not goodbye, but so long

Most years end with a great majority of us compiling lists of personal resolutions that we hope to accomplish in the coming year. Whether we make lists or not, to the man, we give some thought to the upcoming year and what it may hold for us: a new love, maybe; a new job; the hope of an illness being successfully treated or one we fear may be there never appearing. Or maybe it will be a grand vacation, a milestone birthday to celebrate, or a new material good that we’ve desired for some time.

Whatever it is, these thoughts tend toward the positive, as well they should, because each year presents the hope of something not only different, but better. I am anticipating some big changes in 2012 myself, some, I’m sorry to say, that I’m not welcoming. For one, my younger daughter will be moving out of the house on the first of the year. Even though she’s 23, to me she is still my baby girl, and I will miss her companionship, a companionship I’ve had on a daily basis for the past 23 years. Her sister moved out 14 months ago, and she still comes over at least once a week for dinner, so it’s, to quote “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?,” not goodbye, but so long. Still, my older daughter’s schedule is more 9 to 5 than my younger girl’s, and I fear I’ll see even less of her than I have this past year, which brought her her first full-time job and a steady boyfriend.

Also new in 2012 is raising this little bundle of energy we call Woody, a golden retriever we brought into the family almost a month ago. At 12 weeks, he’s quite a handful, but I’m seeing signs of maturity as we work with him on a daily basis to get him to learn what he should know to be a good ol’ dog one day. Even though his presence is more positive than negative, I still have been confronted with myriad responsibilities since he arrived on the scene. I’ve had to rearrange my life to fit into his, for one, although it should be the other way around. But here I am, daily getting out of bed when he wakes, whether I’m tired or sick (or sick and tired), because he needs to be fed and brought outside. And here I’ll be, working in an area of the house where I don’t typically work in order to be in the same room with him in case he gets into something he shouldn’t. And there I go, taking him for a walk or outside to play or “use the facilities,” because he needs to get his exercise or relief so he doesn’t drive me crazy when I need quiet time.

I wonder what I’ll do in the upcoming weeks when my workload gets extremely busy (think straight eight- or ten-hour days with not even a lunchbreak away from my desk) and I’m the only one here to take him outside or on those necessary walks. How I’ll manage is beyond my imagination at the moment. By then, I’m hoping he’ll have adjusted to being out in the yard by himself for significant periods of time without his getting into every bush, putting every rock into his mouth, or digging to China, although I doubt that will be the case. He’ll also likely want that necessary companionship that his breed tends to desire to be happy dogs. So, I’m anticipating some stress-filled days.

Other changes? With one child out of the house, we will have a vacant room, and I look forward to setting that up as an office and guestroom, which, with four kids, we’ve never, ever had. Assuming I’ll get a break from the puppy and be able to get to that quiet place to work, I look forward to having a room of my own in which to not only work but to get away.

I also have a mini trip planned with my best friend of 37 years. We just hit a milestone birthday in December and we are going to get together to celebrate in a city midway between our homes. This is a big deal to me, because I don’t get away very often (as in never). I look at this trip also as one in a series of pleasurable things I plan to do for myself. As a mom for nearly 26 years straight, with one minor child still to raise, I have never put myself before my family. So, I hope to try to enjoy myself more in 2012.

Whatever the year brings, I wish for no heartache and no stress and a year of positive thinking and a sense of humor. Even if circumstances don’t change and I muddle through 2012 much the same way I did ’11 and ’10, at least I’ll view what life churns out with a good attitude and a great laugh, which can make all the difference in the world. So long, 2011.

a mom’s best friend

My younger girl, an adult of 23, is planning to fly the coop this coming month. She and a friend are moving into a rental house just a couple blocks from my older daughter and her roommate. It’s hard to believe that I have children this old and this self-reliant, for it seems not all that long ago when all four kids were itty-bitty babies, dependent on their mother for every little need. But just as I began to wax nostalgic for the good old days, I got a taste of new-mommyhood again.

We adopted a puppy a week ago today. He’s an adorable golden retriever with a friendly, happy disposition (when he’s not trying to bite every little shred of our being). We’ve  had a puppy before–a medium-small mixed-breed dog–but somehow I blocked out all the bad stuff of the adjustment period the minute I laid eyes on Woody. I guess it’s kind of like childbirth. If we were to remember the excruciating pain, we wouldn’t ever repeat the process, some of us three more times.

dog doge puppy retriever
Photo by Snapwire on

An inevitable part of the dog-owning program I also finally had been able to push out of my mind was the day we had to put Sammy down. On that day I vowed to never get another dog. But life goes on, and here I am with another needy creature looking to me to fill his every need.

I’m not going to lie. Not wanting another dog wasn’t just about the sentimentality of losing Sammy. It also had to do with my all too keen awareness of the amount of time, devotion, and expense a dog can be. (Doesn’t it always fall on the mom?) Sammy had been a pretty easy pup, too,  as far as upkeep goes. He didn’t eat a whole lot and he was healthy for most of his lifetime. He was also an outdoor dog and, I’m almost ashamed to admit, was easy to ignore at times. Fortunately, he was content to be outside in the beautiful Southern California sun. Who wouldn’t be?

But for whatever reason (was it  being pressured by one of the kids or was it a midlife crisis?), I went against my own fine common sense and took on not just another dog, but a helpless puppy that would one day become a large dog and one that, according to its breed’s nature, will need companionship on a daily basis.

For the past week, it’s been like raising a newborn again. The whining, crying, and attachment are there–especially in the first two days and nights–and the near-constant supervising is exhausting. He needs to be caged in the kitchen (his nursery?) for the time being until he can get used to a crate (his crib?). He also needs to be housebroken, which is quite a lot like potty training a child.

Things are getting better and Woody is adjusting well to his new home, but it’s an awful lot of work. He’s a cute puppy, as all babies are, but I look forward to the day when the little guy is able to make decisions on his own and need me a lot less. Every living creature eventually becomes autonomous. Fortunately, it comes sooner with pets than with kids.