A birthday for the dogs

Robert at the beach
My son at the beach when he was younger.

Today is my son’s birthday. It was also our big yellow lab Angus’s birthday.

The following story was first published in the Los Angeles Times Sunday paper in the Kids’ Reading Room section. It’s the true story of my son’s second grade birthday party.

Robert with the Easter Bunny
My son with the Easter bunny.

A Birthday for the Dogs

“MOM, I’m inviting 50 kids to my party.”

“What, Robert?” Mom said. “That’s too many. Do you know 50 kids?”

I sat in the back seat while Mom drove home after school. My eighth birthday was in two weeks. 

“There’s my class, plus Cub Scouts, and playgroup.”

“I can’t afford to take 50 kids skating or bowling. And I don’t want 50 kids in my house. What about the city pool? It’s heated, open year-round, and it’s only 50¢ a kid,” Mom said.

“A swim party, that’s cool!” I said.

“I’ll say yes to the party, but no to presents. Fifty presents are too much for one eight-year-old. It’s decadent.”

“What’s decadent?” I asked. Mom used words I didn’t know.

“Self-indulgent, corrupt.”

I sat silently and thought I’d be sad with no presents. Then I remembered Angus. Mom got him for me as an early birthday present. We were on a waiting list for two years with Guide Dogs of the Desert. He was being trained as a companion dog for people who couldn’t see. We got him because he had poor hips and couldn’t be a working dog. Angus was big, yellow, and I loved him. We shared the same birthday.

“I have a great idea!”

“What?” Mom asked, glancing at me in her rearview mirror.

“I’ll ask for money for Guide Dogs of the Desert.”

“Ah?” Mom made a weird swallowing noise.

“It’s Angus’s birthday, too.”

Big yellow lab
Angus

In the rearview mirror I watched Mom dab at the corner of her eyes with a tissue, and nod her head in agreement.

Two weeks later, I had a great birthday. Fifty kids came with bathing suits, towels and money. Instead of opening presents after cake, we counted dollars they had stuffed into a large licorice jar decorated with photos of Angus. 

Together, we raised more than $1,600 for Guide Dogs. Mom called me a “philanthropist” – whatever that is.

Angus and Robert

Happy birthday, son! We miss you, Angus!

Day one of mom and grand-dog duties

Waffles at the ER vet
Waffles the pug not feeling so good.

I made it to the Bay Area to help my daughter who has COVID. I’ve been wondering how much help I can be, since I can’t be with her? If I can’t do much, I’m looking forward to quiet time alone writing.

So far, it turns out — more time than I thought.

I didn’t arrive until evening to my airbnb which is .2 miles from her apartment. The problem is she’s on quarantine and can’t leave her apartment. I’m not sure what the protocol is these days, but I can guarantee she hasn’t hit it yet.

She texted me a list of groceries. I asked if I could go to the Berkeley Bowl to get the items on her list. It’s one of my favorite places to go to when I visit the kids. This running errands will be a treat if it includes the Berkeley Bowl! I blogged about it HERE.

I picked up clam chowder and a salad for my own dinner and a few groceries for my airbnb mini-fridge along with her list. When I dropped off her groceries at her doorstep, we waved at each other through her window.

I walked back to the airbnb and sat to savor the Berkeley Bowl clam chowder. It’s so delicious. I called my son and we were talking about plans for tomorrow’s dinner. He may be recovering from foot surgery, but he doesn’t have COVID. We can be together in person.

That’s when I got a call from daughter asking me to take Waffles the pug to the ER. He’s been having issues with his tummy. I wrote about it HERE a few days ago. Waffles has been throwing up and hasn’t recovered from chicken bones. The animal ER won’t let my daughter with COVID inside.

I sat for more than two hours with Waffles in the waiting room. My daughter texted me the recent details since I was traveling from Arizona and not totally up to date. We — the vet, the vet’s assistant and my daughter on the phone — decided not to hospitalize Waffles last night, but to bring him back in the morning if he doesn’t improve.

I’m wondering what tomorrow’s role as mom and dog grandma will bring? What’s driving me crazy is to be so close to my daughter, but not being able to give her a hug.

Have you traveled to help your kids away from home? How have you helped? How have you helped family members with COVID?

No more drama for the momma

I had a terrible night’s sleep last night. Here’s the short version:

My daughter got COVID, she wasn’t at home but was with our friends in Santa Barbara. Our dear friend was making my daughter homemade chicken soup when Waffles the Pug got into the chicken bones.

My daughter decided to not “wait and see” but rushed Waffles to a nearby vet.

She sat in her car while the vet’s aide brought Waffles in. I was on the phone with my daughter, alternating with our friends in Santa Barbara for most of the night. They let her take him home and wanted him back first thing in the a.m. He does indeed have chicken bones in his belly.

It reminded me of another post I wrote about Waffles called “What is it about pugs?”

Here’s an excerpt:

Waffles the pug
Waffles.

My daughter called at 8 a.m. yesterday freaked out because Waffles wouldn’t eat breakfast. If you know anything about pugs this is a serious sign something is wrong. I asked if she’d taken him for a walk and if he’d eaten some grass. She said, yes, he ate grass and threw up but he was still obviously in distress.

I asked if she was taking him to the vet. She said they were on the way to the emergency hospital.

That evening she called me crying hysterically. Oh no. They gave Waffles an ultrasound and found a mass in his small intestine. It wasn’t moving so they’d have to operate. They also told her it was risky because he’s a pug and they don’t always do well with anesthesia. They said he’d die without the surgery….

More Waffles History:

Last year when Waffles was with us during COVID shut down he ate half a package of pork chops that my husband put in the sun to defrost — styrofoam and plastic wrap included. He ate poisonous berries from the ficus tree and ended up in the ER. When my daughter was in college, he ate an adderall one of my daughter’s college friends had dropped on the floor. Another ER visit.

Waffles the pug
Waffles the pug

It’s not like he’s not well taken care of, but he is incorrigible. It literally takes one second for him to put something he shouldn’t into his mouth while you’re not looking. My daughter is blaming herself. I’ve told her it’s not her fault.

Waffles as a baby pug
Baby Waffles

I guess it’s a good question. What is it about pugs? Also, as a mom, I’d like to scale back on the drama in my life. I’m terribly worried about my daughter’s health as well as Waffles.

Have you had an animal who is incorrigible and always getting into trouble? What kind of trouble? For my fellow pug owners, do yours act like Waffles and try to put everything in their mouths?

Sights and Sounds of Berkeley

Sunrise street view in Berkeley
The view walking from the airbnb to my son’s right before sunrise.

I’m in Berkeley staying a few blocks from my son’s house to take care of him post foot surgery. I hang out in the daytime with him, helping him do the things he can’t do himself.

fall leaves in Berkeley.
I love the color of fall leaves. We don’t see this in the Sonoran Desert.

I cook his oatmeal in the morning, walk to a local coffee shop to get a “pour over” coffee — whatever that is. I refill his water, make sure he’s comfortable and help him with whatever else he needs like hooking him up to his ice machine throughout the day.

His girlfriend and I go for coffee and breakfast for ourselves at a cafe my daughter and Waffles like best. We sit with them outside and chat in the morning sun. My daughter was exposed to COVID twice in the past two weeks. First time after her friend’s funeral, the test was negative. She doesn’t have the test results yet for the second exposure which happened at work. That’s why we meet outside and she sits at a table by herself where we talk and laugh and spend a tiny bit of time together.

Latte from Fellini's.
My latte is delicious and pretty.
Tree decorated with a face.
My son’s girlfriend and I noticed this decorated yard and tree on the way to coffee.

My airbnb is on the border of Oakland about six blocks from my son’s house. The first night, I was woken up to yelling, screaming, slamming doors and other frightening sounds between a man and a woman. The next night at 1 a.m., a car pulled up playing rap music so loud that it shook the bedroom window.

Angel's trumpets
Angel’s trumpets we saw on a morning walk.

The airbnb is spotless, somewhat spartan and has all I need. I’ve only been there in the dark to sleep. I arrive after dark and I leave in the morning before sunrise to walk to my son’s house. I’m left with a kind of creepy feel, since I haven’t been there in the daylight and I’m treated to mysterious sounds of the night. I’m sure broad daylight would erase that vibe.

yarn bombing, love on a stop sign.
I saw yarn bombing for the first time. “Why do they want to stop love?” my son’s girlfriend asked.
Waffles the Pug at a cafe in Berkeley.
Waffles at his favorite cafe. They know him by name and always give him a treat.

Have you been exposed to COVID or tested for COVID? Does it seem to you like more and more people are getting it? When you visit family and friends are you concerned about COVID and are there precautions you take?

On this trip, I wouldn’t have thought about COVID at all except for my daughter’s two recent exposures. Another strange thing was how busy the airport in Phoenix was. Seating was full at gates and groups of people were left standing or sitting on the floor.

Thoughts on Leaving California

One year ago in December we left California for Arizona. I’m loving it now. But I’ll admit it took me at least half a year to warm up to the move. During my week in California for Christmas, I got homesick for my new home, Olive the cat and our wildlife of coyotes, javelina, quail and the bobcat.

Here’s what I thought one year ago about the move when it was a couple weeks after leaving California:

archway gate
The entrance to our old home in Palm Springs.

Did you know there is a private Facebook group called Leaving California? I’m not sure how I ran across it, but before we made the move, I signed up. I was surprised to find out there are more than 30,000 members!

Scrolling through the posts made me feel sad in the beginning. I wasn’t convinced I wanted to leave. I loved our home downtown Palm Springs. We were two blocks from restaurants, shops and our views were breathtaking.

To add to my uncertainty, my “adult children” were beyond furious. That was the only home they’ve known prior to moving away for college and their adult lives. They both believe we made the biggest mistake in our lives by selling our home. It does have “location, location, location.” It is beautiful. But it also had its downsides. It was rustic without many modern amenities like closet space or a roomy kitchen. I was always freezing and my fingers went numb. It was big on charm, though. It was also big on expense. For some reason — partly because it’s located in California and also that it was built in the 1930s — it was terribly expensive to keep up.

birthday party for dog
My kids celebrating Natasha the rottie’s birthday.

The kids were so angry with us that they didn’t speak to my husband or me for a bit. This made me more sad. We invited them to come home to say good-by. We also asked the buyers if we could stay for one last Christmas. They said, sure, no problem — $8,000 and Christmas was ours. We passed and decided to bite the bullet. We left our home close to 30 days of selling.

I bring this up about my kids because I noticed this week on the Facebook Leaving California page, that a lot of people are going through the same thing with their adult children. The latest post garnered close to 400 comments. Most said “Tell them to buy it if they want it.” Others were a little more understanding to the kids’ feelings.

prom photos in backyard
Pre Prom Photo in our back yard.

I understand how my kids feel. My mom had to sell our childhood home, which was gorgeous with stunning views, too. Unfortunately, she had to sell after she and my dad divorced and she could no longer afford the expenses. I can tell you, that was an extremely upsetting way to lose my childhood home — and my nuclear family. I felt like my world turned upside down and there was no gravity to keep me on the planet.

My husband felt our kids were acting spoiled. They weren’t entitled to the house. He said he’d been working since age 13 and didn’t want to work until the day he died to pay to live in our home. Although, he’s still working now in our new home, there will come a day in a couple years where he won’t have to.

My kids are coming to accept our new reality. I’m looking forward to COVID-19 vaccines and their visits to our new home. I can’t wait to show them the hiking trails we’re discovering, the quail running through our backyard and the sunsets and sunrises.

Nothing can take away all the great memories we had of 28 years living there. I truly believe that home is not a structure, but is with the people who love you.

view of gorgeous Palm Springs backyard
Our former backyard all fixed up to sell.

What are your thoughts about selling a childhood home? Would your kids understand? How did you feel when your parents did the same?

Christmas for the dogs

Christmas 2019, our daughter and Waffles the Pug came to stay. This was a mere few months pre-COVID and a global pandemic was the furthest thing from my mind.

It was during a pre-COVID Christmas break that I learned something new about the park by our old home. It’s a great place to meet other dog owners. In fact, we found a group of little dog owners who gather at 4 p.m. and let their dogs play together. Waffles, who is not at all shy, was trying to take over the group and loves chasing and being chased.

I’m not sure he’s all that welcome in this exclusive club, except by two lady pugs, Mona and Sadie. The highlight was a surprise visit by Santa. Waffles, who thinks he’s a media star, photobombed every other dog’s photos. My daughter had to pull him out of other puppy pics more than once.

Santa surprised the puppies at the park.
Waffles with Santa at the park.

Another day, I discovered someone decorated our park with style! They covered three park benches with Christmas joy. Nobody knows who is responsible, but we all appreciated it.

59881008201__48F5684C-AF81-4505-878F-BD4512C08BA8 2
Waffles on a park bench someone decorated
Someone surprised our park community with Christmas bench covers and pillows.

I’m grateful for our park and the daily joy it gave me. In my new neighborhood, we have a tiny park where I see dog owners meet up, too. It’s tempting to think about getting my own little dog, but Olive the cat would have a fit.

Do you have a special outdoor place in your life? If you’re the owner of a dog, do you meet up with other dog owner to socialize and let your dogs play?

Feeling grateful and sad

pug with sad face
Waffles my daughter’s pug.

I’m grateful for the support my daughter is getting on the loss of her friend and teammate. Her distance coach is calling and checking up on her. She was the one who called my daughter to break the news. Then, she got a call from the head coach. He told her that he was there for her if she ever needs to reach out and that he loved her.

I’m grateful for my son, his girlfriend and her family for living so close and being there for her. I also am thankful for Waffles and his unconditional love and affection to my daughter.

I’ve been worried about my daughter because she just moved into an apartment for the first time in her life living alone. She’s extremely sad and my calls with her haven’t helped. Like I said earlier this week in a post, “I don’t know to say.”

Everybody grieves in their own way. My husband said he compartmentalizes everything and brings it out a little bit at a time when he can face it. I’m the opposite and want to dwell and talk and work through the process immediately. I don’t think any way is right or wrong. But we need to have connection with other people for love and support.

I feel helpless that I can’t give my daughter hope. She told me that everything is miserable and she has no hope that anything will ever change. I know she’s hurting and I pray that after she attends her friend’s funeral in a few days that she will find some comfort among his family and friends who love him.

I can’t wait to see her next week to tell her in person that I love her and give her a big hug.

How can you give someone hope? Is there anything more painful to a parent than seeing their children hurting?

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