Monthly Archives: June 2016

My dad is my hero

dad and me

I don’t remember this photo being taken, but I know my dad has been holding me up all my life.

It’s hard for me to put into words how I feel about my dad.

He is kind, wise, generous, honest, funny, hard-working and compassionate. He was a provider, a supporter, a caretaker, and my biggest fan. He always told me, “Go for it!” and made me believe in myself.

How do I adequately say “thank you” to the man who who helped me become who I am?  I am fortunate to have had the parents I did. I hope my kids feel the same about me.

I tried my best to show how much I love, admire, and respect him long before I started blogging, when I submitted an essay, “Priceless Treasures” (starts on page 53) for the anthology, “My Dad is My Hero.” I was honored it was included, and I share it now in honor of Father’s Day, and this man who really is my hero.

Happy Father’s Day. I love you, Dad.

 

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8 playground rules amended for the dog park

 scoop.jpgAgainst my better judgment, I wore flip flops to the dog park on a 90-degree day. Big mistake. Traipsing after the tennis ball, I stepped right in a pile of fresh poop.

Oh, I beg of you. You, yes you, with the cute, cuddly Chow Chow, and you with the pair of poodles, and everyone else who comes here, I plead with you to watch where your dog does his business. Because as well as leaving a mess, this park smells pretty freaking horrible on a hot day. I’m still pretty new to this dog thing, but I’m the stay-at-home-dog-mom, so I’m a regular at the dog park now. I find most pet parents to be responsible, lovely people. I look forward to friendly conversations as I try to wear out our boisterous Bella throwing the same ball approximately 872 times. But nearly every day I see something that irks me about this canine community.

We all know parents have some pretty strong feelings surrounding playground etiquette (share, take turns, stop texting and watch your own kid, you know the drill). Some of these guidelines should also be adopted when we take our dogs to the park to play.

So I propose eight commonsense rules of the dog park.

1. Clean up after yourself.
I know you want to gossip with the your human friends or maybe just sit down and relax with your cell phone while your puppy plays with the other pooches, but please, keep an eye out for the tell-tale stance. You know when you go to the park, your dog is going to go. When he’s been out of sight for a while, chances are he’s done it. Don’t leave it behind for us to pick up – or step in.  There are even bags available if you forgot yours. This seems like Dog Owner 101, but I can’t believe how many piles I dodge. Trust me, this is a lot worse than stepping in your kid’s Gogurt or finding an abandoned juice box that didn’t make it to the garbage can.

2. Bring your own toys.
Listen, I’m all about sharing. I’ll throw the ball for your dog too. But if Fido chases my dog’s ball then runs away with it, just bring it back. “That’s not yours,” you can say, just like we do when our children claim another kid’s truck or doll. “They’ll let you play with it, but we have to return it.”  And if you know your dog loves playing fetch – which you must, because he does it with me every single day – maybe invest in a Chuckit of your own? You can get one online for like 8 bucks.

3. Don’t let your baby be a bully.
Dogs love to play, we know. Some are more rambunctious and louder than others. I get that. But if your dog is overly aggressive with other animals or people, making too much noise, or just getting in someone’s way, step in. The other day I was surrounded by three yapping Chihuahuas I’ve never seen before. They relentlessly circled me for at least 10 minutes, jumping, yipping, jumping, yapping. There’s no way the owner didn’t hear them. When I finally tried to escape to a different part of the park, they followed me. Their owner saw them with me and said, “Were they harassing you? They’re kind of out of control, so they just harass everyone.” Not cool.

One day my excitable dog took a liking to girl with long hair and wouldn’t leave her alone. I called her off, pulled her off, to no avail. So you know what we did? We left. No one else should have to deal with my dog’s misbehavior – or yours.

4. Don’t be a helicopter parent.
If you are worried your little princess might get hurt or dirty, put her in the separate, fenced small dog area. I’ve seen giant greyhounds and tiny terriers get along just fine, but if you think every big dog is out to devour yours, don’t let her roam. Don’t expect all the dogs in the park not to check each other out, and say, “Do you want to be my friend?” Unlike our kids, their feelings won’t be hurt when one says no, but you can’t police their introductions. Also, if you’re a mom who insists on going down the playground slide with your toddler on your lap, you probably shouldn’t bring her to the dog park either.

5. Safety first.
There are two gates at each entrance. Please make sure you close at least one (preferably both) when coming or going. There are way too many distractions beyond the fence – other dogs, joggers, oh and loud cars and trucks – to chance someone else’s dog darting off.

6. Dress appropriately.
I will do everything I can to keep my dog from rubbing her muddy face up against you, but chances are, she or another is going get your white pants dirty. I apologize (most people shrug it off with, “Well she’s a dog.”) But if your wardrobe is important to you, leave the designer duds at home and wearing your oldest jeans or yoga pants. And boots.

7. They won’t always listen to you.
Like our kids, I think dogs have selective hearing. I hear you calling your dog. I’ve heard it 100 times. He hears you too, but he’s having way too much fun to do what you say. When it’s time to leave, or if you need to get your dog out of some trouble, you might just have to walk over and get him.

8. Leave it how you found it.
Simple: If your dog poops, you scoop. I know, I’m repeating Rule No. 1. But apparently it needs to be done. The sign doesn’t say, “Watch your step.” My shoes and I thank you.

 

 

I missed my son’s playoff game to make music

Hey kiddo. I’m sorry I missed your big baseball playoff game the other day. It was your best game yet, and your huge hit helped send your team to the championship. I wasn’t there because I was at my high school — a place I hadn’t been for 30 years — singing with other former choir students in preparation for a reunion concert to honor the director who inspired and influenced countless students over her career.

During a break from our rehearsals, I checked my text messages, and Dad had been keeping me up to date on the game. I let out a “Whohoo!” and told everyone around me about your great success. We all cheered for you and your team.

Then we headed back on stage to keep singing, which was where I really needed to be that night. It was a big decision to go on this trip during this incredibly busy end-of-the-school year rush. I felt guilty about leaving Dad and you, about buying a plane ticket, asking my friends to help shuttle you to your activities (thanks to my mom tribe, who totally got why I wanted to be there).  I told you there would be a lot of games in your life, but this reunion concert was a once-in-a-lifetime event, and I really wanted to be part of it.

Once I was standing on the risers under the lights, sharing harmonies with singers who I had known for decades, I knew I had made the right decision.

I haven’t gone to my class reunions because our family had other things going on. But being at this reunion was important for me, and it turned out it was even more meaningful than I expected. I stayed at Grandpa’s house with two of my best friends from high school. When we all piled into the car, parked at our high school and walked into the auditorium for rehearsal, it felt like no time had passed. We had made that same trip hundreds of times during high school.

hee haw honeys

The Hee Haw Honeys, from our yearbook. Two of these silly girls were at the reunion with me.

I spent endless hours in that auditorium over four years, rehearsing for concerts, learning songs from “The Messiah,” and practicing for musicals like “Hello Dolly” and “The Music Man.” One year, my friends and I went on stage for a special number, dressed in robes with  bandanas and curlers in our hair and sang a song called, “We’re Not Ones to Go Round Spreading Rumors” that was made famous by an old TV show you’ve never heard of. We made up our own lyrics about classmates and teachers and we brought down the house. I hadn’t thought of that for a long time.

There’s a lot of stuff about high school I’d rather forget. But being in choir was the best part. Music does bring people together, and it was magical to reconnect with classmates and others who were just as moved as I was to sing together again under the direction of a woman who was a big part of our lives at a time when we were learning who we were. This time around, people were older, some grayer or balding, some heavier, some gorgeous as ever. But the voices were the same, and I felt sheer joy sharing the stage with them all. Our conversations picked up like we had been there yesterday, like we were all still the teenagers we once were trying to get our songs pitch-perfect.

When we weren’t rehearsing or reminiscing, our conversations revolved around what had happened since then, our families, our careers, and our real lives that started after we left high school and our parents. We have all lived through a lot, survived blows more crushing than not being asked to prom, and had moments much bigger than high school graduation. No one can tell us that things that seem like the end of the world at 16 won’t matter one bit when we’re holding our grandchildren.

See, this is who I was long before your dad or sister or you came along. Just a teenage girl who loved singing, worked on the school newspaper, hand-wrote papers for class, went to parties, and worried about whether any boy would ever like me. We giggled with our friends on phones mounted on the wall and met up at McDonald’s to see what was going on that night. We laughed, we cried, we sang. So many memories flooded me as we went through seven poignant songs in that auditorium that was so strangely familiar.

My family will always be my priority. You guys are my heart, my present (my gift) and my future. But my past, experiences like those I relived last week, shaped who I am and made me the person I became that led me to you all. It’s important to maintain those relationships, to nurture the parts of me that are all mine, so I can help you become the person you want to be.

I’ll probably be humming, “How Can I Stop from Singing,” and “Thank You for the Music,” for a while, as I recall this special time with longtime friends. But I’ll be in the stands for that championship game this week, uplifted from my time away.