Wednesday, April 15, 2015

And about Marcia

I keep thinking about Marcia, not just yesterday's Marcia but Marcia through all the years.

Doug and I have always felt that she simply has something in her makeup that no one else we know has.

She is funny, smart, down to earth, brave, unruffled, filled with amazing common sense and a kind of spirit that is just overall difficult to define. If this were the Oregon Trail, she'd be there with the wagon, a baby on her hip, leading the horse, instructing the boys how to find food, dealing with the daughter who just got her period in the wilderness, trying to come up with a plan for dinner, and maintaining a calm collected spirit. She'd be teaching them to love God, obey her and dad, but still have fun somehow. She'd be teaching them to read and what plants are poisonous. All while her husband is sick in the wagon.

Marcia is somehow like no one else I've run across in life as a human being.

When Wayne was dying, she cried, she wasn't stoic or emotionally distant. Don't get this picture in your mind of someone who was just perfect and unruffled and nonplussed. There was sadness expressed, there was difficulty for sure. A lot of tears. But she was also so present in the moment, wiping his brow with a cold facecloth, talking to him and letting him know who was there. She kissed his forehead and cheeks. She told him that she was going to miss him so much. She attended to the children's questions and needs. She encouraged them to come hold daddy's hand and be there, and if they didn't want to - she didn't pressure them. She never once lost it with them.

And then we cracked jokes, had some laughs, got some more tears all mixed in there.

As Wayne was dying, at the very end in those last 15 minutes or so, she didn't ask anyone to leave the room, go away... I know a lot of people would. She told me he would have wanted us all to be there if he could tell us. She knew her husband, knew his wishes, knew exactly the person he was. And she abided by that so beautifully. 

As you and God are my witnesses, I swear... please allow me in this universe to be a small portion as strong as this woman was on that day in anything I can come up against. Let me keep my cool. Let me assess and reflect, not attack and react. Let me release selfishness and embrace some selflessness. 

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The greatest of these is love

Yesterday, my good friend Wayne died.

Sunday night at about 10pm he passed out in his bathroom, his wife is a physical therapist and is well trained in medical response, so she tried to revive him. He was completely unresponsive. He suffered a bleed in his brain stem. Surgery was not an option. He was fully unresponsive. He never regained consciousness.

She and her son used Facebook to get the word out to friends. So this was really weird, it was the first experience I had with Facebook being the method of communication for people sharing this kind of experience.

I woke up in the morning on Monday and while drinking my morning coffee checked in on the news feed and got the report. I called Doug who was on his way to a meeting, and let him know he should come home as soon as the meeting was over.

We were by Wayne's side by 2:30pm. And he was gone 3 hours later.

He was surrounded, about 20 people were in the room... we told stories, we laughed, cried and prayed. Laurel sang and forgot the words. But it was okay because it was pretty. And he would have laughed.

Wayne and Marcia have six kids. I've written about them here before, we have spent many fun days with them. This was not something I expected we'd all be doing on the first really super spectacularly beautiful day of the year... but there we were, saying goodbye. Suddenly.

It was surreal. Watching the numbers on the monitor. The beeping, the sounds. Every breath he took with the assisted device was a struggle. And then it was over.

When I got to the hospital, I got a sharpie from the computer in his room, and wrote a heart on each of the kids' hands. And I put one on my own. I wanted to put one on everyone. I wanted them to have a mark to be reminded when they left there that "the greatest of these is love..." Natalie took the above picture for me this morning. And I hope they remember always that they have each other, from age 20 to 7 down the line.

A friend of mine had said that as Christians we believe in heaven, we'll see him again. Death has lost its sting, but no ... it really hasn't. I rejoice in his faith and the fact we believe we will be together again. What I mourn is the now. The future events he will be notably missing from. The fact that while I'm here, I won't have him to joke around with.  And that I really didn't do enough joking around with him this last year.

So if you have a friend that you say "you know, we really should get together sometime," why don't you go ahead and set that up. Life is short, kids. And it gets shorter all the time.

Thursday, April 09, 2015

Newburyport Walk

In about 2 weeks from now I'll be back in the Seaport in Boston. I'm having a hard time really grasping that.

On my last contract and the contract before that, going back to early 2013, the offices I was working in were in the heart of things. Not too far from South Station, near the courthouse, off Congress. In December the office I was in moved and we landed a bit further down towards South Boston, down A Street. I feel like that took us out of the heart of things. Not as many great places to go grab a quick coffee, or lunch to go.


The new office is forever away from anything quick and tasty. There are a couple of nice bars/restaurants, but not your grab a sandwich and be on your way to sit by the channel kinds of spaces. I really liked being right off Congress Street and Seaport Boulevard. There were so many options... The Metro, Bee's Knees, Flour, and then the wonderful Bon Me brick & mortar cafe opened up right before my contract ended. Not to mention the food trucks. Oh, the food trucks. And just the nice walkies, the park, the canal, the Children's Museum. I greatly enjoyed being over there. I'm not in love with the new neighborhood.

Working in Newburyport for the past several weeks, I was waiting for it to get warmer and nicer. March has just been a wasteland and so far April is not shaping up for early spring goodness.   The worst winter in the history of the universe has left the sidewalks impassable in many places, so getting out for a walk to one of the many sandwich shops was not happening.

I brought my lunch just about every day. There have been only a handful of dayswhere I ventured outside.

Yesterday was one of them. It was cold, but I needed to get out of here and get a walk in. I have had a horrible cold, and going to the gym has not been on my agenda, sleep has. So ... I went for a stroll around town, walking up the bullnose past my favorite usual sandwich shop. I wasn't ready to sit down and eat just yet. I ventured past Jewel in the Crown and thought about a giant Tandoori Chicken lunch. I was starting to get hungry, but I kept going.

I ended up at 17 State Street cafe. It used to be the newspaper stand and kind of a sandwich shop called Fowles. People still call it Fowles. When I told my co-worker where I had lunch, she had no idea what I meant when I said 17 State, but ... I corrected myself and she knew. My girl C and I meet there for breakfast some mornings. They do a great job, if you're ever in the market for a meal.

The burger was delicious, the place was packed, even though it was on the very late end of the lunch shift. I read the paper and thought to myself... this is what I was hoping for being in this town and having lunch.

I'm on the verge of regret when I think about going back to the office in the city that doesn't have any really good choices for a meal. I can walk out my door here and in a few steps be at about six great sandwich shops, a bagel shop, several bakeries, Thai, Indian, Chinese, Italian, Mexican... pizza. without breaking a sweat.

I think it is my fault the weather has been so crummy. I'm being prevented from falling a little too much in love with where I am geographically, so I can make the transition back to Boston.

Today is not a walk-around day. It is snowing/raining/something, about 30 degrees. Cold, windy, horrible. I'm happy I brought leftovers. But I'm hoping tomorrow is a good go out for a walk and eats kind of day. And certainly I hope next week will be as well. We shall see.


Tuesday, April 07, 2015

What's done is done, and cannot be undone

I gave my notice at work on Friday. I felt really anxious and horrible about it. My former future boss told me not to give notice until I had the offer letter in my email, and I wanted to give at least 2 weeks notice, so on Thursday morning I was ready to do it but could not connect with the current future former boss easily. I had to grab him on his way out the door Friday afternoon.

On Thursday he told me that he was so happy he had hired me, so it made me feel extra awful knowing that I had to tell him goodbye.

I kind of felt like the average girl who dated that really hot BMOC for a few months, but he then broke up with her.... and there I was with this nice new boy friend, someone adequate, kind, a little needy but in all respects nice. And the BMOC comes calling saying "baby, I shouldn't have broken up with you. Come back..."

I also felt like I was kicking a puppy. I felt that uncomfortable about it. And I still do a little bit.

My current future former boss didn't try to talk me out of it. He basically said "you're sure that this is the job you want to take and you've made up your mind..." and I said yes. I told him that I deliberated long and hard, and what it really boiled down to was money, and I didn't expect him to try and match the pay offered to me. I'd be doing something totally different, not web-development, and I don't think I'm worth that money here.

So he went home for the day on Friday and then sent me the job description and asked me to help him revise it and make it better so we can get the best candidate in.

I told him I'm super happy to train this new incoming person, whenever he or she is found, but I can't really go past April 22nd, I don't think. My former future boss wanted me to start as soon as possible, and the 2 weeks notice means I would start on the 20th (Monday) in her best world.

But I kind of feel like if the person moving into this seat needs me for an extra day, or two, I'd like to help that person out. Plus, that is April School Vacation week. what if I wanted to do something fun with my kid (who am I kidding. We'll just sleep until noon each day now that he's not in Boy Scouts).

In our staff meeting yesterday afternoon everything seemed to go well, we made jokes, everyone seemed happy. He had made some decisions on things a few weeks ago that he then completely changed, which changes how I did something that I thought was done but that's okay. I'll change it to the way he wants it. Everything will be okay here. I know it.

So in making that decision, my husband is very happy that we will be able to dig upwards out of debt. I'll be making about 300 dollars more a week, every week, and this particular salary is pretty much what I was making when I lost my last full time job in 2010.

It has been an exceptionally long time working for little money, and combined with losing the house and all the other crap that has happened I can breathe a little sign of relief. Maybe things can get better and more awesome. Maybe we can get a used car that isn't from the auto auction and might last longer than a couple months. Maybe we can get a new couch.

Hopefully this will be a job I'll want to stay at for quite some time. I think that if my last job hadn't folded 5 years ago last month, maybe I would have still been working there. Who knows. I just know that what's done is done, and cannot be undone.


Thursday, March 26, 2015

Hard Decision Time...

When the contract job ended, my then boss "S" told me that literally the minute someone on the team gave notice, she would be calling me to offer me a job.  One of my former co-workers gave her notice on a Monday morning in early March, and pretty much by noon the Boss S texted me and said "can we talk?" She wasn't kidding.

She had to post the job internally for 2 weeks and the job goes public today and will be open for 2 weeks for the "interview process...." She's encouraged me to apply for it. And verbally I think the job is mine. I would be the only candidate with the training on the products unless someone from a station that uses the products applies for the job, and that most likely in all the world will not be happening.

And so, I have done that. At about 1pm, I did apply for this old but new job.

I think she loves me, and she has said things to me about my personality, and how  I bring something to the team in the form of care and passion that she values deeply. She was very unhappy to let me go. And I think if she had not had to let me go, my co-worker who left might still be there... and we'd still be working together (which was great) but the fire wouldn't have been lit for her to find a job that she wanted more and to leave.

There are several pros and cons to the decision I may have to make shortly. I'll try and outline them, mostly because I want to remind myself later of whatever my decision was/is, so I can thank Past Me or kick Past Me's ass.

The Old Job:
Pros: 
  • I was good at it and I enjoyed it.
  • People liked me. I felt happy on my team, and with the other teams.
  • Every day was the same, but different. 
  • Cache of saying where I worked when people asked me always got a raised eyebrow and a lot of discussion. 
  • Doug will be happy to have me back in the car with him. He says his commute is sad and lonely without me. 
  • About 15k more a year in pay.
  • One work-from-home day a week, which I'd try and match up to Doug's day.

Cons: 
  • That Boston Commute. Jesus help me ... I didn't realize how tired I was doing that commute for nearly 2 years between the last 2 jobs. 
  • No real chance of any sort of advancement. I'll be in tech support forever. But at nearly age 50 am I a climber or am I happy being a foot soldier?
  • Fear of falling into an unhappy rut with the duties of tech support. There were a couple of people (outside of my building, people I had to support) that I was growing to despise. I am afraid my not-so-nice side may come out quickly when I return to that noise. 
  • Did I mention the commute?
  • Really, the commute is the big con for me. Enough so that I feel it is outweighing all the Pros listed above. 
The New Job 
Pros:
  • The Commute for sure. I am a few miles from my front door. I am sleeping in (by "sleeping in" I mean 8am) and getting to my desk before just about everyone. I can work until 5:30 or 6pm, and be home, cooking dinner, in 30 minutes. 
  • Location. The town where the job is is just ... superb. Restaurants, beautiful places to go walkies, a river! My office view (see previous posting). I am relaxed. I am rested. I am truly happy.
  • Small office, 5 people.
  • Very flexible/relaxed work schedule. As long as I'm getting my work done, where I'm doing it isn't super crucial. I can stay at home, as long as I tell everyone. The only day they like for everyone to be here is Monday for a 2pm staff meeting.
  • Getting stretched beyond my skill set. I was initially unhappy to find out that I'd be doing certain things (nothing dirty, you perv!) but I'm enjoying learning new software and figuring things out. There are a couple of things that I still have no flipping clue about, but so far I feel like this works as far as work goes. 
  • My boss seems like he really likes me and values my opinion. I can talk a big digital strategy game. And I am slowly helping him realize some of his ideas. It would suck to walk away from that kind of a role.
Cons:
  • Small office means we're up each other's butts when we're all here.  There is some office drama. I am trying to engage some of my co-workers in giving me feedback about what they want to see change on the site instead of just saying "our website sucks and I hate it." They frustrate me. I'm trying to build a website that makes your life easier. Tell me what you want instead of "it sucks, I hate it."
  • Boss sometimes doesn't give any notice of things happening, ie: someone coming in for an interview (for another person's job and they are being laid off...and they're sitting right here instead of on a day where they can say "I am leaving early..." And "Christine you have to edit and layout this book that is 90% finished" or "We have a skype meeting at 2:30." He seems to have his own schedule in his head, and then we just have to kind of drop things. 
  • He has some ideas and visions which are great but he needs to hold off on until the new site is built. But he is currently on the phone talking to someone about a shared content sponsorship program, and I have no idea how that fits in with our new site, or old site.
  • He seems to lay people off that he suddenly isn't agreeing with. I took someone's job that was doing what I perceived was a great job, but there was something going on there between them and ... she got the boot and I got brought in. It is happening again to someone in the office here (senior editor).  So he tells me I'm doing a great job, loves my ideas, very encouraging... but in 8 weeks will that be the same? 
  • Location is making me lazy. I promised myself I'd get up and go to the gym. I've done that once in nearly 2 months.
So yeah. Those are the pros and cons.  Doug said the money alone is enough to make the decision. He wants to move closer to Boston after Geoff graduates, maybe in the fall or next spring, so he thinks I need to put on my big girl pants and go back to the job in Boston.

I'm sure the money will be hugely helpful. We could buy a car. We could pay for both kids to take classes. Money is nice.

I'm just not sure that walking away from this job before we get the sites rebuilt and optimized and rolled out is something I'm comfortable doing. I feel awful about the concept. But if I choose to stay here, and then find out I'm being ousted in say June or July because he has a change of heart about how he thinks the job is going, that will suck (sounds all very Alice in Wonderland, I know).

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

a picture of me, for a change...

In my office, sometimes I'm the only one here. People work from home,  a lot. I can work from home, and I have once or twice.

One particular day, I found myself alone here at my desk. I was a bit ADHD and very cold. So I took this picture of myself.

I normally do not like pictures of myself. I look fat and stupid with a big Peter Griffin double chin so the scarf helped out this one a lot. I put this through a filter on Instagram, and it caught the sun coming through the window behind me. The black and white helped out my skin tone.

The only thing I really would have liked to have done is  blend out the circles under my eyes... but this was the day after Jack died, and i think it holds a certain sadness.

Additionally, I've always liked my nose, and my skinny irish lips look cute.

So... I like this photo.

The J.O.B. Job

My contract at work didn't get renewed at the end of January. I had gotten to the point where I was pretty solid on the support I was providing, and learning still. Which is always good. I felt like 80% of the stuff coming into the helpdesk was a drop kick done deal that I could answer, 10% was stuff I had to question and then 10% stuff that didn't overlap with me.

So feeling safe and happy was good. I also had gotten to the point where there were a few people (out side of our building, people who sent in help desk requests) that I wanted to never hear from again. Two maybe. Which is a tiny fraction of the people I had to deal with on a regular basis.  I suppose that is bound to happen in help desk work.

When I knew they weren't renewing my contract, I started looking for a new job and I secured one, which started one month ago yesterday (a short month, but a calendar month nonetheless). It is very close to home, only a few miles and a few minutes of a commute. The view is outstanding... and it is hard some days for me to focus when I get to sit here and gaze out upon the gorgeousness of the Merrimack River.

It is kind of a good thing that my job ended when it did because the commuting into Boston situation was sort of impossible for a couple of weeks, and for some is still impossible. Doug said it took him over 3 hours some days to get into work. And if he had thought he'd put me on the T on his side of the Charles River to try to get to my side of the Charles River, more often than not I'd pretty much just be stranded because the T essentially ceased to be.

February 2015 goes down in history as a commuter's nightmare. And from the people I'm still in touch with at the old office, it sounds like the city has just given up totally, and the hope is that spring will just melt the snow away.

My sanity rejoices for this commute, and being here. And I can make a nice big dinner and pour a cocktail or pop open a bear for my road warrior husband when he finally gets home long after 7:30pm. The poor kid.

So the job. My title is Web Manager. Sounds reasonable. It is a 5 person office. I had two half-days with the girl I replaced. The replacing was awkward, I think there was a money issue or personality issue or something between her and the boss... and he decided to get rid of her and bring in someone else... She's lovely, really. And in real life she and I would be best nerd friends ever. She trained me to the best of her ability with short time of my being here, but I feel that I really needed her for a week. I'm trying to make do. Or is it make due? Anyway.

I got hired to do a job that I thought was as simple as updating text in a newsletter (InDesign) templated by someone else, saving it for PDF posting online, and updating content on the website. I quickly found out that my job entails:
  • updating the templated newsletters (3)
  • updating that content on the websites (3) 
  • proofreading and editing and making content updates to a book that was supposed to be published in December (uh.... okay?) 
  • designing marketing collateral for print in In Design (designed it, but the printers come back with blah blah blah spot color cmyk bleed blah blah blah problem blah blah blah) 
  • posting tests/quizzes on a Moodle site (piece of crap and a half. Moodle is from Satan)
  • posting products (like the book!) 
  • project managing a big rehab of our site(s) with a company out of NH.
Outlining and detailing all the challenges and house fires I've had to do since starting here does no good. I am boring you to death as it is, I'm sure. I have posted the newsletters for this month (it only took me 4 weeks to do it), I have revised, tweaked and fixed this book a million times and yet the senior editor still keeps coming back with "oh, I missed this one thing can you fix it?" So it just went to the printer for proof today. We are getting ready for the March content. We're talking about site redesign and what we want to see in the new layout on the User Experience front and back end. I drew up a little mock-up for the front page of the site and the office manager loves it. We'll see if anyone else agrees. I just realized I need to post the one-off "a la carte" tests for each the newsletters and the instructions on how to do that are so bat-shit crazy I can't even.

The literal saving grace is that everyone here is cool. So cool. There is no yelling. There has been panic, and the 4 co-workers I have who I deal with most all have great senses of humor, so it is super nice. We joke around about needing valium or heroin to get through the crisis du jour.

And the view. The view is pretty sweet...

This is the view from my office window.
I am longing for the snow to be gone, and walkies to happen.

And my co-worker has this dog.
She came to visit and it made me very happy.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

And then there was one...

I am distracted and unable to focus on anything at all, so we'll see how I do getting through this. 

Thursday morning we had to put Jack dog to sleep. Just shy of his 13th birthday. It has been a rough couple of months for Jack, and I know this was the best thing to do for him but that knowledge makes this experience no easier.

I don't want to write about the process, it is what it is and it is part of loving a dog, especially one who gets old. He was old, he was sick, and he was in distress, and we let him go.

In some ways this is an incredible relief and in other ways I am simply unable to handle my heartache.

This winter we started out with very little snow, and one day standing out there with him doing his doggie thing I thought it was such a shame that we didn't have any snow for him to enjoy, this his last winter for sure. And I asked myself "well, how do you know it is his last winter for sure?" Then I told myself to shut up because yes, it was, and I couldn't pretend to trick myself into being pleasantly surprised if he made it to summer or fall or next winter.

We knew it was coming, we knew it would be here soon, and every day was a gift.

Jack eventually got his snow.

I had a routine with Jack  at night. He would tell me he needed to go out, so I'd get off the couch (I was sleeping in the living room with him because he had to go out a couple of times a night) let him out the front door and watch him walk to the foot of the walkway where he'd pee. Then, he would either flop down right there and start eating snow or he'd turn around and face the house, walk a couple feet and flop down and start eating snow.

I'd go pee. I'd put wood on the fire. I'd get my snow pants and boots on. I'd go out and join him because once he was done he needed help getting up the 2 steps into the front door. We don't have a fenced in yard here at the apartment like we did at the old house, so he needed to be monitored. He couldn't move fast or far, but the one thing I didn't want him to do was move out to the end of the driveway and into the street, in the darkness, black dog that he is.... 

So I would join him outside and keep an eye on him. Even on nights when the wind chill was about 30 below, I would just stand there and wait for him to be done. He loved to eat snow, roll in the snow, shove his face in the snow...

So... I let him do it all that he wanted.

We stood out there at night in the darkness with the stars in the freezing cold and listen to the coyotes chattering down the power lines that run just to the east of our house.

We had the whole night and the whole darkness the whole of the snow and the whole of the world to ourselves. He'd stand and listen to the howls, leaning against the snow bank, and he'd turn his head to follow where they were.

And then he would flop down on his belly and eat snow.

There were days I'd quickly reach my threshold for standing out there and I'd encourage him back into the house. And there were days he'd eat a little snow, and head back in fast.

What I wouldn't give for another chance to stand out there in the dark with the moon and cold and my boy.

On Tuesday night Jack was fine... sort of. We were able to get him into a standing position to walk out the door but he would make it just to the top step and lay down and pee without standing. And Doug had to lift him up to bring him back in the house.  We joked around that it was like having a drunk friend who weighed 70 pounds. Don't worry man, I'll get you home okay.

Wednesday he stopped walking altogether. Both children texted me at work to let me know that he was unable to stand up and walk, and didn't want to be lifted up and helped out the door. Our vet's office was closed so I spoke with the on call and made an appointment for the next morning.

Our vet said that he was paralyzed from the hips down from arthritis or a clot or something. We could do testing but as she put it "there's no coming back from this, he's not going to walk again, not like last time" and she knew from our last visit that we knew that we'd be making the decision on the next visit if she said there was nothing that could be done that wasn't "heroic and expensive."

So we opted to not bring him home and to let him go.

And even though I'd prepared myself for this, it still sucks. Maybe because I worked so hard to prepare myself for this, it sucks extra hard. I knew after Gonzo passed away this summer that Jack would not be far behind, so I've had months to think on this. None of this was sudden, or an accident. It has been months in the making but that does not make it better.

When I posted on Facebook that we'd put him to sleep I asked people not to "Rainbow Bridge" at me.  I fully believe in Heaven and that God loves us enough to give us these gifts of companion animals on this plane so I don't doubt for one second that they're waiting for us when we get there.

When something gives you this much actual, real, honest joy, how can it not be part of your eternal paradise?

So one of my animal rescue obsessed friends asked me what I had against the Rainbow Bridge story she thinks it is beautiful. First of all, I'm allowed to not like something. It's hokey. It's poorly written and trite.  I don't like it. It is Hallmark Card made for TV Movie quality. I understand the sentiment that our pets are waiting for us. But I don't see this "rainbow" or "bridge" that we cross over together.  The story provides me no comfort or solace, no soul salve and no respite. It makes me roll my eyes and barf a little.

That said, I have my own vision. And it isn't the same for many of you. It may be, if you're like this. But hey. If you're not, that's okay. You can create your own vision of reunion and I will not question you and your heart.

For us, there is no bridge. There is no rainbow.

There is just a field, with really kickass mountains in the distance. Maybe it is like New Zealand, or maybe it is somewhere up the county in Maine where we ran back in the day. There are black-eyed susans growing, and bees. The grass in the field is brown, and moves gently in the wind. The air is cool and crisp. You are going to need a jacket.

Jack is there waiting in the middle of the field, and he's got a stick. Not just any stick, but one that doesn't break when you bite it, because those sticks suck. He is sitting up straight and tall and I can see his white spot on his chest, and he lifts his ears when he sees me coming. He picks up his stick and comes to me. And I touch his head, and feel his rabbit-soft fur and get pummeled by that tail wagging hard against my leg.

I throw that stick for him as we walk forward towards the mountains.  And every single time, he's running that stick back to me. We eventually make it to a pond, and you know what happens at the pond. I throw that stick, but not in the direction he's facing. I'm totally to faking him out. His ears shoot up when he hears that stick hit the water surface, and he switches directions like lightning, runs and jumps to go get it.

There are other sticks in the water, but he finds this stick because my scent is on it. It's been in my hand all day, and I've thrown it for him. It is our stick. And he brings it back. And we do it again and again. We walk along the pond shore, with me throwing the stick and him going for it. Over and over.

We come to a cabin. And that's where we live. He smells like wet pond dog and ozone and sunshine as we fall asleep in front of a woodstove full of wonderful dry wood.

Then we get up and do it over again.

No rainbow. No bridge. Just me and Jack dog. And that's how it's gonna be.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

The law of the pack, the oath of the Scout...

When Geoff was little we didn't really have a diagnosis for him for his behavior issues at the time.

Part of me said "he's just a super active boy, it's normal" and another part of me said "wow, this kid is unlike any other little kid I have ever known."

At the time, we decided to keep him in a private pre-school for kindergarten (full day) instead of enrolling him in the public school kindergarten. Many factors worked in on that decision, such as   day length, class size, amount of teachers and everything. I knew he'd do better with the private K that he was in, and dreaded sending him to first grade. I would have kept him at the private school if they had a K-3 program.

In first grade, we signed Geoff up for Cub Scouts as an activity. We tried the town soccer program but that didn't work at all for him. I thought running in a giant pack of kids would be what he'd like, but when the coach told him to "dribble the ball" down the field he stood over it and spit and drooled on it... because that was what his knowledge of "dribble" meant.

Cub Scouts was challenging. Small group format, 6 boys total in 2 dens, 2 den mothers per den, and I always stayed with Geoff's den to help. Because I had "that kid" who always needed the extra help and external conscience and guidance.

One day while going to his Webelos meeting he decided he wasn't going to wear his uniform to the meeting.  Uniforms were only for the special occasions like Pack meetings. They had never worn their uniforms to den meetings but his den mother was trying to get them used to the idea of always wearing their "Class A" uniforms to get them ready for Boy Scouts the following March. Geoff and I had a huge fight about it, and I asked him if he would just rather quit Boy Scouts and be done with it.

He told me yes. Then as I turned the car around to head back to the house he said "No, I'll wear my uniform." So we went to the meeting, and he stayed in Scouting.

Doug says he recalls Geoff telling him shortly after he joined the BSA Troop that he was going to be an Eagle Scout. Doug found that slightly entertaining at the time. I was just happy that he wanted to continue to be a Scout at all.

Boy Scouts was a lot different than what he'd been experiencing with Cub Scouts. It was a big Troop, and all the boys were together, of all ages, 10 to 17, and Geoff and his fellow incoming Scouts were like a big pack of puppies, a herd of kittens, that older Scouts had to wrangle and convince to do things and listen and participate. It looked frustrating to me as a mom to watch the older boys trying to work with Geoff's patrol.

Of the boys who joined, one by one they dropped out of the program until it was just Geoff and Brendan. Another boy from their grade who wasn't in Cub Scouts joined a couple years in, Max, but out of the original Den 3 and Den 7 from the class of 2015 it was just Geoff and Brendan...

Both dedicated themselves to finishing up as Eagles.

On January 15th, Geoff passed his Eagle board of review. He and his Scoutmaster went into a parlor room at a local church to go over Geoff's project. Paperwork, pictures, examples of the posters and flyers. They asked him questions about leadership and his role in Scouting. They released Geoff and his Scoutmaster to come out and wait with us... and called us back in to congratulate him. Congratulations, son. You're an Eagle.

Indeed.

You all have followed the past couple of months where I have outlined the project, I've stressed over him getting things done. I've supported, shoved and cajoled.

We managed to get a couple small smiles out of him for pictures but the smile on his face when they congratulated him is etched in my mind forever. A great big huge grin, ear to ear, all teeth. Pure and happy.

We didn't doubt he'd be able to do it. We didn't think for a minute they'd decline him. It was just super stressful getting him to this point and through it all.

Last weekend, I wondered "What are we going to do with our time now that this is done...?"  I guess now we plan that Eagle Court of Honor ceremony.

When Geoff was a Cub Scout he learned the Cub Scout oath (also known as the promise) and law.  Those are:

Oath
I promise to do my best

To do my duty to God and my country,

To help other people, and
 to obey the Law of the Pack.

Law of the Pack
The Cub Scout follows Akela.

The Cub Scout helps the pack go.

The pack helps the Cub Scout grow.

The Cub Scout gives goodwill.

Who is Akela? It comes from the Jungle Book of all places. Akela is a leader to the Cub. A Cubmaster, Den mother or father, other adult leader, and the Cub's parents. A symbol of leadership, wisdom, comfort, protection. The pack of children are guided and guarded by the Akela... and I think I made a good Akela through all of this process. And continuing into Boy Scouts, I think that I did a decent job continuing to be an Akela... for me, watching Geoff through this whole process I don't see the Eagle Scout at the end.

 I see the Wolf Cub at the beginning. And I always will.



Sunday, January 11, 2015

what a new dog is like

My dogs are 13 and 8. Jack is bowed of back and slow. Brodie can be fast, but knows where her body ends and yours begins.

Our neighbors have a 9 month old chocolate lab. He's huge. His name is Rocky. He barks all day when they are not home, which makes me sad, that he hasn't figured out that it is okay to be alone. And he is hyper. Super hyper.

Yesterday when Geoff and I got home from a Boy Scout event, Rocky came running around the car to meet us. I couldn't hear his owners calling for him, and they weren't running behind so I was slightly confused. Rocky ran in circles as Geoff and I tried to grab him.

And he crashed into me full force, whole hog, freight-train speed of big brown dog in white snow and ice. The fact that I didn't go flying and land on my face is a sheer miracle, a defiance of any law of physics that can have been applied to the situation. He hyper extended my knee slightly, but not so bad that it was the end of the world. It was a pain for a bit last night but I am fine.

I tried to get ahold of his collar but he was like a hurricane. And as quickly as he appeared, he left. He ran around the back side of the house and didn't return. So my guess is Josh or Maureen were out there and he went with them, wherever with them was supposed to be.

There are things you forget when you have old dogs. Very old dogs. Or at least one super very old dog and one who is happy to just chill. You forget that they have energy. You forget that they are needy, and they want to play. You forget that sleeping 20 hours is not normal for most dogs.

We aren't sure how much longer Jack will be with us. He gave us a big scare about a month ago and we thought we would be putting him down. I was surprised he made it into the new year. Brodie probably has a good five years ahead of her if she has a day.

And I'm honestly not in any hurry to get another big huge dog that will knock me on my ass (or try to) anytime soon.