Get Centered

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 The other day as we wended our way down the hill towards our house, wrapping up a walk that, for some reason, had caused Katy-the-Wonder-Dog many fearful pauses, the afternoon sun broke through the clouds, and we had something more than a walk.

I wanted to step up the pace for the last quarter mile and burn some calories. Katy decided sunny dirt was more worth sniffing than cloudy dirt. We trotted and paused a few times and then as the sun sank closer to the mountain across the way from us, she stopped and sniffed the air. 

“Katy, ” I coaxed. She ignored me, closing her eyes and turning her face to the sun and the mountain. I noted the line of light highlighting her and sank down to take a picture, but before I could tap the shutter button, I felt the sun on my face and closed my eyes for a moment too. 

The walk had been cross training. It had been a bathroom break. It had been huffing and puffing. Now, in the slightly warmer sunny air, it was something better. I opened my eyes to see Katy still meditating (if dogs meditate) on the sun and the sounds of the dozens of seasonal streams that were flowing down the mountains.  

It was as if someone had gently said, “Stop.” Stop, for just a moment, worrying about being able to run 3 miles or pay bills tonight or find time for everything on your list and get centered. 

A dog down the hill barked, and Katy’s head turned in that direction. I started the trot toward home and to-do’s again utterly unperturbed by the length of my list and committed to finding time to get centered more often.

A Flea Ring Circus

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“That looks like fun,” I said, pointing to the placard for the upcoming Bondville fair.  The Big Guy barely registered heard me over the din emanating from the diner into the waiting area, and I let it go.  There was already a circus waiting for us at home.

We had come home from vacation the night before already a little deflated from a two hour delay on our train ride, but we were still looking forward to a family evening of sloth on the couch.  Then thirteen-year-old Jack began yelling from the bathroom, and our homecoming was upended.

 I got to the end of the hall just as Jack raced out of the bathroom, his legs dotted with fleas.  Our dog, still at the kennel for the weekend, had left the larvae as a welcome home gift. Without a furry nest, the pests targeted each of us as we entered.  Fortunately, the upstairs of our house was still closed off and flea-free and, doffing our clothes downstairs, we scuttled out to the car for a hose down and wardrobe change before plotting our next steps.  

Hoping that Google satellite didn’t work too well by twilight, I rummaged through my bag for a clean pair of jeans as the Big Guy and I debated who would carry the best flea remedies at eight o’ clock on a Saturday night.  Three hours and four stores later, we rolled back down the driveway armed with fogger and traps and a strategy, but the vacation aura had seriously begun to fade.

We spent the night camped upstairs, slapping at phantom fleas.  I woke early on Sunday and went for a run, hoping to restore some of the restorative I’d been creating over the last two weeks.  Returning home refreshed, the Big Guy and I commenced the first battle of the day  – fogging the fleas.  The need to get out of the house for a few hours was the perfect excuse to head to the diner for our favorite breakfast, and my spirits continued to rise.  I knew we had a day of laundry and cleaning ahead of us, but nothing is quite as restorative as a meal with no dishes to do.  

Then we walked in the the door.

Almost immediately, I was assaulted by the little vermin.  Yelling to the kids to stay out of the house, I forgot about restoring sprits and began collecting washables while the Big Guy vacuumed up the pests – dead or alive.  For three hours we cleaned and scrubbed, preparing another round of fogger and traps.   All through the day we laundered and cleaned and vacuumed, and it was dark again before we cautiously declared “Mission Accomplished.”  It was a dubious victory – I had cleaned before the vacation, and a day of scouring left us with basically the same house, minus the invaders.  The fleas had rallied once or twice, but by the time we sat down for dinner, any itches were caused by our imaginations.  

More licentious than the itching, however, was the impact a day of hard labor had had on our moods – or so I thought.  Our previously-planned evening of sloth began late, but our boys were still ready for a snuggle on the sofa.  The Big Guy and I were starving and exhausted, but quietly pleased with ourselves.  More than once during the day we had remarked to each other that we make a good team, and that’s not something you always discover on vacation.  It’s something you find out when you’re standing in your underwear the middle of your driveway, frantically trying to find some peace in the chaos.