

She has been playing both sports for most of her young life now… even through some tough breaks (literally): two broken wrists and a fractured foot.  So, when she had another injury last month – we really thought nothing of it – and assumed, wrongly, that it was yet another fracture.  (she should drink more milk)

But, it wasn’t a fracture or a torn tendon or anything that would show up on an x-ray or MRI.  It was deemed tendonitis and for the 2nd time in her life she would wear a boot.

It happens to be travel basketball and soccer season right now – so she was out of both sports for 3 weeks.  This winter she was out of basketball much of the time due to vacations and illness.

And quite honestly, she has fallen behind.  Not just because she has missed so much – but because her body and her personality haven’t kept up with the girls around her.  They all have at least 6” on her and the more I watch these girls play – I notice how much more aggressive they are.  They are tough and… Abby isn’t.

For 8 years she has hung in there – neck and neck with everyone – but I just don’t think she can do it anymore…

She doesn’t talk about it – and we tend to think that her foot thing is really a cover for not participating.  (she denies it).

Maybe a part of me wants to believe that the injury will heal and she will take practice seriously and make a HUGE comeback by fall…(eventually earning a full-ride scholarship as the point guard for Illinois – I am kidding – I was naïve at 16 not at 41)

But then last night, as I watched her keep stats for the team on the sidelines – I couldn’t help but notice the pen she was using… A gerber daisy… and then there were the hair scrunchies she made for the team – that I didn’t see anyone using – except her.

I have to face that Abby is a girly girl and tough athletics don’t seem to be in her future.

It happens to be pom tryouts this week.  A sport that I had wanted for her all along.  In fact, last year, when she hesitated asking if she could try-out – I nearly jumped for joy.  A sport I understood.

See, I did soccer when I was young… and I played basketball in junior high (and I danced all along from the age of 2) I tried the “real” sports and made the team but usually sat on the bench.  Eventually, my two best friends grew 6 inches taller than me – and could dribble and pitch and shoot like I never could so I let go of the career I never thought I had and became a cheerleader and a football manager and a yearbook editor…

I don’t know what expectations my parents had for me.  But, I do know that once I found my “thing(s)” I was happy and I was good at them.

Now, I sit in the bleachers watching my daughter keep score instead of play – and worry that she is lost – that she is struggling with what she wants and what she is capable of.

I don’t know what to do…what to push or what to let go.

All of this time she stayed away from dance and performing and if she makes the pom squad again this year – I can’t help but believe that its going to be her thing.

How do you tell your own kid that you don’t cut it anymore in basketball- do you even tell your kid that?

I worry that its MY expectation she is on the pom squad.  While I have gone out my way in the past to encourage her to try things like dance and cheer – I have never made a big deal out of any of it.  But now I feel like I need to make a big deal out of something because she needs something to believe in herself.

Honestly, it doesn’t matter to me what Abby chooses (though I love the though of it being poms and dance) but I do believe that she has to choose at least one thing and maybe it will be her injury that chooses for her.  (According to her – poms doesn’t make her foot hurt)

Or I think – if she is going to keep stats – at least do it for the boys teams because that is what I did and I LOVED it.  (And, if I loved it – she should too, right?)

Being 13 is hard enough – I remember what it was like.  What I don’t remember was if my parents came out and told me what to do – what I was good at or if they let me figure it out on my own.

By week’s end we will know if she made the pom squad and perhaps that will lead to some parent of the year talk – where we calmly sit down and explore our feelings and discuss her future and where it is headed and by the end have a detailed plan, dance classes set-up and embrace like loving mother and daughter. 

I know its her life – but I get to have some expectations, right?

Monday, May 7, 2012

Truths: The Middle (not the TV sitcom)

So, a week ago I drove away from the car dealership in a Buick Enclave.  A car I wanted 3 years ago.

As I drove the Enclave away and fiddled with all the new buttons that I didn’t know what they did – I looked in the mirror and sighed.  I felt old.

At 41 – I guess you wouldn’t call me middle aged just yet – especially since my grandmothers lived well into their 90’s but sitting in my wood trimmed Buick, listening to not so rock, rock – I felt old – I felt middle aged – I just plain felt aged.

The week brought closer to the end the nightmare of our remodel.  It is 99.9% over… and with its finality comes the beginning of our new surroundings.  Of moving back in.  A time of adjustment after living in the basement and eating out.  It is funny the routines that can become normal because now – getting up and getting milk out of the kitchen- seemed strange.

So, one box at a time I unpack.  Deciding where things should go in the new kitchen with its new lay-out and new cabinets.  I honestly feel like we moved without changing our address.

Its truly like I inserted myself into Better Homes and Gardens and I feel a bit overwhelmed and I am still feeling old.

On Friday, I took a long anticipated trip to visit my dear friend Delreen on her farm in southern IL.  We have been friends for over 20 years and I have yet to see where she lives.  I was very excited – not just to see the farm – but to hang out and be together versus our daily emails to each other.

I had an amazing weekend.  We talked, we laughed, we nearly cried… I got the best tour of the farm – hung out with the cows, fed the barn cats… Teased her husband that he should have married me because, unlike Delreen – I loved tromping in the fields and making friends with the livestock (though I hated the thought that I would see them again someday…on my plate – medium rare)

When Saturday night came and I went to bed – I realized how sad I was to leave.  I had looked forward to this for so long and now it was already over.  Delreen and I write each other everyday sharing the details of our life: the good, the bad, the struggles and the successes.  Its not that I need to be near her to be close – its just that I loved being where she lived – taking in her life as it is rather different than mine in suburbia.

But, none the less, Sunday morning came and after one last tromp through the fields and with the cattle – I got in the car and make the 4 ½ hour trek home and this time I thought deeply as I continued to play with the buttons in the new car that made me feel old.

I drove through my college town of Champaign-Urbana home of the Illini… and that dredged up memories of my early twenties suddenly making my Enclave feel more like a casket than a method of transportation.  I smiled when I thought back to the late nights and the final exams and the sorority initiations and fraternity exchanges.  4 years of my life that came and went too fast.

But a few towns later, I sighed a deep sigh and felt this inner calm come over me – maybe it was the conversation Delreen and I had shared over the weekend, maybe it was the age dilemma that the car brought me, maybe it was the completion of our home remodel – or maybe it was all of that and more…

But the reality is that I felt good being old.

41 years of my life are over – gone for good.  I have some regrets – but not many and most important is that I can’t picture my life any better than it is right now.  All of the trials and tribulations have led me to where I am right now – and that feels great.

I have come to terms with all of the relationships in my life – I have the people I want -close and the ones I don’t - out.  I don’t waste time on the things or the people who don’t make me happy.  I am comfortable with who I am and I know what I have yet to accomplish.

These are all things I could not have said a few years ago.  I feel as though the first half of my life prepped me for the last half.  It taught me about who I am through many failures and successes.  And it taught me what is important in life – how weekends with life long girlfriends should be cherished, that time is precious, that being in love with your husband is a gift not to be taken for granted, that having healthy, happy children and grandchildren is a blessing, that still having your parents is priceless, that setting personal goals is a necessity and dreaming about new ones is important.

Yes, as I drive to my colonoscopy appointment I feel old – but I feel alive.  I knew none of those things for 41 years.  Instead I treaded water – drowning at times – just hoping to keep my head up.  I failed at relationships, at jobs, at life at times but all of that brought me to here – a place of inner peace and harmony.

Sure there are days it would be fun to relive a younger time – but I don’t want to go back. I appreciate where I have been – but I love where I am: the middle.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Truths: Dreaming of that one day

 Last night I drove back to my home town to meet my lifelong best friend, Kelly, for a slice of pizza at our childhood pizzeria and attend a self publishing workshop.

If only it was truly that black and white.

Her and I are each working on books that we want to publish – one day… Mine has been in the works for nearly 4 years now.  The story of my dog, Thorp, the tragedy of puppy mills, the laws I lobbied for to end them, and finally, the happy ending of Thorp working with special needs children.  It’s a Marley and Me type deal…

But it is painfully close to my heart and soul and that takes time to resonate – time to think objectively, time to… well, it just seems to take a lot of time.  And things are always getting in the way.

Silly things… I mean maybe not silly things – but life, in general, and it shouldn’t – I let it.

Every year I make new year’s resolutions – and for the most part, in the last few years, I have stuck to them.  My most recent, which was really from 2011, was to run a 5K – I did that two weekends ago.  And it felt good – and it reminded me that while I might not have done it in 2011 like I set out to – I did it.  Meaning it was well worth never taking it off the list.

My book has been on the last for 4 years now.

And, it totally is more important to me than the 5K – so why can’t I do it?

The irony is that I never thought I was a runner – but I have always considered myself a writer.  When I drove through my hometown and had flashbacks of my childhood…passing my high school – I remembered how much I was always writing.  How I loved writing for the yearbook, how I really loved English class and Creative Writing – and most of all, all the journals I have kept over the years.

Last night I was in my hometown 20 years later, attending a self publishing class and searching my soul for answers to why I haven’t made something so ingrained in me, something so close to my heart a priority.

And who would have ever guessed that the answer would come from a crazy comedy show like Cougartown.  I am not a regular with that show – so forgive me that I don’t know the character’s name but what she said hit home and shed light on what I have been struggling with.

This character’s dream was to open up her own cake bakery.  She had been making cakes in her kitchen for years – incredible cakes that people loved but when it came to this opportunity to share her cakes with others – to actually take the leap and start her business – she didn’t want to.

And how she explained it spoke to me.  I know it would be inaccurate for me to try to actually quote her – so here is the gist of it…

Yes, I want to open a cake shop – one day… I have dreamt of it for my whole life.  But if I do it now and I fail – then my one day is gone forever.  I want to hold on to my “one day.”

When I heard her say that – everything made sense.  My procrastination, my hesitation, all of it.

I cherish my one day.  I dream of my one day.  And if I put myself out there and it is a disaster – the one thing I always wanted will be over.

It seems easier, safer to just dream it than to risk losing one of the things that means the most to me.

I know all of the adages: “its better to try and fail than to never try at all,” “nothing worth doing comes easy,” “live without regret…”

Yada Yada – they go on forever.

I know they are true – much of my life has been based on those very mantras.  Except the passion closest to my heart.

I wish I could say that I am going to start today – that last night’s class changed everything for me – but the reality is that I am not.

I already have plans today and tomorrow isn’t good either.

But now that I know – what has been keeping me from achieving the one thing I want most in this lifetime of achievements – I can begin to move forward.

Sure dreaming of my “one day” is romantic but the possibility of actually accomplishing it would be unsurpassed.

It is time to wake up from the dream, to open my eyes and make it my reality.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Tails and Truths: The act of giving

I sent a check for $200 today… to a small little rescue in central WI. And when I placed it in the mailbox - and got today’s mail – filled with envelopes from charities across the globe – in my case many animal welfare groups – I knew that I did the right thing: I gave to a place that is making a direct impact on where I live and what I believe in. In fact, I know that 100% of the money I gave will go to help the very thing I care about: puppy mill dogs.

On Saturday, 12 dogs were taken out of a puppy mill in northwestern WI – the very location that my Penelope and Thorp were rescued. See, puppy mills do still exist.

The laws in WI have made an impact – millers are closing up shop because they don’t want to follow the stricter guidelines and in turn, hundreds of dogs are either being taken in by local rescues or euthanized for $10 at a nearby vet clinic.

There are many things that sadden me in this world – but one that really hits me hard is that these 12 dogs whose fate was either be rescued or put to death – were all breeding dogs for their entire lives – for them that meant 9 plus years because all of the dogs were seniors.

For 9 plus years they sat in cages without the gentleness of a human’s touch, without a toy to chew on, without a blanket to cozy up to. Instead they spent their lives on wire flooring, giving birth and surviving in the extreme WI temperatures of hot and cold.

Basically, they have lived a shitty life – and unless a rescue could take them in – their only other fate in life was to be euthanized.

To type the words brings tears to my eyes. What is wrong with us?

What rescues need most is space – families to foster these dogs – and for me that isn’t possible. With 4 of our own dogs, two of them aging and ailing, space isn’t something I can offer. So, in turn – we offered money.

All of us offer money to charities we believe in. Organizations we feel are doing something good for the world.

For me it was a small rescue in Central WI… a rescue who against all odds found a place for some of these dogs on Saturday.

As it turns out, one of these dogs probably has testicular cancer which isn’t unusual in dogs who are not neutered.

I don’t know what his ultimate fate will be… but what I do is that for at least a few days or weeks or months he will have the opportunity to be loved and that is all I could ask for.

My desire to see dogs like these 12 get homes will never cease… it seems the least we could offer them after treating them like machines for so many years.

But, after writing the check today and glancing through the mail and seeing the numerous requests for money… I also have to reflect on the idea of giving to charity and the importance of giving where it matters.

Sure, I believe that international organizations like HSUS and ASPCA and Best Friends Animal Society have an impact on animal welfare on a grand scale – and that once in awhile they directly affect my part of the globe - but actually seeing where my money is going to go – and knowing how unwanted dogs suddenly became wanted because a small organization made it their goal – that means more to me.

The act of giving is far more rewarding when it comes with the understanding that two dogs who had never even had a name – now have the second chance they deserve.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Truths: “Hi”

I get to be cynical today. Its not an emotion or behavior I am fond of – but there are times when there is no alternative. Today is one of those times.

Let’s see… My house has been in a state of renovation for 5 months now. 5 months of dust and people in my house from 8am to 4pm. No peace and quiet. Constantly keeping the 4 dogs contained and the one from not biting anyone. Can you blame her – she is tired of it too.

5 months of living in the basement and walking thru sawdust, of moving furniture and let’s not forget: paying bills that seem unending.

I almost lost it yesterday with one of the contractors – I cannot help myself I am coming to my wits end.

And then, if that wasn’t enough to set the sanest of people off – I have a teenage daughter going through puberty – who is, basically, a train wreck!

On Monday when she got into my car from basketball practice – I heard the door opening and a bunch of gasping and my immediate reply was, “What is wrong?”

But to my surprise, she was laughing. I mean really laughing. It was a shock to my system – one that took a few minutes to comprehend. See, every time – or almost everytime – Abby gets in the car after a practice or some event she is crying. She is either sick or hurt or a teenage girl and the world is falling to pieces. To hear her laugh – well, that was pretty much unbelievable.

But, I should have know better… flash forward 24 hours and we are back to huffing and puffing, to being a brat and then 36 hours later – in tears that everyone is mad at her.

I can barely contain my own emotions these days – let alone calm the fleeting ones of my teenage daughter.


She is off to school and I am home thinking about yoga and attempting to ignore the painter and the carpenter one floor down.

But, what will be most irritating to me today is when I walk into Walmart or get a sandwich at Jimmy Johns and the employees will immediately greet me with a half hearted, “Hi!” when I walk in the door.

I am, I think it is safe to say, a generally, nice, friendly person. But, for whatever reason – I don’t want to be greeted when I walk into an establishment by some stranger who is only really acknowledging my presence because someone is paying them to do so.

I want to walk in and order my sandwich in peace – no conversation needed.

I want to wheel my cart into the store – as I look at my list and not feel the push to make conversation with some “greeter.”

Isn’t there enough pressure in life to get along? Now I have to get along with random people just because for $7/hour they say hi to me.

I know it is many things for me to sound like this. I am certain that I sound like a selfish bitch, or a cynic, or lunatic… I get it, I do.

But really think back to the last time you walked into a store and the employees started talking to you… did you really feel like talking back?

They do it at all stores these days. All the stores Abby shops in – even with the music blaring – “Hi, what can I help you find? The graphic tees are 2 for $10 today.”

Here is the reality of that scenario… more than likely he or she will not be able to find you what you want and the graphic tee you pick will not be a part of the 2 for $10 deal! So why do they even bother?

Are there some random test cases situations where shoppers actually said that they enjoyed the interaction with the employees – that it made them actually buy more?

I don’t believe it.

It only makes me want to get the hell out of there and shop somewhere we I am left alone to wander aimlessly.

The other day I walked into Menards – and immediately, I felt the knot in my stomach – the customer service employee would undoubtedly be greeting me and I was going to feel the need to acknowledge him.

But, as I walked through the sliding door – I looked away and pretended not to hear the prostituted hello…and kept walking.

I had just left my house – bustling with people who want to ask me questions and talk about the work to be done and I just couldn’t bare one more person making conversation. And should I have to – when I walk into a store where I am going to spend money? Shouldn’t I be treated the way I want to?

This weekend as we were on a mad search for what turned out to be a needle in haystack (an entry door with sidelites – in stock) we found one and the manager who took the sale began telling us his life story. Things like where he vacations, the house he rents, the boat he lost… The three of us listened as our stomachs rumbled for lunch and after we listened to ten stories we didn’t want to hear – we handed over $1500 and said thank you!

It is a goofy world we live in… I know I sound cold and heartless but aren’t we all running on empty – aren’t we all craving a little down time – even if it has to be in the way of walking aisles buying toothpaste?

All I am saying is that I don’t need any extra stress in my life. I don’t need to feel pressure to be nice to a person I don’t know and won’t ever know and who is only being nice to me because it is their job description.

I will say, “Hi,” when I feel like it.