Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Dinner Party's Been Postponed to 2028

I’m a dog lover.  And I don’t mean a little bit, I mean a lotta bit.  In fact, I think my home address and a sample of my scent is in some Canine Safe House database, because the strays…they know where to find me.

Last April I had to make the heart wrenching decision to put down one of those strays; a grumpy-growly 17 year old named Tramp.  Tramp was a Rottweiler puppy who was left on my doorstep by some lovely neighbors.  Tramp was a sweet and rambunctious puppy, and then he grew up.  After year 1, he was never nice to anyone.  He never bit anyone, but in all the years I had him, he never let anyone pet him, or look at him for that matter, without showing his teeth and doing this throaty, almost demonic kind of growl.  All in all, a real family treasure.  Everyone wanted to love Tramp - but no one could ever get close enough.  Well, no one but me.  Tramp and I had a special bond.  And last April, I had to say goodbye.

Not only was I heartbroken, but my Collie-mix, Sally, (Tramp's best friend and also a stray) was utterly devastated. She moped around with her head held low, she didn't eat - she was obviously grieving.  Now, apparently, when there are two dogs in the household, you are supposed to simply allow the surviving dog to grieve.  It’s a process that they will get through on their own. 
 
What you’re not, I repeat not, supposed to do is rush right out and remedy the situation with a replacement dog.

Such a shame Google Search wasn't around in April 2012…

Enter Clifford...

Let me explain a little something about myself - I have no self-control.  And by no, I mean zero.  I am physically unable to say no to something, especially if that something is sure to totally disrupt my life.  I will turn my life upside down in order to help someone (or something) else - and then passive aggressively cuss them (or it) behind their backs like the considerate, well-mannered person I am.  Armed with this valuable information about myself, I knew that I would be unable to go into a rescue and not take every dog they had available.  So...I did what any normal person would do.  I sent my cat-adoring, dog-dispassionate friend, Kate, to find my new dog.
  
Kate – “What kind of dog are you looking for?”

Me – “I don’t know, something about the size of Sally. A dog Sally can play with.”


Sally

You get the idea – about that big.  I mean, how hard can it be?  Go in, find a dog about "that" size.  A cute, cuddly, Sally-like dog. 
 
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This, my friends, is what Kate returned with.

Clifford the Lap Dog
Clifford was on borrowed time at the shelter and I think this pulled on Kate's heartstrings.  If you can’t tell from the picture, he’s a Pit/Retriever mix.  And he’s huge.  Big.  Huge. 

I had never had a Pit Bull.  In fact, the stories I'd heard about Pits terrified me.  I just said goodbye to a bully breed I had for 17 years, and as heartbreaking as that was, I was selfishly glad the future me wouldn't have to say, "We're delighted to have little Timmy stay the night.  Now if you'll just sign this liability waiver..."  Those words just don't seem to comfort parents the way one would expect. 
 
I might be a touch obsessive/compulsive.  And because of this, I began pouring myself into learning about the Pit breed so I could ensure raising a healthy, well adjusted Pit that others would love and not fear.  What I came to find was that, not only is Clifford a huge love bug who's great with kids and other dogs, but Pit Bulls as a group are a misunderstood breed with a truly unfair rap.  I could go on and on about this subject, but that's a post for another day. 

What I also came to realize was that having a puppy - huge or not, he's still a puppy - was a lot of work.  I forgot how much energy those guys have!  As a result, everything doubled - dog walks, trips to the dog park, baths, vacuuming, Swiffering, everything.  (Well, everything but poop - that seemed to triple.)  But at least Sally was happy, right?  She had a new companion and was happy again...right?  

Actually, Sally hates Clifford.  

If you were to ask my mom, she'd tell you that it would appear I live my life by asking myself, "Karen, what's the last thing on earth that you need right now?And then, with a fierce tenacity, I go out and make whatever "that" is, happen.  See where I'm going with this?

Meet Teddy... (and, yes, he's even bigger - and younger - than Clifford)


Teddy

I innocently found Teddy when I went to pick up Clifford from a 6 week training camp.  Who knew the training camp also doubled as a dog rescue?  I've since been told by my boyfriend that prior to visiting a business of any kind, I need to ask if they double in operation as a dog rescue or animal shelter.  My gynecologist was profoundly confused by this question.
 
I mean sure, pizza delivery at my house is like a full-contact sport. (those of you with dogs will understand this one.)  And, yes, my dogs all but tackle me when I get home from work.  So I won't be having any dinner parties until, say, 2028...eh, whatever - I'm not classy enough for a dinner party anywayI wouldn't trade my dogs for the world.  I could talk about unconditional love and the companionship they provide - but you know all that.  These dogs are part of our family.  Like big, loud, oafish - possibly drunk - uncles.  And I love knowing that I've rescued 3 of the sweetest souls on this planet who, without me, wouldn't be here at all.


Sally, Clifford & Teddy
Did I mention I have no self-control?

Monday, January 21, 2013

It Doesn't Have to be Mango

I have no idea how I'm not a millionaire yet.  What with all of the fabulous (and plausible) ideas flowing through my household, something's bound to stick.  Just last night, my son helpfully suggested I could save all the money I spend on Scentsy products by inventing gas producing mango-scented dog treats. (Did I mention we were a klassy bunch?)

As you can see, I drink from the well of auspicious ideas on a daily basis. 

I considered playing the lottery.  But quickly thought better of that idea.  I'd be one of those lottery winner fails, for sure.  I picture myself wanting to remain a common-man millionaire.  "Sure, I have all of this money, but I'm just like you," I would say.  I would continue to work, stay in my modest home, press on driving my Altima with 134,963 miles and perpetually lit "Check Engine" light, and continue to buy my formal wear at Target. 

But then, I'd get lottery winner unrest.  I'd do something to set me apart - something millionaire-y - like buy a lion.  Then I'm sure Kyle (the lion) would do something unfortunate, like trample the neighbor's rose bushes, or, you know, eat her...and I'd be sued for my winnings, my house and all of my Target formal wear.  (They'd tell me just to keep my car, though. What a bunch of imaginary asses.)

I actually do have a path to my millions, however.  You see, I'm what some lovingly refer to as a cult member.  I wear the moniker proudly, because without it, I wouldn't be in the financial situation I'm in currently.  Not a millionaire by any stretch, but I'm definitely better off than I was in year's past.

A little background:  I'm a single, working mom of a 12 year old son.  I divorced in 2007 and was drowning in debt.  Saving for college or retirement were ridiculous thoughts.  To put it in perspective, I used my Shell gas card to purchase groceries, not gas.  Ah, yes - good decisions abound. 

A friend of mine, with whom I confided my woes, suggested that I listen to some financial CD's she had.  "You can just listen in your car during your commute," she said.  I'm not even sure she finished the offer before I shut her down.  Thanks, but no thanks.  Look, I've already got the worst road rage in the country on any given week day.  Compound that with a financial lesson and you may as well just rename my daily commute to Hell.

Hell, however, had a whole new meaning when I was faced with the possibility of losing my home.  At that point, I tucked my tail between my legs, gritted my teeth and reluctantly asked my friend for the CD's. (good Lord, pride is something I've got to work on.)  

I thought it best to wait until I was about 15 minutes from home to pop in the first CD.  I figured it would take at least 16 minutes of being told, "You're a loser and you're doing it wrong" for me to become homicidal.  I intended to listen for 15 minutes and then go inside and whip up a little Shell Station Tartare.  What I did instead, was sit in the driveway for 6 hours and listen to every CD in the case.  I emerged a totally different person. 

The guy on the CD's was down to earth.  He was motivating.  He spoke to me like I was a human being.  He had actually been where I was financially - and he climbed his way out.  It wasn't magic, it wasn't investment schemes - it was as simple as creating a budget and telling your money where to go.  And if you're thinking, "But my budget is upside down - I'm bringing in less than I owe."  That's okay. 

The man on the CD's was Dave Ramsey. 

I am not now, nor have I ever been employed by Dave Ramsey.  I am not being compensated by Dave Ramsey in any way by writing this entry.  But I highly recommend checking him out if you're having trouble making ends meet.  I have spoken to a lot of people who are in the same situation I was in 6 years ago, and I thought it might help to know that someone else has been where you are - and that same someone else came out on the other side.  Today, I have no credit card debt, my car will be paid off in 2 months, college savings and retirement are in place and my house will be paid off in 2021 if all goes according to plan.  And please don't be mislead, not everyone is lucky enough to drive the Altima - that's just me.

I couldn't have done any of it, however, without the help of Dave Ramsey and my wonderful friend who offered the CD's.  A million thanks to both.  

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And, hey, if Dave Ramsey isn't for you, you can totally steal the gas-producing mango-scented dog treat idea.  

You're welcome. 

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

I Believe That's Strike 3

Do you have any idea how exhausting it is worrying about what everyone else thinks of you?  I don’t know how I make it through the day, tip toeing around the minefield I’ve created for myself.  Is someone speaking ill of me?  Did I do the wrong thing or say something offensive?  I will get off the phone after talking to a friend and pick the entire conversation apart, wondering if I said something they might have misinterpreted.  When it was raining out and I said, “Stay dry!” did she think I was suggesting she was an alcoholic? 

And being a mom…?  Are you kidding me?  That’s like having a renegade “me” on steroids out there doing things that I can’t police or control.  Saying things like, “Who’s God?” and “My mom buys Lunchables.” 
Being a divorced mom, I feel like I have 2 strikes against me out of the gate.  I always fear that people (especially other moms) might unfairly pass judgment on me; that they might label me with some stereotype of a beer swillin’, tube top wearin’, “woo” girl, who flashes her boobs at NASCAR races.  I know I shouldn’t care what other people think, but when it comes to how I’m perceived as a mother, I absolutely do care. 

When Ryan first asked to play soccer, I decided to go the church league route.  Admittedly, my son is more of an academic than a jock, so I thought with the church league there would be less chance of any post-game swirlies should my son inadvertently score for the other team. (a very real possibility) 
So there we were – my slightly younger boyfriend, my son’s dad and I (sketchy already, isn’t it?) - at the last game of a successful, swirlie-free soccer season.  The coach’s wife was talking to me about how she and her husbanded decided to move their son to the church league because the city league was just too competitive for his young age.  “And you wouldn’t believe some of the things coming out of the other boy’s mouths,” she said, “We just didn’t want our son around that.”  Of course I was nodding in emphatic agreement. 

And I believe it was directly after the coach’s wife wrapped up our conversation with, “We have so enjoyed having Ryan on the team this year,” that my life came to a complete standstill – as Ryan thundered across the field, “You friggin’ SUCK!” to the opposing team….of girls… 
**hushed whispers**  - “Just as I suspected.  That beer swillin’, boob flashin’, floozy is raising a foul mouthed misogynist.  I’ll bet he eats Lunchables and doesn’t even know who God is.”

That might not be verbatim, but suffice it to say we haven’t been invited to any church socials…

With age I've gotten better about being my own person and not looking for acceptance at every turn.  I've also gotten better about not over-analyzing every conversation I have.  In fact, just recently my boss was popping popcorn (or as we like to call it in our office, "crack").  When my boss walked by, I said, "Your crack sure does smell good!"  And I still returned to work the next day.   

I call this progress.
By the way, the soccer anecdote notwithstanding, my kid’s a good kid.  Scratch that, he’s a great kid.  Even at 12 he still kisses me and hugs me in public.  When he introduces me to his friends he says, “This is my mom, isn’t she pretty?”  He’s exceptionally smart, has a great sense of humor and isn’t afraid to take the road less traveled.  This I admire as I’m a conformist to the nth degree.    

He has the kindest heart, a giving spirit, and a love for all things “family.”  I’d like to think that I had something to do with these last three.

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Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a NASCAR race to prepare for…