Friday, May 28, 2010

We have hope!

Me and my girl, Chaser

It's official...we received word tonight that our beautiful golden girl has cancer. But - our initial prayers have been answered in that it hasn't metastasized!!! So we have hope!

It will be a difficult summer as we've opted to have the leg amputated. I recall our vet mentioning years ago that God gives dogs and cats a spare when it comes to legs, that they adapt much more easily than we puny humans. Who knew I'd file that information away for another day for personal use?

In any case, we are taking Chaser to a canine oncologist in June to discuss treatment options. Jon and I have agreed we won't do anything too invasive (an amputation will be rough enough for her). If we can find a treatment that won't cause too many drastic side effects and - let's face it - mean a second mortage, we'll go with it. Otherwise, we'll do what we can to make her final time with us joyous.

Thanks to all who sent prayers heavenward this week. If anyone has experience with helping a pet recover from an amputation, we'd love to hear from you.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

That's the way it's supposed to be

Chaser, Wonder Mutt of West Edwards Street.

It's the waiting that kills you.

Chaser, Wonder Mutt of West Edwards Street, was born with a small heart murmur. For the past seven-and-a-half years, I have watched. I have listened. I have waited for any small sign. A cough. A hitch in her breath that might show the murmur has gotten worse.

I spend each check-up holding my breath while the veterinarian holds a stethoscope to Chaser’s fuzzy chest and listens. Then with the vet’s cheerful nod that all is OK, I sigh in relief and think, “Today’s not the day.”

I joked with friends that our Chaser would live to be - oh - about 20 years old. Flying through a field, chasing a rabbit, when her ticker would decide, “Today’s the day.” And she’d be gone. I’d be OK with that. That’s the way it’s supposed to be.

When my dad died it was unexpected. Quick. Brutal. Breath-taking to the point of reaching down, grabbing your heart and punching it out through your stomach.

The fatal heart attack took him before I could say all those things you’re supposed to say. Goodbyes. Apologies. Thank you’s. It is, after all, what deathbeds are for.

In the time since, I’ve realized it may have been easier for me that way. I never saw my dad in a hospital, suffering, screaming from frustration or pain or injustice while his body and mind failed him for months, years, on end.

It is easier, you see, because I’m a coward.

Watching - waiting for someone you love to die - is agony.

It began with a lump on my golden girl’s leg. I waited all this time for her heart to give out, and something else waited in the wings, lurking behind her seemingly great health and loopy grin.

As I stood next to the vet, looking at the X-rays on the screen, I felt my heart get punched through my stomach. Again.

The large bump on the leg. The fuzzy spots scattered across her lungs.

The vet was careful not to use the C word. She didn’t have to. Concerned about an aggressive bone change, she said instead. Sending the pictures off for consultation, she added. We’ll know more in a couple of weeks, she assured.

A couple of weeks.

So, I go home. Tell my husband the news. Watch him struggle as he comprehends my words, then listen as his voice cracks when he says, “I wasn’t prepared for this yet.”

So we wait. And wonder. What if the radiologist confirms our suspicions? What if it has spread?

I’m a take-charge kind of girl. Fixing things. Making things better. It’s what I do.

And for the first time in my life...I can’t do anything but wait.

That night, neither my husband nor I slept. I tossed and turned. Silently screamed in rage. Then finally tossed the covers aside in disgust and walked downstairs.

I flopped down on the couch and got lost in grief. As the tears flowed warm down my face, I looked around and realized she’s everywhere in our house. The water bowl in the hallway. Her blanket on the couch, her hair on the rug. She’s even in the family portrait hanging above the fireplace. And tennis balls. Tennis balls were everywhere.

Christ. I’ll never be able to look at another one again.

The grief began to overwhelm me, and I closed my eyes to the sight. Then - out of nowhere - I felt a warm poke at my side. I opened my eyes to see my girl push her golden head onto my lap. Pure love wrapped in fuzzy fur.

Over the next few days, I wait. And I watch. I watch my husband. Watching her. I know what he’s thinking because I’m thinking the same thing. Is this the beginning of the end? How much time do we have? How long before we have to give her back to the wondrous God who gave her to us in the first place?

She lies in the grass as the sun breaks free from the clouds. She lifts her head toward the heavens and closes her chocolate brown eyes in bliss. She has no idea how sick she might be. My husband shakes his head in disbelief then walks over to her and sits down. She immediately jumps up and starts licking his face with gusto.

Pure love wrapped in fuzzy fur.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Tough news

Last week we learned the bump on my golden girl's leg isn't a simple matter of arthritis, as we had thought. Turns out it might be something much more deadly. Hoping for the best that it's something we can battle.

In the meantime, life goes on as usual. And she still had to have a bath.

Looking rather spiffy after Doggy Day Spa.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

What dad doesn't know, won't hurt him

It was a perfect strike. Thrown right down the middle.

I watched in awe as it whooshed by me.

Then heard the thud as it slammed into the side of the house behind me.

Bouncing off to sail back into the air before falling harmlessly to the ground. The dent it left behind perfectly matched the ball’s dimensions and reminded me of Newton’s First Law of Motion.

An object in motion will stay in motion unless acted upon by an outside force.

Which leads us to Newton’s Third Law of Motion.

For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

Crud. The reaction being my husband’s blood pressure when he sees that our unplanned remodeling efforts have significantly reduced our home’s value.

“Maybe we should move,” I suggested to the pitcher, my four-year-old son with the arm of Randy Johnson. “And, uh, let’s not tell Dad about this one, OK? If he notices and asks what happens, we tell him it was a bird. BIG bird. Flew right into the house and left that hole.” I smacked my hands together and yelled, “BAM! Just like that.”

I know what you’re thinking. Teaching your child to lie is one of those actions that will inevitably land you in the principal’s office some day, trying to explain to the powers-that-be that, no, Junior is not the devil incarnate and you’ve no idea why he thought putting a cherry bomb down the toilet would be a good way to see the inner workings of a sewer.

But sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do.

And kids don’t make cherry bombs anymore. Do they?

Why bother when they can launch a nuclear weapon with their i-Phone and wipe out Finland.

‘Cuz there’s an app for that.


Speaking of sewers, our son is oddly curious about the workings of those not-so-modern marvels.

Who built it? How big is it? How does it work? What does it smells like? Where does the water go? And what’s the deal with those Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle guys?

Either he’s planning to become a civil engineer or run away from home to join the Mole People.

I don’t really care either way. As long as it comes with health insurance.

“I wouldn’t want to get stuck in a sewer,” he announced out of the blue one night at dinner. “I’d smell REALLY bad, and I bet there’s poo EVERYWHERE.”

I looked at the glob of meatloaf on my plate and immediately decided it was time to order pizza.


“I’m glad I’m not a girl,” my son uttered after school one day, putting emphasis on the last word as if he had said “sewer” or “big old hunk of stinky broccoli” instead.

Immediately, my feminism trigger was sparked and I sniped back, “Hey, what’s wrong with being a girl? I’M a girl.” I paused and added with a pout, “Girls rock.”

He sighed and said with the wisdom of a young boy ready for kindergarten, “Girls grow up and have babies, and having babies HURTS, you know.”

Why, yes, I did know. I have first-hand experience of passing something the size of a watermelon from my body while screaming, peeing and throwing up – all at the same time – and begging for someone to kill me before my body exploded in a mass of grossness, wiping out the entire obstetrics wing and leaving behind a crater full of stirrups and epidural lines.

Sniff. Childbirth. It’s such a beautiful thing. There’s nothing else like it.

Except maybe for an enema. But you don’t take the…uh…present home with you afterward. And I don’t think you’re allowed to register for that at Toys R Us.

Back to the conversation. “Well, I’m glad you’re not a girl too,” I concluded.

“Why is that, Mom?” Mr. Asks-a-lot-of-questions asked.

“Then I’d have to share my shoes,” I responded. “And I don’t like to share my shoes.”

He thought about it for a second and answered, “I like to wear your shoes, Mom. Especially the ones with the really high heels.”

File that one away for the future therapist.

“Yes, babe,” I sighed, “but your Dad doesn’t need to know that. If he asks, tell him it was a bird.”

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Happy Mother's Day

Albert Einstein's mother: "But, Albert, it's your senior picture. Can't you do something about your hair? Styling gel, mousse, something....?"

OK, she didn't really say that. But as a mom, you know she was thinking it. So with her in mind, we celebrate all the moms who have the hardest job in the world: Loving our kids while wanting to kill them at times.

Me with my first-born, Chaser, in 2004. If we only knew this little butterball was going to turn into a 100-pound hunk of love....well, we still would have kept her.

And with our new little guy, Gabe, in 2005. I loved him at first sight. However, after 24 hours of labor (being induced twice and throwing up 13 times due to the epidural) I didn't like him all that much at first. But a mom forgets the bad stuff. Well, not really. I've forgiven, but not forgotten.

At the moment I'm writing this, he just announced he's King For The Day and is demanding the royal servants fetch him a snack. Seriously. He actually used those words. Excuse me while I go teach him some royal manners or knock him into next week.

And I'm's the lady who made a GREAT mom role model, teaching me it's about loving your kids, but don't feel obligated to like them all the time. That's why God invented chocolate.

Monday, May 3, 2010

I'm a writer, not a chemist

Man will gut a deer he’s shot.

Man will watch a guy’s knee hyperextend on a rough hit during a football game. Then watch the replay.
Then again. In slow motion. And then backwards.
Man will even drink expired milk just to see if it “tastes funny.”
But I’ve discovered one thing that will bring a grown man to his knees. And not in a good way.

“The dog threw up again,” my husband stated bluntly.
I looked up to find him standing in the doorway of the office. Hands on hips. Look of disgust planted across his face.
I shrugged and said, “So?”
He snorted, “So? What are you gonna do about it?”
My fingers stilled on the computer keys as the question filtered through that part of my brain that decides just how mad I am going to get.
Synapses fired. Neurons whirred. Little gray cells digested the response.

And decided it wasn’t time to get huffy. Yet.

I shrugged and answered, “I’m busy. You do it. You know the rules.” I added in a sing-song voice, “He who finds it first has to clean it up.”

He squawked in response, acting like I’d just turned down giving him a healthy kidney. Again.

“But I don’t know what to do,” he whined, “and it’s disgusting.” He paused and spoke slowly, “It’s dog v-o-m-i-t.” As if saying the word slower was going to get me moving any faster.

Oh, silly man.

“What do I do?” said silly man queried.

Sigh. The man has two college degrees, and a little dog vomit makes his IQ drop 50 points.

“Pick up what you can. Then pour baking soda on the spot. That’ll soak up some of the...uh...ickiness...before you vacuum.”

And then our conversation dropped even further down the evolutionary scale and went something like this:

“Pour what on it?” he asked.

“Baking soda,” I replied.

“Baking what?” he asked.

“Baking SODA,” I repeated.

He disappeared into the kitchen. I heard the opening and closing of kitchen cabinets. A minute later he poked his head around the door, held up a box and said, “This it?”

I glanced at the box. Contemplated murder. Then answered, “No. That’s baking powder. You need baking soda.”

He looked at the label and said, “What’s the difference?”

Zing! Suddenly a huge red spot appeared in my right eye and the vein on my forehead popped out about a mile.

“What do I look like? A friggin’ chemist?!” I hollered in frustration. “There IS a difference. I don’t have any clue WHAT exactly. And I don’t care. You put baking SODA on dog vomit. You put baking POWDER on....”

I stopped for a second before fizzling out with, “Well, I’m not sure what you use baking powder for.”

“So why do we have it?” he asked.

And that’s when the red spot blew up to rival that thing on Jupiter.

“It’s just one of those things you’re supposed to have!” I yelled. “People must use it for something. So I bought it! The same reason we have 16 cans of cream of mushroom soup, three jars of pickle relish and a 10-year-old box of bread crumbs!”

He digested that bit of knowledge, turned and headed back to the kitchen. I didn’t hear another peep outta him. I thought the problem was solved.

And it still says “Weight: 120” on my driver’s license. Apparently I have a problem with reality.

The next morning, I walked through the dining room and caught a whiff of something not-so-pleasant. And it had nothing to do with my cooking. This time.

I looked over at the snoring Golden Retriever who had apparently just passed a bit of noxious gas my way.

I thought, They’re so cute when they do that, and wandered along.

But later, I noticed the smell was only getting worse. I meandered back into the dining room, peeked under the table and noticed a small pile of too-gross-to-believe-that-it’s-still-on-the-floor dog vomit.

Covered in baking soda.
OK. I admit. I fell over and passed out. The smell was obnoxious. Combined with my boiling blood pressure and the need to commit murder, my body short-circuited, landing me in the fetal position on the floor.
I woke up to find my husband standing over me, holding a jug of milk and asking, “Hey, does this taste funny to you?”

Welcome to Wrigley

I waited 25 years for this moment: my first game at Wrigley Field!

Was I happy? Uh, YES. Had that This Is My First Visit To The Friendly Confines Look of Awe on my face. Fortunately the staff has seen it before and didn't treat me like an idiot or ask if I had taken my medication.

This is me about 15 seconds after entering the Friendly Confines.

The evening before, I got advice from a gal who used to work there. She said, "Whatever you matter what gate you enter from....DO NOT look at the field until you walk down the inside concourse to the home plate entrance. THEN walk in. That's the best place to get your first look."

And she was right. It was just like I pictured...but more spectacular. Keep your fancy ballparks with 10-story-high video boards and gourmet restaurants. It's all about the bleacher bums, ivy-covered outfield walls and open-air upper decks.

My great-grandpa was a pitcher for the Yankees WAAAY back in the day. Times were different then, he said. No big-league contracts. Everyone had a second - or third job - to support their families. And pitchers were expected to pitch the entire game. In fact, he recalled pitching double-headers. Try getting a MLB pitcher to do that today.


Yep, this will probably be our Christmas card photo this year. We were just nine rows up from the beautiful field. The only thing that would have made it more perfect? My dad being there with us.

He never got to Wrigley before he passed away almost three years ago. I know he can catch a game any time he wants now. But it's not the same as him sitting there beside me. If anything to hear him say around the 8th inning, "Well, it's about time for the Cubbies to blow another one." Hah!

So my dad wasn't with me...but my AWESOME hubby was! Best birthday gift ever! Guess I'll have to quit giving him a hard time...for a while.

My hubby isn't really a Cubs fan...but he does recommend having a brew (or two) in Wrigleyville before a game.

And, of course, we followed the game with dinner at Harry Caray's tavern downtown. Let me hear ya!