Bringing New Life To An Empty Nest

I fell off the blog wagon this summer, partially due to life (son’s graduation, travel, house maintenance, family priorities) and partially due to feeling too emotionally scattered to write. I never run out of opinions to share, but I do run out of energy to deal with the jumble of unrelated thoughts in my head. Overwhelm. That is what does me in. To write, you need mental space and time with your thoughts. And because it was such an emotional summer for me as I careened towards the empty nest my husband and I now inhabit, I checked out. Focusing too long on the grief in my heart was not where I wanted to be, nor where I felt I should be as my youngest embarked on his exciting new adventure. I kept telling myself I would break down and navigate the tangled web emotions I was cycling through in background mode in due time. I suspect that time is coming soon.

What happens when you have too much time and a label maker

In the meantime, though, I have been celebrating the good. Our sons are moved in at school, settled into their study routines, and making the most of their college experiences. Thing Two’s transition has been seamless. I don’t think he missed one orientation workshop or opportunity to make new friends. Thing One has been reunited with his college sweetheart, and all is well in his world too. A thousand miles away, we are finding empty nest life kind of refreshing, honestly. Sure. It’s quiet at home, except for the barking of our sporty dogs, but we’re finding ways to distract ourselves. We’ve begun the digging out from underneath the clutter that accumulates when you spend 21 years putting your nuclear family ahead of everything else. We’ve also been meeting up with friends for long-overdue dinners and trying new things, like pickleball. We have relished peaceful nights picking shows we want to watch and enjoying them with a glass of wine and a couple chocolate truffles. So, all things considered, we’re settling into this new phase of life, to quote Larry David, pretty, pretty, pretty good.

With all the newly regained downtime, though, I’ve been doing some reflecting. Our satisfaction with our journey in this life comes down this: we make choices, and our ability to negotiate our expectations about those choices versus the reality those choices bring determines our general level of satisfaction. We chose to have children. The expectation was , if all went well, they would eventually move on to create their own lives, make their own choices, and navigate their own expectations. That has come to fruition, and we are grateful for it. In the aftermath of their departure for their own adventures, Steve and I have new choices to make. What do we want our lives to look like now? What will we choose to prioritize going forward? Yes. There is some grief in giving your children to the world, but there is joy there too. The most important thing I can do is recognize my choice in this moment. I can choose to feel superfluous now that I’ve retired from 21 years as a full-time parent or I can choose to find my next adventure. I can wallow in the vastness an empty and clean house or I can find something new to occupy the space left in the boys’ absence.

To that end, may I introduce Puppy-To-Be-Named-Later, scheduled for a late October arrival.

This little guy

Life is full of decisions. There will be plenty of time to imagine my next career move later. For now, though, I will fill our empty nest with puppy breath, tiny barks, and dog hair and I will occupy myself with frequent walks, potty training, and breaking up raucous scuffles. It might just end up feeling like the old days, when our sons were young and needed me, all over again.

The Cats of Italy and Greece

My family returned late yesterday afternoon after a glorious 11 days in Italy and Greece. I’m jet lagged, watching a Stanley Cup Final game, and not feeling 100%, but I have a plethora of photos from our travel and thought I would go ahead and share some. So, in this light-and-fluffy post (quite literally light and fluffy), I submit for your viewing pleasure the cats of Italy and Greece. And in the upcoming days, I’ll write about the our travels and the memories we made on this family trip celebrating our youngest’s high school graduation and our oldest’s 21st birthday.

Find the cat

We started taking photos of cats (and some dogs) on this trip when we came across the Torre Argentina Cat Sanctuary in central Rome. I had no idea such a thing existed or we would have made a point of finding our way to it rather than just stumbling across it. The sanctuary, which has been in existence since cats moved into the excavated area of Torre Argentina in 1929, relies on donations to stay afloat. Approximately 125 cats a year are adopted into loving families through the efforts of the sanctuary every year. If you want to support their mission, you can do so here. I took this photo of a lone cat resting on a wall in the ruins. I was pretty proud of my effort. A couple days later, Joe showed me this.

Hope he has at least one of those nine lives left

I mean, seriously? Santorini is pure magic. Joe’s composition here was on point. Of course, his brother would tell you he gets at least partial credit for spotting the cat in the first place. We found so many cats to photograph in Greece, both of feral and the family varieties. Without our dogs to provide our daily dose of furry love, we substituted the cats we met along our journey.

Shade seeker in Rhodes on a hot, sunny day

When we arrived in Rhodes, the cat competition took off. It seemed we couldn’t turn a corner without finding another feral cat that needed to be captured by our iPhones.

Although Rhodes was fertile ground for our cat photos, we hit the jackpot when we arrived in Mykonos Town. So, so many cute cats in one of the most photogenic locations of our vacation. Joe and I disputed who took the better photo of this cat. I will grant that Joe’s composition is better, but I like my photo’s focus on the cat rather than its place in the environment because ginger kitty pops on that whitewashed step when he is the focus.

But we weren’t finished battling it out yet. The photo opportunities kept coming.

This next cat, though, he took the cake. Well, actually, he nearly took my phone. While I was trying to photograph him through the slats on a porch railing, he reached out and stuck his claws into my phone case. I went ahead and pressed the shutter button for him since he lacks opposable thumbs, and we ended up with this green-eyed kitty selfie (and some damage to my phone case). That is the price of art.

The eyes have it

So many cats, so little time in Greece. Anyone who knows me well, though, knows I am a dog person first and foremost. I can’t publish this post without giving a little love and attention to a canine furball. So I shall leave you with this fluffy pooch hitching a ride on a scooter. Man’s best friend indeed.

Be The Messy Golden Retriever

Photo by Olga Andreyanova on Unsplash

“I have decided I no longer want to improve myself; I am a beautiful disaster and I accept myself as such. So, bless this mess because I’m done being stressed.”

Now, ignore for a minute that I might have heard this saying today on a TikTok video showing a golden retriever in all its derpy glory and simply focus on the words. It’s basically a self-acceptance mantra. And I like it. It might be a good thing to keep in my back pocket for those days when I find myself trying too hard to twist myself into a pretzel for the sake of “improving” myself for someone else or their agenda.

Long live silly, come-as-you-are, funny golden retrievers that prove you can be happy just the way you are.

Is That All There Is?

Some call this puppy jail. Ruby calls it peace of mind.

When we brought our corgi puppy home late in September, we knew our older dog, Ruby, would be against the whole sordid scenario. To ease her (and him) into the transition, I purchased a large, plastic corral to serve as a temporary border. It was, indeed, meant to be temporary. Turns out it has taken our senior dog much longer than anticipated to adjust to her new, four-legged housemate. For months, she avoided walking near the pen after its inhabitant lunged at the corral, causing it to shift a couple inches closer to her. Because Ruby is in kidney failure and has bad days, we decided that she deserved control of the majority of the main floor. Loki remained in his pen except for the few times a day we would allow a 20-30 minute, spirited “play session” (read: practice the “drop it” command while attempting to retrieve from the puppy all the items he has sloppily pilfered with his mouth). During the Loki free-for-all, Ruby enjoyed the spa-like comfort of our closed bedroom with the knowledge that she was safe from the chompers of the small, furry landshark we had brought home and inflicted upon her without consent.

In March, once Ruby had finally acknowledged that Loki was here to stay (the horror), we began letting them co-mingle for periods of time with supervision. Ruby spent most of those moments snarling and snapping as Loki attempted to play with her. Loki, completely unfazed by her snarls because he innately understood she would not harm him, continued to annoy the hell out of her. The humans in the house have grown accustomed to the sounds of Ruby telling Loki, not so politely, to f**k off, and Loki continuing to press the issue because how dare anyone not acknowledge the power of his cuteness.

A month and a half into the co-mingling experiment, things are beginning to calm down. Loki is starting to understand that Ruby will tolerate him if he stays out of her face. And Ruby is starting to acknowledge that having another four-legged around is not entirely horrific. She will even approach him when he is sleeping and flop down within a two-foot radius of his resting figure. Two feet appears to be the minimum distance for safety in Ruby’s mind. Loki now is able to remain out with Ruby for hours. The pen has become the place we put him when he needs to chill for a moment. We are trying to acclimate him to life on the outside and hoping he will learn to settle.

Today, though, I noticed something different in Loki’s demeanor when he was out and about. He was mostly avoiding Ruby, walking from closed door to closed door (he doesn’t have full house access yet), and looking curiously at everything. It felt like he was settling into the pace of life here on a Saturday morning. Then he seemed to get a little lost, as if he isn’t sure what he’s supposed to be doing to amuse himself now that he has a lot bigger enclosure than he is used to. He sniffed at his basket of toys, but seemed uninterested. He would approach the sofa where I was sitting, collapse into a sploot in on the floor, and then a minute later get up and go back to wandering around. He was antsy and seemed dissatisfied somehow. I couldn’t figure it out. He couldn’t wait to get out of his pen and then at one point I looked over at him and saw something that felt distinctly human about his behavior. As he sat there in front of the coffee table, his head swiveled and surveyed the room. He looked forlornly at me, and I swear I could almost hear him thinking, “Is that all there is?”

After all the time he has spent in the pen, wanting to be free on the outside, now he is on the outside and he doesn’t get what the excitement was about it. It’s like he just now realized the entire house is actually a large pen. So he has his freedom, but it isn’t what he expected it would be. And this, of course, led me to The Shawshank Redemption because, maybe after all that time with restricted access, he now isn’t sure he can survive on the outside. I wondered if he was thinking of ways to wreak havoc so we would pick him up and deposit him back into the safe space he has had for six months.

“There’s a harsh truth to face. No way I’m gonna make it on the outside. All I do anymore is think of ways to break my parole, so maybe they’d send me back. All I want is to be back where things make sense.” ~Ellis (Red) Redding, The Shawshank Redemption

So, we put him back in his pen, he settled onto one of his comfy blankets, and fell right asleep. Everything made sense again.

The T Rex Of Greater Sterling Ranch

I feel compelled to alert my neighbors that we may have a T Rex problem in Sterling Ranch. I have had the opportunity to witness this small T Rex, a juvenile, I believe, rampaging through the southeast corner of the Providence Village neighborhood. With short arms, sharpy teeth, and a vice-like mouth grip, it’s best you be on the look out. Don’t mistake his smaller stature as a sign of potential weakness in the creature. Make no mistake about it. He has a bloodlust that can’t be satiated. Just today I saw him rip open the cranium of a smaller juvenile T Rex. He then proceeded to carry his prey around with a glib nonchalance, as brain matter spilled from its head. A spine-chilling sight I won’t forget soon.

Attempts to capture the creature and pacify him with other tasty morsels have proven fruitless. Even when he has been presented with superior caliber game, the kind that would prove a challenge to most other carnivorous dinosaurs, he manages to best them in a matter of minutes. The toughest reptiles have felt his chompers penetrate their scaly exteriors and found themselves mortally wounded. At this point, I’m afraid all you can do it keep your eyes peeled for him, secure any quarry in which he might take interest, and keep your extremities in close to your bodies so as not to become his next victims.

He will, indeed, snatch with his pearly whites anything he can reach; and with his smaller stature, ankles, denim, footwear, socks, calves, feet, and toes are all highly vulnerable. Be forewarned that if you reach down to try to save any of the aforementioned body parts or items of clothing, you only subject your upper extremities, sleeves, sweatshirts, sweaters, and t-shirts to certain destruction. He is well-acquainted with weak spots. He will find yours. So far this week, he has ripped the arm off a bendy amphibian, gutted a large stingy ray, and dismantled a turtle with spikes.

Bring your pets and children indoors. If you spot him, remain inside and alert the authorities immediately. Any attempt by untrained individuals to subdue the beast will quickly become a regrettable decision. Please pray for the professional wranglers still endeavoring to capture and restrain this lethal predator. We need all the help we can get.

Bless His Little Heart

A little over a decade ago, we had young children and a young dog. So it was a happy accident when we discovered that our border collie loved chasing the bubbles we blew with our kids. It makes sense. Bubbles float carelessly on the breeze, disorganized and wayward. They are a herding dog’s dream chase. I was pleased to learn that little herding dogs like to herd bubbles as much as their larger counterparts.

Herding bubbles is pure joy for Loki. He loves the chase and will stand on hind legs trying to reach one that goes too high. I found it so charming when our border collie, Ruby, ran after bubbles. She was so determined, focused, and dignified in her pursuit. But there’s a different energy when Loki does it. He’s fast, but his height is a hindrance. He’s accurate, but not always the most graceful. Still, his spirit is in it. You can see it in his eyes.

Loki…King of the Derp

He tries so hard. Bless his little heart.

Loki, Puppy Of Mischief, Strikes Again

In Puppy Prison doing time

Tonight calls for a haiku about our relentless (and adorable) little corgi who has been living up to his namesake today by pulling double duty in our bathrooms.

.

One corgi puppy

on an epic quest to maim

all the t.p. rolls

I may have to pull a 2020 move and start stockpiling toilet paper because it appears we may be in for a shortage.

Ain’t No Shame In That

It has come to my attention that the post I wrote months ago about my husband’s sleeping habits made him feel a bit called out. Let me first state that was not my intention at all. People who are included in my blog posts often think the blog posts are about them. Ninety-five percent of the time, this is untrue. Oddly enough, my blogs are usually about me or my opinions. I may mention other people, but not because I am calling them out. They are part of my story. They are not THE story. Anyhoo, my sweet spouse felt a little seen about my post regarding the fact that he can sleep anywhere while I, in fact, cannot. So, I have resolved to make this better.

In case you think, after reading that post, that I was calling my husband out for his sleeping gift, I thought I would share this little tidbit from our house. My husband is not the only one who sleeps in odd positions on the floor. While I still struggle to sleep on many nights in my comfortable Sleep Number bed with my twin down comforter, this family member, like my husband, has zero problem sleeping:

To summarize, I did not write about my husband’s fall-apart-on-the-floor-due-to-exhaustion sleeping habits because I was calling him out. I wrote about them because, as I stated in my earlier post, I am jealous and wish I could sleep like him. Or our dog. Or both of them.

If I could sleep anywhere, including on my stomach on the living room floor with my feet out in a corgi sploot, I would. Ain’t no shame in that.