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Every so often it is important to step back and reflect on your life and the world around you. To embrace every opportunity to learn and laugh and become a better person in the process.
I move through my life mostly covered in dog hair and slobber, but on occasion, I experience events that stop me in my tracks. These events are often insignificant on their face but can tell a cardinal life lesson if I give them the chance.
It was a day like any other. I was aimlessly perusing the internet when my daughter requested my attention…for the third time. I stood up, causing my once lap-cradled iPad to flip upside down and land screen down on our tile floor.
Yet in true Apple fashion, the iPad still worked. It worked perfectly, with the exception of small shards of glass which would stick in my finger when I touched the screen.
No name iPad was given a name. “Cracky.”
Walmart Flip Flops
AKA the State Shoe of Arizona
I wear flip flops every day of my life. Even when I was working outside the home full time I would take my heels off at the end of a long day and slip on a pair of flip flops.
I like flip flops. Not as much as my running shoes, but I like them. And you would think, with my reliance on this footwear choice, I would have more than one pair with which to change things up once in a while.
Nope. I have one pair. Or should I say had?
As is a daily occurrence, Sulley and Junior, step on my feet. Constantly. But, while my feet are generally able to take this beating, my $9.00 Walmart flip flops were not.
The thong in my flip flops had been pulled out one too many times by the immense weight of big dog paws.
I could mention here the number of occasions these giant paws on my flip flops caused me to trip resulting in countless minor injuries… but I won’t. This is about the injury to my flip flop, not me.
As I have pointed out in the past, I don’t like to dwell on problems, I want to find solutions.
So, what was my solution? All you handymen out there will be so proud of me…
$9.00 Walmart flip flops were given a name: “Duct Tape Flip Flops.”
Two Big Dogs
I have two Mastiffs, Sulley, and Junior. Sulley is almost 4 and Junior is almost 2.
Sulley is (was) a cryptorchid. At his 7 weeks check-up, only one testicle had descended. While there was a small chance his testicle would still descend over the next few weeks, there was a greater chance that it wouldn’t.
Sulley was supposed to be a show dog.
But instead, today, after two grueling neuters at the age of 2, my Sulley is a highly intelligent, intuitive, ball-obsessed pet.
He will never see the inside of a show ring.
Junior was a show dog. He never did much winning, but he made that ring look good when he was in it. Damn good!
Junior was diagnosed with Wobbler Syndrome at 21 months old, causing his health to be frustratingly unpredictable.
While Junior’s name will never begin with an AKC CH, he will always be my silly, sometimes naughty, ball-crazy boy.
Life Lessons Grounded in Connection
Alright, so what do these four events have to do with one another? Because I tend toward verbosity, I am going to spare you the fluff and get right to the point.
Here are 5 life lessons I have learned through life with two children and two huge dogs.
Life Lesson #1
Live Your Life, Don’t Scroll Through It
Perhaps it is the PTSD of mommy guilt because at that moment I was focused on my iPad and not my daughter. At that moment, God blessed me with a wake-up call. God blessed me with Cracky.
At that moment I could almost hear Him. “For crying out loud, get off the screen!”
There is more to life than whatever random, brain cell-sucking dribble is coming from that screen (not including Big Dog Mom of course!).
Let us NOT turn into the 600 pound Axiom hovercar people in WALL-E who lived for 10 years next to a pool they didn’t even know was there because of the constant screen in front of their faces.
Open your eyes and look around. Observe how many people are moving through life with a screen in front of their face. Be honest in answering these questions.
What is this reliance on screens doing to our humanity? How we see the world around us (or don’t). How we relate to one another? How we parent our children?
Get off the screens! Get your kids off their screens. And, better yet, don’t get them started.
Life Lesson #2
Relax and Stop Worrying
One of my children struggles in school. This is the child for whom I gave up my successful 15-year career and about whom I worry most.
My child’s 2nd-grade teacher gave me a gift for volunteering in her classroom several years ago. It was a little compact mirror with the word “RELAX” inscribed on the top.
When she handed me the gift, she spoke briefly of my tendency toward anxiety, worry, impatience, and inadequacy as it relates to my child. This little mirror was offered as a reminder to RELAX. To recognize the parent that I wanted to be – patient, empathetic, loving, and confident.
She was right. Life is too short to spend it worrying about that which you cannot control.
When Junior was diagnosed with Wobblers, I did not sleep for a week and when I finally could, I was still consumed with worry. And if I’m being honest, I still am.
I know that I am doing everything humanly possible to help him. Medication, supplements and a diet change have all made a world of difference for him, but he has a disease. A progressive disease whose clinical course cannot be predicted or controlled.
It took me several weeks after his diagnosis to come to this conclusion. The realization that my worry, my anxiety, and, let’s face it, my fear of the future and what Wobbler Syndrome will mean for Junior, are not productive.
My worry does nothing to stop the proliferation of bone into his spinal cord. My anxiety about Wobbler Syndrome does nothing to increase my knowledge, confidence, and ability to battle it.
I made the mistake of searching for Wobbler Syndrome on YouTube shortly after Junior’s diagnosis, resulting in a fetal position breakdown. And while I still can’t watch Wobbler’s dogs without crying, my fear of what lies ahead for Junior has evolved into living.
So, instead of worry, I choose to savor every kiss of his huge, wrinkly head, and toss of the ball with him in the yard. Every moment with Junior is a blessing that I am not worthy of, but that which I am eternally grateful for.
Worrying does not help Junior or my children. Living and loving does.
So here is my advice. Look in the mirror and “RELAX.”
Control what you can control and let the rest go.
Life Lesson #3
Cherish the Imperfections – They are Character in Disguise
None of us is perfect. Not our kids. Not our dogs. And we, as parents, are probably the most flawed of them all.
What we see on the outside are Super Mom’s, award-winning show dogs, and straight-A honor students. But the truth is, even with the barrage of stunning photos and the endless onslaught of awards, successes, and superiority, none of them are perfect.
With this 24/7 reminder of our own imperfections, I declare enough is enough.
Cherish your imperfections. Cherish what makes you, you. Cherish all that make your child the gift from God that she is.
Cherish the fact that imperfections are why your dogs will never be champions in the show ring. Cherish every imperfection as a blessing in disguise.
Imperfections make us who we are. Imperfections give us character.
This is not to excuse the lazy, the slovenly, or the perpetually ignorant. These are the dumbed-down standards of a modern culture fixated on Real Housewives over being real.
It is a declaration that perfection should not be our objective, character should.
Life Lesson #4
Priorities Change and That is Ok.
Four years of college and four more of graduate school prepared me to give up a successful business and 15-year career for a life devoted to my family, my children, my two big dogs, and Big Dog Mom, LLC.
Priorities in life change. They change when we graduate college. They change (irrevocably) when we have children. And they change as we live out the passions in our lives.
Sulley and Junior were supposed to be show dogs. What was “Westminster, here we come” became “the Most Painful Intersection Between Diet and Genetics.”
In my pursuit of Junior’s new name, AKC CH, I prioritized dog shows over time with my children, time with my husband, paying for therapy dog certification classes for Sulley, and countless other things that, at the time, seemed less important.
And while I do not regret one word I wrote during our dog show days, I have regrets.
I deeply regret failing to congratulate the countless handlers who beat us in the ring. I regret letting my competitive spirit consume me. I regret losing perspective and acting accordingly.
Priorities change in the name of progress, not to dwell in regret.
Remember what I said; imperfections are a blessing in disguise.
Life Lesson #5
Have a Sense of Humor
Cracky worked. I saw no need to run out and buy another iPad if this one was still functional. Sure my frugality came with little shards of glass in my fingers, but Cracky’s time had not yet come.
Duct Tape Flip Flops worked as well. Granted the duct tape moved as I walked so every couple days I had to replace the tape to keep the thong in place. No one could see the duct tape. Only my family and I knew the truth of its presence.
As embarrassing as they are to reveal publicly, both of these items have contributed to a hysterical dinner conversation with my family, funny stories with friends, and even material for this blog.
Find the humor in life. Laugh a little, especially at yourself.
Remember, another name for someone who takes life too seriously is not smart, it’s a curmudgeon. Don’t be that person.
And if someone makes fun of your duct tape flip flops, RELAX and exclaim, “I love them too! The duct tape sure does give them character, doesn’t it?”