30 Days Without FB/Insta/Snaps and How My Dog Handled my Nightmares

Sometimes I haven’t blogged because I’ve been busy and I seem to spend my nights lately posting ERA payments to accounts, reviewing accounts receivable, and all the endless micro-details of running a private practice. But the past twelve months when I’ve sat down to blog I have also generally written pretty damn depressing blogs.

I usually end up crying and it’s all just horrible. Then it’s another week before I get time to write a non-crying blog but end up still writing a horribly depressing piece. There are a few reasons. 1. Since 2019 when my Dad died, life has been generally rather depressing in some ways. Actually three major events that are not really bloggable due to NDA’s, my children one day reading this blog, and general violence that is rated R or maybe even…What’s the one that’s worse than R? I dunno. See the great thing about me is that you don’t know if I’m kidding or not. (I’m not;)

Life’s been rough. What’s ironic is that my life outwardly looks like I have made huge strides in the last three years. My kids are thriving as is my business. I am up to ten? employees. I think ten. I just hired another one and I can’t remember if they make ten or eleven. But it’s a thing in small business when you hit ten employees. It’s a landmark.

I am opening a second location for my practice, and making plans for 2023 for a third.

I decided recently to take a 30 day social media break. No snaps, Insta, FB, and…well that’s all the social media I use. I’m on day 4. It was Christmas Eve at 5 AM as I lay in bed that I made the decision.

I may not go back to it at all. Nothing is missing. I realized how incredibly fake it is. I was writing one of those super depressing blog posts that will never be published and realized how my two closest friends at the moment are not even on FB. Well, one is, but she rarely posts anything and only follows dog mom groups. I realized that the people who show up for me will keep showing up for me whether I’m on social media or not. And the people who judge me, hate me, fear me, whatever, will still do all of those things except they won’t “like” or “love” my pictures and posts pretending to care about anything I have to say or do.

My day to day hasn’t changed. Except I don’t spend minutes mindlessly scrolling through posts. And as I said, my communication with my friends hasn’t changed at all. They are still my friends. We still text and talk and see each other. I just don’t talk to or hear from any one else whose presence in my life was a facade.

I got a dog 5 weeks ago. I’ve never been a “dog person”. In fact I still probably am not a dog person. But I like my dog. I’ve had nightmares as long as I can remember. I can go months without one, and then have three in a row. Completely unpredictable. A couple weeks ago I shot up in bed, heart racing, palms sweating, terror gripping me as it always does. I’m 36 and a nightmare can still completely wig me out. Over the years I’ve learned I have to get out of bed and walk around. Usually I have to walk about the whole house and catch my breath and ground myself to reality.

But that night, my dog lifted her sleepy head and looked at me as a I breathed frantically in and out; reliving whatever terror I just dreamt. It’s always tornadoes, tidal waves, or a grisly death (You can die in your dreams. I’ve done it. Many times- being stabbed is my least favorite). I reached out and hugged my puppy and she rested her snout on my shoulder. I felt her breath on my back and my heart rate slowed down, and I could breathe normally. I laid my head back down on my pillow and she scooted over to put her whole body up against my back, and for the first time I can remember I was able to fall back asleep almost immediately after a nightmare.

It was an odd, intimate moment that I shared with my dog, Cheetah. She’s only five months old. She drives me insane in many ways. And she’s a big baby in many ways. But in that moment she was wise and grounding and real.

I’ve been through a lot in the past three years and what I’ve learned is to lean into what’s real. Lean into who shows up. Lean into who can handle your darkness because they can help guide you to the light.

Cutting out social media is a reminder for me as to who my friends are and to invest my time and energy into people who are truly here for me. It’s a grounding exercise to remind myself whose presence in my life is grounding versus not. That moment with Cheetah reminded me of the moments in the past three years that I’ve felt terrified and alone. She reminded me to focus on who helped me through those times and to appreciate all I have instead of staying stuck in the dark.

mom of boys

Welcome Cheetah. The dog.

The last year of my Dad’s life he kept talking about how he should have had a dog. The man fought in Vietnam and especially after retirement had serious issues with the military. He had a whole lot of family stuff happen. I mean. A lot. And his one regret…not having a dog. That has been a niggling thought in my head for three years. When my cats died in 2020 I brought up getting a dog. But my ex, at the time my wife, did not want a dog. She actually said she would leave if we got a dog. In retrospect…that was a missed opportunity. But here we are. Two cats. Two kids. Single Mom. And Pup.

Her name is Cheetah.

I had no say in her name. See above (two kids).

Now within the search for my dog I was adamant that I wanted a dog that could be a therapy dog, I wanted a mutt, I wanted to rescue, and I didn’t want a pitbull.

I’ve learned a few things about dogs since adopting one. Pitbulls are terriers. So a “terrier/hound” mix could actually mean a Pit mix. I did not know that before I happened to fall in love with a “terrier/hound” mix.

I applied to 4 or 5 rescues. Which by the way, is stressful. Then I waited. Then I heard from a few. Then I waited. I kept saying I would wait for the right fit. That I wanted a dog who is good with kids and cats and overall fit was more important than rushing it.

Then I got a call about a dog I found online. She wasn’t necessarily my first choice. But by the time she came through I had been in contact with a few shelters/rescues and I was basically going to agree to anything. I agreed to meet her. The foster mom texted me pictures and sang her praises. She was not totally cute in the pictures. I mean she was in a smushy dog face kind of way. I showed the boys, and Declan said, “She looks so sad Mama! She needs a family. She should be part of our family.”

Cheetah after our first in-person therapy session

The foster mom brought her over the night before Thanksgiving. She was exuberant to meet us. She licked Declan’s head. She does a tail wag with her whole body. The woman handed me the leash, and said a somewhat tearful good-bye to Cheetah. Then left. Cheetah watched her drive off and then was instantly immersed back in the chaos of our family.

She was perfect on Thanksgiving. I’ve never actually worried at all about her being with my sons. She gets hyper as puppies do, but she would never hurt them. She did try to nip my sister’s min-pin, which I still feel really bad about. But we are working with a trainer now who is socializing her. We’ve gone on walks at parks, and she loves people. She loves other dogs less; which is honestly fine. I don’t love other dogs either.

She loves kids. I’ve had her around a number of kids and she’s a gem.

Cheetah and her Boys

She is without a doubt a Pit mix. The vet, all 6+ feet of him, got down on the floor with her, grinning from ear to ear, as they tussled together. He couldn’t get enough of her. My friend met me recently and I brought Cheetah, and she clearly was happier to see the dog than me. It’s been three weeks and she’s stolen the hearts of most every one she meets. Including my patients on telehealth who see her now on camera. We even did a therapy session live, and she did excellent.

It’s been hard. Every walk. Every accident. Every second; it’s all on me. Takes a month to adjust to a new home. Takes six months to make a new routine permanent. We are now one month in. She feels comfortable. She feels at home. She sleeps in bed with me every night and we now have an understanding that she does not come past the center line of pillows until after 6 AM. Somehow she knows when it is 6 AM. On the dot.

Cheetah and Declan

We found a trainer, a groomer, and a dog walker. The groomer was the fifth? person to slam it down my throat that she is a pitbull. I was sort of trying to deny it. Referring to her as a mutt. The groomer said, “She’s a pit mix. Pit dominant.” I smiled and said, “Can you still give her a bath?” She laughed and said yes. She pointed at a little fluff ball in a crate waiting for her bath and said, “I’d take a pit over that little fluff ball any day.” The tiny ball of fluff then growled at no one in particular.

That was hard though; leaving her at the groomer. I know she wasn’t sure I’d come back for her. She’s five months old and she spent the first 4 months being shuffled from South Carolina, to CT, to a foster, then to me. Her butt wagging when I came back for her was fierce. When the dog trainer took her for the morning, she was unhappy, to put it mildly. When they finally got back in his car and drove to our meeting spot, she refused to get out with him and fell asleep in the front seat. She didn’t get out until I got there. Again, I think she was worried I wouldn’t come back for her. The foster had her for two weeks. We’ve now been the place she’s stayed the longest in her whole little life.

The cats. Ginsburg and Scooby Doo (Scooby the cat and Cheetah the dog. yes I get the irony. Again, I had no say in these name choices. I got to name Ginsburg who is a respectable cat with a respectable name!) So no one has tried to kill the other yet. Cheetah wants to sniff them. The cats sort of let her. Then run away. I haven’t let them all loose together yet…waiting for no Christmas tree as I have this vision of all three of them diving behind it. They did all sleep on my lap or lap adjacent on different occasions. I am hopeful they will all be harmonious. No red flags so far.

And why would I not end up with a pit? I spend my life championing minorities who are misunderstood, misrepresented, and maltreated. Once I accepted it, I realized of course I have a pit mix. How could I have anything else but the most misunderstood, misrepresented, and maltreated breed of dog? The vet called her a “Heinz 57” because she’s some of everything: lab, hound, boxer, rhodesian, etc. He also said if he had to tell a tech to go get her from a crowd he’d say, “Red pit”. She’s a love. She’s going to be a therapy dog. She hates the rain and the cold. She snores.

Welcome Cheetah:)

Cheetah and Ginsburg…adjacent

One of my friends told me I was matched with this dog for a reason. That she needed me and I needed her. I told myself I was getting her for the boys but as she snores softly on my lap as I write this, I know my friend is right.

mom of boys · politics

Lessons at Home re- Racism

There has been a lot in my life in the past month. Puppy. Kids. Business. Life. But two moments with my kids stick out. One- they brought home these pamphlets about the Declaration of Independence. It had pictures of Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, and John Adams on page 1. Along with a picture of the Bill of the Rights. There was a caption explaining that these documents gave “everyone freedom and independence”. On page two there were pictures of white and Black people all sitting, smiling, reading books, talking, etc. No caption.

It was weird. I asked the boys about it and they said yes we learned about Independence and that every one in America was free. I sat down with them on our couch and I said, “We need to talk about something important.” They looked intrigued, and I went on to explain that DOI and BOR did not in fact make every one free. That people with Black and brown (at which point Declan said, “And tan?”) color skin were not freed by these documents. In fact they would not be freed until about one hundred years later during the Civil War.

I pointed at Thomas Jefferson’s picture and said, “He actually owned slaves, and actively worked to ensure slavery would survive.” The boys now looked awed and somewhat confused, and I could see the wheels turning, and they definitely knew this was important and maybe even secret adult information that I was letting them in on.

We talked some more about it, and they named the one kid in their class with “brown skin” and I said do you think it’s scary for that person to be in a class with all kids who are white? They thought about it, and said maybe. I said being different can be hard, and it can be scary. You guys have two mom’s and that’s different from most other kids in your class.

We had a long discussion, as long as six year olds can tolerate anyway, and I don’t know if I did it “right”. In fact the whole time I was struggling with how to word things, and how much to tell them. But I kept putting myself in the shoes of Mom’s of Black children. They don’t have a choice. They have to have much harder conversations than this one. And I don’t want to raise kids who are “colorblind”. I want to raise kids who see color, who understand racism is real, and who will hopefully, actively work to dismantle racism instead of taking part in it.

I have a print of Ruby being escorted into school on that day when she, as a child, faced down segregation. It hangs on the way toward my home office. A couple weeks later one of my sons asked me about it, and asked why we have that print. I told him, because I like it, it inspires me to be better because Ruby was just a child and she had to face such hatred and at a time in her life that should have been full of innocence and fun she was faced with brutality and hate. I explained the importance of Ruby and her bravery and I pulled up a picture of Ruby now as an adult. To which Jackson said, “So now she’s old people’s?” I mean. I guess. She’s older than she was. The point was that she’s alive still. This was recent that Black people did not have the same rights as white people. That was a mind-blowing fact to them.

Our curriculum is whitewashed and my town voted a board of education slate that are Republican, and who have publicly stated on social media that they don’t believe racism exists. Racism is like science. You don’t have to believe in gravity to fall on your ass. Racism exists whether you “believe” in it or not.

You ever see Bad Boys II? There’s the moment when Martin Lawrence realizes he’s going to have no help from authorities to rescue his sister. Will Smith sees it. You can see their countenance change. You see them walk away with this look that they are resolved in a decision. Will Smith’s next line is “We just gonna have to do it on our own,”. Then you see all these cops and agents one by one follow them out.

That’s how I felt when I saw that pamphlet. I’m just gonna have to do it on my own. Because our education system has not evolved since I was in school. I know what I learned. I know what I’ve had to do to unlearn it. I’m not going to let my kids wait until adulthood until more Black people are killed to discover for themselves what systemic racism is, how we participate in it, and steps we can take to stop it. It’s hard. I’m sure my home lessons will cause some interesting discussions in their classrooms as they get older. I’ve never told them not to discuss these lessons at school. I’ve never encouraged them to either. I’m just winging it.

Ruby will continue to hang on my wall. Hopefully she will inspire my kids as much as she inspires me.