Friday, August 29, 2008

Showing Off My Baby--I Mean Puppy

The other night I took my puppy Annie to church choir practice. We have a small informal group and these were the same people who threw me a puppy shower when we adopted two-month-old Chico and Annie in April. Now six months, Annie had just been spayed and we needed to keep her from roughhousing with her brother. Those two play hard, gnashing their teeth and tossing each other on the ground. Too much for a girl with stitches in her belly. Chico had spent the day at Dogport daycare, but they close at six and I needed to keep them apart, so Annie got to go for a ride.

She's not the first dog or cat to visit the chapel, but I was glad to see Father Brian heading off on a walk toward the beach as I arrived. I doubt he would approve.

We practice in the chapel. I introduced Annie to Jesus, hanging on the big crucifix and let her make the rounds of all the women gathered in a semi-circle to sing. Before we started singing, I put her through her paces: sit, stay, down, come. Then Mary Lee, our director arrived. When she played the first chord on the piano, the dog stared in astonishment at all this sound coming out. I sat in a chair at first, then slipped to the floor to get closer to my dog. She seemed to like our singing. I laughed so hard I almost cried when Annie started singing, too. Punctuating our practice with "sit" "down" and "shh," I sang my solos holding my music in one hand, petting the dog with the other.

Eventually I took her out to the car, but it was only the next day I realized how much I was acting like a typical new mom. I didn't have to bring Annie into the chapel, but I wanted to show her off. Wasn't she smart? Wasn't she beautiful? Wasn't she big? I had left my guitar at home so I could hold onto Annie. Annie, Annie, Annie. The whole practice revolved around my puppy. Is that not the same thing as a woman with her human child?

Friday, August 22, 2008


After yoga class yesterday, three of us got onto the topic of children. Nancy and I don't have any offspring. Lynne has two. Do you have any regrets, asked Nancy as she smoothed her wild hair. Well, said Lynne, if I had it to do over, I don't know. She explained that once you have kids, you always feel responsible, always worry about them. Her daughter is 40, and she still worries about her all the time.

Nancy, the only one of us still ovulating, said she really does not regret her decision to remain childfree, except once in a while when she sees a little brother and sister together. Then she feels a twinge of emotion--but not enough to change her mind.

How about me? I looked up from tieing up my mat. Well, yes, I have often regretted not having children. But lately, dealing with my six-month old pups, not so much. They laughed. I went on to detail some of the dogs' recent exploits, including shredding the hot tub cover, destroying the screen door, eating the paint off the walls in the laundry room, and smearing mud all over everything while it was raining and they got bored.

However, I noted that I did wish I had adult children to hang out with and to help me with things. Nancy rapidly reminded me that many children don't get along with their parents, aren't around to help, live far away, etc. I know, I know, I know. But if I had children, they might be worrying about me the way Lynne worries about her kids.

But as for little ones? I think I've grown out of it. While we were doing our final relaxation, I heard the gym owner's tots chattering in the other room. At that moment as they interrupted my meditation, I wanted to vaporize them. :-)Then I put them into the background with the potato chip delivery truck outside and went back to pretending I was a rock in a river on a sunny day.

Whatever we feel about childlessness, yoga tells us to focus on our breath, live in the moment and find that calm, peaceful place in our hearts. Breathe in, breathe out with a nice long ommmmm. What is, is.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Does It Take a Village?

I've been working on a chapter about old age without children. Who does one turn to for medical care, practical help, and emotional support? If we had children, we would hope to get help from them, but since we don't, who will take care of us?

Some childless folks really aren't worried about it. They've got siblings and nieces and nephews to help them. Others count on church groups or friends. Still others say they have set aside enough money to pay for their care. But some of us just don't know what we're going to do if we end up old and alone. I think we all agree we want to stay out of nursing homes if we possibly can and we want to be self-sufficient. It would be nice to have adult children to take care of us, but there's no guarantee that they would be willing or able. Nor would we want to burden them with our troubles. So what should we do?

An increasingly popular option is to hook up with other aging men and women to take care of each other. This could be an informal arrangement: I'll be your emergency contact,and you'll be mine. It's important to make sure someone you trust has power of attorney and the legal right to make medical decisions if you can't. See your lawyer to set this up. A point to consider: If you're both the same age, one of you might become disabled and not be able to help the other. So cultivate some younger friends as well as your peers.

Some people are participating in a more formal arrangement. Have you heard of Beacon Hill Village? I hadn't either. It's actually a neighborhood of people over 50 who pay to join and share all kinds of services. The idea is to allow people to live in their own homes with dignity and the help they need. It sounds pretty good. Read about it. A couple other similar communities are Dupont Circle Village and Kalorama Village, whose link at seems to be one of those that won't let you leave that page, so proceed with caution.

I think the most important thing is to have some sort of plan. Nobody really wants to be alone, unwell and unable to get help. That applies no matter what age you are.

Stay well!

Friday, August 8, 2008

Mom Club strikes again and so do the dogs

My puppies are in timeout right now. They were so cute sleeping together atop the spa cover--until I looked out the window and saw them shredding it. I took a cue from Supernanny and shut them in the laundry room, not so much to think about what they did--they're dogs--but to give them time to find something else to chew up and me time to stop being angry. Think they'll get through the duct tape I used to patch the cover? You bet. And wait till their father gets home.

Still on the dogs, Chico literally chewed off Annie's collar day before yesterday and chomped it into little pieces. I saw it hanging from his mouth, ran out and gathered the bits of cloth. I thought I got them all, but yesterday morning, I discovered that during the night he had barfed up the rest of the collar, including a plastic clasp. Yikes. I hear they calm down after the first year. I hope so. At least human babies don't have teeth.


I opened my blogger screen this morning and what did I see? Baby pictures. Come on, Blogger, some of us don't want to see babies right now.

At last weekend's conference, I was having a fine time at the bar with a bunch of other writers when suddenly the conversation turned to children and I found myself sitting alone with my beer and basketball on the overhead TV screen while the others were huddled together talking about school, obedience, shots and other kid topics. Once again, the Mom Club had gathered and I was left out. Ever feel that way?

I did meet with agents and editors about the Childless by Marriage book at the conference. No good news yet, but it's coming.