Posts Tagged ‘sue’

Puppies and Toddlers

Sunday, March 19th, 2017

Puppies-Dunbar-LifeMany Dunbar families have dogs, which means most of those have had the Puppy Experience. Our now four month old puppy reminds me daily of how remarkably similar the experience of having a puppy is to the Toddler Experience. Sorry kids.

Both toddlers and puppies involve a general disruption of routine and constantly require surveillance and intervention. When puppy finally exhausts herself and konks out on the floor, we scurry about, having showers or putting things away while puppy sleeps. Try bringing in groceries or sweeping the floor or emptying the dishwasher with a puppy or a toddler ‘helping you.’ The ordinary can become a personal challenge: the other day I got crazy and decided to sneak the door mats back to their usual positions at the front and back doors. After 24 hours of their remaining in place I thought I had clinched a victory, until I entered the room to see our puppy whipping the mat in circles above her head like a cowboy swinging a lasso. The mats were collected once again.

Both puppies and toddlers regularly walk off with car keys and mail and shoes if not secured away. All possessions are at risk. A toddler in our family once hid a turned off pager inside a bread-maker, an extremely clever move given the frequency of that appliance’s use. Our counters and tables are strewn with a bizarre collection of random items retrieved from the puppy. Last month I was driving off almost late for a meeting when, with a sinking feeling, I noticed in my rear view mirror a Fed Ex truck pulling up to our house. Imagining perfectly the Christmas on-line shopping delivery scenario, I looped around and returned home again to find our puppy in the front hall, pleased to have her very own hand-delivered personal chew toy package in her mouth. Rescuing the home delivered “toy” and replacing it with an approved dog toy, pretty much identical to a baby toy, all ensured that I was definitely late for my meeting.

Toddlers and puppies both cause an inordinate amount of energy and conversation to be focussed on bodily functions. Those not involved in this world are surprisingly less enthusiastic about tales of successful potty use or, in the case of dogs, back yard visits. For proud participants in this endeavour, detailed reports provided at work or at dinner parties never quite bring about the thrilled response we are looking for.

Both puppies and toddlers provide constant reminders of the wonders of the world around us. We are amazed by a toddler crouched in that full-squat position young children rest in, staring intently at a beetle on the ground, tapping it gently with a tiny index finger. On a recent walk our puppy caught sight of someone vaping at a bus stop. She pulled over, sat directly in front of him and stared at the vision before her, glancing at me a few times to check whether this situation was alarming or not.

Nobody can deny that both are beyond adorable when asleep. How many times a parent finally has a toddler asleep on their chest, and, rather than carrying the child to bed, lingers there with the delicious weight and warmth of this small person upon them. Or having a puppy literally curled up upon one’s feet and not getting up, though needing to, for the sheer delight of the moment. We linger because the moment is beautiful and because we know all too well that the whirling dervish will soon return.

Gift Giving

Monday, December 5th, 2016

dunbar-life-gift-givingGift giving is a particular kind of art. The gift of “the gift” is a combination of thoughtful-ness, artsiness, sleuth, timing and delivery. The price of a gift does not ensure its meaning, however, if one must receive a meaningless gift, then expensive is nice.

I know people with this talent who are total pros. Gift shopping is a state of being for them, constantly on duty in search of perfect gifts. The women among them could be in labour, en route to the hospital and still zip into a shop to pick up the perfect house-warming gift for their co-worker’s renovated kitchen.

Not possessing this gift, I have been known to approach Christmas shopping like immunization: as painful but necessary. When our kids were little I would book a babysitter for the entire day and be standing outside some immense mall at door opening, in runners and light athletic gear, hydrated, well fed and wearing a backpack. I did not know if the gifts people wanted were in that mall: I just knew that the gifts they were getting from me were in there. Back and forth I’d go to the car all day, like some retail triathlon participant, “getting the job done.” There was not a lot of art or beauty involved. I do miss the easy shopping days of visiting a giant toy store where a lot of primary coloured plastic was purchased, though none emitting terrible sounds or requiring batteries.

Getting someone ‘the perfect gift’ is such a joy. That jumpy, magic moment while you await someone dear unwrapping a gift you know he or she is going to LOVE truly does make it better to give than receive. I hit that home run once, with my whole family and parents all at the same time, having created by some miraculous aligning of the universe, a photo memory book for a special period of time we all shared. The tears streaming down my daughter’s face as she looked through the book was my gift.

Occasionally the setting of the gift delivery becomes the part of the gift itself. Think of the smitten lover who sends a flower bouquet up the elevator to greet his waiting beloved. Or the gift held out at the back porch door of an elderly couple by an unexpected visitor who travelled from afar.

A favourite gift setting for me was our messy kitchen at home early one morning last April. The day prior had been a particularly bad day and also our 25th wedding anniversary. That day was not a Hollywood romance movie but rather a grainy black and white documentary: a normal work day, followed by kids sports, building a crescendo with an evening computer meltdown and loss of a group EMBA project, two teenagers needing to pack for two separate school / team outings and peaking with an all-night emergency visit to Vancouver General Hospital. Discovering the next day, a gold gift bag containing a wooden box with a gorgeous long strand of pearls in our disheveled kitchen, unnoticed amid the chaos of the day before, struck me as the perfectly poetic, fitting way to receive a gift celebrating 25 years of marriage. Pearls among the mess.

Such are gifts in our ordinary lives.

September Shoes

Monday, October 17th, 2016

When I think of September I think of shoe shopping. Of course, I also think of melancholy goodbyes, rustling colourful leaves and cool sunny afternoons but certainly of shoe shopping.

I guess that is because for years, almost two decades now, I have taken small feet, and then larger feet, in worn out flip-flops curled up at the ends or tattered sneakers with toes poking through holes, off to the store to buy school shoes in early September. The new shoes had to be comfortable and sturdy, with velcro and later real laces ready to take those feet back and forth to school, to run around at recess playtime, ready for rainy days and the busyness of school life.

The kids would try on shoes as if that were a sport itself, jumping up and down in them, walking on their heels and, my favourite, sprinting back and forth in the store “to see if they are fast.”

Once children are older and reach the teenage years, shoe-shopping is not so much reserved for “back to school” in September … because you just went in June, and then again back in February. This is one time that shoes don’t really wear out: they never get the chance. Having adult size 12s lying about is like having a few sets of trick skiis stacked by your front door. Even then your child with those big feet might make eye contact with you while putting them on one morning and say “You are really going to hate hearing this but…” And off to the shoe store again.

At this age, “new shoes” can involve all or some combination of school shoes, PE runners, basketball shoes, soccer cleats, kick-abouts, maybe even slippers. Forget about winter boots or dress shoes: those will have to wait for the growing to stop or be borrowed when needed.

For adults, new shoes purchased in September often hold a certain fresh promise too. New runners speak of a refreshed beginning to a regular workout fitness plan or to a beloved sport. Sometimes new shoes are purpose-specific: hiking boots in preparation for a long-awaited hiking trip, court shoes for taking up squash or walking shoes for travelling abroad. And nothing jazzes up the look of any outfit like new shoes, the “dress for success” piece that sparks up a work wardrobe.

September feels like new beginnings, for students of all ages starting a new year and for adults moving past the lazier days of summer back to the structures of work and routine. In some ways new shoes purchased in the fall represent a sampler of things to come over the next months or year: days in a child’s life, outings for an adult’s fitness or recreation, work days that hold many plans.

Maybe you don’t need new shoes this September. But if you do, have fun choosing your “sampler” of things to come. Happy autumn.

Sue Dvorak is a physiotherapist, mother of 6 children and lives in Dunbar with her husband Marcel. She has been a regular writer for Dunbar Life magazine since 2011.