Thursday, July 26, 2007

Career Opportunities

Last weekend, the Professor, Charlie and I headed to Atlanta to visit the Professor’s sister, Robyn, and her husband Seb. They recently moved to Atlanta and are now living together in the same house, in the same city for the first time in their married life, something like 3 years. It’s a long story, but basically, they decided to get married the summer after Robyn started vet school in Indiana. At the same time, Seb was in San Diego working on his PhD. And now, alas, they are both finished with school! Robyn is now Dr. Robyn and working as a vet in Atlanta, and Seb is now Dr. Seb and working on a post-doc at an Atlanta university. Yea for them!

It was great spending time with them in their home. We enjoyed a weekend of playing with Charlie, enjoying each of their 5 pets (especially Moe, the bearded dragon), drinking at least 13 bottles of wine in a 2 day period, visiting the Georgia Aquarium, and simply relaxing and enjoying each other’s company.

I must say that I am a little envious of these two. They seem to be where they want to be. They are confident, successful, and positive about the future. Although I can’t say I would ever be willing to be separated from Neal for 3 years, I would love to have that drive that they both have that led them toward their decision to go to school in different parts of the country. Before they married, they both knew what they wanted and went for it, knowing that it would cause them a lot of heartache to be apart. They knew, though, that end the end, it would pay off. And they were right. It has. They are now together and doing what they want to do, and as far as I can tell, they are loving it!

So, since I’ve been back at home and back at work after having spent time with the in-laws who seem to have it all together, I’ve been agonizing over this whole job/career thing. Now that I have finally come to terms with the fact that I must work, I am constantly thinking about what I want to be when I grow up. My thoughts shift from one career to another, and most of my ideas would require more school. I am reluctant to dive into anything for fear that it will turn out to not be the right thing, putting me right back at the beginning again. It's a frustrating place to be, and I often feel trapped here, stagnant.

Recently, my boss told me about a "department" retreat that I am required to participate in. The goal of this retreat is determine the strengths of everyone in the division and work toward being a group that focuses on building on strengths rather than trying to repair or improve everyone's weaknesses. I like the concept, but it makes me a bit uncomfortable. When I took the strengths test, I kept wondering if it would be blatantly obvious that I am miserable in my job. I wondered if my bosses would look at my strengths and only see how they would benefit them, completely negating the point of the whole exercise.

I finally thought to myself, though, that this might be a good thing! Maybe this strengths thing will help lead me toward figuring out what the hell I need to be doing with my life. I suddenly felt energized to get to know myself better and understand where I best fit in the career world. And I hoped that this "test" would give me a better clue. So, out of 34 themes, my strongest themes are as follows:

Input: People strong in the Input theme have a craving to know more. Often they like to collect and archive all kinds of information.

Harmony: People strong in the Harmony theme look for consensus. They don't enjoy conflict; rather, they seek areas of agreement.

Adaptability: People strong in the Adaptability theme prefer to "go with the flow." They tend to be "now" people who take things as they come and discover the future one day at a time.

Restorative: People strong in the Restorative theme are adept at dealing with problems. They are good at figuring out what is wrong and resolving it.

Intellection: People strong in the Intellection theme are characterized by their intellectual activity. They are introspective and appreciate intellectual discussions.

I'm a little concerned about Harmony, but the others seem spot on. I am hoping that as I continue to analyze my strengths and career possibilities that I will eventually figure it all out. Who knows, maybe one day I'll end up being Dr. C-Dog Mama, but plain C-Dog Mama will be just fine, too.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Girl Fight

To those of you who have expressed your support in regards to my last post, thank you. I am taking steps to finally finding my way through this, and really, just being open about it makes everything seem a little better.

Now, on to other things. I realize that I have posted virtually NOTHING about our trip, but I promise to do so once I get the photos organized. I also need to give myself an opportunity to wrap my head around all that we experienced while we were away because since we’ve been back, things have been busy. Part of me feels as if we never even went on vacation.

What I want to talk about today are my dogs. My gloriously sweet and funny dogs – both of whom have been attacked by other dogs within the past two weeks.

Case #1

The Professor and I decided to take Charlie and the girls, Maggie and Roxy to the dog park way out at Shelby Farms. This park is awesome, especially for a dog. The park, directly south of the horse riding area is a mostly fenced off span of park where dogs can roam and roam and sniff and swim and roll in leash-less freedom. There are trails, ponds, lakes, and of course other dogs! On days when we have the time and the weather is agreeable, we take the dogs to Dog Park and join multitudes of other dog owners and their beasts and just sit back and watch the dogs dive in and out of the pond chasing after sticks, balls, and each other. They have so much fun that the dogs are usually worn out in about 15 minutes. And my favorite part is that there is almost always some new dog owner wanting to show off his/her cute new sweet smelling puppy.

So, two weekends ago, we loaded up the car (sans leashes) and made our way toward the park. We strapped Charlie in the Baby Bjorn and let the dogs run loose down the trails toward the water. Maggie and Roxy had a very satisfying time sniffing trees, running, and pushing each other into the shoreline of the pond. We played with the other dogs, Roxy chasing sticks and swimming, Maggie barking at other dogs.

We finally decided to make our way back toward the car, taking the long way so the girls could run a little more and eventually dry off. While walking away from the pond, and seriously, we were only about 10 feet from it, Roxy flopped over on her back in the tall green grass to give herself a little back scratch, which is her custom. Immediately, I looked toward the pond in search of Maggie and instead found another dog running full speed toward Roxy. I thought he was playing, but no.

This dog, smaller than Roxy, dove on top of her and put his filthy, nasty teeth around her neck. I screamed and the Professor jumped over to try to remove this horrible canine from our harmless dog. After several attempts, the Professor got the other dog away, and its owner came running over with a baffled expression on her face. Once the heat of the moment was over, I realized that Charlie was screaming having witnessed the whole thing. Fortunately, he was strapped to me in the Bjorn, and I was able to quickly console him.

Roxy was fine, just a bit shaken up. Fortunately, she has gawky long legs with which she was able to push the other dog away. The attack dog’s owner was very apologetic; she said that she had never witnessed anything like that before. I’ll chalk it up to a misunderstanding between the dogs. A bit of playfulness gone bad, I suppose. It really did scare me, though, and our already skittish Roxy will not be better for it.

Case #2
We have a friend who lives in our neighborhood who has a dog that is Roxy’s almost identical twin. From time to time we trade dog sitting duties since we live so close to each other and our dogs typically like hanging out with each other. Roxy and her almost twin (I will refer to her as Ms. K going forward) especially like spending time together. Maggie? Not so much. When we go out of town, we usually take Roxy to the neighbor’s house and Maggie to an in-law’s house. Two additional dogs might be a little much for our neighbor and in her old age Maggie doesn’t really enjoy hanging with the younger beasts.

So, this week, we are watching Ms. K. Our neighbor is off in Maine for a week and half of glorious vacation (jealous!). Ms. K usually has a few bumpy days when she comes to our house. She is accustomed to much more attention, pampering, and treats than we parse out in our abode. She likes to sleep with her owner in her bed (eeww!); at our house, it’s the hardwoods, baby! When it storms, her owner cuddles with her and whispers that she will be alright; at our house, her only comfort is to hide in the bathroom. At her own home, her food is left out all day so she can nip and pick at it as she desires throughout the day; at our house, if you don’t eat during the 30 minute allotted dog eating time, you don’t eat .Our dogs ALWAYS gobble up their food in 5 minutes or less, and if Ms. K has not completed her food in that time, our beasts will attempt to snark her food away.

This brings me to Case #2. Last Sunday, we fed the dogs their usual dinner at around 5:00 p.m. Each dog has her own bowl and her own eating area. Maggie and Roxy routinely run back and forth between each other’s bowls to make sure the other did not get something special that she did not. With Ms. K, they usually sniff around her bowl in hopes that she will back away and share her food. Her food is something special because Ms. K is on a doggy diet and eats diet CANNED food at every meal (this totally pisses our dogs off who drool for canned food).

On Sunday, Maggie did her usual and went to Ms. K’s bowl for a little sniff in hopes of a nibble. Ms. K gave Maggie a warning growl. She was not up for Maggie’s antics. I looked over at the two girls and told Maggie to move away, and at that exact moment, when Maggie was not moving away, Ms. K turned on her. The following series of events (which lasted for all of 10 seconds) totally freaked me out.

Ms. K, who is bigger than Maggie, turned around and knocked Maggie on her back in one swoop. She proceeded to clamp her teeth (her teeth!) around Maggie’s neck. Maggie rolled over in an attempt to escape, but Ms. K put all of her weight on top of her and then put her teeth into the back of Maggie’s neck and then around her ear, threatening to bite it off. All of that weight of Ms. K (excuse me - the fat beast) was on top of our frail little Maggie who would not hurt a fly. They were growling, slobbering, and flailing; Roxy was barking and skulking away. Meanwhile, the Professor tried to get Ms. K off of Maggie. He had difficulty, but once Maggie rolled over onto her stomach, he was able to pull Ms. K off after a few attempts.

Did I mention that this whole situation freaked me out? Maggie is old and has arthritis in her back legs, so she couldn’t put much effort into defending herself. It was almost like watching some wild animal dive in and kill a helpless baby seal. It was awful. Charlie, poor thing, was screaming (thankfully he was safely in his high chair when this happened), I was shaking, the Professor was worried, and poor Maggie was limping, quivering and shaken up.

We immediately took Ms. K outside, assessed Maggie (who is fine) and tried to figure out what to do next. We decided to leave Ms. K outside for a while and give Maggie some time to recuperate. Our neighbor would not be back for another week, and we were worried about these two sharing the same house for the duration of her vacation. After we all calmed down, we agreed that debacle was strictly about food and power. Ms. K usually does not assert herself at all while at our house, so I guess she was just really hungry and tired of having to defend her meal. We eventually got Maggie and Ms. K together again. There was no growling, biting, or attacking, and Roxy served as a good mediator.

Since the incident, the girls have been well behaved. Ms. K gets fed outside on the porch, and Maggie pretty much avoids her altogether. Maggie has never endured a situation like that in all of her 12+ English Setter years. I think she may have seen her life flash before her eyes, she was so shaken up. The incident also showed me just how old and fragile Maggie is becoming. She is still vibrant and spunky, but her spunk can only keep up with her for about 5 minutes.

It makes me sad to think that we will probably lose her in the near future. I love that dog. I met her on a day shortly after I met the Professor. He had only brought her home a few months before I met him and I remember stepping into his house and being greeted by this very cute but very obnoxious puppy. Did I mention that I love her? I love everything from her jackrabbit run, to her sloppy jowls, to her floppy ears, to the cuddly soft fur, to her super-sweet disposition.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Oh, Lovely Vacuum

While Neal has been at home for the past several weeks taking care of Charlie, he has also been an even super wonderful husband by keeping the house clean and tidy, doing the laundry (bless him!) and keeping up with the growth of what resembles grass on our lawn. One of the most important tasks in our house is vacuuming. With 2 very shaggy dogs who L-O-V-E to roll around in the grass and dirt, vacuuming is something that must be done more than once a week. It could probably be done every day. (And, I might add that the experience might even be pleasant if someone would just break down and buy me a Dyson already!) So, Neal is being the super wonderful husband that he is and is vacuuming regularly. When we returned from our trip, he quickly learned that Charlie loves the vacuum. One day, while sucking up the dusty fur balls and dead leaves tracked in from our beasts, Neal noticed Charlie practically exploding with excitement over this task. Neal decided to give Charlie a front row seat to this chore and put Charlie in the Baby Bjorn while he vacuumed. Apparently, Charlie kicked his legs, waved his arms, and squealed the entire time!

Not only does Charlie love the roar of the machine and the process of vacuuming, he also loves the machine itself. While in the kitchen, he will often scoot over to the closet where we house our Hoover. He struggles to open the door, and when he finally gets inside, he commences in an adorable routine of vacuum adoration. He points and grunts and smiles at it. Then he pokes at it and tries to hug it. It is seriously the cutest and funniest thing when he hugs the vacuum cleaner. Finally, Neal or I will take it out of the closet and put it in the middle of the kitchen floor where Charlie has full access to his beloved vacuum pet. Most of the time, we will lay the vacuum down on its back, giving Charlie every opportunity to investigate its many parts. His favorite, at the moment, is the underbelly where the sucking happens. He pokes around trying to determine just how this thing works. I swear, I would not be surprised if one day I leave him alone with it for 10 minutes and come back to find that he has completely disassembled the whole thing. Who knows? Maybe he’ll be the next inventor of a new vacuum technology that will put the Dyson to shame!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007


When Neal and I returned from our trip in Ireland and the UK, we both had a new affinity for toast. It seems like each and every morning, the British (and Irish) MUST HAVE TOAST. Regardless of what one orders, whether it be an omelet, oatmeal, fruit, or the full English breakfast equipped with sausage, beans, eggs, hash browns, tomatoes, AND mushrooms, every breakfast must have toast. I even saw people get upset if there was a wait on the toast – or as upset as the English can actually get. Toast is simply a staple of the English/Irish breakfast. Without toast, it seems that the day cannot begin. Thus, Neal and I ate toast for breakfast each and every morning of our trip/vacation. Toast with jam. Preferably, strawberry.

When we returned, we continued to eat our daily servings of toast with jam. This time, though, it was raspberry. We offered some to Charlie, who at first shook his head no, as if he did not like it. But, we soon realized that he does that with every new food. It’s his way of saying, “I’m not sure if I like this because I don’t know what it is. Therefore, I’m going to make you think I don’t like it by shaking my head. And then, if I do in fact like it, I will open my mouth wide and make noise until you plug it up with that food stuff that I actually like.” This was our experience with toast.

Initially, he didn’t seem too thrilled by it. He shook his head, and we didn’t force any more toast into him. The next day, we tried again, and he enjoyed sucking the sticky raspberry jam off of the toasted brown bread. Yum! Sweets for breakfast! And further on, he has gradually come to take full bites of toast with jam, often taking an enormous bite, smearing jam all over his cute chubby cheeks.
So now, each morning, Neal prepares a ½ slice of toast with jam for our little Charles, and for the most part, he gobbles it up. The funniest thing about this new morning ritual is the combination of Charlie’s scooting and toast munching. Neal gives Charlie a nibble, rather a chunk, of toast. Charlie mushes it around in his mouth while he scoots around the den and kitchen. He chews and chews with full cheeks while chasing the dogs, loving on the vacuum cleaner (this is another post), clapping his hands, and attempting to check out the contents of the garbage can. Then he scoots right back to Neal, looks up at him, and opens his mouth wide, demanding another sticky, jammy bite. Once he gets a sufficient mouthful, the process starts again until he’s either finished with the toast or just ready to move on to another exciting item of food.

By the way, we finally have Charlie weaned off the bottle! We decided to wait until we got back from our trip (under the idiotic assumption that he would go with us, and continuing with the bottle would help travel be more comfortable for all of us). So, a week after our return, we gradually started taking them away, and this past weekend, he had his last bottle. I really thought it would be more difficult than it was, but he has coped quite well and it’s almost as if he has forgotten about the bottle completely. I did make the mistake of looking at a parenting magazine with him the other day (we were looking at pictures of babies and pointing out the parts of their faces) and we came upon an ad with a baby holding a bottle. This made Charlie a little fussy, but we quickly averted his attention with one of his favorite books that moos.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

It's Been So Long...

I know…it’s been LONG time since we’ve posted anything. This is partially due to a lovely vacation in the UK and Ireland for two weeks. It’s also due to downright laziness. I’ll spare you the details of Charlie’s NOT being able to go on vacation with us (stupid passport people!) and get on with the cute andwonderful world that has been Charlie since May.

While Neal and I were on vacation, Charlie had two glorious weeks spent with Nana (week 1) and Gammy (week 2). Apparently, he didn’t miss me and Daddy much because every time I called from overseas, the report was that he was doing great and was not fussy. I must admit that while I was happy that Charlie was having such a great time with the grandparents, I was disappointed that he didn’t scream for me every morning. But, the two weeks flew by, and since we’ve been back we’ve been busy documenting his life again – and giving him loads of hugs, kisses, tickles, and more hugs and kisses. We missed him so while we were away!

Some of the newest Charlie-isms that have occurred over the past month are of course, his faster ability to scoot scoot scoot! across the room. He sometime hits lightening speeds, which are problematic when he reaches the rug. Picture this…Charlie works his way across the slick wood floor with a quickness. His bottom and feet practically glide across the floor. When he hits the rug, his momentum is slowed, his feet hit the speed bump of carpet and he does a somersault. He rolls over, lands flat on his back on the rug and looks straight up at me like, “What in the world just happened?” I laugh to let him know that all is well and he gets in his Pilates stance to pull himself back up to sitting and then continues to scoot across the carpet. It is hilarious!

He is not yet walking but he has begun pulling up in his crib, on the coffee table, on the bar chairs, the dog food bins, and of course, the dogs. He is finally using a sippy-cup with greater fervor, and we are this close to weaning him from the bottle.

Charlie also had his first visit with a dentist this week. He has a total of 6 teeth with two more on the way. We scheduled this visit because he had an area of discoloration and odd texture on one of his front teeth. It turns out, that there is no certain known cause for it. The dentist said that oftentimes, such abnormalities actually occur in the womb during the second trimester and is usually the result of an infection or gestational diabetes. So, technically, it’s my fault. Or the fault of the NASTY upper respiratory/sinus infection I seem to recall getting in my second trimester of pregnancy. Sorry Charlie! It should get better with brushing and a fluoride treatment and shouldn’t affect his permanent tooth. Next stop, the ear/nose/throat doctor to see if Charlie has ear/adenoid problems that might be the cause of his long string of ear infections that he HAS NOT HAD SINCE HE LEFT DAYCARE, I might add.

For the summer, Charlie is staying home with his Daddy everyday. Since he left daycare he has not been sick ONCE. He and Daddy are bonding well. In fact, they are bonding SO well, that Charlie often wants his daddy over me. He even says “Daddy” clearly. He also says “uh-oh,” “Maggie,” “Doggie,” and a version of “Roxy.” He does not say “mommy” or any semblance of the word. And I’m jealous. But, at least he is learning to communicate in ways other than points, grunts, and screams. And it really does melt my heart to watch Charlie look at Neal from across the room and say “Daddy.” It’s the sweetest thing ever, actually.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

In a Moment of Sheer and Utter Honesty

For most of my life, I have suffered a deep, slow, brooding kind of suffering. Internal struggles are a significant part of my daily routine. I spend most days wondering “what if,” wondering if X, Y, or Z was different, would I continue to suffer? If I had plenty of money, would I continue to feel guilty so often about nothing? If I had the perfect career, would I continue to regularly dislike myself? If I could be a stay at home mom and got involved in things I find meaningful, would I continue to have fledgling confidence?

Sometimes I wonder how the rest of the world sees me, especially when I don’t always do the right, most polite, or most sincere thing. Sometimes, I just don’t have the energy to do what I think is best. I often wonder if my friends worry about me or think, “oh, she’s just that way” or "Cathy's just always been like that." But I'm not "like that." Or at least I don’t want to be. I want to be the person I envision myself being, but I just seem to find it impossible to get there. Apparently, this is what this depression that afflicts all the women in my family is doing to me. Harnessing me, keeping me from getting up and living the exuberant life I want to live.

Every day I wake up tired.

I spend most of my days at work not liking myself, how I’m doing my job, or what I’m doing at all.

I spend a lot of time trying to figure out how to change my life, but I never end up with any actual plans. Go back to school? Get another job? Hope to win the lottery? Whatever. It seems that no matter what changes, I’ll still live in this gray haze.

I am holding in tears and faking being well adjusted most of the day.

I feel like I’m becoming one of those angry and belligerent people who is never a pleasure to be around.

When I get home, for the most part, I don’t talk to my husband about my feelings. The only time it comes up is when I have a REALLY bad day, and I explode in a fit of tears and blame him for not caring about me. It’s completely irrational, wrong, and unfair, but it’s the way my feelings often express themselves.

I spend time with my son, and choke back tears much of the time I’m with him. The tears are partially because of my love for him and how truly wonderful he is, but mostly they are due to anger and sadness because I really only get to spend about 2 hours with him each day in the evening. Weekends are nice, but too short. (I know this is the same old working mom rant I continue to complain about, but it’s always nagging at me) I feel like I am missing his life and it totally pisses me off. I am jealous when he says “da da” and reaches for him instead of me. Now, I know that children go through mommy phases and daddy phases, but I don’t think it’s just coincidence that this started happening the week my husband started watching him each day at home.

I know that I am not alone in this thing called depression. I know that millions of people deal with it daily and millions of people seek treatment. My mother, sister, maternal aunts and grandmother ALL suffer from this disease and most are medicated for it. I used to think medication was not the answer; I thought my sister was weak for taking medication, but now I’m beginning to understand that for some, it might be necessary. I am ready to do something about it and quit denying that something might really be wrong with me. I’m ready to face the fact that I have been angry with myself and the world (for no reason really) for the past 20 years. I am ready to get on with life. Rather than imagining a brighter future or a someday when (fill in the blank with illogical desire here) happens, I want to find a way to feel satisfied with today and yesterday and look forward to tomorrow. I am on my way; the next step is treatment for this mean, nasty, and suffocating disease.