Independence Day: When I Met the Sister I Never Knew I Had

This was our first Airbnb. It doesn’t look like much (these three views are basically it) but was comfortable enough — but also really bad-to-no Wifi which is never fun and especially not when traveling with a teenager.

But …. what was I doing there, in this place I never knew? Only, um…

MEETING MY HALF-SISTER I NEVER KNEW EXISTED

But first, her tiny dog was really cute:

[There were a lot of dogs on this trip and I’ve forgotten this one’s name, but it was my second favorite dog. ]

Back to the story. The bare bones of it is that in March I got an email from someone named Cyndi who had recently discovered via genetic testing that her birth father was not the man she thought he was….

… and in fact seemed to be the same father as mine. Thank you, 23andMe (and it turns out, Cyndi’s own mad sleuthing skills).

So let that all sink in. I know!

Certainly there is a lot more to say on the subject. Stuff that will be said!

But now just know that we talked about whether people would think we were sisters if they saw us together. My boy said: “Oh totally. Your height and your hair. You talk like you’ve known each other all your lives.”

So, that was Fourth of July. And really the reason for this whole wonderful trip.

Sharing a love for books, beer and beaches (for real!). It makes me super happy.

Also, Danny and I really felt like city mice in rural MD, freaked out by all the flora and fauna. There was a peacock (!) on the property that we never saw but heard. And we came home to 4th of July fireworks and this strange dog running at us. Thankfully he was, as Danny put it, “just a big dumb Lab lumbering over.” Someone else’s teenage son had left it out by mistake.

A friendly dog, thank goodness

And then we had a bitter battle over Wifi. Words were had. This is me trying to cope without Wifi.

The Struggle! I’ll say right here that I spent almost all of my leisure/quiet time staring at my phone like a teenager. I did manage to finish one of those books, A Gentleman Never Keeps Score, and it was excellent.

It all worked out and we went to bed friends. That was Day 4.

Elegy for a Good Dog

When Buddy first came to us in January 2013, he was sad and scared. He’d been living with an old lady who died and it wasn’t clear how long it had been until he was found. Judging by his behavior wheIMG_2232n he came to us, she let him eat lots of table food and pee inside — I wondered what he would think about our exciting house with two boys bouncing around, and he did just fine.

It’s hard to believe he was only with us for three years because he was so well-loved and had many fans. Among his sterling qualities were a friendly face, extreme fluffiness, gentleness with children, and overall good nature. Vet techs and groomers always had something to say about what a good dog he was — Buddy was patient and stoic and put up with being poked and combed and washed without protest.

Last summer we were saddened to learn that he had diabetes and embarked on a new routine of twice-daily insulin shots and frequent blood sugar checks. Part of the treatment required him to submit to all-day glucose curves where he’d spend the day at the vet, getting stuck with blood draws every couple of hours. He hated it, and our unflappable dog started to shiver uncontrollably when we arrived at the vet’s office. The last time we did the glucose curve he was so upset that he soiled his cage and had to have a bath before hIMG_2532e came home — and then still had to go back for antibiotics later in the week as he suffered from stress-induced colitis. I was growing very concerned about how we were going to handle this for the long term.

Most recently we tried a raw diet for him and he feasted on raw chicken wings twice a day and was honestly the happiest I had ever seen him — his eyes gleamed and his coat shone and he was full of pep and vigor.

IMG_4741Then, quite suddenly, on Sunday night he wouldn’t eat. Monday morning he didn’t eat either and started to decline. Since we already had an appointment scheduled for Tuesday morning we decided to wait until then.

The first vet I saw was very tight-lipped and concerned and we agreed that they’d keep him for the day, start an IV since he was extremely dehydrated, and administer hourly insulin injections to try to get his blood sugar balanced. As the day wore on, it was strongly suggested he transfer to a 24-hour facility where he could be watched all night. Once I got there and spoke to their vet, it became clear that he’d need to stay in that facility for 2-3 days and the prognosis was only fair.

I had to make a decision and I opted for euthanasia. It seemed to me that even if he got through this particular crisis, there would be another one after that and we’d have to decide all over again. And he hates the vet and would be miserable. And, he’s a dog and doesn’t understand that all of these painful procedures are life-saving measures — he would just be unhappy. And right now he was very, very sick. IMG_2288

So, they put me in the special room with kleenex where they do these things, and brought him to me wrapped in a blanket. He was miserable indeed and his breathing was fast and labored. As I held all 15 pounds of him on my lap I was reminded of the many babies I’ve been holding lately for my job, and I rhythmically patted him just as I do with them to soothe him. I told him over and over again what a good dog he was and how much we would all miss him — I wanted the last thing he heard to be: “You’re a good dog. You’re a good dog.”

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Buddy wasn’t a perfect dog. He barked too much, ate disgusting things out of the bathroom garbage, and still preferred to pee inside, especially when it was snowing. But he was also an easy companion, enjoyed walks around the block (and especially walking Danny to school, when he still allowed us to do so), was sweet to children, jumped on the laps of visiting women, and when he was in high spirits ran really fast in circles around the yard and made us all laugh. As of this writing he’s been gone for 24 hours and I can’t believe that when I go upstairs I won’t find him sleeping on my bed.

 

Buddy, you are a very good dog. We all miss you.

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Buddy 2009-May 24, 2016

Church-shopping and mic savvy

My love affair with church has waxed and waned my whole life. Our most recent church home, Trinity Cathedral, had a lot going for it — gorgeous music, a strong interest in social justice work, stuff for children, a knitting ministry, political values that align with our own, and Dean Tracey Lind, whom I adore. As do a lot of other people — her intelligence and charisma have won fans across the country and around the world, and everywhere I go I meet someone who knows her.

And did I mentioned gender-neutral language? It wasn’t until I had it that I realized how much I loved it and how necessary it is. I would insist on it, if I had a choice. It’s not all “he, his, him.” Instead of “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,” we might hear about  “Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer of Life.” It’s much nicer that way, don’t you agree?

The biggest problem with Trinity was that it was 30 minutes away and the service started at 9:00 am.

So, now we’re in Lombard and I am ready for a fresh start. A neighborhood church would be great! A church where we can make friends and do church stuff. A church that doesn’t make me grit my teeth … or just turn off the alarm and roll over for a delicious Sunday morning lie-in.

I’ve been to three. Week One was Calvary Episcopal Church — my first choice as I have grown to love the liturgy and the Episcopal Church itself. It is a wee little space — in the picture I am sitting just a row or two from the back.

IMG_3793People were nice without being crazily welcoming (something that tends to scare Michael off) and the lady priest was earnest and friendly. The choir was amazingly good, especially for such a small congregation, and I was charmed when during the Passing of the Peace the choir shouted down from their loft, “Peace down there!” while the priest shouted back, “Peace up there!”

But …. she used a microphone. Why? She could have used her normal speaking voice and I could have heard her in the back of the room with no problem. I found it so distracting. Like, really distracting. Like, I sat there in judgment over the use of a stupid microphone.

The next week I visited First United Methodist Lombard. The Methodist Church is the church of my youth and the church where Michael and I were married. There is a lot I like about it, especially the hymns, but when we moved to Ohio I was disenchanted with how conservative the Methodist churches tended to be … and as time went on I became more impatient with churches that opposed gay marriage. Nevertheless, I thought I’d give it another try. IMG_3831

The late morning service we went to  (for this time young D accompanied me) was sparsely attended, and the minister and some other folks hastened to assure us that most of the church had come to the earlier service that took place out on the patio. The pastor, Luis Reyes, was born and raised in Puerto Rico and still speaks with an accent, and it seemed unusual to see him leading what seems otherwise to be a pretty typically whitebread Midwestern congregation. He scored extra points to me by roaming around and speaking extemporaneously during his sermon (and if he did wear a mic, it wasn’t distracting!). We liked it.

D would have been happy to go back there again this week but I want to see what else our new town has to offer, so today we made our way to Holy Trinity Lutheran Church. Sadly, this was where the lack of mic-savvy put me over the edge. At Trinity, which is a pretty huge space, there was a person in charge of A/V and still there were problems with the mics from time to time. Now, put less expensive technology into constant use with no one in charge — combined with a minister who sings part of the service and wears a mic the whole time — well, it is unfortunate. IMG_3864

People were not especially friendly. Early in the service he asked everyone to look around and if they saw someone they didn’t recognize, to introduce themselves and say hello. D and I laughed later that the woman in front of us just basically gave us the side-eye over her shoulder.

It being Pentecost (one of my favorite church days), the minister gave a sermon in the first person, as if he was one of the people there, which interested me — but there was a baby who babbled (not crying, just making noise) through the whole thing. I would be a churlish mother indeed if I faulted the parent or the baby, which I don’t. But I do wish they had left earlier than they did.  And before they left, I felt like I could see every thought bubble over every other head in the place, thinking irritably, “get that kid out of here!”

It was a church fail.

As a former marketing type, it interests me to see how churches welcome, or fail to welcome, visitors to their midst. What are the first impressions? What is the follow up? And it interests me so much that I wonder if I ought to try visiting some churches that are out of my comfort zone — the ones that don’t allow women to be ministers, the ones whose predominant political views are polar opposites of my own, the ones who insist that the Bible is the final inerrant word of God? The big churches, the well-attended churches, the churches with really active ministries do tend to be these types of churches.

What matters, really? Certainly making a decision about attending church based on its inoffensive use of A/V equipment doesn’t seem to make me a good Christian. Whatever that means.

Lots of big questions raised here for me. No answers yet. I do believe we will find a church where we feel welcome, where we feel the warmth, where we can make a home and feel community. I don’t know what it looks like yet. I don’t know how long I’m going to look. But I do know that church fills my little buddy D with love — he has always really liked church, since he was a little baby snatching the Communion host out of the priest’s hands.

The best part so far is the traditional post-church Sunday breakfast. IMG_3832

Westward ho!

IMG_3390Late this winter Big Poppa left town to start a great new job in the big city for a few months. And today we leave our home of the last ten years to start a new adventure.

Between then and now, I held down the fort and managed the wild boys, sold our house, threw a going-away party for us, made an epic road trip over Spring Break involving six different destinations and buying our new house, sadly closed out my teaching career at two local hospitals, enjoyed a surprise party thrown by my girlfriends, got an A in the college biology course I was taking … and then got really sick. Thankfully the latter coincided with Dad’s arrival for the big move and he has capably taken over the whole show while making sure I can rest and recuperate.

Case in point: I’m lounging in a hotel outside Toledo with HBO on in the background while he spent the day emptying out the house and is now driving this way along with two kids and a dog  in a Ford Focus that is, according to my mother, packed to the brim. Like, literally nothing else would fit anywhere.  Glad I missed it.

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We love you Mrs. K.

The last week has been hugely emotional and so affirming, rather like attending your own funeral. The boys’ teachers and friend went all out with formal and thoughtful goodbyes, and I was sobbing as D’s teacher read from a book his classmates had made for him.

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Nana and boys

The boys spent their last afternoon in our old city with my mom, who has been an almost daily presence in their lives for as far back as they can remember. This was the hardest part about leaving.

On a happier note, we are all looking forward to a fresh start — hence this post to my long-neglected blog. Seems like a perfect time to become more intentional about this writing practice and to share my life in greater detail with friends I’ve left behind. Our life is so rich and full and so much slips away — I look forward to documenting these days more carefully.

We sleep in hotels tonight and tomorrow and with any luck will be in our new house Monday night. Chicago, here we come!

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