To Dog Or Not To Dog

I always wanted a dog of my own.  There is very little in life that makes me feel as good as a puppy snuggling into my shoulder, with its little paws around my neck.   I was always that kid who befriended whatever canine came within drooling distance.

When I moved out on my own, dog ownership was always a goal of mine.  My husband at the time did not share that goal.  He was more interested in reptiles and rodents as pets.  This propensity showed his clear lack of judgment, which he further demonstrated when he left me.  After I got divorced, I was a pretty sad sack.  My parents, desperate to suggest anything that might rouse me out of my funk, pressed me to get a dog.  Even my father, who had always been firmly in the “Not To Dog” camp, extolled the virtues of doggy parenthood.  It didn’t take much pushing to convince me to adopt my little mutant Welsh corgi, Luci.

Adopting Luci turned out to be one of the best things I’ve ever done in my life.  In the beginning, however, the wisdom of the decision was debatable.  For one thing, the shelter told me she was over two years old.  In actuality, she was about six months old.  This meant she kept growing until she was approximately twice the size she was the day I brought her home.  It also meant that she was still teething.  She also suffered from severe separation anxiety.  This neurosis manifested itself in her tendency, when left alone, to eat anything and everything …including things that were not technically edible.  Like a couch.

Yes, between the teething and the anxiety, the dog ate the entire arm off my couch while I was at work one day.  I tried crate-training her, but, contrary to every dog behavior book I read that told me dogs actually like the safety and security of a crate, Luci hated it.  She would throw up if I put her in the crate and left the room. She cried and whimpered pitifully. I consulted with the vet, which is when I found out the full-grown adult dog I adopted was actually a poor, pathetic puppy who still missed her mommy.

Since I was now the mommy, it was my job to soothe and comfort. This entailed coming home at lunch and calling Luci several times a day while I was at work so she would hear my voice on the answering machine.  It also involved heating a seasoned pig knuckle in the microwave to give her each morning when I left for work.  The idea was that she would come to associate my leaving with something pleasant.  She did indeed associate the smell of microwaving pork at six in the morning with something pleasant, but I can’t say I did.  I, in fact, found it pretty revolting.  My stomach came pretty close to revolting most mornings when presented with the smell of sizzling pig knuckle before any self-respecting pig would even be awake.

I can’t say I could ever completely rely on Luci to not eat anything within reach.

However, as Luci grew out of the puppy phase and became more secure in her home, she became much better about eating only things with actual calories.  When I left for work, I Luci-proofed the house.  I closed all the doors to bedrooms and bathrooms to minimize temptation.  I set wastepaper bags on high kitchen counters.  I was not foolish enough to leave shoes or socks laying around the Luci-occupied zone. It worked well enough.  As time went on, I found that minimal effort kept my home canine catastrophe free.

Some people may have thought this was a crazy way to live.  It probably was, but it was well worth it for me.  In a time of my life when I was bruised and empty, Luci was my safe place to land.  Luci always loved me.  No matter what.  She made me laugh. She gave me a reason to keep moving forward in life.  She enabled me to focus my energy on something other than my internal misery and decimation. We were a team and faced the world together.  In caring for Luci’s happiness and well-being, I found some of my own.

Luci made out pretty well in the deal, too.  People who believe in reincarnation want to come back as my dog.  Nothing was too good for my fur baby. She came home from the shelter with a doggy seat belt.  Unfortunately, she ate it.  I took her to obedience training. I learned to obey. I took her to the vet whenever something seemed even minimally amiss.  When the vet moved from a small strip mall storefront to a large, modern, beautifully designed building, I used to call it “The House That Luci Built.” My mother corrected me, reminding me it was actually “The House That Luci’s Mommy Built.” As Luci aged, general practice vets were not sufficient for my baby’s growing pains.  She had a root canal from a doggy oral surgeon.  She had acupuncture from a specialist to manage her arthritis pain.  I’ve never actually added up how much money I spent on vet bills in the last few years of Luci’s life and I don’t want to.

Luci lived with me for almost 16 years.  She had a long, loving life.  When I finally accepted that it was time to let her go, I called a specialist to come to the house so that her last hours would be with me in the home where she knew only love.

I knew I would not want another dog right away.  About a year after we lost Luci, I was in a pet shop and saw a Welsh corgi puppy.  The nice young man in the store took her out of the kennel for me and she snuggled sweetly into my shoulder.  I started to cry.  Actually, I started to sob uncontrollably and unrelentingly.  I knew it wasn’t time yet.

A year or so later, I started thinking that I might be ready.  I was doggy jonesing.  However, at that time, I was also applying for a new position.  The new position would involve a commute of three hours or more each day.  It would involve longer hours and more travel.  I didn’t think it was fair or even feasible to integrate doggy motherhood into my life at the same time if I got the job.  I told myself that, if I didn’t get the job, I’d get the dog as my “consolation prize.”  Damn it, I got the job.

The next plan was to wait until I retired and we moved.  Once we were settled, I planned to get two Pembroke welsh corgi puppies.  Any time Max sensed my impetus towards moving was waning while we were waiting for my retirement date, he invoked the name of puppies to keep me focused.

However, once we moved, things changed.  First, “getting settled” seemed to be a much more fluid process and to take much longer than I initially expected.  Second, I was finding that my mother needed much more assistance than I had realized.  I was spending 15-20 hours a week with her.  I wasn’t sure I had enough time left after my efforts to keep my mother safe, comfortable, and happy to take on a passel of pembies.  Then, once my mom had the stroke, I clearly knew I did not have the time and energy to raise furbabies. When the day comes I no longer need to care for my mother, I think Max and I are going to need some time to breathe.  I think we’ll want a season to be free of responsibility to do the things for ourselves that we have been postponing during this difficult time.

So, in the question of “to dog or to dog?” I think the answer, for me, is “not now.”  While a puppy would provide comfort and healing, it would also provide responsibility and entanglement.  Still, when I recently held my friend’s tiny new pooch the other day, it was hard not to feel the surge of puppy love flood my heart.  While my head is still saying that this is not the right time for a dog, the needle on my doggydesire-ometer certainly started to twang from “not now” to “later.”  A subtle change in emphasis, perhaps, but movement nonetheless!

What do you think?  Should I dog or not dog?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at 

Have a great day!

Terri 🙂



Psychedelic Prayer

I’ve noticed something odd recently.  Since my mother has settled into the nursing facility and she has begun exploring the shadow world inside her head that I cannot quite fathom, I feel different.  I’m not sure what words to use to describe the difference.  The feeling isn’t happier or more positive or more resigned exactly.  Maybe the better description would be a feeling of “surrender” or “being reconciled” or “contented.”  Whatever it is, it sure beats the constant agitation and relentless heartbreak that have accompanied me since my mom’s stroke.

Maybe the change is just because I find myself smack in the middle of the worst possible outcome that I dreaded for months and the result is not as bad as I feared. The world continues to revolve around the sun and my mom actually seems pretty cheerful.

Maybe it is prayer.

I attended a workshop on prayer the other day.  The leader asked us what factors we thought led to the most effective prayer.  I thought for a nanosecond and realized that the memorable common factor in all my most fervent prayer is confusion.  It seems that I pray most effectively when I come to prayer in a state of disorientation and dismay.  I’m not sure why that is.  Maybe it is because I am most genuine in my discombobulation.

Too often, I think I come to prayer with a solid, well-defined vision of the desired outcome for which I am praying.  I say I am praying to find God’s will and to have the strength to accept His plan.  I think my head even tries to believe that.  Still, in my heart of hearts, I think I am usually praying for things to turn out the way I want them.  It isn’t necessarily that I am being demanding or selfish.  It isn’t even that I am praying for an outcome that is easy or pain-free. I’m just scared.  I’m scared of what God’s unknown is for me. I’m scared that I don’t have the necessary faith and virtue to travel His path rather than the path I can envision for myself.

hroughout my mother’s illness, I have wrestled with confusion, grief, and fear almost all the time.  Originally, I had the sense that God was exposing me to these emotions to give me some small idea of the journey my mother has been navigating in order that I might be more empathetic.  Now, on a deeper level, I also have the idea that He is trying to train me, as I’ve walked this path with my mother.  He may be trying to teach me to truly understand that all that control and organization and planning that I so love is not where my strength lies.  In fact, I believe He is showing me that there is actually grace in letting go of it.

They do say that whatever doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.  The thing is- I never wanted to be so freakin’ strong.  Apparently, God does and He is using my mother’s illness to build that strength.  I am afraid I cannot say that I am wholeheartedly grateful.  However, I know that God has unfailing patience with me.  Maybe I’ll get to that gratitude place someday.  In the meantime, I think my confusion-born prayer is at least helping me find a little more confidence that I’ll be able to manage God’s unknown for me, with His help.

As I thought through my ideas on confusion-based prayer, other people in the class were talking about what helps them pray. Most of the other students seemed to concentrate their responses on strategies or “tethers” to help them focus and shut out distractions in order to pray most effectively.  All the discussion about focus made me wonder about my experience of finding confusion to be the sweetest starting point for prayer.  Maybe we do need to be “tethered” to pray most effectively.  Maybe, though, it is sometimes best to allow God to do the tethering rather than me hitching myself to a rather wobbly post.  Maybe, sometimes, the confusion is actually God’s call and the distractions are the ingredients for prayer.

A number of students also mentioned external items that help them connect to God and His majesty.  Some people mentioned rosary beads, icons, stained glass, statues, etc.  I understand that perspective and even share it.  After all, I come from a Roman Catholic tradition.  I own and use a rosary.  Liturgical prayer sings to my soul.  I have worshiped in the ancient churches in Europe, marveling at the prayerfulness of artistic renderings.  When I loosened my grip on Roman Catholicism, I turned towards the Episcopal Church.  I’ve learned that Episcopalians express their unity as a denomination in their unity of worship.  After all, we base our worship on the Book of Common Prayer.  There is little that is more focused, orderly, and tethering than praying in a common, liturgical way. I rejoice in that unity.

Still, there is room and, perhaps, necessity in Christian life for a more individual kind of prayer. That is the kind of prayer that I find often comes from my confusion. It is a psychedelic kind of prayer.   It is colorful, explosive, and implosive.  It is often disorganized and chaotic.  It moves and pulses and morphs.  It can start out as one thing but end up as something completely different.  It is uncontrollable- breaking free of the form I gave it and rearranging itself into what it needs to be. It can be so odd and so weird and so disorderly that it makes no sense.  At least, it makes no sense to anyone but God.  And maybe, with the grace that comes from letting go, the psychedelic prayer will one day make sense to me.

What do you think?  Does prayer ever seem to be born of confusion for you?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can send me an email at

Have a blessed day!

Terri 🙂

Springing Forward

The hospice nurse says my mother no longer experiences time in the same way most people do.  Do you think it might be contagious? 

Never before in my life have I messed anything up because of the beginning of Daylight Savings Time.  Last Sunday, I was getting ready to go to church.  I happened to look down at my phone and noticed it said the time was an hour later than I thought it was.  I wondered what was wrong with my phone.  As it turns out, nothing. 

I went to church, still operating firmly in Eastern Standard Time despite all iPhone indications to the contrary.  I thought I was arriving early for Sunday School and was surprised at how full the parking lot already was.  I noticed some folks going into the church and wondered at that.  By Terri Time, it was just about an hour before the service was to start and people usually don’t arrive that early.  Finally, out of nowhere (or, maybe, out of the numerous hints that my brain was consuming but apparently not digesting very quickly), I realized that Daylight Savings Time might just have started at 2:00 o’clock that morning.   

So, I did not have a spring forward this year.  It was more like a stumble forward.  Maybe I was actually pushed directly into the path of an oncoming time change.  I think there might be a message for me in this. 

I think I may have become a little stuck in flux during this past season.  Is that an oxymoron?  Can one be “stuck” if one is in a state of “flux?”  All I know is that I think my brain has been wallowing in some sort of disagreeable sludge ever since my mom had her stroke.  I have become used to living in a nearly constant mood of sadness, anxiety, fear, and inadequacy. It has become a comfortable ooze, if not a pleasant one.  I tend to sink deeper into it rather than exerting the effort to lumber out of it.  Yes, this whole journey started back in the last Daylight Savings Time.  Theoretically, I’ve had a couple of time changes to adapt to my new circumstances. I’m not sure my transmission is that good, though.  It tends to slip.  Given my sinister slide into the emotional muck, I’d say I had no trouble at all “falling back.” 

Now that spring is here (whether I sprung with it or not), it might be a good time to recognize and acknowledge new birth.  There has been a lot of growing inside me recently.  I’ve graduated from my perception that retirement is simply well-earned rest.  I’m now seeing how retirement can and should be enriching, as well as restful.    More than two years after my move, I have started thinking of Florida as “home.”  It no longer feels disloyal to prefer my life in Florida to what I was experiencing back in California.  I believe I have learned more about myself in the past two years than in the prior 30 plus “career” years put together.  The best news about that self-education is that I am figuring out how to appreciate myself.  I’m not saying that I am all that and a bag of chips, but I think I can now safely say that I am at least the bag of chips.  

In addition to recognizing and acknowledging the new beginnings I’ve birthed since my retirement, spring seems a good time to nurture the seedlings that are beginning to sprout for other changes.  I know I’ll never be okay with my mother’s condition, but I do sometimes feel the stirrings of acceptance and reconciliation.  This spring, I want to be a gardener.  I want to tend to my mother’s heart- to fill it with beautiful flowers and plants and lovely scents to remind her how much she is loved.  I also want to tend my own heart- to heal it and love it and remind it of how much I love. 

Is spring growing season for you?  Any particular “gardening” you are planning for this year?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at

Happy almost spring!

Terri 🙂

If Money Can’t Buy Happiness, Why Does It Cost So Much To Go To Disneyland?- And Other Ironies Of Everyday Life

We learn early on in life that money can’t buy happiness.  But it costs $97.50 to get into the Happiness Place on Earth.  Does anyone else see the irony in that?

A friend of mine once commented that I did not have a sense of humor- just a finely tuned sense of the absurd.  I’m not sure what she meant by not having a sense of humor, but I do think I understand what she meant by the sense of the absurd.  I am easily amused by life’s odd, random moments.  Especially the ones that are not intended to be funny.  I think I might tend to be one of those people who are too busy watching life to actually participate in it.  You know- one of those creepy people who just sit by the window and stare, observing life from a safe distance.  It is much easier to watch, giggle, and analyze than it is to actually live. I have to make a conscious effort to come away from the window and go outside to play.

When I retired and moved across the country, the view out my metaphorical window changed considerably.  It was an unexpected bonus- I have a whole new vision of the world’s ironies, inconsistencies, and absurdities to observe!

For instance, the other day I was driving down the turnpike and noticed one of those big electronic signs that usually either tell you how many minutes it will take to get to the next highway or advise you to look for a missing child. That day, I noticed it said “Distracted Driving Awareness Week.  Keep Your Eyes On the Road.”  Does anyone besides me think that it is sort of counter-productive to have a sign that tells you to keep your eyes on the road?  Isn’t a “Distracted Driving Awareness Week” sign, well…. a distraction?  This thought started me down a metaphysical discussion with myself.  If I am reading the sign, am I not already distracted from the road?  If I don’t read the sign, how am I to be aware that I shouldn’t drive distracted?  Is having this mental dialogue another form of distracted driving?  AAAARGHH!!  Must stop thinking about it before my brain explodes. The worst part was I kind of had a perverse desire to text someone… anyone… to point out the logical conundrum of the situation.

Another example of one of life’s little ironies that I find so amusing are the names of towns around here.  I think the people who name towns in central Florida might have delusions of grandeur.  Florida is the flattest state in the union.  The highest elevation in the state is 345 feet above sea level.  To put this elevation in some perspective, local radio and television stations in Los Angeles, CA use towers on Mount Wilson to relay broadcast signals.  Mount Wilson is in urban Los Angeles and is 5,712 feet above sea level.   A couple of towns over from us here in Florida is a town called Mount Dora.  Mount Dora is one of those quaint little historic towns that seem to manufacture bed and breakfasts as its principle industry.  I know, from personal experience, that pushing a wheelchair around Mount Dora can maybe make it feel like a mountain.  However, at an elevation of 184 feet above sea level, I don’t think Mount Dora qualifies as Mount anything.  I am apparently not the only one who sees the humor in the situation. A number of touristy gift shops on the main street sell t-shirts that proudly proclaim “I Climbed Mount Dora.”  Another nearby town is called Howey-in-the-Hills.  I have been to Howey-in-the-Hills and, let me tell you, there is nary a hill in sight.  I think you have to have a steeper grade than a parking garage ramp to call yourself a hill.  I refer to the place as “Howey-in-the-Bumps.”

Another new absurdity I have found is the “town square” system in a nearby 55+ planned community.  There are three of these little mixed use areas that serve the community.  They have live entertainment, restaurants, bars, movies, shopping, and professional services.  One common denominator for all three town squares is that drivers can access them only through a complex network of multiple roundabouts.  Color me crazy.  Does anyone else think it is a terrible idea to purposely build a transportation system based on what are essentially obstacle courses?  Especially when you have a population of over 100,000 senior citizens navigating them? I don’t mean to malign older drivers (especially since I am one), but traffic circles just seem to be asking for trouble. After all, our peripheral vision is often one of the first things to deteriorate as we age.  Do we really need to have a bunch of older drivers dodging incoming golf carts ever few feet?

The town squares are all elaborately themed.  One of them looks like an eastern seaport resort community.  I’m not sure, but they might even bus in the seagulls.  Another showcases an old west motif, including life-sized bronze statues of a cattle drive.  You really haven’t lived until you maneuver your way between giant bronze steers and cowpokes when you turn into a movie theater parking lot.  It is a bit disturbing until you get used to it.  The third town square’s theme emulates an old Mexican mission.  It is called “Historic Spanish Springs.”  It was built in 1994.  I am pretty sure I have at least one pair of shoes that is more “historic” than that.

My latest adventure into the absurd happened today at Starbuck’s.  I saw the local newspaper and happened to notice the headline- Sisters Dress Alike- Purely By Chance.  Really?  That’s news?  What’s next?  Grocery Stores Sell Tomatoes?  The real irony is that I contacted the editor of this same newspaper a couple of months ago to ask if she would read and, perhaps, promote my blog.  She never returned my call.  Perhaps my sense of the absurd is not as sharp as I thought it was!

Have you encountered any amusing ironies of everyday life?  I’m sure we’d all love to hear them!  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at

Have a great day!

Terri 🙂

Practice Makes Perfect

Awhile back, I happened to look at the calendar and realized, with a start, that I was attending a wedding exactly 35 years ago that day. My own.
I remember that period around the middle of 1980 through the end of 1981. It was the last time, before my recent retirement and move across the country, that I navigated multiple life-altering changes in a relatively short period of time.

My parents sold the house where I grew up in mid-1980. They always wanted to sell the house and travel around the country when they retired. My younger brother had moved out on his own (well, on his own and about a hundred roommates, but that’s a story for a different day), but I still had a year or so of college to finish. My parents, two basset hounds, and I moved into a 27-foot travel trailer. We lived in the trailer full time in a campground across the street from Disneyland. I went to school, studied, worked a job part-time, tried to apply for and interview for post-graduation “career type jobs,” and planned my wedding from that travel trailer. We all lived together, ate together, watched television together for a year. There was no place to put anything (which was a special challenge when one considers the incredible amount of paraphernalia involved in organizing a wedding). Most of my worldly goods resided in a storage facility. There was no privacy. My “bedroom” was the dinette area that converted to a bed once any of the three of us decided it was time to go to sleep.

People thought our living situation was kind of weird, but it did make some sense in the big picture. My parents were beginning to live their “live in a camper and travel the nation” dream, albeit without the “travel the nation” part of it… yet. “As soon as we get rid of Terri,” (as they told anyone and everyone for the entire year of this limbo), “we are going to take off and be on our way.”

Between the end of May and the middle of August in 1981, I graduated from college, started working full-time at my college job, got married, and switched jobs to an extremely responsible “career type” government position (which, despite the fact that it involved constantly making decisions that impacted on people’s actual lives, paid virtually the same amount as my college “undersecretary clerical gopher” job). My parents hit the road, literally and figuratively. These were the days before cell phones, social media, and email. For about six months, my only communication with them were occasional letters (you remember, with the folded paper and envelope?) and cassette tapes we would make to send each other.

By the end of 1981, I think I already knew my marriage had been a horrible mistake and I was absorbed in the exhausting work of trying to pretend I didn’t already know it.

That interlude in 1980-1981 was the last time I went through multiple major changes in my life. Yes, certainly I navigated changes since then- a divorce, two moves, a couple of different jobs. All those changes, though, came more-or-less, one at a time. Each change was more like someone throwing a pebble into my life and watching the mild ripples rather than having changes crash unrelenting like waves on the shore of my life. The good news about singular changes is that they can become the focus of your life for a time. You can cogitate, analyze, grieve, and strategize about how to deal with them. You can reach out for sympathy. You can even turn your life into your own little soap opera for awhile, if you want. The bad news about singular changes is that you can also obsess over every little detail and become the object of pity.

When you find yourself in the tornado alley of change, you don’t really have the time to analyze and react to each one individually. Sometimes, the more you try to get your feet back under you and control things, the more changes seem to occur. Instead of focusing on the individual change and figuring out how you feel about it and how you are going to react, you tend to focus on the general whirlwind. Your brain begins to feel like a tornado itself. You feel too dizzy to see any way out. You have to seem pitiful, even to the point of tedium, to your friends. Let’s face it, even the best friends have some point at which they can no longer stand doling out sympathy and advice that doesn’t seem to be doing you any good.

Interesting that I’m finally able to “compare and contrast” the single change experience with the multi-leveled change twister. It has been over a two years since I plowed my way through the tornado alley of retiring, moving, and taking over my mother’s caretaking. I’m starting to feel like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz.  Maybe, in some small ways, I’ve finally come through the storms and the house of my life has landed back on the ground. I’m wary when I say it, but I think I’ve managed my way through the worst of it. It has been an exhausting ride. Even though most of these changes were the result of my own choices, the stress has been way more than I ever imagined.

Why has it been so difficult? I think I’ve just figured it out. The last time I handled this sort of life-altering multi-level change was 35 years ago. When it came to facing the changes of the past couple of years, I clearly lacked practice!

So what do you think? Have you gotten better at managing change with practice? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can leave me an email at

Hope your topsy-turvies don’t leave you upside down today!