Monday, April 30, 2012

Awaiting Pippy's Arrival

Tomorrow will mark one week of being on my own here in Sarasota.
Tomorrow will also be the day Pippy arrives.
And my Mom, too.
I must admit that this first week has been a mix of good, bad and ugly.
The first night I cried. It hit me as I laid down to sleep that I was alone and that I would be alone the next day and the day after that and the day after that and, well, you get the point. All I could see was me alone in a forest and there was no one around. Forget the fact that I was in a condo with at least fifty other units in the beautifully landscaped complex, in a city with over 52,025 people as of July 2009 (thank you Google search). All of that was irrelevant that first night. There was no one else in my condo with me and that made me alone in the universe.
Each night has improved since that first cry-fest. I spent the first five nights falling asleep with the TV on to forget that no one else was around but last night I turned it off and decided to tough it out like a big girl. I came short of singing "I'm a big girl now" but trust me I was thinking it.
Despite the fact that nights have gotten manageable, days have gotten harder. Much of my time has been spent lurking in Marshall's and TJ Maxx, looking for the right touches for the condo. I've since exhausted all isles of all such stores and still haven't completed decorating my apartment. Thank goodness new shipments come in daily and Marshall's is only one mile from my new home. Bottom line, I'll be back.
But hunting for the perfect home accessories isn't doing it for me anymore. I'm finding it harder to feel motivated to get up in the morning. I'm feeling lethargic. I wish I could blame this on being tired of hitting up every store in the tri-state area but I think it goes deeper than that. My health has obviously been a concern for a while now (try over two years) and there have been many days where getting up and moving felt like an impossible task. There have been days in the past couple of years where I felt that my body giving out was a possibility. I refer to those days as "The Mac Truck hit me" feeling. I would put mind over matter on those days and will myself to keep on moving forward. Sometimes that meant just getting out of the house for an hour. Moving didn't always mean it had to be earthshaking, sometimes it was just enough to not be sitting on the couch.
When I adopted Pippy I had been doing better physically. Weight had started to return and with it came energy. In those dog days of summer I had the energy to take Pippy on multiple walks a day and work without any struggle to keep up.
Then that all started to change. My health took a turn for the worst and the feeling of lethargy returned with extreme force.
That is when I saw God's divine Pippy timing. He brought her into my life right before I was about to suffer again. I had no idea what struggles were ahead of me when I embarked on puppy ownership, but God did. He knew I would benefit from having a furry friend in the days to come. There were moments that getting up felt like a physical strain that I didn't want to compete with, but Pippy needed walked, so I got up and got out. God knew I would need motivation. God knew I would need something pushing me to walk around a few blocks. Pippy was that push. She kept me going when it would have been easy to stay planted on the couch.
Now I'm here without her and I'm realizing what a blessing she has been. The only thing pushing me now is my mind. A dog is more effective and much more enjoyable. She can give love and encouragement while demanding that she get outside ASAP to do her doggie business. Unless I want to end up on hands and knees with a pile of paper towels and a plastic bag, I better head the prancing pooch to the door, and quick. Without her jumping around I am relying on my own mental willpower on the days I'm lacking in the energy department.
Unfortunately, those days of lethargy have been plentiful in the past week. By nine I'm exhausted and can barely stay on the phone with my Mom. Picking up a ten pound weight in the gym feels like an accomplishment (it used to feel like make-believe workout). My body feels like it is weighed down with sand bags. My body is telling my head that it is seventy and my head is having trouble relaying the message that is only twenty two.
I need Pippy to get back down here, and pronto.
I have lost my patience at times with her and snapped too quickly. There have been days when I haven't shown her the attention she deserves. But I'm realizing that I owe her, big time. She has been a motivational cheerleader through bad health. Who knew a dog could be such a thing? I didn't. Not until I needed her to take that role.
Thank goodness that God's plan is far better than my own. I was never a dog person and never intended to be a dog owner at this age but God had different plans. He laid a heavy weight on my heart to get a puppy, fully knowing that this was going to come in handy in the not so distant future.
I'm so glad I listened.
And I'm so glad Pippy will be here tomorrow.

Dog Child

Becoming a dog owner has opened my eyes to a phenomenon of cross species parental love. I have witnessed it on Animal Planet and The Discovery Channel. The images of one animal raising another animal of different species is touching.
To confirm that I hadn't imagined the cuteness I googled "one species of animal raising another" and was surprised to find about 2,300,890 websites that matched. Apparently I'm not alone in finding enjoyment in the precious dogs raising cheetahs and cats feeding deer. The gorilla holding a baby kitten was my favorite. The pig raising the tigers seemed risky.
These momma animals take the babies under their wing as if species didn't exist. They raise them as their own. Talk about some serious adoption. Usually a monkey wouldn't want to be caught face to face with a tiger - we are talking potentially fatal encounter here - but when that tiger is a baby the past murders of ancestors are put aside and that monkey is right there to feed and protect the tiger.
That is the stuff life lessons are made of.
Which brings me to the human equivalent.
Dog ownership
Dog owners don't just feed, walk and clean up after their puppies (and grown puppies). They cuddle them, coo over them and guard them with their life. The dog isn't just an animal, it is practically at human status. Actually, some dogs are above human status. As Anchorman would say, "A little Buddah covered in fur." Okay, so maybe the family dog isn't drawing crowds like religious trips to Mecca but you get my point.
Recently I have noticed people actually treating their dog as if they are actual human babies. Take, for example, the dog in the baby Bjorn. Typically this is a carrier for an infant or young toddler. The baby is kept close to the mother and can feel safe and secure while being kept warm and coddled.
I wonder if the makers of the Bjorn knew this was also true for dogs when they patented their invention?
At the farmers market I ran into a woman carrying her white fluffy Maltese in a baby Bjorn. This mental picture would be sufficient but there is more. The dog was wearing a hat with special ear cut out holes and, wait for it, a pair of over sized sunglasses. Yes, this dog was ready for the beach.
I considered questioning whether this woman was aware this was a dog and not a fuzzy child, but I refrained. They both looked happy and that is what counts in the dog and dog child relationship.
My next dog child encounter came in the form of a Poodle that looked much like my own dog child. The dog barked, the man picked her up and softly whispered to her, comforting her anxiety with soothing words. It was borderline creepy. I didn't know whether to feel the "Aww" emotion or the "Uh, wha??" emotion. I'm still mulling it over.
Whether or not you raise your dog as if it were a human being is up to you. I take a different approach to pet ownership, but that's just me. To each his own. If you carry your dog strapped to your chest just know you won't be the first.
Just please, keep the creepy cooing to a minimum in public.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Sentimental Value

Do you own things from a decade (or many decades) ago that you just can't seem to part with? I think everyone has something in their closet that they don't use but keep for the memory it holds. At least every woman does. Men might be a different story.
I call this sentimental value.
TLC calls it hoarding.
Sure, at some point it becomes a condition that must be treated by reality TV intervention but for your average citizen holding onto possessions long past their time of use is normal. We do it because at some point in our life that possession had special meaning. Maybe that special something takes you back to a certain place with a certain person or maybe it reminds you of an era of your life that is now behind you.
For me, the possession is a jean jacket that is completely faded and has a small hold in the right breast pocked. I haven't worn it in over five years, still it occupies a hanger in my closet. Why? It was the first thing I ever bought at the Bloomingdales in NYC on my first visit to the Big Apple. The jacket was a splurge, but my Mom insisted that I must have it - love her! She is always insisting I must have cute articles of clothing. She has good taste. Most of the clothing she insists upon become my go to staples of my wardrobe. Like this jacket, for example. I was 13 when I bought the jacket and I wore it all through middle and high school. Then, one day, I cast a wandering eye on another jean jacket. No, it was not in Saks Fifth Avenue or Nordstrom. Just your typical Gap Outlet jacket. I tried it on and immediately knew I must have it. The styling fit me perfectly and the price was right. I bought it and still wear it.
Pause: there is currently a snake in front of me. No worries, he's on the other side of my screened in porch. Just one of the joys of moving to Florida. New wildlife to interrupt the thought process.
But back to the jacket.
I retired my beloved Bloomingdales jacket that day and replaced it with another that didn't hold half the sentimental value but did cost well below half the price. The new jacket wasn't as faded and didn't contain a hole. Everything has a life span, right? Even Bloomingdales jackets? I think so. Replacing the jacket was just a natural progression.
Usually the next step for me would have been to bag up the old jean jacket with other old clothing and donate it to Goodwill or the Salvation Army or the like. But not this time. I couldn't part with it because it was from my first trip to the big city. I have since been to NYC countless times. I know how to find my way around its streets and have even ventured onto the subways. I am well acquainted with the city, yet that jacket still has deep meaning to me.
Now that I have moved to Florida I am faced with a dilemma: when you move on physically what possessions do you need to bring along and what can you do without? Moving to a new location makes you reevaluate what you truly need. Packing and unpacking is a burden so if you don't need a certain something then you simply don't bring it. You donate it or pass it along as a hand-me-down.
For most items of clothing I have no problem with this. I've donated garbage bags full of clothing. But there are certain things in life that aren't just their name like "jacket," they are a cherished memory.
Last night my Mom was going through my things back home in Erie and stumbled upon said jacket. She asked if she should bring it down to me. Truth be told, no she shouldn't. I haven't worn it in years. The next question was, "Should I give it to Noelle (my niece)?" I hesistated. Silly as it is, I actually had to pause. Noelle would get so much use out of a jacket that is currently just taking up space. She would love it and look great in it. So, why the hesitation? Because of the memory. Letting go of the physical possession symbolizes the moving on of time and the past getting farther away.
In the end I told her to give it to Noelle.
The jacket isn't the memory.
The memory is walking the streets of NYC with my Mom and aunts. Seeing my first (off) Broadway show. Staying at the Marriott Hotel on Lexington Avenue. Eating at Tavern on the Green. Wearing a pair of shoes that rubbed my foot in the most painful way after a day of walking - a memory I would rather forget.
The memory isn't the physical thing, it is the sweet thoughts and recollections that you can carry with you without ever having to pack a special box for it when you move.
What is more important than the things we possess are the people who share in the special moments with us, not the things we bought in a store.
So, clean house.
Give away the things that just take up space. Let someone else make a precious memory with your special something. Give it the opportunity to play a role in someone else's cherished moment.
Just because you give away the jacket doesn't mean you give up the memory.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Conjuction Junction

I'm young so maybe people (::cough cough:: young adult men) have always talked this way, but I'm noticing a lack of English language knowledge in the young male population. It seems that their vocabulary is built around four letter expletives that I wouldn't feel comfortable writing or saying. Let's just say that F and S sounds abound.
Every sentence is littered with these foul words. Sometimes the inclusion of the word renders the whole sentence nonsensical. It is as if a thought cannot be vocalized unless a swear word is included. When did this rule come into being? I get nouns, verbs, adjectives - your basic fundamental principles of grammar. But profanity? I must have missed that day in fourth grade. I remember School House Rock "Conjunction, junction, what's your function?" but fail to remember "foul mouth profanity must be in each uttered sentence."
Maybe my public school upbringing failed me.
Or maybe these new grammar laws are a sign of a moral decay in our society.
I think it is the latter.
I'm about to get deep - you have been warned.
The Bible doesn't mince words, the tongue is one powerful body part. It conveys what is in our heart, it is a window into the condition of our soul. James 3 likens our tongue to fire. Just like a little kindle can grow into a forest fire, the little pink attachment in our mouth can bring forth devestation. It is a direct link to what is inside.
Listening to F-this and F-that isn't pleasant, it is far worse than that. It shows a disregard for Godly living. The Bible clearly tells us to guard our tongue and refrain from profane speech. When I hear young men throwing around the F-bomb as often as I use the word "the" I know what kind of guy I'm dealing with. The kind I typically try to avoid - harsh, I know.
So what do we do about this? Who's job is it to address this problem?
I think School House Rock is over it's head with this one.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Bob Vila

You wanna know what I learned today?
Bob Vila could have saved himself a lot of time putting together shelves if he would have shopped at Target.
Let me explain.
Today I was once again shopping for my new apartment. When you start from scratch there is a lot of shopping to be done. Oh, darn! My hunt today was for closet storage. The mental closet picture included a few self-assemble shelving units. Then I got to the store, took one look at those thin boxes of assorted plywood and destroyed the mental image. All I could see was hours spent attempting to screw flimsy front doors on drawers that didn't make it down the assembly line correctly. I saw Philips head and frustration. That is when I decided that life is too short to spend it with one of those boxes.
I resolved to pile my clothing on the floor.
Until I spotted hanging closet organizers. Hallelujah! No assembly required. Open, hook to rod in closet. Place clothing inside. Ta-da. Finished.
For all women who see only horror when they see instructions this is a miraculous invention. I like projects that require as few diagrams as possible. Once you pass two pictures that don't begin to resemble what I'm looking at, you've lost me.
Men might not have this problem. Many men enjoy projects with lots of instructions. I think it makes them feel manly. Whatever does it for you, boys. I'll take the girly approach, thank you very much. That is why I stick instruction manuals in a drawer and only open them when all else fails. Sure, I glance at it for a moment and pretend to be interested pre- self assembly but I'm not really taking anything in. I'm doing my duty. My "read the instruction manual prior to assembly" duty.
I enjoy when things are simple, straight forward and self-explanatory. No sketchy black and white picture required.
So, Bob Vila. Next time you need a place to throw those muddy boots of yours after a hard days work don't break out the tools, just make a stop at Target. They have hanging shelves for that.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

People Watching

I used to want to hide the truth, but now I'm coming out. I am a Panera-holic. There is no sense in denying the truth any longer and why should I? I love my Panera habits. Each day I settle in with my coffee, book and salad while I enjoy my lunch and watch the world go by. What could be a simple meal becomes an experience. Not a day goes by that I don't interact with someone new or observe something interesting. Panera Bread is my little corner of the world where I watch, listen and learn.

Take, for example, this afternoon. Today is my first day (or partial day) on my own in Sarasota. I never imagined that a new town could feel like home so quickly. The feeling here isn't one of vacation for me, it is the comfort found in your favorite pair of well worn shoes. To be honest, I don't even understand how this peace has come to rest in me with such rapid speed. I'm a homebody. I love my bedroom and my kitchen and my living room at my parent's house in Erie. I used to be ready for even the most glorious vacation to come to an end so I could return to home sweet home. Things have changed in me. Today I hugged my Mom goodbye as she flew back to Erie. Initially, the plan was for us both to travel home via car to Erie for a week or so but when the time came to get serious about heading back up north I became more disenchanted with the idea. Within a week my life has been transplanted to the west coast of Florida and I am 100% okay with that reality.

But back to my daily Panera trip. Today I sat outside, enjoying the breeze and a salmon salad. The people watching in this town is top notch. To those who believe that people watching doesn't differ by city in regards to its goodness, I respectfully disagree. The beautiful thing about people watching in this town is the friendliness of the general population. Maybe it is just the high people get from the cinnamon aroma of Panera Bread or maybe it has something to do with this being the sunshine state, but people here just seem nice. Customers smile at each other, say hello to perfect strangers, hold the door for one another and even track down owners of missing purses. Which is where our story now takes us. My first moment of people watching excitement began when an older couple came walking out of the doors of Panera and started heading to their car in the parking lot. Within less than a minute a tall and manly older gentleman came running from the restaurant, leopard print purse in hand. He spotted the couple and yelled out "Ma'am, Ma'am." She turned around and threw her hands up in shock that her leopard print purse was on the arm of a stranger rather than her own. Clearly, she had no idea that she was without her purse. That man just did his random act of kindness for the day. Maybe most people would have done the same thing; I know I would run after a women who left behind her purse if I witnessed it too, but would everyone? It is moments like this that make me smile because I am reminded that there are many goodhearted people in this world. For all the negative and for all the evil littered throughout TV and the radio, there is still decency. There are still so many people with upstanding character and morals. I saw it today.

My second people watching noteworthy moment came in the form of a dog - surprised? The little Yorkie behind me was wearing a cone around her little head. My initial reaction is to want to say "aww" whenever I see one of those plastic tubes around a dogs neck. It just looks so pathetic. But then I realized that the little Yorkie was just like my little Pippy. That dog was friendly as could be! She came right up to me and put her paws on my chair, just the way Pippy does at home. She didn't try to scratch me or bark at me. She just wanted to make a new friend. I could only wish that Pippy would have been there too, she would have been all for this new friend. I can just see the "BFF" bracelets now. The two dogs would make great play mates. When the little Yorkie's owner went inside for a moment her puppy gave the look that I know so well. It says, "Where ya going?" and makes you consider turning back, forgetting whatever it was you were on your way to accomplish. For this woman it was to buy a loaf of bread - a task that would take approximately two minutes - but still I could tell she was torn. "I'll be right back, sweetie!" Her voice was so familiar that I realized something about myself. I'm like that! I'm the person who feels a little niggling of guilt when I walk away from Pippy and she cocks her head to the side, confused by my sudden departure up the stairs or out the front door. I wonder once I've walked away, "What is Pippy going to do now that I'm gone?" It isn't that I play with her non-stop or that I carry her around the house, but she follows me everywhere. If I'm in the living room, she's in the living room. If I walk in the kitchen she likes to come along and see what I'm up to.We're buddies - what can I say?

Today I was laying on the table in the doctor's office, getting acupuncture needles stuck all over my body, and my wonderful Chinese doctor said, "You find boyfriend when you get better." I laughed and told him that I don't need a boyfriend. He went on to say that it is good to have a companion as we get older and that it is good to find someone to share life with. I agree with him, and maybe someday I will have a boyfriend or a man to "share life with." But for now I don't feel deprived or lonely. I've got Pippy.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Welcome to Sarasota

It sure has been awhile since I've sat down to write. The past 4 months have been a whirlwind but finally it seems the tides that have swept through my life are finally settling.
For the past 4 months my life has been focused on one solitary issue: my health. It all began over 2 years ago when I couldn't stop my body from losing weight. I searched for answers and a resolution to to the problem with little success. In the meantime I was feeling horrible. I had no energy and my body seemed to be utterly confused by food. It didn't seem to know how to process it or use it. As the days ticked by the weight fell off.
Finally, after multiple doctors and rounds of blood work I threw up my hands in frustration. I handed the matter over to God and told Him that He was going to have to fix me because it seemed as if no one else could. I stopped eating gluten at the recommendation of one doctor and let the rest work itself out. Amazingly enough, something started to happen. I started feeling better and I put on weight. From February of that 2011 to August I gained 8 pounds. I was feeling great and working non-stop. Life was good. I felt good!
Fast forward to November of 2011: muscle wasting and weight slipping. It was happening again. It was as if I couldn't stop it. All I wanted was to be able to hold onto the weight, make the scale stick. But it wasn't meant to be. Each time I stepped on the scale I held my breath and each time the number was lower than it was the day before. A few ounces here and a few ounces there...before I knew it I was down 10 pounds - at my lowest weight since I was in the seventh grade. By Christmas I was desperate for answers. First I traveled to Seattle. After testing that doctor came back with nothing. I came back home and did more testing. Still nothing. February was here again and the weight was still dropping. I was in a state of almost constant panic. The next doctor I found was in California, so hello SO CAL. After two weeks of treatments I came back home but with mixed feelings. I had a few good days but in more ways than one, I was worse and still stuck with a scale that wouldn't budge.
At the recommendation of an acquaintance I started looking into an acupuncture/ Chinese medicine doctor in Sarasota, FL. Within two weeks my Mom and I were back on the road again, this time with unwavering determination. I made a vow: I will not come back home until that scale has moved up.
So now that I'm here I can say thanks be to God, I believe that the treatment is working! I have seen improvement in how I feel and I have only been here for a week. It is amazing to me that sticking some needles in a person could produce favorable results but the changes I'm experiencing are undeniable. This Chinese doc knows his stuff! Not to mention that he is the sweetest doctor on the planet. He is kind, gentle and soothing. If he weren't all these things I might be reluctant to have needles stuck all over my body.
Although I am already seeing progress I know the road ahead is long. I am over 20 lbs away from my ideal weight. This is a marathon, not a sprint. I have to be in it for the long haul. Which is why I signed a lease on an apartment and will be making the move to Sarasota on May 1.
This move is sudden but I have no doubts that it is the right step to take. This decision reminds me of another spur of the moment life altering move I made in August of last year: to buy a dog.
When I bought Pippy I didn't waste much time mulling over whether or not to go ahead with puppy ownership. I slept on it. When I woke up I was more excited about the possibility of becoming a dog mom than when I had gone to bed. Well, that was enough confirmation for me! I scoured the internet for a Schnoodle puppy that I could bring home - immediately. The puppies that still had to be with their dog momma for another few weeks were crossed off the list. I was in the market for a puppy to be picked up tomorrow, not in a month.
As you can see, once I make up my mind, that's it. Some people may call it rash or immature or naive but I call it decisive. If you know what you want why waste time pretending you don't? I knew I wanted a dog so I found one. And you wanna know what? She's the perfect dog for me. I'll be honest, I had days in the beginning that I wanted to drive her right back to the breeder and leave her there. Just like children, puppies will push your buttons. She got too good at hitting the big red one that says, "DO NOT PUSH". But as time went on, I began to see that Pippy was teaching me valuable life lessons like patience and not to sweat the small stuff. Pippy's friendliness taught me to greet everyone with a smile and to always be ready to meet a new friend. Pippy's forgiveness has taught me to stop laying guilt on myself and to forgive the imperfections of the people around me. Even after the moments I'm too harsh with her, she always comes back loving me just the same. She may only be 15 pounds but she is bursting with wisdom only a dog can provide. The beautiful part of learning from a dog is that there's never an exchange of words. Sure, I talk to Pippy, but she can't say anything back. Cocking her head to one side doesn't count. She teaches in the best way possible: by example.
The decision to get Pippy was a quick one but has been one of the best of my life. When my health struggled over the past 4 months she was right there to help me keep going. I never missed a day of taking her on her walk. If it weren't for her I don't know if I would have had the motivation to get up and out each of those days. But she kept me going. When I brought Pippy into my life I didn't know why I felt so sure that a dog was a good addition to my life, but I was positive that I was meant to have her. Now I see why. God knew I would need Pippy long before I knew the reasoning.
Likewise, I am sure I should be moving to Sarasota. As for all the reasons I'm not sure - God doesn't like to show all His cards too early. What I do know is that God is working out a wonderful plan. He has something exciting for me here. If I don't take a leap of faith I'll never know what He's been working in me these past few years. So, here I go. In my human weakness I feel anxious. What if I'm lonely? What will I do all day long by myself? What will I be missing back in Erie? But then I think about how beautifully God works things out for those who love and obey Him and I can't help but be pumped! Who will He have me meet here? Where will he use me to serve Him? What new experiences will I enjoy? What will I learn about myself? Those are the questions that get me excited. And of course the question of, how will I decorate my new home? I love that question!
Sarasota, get ready, because Pippy, Daisy (my VW convertible) and I are on our way! Bring on the sunshine, warmth, healing and adventure! This is going to be a great year.