Sunday, August 18, 2019

It Is All About Space

When we decided to become a two doodle family, we thought that we had it all worked out. For a while, our plan came together. The study, where I work could hold both of their crates and the smaller bed plus give me my desk space and a love seat. With a little creative storage ideas, it was a solution. Our two dogs loved to cuddle together.

Then, although Davis was his full adult size, Maggie continued to grow. As she grew, their activities started to prove that they needed more space. 



So, we opened up the doors that led into the kitchen. We still kept the gate on the other side of the kitchen to the breakfast room, as well as the large four way wooden gate that stretched across the foyer. Keeping the laundry room and powder room doors closed also limited them to two rooms now. They played and chased each other around the kitchen island. Maggie discovered her reflection in the bottom oven and loved barking at herself. Davis just sort of shook his head as if to say, "Silly puppy."


They seemed to share everything. Sometimes I gave in and instead of holding each of their food bowls in different hands, I just let them eat out of one. Never has there ever been any growling or snarling over food. However, if we give them each a frozen bone marrow, Maggie is happy for about 1 minute, then she attempts to get his and take it over to where her bone is. Sweet, gentle Davis, being the big brother that he is allows it for a while. Then he taunts her with a toy and goes in for his own bone. They work it out in ways that only a brother and sister can.

Davis used to have the whole top of the love seat to himself until she decided she like that spot too.



Both of the dogs think they are still 8 pound puppies. Davis at 60 pounds and Maggie Mae at 34 pounds have no clue about personal space. Poor Steve and one of our granddaughters have both of them trying to fit in. The dogs didn't seem to mind very much, although I must say that they all looked a bit squashed.

One day as I was writing and trying to work a feeling of claustrophobia came over me. It felt like none of us had our personal space. So, we opened up more space to both of our dogs. The gate to the breakfast room came down, and the foyer gate folded up and was put away. The only space that they could not go was the Reading Room and to the stairs. The upstairs is really not a problem except that I am the one who worries they will get in their chasing zoomie stage and someone will get hurt if they fly up and down the stairs. We keep all doors closed from our days of only having Davis. He could go up and get into no trouble plus he very carefully went up and came down at a slow pace due to the hardwood floors and slipping, which he did only once. Smart dog - he remembered.  

As far as the Reading Room, Davis has a bad habit of wanting to get one certain pillow and usually just carries it around but every once in a while will try to shake the living daylights out of it. So we only let them in this room when we are in there reading and then they can play.


We do not have a fenced yard that allows for running around and getting their energy out. As the pictures above show, they adore the freedom to romp and roam and even when they do play with many other dogs while at WGAC Doggie Daycare, they manage to get their one on one time with each other to play together.

Now with the configuration that we have set up for our two furbabies, they seem so much happier and at peace. You can almost set your watch by the times they choose to play tag and chase each other around the kitchen island, through the breakfast room and around that table and then move on into the dining room and around that table before Maggie comes flying into the study and leaps up on the love seat only to then leap on top of Davis. 

Total entertainment to watch the two of them play out this cat and mouse tag game. At times it is almost like watching children play hide and seek. One is in the study being as quiet and still as they can while their eyes are looking right and left to see which doorway the other one is going to come through. Davis knows how to tiptoe quietly. Maggie Mae has learned and she reminds me of a cat creeping in ever so slowly to surprise him and leap on top of him. 


Davis and Maggie Mae seem so happy with their new freedom and so far have not abused this privilege once I removed a tall vase with long wooden twigs in it. Maggie Mae thought it was something to chew on like twigs outside. Creative placement for that temptation solved that problem. 

Both Steve and I must say at least several times throughout the day of how we could not imagine our lives without these two crazy and loving 'doods.' When we go somewhere that requires a quick run in to pick up something, or drive through bank teller or pick up quick items, they love to get seatbelted in the car and come along. One of us stays in the car with them with the air on in our summer heat here. They have learned all the clues from one of us saying are you ready to go, or if they see me get my shoes on and grab my handbag. The two of them run to the kitchen to stare at their leashes to go to the car. They love it when they get a treat at the bank or pharmacy drive-thru. But their favorite?

You guessed it! A puppuccino at Starbucks!






Sunday, August 11, 2019

Walking on the Balance Beam

At some point in my life, I knew that I needed to disengage my job from my purpose in life. These are two different entities. I was becoming my job! The biggest clue, or at least my wake up call, was when I realized that my vocabulary was becoming that of a 6 year old. It horrified me! Something had to change.

Please don't misunderstand me. I loved my job of teaching and then moving on to administration, but this was NOT what made me who I was. Sometimes, they overlapped but it still did not make me who I was.

It all begins when you hear yourself saying, "I'm a journalist, or I'm a teacher, or I'm a doctor." More than likely this grew from the times when we were in primary school and we were asked what you wanted to be when we grew up. We have been doing this ever since those days many years ago. So, this must be what defines us? No, it should not ever be this way. For one Mom here, I am so thankful because my eldest daughter wrote on her first grade page that she wanted to be 'a mean school bus driver.' Apparently, she thought this woman was amazing to be able to not only drive this big, yellow school bus but also able to handle all of the shenanigans going on at the same time. Of course, she and a few others were never in trouble and the driver treated them with the utmost kindness, even handing out treats to them as they got off the bus. I have nothing against bus drivers. They must be saints. However, I am quite delighted that my daughter decided to go on to earn her graduate degree and is working as a behavior analyst. However, I am even more proud of her for not letting that define her purpose in life. She is so very good at having her life and work loads balanced. 



Even if you are the best at whatever you do at work, we still need our own identity outside of work that defines us. There has to be a balance of our work and our life. Our work should never become our life. We need friends and relationships at work, however relationships are more than work. Having a circle of friends outside of work is so very important because these friends will be able to support us when things get tough at work and they can do it from the outside looking in. This can put a whole new perspective on how we handle the problem. Both sets of friends are so very important.

Happiness is the least important factor in being successful at work and a completely fulfilled human being. Look all around you and take a moment to dig deeper and see for yourself. Everyone is not always happy there at work. We must value ourselves to achieve happiness. This does not always come with a pay raise, a better title or job recognition. I most definitely can speak to that as I am sure most of you all can do this too.

Once I found myself thinking in this mindset, I started to realize things that I did to find "me" again. My job was interesting but it was not all of me. It was not what my heart and soul needed to fulfill the real me. I actually started answering the question when asked of me, "So, what do you do?" with a comeback of, "For fun or for money? Or just plain come out and say that I play the guitar, love to find a cozy spot to curl up and read or work on training our dog. Another example of answering this question is to define responsibilities that I have such as I manage to keep what could be considered total chaos in getting four 30 minute rounds of 250 little human beings into one large room in lines to get a tray of food, eat, talk with friends without throwing food. Then, to have them pick up their trash, line up and head on back to their classrooms in some kind of order. Or even calmly listen to a parent explain to me why their child should not have received the grade that the teacher gave him. (could it be little Johnny did not turn in a single assignment)? Diplomacy is what it takes to turn the tides around.

Then I realized that I needed to take the time to cultivate my true passions and friends outside of work. This is something that totally is the #1 motivation for me to find my true purpose and what helped me to retire happily. I knew that I wanted to write a novel. (Almost everyone has one in them). For me, it was finding the time to actually write. So, taking notes on what I wanted to write is what I managed to do while going on to earn a living. I know that I was lucky enough to find a job that interested me and dealt easily with my ADD. It worked while teaching whatever grade because in order to keep things moving and interesting, a teacher needs to switch gears often. I was never a "sit and get" type teacher who did all the talking. Kids learn by being engaged.

Then fast forward to administration. Whoa...definitely helps to have a touch of ADD for that job. Most days before 9:00 A.M., I had put out a minimum of 25 fires on average. Things ranging from parents showing up on the grounds angry about their child being bullied because one first grade girl did not want to play with her the day before, to a teacher telling me that no copy machine is working in the building (of course, no one reported any of this the day before), to the district calling to give me a message that someone was coming out to talk to me about scheduling and best practices being used in our school, to a group of parents who wanted to meet at that moment to discuss recess times.) Meanwhile, the cafeteria manager is calling to ask what to do when the fuse has blown and several teachers complaining that their rooms had not been cleaned the night before. The list goes on and on, as I am sure that you can tell.

Most of all, I knew when it was time for me to retire. It was when district administration was coming down so hard on our special school to copy what other schools were doing. One size does not fit all and this was not to their likings or beliefs. This meant an exit for me. 



When your way of making a living is causing too much stress, then it is time to move on to your life. This is where I come to the purpose of this blog. Before you retire, I highly suggest that you have a plan with your passions to pursue. If you retire with a mindset that you are now without a purpose, then you are not going to last very long. I hear this a lot, actually. It makes me so sad.

Really, I do not mean a second job or career, although it might be that. My purpose belongs to me and this is forever. One large part of my ability to retire a bit earlier than I had planned is that I worked with a financial planner with my husband. It was exactly what the two of us needed and so we began this process with our bank team of planners as soon as we married. Neither one of us came into our marriage with a great deal of wealth. It was through the planning with our team and living within our means that we were able to accumulate what we did in order to make this happen in less than a decade.




"Our self-identity should be defined as who we are as individuals. What we do for work is only a piece of our lives." This is a quote from Rachel Tulipano.  We all need to  focus on the things that matter most to us and always be grateful for what we have. The grass is not always greener on the other side. Enrich your lives and think twice about what you would say if asked to tell someone about yourself. Career accomplishments are something, that is true, but they certainly are not everything. What is your purpose?


Sunday, August 4, 2019

How Early is Too Early?

Who exactly is it that decides on August 1st, that Halloween decorations should come out of the closet and be displayed so that consumers can buy them up now while the "gettin' is good?" Halloween is three months away. I am all for planning early on holiday themes but please give me a break. People are still taking vacations to the beach or swimming in their pools. While outside of stores ceramic jack o'lanterns are giving us spooky grins and inside there are aisles dedicated to Halloween candies and costumes. 

First of all, I am slightly biased. Out of all of the holidays, Halloween is my least favorite one of all. 



This picture along with other dress up costumes just give me the creeps. I found nothing exciting about going into a haunted house as a child. Thinking back, the only good thing about Halloween was going from house to house saying, "Trick or Treat" and being given candy. Of course, once home with the candy it was then turned over to my Mom who rationed it over time. 

I did the same thing with my own children and they are now doing it with their children. Better than being up all night with a sick child who ate way too much candy and now has a stomach ache or is on such a sugar high they will never calm down to sleep. I will say that while I had some control over the costumes, they were never scary or gory creatures. 



Plus, in today's times, very few parents take their children out trick or treating due to the apparent dangers. It is a whole new era, unfortunately not all of it is good. There are parties held at schools or churches where parents can take their kids all dressed up to go around for their candy. The name trunk or treat is used because cars park along in rows with their trunks open for the children to walk by to receive their treats. Some large businesses even have a day set aside for parents to bring in children to show off their Halloween fashions and to receive candy.

Really, in order to prepare for Halloween, I am sure that October 1st is quite soon enough to start looking for a costume or even piecing one together. If you live in the South and buy your pumpkin too early, it will rot sitting out waiting for Halloween night. Retailers are ready for the stampede on decorations and candy. If people buy the big bags of candy now, then they will have to turn around and buy more closer to the real date because they would have nibbled it all piece by piece. (Just speaking from experience!)


Back to School promotions really do have to begin in July because so many schools around here begin in early August. Supply lists are on web pages and if parents don't get on it fast, they are searching for the right tablet, glue, notebook, and uniforms. Who can be bothered with Halloween when school time is gearing up? 

Sort of on the same subject, just how early is it for Thanksgiving and Christmas merchandise to start coming out in the stores? Thanksgiving, not so much. The pumpkins just sort of go from Halloween right into November for Thanksgiving. 



Except for a Tom Turkey decoration here and there, it is not as big of a deal as Halloween and Christmas. That is unless you are a Martha Stewart wanna-be.



When she had a TV show, I actually watched it and she opened up a walk in closet that had china and table decorations for every holiday of the year all neatly arranged on shelves and labeled.

The next big question of the day is how early is too early for Christmas decorations to be displayed in the stores. Well, for your information, if you open your eyes in some of the large warehouse type stores and large department stores, there are actually some Christmas lights already up and blinking. It seems to just get earlier and earlier. Some people seem to actually like this. They say that it gives them extra time to get a lot of their Christmas shopping done early. They can stock up on wrapping paper, ribbons, lights, ornaments and even artificial trees. 

Some people have even told me that Christmas is their favorite holiday of the year and they really want to go all out for decorating. I am not so sure that decorating in October is the way to convey how special this holiday really is. At least wait until Halloween has come and gone. 

Even I would agree that holding off until after Thanksgiving before Christmas decorations come out is a bit late. For those who love the Black Friday which comes the day after Thanksgiving, these people are seriously into their Christmas shopping. As for me, I avoid going out of our home on not only Black Friday, but the whole weekend. 

We have had all of our children here for Thanksgiving and lucky for us, they all helped to bring down our Christmas decorations and even set some of the lights and decorations out. This is a tremendous help because one of us gets dizzy going up the flimsy attic drop down stairs and the other one has trouble with the heavy, bulky boxes that need to be brought down those same stairs. 

There have been articles about people who dedicate a whole room in their house to store their Christmas decorations. Some don't even take the tree down and box it up again. It remains decorated with lights ready to plug in. That is a bit much for my taste but to each their own. I never want to be accused of being judgmental. We just do not have a space like that to dedicate to Christmas. Secondly, I don't like too many decorations all around. It just seems messy to me. Tastefully done in a minimalistic sort of fashion works best for me. What others do in their homes works for them, I am sure. My last point is that I like to change the theme of the tree around from year to year. Even a good basic traditional tree may be all silver ornaments and decorations, or gold or a combination. Or, I may even decide to go with a retro Christmas tree of white.






Everyone has their opinion and are entitled to how they feel. I love the holidays and even have already started shopping. I make a list of what has already been purchased for friends and family. That way, and this was a lesson learned the hard way, I don't forget and overspend or buy the same thing twice. Also, a great lesson that I learned is to wrap as the gifts come in. It saves spending hours wrapping everything at once. We no longer have little eyes peeping in closets to see gifts so we can wrap and put out of sight until the tree goes up. 

One more Christmas note to make is to be careful that you do not go overboard on outside Christmas lights. Remember, the movie where Chevy Chase blew the whole neighborhood's fuse out and no one had electricity due to the number of lights he used for decorations? I believe that Tim the Toolman did the same thing on his TV sitcom, "Home Improvement." We actually have a home in our neighborhood who uses the blow up decorations in their yard with spotlights shining on them. When I say "them," I am talking at least 30 huge blow up Christmas decorations.





Happy Halloween, Happy Thanksgiving and a Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!