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Summer #4: How I'm really spending my summer break
I got a dog! Meet Lucinda, the critter that's taken over my life.
I had such big hopes and dreams for my summer sabbatical. Now that it’s about half over, how’s it going?
I’m glad you asked. This is how it’s going:
When we decided to move out of Portland and into the country, I had a vision of what I wanted life to be like in our new home. I imagined daily walks through a beautiful landscape, growing more fruits and vegetables, a place for family to gather and spend time.
Over the last two years, that vision has slowly become my reality. There was one thing missing: I knew I wanted a dog.
Yet, I always seemed to have some excuse about why I wasn’t moving forward with what we began to call The Dog Project. I was too busy, or I had a trip coming up, or I thought we should get more fencing. But with a month off work, I knew there would be no better time and began to obsessively check Petfinder.
And once you’re logging into Petfinder every day, it won’t be long.
So here she is, the newest member of our family! Lucy is an Australian Shepherd. We don’t know much about her background. She was surrendered to a rescue along with most of her litter and likely came from a backyard breeder of some kind.
She’s still a puppy at about 8 months old, and a bit nervous about all the changes, but she is extremely affectionate, goofy, intelligent, and living up to her breed’s reputation of being a Velcro Dog – she wants to be with me all the time. I can’t wait to see her grow up and gain confidence.
In the meantime, the amount of work a puppy takes (even an older puppy like Lucy) is bonkers. I have to watch her constantly and it feels impossible to do anything but hang out with her, groom her, play with her, and teach her. Currently, I’m writing this while she naps on the floor next to me, and I’ll stop when she wakes up.
But it’s a total joy.
Taking care of Lucy has been so all-consuming that I find myself uncharacteristly chill about everything else I wanted to do. My perfectionism and chronic conviction that I MUST do ALL the things has faded away. This innocent creature in my care takes precedence over all of it.
This made me realize that there are certain experiences in life that are so all-consuming that they give you the gift of instant clarity about what you must do. I’ve experienced many of these: unexpected grief, supporting someone through a catastrophe, a new family member, moving to a new city. I don’t have a kid, but obviously that is as life-shaking as it comes.
These experiences have all forced me to do less in order to focus on something that matters, usually for a finite period of time.
In contrast, my normal focus is on my business. I love my work and feel highly engaged in it, but it invites me to think about more instead of less. There is always something more I could be doing, some project I could be working on, someone I could be assisting, some new idea I could start.
This has trained my brain to always think in terms of more. I have to actively work on recognizing what “enough” means, because the work is endless. I seem to apply this “what else can I do?” thinking to everything.
In contrast, Lucy’s needs are well defined and limited, they just require time and attention. I find myself staring out the window for long periods of time, petting Lucy until she falls asleep, rubbing her tummy, responding to what she needs as a pup. Or, as the trainer from the rescue said “just vibeing with her.”
The garden will take care of itself, the sewing projects will wait, and I’ll throw something together for dinner. The important thing is being here for her.
PS: Rusty and Duke are not exactly pleased with this new addition, but they have been so brave and curious! They’re still working on setting boundaries with an animal who has zero concept of such things, but I can already tell they’re going to get along in short order once they stop being perplexed by this loud, clumsy, smelly, overly nosy creature.
Head, Heart, Hands
Things to make us think, feel, and do.
The Alpha Male Myth, Debunked. Primatologist Frans de Waal explains why the term “alpha male” is completely misunderstood. I find this fascinating because, as I was reading up on dog training, I learned a lot about myths surrounding dominance and “alpha” behavior. The term was actually used first for wolves, who have both an alpha male and female in the pack, and the female holds a lot of power as well and tends to direct where the pack will go. The alpha couple can display all sorts of leadership styles, just like humans. Some of the most effective alphas can have a soft, gentle, playful strength.
If you are as interested in wolves as I am, you might enjoy The Rise of Wolf 8. It reads a bit like field notes (and I kept losing track of which wolf was which since they only have numbers), but I learned so much about these incredible creatures, and the parallels to our own communities, families, and relationships are incredible.
And now I feel I really must make a Rey belt bag so I have a more stylish treat pouch for the doggo. Maybe in a Liberty floral?
Or how about a quilted dog bed?
This advice from Nick Cave hit home for me this week, for various reasons. Suffering is a call to transformation, to become the version of yourself others need.
What is behind extreme hoarding? I am endlessly fascinated by this condition, because I think that, like many mental illnesses, the seeds are in many of us and we may exhibit slight variations on the tendencies without even realizing it. What do you think?
“How much these A-listers make next to the scrappy little indie people is crazy town — it’s unfair and bananas. It’s unfair bananas. It’s rotten bananas, which makes the best banana bread.” I just love Parker Posey.
This is simply infuriating. Hoopla and Libby are banned for those under 18 in Mississippi. I adore Libby and I think it’s such a gift that it makes books accessible to kids for free. Ridiculous!
This coral embroidered skirt from Toast is so cool. I love that each motif looks different and hand drawn. It would be fun to riff on this idea. Fruit? Flowers? Shells? Leaves? So many ideas.
I know this is a particularly random assortment of links this week, but I hope you found something in there! I’ll be back next week with something a little less critter-centric.