Saturday, May 28, 2011

Quarter of a Century

Ask any mother, no matter how old their child, and they can tell you, I am willing to wager, about the day that child was born in minute detail.  I sometimes wonder if my birth mother, whoever she is, can as well, but I certainly can.  For both my daughters.  But, for me, the initial adventure into motherhood began a quarter century ago.  Don't try and find me today.  I'm at the zoo, trying to distract myself from the memories of that day, which will inevitably come down on me like the incessant rain.  Greg did not make it here with my other daughter as planned for all of us to spend this day together.  My feelings on that subject are complicated.  It is a hard day for all of us; we will have another in less than a month on the second anniversary of Kelsey's death.  I imagine it will always be that way.  And I chose to forge off ahead of them to get us set up here.  But, I will selfishly allow that this day is harder for me than anyone who is not a mother can imagine, because it was inside of me that she incubated and grew from a tiny cell into that baby that I gave birth to at 4:04 in the morning on May 28, 1986.

I have always been wryly amused by the expectant fathers who say "we're pregnant".  No, you are not pregnant, no matter what your involvement in caring for your wife and unborn child is.  The woman is pregnant.  You are not retaining water to the point where your feet resemble an elephant's.  You are not having to store crackers on your bedside table to munch on before you even sit up to avoid puking, to have it work only about half the time.  You do not have a ten-pound bowling ball sitting on your bladder 24/7.  And you certainly are not going to experience hours of unimaginable pain to bring forth this child.  I admire the intent behind using "we", the modern dad's verbal commitment to wanting to be empathetic, but the truth is that there is a bond that grows out of all of that morning sickness, back pain, skin stretching and finally labor.  Some of it is genetic.  We're designed that way so we don't eat our young.  But, some of it is the fact that giving birth is, quite literally, a labor of love, and there's absolutely no way in hell I'm going through all of that for someone I don't love more than I love myself.  So, my baby and I fought the battle of birth together, and there is something we share because of it that is different and apart from what a dad can really know.

But, for those of us who then lose our child down the rabbit hole of addiction, violence or something like an eating disorder, that bond can be particularly haunting.  What did we pass along to our child, what genetic trigger did we give them, and then what environment did we raise them in that pulled the trigger?  Around Mother's Day, NEDA circulated a video, the basic theme of which is that it is not the mother's fault.  Bullshit.  It most certainly is.  At least it is for me.  I won't presume to lay that at the feet of all mothers.  Each of us has to search our own souls.  And, I know that at some point, it is true, Kelsey needed to take command of her own life and fate, and rise above what I gave to her in terms of genetics and rearing; I couldn't do that for her.  But, don't try and tell me I had nothing to do with loading the proverbial bullet in the gun.  I know better.  So, today will always be a bittersweet, mostly bitter, day for me.  No one in their right mind wants to place a person on this earth only to have them suffer.

One thing that will always remain absolutely true is the thought I had at the moment they laid my newly born child, all red and wrinkled with a forceps mark on her precious tiny face, yet warm and alive, in my arms, "From this moment forward life will never be the same."  And it never will.  Just not in the way I hoped back then, 25 years ago to this day.

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Worry

So, back to the weekend when Greg and his dearest friend drove straight through by themselves to bring me the dogs.  The reason it was emotionally charged for me was, quite simply, the huge worry that Greg would take one look at the tiny little house or at me - older than the last time he saw me - and say he wanted nothing to do with it.  As the three of us spent a little time that Saturday driving around the city, the same nagging worry tugged at me.  I kept watching his face.  He seemed pleased, but of course he was seeing the highlights Pittsburgh has to offer:  the skyline as seen from the Duquesne Incline, Heinz Field, PNC Park, Pamela's (yum), the Strip District, a glimpse of the old Igloo up against the new, sparkling Consol Energy Center.  What he didn't see is the dark underbelly.  All cities have it.  Pittsburgh is small enough that it's hard to ignore among the pretty package of a reinvented Rust Belt town.

Big news around here are the trials for a series of young defendants known as the Greensburg Six who admittedly tortured a mentally challenged woman for two days, then brutally murdered her and stuffed her head first in a trash can.  All the participants are white, so there was nothing like a history of racial tension boiling over, it's not a mob crime, it had nothing to do with drugs - other than you can more or less assume they were on them - or debt; it was pure, simple evil.  Their only defense it seems is to keep trying to pass along more of the blame on their co-conspirators.  Even for someone like me, who likes a good law and order story, it has turned my stomach more than once.  That's the most sensational crime, but there is no shortage of other, straight forward shootings, car jackings, drug related crimes, stabbings, bank robberies, scams against the large elderly population, and so on.  There seem to be a lot of child abandonment stories.  It's not a secret that many of the disenfranchised of any city get through their dark days drunk or stoned, so one can assume the root cause for these issues relates to that, but it sometimes takes an interesting spin.  My favorite (for lack of a better word) is the story of the man accused of leaving his four-year-old alone while he wandered around the neighborhood dressed as a ninja.  The footage of him being arrested is priceless because, as he's being dragged away in handcuffs, all he was saying was that it was all a misunderstanding, that he wasn't playing ninja, he just went out for a jog.  He missed the point entirely that he was being arrested not for his unusual fashion statement but for leaving his defenseless child alone.  One can only hope the boy's mother is better, but I worry.  After all, this is the prize package she chose to father her child...

For some reason, either because Austin ignores their dark side or is denial about it, there is not the plethora of bleeding news like there is here.  I doubt really that Austin is that much safer of a city, it certainly wasn't for my daughters, who found trouble as much as it found them, but it's just less in your face.

So, there's that.  Then there's just the culture shock.  I felt like a fish out of water for a while, and I was raised by Pennsylvania natives and spent time here.  Greg is a born and raised Austinite, and he's a homebody to be sure.  For me, the way people are here, a mixture of sincere friendliness with a forthright manner that can be shocking if you're not used to it, is no longer an oddity.  But Greg, having experienced nothing but Southern manners (which is to tell you to have a nice day when in point of fact they may really want you to go to hell), is in for quite the experience.

Then there is navigating around, which I've bemoaned many a time here.  I found an awesome t-shirt the other day that said "Welcome to Pittsburgh" and below it had directional road signs that looped and intertwined and were totally confusing.  It was so perfect, I had to laugh.  I'm obviously not alone in my frustration.  And, who can forget the government?  Things are so layered here, it's insanely complicated.  These two issues collide for me:  I live in Glenshaw, which is in Shaler, literally two minutes away is Allison Park.  I pass through Ross Township when I run the short distance to the pet store.  The nearest Pamela's (yum yum) to me is in Millvale.  When we went home from there, we went through Etna.  These are not areas of the city, like Squirrel Hill or the Mexican War Streets (don't ask me why it's called that, but it's a quirky cool historic district), they are separate governmental entities.  It's complicated and inefficient, but it's always been that way.  Granted, Round Rock and Austin are literally fifteen minutes apart in places (just not at rush hour), but that's due to urban sprawl.  Pittsburgh and all its myriad of abutting entities sprawled together long ago.  For an outsider, it all looks like part of the Steel City.  But, you learn, that while we are the Steeler Nation and are united in that way, the common geography stops there.  When you ask someone where they are from, they will respond Aspinwall or Butler, not Pittsburgh.  They like their neighborhood roots and identify strongly with the area where they live or grew up.  And most of the people grew up here.  People feel strongly about this area, one way or the other.  Not that native Texans do not - oh, trust me, they do - but there are so many of us Yankee outsiders in and around Austin now that it's harder to find someone born and raised in the state than it is to find someone initially from California.  It's a transient town now.  Had we lived in rural Texas, it probably would have been different, but that's actually a good thing for Greg.  At least he's experienced Yankee mentality aside from mine.  But people here haven't experienced that much of his Southern style.  And then there's the whole Cowboy fan thing, which I've been told is worse than being a Ravens or Browns fan.

And the weather!  Hard to complain about it on a beautiful spring day when the sun is shining, the birds are singing, and the temperature is rooted firmly in the 70's.  Problem has been that this year you can count those days on the fingers of one hand.  The area has been literally drowning for weeks now.  I constantly joke that I think I moved to Seattle by mistake.  Big change, big shock.  Then eventually will come winter.

This is all completely apart from the biggest issue of all:  rending him from his friends and family.  People he's known longer than me.  It's a whole other topic, but in short, I feel a huge sense of responsibility for uprooting someone so firmly entrenched and bringing him to a lifestyle so far removed from what he has known, let alone the people he loves.  I feel selfish.  I guess we could have chosen somewhere completely neutral to both of us to try and begin again, but too late for that now, here we will find ourselves.  I don't worry about Marissa, she will love it here.  It suits her in many ways.  And she is young enough to adapt easily to the differences.

No, it's for Greg that I fret.  I want him to love it, I truly do, because, for all its odd flaws, in the end analysis, I have found that I do; more than I ever thought I could.  Why?  That's up next.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Ode to the Single Woman

When I woke up Monday, stiff and sore after an incomplete attempt the day before to paint Marissa's room, I bemoaned my advancing middle age and took a peek inside the room, still only half painted and a total mess, and could only shake my head and be grateful I never tried to make it in life as a house painter.  It was only later that day that I realized the aches and pains, now joined by a sore throat, were signs of something more along the line of a little bug as opposed to a little over-the-hill.  If there ever is a time to be happy you're sick it's when you're a kid and it gets you out of a test you're not ready for, or when it allows you to use it as an excuse to deny that you're no spring chicken for a little while longer.  But, then the next day dawned, and I greeted it feeling like road kill, only to drag down the stairs to see fresh dog pee on the living room carpet and probably not-so-fresh pee on the basement carpet, four dogs who clearly needed to be let out - in the rain - two cats who wanted fresh food, and the mess I left in the kitchen when I limped off to bed the night before.  Where is the maid, I wonder to myself as my head pounded a rhythm to the rain?  Oh yeah, I'm her.

And that got me thinking back to the time when I was struggling to move in, dragging boxes around, trying to jam in more stuff than the house was designed to hold, hang things in plaster, move furniture where it was supposed to go as opposed to where it was, and hook up a complicated sound system.  I could have used an extra hand or two, I thought to myself more than once.  But, I didn't have one, so I eventually got it done.  I had to pay some people to be the muscle I didn't possess, but eventually the dust settled, the house got unpacked, and there was a sense of satisfaction when I would look around and see what I had done.  But, now struggling with that work-life balance thing, a house full of wet dogs, under the weather in more ways than one, I am glad that I'll have family coming to lend a hand soon.  And that got me thinking of all the women I know who do it on their own all the time.  They rock.  It's hard.  Life is hard.  Sometimes being able to turn to someone and say, "Can you run to the store to pick up kitty litter for me?" and have them do it is about the best thing you can ask of it.  Many of us who have spouses take that partnership for granted; I certainly did.  So, I want to shout out to all the women I know who do it on their own everyday.  They deserve a lot of respect for what they do.  Sure they have complete control of the remote control and can sleep in the middle of the bed, but they have to push on when they don't feel well, they have to figure out if they are going to the store for that kitty litter or catch some much needed sleep.  For the single parents I know, my hat really goes off to you.  I know, first hand, how very hard parenting is when there are two of you trying to keep a lid on things.  I know how exhausting and worrisome it is.  I can't even fathom the depth of the exhaustion to do all of it on your own.  The weight of the worry could crush a mountain, yet you carry on.

But it's the decision-making process I marvel at the most.  They have to make all the decisions - the little ones and the big ones.  That may sound good - no one is there to tell you what to do.  But sometimes you just need a sounding board to give yourself a reality check.  I can't tell you how many times I've turned to Greg and asked "What do you think of...?"  Everything from my choice of shoes to what house to buy.  Maybe I knew what I wanted to do, but just having someone confirm that choice is a comfort you can't appreciate until you no longer have it.

I know a lot of women who simply amaze me.  From my friend who raises her daughter on her own, from my amazing hairdresser who moved from Alaska to Texas with only her dog, her shoes and very little else, to my cousin who just remodeled her bathroom on her own.  That's just the tip of the iceberg.  Some of my single female friends chose that path, some did not, but all of them are on it without complaint.  For the four months I've spent there, I can tell you:  I'm ready to have someone around to bring me some hot tea and chicken noodle soup during those road kill moments.  But, for now, I've got to trudge upstairs and mop the mud off the kitchen floor and then try to figure out when I'll have time to get that kitty litter.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Not So Merry Month of May

"You look at your children and you know that they're looking back at you and they're saying, 'You're going to take care of me, aren't you?'  That's our job, to keep them healthy and to keep them safe, and to let them dream as big as their dreams will take them."
- Barack Obama

I tried to stay away from blogging, I really did.  I thought to myself that when it became a tool to upset people and end long term relationships, which it apparently has now done twice, it was time to set it aside.  Problem is, I need it still.  Without an outlet, one's darkest thoughts grow like cancer, and that is never more true than in the month of May, bracketed as it is by Mother's Day and Kelsey's birthday.  I think my six four-legged charges, who depend upon me to get my act together on a daily basis to keep them fed and watered at the least, need me to use it because I was throwing myself a nice little pity party there in the interim.  I have another daughter to think of; beautiful, intelligent, and brave, who needs me to be present for her as she grows into young womanhood.  So, here I am, back from where I briefly tried to ostracize myself.

The thing I tend to forget when I'm in that woe-is-me routine is that I belong to a non-exclusive club, and that's a horrible reality I need to acknowledge to myself.  There is nothing remarkable about my suffering.  We're in a time of war, and there are a lot of mothers out there who lost a son or daughter in defense of Rashard Mendenhall's freedom to Tweet stupid shit.  I saw an obituary in the paper a couple of days ago with a picture of a happy looking, shaggy haired teen who died in a motorcycle accident.  (Gotta respect the northeast mentality that they print the cause of death right there in black and white - maybe as a cautionary tale to any other parent who might see it.  That rarely happened in Texas.)  There are way too many mothers in Homestead - a part of town I sincerely hope I never get lost in - mourning the loss of a son or daughter to random violence.

No, unfortunately, I am in altogether too large of a club.  And all those military moms will have the same sort of month I will:  they woke up on Mother's Day with the knowledge that one of the people they mothered will not be calling or coming by.  They will get by the 28th, which is my daughter's birthday, only to be hit with Memorial Day a few days later when the rest of the country will be grilling burgers and happy they get an extra day off from work, but the families of the fallen will actually be remembering why it was declared a holiday in the first place, reminded by the empty space at the end of the picnic table.  May, for some of us, is a time to endure, not to celebrate, and that makes me sad, looking out over the green spring lawns and listening to the sounds of the song birds in the leaf-filled trees.  It's a jolt to the senses, such beauty against such sadness.

And that poor family of the shaggy haired kid in the obituary photo:  their long journey is just beginning.  They are in that first awful period where it just seems a little unreal, and they probably think the cosmos has made some sort of horrible mistake and half expect their son to come walking in the front door at any time.  I think of them every time I hear a motorcycle speed through on the main road nearby.

Nope, there is nothing unique about me at all.  So, I need to pick myself up, dust myself off, and move on toward the goal of finding the meaning behind all of this.  I can't do it without this venue.  Not yet anyway.  So, as I trudge forward, let me just say up front:  if I offend anyone, that's not my goal.  On the other hand, if any of you are helped somehow by what I say, if only to know you are not alone, then that is all I can ask and it is for you, and for me, that I write here.

And, finally, to my lovely Philly friend who saw me through this Mother's Day and gave me the venue to actually have a pretty decent day, you, one of the most lovely of people, should be up for sainthood.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

The First Amendment Lost in Space

Generally, I do not make back-to-back posts.  There are a lot of reasons for that:  time, strategy, I don't do that much, what's to say really?  But, in this case, I think I'll make an exception because there are a couple of things that have happened lately that are on my mind, both dealing with the written word.

Two of us in the Pittsburgh area, myself and Rashard Mendenhall, have caused some controversy with our words.  Actually, in my case, I think it is because of my lack of words.  My audience is so tiny, and his is so large due to his celebrity, but we find ourselves intersecting somewhat out in cyberspace because of how we chose to express ourselves, and I've been spending a lot of time thinking about that.

For my part, I've drawn blood in this blog before.  Once or twice on purpose, but mostly not - and recently, most definitely not.  I spend a lot of time actually considering what I say, how I phrase things, whether I use people's real names or not (I do not generally for anyone I know personally outside of the immediate family - public figures are total fair game).  I weigh whether or not I think the individual would be receptive to being brought up and discussed in the blog.  I guess I probably just should ask - but, truth be told, I usually hammer these things out early in the morning or late at night, so I just use my judgment.  Judgment I've gained - or not gained - over the course of a lifetime out in the business world and dealing with my suffering children where one wrong thing can reverberate for years.  I've got a lot of seasoning in my pot, and I still manage to get the recipe wrong sometimes.  Hurting people with my words, or lack of them, is not my intent.  My intent is to chronicle my journey.  But, I'm mindful that it's a cheat to some degree.  I don't write about all things.  Some things are too dark.  I don't want a parent who has lost a child to stumble onto this and see some of my darker days, I keep those to myself.  I want them to read this as a long and painful road, but a road that is negotiable.  We're left behind for a purpose.  I believe it is our obligation to find what that is.  But, there are days when that resolve for me falters.  I could probably benefit from writing that all down, but you won't see it here.  There are people who have helped my family in getting past those black days - because we've all had them - some of them have found representation in this blog, some have not.  It doesn't mean I don't love them - sometimes it just means my thoughts are too complex to boil into a few succinct sentences - somebody make me a book offer where I can really get long winded - sometimes it means I think they'd rather not get thrown out into a public forum, and sometimes it means I'm still processing the information and am not ready to write about it.

This was very much the case with my most recent situation.  The weekend was whirlwind and emotionally charged.  And I slammed right into the work week, behind on my assigned workload, dealing with dogs peeing in the house (should have seen behavorial issues coming - how could they not), and just the normal affairs of life - bills, Mother's Day to address.  I chose what I thought was a safe and light hearted topic and ended up hurting someone very dear to me by my omission of their contribution to our lives.  For that I am so sorry - but I'm still not really ready to address the weekend, because I want to address the other 'Burgher who has some mea culpas to make first.

There is a lot of buzz everywhere, but here in particular, about what Rashard Mendenhall said in his Tweets immediately after the news of Osama bin Laden's death broke.  I follow Rashard on Twitter, so I was seeing them come across real time and remember thinking, "Oh, there's going to be some serious backlash about some of these."  I had no idea exactly how much.  A sports news feed I subscribe to ran a headline today suggesting that he'll be offloaded by the Steelers.  He made a spectacular fumble in the Super Bowl that many of us still see in our sleep and no one talked about trades.  Don't even get me started about Big Ben Roethlisberger, and he's still around.  No, it took some ill advised, yet perfectly legal, comments at a time when our collective Patriotism was running at a fever pitch to cast him into disfavor with the Steeler Nation and the rest of the country.  Don't get me wrong, I don't defend some of what he said.  I do, as once so famously stated, defend his right to say it however.  Does that make me a hypocrite? Maybe.  I've been openly critical of individuals in this blog before:  Maura Kelly, who made me cry with what I felt was an ignorant and hateful column centered around weight, Donald Trump with his Birther nonsense, and several other Tea Baggers of note.  Of course, the Trump thing is a bit different because I do not honestly in my heart of hearts believe that he was sincere with any of that - it was showmanship, pure and simple.

But, here comes this kid - because, at 23, that's really what he is - with a computer in his hand, clearly sincerely impacted with emotion over a world event, trying to articulate deep, complex thoughts in a series of messages no longer than 120 characters.  I feel for the guy.  I don't agree with him, some of what he said was downright ignorant, like the Holocaust Deniers of my generation, but, here's the thing:  I think he was genuinely troubled by the blood lust that he saw - of human beings celebrating the pain and the death of another human being.  Am I personally troubled that Osama bin Laden is dead, that maybe he was unarmed when he was shot point blank?  Oh, hell no.  I'll admit it:  I'm glad he's dead.  But, I get the sentiment I believe Mendy was trying to convey.  I do think some of my fellow Americans missed a point.  We shouldn't celebrate the death of someone, we should celebrate the survival of our freedoms and our way of life.  That ability that Rashard Mendenhall and I both have of making total asses of ourselves in a public forum is pretty precious.

I don't think a young kid with wrong headed ideas should have his career upended because he said some things our constitution says he has the right to say.  Let him take his PR hits for it.  Better yet, someone help him see the error of his ways.  Maybe Mr. Rooney, who came out quickly and distanced the team from the comments, should arrange a meeting with Rashard and some of the families of the victims of 9-11 so he can learn from this experience.  He was just a boy when it happened.  Can he really understand the pain of that day and those people?  (Donald Trump, on the other hand, is not a young boy and does understand the weight of his words, so I still think he's just mean-spirited.)

Bottom line is this:  you put yourself out there in cyberspace with sincere and innocent intent, and sometimes it just comes out wrong.  That's unfortunate, but human.  It's an odd time we live in, when our words travel so far so fast and can carry such impact.  Some fumbles and missteps along the way are inevitable.  But, what a glorious freedom to be able to take the journey.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

What Was It Nietzsche Said Again?

Phase One of the Move to Pittsburgh was interesting enough.  Lots of drama, lots of hard work, lots of lonely hours, lots of times I was so completely lost I was afraid I would never get where I was going and almost certainly would never find my way home.  Then, gradually, Cheyenne and I blossomed, like all the living things here in the spring, and began to find our way - literally and figuratively.  And we grew comfortable in our little home and with our routines.  We were like a little old married couple in some ways.  We got on one another's nerves occasionally, we were in one another's way once or twice, but generally we knew and accepted one another, and we settled in.  Life took on an order.  After the past decade of chaos and heartbreak, don't knock the simple stuff.

I found that I liked having a clean, orderly house.  I could start at one end of it, work really hard for a couple of hours and end up at the other end with a totally clean abode.  The upside to a tiny domicile.  And then, the marvel of it all was that it would stay that way for days.  The quiet, broken by my occasional virtual meeting and my constant iPod, ceased to be oppressive and was, at times, highly calming.  The weird sounds of the old house at night no longer kept me up at night, they were like my lullaby.  Here You Are, Finally, in the City of Steel, it would sing to me.  I gradually came to the realization that I was loving it here.  Still a bit scared of it, but loving it nonetheless.

Yet, I knew what I was working toward.  Getting all the family back together.  All of them.  That means the four dogs left and the two cats.  Everything I was doing was for that purpose.  I didn't abandon my own private zoo through all the years of Kelsey's illness, I wasn't about to do it now.

My sister-in-law was here in the week leading up to the Big Dog Delivery.  Originally I regretted the fact that she came in advance of her brother and didn't get to spend time with him.  For one thing, she was stuck here much of the time as I worked, and he could have played tour guide - he has a much better sense of direction than I do.  For another, she lives in Arlington and they see one another rarely as it is.  And, then of course, I felt so badly for her that she had to be with me as I lost Noelle, then the Penguins knocked themselves out of contention in our presence later that day.  I was definitely not a good hostess that day.  But, in the end analysis, I'm glad she saw our little slice of the 'Burgh pre-dogs.  She got a taste of living with all of the dogs, and I am sure that was enough.  One of the dogs left a little reminder of themselves on her luggage, I found out later to my great embarrassment.

She did get to see her brother briefly.  Greg and his BFF drove straight through from Austin to Pittsburgh, leaving Thursday midday and arriving here a little more than 24 hours later while she was still here.  With them they brought a UHaul trailer of more stuff now cramming my teensy little garage and a whole lot of four legged chaos.

For one thing, my dogs are large, the house is small.  Like everything else with this house, I had a mental image in advance of how things would go, and then, when reality strikes, I find that the house in my mind is bigger than the house I actually live in.  Trying to cram the containers for the dog food, the cat food, six food bowls, two water containers, and a litter box in the room where my treadmill, my DVD's, CD's, washer/dryer, second fridge and all the heating/HVAC equipment is makes for an interesting maze just to get to the back door.  Then there are the stairs.  I think all the humans who have spent time here can tell you they can be a challenge.  They are steep and narrow.  Luke, now the oldest, just yesterday decided to attempt them.  Ashley, age unknown, tried them the first day, went sliding and was done with it until a couple of days ago.  Now she goes up and down them, following me loyally wherever I am, but she still looks awkward doing it.  Chappy - the biggest by far of the dogs - has a system down.  He looks comical doing it, but it works for him.  I'm not even sure I can describe it well, but it involves him almost bouncing himself down the stairs, both front legs first, then his back legs, then on to the next stair, and so on.  He climbs up much the same way.  Not a quiet operation.

And the rainy spring weather we've been having continues, so they are crammed inside, being far too wet, muddy and cold to stay outside for longer than what it takes to potty and stretch the legs for a minute.  Then they tramp in, trailing mud and wet behind, filling the house with that lovely wet dog smell.  I vacuumed the house three times in less than 24 hours when they initially got here.  I've been scrubbing, unsuccessfully, two spots on the downstairs carpet since Saturday.  My kitchen floor is a mess, I mopped it twice before just giving it up and letting it stay this way until we get a break in the weather - which may be never.

I tried walking Ashley with Cheyenne together on Monday; the initial plan being that I would alternate dogs on these walks - taking two at a time.  If I had recorded it, I am pretty sure it would go viral on YouTube.  It was pretty comical as long as you weren't me.  They were not in rhythm with one another at all.  One would want to stop and sniff, while the other was tugging to move on to a different smell.  Ashley tangled herself constantly around mailbox posts, then they both wrapped themselves around my legs.  Cheyenne had to show off and be the mean Alpha toward any other dog we saw, so Ashley had to follow suit, nearly dragging me off my feet.  Bottom line, Ashley was just too excited with all the newness to behave.  Hard to be mad at her, but I rewarded myself with a nice sized adult beverage later that night for just surviving.  I haven't attempted to walk them together since.  Chappy needs the exercise, heck, they all do, but I'm totally not up for that experience yet.  So, as I type this out, they lay sprawled all around me, wet, somewhat muddy, stiff from inactivity, but all together.

Every once in a while Cheyenne and I look at one another, and I could swear she is wondering when it is we are going to get our quiet little routine back.  Sorry, Chey-Chey, this is it for us now.  We will begin the adjustment period again and, eventually, from this chaos we will find some order.
Photo Courtesy of Cathy Goyne