Off Track

My decade older friends warned me that track was the worst parental spectator sport of the bunch.  You sit in the stands for eight-plus hours in sometimes extreme elements (first you’re cold, then you’re hot) to watch one, two, or three 60 seconds to maybe five minutes of your kid actually doing something.  Being the physical fitness buff and kid activity pusher I am, the track horror stories did little to deter me from having our 6th grader Ian join the school track team.

Like a newbie track parent, I trucked from the closest parking spot, two football fields away with two folding pocket chairs  slung on our shoulders, along with a cloth cooler with lunches for five, a bag with a blanket, my hat, and another bag filled with materials to keep me busy for six to eight hours.

Repeatedly Ian and I tripped over the unnecessary chairs laying next to us  on our way to the hard, uncomfortable bleachers.   As my rear ached I lusted at the other parents several rows ahead who brought the right kind of bleacher stadium seats.  Although I brought everything but the kitchen sink, I left the feminine hygiene products I actually needed later in the day in the car.   Joe met us later, leaving the sunscreen he just purchased in the other vehicle.  The back of Ian’s neck and his face looked like a lobster by the end of the day, only to be soothed by aloe vera gel.

While Ian’s skin was roasting, he struggled to hear with his cochlear implants when he was cued over the loudspeaker amidst the Kansas wind and poor hearing environment.  Without me realizing it, Ian slipped away to do the long jump.  Then he missed his next event, the 100-yard dash, partially because of delays with the long jump and partially because he was not where he should be at the right time.  The general chaos of the first meet and us not having a clue what we were supposed to be doing exhausted me.  I operated on  high alert trying to figure out what was going on to assist Ian to get where he needed to be.  I did not want Ian to let down his teammates by not being where he needed to be for his final event, the 800-meter relay.

Off-and-on Ian acted awkward and was isolating from his peers, probably because he couldn’t hear well.  I was trying to direct traffic, barking orders to Ian and my husband so the rest of the track meet went better than the start.

Six hours later I was zero for three at seeing any of Ian’s events and exhausted.

But I would do it all again in a heartbeat.  The day was far from perfect, and many things went wrong.  But we were all together sharing each other’s world.

The Catholic Women’s Guide to Healthy Relationship Tip:  Laugh at the mistakes you make when you do something the first time, while enjoying doing things together.

Christian Communication

Christ came to earth with a specific mission:  the God-made man would die for our sins to save us.  Not only the divine have an earthly mission; we all do.  Attending a silent retreat zones us in on the unique mission God has for each of us.

I was amazed by my lack of resistance to the directive that I need to beef up my prayer life to keep up with my mission, which involves an active life of apostolate at home, work,  and in my parish.  I carved out an additional twenty minutes in the morning to spend with the Lord.

In prayer we communicate with God, building our friendship with Him.  In my past abbreviated prayer routine, I did a lot of talking.  When it was God’s turn to speak, it was time for me to run to the next activity.  As I became more polite, I started listening, letting God get a word in.  And what do you think he said first?

“Depend on me and on others.”

Strong words to a hyper-independent gal like me.  But well received as my overly responsible, it’s-easier-to-do-it-myself standard operating procedure often left me overloaded, not a place my God wants me to be.

I am responding by better including the kids in fulfilling family responsibilities, collaborating with my husband on issues needing to be addressed, and inviting those at the church and school to join me in my service projects with better communication.

My spiritual director was actually quite diplomatic when he recommended that I “pray more”.  Because “praying more” for me translated more accurately into “listening more”.

The Catholic Women’s Guide to Healthy Relationships Tip:  Be a good friend to God by making sure there’s time to listen to Him.

Crystal Clear Communication (Part 2)

It took me five pairs of destroyed shoes to make the connection.  It was hard to determine who  was the “dumb dog” in the Weber home: me or Daisy.  As  Daisy lounged on  my bedroom floor ripping the insole of my blue clogs, it clicked:  I didn’t take Daisy to Annabell’s house.

Since the kids couldn’t safely walk Daisy because she pulled so badly on the leash, she and I had developed the routine of a brisk morning walk around the block, culminating in her joining our neighbor’s dog Annabell two houses down in the backyard for a two- to three-hour doggie playdate.
As the weather got colder I would sometimes skip our walk, thinking it was too cold to have Daisy in the back with Annabell.  Other days I would get too busy and run out of time.

Always a lady Daisy would tolerate my neglect several days.  My epiphany was  that by the  third or fourth walkless day  Daisy clearly communicated her displeasure by feasting on one of my shoes.  Clarice made a similar move when she pooped in Joe’s closet two nights in a row to let him and us know how unhappy she was that we got Daisy.

As humans we would call this communication passive aggressive.  But for animals it is actually quite direct and respectful.

So pay attention to the subtle ways those in your life communicate, which will vary depending of the power factor in the relationship.  And respond appropriately, so they will not metaphorically destroy your favorite shoes.

The Catholic Women’s Guide to Healthy Relationships Tip:  Be aware of power in your relationships and have greater sensitivity to the communication of those with less of it.

Crystal Clear Communication

Five canines have found their way in my heart and earthly life.  But Bernard, Tootsie, Huey, Wink, and Cleavey didn’t hold a candle to our black puppy Daisy, who just turned one year old today.

Daisy is bar none the best dog I’ve had.  Cuddly and gentle lying by my side, she flops her chin on my abdomen when I’m reading in bed.  Daisy received the near non-stop hissing treatment from our elderly, now diseased cat Clarice, upon Daisy’s entry into our family and home.  Yet, Daisy respects and welcomes Gianna’s new tabby one-year old cat Sarah by delicately sniffing and at times flipping her paws to ignite play.   Daisy’s in-tune enough to back off when her curiosity is not reciprocated.

My major gripe about Daisy is that she pulls on the leash so hard it is unsafe for the kids to walk her, but that’s more about our negligent dog training than Daisy’s temperament.  Daisy’s submissive and smart, a quick learner.  We hesitated getting her because of the extra cost, but ultimately we’re without regrets.

However, our “free” puppy has actually been quite costly.  To Daisy’s credit she has not tore up our stuff as was anticipated.  She doesn’t carry herself like a dog who would tear up your belongings, which is what has made her a bit stealthily expensive.

Daisy’s calm demeanor and infrequent destructive chewing lulled me into not worrying about whether I closed my closet door or not, many times with no consequence.  But every once and  a while I would walk into  my bedroom to see one of my favorite shoes ruinously mauled in the middle of the floor with Daisy calmly  on the bed looking at me with very unremorseful eyes. Even the “bad dog” lecture didn’t phase her.

And in a few weeks I let my guard down and then, again.  This time leaving my burgundy boots on my closet floor with the door opened.  I couldn’t bear not to repair my black strappy sandals with gem stones on them even though the repair bill was as high as a new pair of shoes.  The blue clogs were bad enough, but now my favorite boots were toast.  Daisy got her teeth into my more expensive, but super comfortable and quality brown slip ons.  The damage didn’t warrant pitching the pair and my pocket was starting to bleed.

I jumped on a post-Christmas sale that afforded me a pair of boots and two pairs of shoes for the price of one pair at Dillards.  Within weeks, one of the boots and one of the clogs had distinct Daisy fang imprints.  I resigned that they didn’t look that bad and continued wearing them.  Perhaps I was setting a new fashion trend.

Flustered with Daisy, it dawned on me what was happening.  It made me wonder which one of us was actually the dumb dog.

In my next blog, I’ll clue you into the crystal clear communication that my dog was sending and I wasn’t receiving.  But for now, understand that the first step to crystal clear communication is paying attention.

The Catholic Women’s Guide to Healthy Relationships Tip:  If something is working quite right in your relationship, pay attention to what else might be going on.

Anticipation


Our neighbors two doors down got a labrador mix puppy Annabell about six months before we got our black lab Daisy.  As Daisy grew, I could relate to seeing Annabell, bursting with energy, walking her owners.  Daisy was growing weary of her chain in the back, while waiting forever for the contractors to complete our backyard fence.  The confinement was so distasteful to Daisy that she started to dart out of the yard whenever she got the chance.

Whenever our kind neighbors  would see Daisy on the loose, they would gently invite her into their backyard with Annabell.  Obvious to everyone that Daisy and Annabell hit it off, they told my husband to feel free to put Daisy in their backyard anytime.  Since Annabell recently destroyed our neighbors’ couch, having Daisy roughhouse with Annabell in the yard, burning needed energy, was a valued perk.

The new fence raised our quality of life.  But Daisy got too big and strong with pulling her leash for the kids to safely walk her.  I became the only one to consistently give her a morning walk around the block.

And on the home stretch of our walk, we passed Annabell’s house to see her on her hind legs, front paws on the fence bobbing for Daisy.  Once we walked past her drive Annabell darted to the south gate and, as had become our routine, I would let Daisy in for a two to three hour puppy play date.

Opening the gate the two perros would mouth and jump and run and climb.  And the world could not be more perfect for Daisy and Annabell than at that moment.
We’re not so different from our canine friends.  Our contact with our friends doesn’t have to be super lengthy, but it does need to be consistent and predictable, so with anticipation we, too, can experience that precious connection with someone who knows us, loves us, listens to us, and even plays with us.

The Catholic Women’s Guide to Healthy Relationships Tip:  Make sure you know when you will get together next with your friend.