dogs, motherhood

Fur-Ever Changed by Love

There are stories you never want to write. The ones that become irrevocably true once the ink leaves your pen.

This is one of those stories.

July 9, 2003 – June 4, 2021 (just shy of 18 years old)

Max lived a good life. He walked every day until he couldn’t.

That’s how he told me it was time for him to go.

When Max came into my life I did not understand the magic he would sprinkle over every part of my existence. His devotion to me was unmatched. In his younger years, though already ten when he became our family member, he would wait at the base of the stairs as I ran up and down completing the endless daily tasks of motherhood. Once he felt certain of my location and pause in movement, with Herculean effort he’d heave his stout little body up the stairs to find me and keep watch. I don’t know what exactly he was watching for but it seemed important.

As the center of his universe I did not take this lightly. I gave him as much as he gave me. Until he couldn’t give anymore, and he was tired, and his old body said enough is enough.

From the outside, the story of Max and me seems simple.

Dog meets girl.

Dog devotes life to girl.

Best friends for life.

From the inside the story reaches deeper. Max came into my world with precise timing. I was dealing with the crushing loss of my mom, raising two rambunctious boys, and supporting Mad Dog’s corporate aspirations. I was barely holding myself together and in swooped Max. He did not care how my anxiety sometimes froze me in place. He didn’t mind how I looked, if I showered, and if my writing got published. He didn’t care if my boys were on the honor roll, if I took awesome vacations, or if my house was organized. He taught me that I am enough as is. On the days I didn’t believe him, it did not phase him.

He loved me anyway.

The love he gave me was so perfect and true it has me questioning everything. We are taught by the world we must earn love through striving, pushing ourselves, winning at everything, and looking a certain, standardized way. Even if we somehow achieve this ephemeral perfection, its temporary nature has us immediately turning our attention to the next outside-of-ourselves goal.

I don’t want to live like that. I want to choose goals that speak to my heart. The kind that inspire me and fulfill me as I move through them. I want to cultivate a fluid state of being and allow the process of becoming to light the way. I want passion and purpose to rise up from within and carry me through all the twists and turns of life.

When you love someone, you dress up like an Ewok even though it makes you really, really angry.

Losing Max is a twist I knew was coming, but I wasn’t ready. We are never ready to lose something we love. It rips us apart at the seams and feels overwhelming and irreparable. And yet, underneath the surface of this gaping Ewok-shaped hole, the true-ness within me holds me steady.This is the part of me that Max loved the most.

This is where I will find my joy again.

Above all else, I want to make Max proud.

The best and only way to do this is remember each and every day no matter what, I already have.

motherhood, South Africa

Prince Othawa

When you cross paths with a lion, you remember every detail from the angle of the sun as it attempts to glint your fear away, down to the exact shade of red of the pebble-specked earth his paws tread soundlessly upon. Not only was I able to live this experience up close, I was able to share our face-to-face encounter with Prince Othawa, a fierce and looming presence at the heart of Londolozi, on their daily blog.

You can read that story here:

Fulfilling a Life Long Dream

Since our time in South Africa I have followed the safari stories of this otherworldly place with hopeful dedication. These snippets of animal life keep my heart dreaming of our return. The drama of the unfolding power dynamics as the beasts of the wild grasp for dominance easily entertains with all the makings of a soapy, serial drama. Some stories light up my day, like with the birth of a new leopard cub, and some hit me dead-center when a cherished animal does not survive the night. This week when I opened my inbox and saw the tagline of “The Fate of the Othawa Male”, my heart thudded to the floor.

You can read about his final hours by clicking below:

Othawa’s Fate

It feels like I am mourning a friend. The astonishment he provided for Mad Dog and myself cannot be adequately captured with words. Facing him, not even a breath-space away, turned our visceral fear into whole-hearted communion with the present moment. The fragility of life was never more apparent than in that instant.

We control nothing.

Prince Othawa’s fate was sealed the moment he charged into battle, a lone warrior unaware he would be outnumbered. He relied on instinct as he pushed the boundaries of his territory, believing in the power of his singular strength.

One lesson we could take from this is to never go it alone. But, this doesn’t seem exactly right to me. Prince Othawa died as he lived, walking a path that called to him even when the ultimate destination could not be known.

This is how I want to live for the rest of my days. Though they may be numbered, they are bright with possibility.

Like Othawa, I vow to follow the roar of my heart no matter the outcome.

humor, motherhood

Who Runs This Town?

Every week Mad Dog and I get a phone message from the boys’ school principals. Inevitably, valuable information will be disseminated and Mad Dog will then share what is said. Full Speed will hear him but not actually listen. He will be there, physically present, nodding and agreeing, but mentally be somewhere else entirely.

He does not like to follow up on anything Mad Dog tells him to do.

Ever.

Even if the principal left us a message that leftover pots of gold from St. Patrick’s Day were available for pick up at the school office, Full Speed would hear this and then never, ever, ever follow-up. All his school friends could be throwing gold coins around like confetti and he would still never, ever, ever stop by to get his.

Mad Dog, ever the problem solver, is hopeful to add Full Speed to the principal’s call list. This way at least there is a chance, albeit slight, that Full Speed will do what is asked of him.

Trust me, the leprechauns aren’t worried.

Nora also does not like to listen to Mad Dog.

However, this blatant disregard for his authority

is rewarded with treats, verbal affirmations, and let’s not forget,…

unlimited belly rubs.

She runs this town.

motherhood

Turning Point

Like the seasons, motherhood evolves. Sometimes over days and months, sometimes it takes years. One day you wake up, the sun is shining and you realize everything is different.

I can’t pinpoint the exact moment everything changed. I can, however, list the indicators life would never be the same:

  • Full speed driving me to an appointment (!)
  • The boys cleaning out their clothes and snatching some of their too-small t-shirts for my own
  • Full Speed calling Mad Dog from school to bring his I. D. and Mad Dog not recognizing his voice because it was so deep
  • Picking T. Puzzle up from school and spotting him instantly as he was a head taller than everyone else

My biggest challenge ahead is letting life teach them without trying to interfere.

They are now realizing life can be unfair and cause pain.  Where I used to be able to shield them from uncertainty which gave me a wobbly sense of control, I am no longer a barrier to the truth of the world.  There are pandemics, political and social injustices, navigating school hierarchies, and the reality even kind and decent souls aren’t exempt from heartache. I am trying to find the balance in talking to them about tough topics and respecting when they want to be quiet.

I am learning, too.

I can’t always make things better, but I can respect the fortitude and resilience of both my boys.  They have both shown me in ways big and small they have the intellect and compassion to come to terms with life as it is.  My greatest hope as we enter this new phase of our relationship to one another is to walk alongside them.

Who am I kidding?

They already are leading the way.

IMG_9739
T.Puzzle getting recognized in our local paper

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Full Speed earning his varsity letter for manager.

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Full Speed in action, keeping JV stats.

motherhood

Beast Mode

Somewhere along the way in the past few months, I noticed that T.Puzzle was on his phone a lot. I decided to talk to him about it and we came up with some new rules for him to follow. This leaves a big chunk of free time for him because he never has homework. It’s weird. Since we’ve moved he has maybe had two assignments that spilled over to home. Even with studying for the upcoming state spelling bee, he has loads of free time.

I can’t remember when exactly, but I took it upon myself to make sure T.Puzzle learned the skill of typing. Full Speed had a dedicated class in 7th grade that made him proficient and now, as a sophomore and countless typewritten assignments later, he is a solid typist. With all our moving around these past few years, T.Puzzle didn’t have this same opportunity. Therefore, in order for him to earn video game time on the weekends or vacations, he had to dedicate time to learning to type. There is a typing game that is competitive so it all worked out. While I remained diligent in making him stick with it, I kind of forgot about it over time. One day I realized he had been practicing for months and months and told him he could stop (finally!).

In the last week or so, when he got home from school and since he now has limits on his phone time, he has been doing the typing game. In his mind it’s considered ‘educational’ so this is how he bypasses the ‘no video games’ during the week rule.

It’s a slippery slope for sure.

One day I came downstairs to see what he was up to and found him furiously typing away with this creepy look on his face as if he was trying to murder the keyboard.

I’ve never seen anything like it. His lips moved in undulating curling snarls and it was one of the craziest, funniest, things I have witnessed in a long while.

Turns out he is a literal and figurative beast on the keyboard.

Leave it to the son of Mad Dog to turn typing into a competitive sport (who by the way uses temperature checks as a contest which he never fails to ‘win’ because his temp is always the lowest).

At this rate, T.Puzzle will be typing a thousand words a minute.

Mad Dog won’t care though as his temp will still be running a cool 97.2.