Every family has an unwritten collection of rules, habits, and traditions that make it unique. They bond you to the people you've shared a name and a home with. What a gift it would be to gather your family--whatever that looks like for you--and record what's special about your tribe.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

We Have Pets: Blind, Deaf and (A Little) Dumb

We are dog people. A house doesn’t feel like a home to me if there isn’t a dog to come running when I walk in the door.  Yes, I’m tired of finding dog hair on every piece of clothing that I own, but the benefits far outweigh the wardrobe issues.  I grew up with dogs, and I think kids learn a lot about responsibility, unconditional love, and taking care of others when they have pets.  Five years ago, on a trip back to Iowa, we got Daisy.  We call her our supermodel, as she is thin, leggy, and beautiful, but also a bit dense.   

Almost three years ago, my daughter saved up her money to buy a rodent.  We are not rodent people, we are dog people.  I listened kindly to her request for a gerbil or a hamster to take up residence at Chez Sparks, and then respectfully declined.  Not to be deterred, Macy retreated and prepared a presentation—which she wisely pitched to her dad.  Mike couldn’t say no, and Pippy the gerbil became a Sparks.

Pippy is blind, and only has one eye.  He happily lives in a cage on my laundry room counter.  He looks like a long-tailed mouse, gray and soft.  He kicks his sometimes damp paper-shred bedding all over the counter and floor and loves to chew paper towel tubes.  He ate every single piece of plastic in his original cage, and now enjoys his food out of one of my ceramic, fluted ramekins.  Despite all reason, I love Pippy.  He lets us hold him, and responds to my voice by adorably popping up out of the mountains of paper shreds he erects in the corners of his cage.  Gerbils don’t have long lives, and I will truly miss Pippy when he is gone.  Probably not enough to replace him, but enough to remember him fondly.

Two years ago, Macy again began campaigning, this time for another dog.  She researched breeds that would be a good fit, and found a book at her school library on the Catahoula Leopard dog.  I have owned dogs my whole life, but had never heard of this one.  Apparently they are good coon hunters used in Louisiana and such. For Christmas last year, we decided to get a second dog, and wanted a rescue puppy, so I started browsing the local shelter’s web sites, and found an adorable, deaf puppy named Laney.  The web site said she was part Catahoula--destiny!

Alas, Laney only pretended to be a Catahoula Leopard mix to earn a spot in the family, and has since been revealed by a DNA-test that I did not pay for to be a mix of 4 breeds—none of which are Catahoula.  Again, we were coerced by our sweet and persuasive first-born child.

So, two kids, two dogs, and a blind, one-eyed gerbil--sounds about right to us.

Friday, March 6, 2015

In This Family: We Forgive

We have a rule in our house:  If I say I’m sorry for wronging you, you can’t say “forgiven” until you are ready to mean it.  If you aren’t ready to forgive, then don’t say it.  Just say, “okay, thank you,”when someone says sorry before you are ready to forgive.

Because, once you say sorry, it’s forgiven and forgotten.  You can’t bring it up again tomorrow, next week, next year.  We don’t remind each other of our past mistakes.  We keep no record of wrongs.  All four of us will hurt each other in big and small ways, and we will apologize, and we will forgive. 

My son is the quickest to forgive and move on, my sweet girl, not so much.  She has always felt things more deeply, and has been known to hold a grudge a few minutes or hours longer than her little brother.  There was a time when she was about 6 that I hurt her feelings.  Neither of us remembers what it was that upset her, but we both remember her retreating to her room to write me a note about how I’d hurt her sweet little self.  She continued to use this “retreat and write a note” technique over the next few years.  I wish we kept one of the notes as an illustration here, but part of forgiving and moving on was destroying those notes.  NO record of wrongs!

My husband and I married in 1998, on the one-year anniversary of our first date.  We were in our later twenties and both had plenty of bad habits from immature past relationships.  I don’t want to know the math on how many times I have wronged him, and I certainly don’t want to remember all the times he disappointed me.