Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Head Above Water At Last

Last week I was swamped in every sense of the word.

My kennel was full. My best friend who has a kennel full of registered breeding dogs was in the Virgin Islands. The girls were here every day except Tuesday, and it was Vacation Bible School with our "second" church family. There was grooming and baths and lots and lots of poop to clean up.

I was spread as thin as the last piece of butter on a thick slice of sourdough bread.

But even though I didn't have a chance to access a real computer, I did keep my mental list. "This makes me smile," I would stop and think. "This is what I need to remember."

So finally, today, the girls have gone home from their only day at my house this week and I can possibly catch my breath and try to remember those quick, unexpected moments of joy from the last two weeks.

1. Rain on Sunday morning. No, it wasn't enough and yards and pastures in my area of North Carolina are turning brown. I'm glad I don't have livestock to feed. But it rained Sunday morning and I sat on the front porch drinking coffee and listening to rain falling on the metal roof and trickling away in the gutters.

2. A return visit from a radical dog rehab. When I met Violet nearly two years ago, she was terrified of everything -- even the couple who had rescued her. She spent most of a week with me where her occasional lapses into tantrums were dismissed and ignored and she gradually relinquished her hold on her past. She's still a little timid, but she's comfortable with her owners and doesn't spend any time with her tail tucked when she comes to visit. She plays with the other dogs and sometimes decides I'm worthy of a tail wag.

3. An overnight with E2. Even if it was to take her to the dentist while her sisters went to therapy. It was still a quick glimpse of special time alone with the middle child. Hearing how much E1 missed her was a hoot as well, since they so often fight, but when they were together again E1 ran up and said, "Hug me like you missed me." Ah, sisters.

4. Speaking of sisters, I finally got to watch "Frozen" as part of the sleepover deal. It was wonderful to see Disney recognize that true love may be the tangled relationship between siblings, not just the prince and princess we are so used to seeing. No wonder the Es love it so! They don't get the romance, but they get two sisters who could practically kill one another, but who are really first loves.

5. Spending the evening with friends. With our fractured work schedules and busy lives, we don't do enough of that. It was several hours of being adults and friends, instead of filling the other roles we are often pushed into.

6. Seeing an old friend at church for the second time in as many weeks. My past career means I know people from a lot of walks and most of them, no matter how much we used to talk or how genuinely I value their friendship, I don't see very often any more. When one of those friends and his family was behind me in church two weeks ago, I know my face lit up. When he was back this week, well, there were two moments of unexpected joy.

7. Watching the girls blow bubbles and remembering that it wasn't so long ago they could just chase them. E1's concentration to get a big bubble and E2's interest in quantity over quality were fun to watch, even if they were dribbling soap bubbles over my hands.

8. Texts from dog owners. "You do not know how much you mean to us!!!" said one. "I don't worry as much when they are with you," read another. "It cracks me up how well she does with you," from Violet's mom. "You're the dog whisperer." It warms my heart feeling how much these dogs are loved, and how much trust their owners place in me to leave them with me when they are on vacation, or traveling on business, or even dealing with family emergencies.

9. A new baby joining a friend's family. When my friend shared that they were hoping to adopt a baby this summer, it made me want to cry tears of joy for her. Sharing that with me made me feel closer to her, and after all she's been to me during the last six months, it was good to be there for her. When she sent me a picture of the baby the morning after she was born, I did cry happy, hopeful tears.

10. Hugs. Especially hugs from Jacob, a young man at my church who like Ethan went down a path of addiction. He's fought his way back and when I spoke to the church about the abuse of legal drugs, he sat in the congregation and wept. Now I pray for him and his family and when he's at church (which is when he isn't working) he envelops me in a big hug much like Ethan would have done. Sometimes, I'm brushing away the tears after the hug, but there is joy there all the same.

11. A late night dip in the pool and realizing how darn much I like it. I hate to swim. Wouldn't do it unless a life depended on it. But a four-foot deep pool of saltwater in my yard is the best thing I've found to turn a sticky summer day into something enjoyable. So when I came in from tending dogs at 11 p.m. one night and didn't really want a shower, a towel and I went to the pool instead. Rural living has its benefits for sure.

12. Zumba class. Even though I miss my classmates and teachers, I'm enjoying my new Zumba class. It's fun to challenge my brain in new ways and the energy of my new teacher is incredible. Yes, I still hear a song and miss the old choreography, but more and more I hear one and start to remember new moves as well.

13. Finding a new route to a familiar place because of a bridge closing, and discovering it was faster and a more enjoyable drive.

14. Little tiny vegetables in my garden. I have a well that has always had plenty of water, so the sprinklers go on the garden at least every other day. There are tiny cucumbers, tomatoes and shiny purple eggplants and the squash and melons are blooming. I'm hoping for a few things to harvest and me and the little people are enjoying watching them grow.

That seems like a long list, but it's been two weeks and I can still smile at the memory of toads in the kennel light, a deer that looked as big as a moose from the seat of my Miata, a tiny turtle in the rain (and yes I got out and rescued him), little girls splashing in the pool, a "new" bike for E1 after her tire went flat, and so much more. While last week had me down a few times, mainly due to exhaustion, life is still good and still worth living and there is still so much to bring me joy.

I know there are days it is easier, that time makes it easier, and some days not even the most pleasant memory can pull me back from the edge of tears. Even on those days, a "Ma" from a curly-haired girl can still do the trick. All I have to do is hang in there.


  1. Loved this article and all the precious little moments that warmed your heart and brought peace to your soul. I am so sorry about your son...I read some of your older posts. I went to two funeral homes today and it always brings back so many memories of goodbyes. Praying for you tonight. Going to follow all your social media. Thanks for opening up your heart and reminding me to savor every little treasure. Teresa from NanaHood.com

    1. Every day it hits me again that he's not here and won't be part of the rest of my life. Just memories that I have to clutch to hold on to. I wish we'd all had more time. It's not how the story is supposed to end.

  2. Replies
    1. It may have been the most unexpected of all!

  3. Such a precious picture. Tell her I think she looks like one of the sisters in Frozen :)
    Keep on hanging in there - glad you are finding joy.

    1. She would love that! She's our little Elsa after all (and I'll give you one guess what her fifth birthday party theme will be).

  4. Bubbles and Jacob hugs and being appreciated...and rescuing critters and...

    Feeling the joy! :)

    1. Anna Elizabeth you know you inspired me and I think helped me turn around sooner than I might have. I'm so glad I found your writing and your recollection of random joy and felt challenged to embrace it myself.