It had a longer vacation than I did

In some of my earliest memories of my mother, she’s wearing a long, orange and cream-colored cardigan. She threw it on to keep the chill off and always had napkins and tissues in the pockets in case my brother and I ever needed them.

As an adult, I saw it in her closet at some point and she agreed to let me have it. I wore it a lot because it felt like home to me. And because it was made out of a cotton-synthetic blend, it kept its shape. You’d probably never guess it’s lived such a long life.

Beaune

Even though I loved it, I didn’t always take the best care of it. I let my dog Sassy lie on it, and it would often end up on the floor of my closet. It was kind of like a friend who’d forgive you no matter how shitty were.

It’s needed some TLC over the years (it helps to have a mother-in-law who sews!) But even when it was looking raggedy, I would still wear it, rips and safety pins and all.

I found that it was the very best thing to wear when traveling. The pockets were handy, and it was snuggly and warm and it came down past my waist so I could wear it with leggings. When my mom was dying 12 years ago, I put it on before flying from my then-home in Las Vegas to Philly (which I did frequently back then) and she smiled when she saw me in it.

And so, I while getting dressed before our trip to France earlier this month, I naturally grabbed my mom’s sweater. I wore for more than a day, finally taking it off to shower at our Airbnb in Beaune in the Burgundy region.

After it kept me warm and comfortable during my travels, I returned the favor by completely forgetting about it.

Really forgetting. Not only did I leave it at the Airbnb in Beaune, I didn’t even realize I had done so until more than a week later.

We had a long layover in Dublin, and I planned to wear it on the flight home. I looked through my suitcase and backpack at the hotel as I was getting dressed and suddenly realized I didn’t have it.

The ceiling caved in on me, and I broke out in a cold sweat. I was so upset that I didn’t even say anything to Mike at first. We were in a hurry, I picked out something else to wear, and put it out of my mind until later.

I knew it had to be at the first place where we stayed. We had both overpacked, so we had to actually mail back some of our dirty clothes from Paris to the US so we had enough room in our bags bring home a couple bottles of wine, and I know the sweater wasn’t in that box, nor did I remember seeing it at any other point.

I could freak out about it or I could just accept that things come in and out of your life and it’s just a sweater, after all.

“Maybe it decided it liked France and wanted to live there,” I told Mike. I thought that maybe some woman over there would find it and wear it while doing fabulous French things and could have a much better life than the one I had given it.

It kind of hurt to even think about how stupid and careless I had been, so it wasn’t until we had been home for a few days that I asked Mike if he’d email the Airbnb guy to find out if he found it. I felt like the answer was no, but I had to try.

The answer (no surprise) was no.

But then the next day he wrote back. They looked again and actually did find it!

I was so relieved and felt like I had won something. So. Relieved. It’s just a sweater, but it’s so much more to me than that.

The Airbnb guy shipped it to us (we reimbursed him) and the box arrived yesterday. Ahh, how amazing it felt to be reunited. I felt a rush of gratitude that we were back in each others’ lives. 

When I took it out of the box I reached into the pockets. Of course, I found the airport napkins I’d stuffed in there just in case I needed them. Wonder where I learned that?

(By the way, if you’re ever planning a trip to eastern France, stay here. I have proof that if you happen leave anything there, Ludwig would be kind enough to mail it to you.)

 

A few years ago I wrote here about how my dad sold the house that my brother and I grew up in.

It was sad. There were so many memories there.

Recently, I was in Hatfield with my brother and sister and we decided on a whim to stop by the house my parents had owned for more than 30 years. I guess I wanted to see how it was doing since it had been such a big part of my life for so long.

As I wrote in my previous post about the house, I thought (or maybe it was wishful thinking) that a young family had moved in and that the kids went to the elementary school Doug and I attended. I pictured them living their lives there there like we had.

But that wasn’t the case.

The couple who bought it are unfortunately going through a divorce. The guy lives there, and one of the kids was there but he appeared to be visiting.

It looked like there were half-finished home improvement projects all over the place. And they bought the house in 2013.

The front room and dining room were full of kids’ toys, no furniture. The family room (a.k.a. den) and kitchen were the only usable spaces downstairs.

The garage reeked of cigarettes, and so did the rest of the house.

My parents would have died (well, if they weren’t already dead, I guess.)

The guy was polite enough to let us in, but it felt weird. He seemed embarrassed. He would’t let us upstairs because he said it was a mess.

To his credit, he allowed three strangers inside his home with no notice, so I’m not condemning him. And perhaps it’s unfair to snark on him when I don’t really know him or what he’s dealing with in life. It’s his house and he can do what he wants with it. It’s just disappointing that he hasn’t been keeping it up like my parents had.

The biggest letdown was that he ripped out all of my parents’ landscaping in the front and in the back, plus he cut down a tree. He said they were overgrown, so why not trim it or hire someone to do so?

My mom and dad were so proud of that yard. Now it just looks trashy, like nobody gives a crap. They’d would be upset.

As we walked around, Doug kept hugging me, happy to be back in his old home, and even tried to get into the basement. He still remembered how to work the lock on the door that my dad had installed.

There were some little things that made us happy, though, like seeing that the guy did not take down the Blessed Virgin Mary picture that my mom, ever the Catholic, had thumb-tacked above the laundry room door. The cool light fixture I always liked still hung in the hall.

And the 1960s-era metallic green bike with the banana seat that belonged to one of my sisters was still hanging up in the garage. I used that bike, too, and the kids in the neighborhood called it “The Green Machine.” He told us we could take it if we wanted, but we didn’t.

That night, I couldn’t sleep. I kind of feel like it was a mistake to go back to the house. Maybe it would’ve been better if I kept on believing that the new owner was taking good care of it.

But still, it did feel good to be in there again. Just like seeing a dead loved one in a casket doesn’t have to affect how you remembered them when they were alive, this doesn’t impact my memories of the house.

I feel like the house is an old friend who has fallen on hard times and you want to help them, but there’s nothing you can really do. So you just hope for the best and wish them well.

Have you ever gone back to visit a place that was once important to you and found it nothing like you’d pictured?

In the good ol’ days.

Yeah, I haven’t written here in a year and a half. I stopped because I pretty much said all I wanted to say at the time. And with all that’s been happening in our country, it would not have felt right for me to continue writing about myself here when there are far more important things for people to read on the internet right now, like this! I don’t know if I’ll continue. But if you’ve gotten this far, thanks for reading.

I stood on the sun deck on the fifth floor of our rented beach house, gazing out at the ocean. It was a gorgeous, sunny day and I was down the Jersey shore with my family, staying in a beautiful, huge house that even came with an elevator.

But rather than enjoying myself, I felt like I had hit bottom.

I moved my gaze to the ground directly below where I stood. We were above the back of the house, where there was a short blacktop driveway and a few garbage cans.

Mike walked out onto the deck, and I asked him, “What do you think would happen if I jumped right now?”

He looked down.

“I think you’d be okay,” he said. “You’d probably just break your legs. If you aimed for the trash cans they might break your fall.”

Broken legs sounded pretty good to me right then. It would mean I wouldn’t be able to do much — including work — for a few days.

Something had to change.

That night, we walked down to the ocean and went up to our calves in the ice cold waves with just the moon serving as our light, then we strolled barefoot on the boardwalk, got ice cream, and talked about what to do.

Clearly, I had made a mistake in switching jobs within my company a few months earlier, and now I had to get myself out of the mess I’d created. I made it known that I wasn’t happy, that it wasn’t working out, and that I needed to get back to my old group doing what I know and love and do best, which is editing and writing.

But all routes were blocked, and my health was suffering, so my only choice was to leave.

After I decided that, I felt hopeful. The elephant on my chest was getting lighter. I could eat again and breathe again.

At home a few days later, we figured out what I’d say and I typed it out.

Then, the next day, June 6, something miraculous happened.

Seemingly out of the blue, I got an email that said I had the green light to move back to my old group. Just like that.

I didn’t have to quit. I didn’t have to do anything but embrace my good fortune and feel grateful that things had ultimately worked out in my favor.

The change I wanted had been dropped right into my lap.

I’ve been back doing what I want to do for a few weeks now, and life is good. Really good.

Now that my mind is free of the abject stress and anxiety I’d been dealing with for the last few months, I think I’ll be writing here more.

I can finally relate to this song now.

 

 

There’s nothing like waking up from a good night’s sleep. You feel all refreshed and ready to tackle the day and do awesome things.

But what if you dreamed about Donald Trump?

What if you dreamed about Donald Trump not once, but twice in one week?

I can tell you because this happened to me.

You feel all confused and want to go back to sleep to somehow undo the dream and hopefully replace it with a nicer dream, like a dream about cats.

In Dream #1, Mike and I are living in a luxurious, massive, marble-filled penthouse apartment overlooking Central Park. There’s a knock at the door and it’s Donald Trump.

trumpcat3

“I’m here to take a shower, okay?” he says, acting impatient and condescending. Confused, we step aside and gesture toward a bathroom.

As the shower starts, Mike and I are wringing our hands and whispering furtively, wondering what’s happening.

A rush of water suddenly crashes into the room, like a small tidal wave, and we’re swept off our feet and swimming.

Donald Trump swims toward us and then starts climbing on some high bookshelves and doing cannonballs. He tells us to join him, so we do, and I actually start to have fun. I notice that his usual orange makeup is washed off and his hair is wet and hanging down in his face, and he looks somewhat normal.

In Dream #2, I receive confidential information that Donald Trump wishes to rebrand himself as Donald Drumpf, and I’m tapped to help make this happen.

Now, in real life, Drumpf was his family’s name before an ancestor changed it to Trump. This is no secret. But in this dream, he doesn’t realize that this is widely known and believes adopting “Drumpf” will somehow throw off the haters. Kind of like how a business caught in a scandal might change its name in an attempt to cover it up.

“I really want to be Donald Drumpf, and I want my new image to be part Mr. Rogers, part Homer Simpson,” he announces in a secret meeting that I’m invited to attend.

My duties involve getting new bumper stickers made that read, “Drumpf 2016.”

The first time I had a Donald Trump dream, I was amused. The second time, I began to worry that something is wrong with me.

trumpcat2

I normally don’t remember my dreams, so to have two vivid Trump dreams in one week makes me wonder: What’s going on?

Granted, on social media I mostly follow news sites that focus on politics, so every time I mindlessly scroll through my phone I see his face contorted in various unflattering expressions along with articles about the most recent dumb thing he did or said.

But I don’t think about him very deeply because he’s not going to be elected president — I have faith in the American voter. So, I don’t feel threatened. As far as I know, I’m not acquainted with anyone who supports him because I surround myself with good people.

I did meet my very first Trump supporter in the flesh a few weeks ago at our regular watering hole down the street. Judging from his clothing, he was into The Walking Dead and heavy metal and didn’t seem like the sharpest knife in the drawer, but he was nice. Within about 10 minutes of chatting, politics came up.

“I support Donald Trump,” he said.

My mind flooded. I had so many things to say.

“So do you know he’s a huge racist? All these white supremacist groups are really into him,” I said. “He’s said some pretty awful things about Mexicans and Muslims.”

“Nah, he’s not racist,” he said. “He’s just not into political correctness.”

I pounded my beer just so we could get out of there, and as we said our goodbyes, he said, “By the way, I don’t vote.”

Normally that would make me cringe, but not this time!

Has anyone else had a Donald Trump dream? Please tell me you have!

cattrump

Last week Mike and I were at the Bottle Shop, our neighborhood craft beer store that also has a tiny bar, when I locked eyes with a dog.

I was returning to my seat from the bathroom when I spotted the dog, a pitbull/husky mix. His owner, who looked like the character Ray from the HBO series “Girls,” was standing near the bar drinking a beer.

“Is your dog friendly?” I asked.

“Very,” he said.

I crouched down and petted him and he licked my face. The Bottle Shop has dog treats on the counter, and the guy handed me a few treats to give him. He gobbled them up and looked eager for more. I made a new friend.

“My dog just passed away last month,” I said as I stood up. “It feels good to pet a dog again.”

The guy offered his condolences and I thanked him, then I joined Mike back at the bar. I told him what had just happened and the tears started rolling from my eyes.

It’s been five weeks, it’s now March, and I miss her terribly. I can’t even really think about her too much or too often or I’m a mess, going from perfectly fine to ugly-crying in less than 60 seconds.

Combined with that, I switched to a different job within my company a few weeks ago and it’s been challenging and stressful, so things have been tough overall.

But, I’m focusing on being grateful for this opportunity I’ve been given. And being grateful for having had Sassy in my life for as long as I did. And being grateful for Mike, my smart as hell, gorgeous, all-around amazing husband, who just came home with a surprise bagel for me. I’ve also been meditating, which really helps.

No matter what the circumstances, I believe there’s always something good to be found, and by focusing on that, you can make the good expand. That’s been my experience, anyway. I know things will get easier on all fronts. It just takes time.

A few minutes after my encounter with the dog at The Bottle Shop, his human knocked over a beer. I happened to be walking by as he was trying to attend to that.

He spotted me and asked, “Can you watch him for a few minutes?”

I agreed, and he handed me his leash.

“His name is Bootsie,” he said.

His leash was much sturdier than Sassy’s was, and attached to it was a poop bag holder in the shape of a white dog bone. It had been a month since I held a leash. I wrapped it around my wrist and sat on the floor with him.

I asked him to sit. He sat. I gave him a treat. He crunched it up and licked my face.

And through my tears, I smiled.

If we will be quiet and ready enough, we shall find compensation in every disappointment. – Henry David Thoreau

I’ve been blogging about my dog a lot. I will move onto other topics, but please bear with me for the time being!

Monday morning, Jan. 25.

Mike: Oh no!

I run down the stairs to discover Sassy’s watery vomit all over the floor.

We clean it up and I email her vet. She hasn’t been eating, so the vet says to try cooking her some chicken and rice. Mike walks to Acme, buys chicken, and makes her a delicious meal. She inhales it.

Wednesday, Jan. 27 through Friday, Jan. 29.

She seems to be drinking water and peeing excessively. She wears a diaper all the time, and even though I let her out throughout the day, she still soaks four or five diapers per day.

I start Googling her symptoms, and get enough information to convince myself that she’s in kidney failure.

Sunday night
Sunday night

A test last year hinted at possible kidney trouble, but the vet needed to collect the urine in a sanitary manner to confirm. During the same visit she also said she might have a heart condition, so I opted to put the kidney test aside and get the heart thing addressed. And, $500 later, her heart thing is nothing.

So the kidney thing is back, I tell myself.

I read more articles.

Shit, renal failure is a leading cause of death in older dogs.

Should we euthanize her soon?

I search my soul, talked to Mike, talk to friends, and make an appointment for Monday, Feb. 1.

Given her dementia and all her other problems, I thought, maybe this is the best thing to do. After all, we waited too long to say goodbye to our cats Callie and Scratch and they suffered. And Sassy is 16. Come on.

List five things she used to love, an article suggested. Now cross out the stuff she no longer cares about. If you cross out too many things, her quality of life might be so poor that euthanization could the compassionate option.

Walks, food, treats, running around in the grass, spending time with me and Mike, running around the house after a walk, chasing the cats. That’s seven, and she pretty much all likes these things still.

She maybe cares less about walks, but she seems happy once we’re outside.

She now loves Acme chicken and brown rice with chicken broth poured over it, heated up. She dances on her back legs when we get it ready.

She doesn’t like normal dog treats anymore, but she loves cocktail pups from Trader Joe’s.

She spent Thanksgiving and Christmas running around Mike’s parent’s yard with her mouth wide open and her tail in the air and didn’t want to come in.

When neither Mike nor I are downstairs with her during the day, she howls.

The video below shows she still loves to run around the house after a walk.

And chasing the cats remains her favorite passtime.

Then again, she gets into these states where she just stares at the wall. She still paces for hours. She walks under our small dining table and needs help finding her way out. Sometimes she ignores an open door and instead stands at the hinge side and we have to physically move her body into the door opening. And we still have to carry her up the stairs.

She’s still her old self in lots of moments, but the light inside her is dimmed.

So, completely confused yet convinced her kidneys were failing and it was time to say goodbye, we try to give her a good weekend. I cry and tell my friends she will most likely be euthanized Monday.

Lake Tahoe, 2004, two months after her adoption
Lake Tahoe, 2004, two months after her adoption

Saturday, Jan. 30.

At Trader Joe’s, Mike asks if we should get the large portion of chicken for Sassy or the smaller one.

“Chances are she won’t be with us after Monday,” I said.

We buy the smaller portion.

Monday morning, Feb. 1.

My heart is heavy when we walk into the exam room at the vet office. But then! The vet says she doesn’t necessarily agree with my suspicion that she’s going through kidney failure. She’s still eating, she’s still excited about some stuff in life. The symptoms could have many explanations.

And her excessive water drinking and peeing isn’t a daily occurrence. It happens most days, though.

Mike doesn’t want to put her through what his Scratch experienced — he had kidney disease and medication didn’t work, and he had a long illness.

Is anything really wrong with her, though? We just had suspicions but no data.

I opt for a blood test and urine test to find out what’s going on, exactly what Mike and I agreed not to do. But I’d feel better if I had more information.

We’re supposed to get the results today or tomorrow. From there, we’ll decide what to do. But if there is something really wrong with her, I don’t want to put her through more tests and medications and vet visits.

Feeling like Sassy just won an 11th hour reprieve, we bring her home, something we didn’t expect to be doing.

I feel like I emotionally manipulated myself. I was prepared to say goodbye and, gratefully, she’s still here.

Last night I wasn’t sure we did the right thing, but with some distance now, I see that I was most likely jumping the gun, wanting so desperately to prevent her from suffering that I was actually preventing her from continuing to experience joy. She’s still capable of it.

Monday night, Feb. 1.

Mike: We’re almost out of this Trader Joe’s chicken.

Jen: I’ll walk to Acme tomorrow and get more.

Mike: You might as well just buy her a whole chicken.

I guess optimism has won.

Grand Canyon, 2006
Grand Canyon, 2006

Addendum: Tuesday, Feb. 2, 11:30 a.m.

As I was about to publish this blog post, her vet, Dr. L., called. Sassy is, in fact, experiencing kidney failure. At this point, she is at stage 3, with stage 4 being the terminal stage.

She listed the treatment options, including subcutaneous fluids, more meds, weekly monitoring in the vet office and blood draws.

“I don’t want to put her through all that, but I don’t want her to suffer. What do those options look like?” I asked.

Dr. L. said to give her Pepcid AC, which could help her feel a bit better. She added that that’s a completely reasonable route, given her other problems: dementia and glaucoma.

Sassy most likely feels okay now, she said. The first sign that she’s getting really sick is her first skipped meal, and vomiting.

She stopped eating last week and vomited, but now that she’s interested in this fancy Acme chicken, she’s eating again and the puking stopped.

I’m glad we didn’t euthanize her yesterday because she still has some pep in her step and she is taking joy in things. Look at this video below, which I took right before we left for her appointment!

But who knows how much longer we have with her before she starts to suffer and it’s time to say goodbye for real. Days? Weeks? Months?

Despite the bad news, it’s still a relief to know what’s wrong.

With my heart a bit lighter, this afternoon I’ll walk to Acme and buy her a whole chicken, along with some Pepcid.

Optimism still wins.