Friday, August 15, 2014

Ginger Grau February 2000 – August 15, 2014

The truth is that I am not really a dog person. I grew up with great cats, but we never had much luck with dogs. They slobbered too much and were too hyper, too dumb, to rough, or too valuable and stolen.  I always figured I would be a cat person the rest of my life. Until I fell in love with someone allergic to cats.

Ginger was born in early 2000, but came to us in September of that year. We had gone to the SPCA to adopt a beagle after enjoying one of our friend’s dogs. But when we went to see the beagle, this gorgeous ginger-colored dog was sprawled across the kennel like she owned the place while the beagle shivered in the corner.  It was love at first sight. After being spayed, we brought her home and she was still so mellow… only to find out a few days later that she was suffering from Parvo.   It was touch and go, but after a few days at the vet (and a few bills later), she recovered.  And then we met the REAL Ginger: protective, active, energetic, sweet, snuggly, insistent, smart, fast, and strong enough to pull a sled (if we had the need in Texas).  We learned she was not a big fan of dog parks or other dogs for that matter, especially when she was just with me because she considered herself to be the head of the pack when Jeff was not around.  Her bark was much worse than her bite (she was not a biter); however, she loved to chase squirrels and rabbits and caught a few of them, too.  She loved riding in the car with her head out the window as well as on our boat. Her favorite treat on road trips was her own cup of Sonic Ice. She also loved camping and exploring the woods with us, but let her off her leash and she was out of sight in a split second… only to come home hours later smiling like she had just been at a huge party.
We never knew her exact breed. She had the personality, body, and markings of a Canaan, but  more than likely she was a Husky-Sheppard mix. In Texas, this meant she was ALWAYS shedding her white undercoat. I am pretty sure we had enough hair each year to make several small dogs!!  Moving to Arkansas was not much better since colder winters brought on a thicker coat so Spring was still quite a shedding mess. But the trade-off was that she had a silky soft coat that you just couldn’t help but pet.
Ginger was meant to be a crated dog, but early on she convinced me that she should sleep on the bed when Jeff traveled. She usually took her place on his side of the bed. This was our secret… well, mostly.  Ginger was a great comfort while we were going through infertility treatments for several years. When Jeff was gone, It was Ginger that sat by me as I charted and tested, listened to me cry, stayed up to watch movies, and shared ice cream and popcorn.  She was also my protector – barking at strange noises and hunkering down with me on stormy nights in our “safe” room. 
When Jillian came home, I was concerned that our fur baby of 10 years would be jealous. But she took to Jillian immediately: sleeping on the floor of her room; kissing her head; snuggling next to her on the floor; chasing each other around the house; letting Jillian adorn her with hats and pearls and crowns; taking walks and sharing snacks.  Even as she grew older and had more pain, she never once bit down on Jillian. Yeah, she yelped and nipped a few times in the past year, but we could not have asked for any better behavior from a senior dog.   

At age 14 ½, Ginger had cataracts, was losing teeth, starting to lose weight, limping, losing footing and slipping, having trouble with stairs, panting heavily most of the day, and experiencing obvious pain when moving too quickly or changing positions.  Over the past few weeks, she became incontinent and seemed to experience pain in her stomach area. However, she gave us glimpses of the perky dog she used to be and she remained a patient, loyal, and sweet girl to us all.  Making the decision to let her go has been one of the most difficult decisions we have ever had to make. She is pain free now and I hope chasing squirrels in a heavenly field. We will miss her fur on our clothes, her gentle nose nudges to make you go where she wanted you to go, and her bark reminding you that she was waiting at the door to come back inside. 

Monday, February 17, 2014

The Rule Breaker

As I was cleaning the bathroom, which is about the only time my 4 year old leaves me alone in the bathroom, I had a little time to replay an argument my husband and I had yesterday… 

When I left the house Sunday, I left some very stained mixed-colored clothes in a pre-wash cycle to soak.  When I came home two hours later, those clothes were hot and dry in the dryer… stains still intact. 

And. I. Lost. It. 

 In my husband’s defense, he had put some clothes he “needed” for his one day trip out of town that afternoon. (Okay, sure,  but being that he had two baskets full of clean clothes in our bedroom, I can’t imagine he didn’t have something he could wear… ). I reminded him (with a loud and lashing tongue) that our laundry rule was that he was not supposed to put stuff in the dryer without asking me first. He could wash and dry HIS whites or socks, any towels, and any jeans, but that all other laundry was to be left to me (this rule came in to play after many a sweater, shirt, or dry cleaning only item was ruined after a wash and dry in our early marriage).  Of course, this turned in to a very loud “discussion” with Jeff complaining that he couldn’t keep up with all my rules! Rules about laundry, what to clean with what product,  what brand to buy, insisting Jillian wearing shorts under dresses, reading labels to avoid Red 40, etc. etc. etc.  

I got so loud that poor Jillian pulled out the old Daniel Tiger “Take a breath and count to 10” phrase to try to calm me down which made me laugh, but didn’t curb my frustration.  Then she told Jeff he needed to apologize for doing the laundry wrong and I needed to apologize for yelling. And we did.  And like we always do when Jillian sees her loud parents bicker (yeah, I know… we have a therapy account) we apologized, kissed, and made up. Plus we had a “family hug.” 

But that wasn’t what I was thinking about in the bathroom. 

I was thinking about how many “rules” I set in place without even realizing it. In fact, I may even set up my husband for failure with some of my rules and expectations simply because I don’t tell him what they are until he breaks one!  And really, who wants to help someone that berates you for doing something wrong at every turn?  Someone who is never completely satisfied with your performance?  Someone who forgets that you have the stress of a new job and family finances on your brain? Someone that doesn’t acknowledge how tired you are at the end of the day when she throws a bouncing child at you and runs out the door? Someone who wonders why nothing was “done” while she was gone? Someone that took 5 minutes out of a major project with a deadline to try to help out by doing some laundry?  Yeah, that is a job I would quit.   And I don’t want Jeff to quit. 

And the more I thought about that, I started thinking about God. And a lesson from Sunday about grace and forgiveness.  And how God does forgive us without beating us over the head about what we did.

So today I resolve (okay, maybe I am resolving for the 10th time) to better communicate my expectations. I resolve to forgive without berating when they aren’t followed to the letter. I resolve to recognize that not everything has to be done MY way and that one or two pairs of pink underwear or one $10 T-shirt tossed into the stained “playclothes” pile isn’t the end of the world.  Oh, and while I’m at it, I resolve to quit yelling (for the 100th time... God forgive me).

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Fifteen Years with The One

Once upon a time there was a boy. He was new to the big city of Dallas and was just looking for a good time. And there was a girl. She grew up in the big city of Dallas and was tired of the dating scene. She even wrote a list of 50 qualities of the ideal mate as an excuse to not get serious about anyone. And yet, both were looking in the Personals one fall day and they found each other. That boy called that girl’s Personals Ad and said, “Call me back because I’m the one.” And the rest is history.

Since January 30, 1999, that boy, Jeff, has been the one next to me as we laughed, cried, and screamed on the rollercoaster of life.  Some said we wouldn’t last a year. To be sure, there have been times it took a lot for us to last another minute.  But as I reflect, I am amazed at how much we have been through together. For fun, and in no particular order, here are is a brief summation of the details, memories, and statistics of our 15 years of marriage:

·         Encouraged each other through 8 career changes and 5 part-time MLMs (most of which were mine).

·         Improved ourselves with 1 college degree and 1 teaching certificate.

·         Survived 6 surgeries, 1 stroke, 2 ambulances, and a few major illnesses (mostly mine).

·         Mourned the loss of two grandmothers, one father, two uncles, one aunt, three cousins, and too many friends.

·         Supported each other through sibling struggles.

·         Traveled to 3 countries, 13 major cities, and many small towns along the way (which doesn't include all of Jeff's travel for work).

·         Enjoyed the outdoors through camping, canoeing, hiking, and boating.

·         Experienced the real and perceived fears of Y2K, 9/11, .COM crash and Wall Street debacles.

·         Calmed me down from a panic attack on a plane to NYC after 9/11.

·         Put up with the speed of Dial-Up and cell phones that only dialed numbers.

·         Bought, sold, maintained, and banged up 5 cars.

·         Moved all our stuff 4 times.

·         Bought 2 houses.

·         Worshiped at 5 churches.

·         Prepared for numerous ice storms, tornadoes, and zombie apocalypse.

·         Said "NO" 10 times each to 4 timeshare salesmen.

·         Telecommuted (worked from home) for 15 years.

·         Traveled 5 days a week for 2 years before 1 major move from Texas to Arkansas.

·         Took the girl out of Texas, but not the Texas out of the girl.

·         Held me through hysteria in a small plane over the Rockies.

·         Still claimed me after I screamed cuss words on the Batman ride at 6 Flags.

·         Videotaped the zap trap that couldn’t stop the mouse.

·         Laughed about your slide across the bathroom floor.

·         Sailed and feared drowning on a Hobie cat in the ocean.

·         Gifted me a ride in a Hot Air balloon over McKinney.

·         Paddled a canoe in alligator infested waters.

·         Accompanied me on a dream to sing at Carnegie Hall.

·         Forgot to put the drain plug in the boat on the first day on the lake.

·         Participated in 5,340 banter sessions and 5,340 laughter sessions.

·         Created over 82,000 memories.

·         Shared in the losing, gaining, losing, gaining, and losing of too many pounds to mention.

·         Helped me find lost jewelry, money, glasses, clothes, and keys.

·         Generated 2,340 loads of laundry.

·         Fell in love with our dog and fur baby, Ginger, that day at the SPCA.

·         Helped move my Mom closer to us.

·         Loved through the heartache of 5 rounds of Clomid, 2 rounds of AI, 1 Invitro procedure, 1 international adoption information session, and 6 foster-to-adopt classes.

·         Made it possible for us to adopt and for me to stay at home with our beautiful daughter.

But most importantly, you have adored me despite my sassy remarks, artistic quirks, Lucille Ball tendencies, and housekeeping challenges.  I love you, Jeffrey Grau.

Happy 15th Anniversary. Thanks for being “THE ONE.”