What Now?

I have had a very unsettling week.  Bad news, sad news, headaches have cropped up over the week.  I have had the image of being a pack mule in my head, and every day I have felt like another 50 lb. load has been added to my burden, weighing me down.  I need some encouragement that I’ll be okay.

I know that everyone struggles with disappointments and problems and bad news over his/her live.  You wouldn’t exactly be living if you didn’t have pain.  How to handle that pain has always been something with which I have tussled.

Storm on Sept. 8, 2012

We had a Women’s Leadership Summit at work yesterday and one of the speakers talked about happiness.  She had a list of five things that led to happiness, including Diet and Exercise, Meditation, Intention, etc.  I appreciated where she was going, but I felt like she was just a little too “new age-y” for me.

For me, I have to rely on my faith.  I can’t rely on myself, because I have already learned that I am not perfect and prone to mistakes.

Tenth Avenue North is one of my favorite Christian bands and they sing a song called “Times”.  In this song, God tells us the times He’ll love us, including:

The times you’re broken

The times that you mend

The times that you hate Me, and the times that you bend.

Well, My love is over, it’s underneath.

It’s inside, it’s in between.

These times you’re healing, and when your heart breaks.

The times that you feel like you’re falling from grace.

The times that you’re hurting.

Yep, that about describes how I’m feeling right now.  Relieved and happy to know that God has my back.  That is where my comfort is coming from this week.

Love

“Love, hell.  That damn stuff stinks.” 

Quote by my Great-Aunt Dot Miller

When we lost our dog, Nick, I didn’t know if I would be able to ever (1) get over his loss or (2) welcome another dog into my life.

But as time passed, I really started to miss having a dog around.  Of course, I missed Nick specifically, but I also just missed having a little ball of love around, the noise of nails clicking on the floor, of having something that I could talk to, etc.  And as a couple of hard personal events took place earlier this year, including a big fight with depression, I really missed having a dog that I could just pet at the end of a hard day.

Matt wasn’t nearly as keen as I was on getting another dog.  In fact, he really just didn’t want one.

And marriage is about compromise and give and take.  I could never bring an animal into a house where Matt wasn’t full on board.  A dog totally changes your lifestyle.  It would have been wrong to ask him to change his life because I wanted a dog.

But Matt loves me and saw how often I would look at dog adoption sites.  And talk about dogs.  And draw dogs.  So, last week, Matt started looking at dogs for adoption and found the little cuties that we just adopted.

He not only found them, he encouraged me to meet Ray.  He told me that two dogs would be ok when we found out that Ray and Reynolds were dumped together and were best friends.  He kept reassuring me that he would welcome them with open arms.

As we now have dogs in our house for the first time in over a year, we also are dealing with potty accidents in the house and the smell of dog.  And we clean up pee with vinegar and water and look at each other and talk about what sweethearts these two little monsters are.

Yes, love, that damn stuff, does stink.  Right now, it smells like dog and vinegar and water.  And that’s the smell of a husband who understood exactly how important a four-legged little fur-ball was to me.

3 Years

Today is the 3rd anniversary of my dad’s death.  It’s a weird day.  Because in many ways, it’s just like any other day.  I’ve come to work, I’m attending meetings, I’m eating lunch with friends.  Just another day.

But at the back of my mind is a niggle, a little “mind worm” that won’t go away, that today is different, that today is out of the ordinary.

I have no idea what I am going to write about, but I just know that I can’t let this day pass without marking it somehow.

My personal milestone moment, that 9/11 moment–you know, the moment where everything changes for you and you begin to mark time as “that happened before the event” and “that happened after the event” — my personal milestone moment happened after lunch when my mom called me at work to tell me that my dad had died earlier that day.  I remember exactly what I said to her.  I remember everything that I did from that point forward that day.  I feel like my life changed at that moment:  before she called, I had two parents; after she called, I didn’t have a father anymore.

My dad was one of a kind — funny, charming, generous, smart, talented, charismatic — but he wasn’t the kind of father that you saw on Andy Griffith or The Cosby Show.  He wasn’t around much while I was growing up and hardly at all in my adult years, and as a result my relationship with my dad seemed so very complex while he was still alive.  I spent hours and days feeling mad at, frustrated at, exasperated by, amused by, responsible for, and sometimes even rejected by my father.  These were tough emotions to handle and so I often just didn’t handle them — my response was to isolate myself from my dad for periods of time in order to avoid the “icky” feelings.  My dad, sensing something was wrong, wouldn’t do any better job at reaching out to me, so long periods of time could pass without us talking.  (I inherited my avoidance skills from him, as well as a lot of other traits.)

When he died, he and I hadn’t spoken for several months.  This has become one of the biggest regrets that I have — that I let, that we let, our shared habit of avoiding uncomfortable subjects keep us from talking to each other.

Because, what I have realized over the last 3 years is that, in the end, my relationship with my father wasn’t as complicated as I allowed it to become.  He loved me and I loved him.  The feelings that he could invoke in me could be complicated, but the love is uncomplicated.

I don’t feel guilty anymore for “not being a better daughter”.  I am not angry at him anymore for the things that  I think “he should have done”.  What I am is sad that we don’t have any more time together.  I can still hear his laugh, like it’s in my ear.  I can still hear how he said my name when he would first see me, drawing out the first syllable, “Criiiiiii-sty!”  I can see him sitting on the couch, watching TV, with his legs up and crossed, his hands folded up behind his head, his one foot wiggling (I do the same thing).  I miss him.

I think about him a lot, and one of the gifts that I have been given is that I think about him so often on beautiful days.  I delivered an eulogy (click here) for Tom at his memorial service and I used a quote from the Bible to describe how he lived his life:

Psalm 118:24  This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it

Tom lived his life as each day was a day for rejoicing and living fully.  Now, every beautiful, sunny day, this Bible verse automatically pops into my head.  And I think, “I love you, Tom.”

A Letter to My Husband

Dear Matt,
I love you.  I love you more than I have ever loved anyone.  But I don’t understand you.

You are so smart, and funny, and thoughtful.  You are a planner, a researcher, a super-reviewer of the details; you are my “go-to” person when I want to know which car to buy, which vacation to take, which restaurant to try — you usually think things through so much that sometimes I think you can get a case of “paralysis of analysis.”

You think about what’s healthy for you.  We buy organic milk and fruits and vegetables.  You avoid OTC medications.  You avoid artificial flavors and sweeteners.  You are a very careful driver, always wearing your seat belt, driving defensively.

I understand all this.  Here’s what I don’t understand:

You, who won’t wear antiperspirant because of the aluminum in it (even though there haven’t been any reported cases of widespread death by antiperspirant), bought a dirt bike this past weekend (even though there have been many reported cases of injury and death by dirt bike).

First 20 Minutes on Bike

I am amazed at what you will do TO your body despite what you won’t PUT IN your body.  Did you know that you are no less vulnerable on the outside than you are on the inside?

And when you had a wreck about 30 minutes after this picture was taken, it was scary just how vulnerable you were.

How Things Could Have Been
source: tim.2wgroup.com

No, this isn’t you.  I stole this picture from the internet.  But it could have been you. And then what would you have done?  Especially without any antiperspirant on underneath all that plaster?

So, Matt, my husband, my love, my soul mate — are you any more cautious with what you will do to your body now than you were before?  Can I mark sky diving, race car driving, diving with Great White Sharks, hang gliding and all those other X-treme hobbies that make my head explode off your To-Do list?
Or am I still destined to not understand?  Either way, I love you.  But I let me know if I need to increase our Flexible Spending in our Health Account next year.
xoxoxoxo,
Cristy

Zombie Talk

Matt and I spent the weekend watching a Walking Dead marathon.  So, we’ve spent an enormous time talking about zombies.  Here are just a sample of some of our conversations this weekend.

Conversation #1

me:  I want you to just go ahead and kill me if the zombie apocalypse starts.  I don’t want to be alive for the post-apocalypse stuff.

Matt:  What?  You don’t think that you would have anything to offer the rest of the survivors?

me:  Are you kidding?  I would just be a whiny bitch.

Matt:  Come on.  You’d be able to contribute something.

me:  No, really.  My anti-depressant would run out and then I would just end up wanting to stay in bed all the time and there would be NO air conditioning and then I would really be a bitch.

Matt:  Yeah, that wouldn’t be good for anyone.

Conversation #2

Matt:  I don’t think some of the stuff on the show is very realistic.

me:  Like what?

Matt:  Like the drug stuff.  Like they didn’t take all the drugs from the drug store at once.  When the zombie attack broke out, why didn’t they go to the drug store, and take all the drugs then?  Why would they keep going back to the drug store?  Get it all at once.

me:  True, but there would be stuff that you just know that you won’t use.  Like prenatal vitamins.

Matt:  Yeah, I could see that.

me:  And Viagra.  I would totally skip getting Viagra and Cialis.  I mean, I would be like, “I can’t have him distracted a whole weekend–we got the dead walking around.  He’s got to be concentrating on that.”

Matt:  Good point.

Conversation #3

me:  You know, that one woman on the show supposedly loved her sister sooooo much, but I don’t buy it.  I tell you right now, I love my sister so much that I wouldn’t even let her turn into a zombie before I shot her.

Matt:  That’s sweet.

me:  That’s what I should have written in her birthday card.

Matt:  It isn’t too late.

me:  Yeah it is.  Her birthday was weeks ago.

Matt:  Send her a postscript birthday card.  Tell her that you need to express how much you love her.  “Just wanted you to know that I love you so much that I would shoot you in the head before you could even turn into a zombie”  Happy postscript birthday.

me:  Love, Cristy.

Matt:  That’s love.  I think she would like it.

I think that the conversations above prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that what my mama used to tell me is untrue:  you CANNOT turn your brains to mush by watching TV all the time.  We actually spent the whole weekend watching shows about mushy brains and we are still able to have these well-thought-out, highly articulated conversations.  Mama, you’re forgiven.

Snakes and Snails and Puppy Dog Tails

Science has helped to solve one of the great mysteries of my life. Finally! I see the value in science. Antibiotics? MRIs? Wireless communications? The atom bomb? These are OK, but I just had the ultimate encounter with science. I got my results from the doggie DNA company — I know the breeds that are in Nick, my dog!!
Matt and I have the sweetest, gentlest, funniest, fastest, whiniest, humpiest dog ever. He is our boy, and we love him dearly. I rescued him 5 years ago. My sister and I walked into a PetSmart to look (and only look) at the puppies. There were all these precious little puppies, most of them mutts, all of them begging for attention. I spotted Nick, however, and it was love at first site (on my part). I picked him up and didn’t put him down again until we got home with him. He instantly became a large part of my life.
But I’ve always wondered “What is he?” Mutts are the best dogs, but you don’t know what you’re getting. With pure-breeds, you know that there are certain character traits that you can expect, but what do you do with a Heinz 57 dog? Does he have Labrador or German shepherd in him? I’ve had people stop me and say that he looked like a Rhodesian Ridgeback (had to look that one up). He’s thin and fast, so maybe he has some greyhound in him?
So, when I saw on TV that doggie DNA kits had been invented to help pet owners like me to identify the breeds in their mutts, I was all over it! Matt thought that I was crazy. Would knowing what he is change how I felt? (Like finding out that he had poodle in him was a deal breaker?) No, but curiosity was killing me! I had to wait to save some money (curiosity isn’t cheap), but I was able to buy my kit in early November.
The kit arrived, I swabbed Nick’s mouth, sent the kit back, and began to wait. And wait. And wait. And today, my patience was rewarded with Nick’s breed certificate.
I don’t think it unusual to want to know what Nick’s “made of”. Don’t we all want to know what we’re made of? Isn’t that why some people jump out of airplanes or try to climb Mount Everest? I know that for we humans finding out what we’re made of is more about our inner characteristics and qualities. Will we be brave in a scary situation? Will we make the right choice when faced with an ethical dilemma? We spend a lifetime figuring out these things about ourselves. We learn as situations test us, as we face happy times and tragedies, as people move in and out of our lives. It would be so much easier if we could take a DNA test and know that we are genetically programmed to be kind or to be cranky, like a Labrador is prone to chew. But alas, no test exists to figure out what we’re “made of”, so we continue to learn about ourselves as we go.
My feelings for Nick haven’t changed at all since I know his breeds. It does help explain why his nose stays irritated and explains where he got his muzzle, but Matt was right after all — he’s really made of sweetness and unconditional love and I knew that all along.
P.S. Collie, Australian Shepherd, Shetland Sheepdog

Best Gifts

My co-worker went to his 5-year old’s Christmas pageant today. When he returned to work, he regaled us all with stories of how Donovan and his fellow kindergartner students performed. The students decided that, like the Magi, they would give Jesus presents and were instructed to give Jesus the things that they love the best. They drew pictures of their gifts and told the audience what they were giving to Jesus. Many gave their favorite dolls, their Wiis, their plasma TVs, even their little sister — because those are the things that they love best.
I had to laugh at the student that gave his little sister. I would have given up my little sister, as well, when I was in kindergarten, but not because she was the thing that I loved best, but because she was disrupting my world. Until Ashleigh was born, I was queen of the world, top of the heap, the cat’s meow — you get the picture. And suddenly, I was sharing the spot-light. The applause wasn’t just for me any more.
I would like to say that I quickly got over my sibling jealousy and embraced my new sister. But, I didn’t. For most of my young life, I struggled with my need to be the family “It Girl”. Luckily, I took a big dose of the antidote known as time and maturity. By my late teens, I had learned what a treasure I have in my sister.
Ashleigh is someone that I love beyond words. She has grown up to be an amazing mother and a tremendous woman. She exhibits strength, confidence and a serenity that I have always admired (and often envied). When I observe her with her children, I am moved by her wisdom and her patience. She is a woman that I am proud to know — and I am lucky enough to be her sister.
I applaud the young kindergarten student who gave Jesus his little sister — sounds like he learned much earlier than I did to cherish his sister. Hope that he continues to cherish his sister, because sisters are treasures, better than any gold, frankincense and myrrh.