The last three months of 2018 revealed things I never thought I’d encounter in my line of work. As a public servant and the Director of a Regulatory Bureau the content of my daily conversations is fairly mundane to most people. It’s simply not the kind of exciting stuff one gets invited to a career fair to talk about. Even my young girls aren’t completely sure or are interested in what “Mommy” does; they are more enthralled by the prospect of getting to be the boss and understand that since I work for the State I must work for the Governor. After the November election my oldest wanted to know if I had “met her yet?!” My expectations going into 2018 did not prepare me for what lay ahead. It was about a year ago that a new program was consolidated under me and from that point things took off. To quote a line from my favorite show, “This is Us,” one thing led to another and I had to “pull the wallpaper.” One strip led to another and from October through December I found myself and my team responding to a situation we hadn’t anticipated.
While my Christmas shopping was done and the cards in the mail, so much of my time outside the office was being eaten up. Rather than slowing down as I’d expected, things were actually ramping up. I found myself heading into the week of Christmas without my presents wrapped, and neither my head nor my heart prepared or centered on the advent season. Christmas was coming too soon and I couldn’t slow any of it down. This was my favorite time of year, one that I personally enjoy and seek to make special for my family and staff. I felt put out and unable to just get ahead of things long enough to pause and reflect on the significance of the season. I even had to hand over the staff Christmas party and then missed it entirely as I responded to what lay behind the wallpaper.
I started to have the sniffles and then the girls became sick – my Eva going from 0 to 60 with a combination of a viral infection and her asthmatic/bronchial cough. The kind that keeps a Momma up at night.
It was the week before Christmas and I was almost beginning to dread it. I was so frustrated with how things were progressing – not at all according to my expectations.
I’d been staying at work later more evenings than I liked the last several months and was thrilled when I made it home on time that Monday.
I was thrilled until I noticed a dark spot on my mostly empty, beautiful red velvet tree skirt.
The edge looked wet.
There were a handful of lonely packages and the silver and pink Christmas unicorn paper on one of them appeared to be damp. I stooped down to touch the skirt; it was wet. My fingers traveled to the wrapping paper. Wet as well.
It was then that I noticed our almost three year old chocolate Labrador Retrievers (PK) skulking away, tail between his legs. Dreading what was next, I got down on my hands and knees to confirm what I already knew to be true.
Sniff, sniff, sniff.
I sniffed again. I didn’t have time for this nonsense.
He’d peed on the tree.
About the same time, my husband yelled down from our bedroom about a wet spot on the floor. PK had peed up there too.
My plans for the evening included watching Christmas specials with the family, and then after the girls went to bed I would sit on on the living room floor with a Hallmark movie, a glass of wine and wrap the Christmas presents that should rightfully be under the tree. Those expectations flew out the window as I sniffed each present and piled them safely on a table. I spent the evening unwrapping those that smelled like pee, washing the tree skirt, and moving furniture so Rob could shampoo the carpets.
PK struggles with some anxiety and although the kids and Rob have been home, and my mom is there a few days out of the week, I knew this was about the momma being gone so much. PK is really my dog and a true momma’s boy at that. We’ve never had this issue before and I was almost certain it was a behavioral one; and a good support for my previous conversations about this dog needing some meds. It was time to call the vet.
I made it to work the next morning leaving presents stacked on our dining table and the carpet drying. I contacted the vet the first thing and relayed the whole sad story. She was reluctant (rightfully so) to prescribe meds for PK without ruling out a potential infection – especially with us going out of town for the holidays. Then she proceeded to explain that I would need to get a urine sample from my dog and bring it over to her office immediately to be tested. I asked a lot of questions about the mechanics of it all and about my alternatives. There weren’t many. I swear I could hear my staff laugh from my neighboring assistant’s office. One of them offered me gloves as I packed up my stuff and prepared to head home, another suggested I change my clothes. It was all very entertaining for them. I made the drive home and was greeted by my mother and youngest daughter. I put on one of my husband’s old sweatshirts, switched out my heels for boots, grabbed a leash and a bucket. (Yes, there is a video, but I’m not sharing that here!)
I tromped around our backyard both grumbling and encouraging my dog to pee. Every time he started and I intruded with the bucket he’d stop. Out the corner of my eye I saw our new neighbor watching me from her driveway. My grumbling and tromping increased.
“This was just stupid” I thought to myself as I finally caught him mid stream and made my way back to the house careful not to lose my specimen. My mother handed me the red lid to the bucket and I headed to the car off to the vet. The office was a town over and the opposite direction from my office.
I pulled in and proudly marched into the office with my bucket. I handed it over and sat down as I waited for the results.
“Do you want the bucket back?” Her assistant yelled back to me.
“NO!” I yelled emphatically. “Just toss it!”
“Are you sure? What about the lid? It’s a nice Pyrex one and will cleanup fine in the dishwasher.”
After a few minutes the vet came back out.
“Good news, no sign of infection. But, his urine is diluted and I have some concerns about his kidneys. I need you to capture his first urine of the day tomorrow morning and bring both it and him to our office.”
This was not going the way it was supposed to go.Sometimes things don't go as planned. You can either get over it or be consumed by it. Click To Tweet
The next morning at 6:00 a.m. I was out there in my nightie, boots, a coat and the light from my running head lamp. I was a pro by now and didn’t care which of my neighbors saw me. I got the sample and we made our way to the vet where she was able to confirm that he was just fine and that we were indeed dealing with a behavioral issue. After much discussion, we settled on some meds and a course of action for PK. Two days later and a little lighter in the wallet we were on our way.
We got home. Two days later he made his way into my office and ate almost all of the Christmas candy for the girls’ stockings. In the process, staining my super soft mint green shag rug with chocolate. Do you know what it’s like trying to buy Christmas candy one day before Christmas?!
Christmas has come and gone, and frankly, the whole ordeal is much more entertaining in retrospect.
Over the last couple of days I’ve been thinking about a “one-word” for the coming year, something like a theme I might feel led by God to consider, contemplate, and stretch myself toward. Usually this has a positive focus – something I am working toward. For example, last year I focused on trying to be more “rooted” in Him and what that would look like in my life.
This year, what occurred to me was just how entitled I am and how this impacts my expectations and behavior. Just in the last month I could see that:
I believed I was entitled to healthy kids.
I believed I was entitled to a better year.
I believed I was entitled to a well-behaved dog.
I believed I was entitled to the December of my choosing.
I believed I was entitled to a less stressful work environment.
I believed I was entitled to days and evenings that went as planned.
I believed I was entitled to a vet that did what I asked, the way I asked.
I believed I was entitled to live my days without unplanned financial expenditures.
I believed I was entitled to a Christmas season unmarked by trouble or difficulties.
I believed I was entitled to time with my family, uninterrupted by the realities of the world.
It’s almost embarrassing just how entitled I’ve lived. This year that changes. I want to change the way I think and consequently behave. I want to live a life less entitled and a lot more like Jesus; a life less characterized by the expectations of what I think I deserve. Looking back , I realize that my entitled attitude, not all the things going on around me, impeded my ability to enter and rest in the hope and promise of the advent season. Had I not been so focused on what I believed I deserved I might have seen all that I really had.