Posted in Children, Relationships

Children ~ Future Heirs of Imperfection

A black and white illustration of a mother and...
A black and white illustration of a mother and son reading a book on a chair. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Good Afternoon All,

A quick recap on life before I delve into the subject of my post.  Since my last post much has changed–as is inevitable in life.  Circumstances beyond our control mix  and mingle with those that we can exercise control over.  As one of those American‘s beginning furlough yesterday, I chose to spend it on the operating table & recovery.  Yes, finally, I was able to have the operation to repair my tendon which suffered a vertical tear on my right ankle back in January when I slipped on black ice.  One of my challenges is to determine what to do with my furlough days (one day off per week for the next 11 weeks!)  besides recovering.

Journaling, blogging, gardening and quilting are on the menu for my enjoyment/entertainment, as well as, as the subject infers spending more time with the family.  I’m writing this post today because of a great article I read from an individual I follow on LinkedIn named Michael Lazerow.  His post was titled “Entrepreneur’s Choice:  Is Your Kid Worth $100 Million?”

I found his article well thought out and extremely thorough in navigating through the thought world of priorities one faces as a parent.  The challenges he addresses are especially important for the entrepreneurial sort of parent(s).  If you are married and one of you has or is planning to operate your own business–be “the boss” then there’s a lot at steak and many choices to weigh.  Here’s an excerpt from his post:  “For me, at least, the hardest part of being a working parent is not the long road trips or long hours or frustrated clients. It’s the internal struggle I fight between two equal and opposing forces – the time I invest creating shareholder value and the time I invest building family values.”

Considering now the thoughts you might have about the circumstance/situation, what are “WE” doing about the circumstances, the questions, and what choices are we making to bring these thoughts into social debate; and useful assistance to those faced with the challenges?  Michael ends his post with the following:  “Ultimately, the best present you can give your kids is your presence. Your full and undivided presence. And, just like earning $100 million, that’s not always easy.  What decisions would you make differently if you truly valued your children more than $100 million?”

As believers in a faith, we “attend” church to congregate with others who practice their faith in similar ways to us.  As writers; we join reading a writing groups; as collectors, we join stamp clubs, auto clubs, quilting guilds, and others who share similar interests…..but where oh where is the group for Parents in our day-to-day rhythms?  Online seems to be the only place where this topic gets the attention it deserves, but its too often a one-to-one relationship (the individual reading the article or post–and the author)  Child Care facilities are hardly the place to meet the need, however, a modification to the model would be ideal if psychologists and other family care professionals were to facilitate.

For those that do work for others, parenting issues are water cooler and lunch room discussions if at all.  Besides your co-parent, who do you talk to, ask questions of, and share these experiences/challenges?  It can only be that much more of a challenge to those who are single parents.

This topic is what I believe a LOT of men could really use.  Parenting isn’t traditionally attributed positively in association with men…. unfortunately our society places topics/activities into gender categories.   A movie with a great plot, relationship intense dialogue, and focused on an individual struggling with a major life issue is put into the category of chic flick.   Ask a group of married men their druthers whether to spend a Friday or Saturday evening watching a chic flick or watching/attending a sporting event or online gaming…most will NOT choose the chic flick–especially if asked in front of a group of guys.

For years I have hoped for/wanted a men’s group that meets to help each other be better men, fathers, and husbands.  I have felt in order to even get attendance, it would have to be a covert operation whereby I started a monthly night our for guys with our home schooling or back in the day when our daughters were younger, at the Twins Club.  I’m going to give it a try with our current home schooling group when I’m back on my feet–but, I just wonder if anyone else out there sees the same thing that I do?  There is power in numbers!  Parents (both men & women) should be able to join a group “FOR PARENTS” without having to pay a “family counselor”…to discuss and share things that work, things that didn’t work so well, and just be able to provide general support for each other.    Most groups that exist are for individual aspects of parenting (La Leche League–for breastfeeding; special needs, troubled youth, etc.)  Support groups need to exist for those without a chronic medical or mental issue, where parents can encourage each other to make better choices!

My wife has done an excellent job as a home schooling mother at creating some family traditions.  Reading aloud to the children during meals has helped to distract the kids from normal “Mom, he’s looking at me!” spats that normally arise from close proximity.  It has worked well and she’s continued the habit–the twins are now almost 18 and our son will turn 14.  It has helped them develop a voracious appetite for reading on their own.  Each Thursday, the kids go to the library and check out new books–they get through and read almost everyone they check out!  They all enjoy the reading time!  So, being able to share something as simple as that little coping mechanism a mom has during lunch times adds to the quality time spent together and teaches many important lessons.

These are the types of exchanges and ideas that can be helpful to new or struggling parents.  Fitting time into life’s schedules to create new/better habits and develop deeper relationships with our children beyond the logistical or parallel entertainment (TV watching) is what parents crave/need.  You don’t know it until you experience a pocket of it here and there…but when you have those moments, its like a “I could’ve had a V-8!” moment.  But we must consciously chose  to reprioritize HOW we spend our time and then develop consistent habits.

Children need and find structure comforting, even if they don’t seem to be appreciative, boundaries are what gives children a sense of stability and trust for their environment and caretakers.  If we don’t provide it for them, they will seek it out, even if it comes with great risk.  I’m interested in hearing your thoughts about choices you’re making to improve your quality time with children/grand children; or even with establishing a group for the purpose of becoming a better parent.

The practices we put in place (or don’t), the traditions we build (or don’t), the value we create (or don’t), the choices we make (or don’t) all end up being the legacy we leave behind.  Whatever you do (or don’t) are behaviors your children witness and observe (learn) internally as a way to do life–most proudly pass on to their children these behaviors and choices (both good and bad). What example are you setting?  Whether you like it or not, parenting is teaching, and what is taught, is learned and carried on to the next generation!

Cheers All!  Again thanks to Michael Lazerow’s post about parenting to help trigger this post!

 

Related articles

Posted in Education, Politics, SocialMedia, Writing

Angst of Perspective

In this post I’ve decided to share several thoughts that have come into my head that I’ve only shared via Twitter….with a little explanation about what prompted the tweets!  Some bloggers aren’t Tweeters & many Tweeters aren’t bloggers…so I want to share with both communities!

Tweeted 17 Sep 12:  In the end…it truly is about perspective! With a change of view the worst can have value & disappointment can mean relief! #GlassHalfFull

This tweet came after hearing how my wife’s day went.  One of our twin daughters (Madeleine) is struggling with accepting the requirements and demands of high school and college curriculum.  Even though at 17 years old she’s figured everything out concerning the rest of her life for a career, there are things she must accept are steps that must be taken to get to her destination.  As my wife says, you cannot know in this moment at what point in your future you may borrow from what you learn today.

Tweeted 16 Sep 12:  Part of life’s journey includes sometimes feeling/being lost…it’s in the absence of knowing that we are truly free to explore.

My other twin daughter (Megan) thought she had all of her future figured out as far as college/career.  Within the last several months however, she’s come to a place where she realizes there are several other things that passionately interest her.  She had a dream that she relayed to me on Sunday that she had last week about “trying to find her home” because she was lost.  The man in her dream didn’t give her the answers but extended a hand to her after she finished sobbing at his feet.  I asked her what she thought it meant.  She stated that maybe he was telling her that it was okay to “be lost.”

Tweeted 16 Sep 12:  Life abhors incongruence…dissonance is tolerated as long as there is movement toward eventual harmony! #OrderFromChaos

I was thinking about the teacher’s strike in Chicago, the anti-American sentiment over the poor-taste film that’s stirred the ire of Muslims, conflicts in the workplace, and disputes in families.  The goal of many in Psychology disciplines will try to help troubled individuals gain a healthy perspective on your unique situation.  Counselors and mediators in the workplace will listen to both sides of a story and try to facilitate resolution.  No matter the issue…when actions and attitudes become destructive, somehow both sides desire closure–even though the goal for each is toward their own advantage.  When two opposites disagree…as long as discussions are the agreed upon approach, the tempers can be kept in check, when both parties believe there will be some positive outcome from their perspective as long as they willingly participate.  These predictive behaviors is what makes psychology an art/science…defined, repeatable behaviors.  In nature, similar repeating patterns occur…often a natural resolve toward harmony or something that looks as though an artist intentionally created the beauty…Fractals (patterns on a window pane during frosty nights) are the example that come to mind.

Tweeted 2 Sep 12:  Hate is easy, lazy, & destructive!–there’s quite enough in this world. Spread a little love–find a worthy cause & give of yourself!  

Was just thinking about all the mud-slinging going on in the media about the opponents in the Presidential Campaign!  The extremes of opinions and positions on critical issues facing our nation requires us to be a team to solve them.  Blathering on and on or mindlessly forwarding, sharing or reposting political crap on social media platforms does little more than annoy those who don’t agree with the shared opinion/sketch.  This is NOT helpful or productive.  If you really care about the future of our free nation, you’ll actually find legitimate news sources, do your research and vote the best man or woman for the job–PERSON NOT PARTY!  After all, primarily the person who does get elected has a limited influence in what actually happens in our reality.  It is the Congress and the Senate who make the majority of the decisions (on our behalf) that we have to live with and complain about.  So if you’re unhappy…don’t blame the man (or woman) who’s hair upon leaving office will be ten shades of white paler than when entering office…..blame yourself!  YOU HAVE A VOICE and a RIGHT/OBLIGATION to participate in this democratic form of government.  Our republic depends upon you!  Your job isn’t finished when you fill in the circles on the ballot.  Pick up the phone, write a letter, join a campaign effort, or run for office yourself!  At the very least…time spent tearing other people down is time wasted.  Be a part of the solution to problems and challenges.  There are plenty of charities, shelters, and fundraising efforts going on that could use your time and energy toward greater purposes.

Posted in Relationships

Part 2 – What Does it Mean to “Be a Family?”

Part 2

Well, the results are in.  I printed out these three questions from previous “Part 1” of this blog post for each of my children to answer.  Their responses have been included with minor editing:

  • What does it mean “being family?”
    • Response 1:  “Having a loving connection of understanding and compassion for another human being. Having a spiritual connection with another person(s) that helps you learn to better yourself and just plain learn.”
    • Response 2:  “Being connected to each other, caring for each other. Being a group of related people who share in each others interests and passions, and supports each other in them.”
    • Response 3:  “Its more than being related to individuals by blood.  Friends may care for you, but they don’t nurture you like family does (unless you live with friends because of a bad family).  Family teaches you about home, how to live & work with others, and dealing with the world around you.”
  • How should people in a family behave toward one another?
    • Response 1:  “Trustingly, compassionately, lovingly, and understandingly.  Not like your families are strangers because they share something special that you wouldn’t with someone else you don’t interact with.”
    • Response 2:  “They should be responsive and attentive to one another.  Not to mention respectful and open.  When they’re involved in things that family does that the person doesn’t like doing, they should do it with their best attitude.”
    • Response 3:  “Kindly.  If there’s a problem, everyone must cooperate on how to fix it instead of setting it aside and telling people to “get over it.”  They should consider the feelings of others in all situations.  They shouldn’t discount someone because “that’s just the way he/she is.”  Every member of the family needs to know that he/she is loved.  A family member’s dreams and aspirations should be explored, not put down.  Everyone should feel like they belong and if they don’t, they should be brave enough to talk about it.  Everyone should be open to discussion and debate because in a family, everyone’s ideas should be heard and considered (even if they aren’t always accepted.)  But most of all, each member should treat each other well so that when kids head off into the big world, they have people to comfort them and a place where they’re always welcome.”
  • What can/should you expect by being a member of a family?
    • Response 1:  “Being able to communicate with another on the deepest personal and spiritual level that you wouldn’t be able to with any other person.  To be able to express yourself without being ridiculed.”
    • Response 2:  “I expect to be heard when I’m speaking without interruptions and with full acknowledgement.”
    • Response 3:  “Being considerate to others, having good common sense. More importantly, getting a good start in the world, because when you grow up with people who love you and treat you well, they give you almost all of the lessons of life you’ll ever need to know:  kindness, patience, helpfulness, confidence, tolerance, love and a bunch of other good things.

I was very touched to read their responses.  As a parent, one of the best things you can do is get into the habit of asking questions that require more than a “yes” or “no” response.  You’ll never understand how they are connecting the dots about relationships, much less the world around them, unless you involve them in discussions/thoughts you want them personally exploring.  Another reason why, as much as parents need a break…its time to banish “the kids table!”  Inter-generational conversation is necessary to gain healthy perspectives in the world.

To conclude from my last post what I could have stated before returning to work: “Okay, we know that mom has just recovered from being sick…she’s still not 100%!  Please be aware of her needs, and look out for her.  One of you take care of the dishes, all of you work together to make lunch and prep supper, everyone pay attention and be responsive to your mother so that if she needs you to do something, she doesn’t have to go looking for you or try hollering to find you with her sore throat.”  Instead, I assumed that three teenager’s focus would be to automatically be in that frame of mind.  If you read “Positive Discipline for Teenagers” you’ll know that’s just “not normal.”

I realized that all too often, just because our spouse/partner is a colleague in that aspect of life,  they are competent, and independent enough to take care of things—but if there are two parents, neither should feel alone (Cinderella Syndrome).  Being a family is truly a team activity!  Like football, chess, or any other game of strategy, you must be vigilant and remain aware of all activities at all times.  The individual parts of the team can fail if not supported and integrated with the others.  Communication is critical to success!

Due to generations of societal/gender behavior “norms” women tend to take care of too much (of the load) for the family, and men tend to “stay out of the way” (and help out only when asked/told/nagged)  This paradigm suggests that the woman is always the strategist (planning, preparing, predicting, investing, etc….)  This key aspect of the core relationship for keeping the family a “true family” must be shared.  Men, don’t forget your ideas can be helpful, your strengths are different but just as useful.  If you’ve made mistakes with your “involvement” in the past, talk with your partner acknowledging that you may not always get it right, but that you want to share, you want to help, you want to participate.  But if you are serious about being a better husband, father, friend….you’ve got to get your head in the game–this game…the family.

Family can be and is fun…but not if you’re fighting it.  Yes, family means giving up “me time!”  You can’t just continue all of your normal pre-children habits (unless you want a relationship that suffers fracturing).  If you chose to have children, that choice isn’t the end of your obligation/necessity–it is the beginning.  If your perspective on what it means to be family is all twisted around, look for other real life quality examples–they are around! Husbands, you are necessary, especially as fathers and the example you set for your children about what it means to be a man….to be family.

This post was just as much for me as it was for anyone reading who feels convicted.  Seriously, we have to get our heads in the game–think about your partner and ask how you can help.

Cheers to all, and thanks for reading!

Posted in Education, Politics

Cavalier Arrogance ~ GOP

English: Andrew Jackson.
Image via Wikipedia

There’s only one sentence appropriate to introduce this posting:  I’m angry, sad, and embarrassed!

Someone must have forgotten that television is a world-wide accessible medium for communications.  Last night was an embarrassment to our nation, a ridicule of the Office of the President, and extremely juvenile display of testosterone!  It is a shameful thing to proclaim oneself as the “appropriate choice” to lead this nation, founded on virtues, morals, and liberty when one can allow these words to fall out of one’s mouth:   “Andrew Jackson had a pretty clear cut idea about what to do to America’s enemies…kill them!”  Just search for “Gingrich + Andrew Jackson” and pull up the 23 second YouTube video clip.  One must be very careful when spouting historical “facts” to support one’s position, pulling them out of one’s mental arsenal like a business card to “represent” your position and stance on a given topic.  Someone might actually take you seriously.

If Speaker Gingrich was to recall the history of Andrew Jackson, perhaps he wouldn’t be so ready to whip out that factoid and thrust it upon a frustrated and undecided South Carolina audience.  Andrew Jackson, in his seventh annual message to Congress, after the passage of the Indian Removal Act in 1830, decided the desires and needs of the settlers was more important than those of the native American Indian.  Even after the ruling of Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall who reviewed the case (Worcester v. Georgia) finding the Indians in full right to their own land, their own nation and declaring that Georgia settlers had to get the permission of the Cherokee Indians to be on their land; Andrew Jackson refused to enforce the law.  Another situation where the President put himself above the law and due process.

The result of Andrew Jackson’s pathetic leadership was the death of thousands of Indians across five tribes.  Does the “Trail of Tears” phrase sound familiar to you?  It should, its not a poem, or a play, this was the fate of the real Native American Indians, forced to leave their lands, their homes, their crops, their hunting grounds…some in the dead of winter; pushed out in such a hurry they were barefoot and many unable to collect any possessions.  This arbitrary usurpation of native’s sovereignty and arrogance demonstrated by Andrew Jackson shows a complete lack of understanding and concern about the impact of American settler’s greed on the indigenous people’s welfare.

“The Creek Indians refused to go.  So United States soldiers came to their homes, chained them together, and marched them toward the west.  Hungry, cold, and weighted down with chains, thirty-five hundred Creek Indians died before reaching the new Indian territory.” (The History of the World, 2004, Peace Hill Press The Seminoles had factions between tribes, the White Stick and Red Stick Seminoles.  The Indian Removal Act was forcing Indians further and further West; to the point that America’s actions were forcing enemies to be geographically close to one another.  The pages of history books are filled with the injustices, inequalities, greed and arrogance toward the Indians…you can read for yourself.

Personally, I would not be proud to compare myself to Andrew Jackson, even if he were a “great President!”  The irony of Gingrich putting himself on the same level by espousing his Brutus approach to administration boggles the mind.  How can one with such a cavalier tongue be considered worthy of the highest elected office  in the nation?  “There are two things that men should never weary of, goodness and humility; we get none too much of them in this rough world among cold, proud people.” Robert Louis Stevenson (from his book “Kidnapped“)

When we debate and wrestle with the issues of our nation:  the economy, foreign policy, health care for an increasingly aging population, jobs, etc; we have a responsibility and an opportunity to set an example not only for our youth, but the entire world.  We should not argue the sanctity of life professing to be a pro-life advocate out of one side of our mouths, but out of the other declare predatory policy towards our enemies.  Is it right for a Republican Christian spout those words and selectively forget Matthew 5:44 “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;”  Has our secular sacred split become so ruptured that there is no more charity in the heart of our nation?

My children watched the South Carolina Debates on FoxNews with me.  They expressed equal disdain for such an attitude.  I was not proud to be in the presence of my children, observing the behavior of adults being so careless in their sublime chest-thumping bravado!  My son sat and drew a comic representation of the candidates I thought was too humorous not to share.

GOP Candidates

May the best man win!

Posted in Education, Writing

Farewell 2011, Hello 2012!

Ron Paul, member of the United States House of...
Image via Wikipedia

Tonight my wife and I took our children to a Ron Paul Town Hall at the MidAmerica Center in Council Bluffs, IA.  We’ve been keeping tabs on the Republican candidates through social media, television debates, newspaper, and discussions around the dinner table.  Being a homeschooling family, our children have been very interested in and vocal about their concerns and criticisms on the issues facing our nation.  Ron Paul mentioned some of the departments he would do away with if elected President….starting with the Department of Education!  The quality of education has endured a decay in quality since the Federal government made it their business to get involved in and in some cases overrule the State’s rights/business.  “No Child Left Behind“, and now “Race to the Top” are classic examples of federal programs that attempt to address the symptoms of social problems not being dealt with.

My daughter, Madeleine, and I were questioned by a reporter from a Pennsylvania gazette about our views on Ron Paul.  I was glad to hear his clarifications on his foreign policy decisions–he’s not ignorant and would endorse/support going after maniacs who threaten our lands and people (9/11), but he feels that any action to “go to war” should be in accordance with the Constitution and the matter voted on and supported by a majority of Congress!  I also appreciate his constant referral to “what is the role of government?”  Few candidates on the Republican field will rewind the discussion of politics all the way back to the Founder’s intent in the role of government–to protect our rights!  My college course at Bellevue University has really got me pouring over these founding documents in detail.  The more I learn the more angry I’m becoming about the erosion of our liberties and freedoms.  My hope is that more Americans will show up at the voting booths.  Considering the past history (view voting statistics here) its a shame that so few of all who benefit from living in this country don’t show up to exercise their rights/choice by doing their research and checking the ballot box for the candidates that best represent their values/ideals.  Anyway, before I get too riled up let me just say, I’m very interested in the outcome of the caucuses and the outcome of the race for a Republican nominee.

This year has definitely been a year of personal metamorphosis.  As mentioned in previous blogs, I’ve moved into a new house, my girls started driving, I started college, lost a grandmother, a dog and two cats…life never slows down or waits for anyone.  For this reason I’ve decided to not allow any more circumstances in my life be the result of indecision or lack of choosing.  There’s no time like the present, and nobody is going to look out for your best interest….so you better do it.  I decided to get a head start on goals and New Years Resolutions!  Beginning Monday of this week, I started eating less, exercising more, nurturing my passion for writing and reading, and generally taking better care of myself.  Its amazing how much you can pack into such a short amount of time when you set your mind to it.

Here are just a few of the exciting personal events/goals on the horizon for 2012:

Turning 45 years old 🙂
Celebrating 20 years of marriage
Graduating from Bellevue University with a Bachelor’s in Business Analysis and Management
Becoming a published author (in addition to my blog )
Voting in the 2012 Presidential Election
Developing and keeping personal fitness habits to improve my health
Growing as many vegetables and fruit for the family on our postage stamp-sized yard
Improving the quality (being more present/conscious) of my relationships with family and friends

To all who stumble across this post, I wish you the safest of New Years celebrations and an exciting and personally fulfilling and prosperous 2012.

Posted in Relationships, Uncategorized

Is Your Pet an Emotional Surrogate?

This pure breed Sphinx cat is Shabbat. Shabbat...
Image via Wikipedia

I write this post encouraged by my sister-in-law.  This morning we were discussing the role of animals in our lives and how “aware and connected” they can be to humans.  I was reflecting on the recent loss of our dog Katie, and what she meant to me.  I remarked at how animals have helped me cope during times in my life when for whatever reason, human comfort or companionship wasn’t available or desired.  At times, I swear that animals are better listeners, better friends, and more tolerant than our human counterparts.

I think that because animals listen without judgement, are there for us no matter what, and tolerate our eccentric behaviors, we tend to attribute human-like emotional support to their expressions, behaviors, and routines.  They bridge a gap where humanity fails us.  I remember times when I was a teenager, I would go into my chicken house and sit down and start what I called a prayer meeting.  I could make the sound of a chicken and you wouldn’t have known it was coming from a human.  They would scratch the hay on the ground around me, sit on my legs and shoulders,  clucking and talking with/to me as though I was one of them (of course it did help that I hatched many of them.)

If you spend an huge amount of time with your animals, ask yourself…”do I allow myself more freedom of expression, love, compassion, grace, tolerance for my pets than I do my human companions?”  I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with lavishing love and attention on our pets.  I have made some personal observations reflecting on my own past and realized that sometimes my pets were used as a crutch or surrogate because the human option was either too difficult or not available.  Do you find it easier to give love and attention to an animal/pet than to risk vulnerability or intimacy with another human being?  If you can honestly answer that question for yourself and find that you do have a preference for dealing with animals over humans, you might want to take some time to journal and explore “why?”

It takes a lot of work to reflect and look inward to understand why we behave the way we do.  There is however, a great reward in examining the differences in our relationships between animals and humans.  You might discover healing, you may gain new friends (both human and animal), and you certainly will benefit with better mental health.  Seeking to understand our own behavior and the reasons/motivations behind our actions can reveal a lot about ourselves.  Purposed avoidance in our relationships only creates great chasms/distance and awkwardness.

All relationships take work!  Healthy relationships require conscious, focused, intentional thought and energy devoted to keep them fun, comforting, and enjoyable.  That is the only way to keep both people interested, excited, and committed.  If you neglect your relationships and let them run on auto-pilot, that’s when the routine/humdrum ruts get carved into your existence.  Boring, predictable, responsible are attributes of a relationship that has been allowed to stagnate.  So, dust off the j0urnal, the bicycle, the tennis rackets….get off your couch and cushy chair, don’t wait until the New Year to turn a new leaf!  Nothing ventured, nothing gained.  I dare everyone who reads this post to take a personal inventory and answer the question… “Are you living your life on purpose…or on cruise control?”

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving….even our four-legged, winged, and finned relations!

Cheers!

Posted in Relationships, Writing

RIP Katie, Marmalade & Patches ~ Our Four-Legged Family Members

A tribute to our barn cats Patches & Marmalade, and our Border Collie, Katie.  Katie - Her loss has left a hole!Our Barn Cats Patches & Marmalade

My blog post is more a therapeutic exercise to help me cope with the loss than for anything else.  I will look back on 2011 as the year of subtraction in some respects.  I lost my grandmother, Patches & Marmalade, the farm, and now Katie.

Some people say “it happens in threes” and for us this was true.  Just two weeks ago, I had to put down our barn cats.  Their health condition was poor and rather than make either of them suffer through the winter we decided it best to not make them suffer.

Yesterday, while Robyn was out with Megan for her piano lesson, Madeleine discovered that something happened to Katie that made her right eye roll into the back of her head.  By the time she discovered it, there was a little drainage from the eye, and the whites were bloodshot.  Robyn made an appointment for 7:30 this morning at the vet clinic.  When I got home from work, Katie’s condition had improved a little but you could tell that something still wasn’t right.  Since we moved back into town, we’ve had to restrict her from doing any stairs because her hind legs would just collapse if she tried going down the stairs.  She was taking a supplement for a few months to help but there was little improvement in her condition/agility.

I stayed up until about 1:00am this morning thinking about her current health, the coming winter, icy steps and sidewalks outside, and realized that keeping her alive would be more for our benefit than hers.  Just two days ago, she got so excited to go out to wet that her hind legs gave out and she slumped to the floor.  Lately, she’s had quite a visible struggle to get up off the floor, and an ungraceful collapse to the floor when trying to lie down–always punctuated with  groaning/moaning sounds.  Our country vet told us the next step would be pain medications.  Rather than make her go through any more and risk a fractured or broken hip or leg with slippery sidewalks we decided it would be best to say goodbye.  She would have been 12 years old next month.

This morning when we got out of the van to go into the clinic, her hind legs gave out again.  While waiting for the vet to enter our exam room, I observed a poster and noted that Katie exhibited three of the 5 signs listed for “severe osteoarthritis.”  An assistant and the vet came into the room, and through a stream of tears, I signed the permission slip.  The vet  placed a blanket on the table, I picked Katie up and laid her down, then he began the procedure.  He told us that we’d made the right decision but he understood it was still difficult.  Robyn later stated that she really appreciates older Vets–they’re not as likely to recommend expensive, life extending procedures and medications that don’t actually add an animal’s quality of life.

Its amazing “how” these four-legged friends become family members…so much of our lives become integrated with our pet’s habits, personalities, presence.  You really don’t realize just how much they color and compliment our own routines and emotional existence, until they are gone.   I’ll list just a few of the most notable activities that occur that cause her memory to stir:

  • Morning and bedtime: Katie’s toe nails clicking on the floor and sometimes shrill barks when she needed to go outside to wet. Now there’s no animal that needs to go out–habit says call her with a short whistle repetition–even our parrot has the whistle down pat!
  • Any meal prep:  Always underfoot, patiently awaiting any scrap that might possibly fall to the floor
  • Arrival after a family outing:   She would always be near the door with her wagging tail and anxious eyes…the kids noted that there will be nobody to greet us when we come home!
  • When packing up for an outing or long trip:  Suit cases and bustling family members always elicited those perked ears and hopeful eyes that she too might be allowed to accompany us.
  • My arrival after work:  I’d take my shoes and socks off after a long day and she’d always come over and lick my feet 🙂  Now every time I take my shoes off, her absence will be a sharp reminder of her passing.
  • Serving Ice cream or Cereal:  She’s always quietly wait at your feet in hopes you’d allow her to lick the bowl

Those are just a few of the situations that incorporated her presence into our consciously engaged attention/awareness.  Now each of us is learning just how intertwined her existence was in all those aspects of living that were on unconscious autopilot–like moving the baby gate we had to install to keep Katie from using the stairs….every time we go up the stairs now there’s no gate to move.

Joshua, our son, doesn’t cope with grief the way the rest of us do…we’re all bawling our eyes out, hugging and comforting each other.  Josh will set about drawing pictures or creating a card of some sort, or he may retreat to his room to be alone while we dehydrate ourselves.  This morning we came home and gave the kids the news, discussed what happened and how it was affecting us.  Later, I went up to my bedroom to change clothes to go into work and noticed that Joshua had placed a stuffed animal dog upon my pillow.  His thoughtfulness and attempt at comforting me (because I had the closest bond to Katie) sucker punched me in the gut and I began to cry again.

She loved meeting new people and was always happy when all of her people were in one place.  I truly loved her and am conscious of a huge vacancy in my soul–a part of me that is missing.