So, when are you going to have kids?

 

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“So, when are you going to have kids?”

“I don’t know. When are you going to lose weight?”

I’ve never said that, but I’ve wanted to…

Let’s try that again…

“So, when are you going to have kids?”

“I have furkids. A dog, sometimes a foster dog, and two cats.”

That’s more like my response.

On April 10, I will turn 30. On April 11, we will have been married for 3 years.

I have a dog, Bailey, a foster dog, and two cats, Jack and Ace. Right now, they are my furchildren. When people ask me when I am going to have human children, I answer their question depending on my mood.

I fluctuate between wanting to be a mother and wanting to remain childless. I look at my life now, bound only by my husband and animals. My mother, mother-in-law, or pet sitter could watch Bailey on short notice. My aunt loves cat-sitting. My husband can fend for himself if I go away with friends for a weekend. A child, however, needs more than a daily walk, litter box change, and food in a bowl. The career and Master’s degree I worked so hard for (and am still paying off) would put on pause to stay home and raise a child. I’m not one for day care; why bother since the cost wouldn’t even be worth me going to work. I never pictured myself jobless and financially dependent on my husband. I like to earn my own money and support myself. I can’t imagine being in my house all day, tending to a child and animals, cooking, cleaning, and doing laundry. I would go stir-crazy. No way. I’m already crazy. Then, I think about holding my baby in my arms, watching he or she grow and develop, and giving my parents and in-laws grandchildren. I think about the sleepless nights and poopy diapers, but the smiles, laughter, and endless amount of love might surpass rearranging my life and becoming a real housewife. I think parents call it unconditional love. Every morning I see a woman with a double stroller and her two dogs, jogging, and I think to myself, She is an awesome mom. She looks amazingly fit. She has 2 dogs and 2 kids. I can be her.

I look at the moms that I work with, and most of them seem overworked and overwhelmed. They are always on the phone in the closet or bathroom talking to the guidance counselor about Shawn’s D in geometry class or Kelly’s F in gym class. Some of them watch their nanny cams intently during their lunch break. I hear about day care nightmares and how little Abby is sick, once again. They sometimes share achievements and other developmental milestones, but most the time it focuses around what they must do (homework, doctor’s appointments, activities etc.), as if it were an inconvenience. When I mention how miserable they sound, usually they go into some story about how hard being a mother is, but how they love it and wouldn’t change it for the world. Having a kid sounds like a mixed bag.

I look at the adults without children and they seem happy, and content with not having children, but I always get a sense of worry when future planning is discussed. “Who is going to take care of me? I’m going to wind up in a nursing home.”  The childless adults are the people that I see have less wrinkles, more free time, take several extravagant vacations, have the most amazing gadgets, and are current on the latest trends. They seem a lot more relaxed but I sometimes see sadness and apprehension about the future.

My opinions on having children fluctuates day to day.  I have contemplated having none, being one-and-done and having two+ kids. Twins run in my family and sometimes I pray to God to give me a boy and girl, the ultimate two for one deal.

When asked: “When are you going to have kids?” these questions run through my head: What if I can’t get pregnant? What if we have problems? Why do people ask me this stupid, personal, invasive question? I don’t want to do IVF. Maybe we should start trying. Maybe we should wait until next year. What do I really want? I don’t know what I want. Maybe, I’m just not ready. Will I ever be ready? Shouldn’t I want to have a kid? I am a woman! I have a time clock. I don’t want to be an old mom. I’ll be happy, no matter what, right? And the chatter continues…

Take that question and remove it from your repertoire. If you can help it, let the undecided woman be. Let her decide in her own time and her own way what is right for her.

Whatever is meant to be, will happen. Whether I have none, one, two, twins, or three+, life will continue.

“So, when are you going to have kids?”

“Maybe tonight, maybe next week, maybe next month, maybe next year, maybe never.”

Namaste.

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Play Dead

“He should be in the ASPCA commercial, he would bring in all the donations!”

“Your cats are friendlier than your foster dog!”

20161225_150419“Can I adopt your dog? She’s great!”

I have never witnessed anything like it in my life.

I told the potential adopter that Heath, my 10-month-old black lab mix, was shy and scared. I told him that he has irritated skin, probably from stress, and comes with an antibiotic and a medicated shampoo. I was honest and upfront about all of Heath’s qualities. He needs work. As do most people in the world (hello, blogging & wine).

His background, I don’t know and can’t even imagine. When I get a foster in his state (scared, submissive, untrusting), I formulate stories in my head. My story of Heath was that he was rescued down South, spent most of his time in a crate and away from people, and that his interactions with people were limited or not pleasant. He knows what a ball is, and plays appropriately with toys, so that leads me to believe he had some interaction… but he cowers when I pet his head, and he still waits to see how I interact with Bailey before he comes and approaches me. It took me 40 minutes to lure him out of the crate the first night he arrived, but now, his hiding spot is underneath the kitchen table. He comes out from hiding on his terms in his time. Baby steps.

The potential adopter sent me a text message saying that he would arrive in 5 minutes, in which I began to give Heath a long pep-talk. It went like this: “You got this buddy. You want to go home for Christmas. You can do it. These are nice people, good people, and they are going to love you, and you are going to love them. You need to put on a good show. Now is your chance, Heath. I will be right here with you. ”

The potential adopter and his family came into my living room. Heath army crawled around on the couch and then he ran and hid underneath my kitchen table. I retrieved him from under the table and I tried placing him in the potential adopter’s lap. No cigar. Heath wanted off and out, now. I tried encouraging Bailey to play with him. I tried to get him to play with a toy. I tried to give him treats. I tried bringing the cats around so he could chase them. Something. Anything. I think I burned holes through my sweatshirt running around trying to figure out how to get him to do SOMETHING other than be scared and sad.

Then, Heath actually did something. He rolled on his back and exposed his white chest, put his front paws in the air, closed his eyes, and played dead. He couldn’t handle the meet and greet. He wanted our eyes off of him. He gave me the something I so desperately wanted. He laid on my floor, motionless, as if to say, “Is this over yet? Because I’ve had enough. My eyes bulged out of my head, my mouth was wide open, and my rosacea-like cheeks turned a new shade of pink. I opened my palm, slapped it against my forehead, and said “He is just really submissive.” Face palm. Foot in mouth. FML.

The potential adopter and I exchanged awkward pleasantries along the lines of sorry for wasting your time and I’ll let you know if a dog comes along that is a little more outgoing. Heath needs to work on his socialization skills, which requires a lot of time. There was unfortunately no connection between Heath and the potential adopter. There was, however, me, the foster parent, running around like an idiot trying to get Heath to be someone he is not…

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I talked to Jason (who wasn’t home to witness the playing dead drama), my mom, sister, and people from the rescue who couldn’t believe that it happened. They laughed, said “Oh no!,” and gave me some helpful advice.

I laugh, because I think of the everyday situations in which I wish I could play dead like Heath. I would just lay on my back with my legs and arms in the air, close my eyes and be like “F this shit, I’m done.” I thought it was funny and sad, all at the same time. Funny because that was his time to shine! I gave him a pep talk! We discussed this! And, what does he do? Play possum. It’s sad because God only knows what has happened to him to have him shut down and play dead. I feel like my life has so many of those funny-sad moments. I could relate to Heath, the days that I just stay in bed and mutter to myself “Nothing can happen to me here.” I think if I played dead in the middle of the rehab gym or in the middle of Jason talking to me, it wouldn’t be socially acceptable as I am not a canine, but it would make for a very interesting story.

Doors open and close each day in our lives. Heath decided to play dead when an opportunity was wide open for him to be adopted into a forever home. But I think Heath playing dead had a bigger meaning. He’s content here, he’s slowly becoming more comfortable, and maybe, he knew he is just not ready to leave.

20161223_211714Heath will find a home. He will find a person or family that will understand him and his quirks, that will accept his shyness and love for his hiding spots. Heath is an amazing little fellow. He observes from afar, licks your hand, takes treats nicely, and isn’t afraid to be himself. He perks up when he sees me take out a leash and enjoys his kibble with chicken and cheese.

When life gets tough, don’t be afraid to play dead.  The right door will open when you least expect it and in the interim, you’ll have the opportunity to work on your quirks.

You got this, Heath. I’m with you every step of the way.

Namaste.

Color Vibe

 

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When I was interning as an occupational therapy student in TBI (traumatic brain injury), I had an extremely difficult client who wouldn’t engage in conversation, never mind participate in any of the activities I presented to him. He became increasingly agitated and would smack himself, pound his fists on the table, and shout obscenities at me, disturbing the other therapists and clients. In school, they don’t teach you how to handle these types of situations. Your CI (Clinical Instructor) wants you to think on your feet and watch you adapt to a plethora of uncomfortable, unpredictable situations. They want to see how you keep control of your patient and the dilemma, and observe how you handle stress and aggravation. Fortunately, in this situation, my childhood hobby came into handy.

I knew my client liked Star Wars, so I printed out a few coloring sheets on the computer. I walked over to him, placed a coloring sheet and a box of crayons on the table in front of him, and sat down a few feet away. He looked at me and screamed, “I AIN’T DOIN’ THAT, STUPID!” I defeatedly replied, “Okay.”, and I started coloring my own sheet. After a few minutes, I saw him reach for a crayon. He colored the entire sheet, quietly, without outbursts. Everyone in the room was shocked. I remember one therapist gave me a thumbs up.  I finally got him to engage in a task and act appropriately for thirty minutes. When he finished with the first sheet, he asked me if I had any others. Mission accomplished.

Now, as an occupational therapist, I keep a few coloring books on hand in the therapy gym. I have learned more about my clients when they are coloring and having a bad day than I have trying to get them to do other activities of daily living (ADLs are the basis of OT including dressing, toileting, grooming, hygiene, bed mobility, medication, and home management). Sometimes, as they are coloring, I can get to the bottom of why my client is feeling a certain way, and what may be causing them to have a bad stint in the gym. Life, as we all know, certainly does happen, and sometimes we need to do something relaxing before we jump into more difficult tasks.

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work in progress

If you don’t already know, coloring has numerous therapeutic benefits. When my anxiety creeps up, I whip out this small coloring book, 12 Crayola twistable colored pencils, pour myself a nice big cup of coffee, and start coloring. Coloring calms me down, helps me to de-stress, unwind, and unplug. It’s tactile, and I get to choose my color and sheet, which gives me control. I am happy when my page is finished. I don’t stress if I color outside the lines. I could care less if I doodle in the background. Sometimes, I use one or two colors and sometimes I use all twelve. It is creative, quiet, and fun.

As silly as it may sound, coloring is my coping mechanism and a great way for me to self-soothe. It is cheaper than therapy, healthier than a glass of wine, and allows me to retreat to my own personal paradise.

After all, broken crayons still color.

Namaste.

colorowl

Life of a Foster Mom

 

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Briggs, looking for a furever home

Meeting a foster dog is like going on a blind date. I get nervous and sweaty, pace around the house, and wait for the text message “Be there in 30.” Dog rescue is complicated. When I first started fostering, I was naïve, uninformed, and wasn’t familiar with the rescue terminology. I especially didn’t realize how many volunteers are required to have a successful transport from shelter to foster home.

It starts with a volunteer who seeks puppies and dogs, primarily from high kill shelters, that we will rescue. The volunteer and transporter situates dogs from the shelter into his/her vehicle, meets another transporter, who meets another transporter, who meets another transporter, who meets a volunteer from our rescue, who texts all of us, and we all meet like a pack of wolves to come and collect our foster dog. It’s happy (that they are with us and safe at their destination) but sad and anxiety ridden (because they are scared, peeing in our backseat [thank you towels], and we have a lot of work ahead of us) The labor or love begins as soon as they enter our vehicle. Here are some tips I compiled for a successful transition from pick-up through Day 1.

Car Safety

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Briggs behaving in my backseat with the Kurgo Seat Belt Tether

If I get a puppy or small dog, I have a small crate that fits in my backseat. The crate is lined with a towel. If I have a larger dog, a car seat belt is a terrific investment. As you can see pictured, I use the Kurgo Seat Belt Tether. The seat belt makes sure that the dog does not become a projectile while the car is in motion. I also invested in a car sling and put down towels. I also give plenty of treats and have a bone in the backseat to try to keep them distracted. Building a report is paramount, and their safety and well-being is my priority.

Walk it Out

As soon as I get home, I take the foster dog on a walk around the house and front yard. I take note of how the dog walks on a leash, and its mannerisms. Am I being dragged? Is he/she skittish? Is its tail wagging or tucked? How does he/she respond to treats and its name being called? When I feel comfortable, I bring Bailey outside (on a leash) to let them greet on neutral territory. I walk them up the block and watch their interactions to see if it will be a successful match. Then the foster and I head into our fenced in backyard. (Bailey goes inside.) This gives he/she an opportunity to go to the bathroom off leash, investigate all the different scents, and I can see how they interact with the different toys. Some foster dogs take to playing immediately while others have never had a toy. Once the foster gets acclimated, Bailey comes outside for more play and fun. The foster learns quickly that she is top dog. Bailey unfortunately doesn’t have the temperament, or the recall capabilities, to be a rehabilitation dog for humans, but this is where she shines and makes the best foster sibling. Within a few days, Bailey teaches the scared, skittish dogs how to play with and without toys, how to go up and down stairs, how to walk on a leash, where to eat and drink, and basic commands. If a foster is extremely scared and hides in the crate, Bailey will enter the crate, grab he/she by the scruff, and pull them out of the crate to play. She is a great help when it comes to acclimating a shelter dog to my temporary, loving home.

Bath, Crate, Food, Water

Depending on the temperament of the foster and when they received their flea and tick medication, he/she will get a bath. Then we will introduce he/she to its crate with food and water. We always make the crate a safe place, with a nice warm blanket or towel (sometimes I throw it in the dryer on a high for a few minutes), and lots of delicious treats (we love Pupperonis). I want them to know that they are clean, safe in their crate, and they will always have food and water.

The first night, as much as I would love for them to snuggle in bed with me, they go into the crate. I cover the crate with a blanket or sheet to create a warm little cave. Nothing makes me happier than when I go to let them out of their crate in the morning and their tail is wagging, happy to see me. That shows me that they are beginning to trust me and excited for a new day in my home.

When fostering, the first 24 hours are always the most unpredictable and difficult. It is a lot of work to acclimate a foster dog into a new environment with two humans, a high-energy canine, and two felines. I am lucky to volunteer for a rescue that gives me good matches for my family.

If you ever thought about fostering, reach out to your local rescue. Foster parents are always needed and appreciated. (If you live in NJ, check out Caring Canine Connections, www.thecccrescue.com) It will be an unforgettable, rewarding experience.

“The greatness of a nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” – Mahatma Gandhi

Be the change.

Namaste.

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Thanks for visiting!

21. 29. 30.

me

Tap on my shoulder.

“HOW OLD ARE YOU?”

“How old do you think I am?”

“21, maybe.”

“I’m 29. How old are you?”

“40.”

“Do you have a boyfriend?”

“I’m MARRIED.” Take ring, shove in face.

He shakes head.

“Oh, that sucks, being married. No fun for you.”

“Actually, it’s great, keeps me away from people like you.”

Australian friend: “You’re mean.”

“No one said I had to be nice.”

*

Standing at bathroom with drink in hand waiting for friend.

Security guard. “Ma’am I need to see your ID.”

“I was IDed before I entered the casino floor, Sir.”

“Ma’am, I’ll ask you again, I need to see your ID.”

Give ID. (I was so close to saying, you didn’t ask, you demanded, but I bit my tongue.)

“Oh wow, pretty unbelievable, have a great night.”

*

Enter through security at concert.

“Did they ID you over there?”

“Yes, they did.”

“Well, I’m going to need to see it again.”

Give ID.

“NO. No WAY. I was WRONG about you. 29? Really?” Takes ID, puts near face.

How old do I look?

“Younger than 21, We all IDed you!”

*

My ID was handy in my cross body bag the entire night, and I could feel my friend’s eyes look over at me because I looked under 21 and that made everyone else get IDed. One of my friends pulled a, “Do you need my ID too?” when she didn’t get carded. She probably did it so I wouldn’t feel bad. The guy barely glanced at their ID, but everyone seemed to study and scan mine. “No time for fakes”, I would say, and they would look at me like I was lying and had two heads. Maybe it was the vodka talking, but I was happy and feeling vibrant.

I overheard some idiot said women age like milk, men age like wine which made me sad and angry, simultaneously. Before my friends and I went out for the night, I was talking about injections and fillers and how I would consider them in the future. I mentioned how I try to eat right, exercise, treat myself to an occasional facial, and have no problem slathering on the latest lotions and potions to prevent fine lines and wrinkles from sneaking up on my face. I am still waiting for my first gray hair, (I check every day) and when I see one, I have my hair stylist on speed dial and she will be dying that little gray hair quicker than I can blink my blue-green eyes.

My girl’s night out certainly validated that I look significantly younger than my age, and some lovely 40-year-old gentleman tried his best to grab my attention with that amazing pick-up line and shoulder tap, (insert sarcasm here), but the truth is that in April, I will turn 30, and it scares the living daylights out of me. No matter how young I look, I will enter a new decade. There is no lotion, potion, or time reversal serum to slather on my face. There is no time transportation vessel to bring me back to my beloved college years or wedding day.

My 20s were all about finding myself, finishing graduate school, starting my career and getting married. I had huge life changes and transitions. My 30s, I think, will be more of the same, but with a more developed, don’t-really-care-what-you-think, I’m-really-adulting-now, attitude.

I always ask my patients what their secrets are to looking young. I’ve heard “everything in moderation,” to slather olive oil on your face, to have lots of sex, to drink lots of red wine. Whatever it is, I’m actively looking for the fountain of youth. In the meantime, I am happy to look significantly younger than my age, never cringe or get defensive when I get carded, and remind myself that age is just a number. We live in a world with so many innovations to slow the aging process (that I am willing to try). So, I say, bring it on. My baby face will be fine.