a happy pappy (papillon) update

When Eli was injured a few weeks ago, it manifested as pain and a leg he couldn’t put weight on. It looked just like the occasional knee problem he has but significantly worse, so I assumed that’s what it was. This knee problem is degenerative, so I figured we had entered the next stage of his life in which we do some palliative care and begin thinking about the severity and the options for treatment. It felt very heavy. Every time my little buddy has a health issue, it feels heavy to me. He’s usually very robust, save for some season allergies, and I go from zero to doom in about 2 seconds.
Three days after the major injury, he suddenly returned to normal. Completely normal. He was sassy. He was barking. He was patrolling. He was running up and down stairs with his tail up. I thought it was weird that his knee would be bothering him so much one day and the next day, it was like he was in his youth again. With some time “bought,” I started looking more deeply into the options for managing the knee situation from a preventative standpoint.
Fast forward a couple of weeks, and I am sitting on my bed chatting on the phone and Eli is in a little ball next to me. Scritches begat tummy rubs, and tummy rubs begat foot rubs. I mindlessly felt each of his feet to see how long the nails were, how long the fur on the bottoms of his feet had gotten, determine just how desperate he is for a doggie manicure, etc. At some point I felt what seemed like a toe with no nail. Weird, but maybe it was a scar or I was mis-feeling it or something. My hand wandered across the rest of the toes on that foot and I only felt three nails. Odd. He definitely used to have four toes with four toenails on each foot. And the nail-less foot is the one attached to his problematic knee – the one he’d been favoring when in pain. I counted the nails at least five times, as if I've forgotten to count to four in my old age. Definitely three nails.
So now I have a new theory. It wasn’t his knee causing him so much pain. It must have been his foot and he must have torn the nail completely off. How that could have happened, I have no idea. But it’s with some relief that I come to that conclusion. Maybe his knee isn’t as far gone as I thought it could have been, and maybe there’s still time to do a lot more preventative care for him. As much as I don’t want him harmed or in pain, there’s some relief in knowing the problem was not the problem I thought it was and I have more time to take care of him.
Eli, of course, being the grumpy-pants that he is, will let me feel the foot all I want because that seems mindless, but the minute I show actual, directed attention to it, he won’t let me inspect it. He’s like that with everything that he knows I want to see. Is anyone else’s dog like that? “Oh, you want to see this? Here, let me just obscure it from you and then run away every time you get anywhere near me.”


we are not the same

Gabriel is watching Sesame Street while I get some desk work done. Burt and Usher, as in Usher, are discussing the word unique.

My son is disgruntled that neither Elmo nor Big Bird appear on his screen. I, on the other hand, could watch Usher and Burt -- really, Usher and any muppet -- all day. But not Abby. Abby is by far my least favorite muppet, and not even Usher's smooth presence could make me want to watch that screeching, whining disaster of a character.

Usher has just informed Burt that his dance moves are "one of a kind." And now Usher is performing some of his one-of-a-kind dance moves.

I am just saying is all.


the children's hospital

I recently spent a night at the UNC Children's Hospital. Everyone is fine and the little patient was discharged after less than 24 hours because she was recovering so well. But not all of the kids I saw there were fortunate enough to need only one night in the hospital.

There were kids there, and their families, who clearly had been there for a while. A week, maybe more. There were older kids. There were infants.

One little girl had hand-drawn signs on her door letting the staff know when she was awake, asleep, etc. You don't even know what kinds of signs you would need to make unless you've spent at least a full day there, experiencing the routines and the unexpected awakenings and the odd schedule of tests and checks and pricks and visits. And on the window of her room, the most recently passed holiday-themed mural included her name. She had likely been there at least a week. Who knows how much longer.

Late into the evening, I saw a caregiver pushing a toddler around in one of those low strollers that looks like a racecar. This tot looked to be about my son's age, maybe a couple of months younger. She seemed unsettled, like she wasn't sure what was going on around her. I figured she was probably new. Maybe it was her first night, or maybe her second. I would be bewildered for days to know I was sick enough to be admitted, too. The image of the child my own son's age, wide-eyed and uncomfortable, is one I don't think I'll ever forget.

During one of my treks out of the room -- to the linen closet, the snack room, the elevators -- I noticed a lady walking the halls pulling a radio flyer wagon and an IV bag. In the wagon was a baby who wasn't even old enough to sit up on his own yet. I didn't think about it at the time; it was only later that it occurred to me that this floor had a couple of wagons.

Then it hit me like a ton of bricks: this floor needs wagons, so that parents and caregivers can pull their sick babies around. The linen closet is stocked with tiny, absolutely tiny hospital gowns. The rooms' exterior windows overlook a "memory garden" full of oversized sculptures of flowers, animals, and bugs that move.

We'd anticipated our stay to be brief, and it was. There are some kids -- some infants -- who have spent a lot of time here, though. Long enough that their caregivers didn't even have to think about how to load an infant into a wagon and haul him around without losing track of the IV. Long enough that they don't have to look at the menu anymore to know what they want for dinner. Long enough for the staff to paint a personalized mural on their window. How grateful I am for my son's health. So very, very grateful.


the pervasiveness of pregnancy loss

One of the hallmarks of growing up is the growing awareness, and then understanding of, the issues of pregnancy. The issue may be not wanting to be pregnant or wanting nothing more than to have a baby, or it may be one of the varying degrees of success toward either effort.
Pregnancy loss is one of those issues. It seems, in some circles, as though it’s perceived as something we simply do not discuss, or something we have not discussed and need to discuss. The seemingly pervasive sense that “we don’t talk about this” or “pregnancy loss is the secret, silent pain” used to confuse me, because I had never (knowingly) experienced the silence. Pregnancy loss is not a part of my own experience. It has always, however, been a part of my story. It is a part of some of my most formative memories. There were family stories going back generations, reasons why this aunt never went to baby showers and why those siblings were so far apart in age. There were couples at church who lost their babies, and we would pray for them. There were funerals with tiny caskets that were carried out by one person. Pregnancy loss felt, for a very long time, to be very real to me, and not something that was hidden.
But the older I get, the more I learn that many people really don’t talk about miscarriages and other pregnancy losses. Sometimes they’ll speak of it years later, and I’m sure there are others who never speak of it at all. I hear it in passing comments about why she never goes to that church on Mother’s Day – it was four years ago at the Mother’s Day service that she lost her first baby. I see it in whispers in social media, of veiled “praying for the so-and-sos” and we all draw our conclusions when the updates stop coming for a while.
These days, it can be easy to find community online. There are bloggers who “go public” with their losses, making it easier for other grieving women and men to find solace and know that they aren’t the only ones. I have often been silent, because I can’t personally relate and therefore feel like I have nothing to contribute. I hope, though, that I could be a safe place if any of my friends is dealing with pregnancy loss. My contribution to the conversation is not a personal story, but I do want to be a support, a listening ear, a meal-bringer, a friend that can be called on in the middle of the night. I want to love on these hurting parents, miss these unseen children, come alongside in, and affirm, the grief.
Every moment of every day, I live in the very real grace of having been pregnant only once, and having a thriving toddler to show for it. There are millions of women who can’t say the same – millions of couples and families who have “set a place at the table” for a little loved one who will never join them. My hope, moving forward, is that I can continue to lend my voice in support and love for these hurting families. 


i never thought it would happen to me

By far the hardest moment of my actual divorce hearing was when the judge asked me if I thought the marriage was irretrievably broken. I had to say yes, and it was hard not to cry.

In that moment, I relived a conversation, confounding at the time, that I'd had with one of my best friends when I had realized I was going to be divorced. I was sobbing, an aching, confused, emotionally bleeding mess heaped on the couch in my mom's living room. He looked kind of bewildered and was trying to help me make sense of what was happening, though to me it didn't seem like there was any sense to be made. I knew my marriage had its share of problems, but I didn't think they were "big" enough to merit divorcing. I thought our issues could be overcome, and I kept saying that. Eventually my friend pointed out that I was missing the biggest "issue" of all - Brian's unwillingness to work it out. That issue apparently could not be overcome, and it was in fact "big" enough to cause a divorce.

My friend's words did little to console me at the time, but a few days later, by the time I'd stopped hyperventilating and leaking from the eyeballs every five seconds, I could see that he was right. Brian wanted out, and there was nothing I could do to change his mind. And that meant that the relationship was not ok, that it wasn't working, and that it really was "that bad."

I have since heard other women echo my sentiments -- the ones suggesting that our problems weren't that bad, that we aren't too far off, that this can be fixed, etc. There's a lot of pain and frustration and fear in that feeling, because you didn't think it was all really going to fall apart and yet here it is, falling apart. There is possibly (at least in my case) an element of denial, of the bad-ness of the state of the relationship. I don't think I've heard a single one of these women (like me) reconciling with their long-gone husbands.

What I've come to realize is that in many of these cases, the other spouse, the leaving spouse, is dreadfully, miserably, terribly unhappy but has spent years, sometimes many many years, pretending that he isn't. There's only so much pretending he (or anyone) can do before it's just too difficult to keep up the act, to try to hide the frustration, to seek other outlets for satisfaction. So he quits. And she is shocked and hurting and has to realize that she's spent the past however many years loving (or trying very hard to love) what is, ultimately, a sham. It's when we come to grips with the fact that everything we thought was our life was in fact a lie that we can move forward.

I am very thankful that that shift came fairly early in the process for me. If it hadn't been for my friend's loving, truthful words, I'm not sure how long it would have taken for me to turn the corner.


again with the humidifier

I've had another foray into life with the goofy Aldi humidifier, and I thought I would revisit the topic since I never returned to show a photo of the thing.

Here's the beast in action!

As an aside, I would very much like to take a moment to wax rhapsodic over Aldi, my discount grocer of choice. Aldi does a lot of things right, and I have a lot of respect for the company and I am also really happy to have one close enough to frequent. In short, I love Aldi.
I go there maybe once a week or two weeks, and it’s probably my favorite trip. The angels don’t sing when I go there (the way they do at the fancy Harris Teeter not far from here) but for some reason, I most look forward to this store. Is it the new organic products popping up here and there? Is it the opportunity to get my favorite junk food and snacks for way less than I can get them anywhere else? (By the way, Aldi knock-off Oreos are better than real Oreos, in my opinion, and the knock-off Cap’n Crunch has a permanent place in my heart.) Maybe it’s my favorite “off-the-shopping-list” treat, their fancy chocolate bars. Is it the section in the middle with the “stuff” instead of the food, where you never, ever, ever know what you’ll find but 98% of the time it’s something awesome? My latest obsession: the personal exercise trampoline for $25 that I should have grabbed immediately but talked myself out of. Why, oh why, did I talk myself out of that? It would be fun for the whole tiny family! I can just imagine Gabriel jumping around on that thing.
As I referenced above, Aldi is beginning to introduce organic products. They are part of the store’s Simply Natural brand, which includes both organic and all-natural/simple ingredients. Last week I picked up a jar of organic salsa and a box of organic honey nut cheerios to give to G as a snack instead of conventional snackies. Did you know that to be certified organic, the product is also non-GMO? When I can get non-GMO grains, I jump on it. Especially for my boy. There’s organic produce including spinach, cherry tomatoes, and apples, and there’s also organic honey. I think they are maybe also venturing into organic dairy, even, which makes me really happy because I try to keep our milk and butter organic. (Cheese is an aspirational goal that will likely not come to fruition any time soon.) And my latest, greatest finds: nitrate/nitrite-free BACON and DELI TURKEY. Can I just tell you how happy this makes me? It make me very happy.
There are some things I don’t get at Aldi. Their organic produce availability is growing, but it doesn’t encompass our whole diet yet and I try to stick to organic with the Dirty Dozen (or however many it is this year) so I get a lot of my produce elsewhere. I also don’t get my meat there, because I get the vast majority of my meat from Zaycon. And while Aldi has a lot, they don’t have everything, so there are other odds and ends that come from other places. But my Aldi list is usually a long list! And I spend way too much time there poking around the shelves, looking for new organic things and generally just scouting.
I should also probably disclose that I am not getting paid or otherwise compensated to write any of this. I just really like Aldi and I look forward to my trips there, as weird as that may be.
What about you? Have you ever been to Aldi?


Finished object report: crazy quilt

Finished! Love it. All it needs is a label. I am considering entering it in the state fair, though that would mostly be for show and not because I will win any awards for it, because it's riddled with mistakes and inconsistencies. The binding is pretty good this time around, though!


sunning a cutting board to remove stains

Until recently, I was uninitiated as far as the pomegranate. A friend of mine came over to coach me through my first pomegranate experience, and for the mist part it was awesome. But I neglected to clean off my cutting board until the next day, and it was covered in pomegranate-purple stains. I will often put laundry in the sun to get stains out, so I thought I would see if bamboo cutting boards respond the same way. Here goes nothing!



I have a dog. I call him Eli. Gabriel calls him eee-yi, which is close enough for us.
Eli is a papillon. The papillon breed is the descendent of a type of spaniel, which gave me a chuckle when I learned it because historically I have not like spaniels at all, and yet I love the breed and I really love my own little guy.
Papillons are a tiny breed, and as such they are plagued with common tiny breed problems like bad teeth, bad knees, and a propensity for yapping. Eli is no exception to any of these, though he’s come a long way on the yapping front. (Most days.)
Eli is deep into middle age. The expected lifespan of a papillon is stated about 15 years, though in my experience most of them go to about 12 or 14. Eli is 8, halfway to 9. He’s slowed down some in recent years and the health issues come with a little more frequency than I’d like. Every time I sense something’s wrong, I get a sense of doom – a feeling that “this is it” and this is the end and it’s time to say goodbye.
Like many of his tiny, slim-legged kindred, Eli has a bad knee. It’s called a luxating patella and that means the kneecap doesn’t always stay where it’s supposed to. The problem gets exacerbated as he ages and the cartilage around the kneecap wears down. At some point it becomes bone-on-bone action and that doesn’t feel very good at all. There’s not a whole lot that can be done to alleviate the issue, especially as he gets older. Anti-inflammatory diets help, as does good, regular exercise. Keeping inflammation down, body weight as low as is healthy, and muscle tone strong all work together to keep the knee from degenerating, but it will only take him so far.
Eventually the knee will become so bad and the pain so great that surgery becomes the only possible treatment. Surgery is expensive and hit-or-miss, with a 10% “failure” rate in terms of relieving pain. Amputation is also an option, and while it’s never really the desired option to remove a back leg, a lot of dogs do thrive on three legs.
With Eli being as old as he is, it’s just a matter of time for some of the “senior” health issues to start cropping up – namely, the bum leg. And it seems like, lately, it has gotten worse. He has been limping a lot, yelping a little, and generally living what seems to be a more constricted, more painful life in the past couple of days. He doesn’t jump on the sofa nearly as much and he spends a lot of time hiding under the table or behind my office chair. He can still get to where he needs to go, most of the time with relative ease, but his carefree, tail-up preening and patrolling has been placed on pause until this painful bout subsides.
I’ve been giving him some leftover anti-inflammatory pain meds from a past procedure, and they have helped. But those will run out at some point, and then I will still need to deal with the underlying problems. I’ve started looking into supplementation, and canine chiropractic is also an option – or it would be, if I had the finances to swing it.
The hard part in all of this is that I am approaching the point of having to make choices between finances and his health. I’m not in the position to take him to the vet with any concern and say “do whatever it takes to make him feel better.” I carefully weigh whether I can take him to the vet at all, whether to get him the intensive care that could help him have a longer, happier life. I frantically look for more work to add to my already overloaded schedule, just to scratch together enough to feel secure that I could take him to the vet if and when he really needs it. I give him as many cuddles as he’ll tolerate and I tell him I’m trying to help him. I pray for him. I spend spare moments educating myself.
Eli has not been the perfect dog. He is not my best friend or my soul mate or the dog I will miss forever. He’s cranky. He barks out the window. He doesn’t like it when people come into his house. A lot of times his fear-aggression has been a real pain in the behind. But he’s my buddy and he’s been my buddy for 8 years now, and I love him. He’s been there for my entire “real” adulthood, and his presence is a comfort. We’ve lived in three states together, we’ve seen other people and other dogs come and go from our lives, and we’ve slept in the same room the vast majority of nights over the past 8 years. He’s been my ornery, sometimes loud, furry companion and I promised him, when I brought him home, that I would take care of him. Now he’s getting older and it’s time to make good on that promise, however that ends up taking shape.