5 Tips for Mothers of Graduating Seniors

KatelynChariseI have a couple of friends with kids who graduated from high school and will soon be off to college. Their pride is tempered by gloom mixed with apprehension and rolled like a burrito in a wrapping of grief. Their children will leave them to rattle around the shell of what was once a rich life, clinging to memories of not so long ago.

I know what they’re going through.

KimJamieFor years, outside of my job, I did little except be a mother. I volunteered in classrooms, shuffled kids to and from activities, and enjoyed a house filled with their friends. My children were never far from my thoughts—even when I “ran away” to walk the dog. During those walks I encountered a mysterious woman in our neighborhood.

She was tall and lean with short sandy-blonde hair that wisped about her face and curled against a khaki sun visor. She had excellent posture. Her gait was slow and smooth like a runway model. I marveled at her apparent serenity, her solitude. I remember her as a creamy ivory color. She was older—the age I am now.

Her eye contact avoidance gave the impression she didn’t want to be disturbed. I ignored that desire by hollering “Hi!” which force a whispered, “Hello.”

I knew nothing about her which gave me free rein to imagine her life. Because she was older, I suspected she had no children at home. I envied her tranquility, but pitied her loneliness. Poor thing. How could she possibly be happy when the years of raising children were behind her?

She made me fear my future lonely existence. At the same time, I looked forward to the possibility of long, peaceful walks.

Twenty years later, my children grown and living far away, I view her differently. She was neither sad nor in need of pity, which doesn’t mean she might not have missed the hectic life she once had. Time gave her the ability to appreciate that tranquility I witnessed. She was probably grateful—as I am—for her life, then and now.

For those with kids poised to leave home, let me share a few things I’ve learned along the way:

1. You get kicked out of the “Parents Club.” It’s a horrible feeling of abandonment and betrayal. Scratch and claw all you want—you will never get back in.

2. You will be depressed. For months after our younger child went to college, I could barely vocalize more than a grunt. Whenever someone asked—and always with a smile—“How does it feel to have an empty nest?” I’d snap, “It feels like crap,” offended by their insensitivity and bitter to be forced to articulate actual speech.

During this period, it helps to connect with people whose lives are more depressing than yours. Watching Judge Judy did wonders for my husband Gary and me. I was also nurtured by episodes of Dog the Bounty Hunter and Breaking Bonaduce.

3. You get 100% of your adult life back. The problem is you’ve forgotten how to live that life. Raising children is like drinking just enough coffee to get a little hand tremor going. Their youthful energy, the company of their friends, and bonds forged with other mothers is addictive. Over the years, those little buggers turn you into a mother junkie. For six months after they leave, you will detox by sitting in rooms lit only by the glow of a television, rocking back and forth. You will cry—a lot.

DSC024954. You’ll have lots of spare time for self-reflection. Ugh—nip that in the bud! After our younger child left, I was so desperate to avoid reflection that I volunteered in a first grade classroom. I quit a few years later when my teacher transferred to the middle school, and I decided I’d rather suffer reflection than deal with that age group.

5. Six years into the new deal, after you finally have a handle on adult living, your kids will take pity on what they perceive as your boring life and give you a puppy. You will not immediately realize the merits of this gift, but after enrolling in a half dozen doggie classes, you’ll be welcomed into a new group—the Dog Owners Club! The wounds of being thrown out of the Parents Club will finally heal. You will become addicted to puppy excitement which will, thankfully, take away any time for self-reflection.

Yes, that's me on the far left with Lucy-puppy who interprets the command "Sit."

Yes, that’s me on the far left with Lucy-puppy who interprets the command “Sit.”

Any fantasies I once held about morphing into that ethereal woman from long ago have not materialized. When I finally had no one at home to run away from and could stroll at my leisure, a puppy arrived and put me back into the demanding feeling of caring for children.

I suppose I could run away from Lucy-puppy by taking walks by myself, but I’ve discovered that tranquility isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. I prefer the hullabaloo.

 

Cheesecake

My family often accuses me of being a control freak. This makes me feel bad. Not because it’s true, but because I’m obviously a failure at controlling their thoughts.

Recently, my husband Gary and I planned a large party to celebrate the engagement of our son Harrison and his fiancé Kasi. It wasn’t enough just to plan the party. Oh no. I decided to also embark on an ambitious landscape and patio project.

partyover

Gabe

A few weeks before the event, Harrison called to ask if Gabe (a puppy belonging to Kasi’s sister) could stay with us while they were in town. “Sure,” I said. He and our dog Lucy would have fun together. The following morning, I woke at zero dark thirty in a panic. I had visions of the puppy and Lucy racing around the new landscaping, ripping it to shreds and ruining everything. No, no, no, Gabe could not come.

I sent Harrison a text telling him to have Kasi’s sister make other arrangements for her dog. He called to negotiate, and offered to erect a temporary fence around the new landscaping. I told him that determined dogs can easily knock over such a thing. He said Kasi’s family looked forward to being able to enjoy Gabe and Lucy.

I fancy myself as easy going and cool. I hate it when I’m revealed as uptight and neurotic.

“Okay.” Sigh. “Gabe can come, but the dogs will not be allowed outside unless one or both are on a leash. And I will not be responsible for supervising them.”

Deal.

Bethany2

The only reason Bethany does Spartan races is because they allow her to climb tall things and yell Cheesecake!

The next day at the gym, I whined to my trainer Bethany and friend Kathleen: “I can see it now—the puppy and Lucy will tear around the house and break things. They’ll get out and destroy the yard. Even though I say I won’t get involved, I’ll end up supervising them.”

“Do you think you can work at giving up control?” Bethany asked.

I couldn’t imagine. Like base jumping, ice climbing and crewel embroidery, I’ve never tried it. (Sometimes I really don’t like Bethany.)

I took a deep breath. “It’s going to be hard.” Another deep breath. “But yes, I think I can give up control.”

“Good,” Bethany smiled. “What will your reward be if you’re successful?”

“I think success will be reward enough, don’t you?” (I am such a perfect liar.)

“You’ve got to give yourself something, like nachos or cheesecake.”

cheesecakeYum, I remembered the nacho challenge. The reward was delicious. I love cheesecake, but rarely eat it because I can consume vast quantities in one sitting. While thoroughly enjoyable, my stomach regrets it later.

“Cheesecake! Yes, I can do this!”

withgabeThe following day, Gabe and Lucy met and became instant friends. Harrison and Kasi took them to the field behind our house and supervised while they ran and played.

Cheesecake!

Inside the house, their play was subdued and nothing got broken.

Cheesecake!

Whenever Gabe went to the door to signal he had to go outside to potty, I summoned Harrison. Not my dog, not my responsibility to take him outside.

Cheesecake!

When I discovered poop in the living room—Cheesecake!

withgabe2Puddles of pee in the hallway—Cheesecake!

When Kasi’s family arrived on Saturday and wanted to go to the beach, I declined because the party was a mere two hours away. Harrison put on his therapist tone and convinced me that everything was in order and we’d be back in plenty of time.

Cheesecake!

At the beach, I let Harrison run with Lucy while she jerked and tugged on the leash and went wild with delight.

Cheesecake!

The dogs were locked up during most of the party and when they emerged, Harrison and Kasi kept them on leashes.

Cheesecake!

Sunday morning, Kasi’s family came over for brunch. Harrison took the lead in preparing the meal.

Cheesecake!

Late Sunday afternoon, after everyone left, I sat in a chair on our new patio feeling proud. I’d spent two and a half days relinquishing control. At times it was difficult—like on our Coastal Trail walk when I wanted to take Lucy from Harrison and make her heel. But most of the time it was freeing.

I learned a valuable lesson: giving up control is a lot easier than wrestling for it.

On Monday, Kathleen and I went to lunch.

For dessert—Cheesecake!cheesecake2

Braxton Bragg

i sent this to The fort bragg advocate-news where it appeared in the july 23 edition. the publisher gave permission to reprint it.

braxton1Recent talk about changing the name of Fort Bragg, California, made me curious about my town’s namesake. For years, I’d assumed that Confederate General Braxton Bragg had a hand in setting up the fort. But that’s not true—he never stepped foot in Northern California. Furthermore, the place was given its name four years before Bragg served in the Confederate Army.

In the summer of 1857, First Lieutenant Horatio Gibson was dispatched to the California hinterlands to build a military post near the Noyo River. Ten years earlier, Braxton Bragg had been his commanding officer in the Mexican War. Horatio was one of the few soldiers who claimed to admire him.

horatioI’d like to offer an opposing theory for how our town got the name. Before global warming, the weather was not kind to the Mendocino Coast. For decades, residents had to choose which weather pattern—fog, rain or wind—they hated the least.

I imagine Horatio and his crew struggling to build shelters with subpar tools. When the winter rains began, someone probably said, “Hey, why don’t we name this Godforsaken place after that nut ball Braxton Bragg?”

Despite growing up in a poor family, Bragg attended West Point and finished fifth in a class of 50 cadets. In 1856, after nearly 20 years of military service, he retired to farm his Louisiana sugar plantation. Shortly before retirement, he was given two crappy assignments—Fort Gibson in Oklahoma Indian territory and Fort Washita near the Texas border. This may have been the Army’s way of “encouraging” him to retire.

braxton3In his early years, Braxton proved to be a brave soldier, saving the life of future Confederate President Jefferson Davis in the Mexican War. Over time, his behavior became increasingly kooky.

Ulysses S. Grant wrote that Bragg had an obsessive need for proper procedure that bordered on mental illness. At one time, Bragg had been both a company commander and quartermaster (the officer in charge of approving the disbursement of provisions).

As company commander, Bragg made a request to the company quartermaster— himself—for something he wanted.

As quartermaster, he wrote an official reason for denying it.

As company commander, he argued that he was entitled to it.

As quartermaster, he continued to persist in denying himself what he needed.

Bragg finally requested the intervention of the post commander who said, “My God, Mr. Bragg, you have quarreled with every officer in the army, and now you are quarreling with yourself.”

Initially, Bragg opposed the idea of secession. However, when civil war became imminent he emerged from retirement and returned to the military in 1861. His years away had not improved his mental state. His men were often mystified by his orders on the battlefield. He would command reckless, aggressive offensive attacks or become bizarrely hesitant to move forward, sometimes in the same battle.

braxton2After a victory at Chickamauga, Bragg passed up a chance to thrash Union forces by letting them retreat to Chattanooga, Tennessee. After this debacle, Confederate Cavalry General Nathan Forrest said to him: “You have played the part of a damned scoundrel, and are a coward, and if you were any part of a man I would slap your jaws and force you to resent it. You may as well not issue any orders to me, for I will not obey them. I say to you that if you ever again try to interfere with me or cross my path it will be at the peril of your life.”

Bragg’s subordinates threatened mutiny and called upon President Davis to remove him. But Davis stood by the man who had once saved his life and, instead, transferred the generals under Bragg’s command.

After the Civil War, Bragg returned to Louisiana to find that the Union Army had seized his plantation. He eventually found work as the superintendent of the New Orleans Waterworks and then as chief engineer of Alabama. He moved to Texas in 1874 to become the chief engineer of the Gulf, Colorado and Santa Fe Railroad and later served as the chief railroad inspector for the state.

Bragg died in Galveston, Texas, on August 27, 1876 while walking down the street with a friend.

Given Braxton’s history, it’s hard to imagine any place named after him, let alone four. In addition to our little town, the Army base in Fayetteville, North Carolina, and a ghost town in Hardin County Texas share his name. There’s also a company in Knoxville, Tennessee, called Braxton-Bragg, which specializes in “Tools for Granite, Marble, Tile, Polished Concrete & Stone Restoration.”

California State Senator Steve Glazer claims the name of our town pays tribute to the Confederacy and has introduced SB 539 to persuade us to change it. This is absurd. Braxton Bragg was an inept Confederate and holds the distinction of being one of the most hated military men of all time. Our town’s name does not honor him. Over the last century and a half, the name Fort Bragg honors the generations of people who lived, worked and died here. It belongs to us and we aim to keep it.

Photo courtesy of that fabulous guy Tony of Tony Argüelles Photography

What’s in a Name?

sglazerRecently, California State Senator Steve Glazer revealed he has a great deal of spare time on his hands. I believe he must have been lounging in a chaise next to his pool in Orinda when he had this ah-ha moment: “I’ll propose a bill that will remove names associated with the Confederacy from all public places in our fair state!”

He composed Senate Bill 539 and introduced it to the State Legislature.

Dan Walters, a reporter for the Sacramento Bee, picked up on this and wrote an article questioning whether the bill might affect our little town of Fort Bragg, which is named after—uh-oh—the Confederate General Braxton Bragg.

This hit the internet and unleashed a torrent of comments.

Reactions in the mainstream media are, for the most part, carefully worded. For example:
I was born and raised in the Deep South. I certainly agree that confederate flags should not be flown over government building but that is where I stop…most of the people things and places are named after did more than just fight in the war on the losing side. In one way or another they helped shape our nation. I gripe all the time about the far right wingers who jump over the cliff about their issues and now the far left wingers are jumping over that same cliff…the bodies at the bottom are really piling up.

Comments on the Facebook pages of the Fort Bragg Advocate-News, Mendocinosportsplus and You Know You’re From the Mendocino Coast if…. are more raw. I must say I most admire these comments because these people are unafraid to say what they really think (no grammatical errors have been corrected):

This is why I say liberals SUCK

WTH…I’m about to leave this God forsaken state…

Lunacy at it’s best! My biggest concern is we may have to change our dog’s name to be in accordance to the law, his name is Braxton. I could say he was named after Toni Braxton. But I will probably say he was named after Braxton Hicks.

It’s going to suck for all of you anti-gun liberals when the next civil war happens which is a lot closer to happening than many would like to think what’s going to happen is a lot different from the civil war that has already happened and that you criticize so much. You won’t have any way to protect you because “all cops are bad” “all guns are bad” you all have got another thing coming your way and honestly when the next civil war happens I’m going to enjoy taking part in the winning side (I’ll give you a hint: its the side that will actually have weapons)

Really?? This is what is on Sacramento’s agenda? With ALL the REAL problems out there, these numbnuts have to after something with no bearing on anything. This state gets more communistic every day, all these bleeding hearts, “oooo, someone’s feelings are hurt”. Grow up this is the real world, if any of these bleeding hearts go anywhere else in the world, it will chew them up and spit them out.

Fortbragg focus on giving us a Taco Bell or even a Mall, Not something that’s part of our History

lol – Bunch of rebels there in Ft. Bragg I was one –

The Dems . Won’t be happy till it’s called Jose’s Rainbow Bay !!!!!!

So if it applies to schools would Fort Bragg High School have to change its name?

I need to start a “WTF” page so people can really say what they feel.

We should probably rename it to “Fluffy Kittens” that way nobody is offended

It won’t happen anyway so I’m not worried about it. However I am curious as to what the natives called this area before it was Fort Bragg.
Response: Maybe they called it “the beach”….but that may have been offensive to someone.

No series of comments would be complete without at least one fight breaking out:
Original commentator: forts and braggng….mmmm the north coast deserves a name more fttng
Response: are u even from Fort Bragg?Or live there? I’ve seen u bad mouthin our home’s name on all Fort Bragg sites and our beautiful home is obviously not a place for u.
Original commentator: I live in Jenner and would love to move farther north, (I’l throw a party you’ll never forget when ft bragg changes its name
Responses: Actually why don’t you stay down there in jenner.
No one in Fort Bragg cares about your party you could never do it Fort Bragg style anywAy that’s obvious
Original commentator: keep playing dumb, and being hurtful, it reveals so much.
Responses: Who’s being hurtful. So far you are the one thats approaching that level.
It only hurts because her ego is being deflated.

Finally, my favorites:

Let’s name it Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. But we’ll call it Fort Bragg for short.

Enough is enough. Find something else to do. Bake some cookies, do the laundry. Try to keep busy.cookies

Science Diet

thOver the years, I’ve owned five cats. Each lived long lives on a steady diet of Meow Mix. The only exception was when daughter Laine’s cat Figgy went into renal failure at age 13. He was put on a special food that cost a million dollars a day, which he enjoyed for two weeks before he died.

Indy—our son Harrison’s cat—lived to be 150 years old eating Meow Mix and whatever critters she would scavenge.

When Little Mister came into our lives eleven summers ago, I figured what was good for the others was good for him, too. However, for the past year, an increasing number of hairballs have been hacked about the house. Maybe it was time to upgrade his diet.

A month ago, I went to Fort Bragg Feed and Pet to buy Lucy her gourmet dog food. What about Little Mister? asked the voice of my conscience. Lucy’s nuclear Catahoula puppy energy has probably given him an ulcer.

science-diet-senior-age-defying-cat-food_1I wandered the cat food isle and found Science Diet Age Defying cat food for Senior 11+. The writing on the package claims: “Precisely balanced, easy-to-digest nutrition to fight 4 important signs of aging in 30 days.” Maybe my husband Gary and I should also eat it.

I bought the food, eager to help Little Mister defy aging. Returning home, I filled his bowl, and he started gobbling it. (I wish this could be a testimonial to Science Diet, but he also enjoys eating gophers and rats.)

What exactly are the “4 important signs of aging,” I wondered. The writing on the Science Diet Senior 11+ bag isn’t very clear. One bullet point states: “Defends the body and brain against aging.” What does that mean? Will my cat lose his flabby tummy? Will eating this food stop him from hallucinating that my legs are monsters that must be attacked?

LM3The bag also states: “Nutrition to improve skin & coat in 30 days*.” The * makes reference to “vs. previously fed U.S. grocery foods.” Does this mean that European grocery foods might be on par with Science Diet or even superior? Since Little Mister refuses to travel abroad, I won’t be able to contrive an experiment to measure this claim.

“Supports long-term heart & vital organ health.” At the age of 11+, is long-term considered 30 days? And how am I supposed to determine if Little Mister’s heart and vital organ health has improved when I’m not certain it was compromised in the first place?

I searched the back of the bag hoping to gain additional insight.

Under the banner of “The Precisely Balanced Benefits of Age Defying” there’s a claim that I found especially intriguing: “Precisely balanced nutrition…to fight litter box accidents….”

What, pray tell, is a litter box accident? I’ve never been fond of litter boxes, but now that I know they can cause accidents, I’m even less so. Little Mister has never had one. He’s exposed to enough danger fighting off cats who attempt to overthrow his hold on the vacant lot next door. He must also be highly vigilant to avoid Lucy’s attentions. I won’t add the potential of litter box accidents to his already hazardous life.

Thirty days have passed and I’ve discovered:

LilMr1Before starting this diet, Little Mister could barely do one crunch. He’s now up to almost five before viciously attacking me. His brain function also seems to have improved. When he sees me coming at exercise time, he turns and runs like a cheetah. This food has defended him well against his aging body and brain.

As for an improved coat, his fluffiness has always allowed him to be a good-looking, vain creature. (He just told me to say he’s even more gorgeous now.)LilM

The claim Science Diet makes that this food is made of “natural ingredients & high-quality proteins with no artificial colors, flavors or preservatives in a smaller kibble that is easy to chew & digest” appears to be true.

I’m happy to report that in the past month, I’ve only discovered two hairballs and not one pile of puke. (Those of you with elderly cats know this is a true miracle.)

Since I don’t own a stethoscope or MRI machine, I cannot prove the Science Diet claim that this food “Supports long-term heart & vital organ health.” After 30 days, Little Mister is still alive. We’ll consider that success.

Little Mister likes his Science Diet. If it does little more than lessen my guilt over bringing a puppy into his world, I’ll keep buying it.1441214_10152206094356844_1136025372_n

Welcome Wagon

If I worked for the Mendocino Coast Chamber of Commerce, I’d start a Welcome Wagon. I would design and deliver gift baskets to new residents. Mine wouldn’t be your run of the mill, welcome to our wonderful community, isn’t it beautiful, have a pizza on me type of basket. When someone decides to move here, they already know it’s a great place. My baskets would feature some of the more quirky aspects of our small town.

Let’s say you’ve moved to Fort Bragg. We’ll sit at your kitchen table drinking lattes from the Mendocino Cookie Company and start with the least controversial of topics—global warming. The weather along our coast is fickle. Some whiners complain it’s too windy or rainy or foggy. What sissies. They should not be allowed an opinion until after they’ve spent a winter in the Midwest. In the past few years, the effects of climate change have benefited our area, ushering in increasingly warm, sunny days. This makes it hard to remain a hater of greenhouse gases. To keep you focused, I’ll give you this bumper sticker:

The basket will include a copy of page 31 of the California Driver Handbook which specifies the right of way laws at four-way stops. On second thought, scratch that. Those laws are useless in Fort Bragg. Instead, I’ll add a flashcard printed with the rules of the game Rock, Paper, Scissors. This is how right of way is determined in our town.

If you find yourself at the corner of Franklin and Chestnut (an intersection complicated by left-hand turn lanes), you’ll know it’s your turn to move after you’ve been honked at twice, flipped off once, and rear ended.

DSC02395The highlight of the basket will be my patented Taaka Vodka/M&M candy gift (made for less than ten dollars). As you open the Taaka to take a slug and toss back a couple of M&M’s, I’ll caution that this is a great place to live if you don’t have anything to hide. Similar to high school, gossip is a popular form of spreading “news” in our town.

I’ll tempt you to reveal your secrets by claiming I was once a roadie for Van Halen. If your story isn’t equally as entertaining, I’ll stir in a few spicy details before passing it around. You’ll become an instant celebrity.

Your basket will also contain a coupon for a free Gird Your Loins class at the Mendocino Sports Club. You can cash this in after you’ve made the mistake of opening your mouth to express an opinion and need to learn how to defend yourself from attack. We are a passionate and polarized community when it comes to such issues as the Dollar Tree Store or Taco Bell. Dare to take a side and you will be pummeled by the opposition.

tacobellWhen The Fort Bragg Advocate News asked for comments on their Facebook page regarding the future building of a Taco Bell, one woman innocently posted: “Yuck! We don’t live here, but plan to someday. One of the reasons we love Ft. Bragg is because of so few corporate chains.”

Poor, naive thing—she knew not what she started. The cannonballs fired immediately:

“Ft. Bragg doesn’t need you here.”

“Interesting that most of the ‘anti establishment’ nut jobs are not the people born in Fort Bragg but those who are transplants.”

“There’s enough of these lunatics ruining the town, they don’t need more.”

Her response: “Why are you all being jerks just because I expressed an OPINION?”

One of the greatest gifts of living here is the lack of suburbs. It’s difficult to remain a snob when you can’t huddle within your own socio-economic class.

More than twenty years ago, I took my first trip to The Purity. I stood in line with a man who had a wire coat hanger fashioned as an antennae around his head. He clutched a plastic gallon jug, half filled with red juice, to his chest and spoke lovingly to the box of doughnuts he was purchasing. I avoided going to that store for several months until I learned that trips to Safeway or Harvest put me in line with similar folks.

Like me, you’ll learn to accept people for who they are—not for the status they hold. As a result, you’ll have friends from all walks of life—from the intellectual to the illiterate, the wealthy to the poor, elderly to youngsters. Since this gift is far too large to fit into a basket, I’ll substitute a candy bar purchased to support Little League, a $25 gift certificate from Triangle Tattoo, a dollar gift certificate from the Dollar Tree Store, and a promise from someone to take you on a pub crawl through the Barmuda Triangle (the configuration of three of our oldest downtown bars: Tip Top, Welcome Inn and the Golden West).

Toward the end of our visit, you will question if you made a mistake by moving here. Quite the contrary—four-way stops aside—you are one of the luckiest people on earth.

No Complaints

bethany

Bethany the Fierce

As my trainer Bethany puts me through exercise paces at the gym, we chat about one of my favorite hobbies—complaining. For the past several months, she has made a conscious effort to avoid the activity. “Do you know how hard it is to not complain?” she asks. I can’t imagine. Like parasailing, hang gliding, and scrapbooking, I’ve never tried it.

I take this as a challenge and declare that if I can go the rest of the afternoon without complaining, I’ll reward myself with nachos from Los Gallitos (with extra guacamole). It’s two-thirty. If I eat dinner early, I’ll only have a few hours to endure.

When I get home and click the garage door opener, the door stays closed. For several months, the door has mocked me in this way—just haphazard enough to keep me from calling someone to repair it. “Son of a—“ I suddenly remember my vow. I force a smile, make a conscious effort to not grumble, and park the car outside.

I enter the house to find my husband Gary, who’s been presenting flu-like symptoms all morning, in his recliner. He asks if I’ll go to The Purity to get him Lipton’s Chicken Noodle Soup and some juice.

A whine starts in my brain and threatens to erupt into foot stomping. (Just so you don’t think I’m heartless, this would be my second trip to the store for him today.) My tantrum is quickly squelched by the memory of my pledge. I like going to The Purity. And I won’t have to mess with the garage door opener because the car is parked outside. I happily go to the store.

cat(7)The afternoon progresses swimmingly until the cat Little Mister appears, screeching at my office door.

Oh no. I’d forgotten about the demanding cat.

I think of Jesus and how He maintained serenity despite His many trials and tribulations. (Note to self: ask a theologian if there’s mention of a fat gray cat in the New Testament.)

During the past several weeks of our dog Lucy’s recovery from knee surgery, Little Mister has been sorely neglected. Instead of my usual annoyance (I have work to do!), I muster compassion and pet him as he rumples the paperwork on my desk. When he tries to climb onto the computer keyboard, instead of yelling, I gently pick him up and spend a solid five minutes settling him on the rug.

By this time, it’s three-thirty and I’m feeling quite pure of heart. I wonder if four o’clock is too early to eat dinner, but remember that’s the time for Lucy’s second rehab walk of the day.

CGCAfter countless obedience classes, Lucy and I are pretty adept at our walks. However, her limited outside time during her weeks of recovery makes each walk a challenge. The resident blue jay taunts her, the kitten who has taken over the field in the back needs to be chased, the cat poop buried under bushes must sniffed out and eaten.

She’s very strong and singularly focused when she wants her way. Given the fragility of her knee, I have to be careful not to pull on her. I must be ever vigilant to avoid distractions and coax her with treats. A twenty-minute walk is exhausting. (Or I should say was exhausting until I stopped the habit of complaining.)

I take deep breaths and determine this will be the best walk ever. I evade the bird, kitten, and cat poop pitfalls while carrying on a stream of light chatter—telling her she’s the best girl, so smart and wonderful. We pass a guy sitting in his truck. I say hello and he offers the kind of wary smile one gives a crazy person.

At four-thirty, I receive a text from the house sitter that she’s not available over Mother’s Day weekend. It will be the first Mother’s Day in three years I won’t spend with my kids in San Francisco. Part of me wants to cry and thrash about, but the new well-honed saintly part suggests I’ll find another way to celebrate Mother’s Day.

By five o’clock, I’m on the phone with Los Gallitos. At five-thirty, I’m sitting in front of Judge Judy scarfing down nachos. By six I’m stuffed with a feeling of wellbeing—a combination of yummy food and a successful three and a half hours of avoiding the traps of self-pity and martyrdom.

I must admit this was an enjoyable afternoon. I’m thankful to Bethany for bringing enlightenment. I might even try this non-complaining thing—and definitely those nachos—again soon.angel