My Kid Has Lost His Mother to a Sleep Number Bed

First, the history: I have slept on the floors of friends’ apartments where smells of cats past were strikingly fresh. I have slept on hotel room floors (I’m gagging thinking about it now) and pull-out couches (those springs can hurt like a mother dog) and non-pull-out-couches (there’s a joke in there somewhere) and even, once, a blow-up pool raft (tequila helped). I have slept on the cold, hard, bumpy ground in Yellowstone National Park and Rocky Mountain National Park and a few hundred other campsites from Central Texas to Montana. And for the last nearly 20 years, in my own home, I’ve slept on a mattress that was so old and misshapen that it required special gymnast moves just to get out of it in the mornings. True story. But I didn’t really mind all that much. Gymnast moves keep you young.

But then I hit the mid-40s. And my body became sore from things like, say, unpacking groceries.

I started to make those legit moaning sounds when I would get up from sitting on the floor after playing Hot Wheels with the kid for a long time. I began to hear unnatural creaking sounds in joint areas where I’m pretty sure there should be cartilage. And then, after 14 years of manual snow removal without one injury to my name, I hurt my lower back tossing a big shovel-full of heavy snow over our deck railing. As in, “ummm … holy hell, I may not be able to walk now, or ever again” kind of hurt. And then, several days later, during an epic snowball fight (turns out I could walk again – hallelujah!), I landed smack-dab on my hip, on a bank of concrete-ice.

Suddenly, what I slept on kind of mattered.

And suddenly, the evil advertising gods told me that Sleep Number was having a sale.

And then, I found myself strolling unknowingly into a Sleep Number store to test out their product and witness my body’s pressure points with their whole heat-sensor technology thing.

I was a goner once that remote hit 55.

I’m still a little worried about what that salesman was thinking when I let out a When Harry Met Sally-kind of reaction. (You know the scene.)

Granted, in the week between purchase and delivery, I mourned the impending loss of my dilapidated BeautyRest. After all, I brought my baby home to that bed, and we did the whole family bed thing until he was 4 years old, like the good hippies we aspired to be. I’ve snuggled with hoodlum puppies and held aging, sick old dogs next to me in that bed. My husband and I have had some pretty fun times in that bed (reading and talking and laughing, of course! What were you thinking?). I wrote a lot of my second novel propped up in that bed, writing by the light of the laptop. That bed has spent many a night dragged in front of the woodstove in our log-cabin great room when the power went out for days and we needed to sleep near the flickering warmth. And that bed was where I spent a lot of time last year recovering from some seriously bad flu/pneumonia/liver and kidney failure juju. That bed served me well.

But now, the Sleep Number P5 has entered my life.

I have changed.

I used to make the family pancakes or migas or biscuits and gravy on the weekends. Now, the kiddo’s eating cold cereal and, most probably, Cheetos. I don’t really know because I’m still in bed.

I used to lay down with him in his bed as he fell asleep each evening. Now, I tend to just yell “good night!” from the comfort of my Sleep Number.

I used to get up early to take the dogs for sunrise walks. Now they’re constantly giving me these accusatory looks, as if they are puppy-mill-level neglected.

I used to read in the great room, near my family as they did other things. Now, they can usually find me curled into that P5 like a kangaroo baby in a mama’s pouch.

My husband and I actually joke that we may never, errrr, talk and laugh in bed again because once you sink into the glory of this new mattress, you don’t really want to move unless the house is on fire or something.

In fact, when the dogs go bark-shit crazy (I’m trademarking that phrase) at 3 a.m., instead of going to reassure them and get them settled down to avert internal damage to our home, we nudge each other, then ignore each other, and then simply hope they don’t tear down the back door to get to the mountain lion before morning.

I’m sure one day I’ll reclaim the life I was once led. My son will get his mother back. My dogs will get another sunrise walk.

Until then, I plan to celebrate a lower back that doesn’t ache, a once-injured hip that feels young again, and the fact that I no longer need professional climbing gear to remove myself from the prone position each day.

P.S. Sleep Number didn’t pay me jack-anything for writing this. Which only proves I’m not smart enough to figure out how to ask them. #blogfail #bigmoneyfail

 

This is a Sleep Number bed. It is not my Sleep Number bed because taking a picture of my bed would be weird.

This is a Sleep Number bed. It is not my Sleep Number bed because taking a picture of my bed would be weird.

I Am Tired of Apologizing for My Dogs

Golden Retriever mixes

It’s true that I do not have the most well-behaved dogs on the planet. In the state. On the mountain. Okay, okay, on my street of eight or so full-time mountain people houses.

They — our two nearly 100-pound golden retriever mixes — are notoriously bad dogs.

We thought they wouldn’t be.

We believed in the golden myth. That myth that plays out in every dog commercial and on every dog food bag and in every Cabela’s catalog. The myth that says, “Get a golden! They are always calm and cute … and the perfect dog to have by your side at all times.”

That myth is not just a myth. It’s a bold-faced lie, people.

Ours bark loudly when I let them out in the mornings and multiple times during the day.

They jump on visitors, and on us, when we come in the front door.

They steal socks and then shred them. (See also: Stuffed Animals)

skylobsterphotoThey are ace counter-surfers and have eaten, among other things, an entire, freshly baked cherry pie, a stick of butter, a loaf of bread, fresh trout, a stocking full of Christmas candy as well as the stocking, grilled hamburgers that were ready for our guests, a bouquet of tulips, and at least one filet mignon while it was actually cooking on the stove. Doggie Poison Control is on speed dial.

They tend to forget who’s in charge on our walks and hikes and have been known to pull me down the trail. God forbid we stumble upon a wild animal that’s in need of being chased. Or we stumble upon a wild animal that’s in need of being chased and we are walking on several layers of ice. In that event, life becomes a full-on sitcom moment.

One of them enjoys poop appetizers before dinner. The other scratches on the back glass door when she has been put outside and needs, needs, needs to be inside. One is notoriously grumpy past 6 p.m. The other sees nothing wrong with jumping all 100-pounds of his beast-self right onto your lap while you’re watching TV, as if he’s the size of a Chihuahua and you don’t have internal organs that can be easily smushed. Both of them retrieve laundry items and books from various parts of the house and then make you chase them to get them back. They both, when relaxed, can release a smell that the U.S. military should look into for use in warfare.

Oh, and they eat their dog beds. Every one of them.

It’s no coincidence that we call them hoodlums. (And, also, for the record, I have had dogs my entire life. Lots of them. I know how to train them to behave. These dogs are untrainable.)

But here’s the thing. I’m not going to apologize for them any longer. Why? Because they make me laugh. They make me happy. They make good, fluffy, hilarious pillows.

photoAnd I know that they have a reason for every bad thing they do.

When they bark, it’s because there is moose scent everywhere and a squirrel is usually taunting them from a tall pine tree above. They are programmed to tell us that these very acute dangers are present at all times. Who else is going to sound the alarm, really?

When they jump, it’s because they simply cannot contain their excitement that there are People Available. Right Now. To love. It’s so completely and totally unbelievable to have such good luck!

When they steal socks and shred them, it’s because they think it’s their job to do this. And they want to be good at their jobs. They’re overachievers, when you think about it.

When they grab food off the counter, it’s because it smells soooo good. As I tell my husband: Could you resist the world’s most awesome, decadent chocolate cake with homemade whipped icing just sitting there, inviting you to take a bite? Because every single ounce of food, I’m convinced, seems like the most wonderful thick, juicy T-bone steak to these pups. It’s kind of like how I would never, ever be able to refuse a perfectly ice-cold, fizzy Dr Pepper on a hot summer day.

They pull us on walks because they are confined to a backyard and a small home most of the day, every day. And confinement isn’t a great idea when you have more energy than a toddler on a six-pack of Red Bull. And they are dogs. They are meant to run free. To smell all of those smells. To check out every rock and tree, just in case something needs to be addressed. I understand that, I do. Some might say I’ve been known to pull those around me along for miles, too, when I get an idea in my head.

You see, as naughty as they are, I get these dogs. They march to their own beat. They won’t be tamed.

Of course, they can learn manners, like sit, but who really wants to be told what to do unless there is a bacon treat involved? I don’t.

And another thing. These furballs truly love — like with all their little hoodlum hearts — their people. I feel that way about my people, too.

They are Explorers. Clowns. Always-looking-for-trouble hounds. Cold-winter-night foot warmers with a zest for life.

So, I’m thinking maybe we could all learn a little something from my hoodlums. Sure, good behavior is nice and all. And they will likely be the best dogs ever when they are 15 years old and content to lie in the sun all day.

But isn’t there also something to be said for saying no to arbitrary rules?

Isn’t there something to be said for living exactly the kind of life you were meant to live? For doing things that make you happy every single day?

Life doesn’t guarantee you hours of great belly rubs and weeks of adventure in a mountain forest. You gotta seize that shit for yourself.

Meanwhile, over at BathwaterBlogs …

Did you know I also blog over at the fabulous Bathwather Blogs? It’s parenting-focused, and there are some funny and smart folks writing over there, all of us dealing with parenting in unique ways.

Here are some of my latest posts from that gig. Follow Bathwater Blogs on Facebook to be in the know in the future, too.

Mom, in denial

The day I didn’t give a damn

Confessions of a so-not-a-soccer-mom

Mama bear learns a lesson (again)

Traditional Thanksgiving dinner? Don’t get your feathers in a ruffle

Hope everyone is having a helluva week. It’s snowing here, but it was beautiful this weekend. Our bad dog, Trouble, agreed.

golden retriever, male

 

The Magic of Second Chances

Following is an essay I wrote a few years back that was eventually published in the Chicken Soup for the Soul series. A version of it also placed in a Real Simple magazine essay contest. I’m pleased to share a shortened version of it here for my blog readers.

The Magic of Second Chances

Years of disappointing infertility treatments can leave you feeling raw inside — like an asphalt-skinned knee or that tender place beneath an ugly blister when you peel the outer layer away. It was the kind of open wound that drove me to crazy acts, like directing daggered looks at women shopping for baby wipes and absurdly mean, fortunately silent, comments toward unsuspecting pregnant women at the mall.

What got me through those ugly days, and what served as a bandage over that intense rawness, was this: There remained a tiny degree of hope that the next month could be different — that this time, the moon and the stars and my body would all magically align to give me what I wanted most in the world, a baby.

But unfortunately, celestial magic, and pregnancy, continued to elude me. Procedures weren’t working. Finally, our doctor called one day in the spring to say she recommended no further treatments, no further procedures. Statistically, I had a much better chance of winning the lottery — twice — than giving birth.

That evening, with my husband out of town, I curled up on the couch with our collie at the time, George Bailey. He rested his long, Lassie-nose on my leg. He’d already secretly enjoyed the pint of butter pecan ice cream I’d opened but couldn’t eat. And now he looked concerned about the growing pile of used tissues at our feet.

I rehashed the conversation with the doctor in my head, searching for something, anything, that might offer a hint of optimism. But there was nothing I could hold on to this time. And her last words tumbled through my thoughts again and again. “Honestly, if I were you, I’d consider adoption.”

Adopting a child? It wasn’t that we didn’t think it was a good idea. We thought it was great — for other people. I think in some ways, saying “adoption” out loud would’ve meant some kind of defeat to us — an acknowledgement that perhaps we might not, in the end, conceive. And that wasn’t something we could let ourselves believe.

But now, the world and everything in it was upside down and strange. I was no longer a woman who would someday see the outline of our baby’s spine on an ultrasound image. I was no longer a woman who would learn Lamaze, who would fret over whether or not to hire a mid-wife, who would ask friends for their hand-me-down maternity clothes. Even our home in the Colorado mountains seemed empty and cold, the clouded moon outside more scarred than before.

I looked down at George Bailey, our formerly abused, now reformed, sweet loyal canine companion. I wanted to make sure he hadn’t changed before my eyes, too. I ran my fingers through his soft, thick fur. I had to smile. George Bailey had served as a pillow, sounding board and heating pad in recent months. Now his tawny-tan coat was absorbing my tears.

We had adopted George from a rescue group two years before, his beat-up body complete with two broken legs. We’d brought him home around the holidays; the group had named him after the movie, It’s a Wonderful Life. Both Jimmy Stewart’s character and our George Bailey had been given a second chance at life.

George Bailey’s dark, almond eyes stared up at me as I stroked his ears. Adoption in his case had been an easy decision. We met him online and immediately wanted to give this bruised soul a happy, comfortable home. For George Bailey, though, becoming a part of our lives had been a leap of faith. Those almond eyes didn’t always reflect love and trust.

In the beginning, he was guarded. He literally did not make a sound for months. Finally, after a great deal of coaxing (not to mention treats) on our part, he decided to give us a chance. I imagine he had to overcome many doubts — and a lot of bad memories — to make that jump.

That’s when I decided maybe it was time for us to learn a little something from George Bailey. Maybe it was time for us to take our own kind of leap. In a new direction. Maybe it was my husband and me who needed a second chance.

I stayed up all night long, George Bailey sleeping at my feet, a crackling fire toasting the cabin and tossing shadows on the walls. I researched international and domestic adoption. I read blogs; I read adoptive child psychology reports. I read about state and federal laws, about laws in countries I had only previously thought of when reading ethnic restaurant menus.

That night of research set us on a journey that transformed our lives. Within a few months, we had settled on domestic adoption, worked on how we would fund the $30,000 bill. Within a few more months, we had completed our paperwork and passed our physicals and background checks. (Luckily, my pregnant-women-hating behavior never got out.)

By August, we were matched with a birthmother and birthfather who chose us to be the parents of their unborn child.

In early fall, we held our son when he was minutes old. We cried with the birthparents, for our shared happiness, for their loss. We told the birthparents we loved them. We meant it.

When we brought home our baby and introduced him to George Bailey, our collie seemed … proud of us.

Magic, it’s safe to say, no longer eludes us. Every day is filled with wild little-boy laughter and Dennis-the-Menace level schemes.

And we owe it all to my sweet and gentle George Bailey, who taught me how to put the hurt and doubt behind me — and leap.
 

George Bailey 1998 - 2009

                     George Bailey
                       1998 – 2009

 

Our Dogs Are Going to Get Us Kicked out of the Neighborhood

Observation #2 of living like normal people: People down here are way more up into my business.

Let me explain.

Hoodlum One: Trouble. Offense: Eating stuffed animals that are not his.

We have two golden retriever mixes, Trouble and Sky. And I will admit it to the world: They are hoodlums! They believe it is their job to destroy socks, pillows, t-shirts, towels, and the occasional pine tree. They also believe they must protect us from the very dangerous white-tail deer that lurk around this new house. And they are fully committed to their jobs.

That means they bark when there are deer around. And unlike at 10,500 ft., where the deer are still very much wild and don’t stick around if a dog barks at them, the deer down here look at our dogs, like, “Yeah. Whatever. Bark at me all you want. I can’t hear you. You’re invisible to me. And this tall grass is really good, by the way. You should try it.”

This infuriates the hoodlums. First, they don’t like grass anyway unless they are sick. And second, the message they send back to the deer is this: “Fine. I will bark my head off and foam at the mouth like I have rabies if you continue to just stand there.”

Further complicating things (for me), is that, unlike in the mountains, the houses here are right on top of one another (literally, since we live on a hill.)

So, it was only a matter of time before a neighbor decided he must talk to us about our barking dogs, on behalf of another neighbor. (So he says. I can’t hear you ….)

Hoodlum Two: Sky. Offense: Never sharing chewbones and being quite vocal about it.

This neighbor also told us he has observed our dogs and he does not believe that we walk them enough. And that he feels sorry for the dogs when they bark like that. Ummmm. We do walk our dogs, and we play with them for at least two hours a day in the backyard, and they are actually treated pretty much like humans …. which is better than this dude treats his girlfriend, from what we’ve heard of their conversations. (Maybe they’re not getting in enough walks together.)

So there you go. When you decide to leave the mountains and live like normal people, it seems you have to actually DEAL with people. And that’s just not something I’m good at.

P.S. Observation #1 – it’s damn hot down here. I have Al the Swamp Cooler blowing on me and the hoodlums right now, in fact. Yes, the hoodlums are so mistreated, lounging on my bed, chewing on massive chewbones with cool air blowing in their faces. But hey, at least they’re not annoying nosy neighbors.