Wednesday, December 24, 2014

5 Minutes of Zen, or How the Dog Ate Christmas

If you’re holding your breath right now, eagerly anticipating the arrival of the Scovill family Christmas card – along with its clever and humorously presented recap of the year’s most notable highlights – don’t. It’s not that I’ve forsaken the practice; I have half a dozen boxes of cards in the closet (that didn’t get mailed for reasons similar to those I’m about to share), and I sincerely enjoy the opportunity to reach out and check in with friends and family during the holidays. But, here in the land of babies and puppies, finding the time to write, then print, stuff, fold, and lick sixty or more letters is like trying to wipe cheese off a cutting board. (Give it a shot – good luck!)

Long before the baby dog swallowed a sock and lost a foot of intestine, I started editing a manuscript for a writer friend. I figured it’d take me a few weeks, maybe a month. That was mid-July. Later that month, a few days before flying to Seattle for my family’s annual BBQ, I lost my bottom front tooth. While it certainly would have been both appropriate and hilarious, I chose not to attend the Hillbilly Luau without it, so the dentist re-glued it to the wire he’d installed the previous year (to stabilize the two front teeth that have been loose since childhood), handed me a scrip for antibiotics and the number for a good oral surgeon, and sent me on my way.

Roland was scheduled for neutering in early August, a month before his first birthday. We were looking forward to it, because we hoped it would curb his interest in jumping the fence and trying to play with every dog that walked by. For me, the interruptions – stop what I’m doing, grab the leash, chase down the dog, etc. – were merely annoying and counterproductive. The people walking their dogs, however, were seriously not impressed; if two “giant,” “viciously” barking chocolate Labradors sped toward you from across the yard, and the smaller, sixty-pound “baby” hurled himself over the fence and started running toward you, how many layers of clothing would YOU have to change? But, after determining our vet was too expensive, I cancelled the appointment and hopped online to make him a new one at a cheaper facility. Lucky for me, their earliest availability was in October, so I had plenty of time to edit and start the pre-extraction process with the oral surgeon…when I wasn’t chasing down the dog.

Okay, maybe “plenty of time” isn’t exactly right; sometime in the blur of July-August-September, our daughter got a second, part-time job working evenings and weekends. She had a sitter for her day job, Monday through Friday, so I didn’t mind the occasional peanut-sitting duty. (Actually, I like it more than I’m willing to admit.) About a week into her new schedule, she lost her full-time, day job, so she added more nights and weekends. (We haven’t had a Sunday to ourselves in months.) Then, sometime in August, the neighbors brought home a band – as in, they were out and about, ran into a band that needed a place to stay, and invited them to the Campground – and, while I was cleaning the upstairs guest room bath (at around 11pm), I discovered a little, black “caterpillar” growing on the floor next to the shower. I snapped a picture, cleaned it up, and the band had an enjoyable stay, but I urged Scott to take a look at the floor at his earliest convenience.

So, anyway…the black mold issue was the first thing that kicked me out of my office. That was sometime in September. I think. Also in September, Scott and I made a last-minute decision to drive to Raleigh, NC, to attend Farm Aid for the first time and visit our friend, Anita. At home, Roland spent most of his time in the kennel, because no one was here to chase him down. Family visited for a long weekend at the end of the month when we celebrated the peanut’s first birthday. Roland went under for his snip-snip on October 2; he jumped the fence the following day – with the cone of shame. Then he developed an eye infection. Then an ear infection. Then he gave both to Rocko.

I started peanut-sitting 4-6 days every week – minus alternating weekends, except when there’s a Dolphin’s game – but, somehow (miraculously) knocked out that first editing job. Of course, I immediately started another, just before the oral surgeon pulled FOUR front teeth and inserted two implants…seven days before Thanksgiving. I was most grateful for the extension Scott added to the fence, so the baby dog couldn’t clear it, anymore. Once the bathroom floor was “excavated,” and I was convinced the mold was gone, I moved myself back upstairs into my office. It was a blissful two days. Then, the Friday after Thanksgiving, we discovered the dogs had gotten into an opened bag of organic bone meal for the garden. Rocko was a little lethargic, but Roland couldn’t move. I was peanut-sitting and nursing a still sore mouth, so Scott rushed the little boy to the vet; then he transported him to the ER on a stretcher. Our vet and the ER clinic were awesome, but we worried he might not make it through the night.

Amazingly, the baby dog came home the following day, none the worse for wear. He and Rocko were normal, playful, perpetually starving dogs all day Saturday. Then, Sunday morning, Roland ate a sock. It wasn’t his first; we’ve been finding “sock poos” (“glove poos,” “bikini top poos”) in the yard for months. And we didn’t know right away – we learned after surgery on Monday afternoon. He spent four days in the ER. When we brought him home, he had 27 staples, his meds/feeding schedule was crazy, he was required to be on a leash at all times for two weeks, and by NO means was he allowed to do stairs. (That was the second time I got kicked out of my office.) I set up a temporary desk beneath my actual one, downstairs in the East Ball Room, so I could keep working. Two days before his staples were removed, Roland developed a stomach acid problem. We still have to feed him special food, one spoonful at a time, or he’ll throw it up. We’re hoping our vet bills will soon be finished raining down. Which reminds me…

Last Thursday was my only peanut-free day last week, so – since I finished the second editing job the previous day – I planned to (finally!) decorate, shop for gifts, and put together the “Hillbilly Highlights” calendar I started sending the family up north every year. Unfortunately, my plans changed when the peanut’s mommy got called in to work on her only day off. I was near tears with frustration. Then, Friday morning, she got another call, telling her not to go in that day. Can I get a hallelujah?! It was 11:30am, I grabbed my car key, put the baby dog in the kennel, and headed out to shop for an hour, so I could FINALLY be somewhat ready for the peanut’s first “real” Christmas. Picking up Roland’s food at the vet, first (so I didn’t forget, later), I rolled down the windows, cranked up Foo Fighters’ Sonic Highways, and basked in the freedom and the cool but sunny Florida day.

Twenty minutes into my first stop, the vet called. They asked how Roland was doing. I said, as long as we fed him small amounts, he didn’t throw up. The tech on the phone asked me to hold while she consulted with the doctor, then she came back on the line and said, “She’s concerned he’s still vomiting, wants to run tests on his esophagus, and needs you to bring him in immediately…” Maybe, if I could get more sleep around here – get more work done, find time to relax, stop feeling like my life is remote-controlled by someone/something else – I might have handled the disappointment better. Instead, I paid the cashier for the few things I’d found, walked to my car, and cried all the way home.

I stay up later than I should at night, because it’s the only time I spend with my husband; I wake up earlier than I should, because babies and puppies can’t be ignored. I had big dreams and good intentions for Christmas this year: wanted to send cards and letters, because it’s been too many years since the last time; wanted to spruce up the yard, because I’d hoped to surround the family with beauty; wanted to get all those boxes of baby things to the post office, because the kids back home can really use them (and soon); wanted to spend time with my son, picking out local and organic gifts, because we like to do that and can’t get our paths to cross much these days; wanted to get that calendar done and really wanted to put something under the tree, because it’s Christmas! But, we don’t always get what we want.

Roland stayed at the vet for testing while I detoured for lunch (and a shot and a beer) and finished shopping at the first place I’d stopped. He wasn’t ready when I returned to pick him up, so I sat in the exam room and waited. And waited. And, eventually, nearly fell asleep. Besides the dentist chair, it was the closest to “peaceful” I’d felt in months. Three hours later, the baby dog and I returned to the Campground. It was 7 o’clock. I told Scott the tests didn’t show any damage to his esophagus, but we still needed to be careful feeding him, and he has to go back if the problem continues. I told him about the “5 minutes of Zen” I’d had, too, before Roland was brought in to wait with me. He didn’t ask why when I started to cry again.

I have another editing job waiting for me after Christmas, and I’m disgustingly far behind on too many things. Until I’m able to dive in, though, I plan to step away from my office, spend time – on purpose – with my family and our favorite chocolate boys, and remind myself how fortunate I am to be wanted and how lucky I am to be able to be there when I am. Yes, the peanut will wake up soon, and I’ll have to stop typing and put on my grandma hat; yes, the baby dog needs another spoonful of food; yes, Scott’s probably whipped up something incredible in the kitchen and stopped waiting (impatiently) for me to walk downstairs and eat; and, yes, I still have to manage one last trip to the store for gifts. But, in the last two weeks, alone, we learned our dear friends from Seattle split after 26 years, a delightful and charming friend left behind a devastated family after an unexpected heart attack, and another friend was diagnosed with breast cancer. No matter how overwhelming my world becomes, I’m reminded regularly that there will always be someone out there with taller hurdles than mine; they need my strength, not my sense of defeat.

In reality, the land of babies and puppies is as wonderful as it is chaotic this year. When our peanut smiles, she lights up the room. Watching the chocolate boys nap side-by-side and run in the yard, again, after so many weeks of confinement and/or separation, warms my heart. And the same family that drives me to drink is the one I can’t live without. This Christmas, I hope you take time to appreciate the many things for which you can be grateful, hope you’re wanted and able to be there when you are, and hope you find your own five minutes of Zen amid the chaos.

Believe there is good in the world – then be the good.

And have a very Merry Christmas.

With Much Love ~


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