Newest Family Member brings back old feelings

I remember feeling this way over 20 years ago, the night before my son was born. I was in labor and would soon be heading to the hospital- leaving my daughter in the care of her grandma. I recall thinking:”What have we done? Why did we think we should have a second child? How can I love another baby as much as I love this one?”

In hindsight, it seems naive or foolish to think our love is finite. Of course, the instant my infant son was places in my arms I fell in love all over again. All that dread and doubt were a waste of energy. However, today I have the same questions going through my head. I have been in a different type of labor: moving items I don’t want to become chew toys, protecting cords and outlets, setting up gates; all as part of puppy-proofing my house.

Tomorrow we will be driving to the home of the breeder and collecting our 8-week old bundle of joy. Our elder dog will stay home, even more clueless than my 2 1/2 year old was that by this time tomorrow he will have a sibling. This newest member of the family will mean a permanent sharing of attention with the human parents; but it will also give him an opportunity to be a mentor and role model, as well as someone to love or at least snuggle with when we are out of the house.

I know I will love the new puppy as much as I love my beloved Cockapoo, who will still be the King of the Hill. He will still be allowed special privileges for seniority and good behavior. Cooper will still sleep on our bed; puppy will sleep in the crate. Cooper can roam the house and yard; puppy is confined to puppy-proof areas. Cooper can enjoy some treats from our dinner plates; puppy will stick with his puppy food.

I am hopeful that Puppy will motivate Cooper to be more active and boost his energy level. At the same time, I hope Cooper will be a good example of how to behave, perhaps making our training a little bit easier. I really shouldn’t compare children and dogs, but it is kind of ironic that just as my daughter moves out and begins medical school, we add a new puppy to the family. So I can assure you that, contrary to what the term “empty nest” implies, our days of “finally empty nest” will be quite lively!

*By the time I was able to publish this post, Puppy has been named Dino (“Dee-no”).

My 50th Birthday Celebration!

Today I am 50 years of age. Notice I did not say “old”.  I do not feel a day older than yesterday. I had a few minutes to reflect on the things I love about myself and what I have accomplished by age 50.

  • I love how healthy and physically fit I feel. I am in good shape and rarely have illnesses.
  • I love my new job, the people I interact with, the programs I am involved in coordinating, the hours I work and the people I work with.
  • I love that I am able to provide health insurance for my whole family.
  • I love that my daughter is quickly becoming an independent and responsible adult.
  • I love that my son has a sense of confidence and direction for his future.
  • I love that my husband is in good health and enjoying his retirement with fun activities that give him (and me) pleasure.
  • I love that we splurged on the new kitchen. Every day it gives me pleasure to cook healthy, delicious meals for family or friends.
  • I love how productive my garden has been this year. I enjoy harvesting bouquets of flowers, pints of raspberries, armloads of collard greens and bunches of fresh herbs.
  • I love the attention my dogs give me- especially on days when I return from work. Whether they want to go for a walk or just cuddle up for a snuggle, they are loyal companions.
  • I love all the outpouring of love and support from my greater family: parents, sisters, cousins, in-laws, who are always there to encourage my endeavors and cheer me up when I need it.
  • I love having the time to compose my thoughts and share my reflections with everyone who follows my blog.

In thinking about all these positive things that I love about being myself at age 50, all the negative things that I fear or hate- like grey hairs, wrinkles, age spots and reading glasses- seem so shallow and insignificant. Anyone who knows me, sees a much more positive picture. Going into my fifties, I still have the same spunk I had when I was in the single digits. This should be a really good decade.

LAURAS

Thanks to all my family who made me feel special!

Where Love and Obligation Meet

Where does one draw the boundaries between love, obligation and regret? There is a very fine line between each of them. The actions we take do not neatly fall into any one of those categories but, instead, often overlap in many tangled and complicated ways. I am writing this post in Hilton Head, where I came for a brief stay with my father and stepmother for all of these reasons.

Because I had not been able to see them over the holiday season, I had been invited several times to come visit. The first two times, I was able to justify my own busy schedule or that of my family; but when I declined for the third time because I was “too busy”, I began to feel pangs of guilt. Was there something sad I could detect in his voice? Was I neglecting my duties as a daughter? How would I feel if something happened and I never had another opportunity? Why was I so focused on my daily life that I was ignoring the long, loving history of our lives together -forgetting how important our relationship is and denying that the extra effort would be worth it?

Thankfully, my husband saw through my calm indifference and realized what was gnawing at me inside. The next day, at his insistence, I booked my flight and now, a month later, I am so glad I came. The weather was not what it should have been at this time of year. In fact, I was lucky to arrive on schedule between the ongoing parade of winter storms. The cold didn’t bother me, though. We walked between the raindrops, braved the winds on the barren beach, prepared delicious meals, talked late into the evening and celebrated by singing together at his piano just like we used to.

Despite the gloomy weather, our spirits are high!

Despite the gloomy weather, our spirits are high!

Delicious jumbo shrimp from a local fish monger!

Delicious jumbo shrimp from a local fish monger!

The evening I was supposed to leave, yet another storm threatened the east coast and my flight home was cancelled. Was it inconvenient? Yes. I had to cover my classes back home and ask my husband to deliver some necessary materials for me. But, I prefer to see this extra day as a gift from Mother Nature. The sun finally came out. The wind went away and I was able to sit outside in only my shirt sleeves. (It was the only day of my trip above 50.)

Notice the temp! It is the highest one of the whole week.

Notice the temp! It is the highest one of the whole week.

Finally it's sunny enough to need my glasses.

Finally it’s sunny enough to need my glasses.

The warm weather also brought out the fog, but at least it wasn't windy.

The warm weather also brought out the fog, but at least it wasn’t windy.

My stepmom and I got to enjoy an hour or so at the beach, breathing in the salt air and moving our bodies after being stuck inside. Tonight we are going out for dinner and will watch the sunset.

This Heron let us watch the sunset alongside him.

This Heron let us watch the sunset alongside him.

This trip has been a special way to reaffirm our bond and create new memories. I am thankful for the wonderful time we had together- whether for love or out of obligation- and I have no regrets.

A perfect way to end a memorable trip.

A perfect way to end a memorable trip.

Thoughtful Gift-giving

Yesterday I posted about balancing wants and needs. I had so many interesting responses that I would like to explore this topic a bit further…

I am sure most of you are still going about your last-minute gift shopping. I know very few people who plan far ahead and have nothing left to buy after Thanksgiving. Everyone wants to give gifts to people they care about. It is a way of expressing their love and showing that they took the time to think about what the recipient would really like. And this again comes back to the black and white of needs and wants, but throws in the gray of what would make someone happy.

One reader said her son had come to appreciate the “care” package she sent him every year, even though it included necessities as well as some special items. I think it is wonderful that he now sees this as an expression of her love for him (priceless) and does not measure the value of the gift itself. Does this mean we should not give extravagant gifts? Another reader pointed out that Jesus accepted oil as a token of devotion. If offering this gift felt right, it should be accepted even if it is expensive.

The purpose of a gift is to make the recipient happy, and by extension, also bring happiness to the giver. We all love to see the expressions of excitement, surprise and jubilation when we bestow a gift on someone and the feeling of pleasure that we get from their reaction is rewarding. By contrast, when we see the disappointment or fake excitement (which we can all see through), we feel like we have failed.

I think we have set ourselves up for this by asking children of a very young age to tell “Santa” what they want. Many parents also use the threat of “coal” for bad behavior, which implies that children deserve the gifts simply because they were good. Instead of teaching children to accept what they get gratefully and express their appreciation to the giver, we knock ourselves out trying to secretly buy the wished for items (and if you heard of the Black Friday atrocities, we even knock out others), and by the time the kids realize who had given the presents all along, they are so used to crediting Santa that they often forget to thank us. So over time, the joy of gift-giving has turned more into a chore. If we expect unrewarding reactions, we put less time into our efforts. Sadly, it should not be this way.

Whether it costs $10 or$100, a gift is an expression of your love and should reflect that, loud and clear. As we make our gift choices for people, it is also important to maintain our values. If we are against playing with toy guns, for example, we would not purchase one no matter how high on the wish list it ranks. But then we are faced with a dilemma of not getting the reaction we would like from the recipient, or regretting our breach of values later.

So we keep searching for the perfect gift idea. Something that balances our values with an item or service that will have meaning and bring pleasure, whether it is a need the recipient doesn’t yet recognize, or a luxury that falls within these guidelines. Whatever we do, it is important to give from the heart and show that we care. That is the greatest gift of all.