Izzie’s Vacation From the Cats

Absolutely nothing can prepare you for the moment when you discover that your landscapers left your backyard gate open when you let your dog out into the yard unattended. What’s worse is that we didn’t discover it was open until an eternity later. By then, she was gone and nowhere within eyesight from our yard. 

I had just ended my team meeting when I heard Craig shout from the back door, “SHOOT! …OH SHOOT! SHOOT!” Literally, that’s what he was exclaiming. Considering the situation, that was the most censored expletive I’ve heard him use despite the many profane words he’s used for the most mundane things, like losing the other half of a pair of socks. 

I walked out into the living area. “What’s wrong?”

“Jason’s! They left the gate open. Izzie’s out!”

My heart dropped and I ran for my shoes. I could hear Craig shouting orders from the kitchen, like the good dad he is in any crisis when it comes to the girls… but all I could think of was, “Oh my god. She’s not here. And I don’t know where she is.” 

I didn’t even have time to tell my boss what was happening, I just shut down my chat to avoid getting any messages from people assuming I was at my computer and I ran to my car. 

We live on what I like to call cul de sac row. It’s a sequence of cul de sacs next to train tracks in old Richardson. Our houses are 70 year old, small, boxy structures, but the lot sizes are plentiful, the smallest being almost a quarter of an acre, the largest just under half an acre. So there’s a lot of open space around our houses for a little dog like her to get lured into.

Izzie wasn’t visible from any vantage point on our street. I searched the alleys of cul de sac row, checked every drive way, the gulley next to the train tracks. Craig was on foot at first, but when we realized she was nowhere near, we knew we had to expand our search so Craig got into his car. 

I crossed the main street into the other part of the neighborhood, again looking for any little white fluff floating around. Once or twice, I mistook a plastic shopping bag for her and that just deflated my spirits. The more we looked, the bigger the search area grew in my head and the smaller my hopes became. “How could she be gone?” I kept thinking. She’s never been gone this long or this far. In the past when the gate was left open, she would always do something funny like walk around to the front door and bark there instead, or walk over to the neighbor’s house. But now… now she was gone.

Craig and I crossed each other in an alley. “I’m going to check the neighborhood over there,” he said. I told him I would go south on Bowser.  We were at least covering multiple areas at the same time, so that gave me some hope that one of us will see her.

But again, like the previous neighborhood, the next one south of Belt Line only reminded me that this is an area she’s not in, which means there are others she could be in. 

And yet, maybe she could be no where, period. As in… what if someone picked her up? Someone who just wants a stray, friendly and complacent dog? For… whatever purpose. That is what terrifies me. 

A lifetime later, I pulled into our driveway back home and unsuccessful. The knot in my stomach was growing tighter and tighter and I was already crying. Craig pulled into the driveway next to me. He was barking more orders, “We have to take this online now. You have to get on Nextdoor and start posting and looking in the Lost and Found category… Call Richardson Animal Control and report her… I’m going to call Jason’s and fucking tell them to get their fucking guys down here and look…” 

I knew his irrational demand for our lawn guys come and help us look for Izzie meant that he was  reaching levels of desperation I’d never seen before. This made me even more emotional and I could feel the weakness entering my legs. I wanted to crumple to the pavement right there. Every passing second put more and more distance between her and us.

But no, he was right. We couldn’t give up already. I followed him inside and I got on my computer. I immediately sent a “Lost Dog” report to our local animal services after finding a recent photo I took of her in the vegetable garden next to her favorite garden snack (the kale patch). And then I logged onto NextDoor, a site that I never visit because its drama is 10x worse than Facebook.

That’s when I saw it, posted 28 minutes ago. 

Izzie couldn’t have looked happier or more alive than she did in that photo. I immediately responded, “OMG THAT’S MY IZZIE!” I called Craig, who had already started scouting the train tracks on foot to look for her. “She’s been spotted!” I said, “On Bowser near the Pharmco building, heading towards Belt Line. I’m driving there now.”

I couldn’t get there fast enough. I may have even run the red light at Bowser and Belt Line to get there, but I didn’t care. I needed to get her back to safety. 

But by the time I arrived at Pharmco, she was nowhere to be found. I even checked along Frances and headed east. Nothing. 

When I looked at NextDoor again, there was another sighting of her.  “There is a little white terrier type dog running on Frances Way near Townhouse Lane. No collar. Does he belong to someone here?” That was just one block over from where I was. I hurried over there as fast as I could, but again she wasn’t there. Or maybe she wasn’t visible from the street. 

Time stood still in that car as I drove up and down residential streets, looking down alleyways and in driveways. I probably looked like a madwoman, calling her name from my car all the while refreshing my NextDoor app on my phone to see if there’s been any additional sightings or comment. 

She had been traveling down Frances Way, I knew that much. I don’t think she turned around and went back home. I can’t imagine she crossed Grove either because that was a busy street.  So I kept weaving through the streets near Townhouse Lane and Frances, hoping to catch a glimpse of her somewhere.

Then  there was another alert on NextDoor. “I tried to get her on Shirley Ct. but she kept on trotting down the street. She must have turned and gone down Frances Way. This was about 15 minutes ago.”

Shirley Court? I looked that up on Google Maps. 

Son of a bitch, she DID cross Grove! That little stinker! So I crossed over to that neighborhood. I was getting closer, I knew it. I could feel it. I drove down Shirley Ct. once, twice but didn’t see her. I stayed on streets near Shirley Ct. and along Frances Way. I wasn’t going to give up. 

And then a new message showed up in NextDoor. It was a photo of Izzie. Someone said they were able to get her attention and now had her on Shirley Ct. They posted her photo, a close up of her dopey, dirty, but exhilarated face and left their phone number. Later, I mapped out her path on Google Maps and she’d traveled almost a mile from our house! She crossed 4 particularly busy streets, one of which is a main street running through the heart of our town, and countless residential streets. Where was she even going?! Was she really trying to run away or was she trying to find her way back and getting more lost and lost by the second?!?

My hands shook as I clicked to call the posted number. A man picked up.

“Hi, my name is Kristine! I’ve been looking for my dog Izzie. She’s a white mini schnauzer. I just saw you posted a photo of her on NextDoor.”

“Oh yeah! She’s right here,” he said. “I happened to me out in my yard and she walked right up to me.”

“Oh my goodness! Oh thank you!” I said. “I’ve been driving around trying to find her. Where are you located? I’m on Frances Way and Martha Manor.” He gave me his address.

When I pulled up to the house, the garage door was open and a tall, lanky gentleman with shaggy white hair and glasses came walking out. He held Izzie was in his arms as if they were old pals spending the afternoon together. 

“Oh my goodness! Izzie!” I cried. Her little ears perked up as she saw me and she leaped into  my arms. I said to him, “Thank you again. Thank you SO much. I’ve been with her for 14 years… I don’t know what I would’ve done.”

“Wow she’s 14? She’s a little athletic for an old girl!” he said. “Yeah I just happened to be out here in my yard when she came up to me.”

“I’m so glad,” I said. “I’m upset that our landscapers left the gate open but I’m glad I was able to find her.”

“Yeah I don’t always put collars on mine when they go out in the yard either, it seems silly you know,” he said. “I have 2 dogs of my own so I’d be devastated too.”

I cuddled Izzie close as she panted, her tiny little body tired from her extensive walk. I thanked him again as I turned to get back into my car and we pulled away from the curb to go home. 

I called Craig. “I got her,” was all I said. 

There was a pause. Perhaps a sigh of relief. “Good,” he said. “Good, I’ll see you  two at home.”

We drove home in silence. I should’ve lectured her, but I was too tired. Later, I would retell her story with an amusing spin to it like it was a tale of Izzie’s Great Escape. All she wanted to do was get away from the annoying cats and the watchful eyes of her mom who was now home 24/7 since the pandemic started.

In reality, Craig and and I were in pieces without her, him even more so because he felt responsible for her being gone in the first place. But not once did I blame him. And although our landscapers did leave the gate open, it was an honest mistake that Craig and I have made before ourselves, so I wasn’t entirely angry at them either.

Izzie crawled into my lap as I drove, as she was prone to do when she didn’t have her harness, and looked out the window. Maybe this is all she needed, I thought. She needed something different from the daily mundane routine we’ve been in the last several weeks. And yeah, I forget that this quarantine hasn’t only affected me, but it’s clearly had an affect on her too. She might be an old dog, but she still wants to see it go by at lightning speed. 

What’s Growing On: Week 15 Pandemic Edition

We’ve been in lockdown for a month now which means I’ve been working from home for a month now too. The nice thing about being from home most of the time is I have the time to be able to devote time to all of my projects around the house, including the garden.

Let’s begin with some of the flora.

First of all, the rose that started it all, Peace, did not survive the winter. Last year, it was already showing signs of being taken over by its root stock, but I was able to fend it off for a while. Not this year. Peace passed away quietly and finally allowed its root stock to completely take over. At some point before the weather gets too hot, I’ll have to remove the remains and fill the spot with something else.

The only new growth you see here is from the root stock. The host growth is completely gone.

My second rose, Portlandia, gave me a scare early in the season. Initially I was concerned it was infected with the deadly RRD (Rose Rosette Disease). It was showing most of the tell-tale signs: bright red or burgundy foliage, weak stems, unusual growth. The only thing it didn’t show was the excessive thorns which is a common characteristic of infected rose bushes.

Most rosarians recommend to observe the rose over a couple weeks because sometimes the burgundy foliage can be mistaken for new, healthy growth. So I did, and over time, the red foliage turned green and at least one of the buds opened to a healthy, signature Portlandia bloom. What a relief because it would’ve broken my heart to have to dig up and toss out this rose. This was the rose I purchased to signify our wedding event.

I’ve added some annuals to areas around the vegetable garden because it helps with the pollination. Flowers such as violets have been providing a continuous cycle of blooms for 4 weeks already. The set of Fireball marigolds I started several weeks ago have already provided their first set of long-lasting blooms and are now working on their second. The zinnias have just started forming their first buds.

This morning, I was doing some upkeep around some of the tomatoes when a little bee came buzzing out of the squash plants right next to me. I stepped back, startled, and gave him his space. He buzzed around a bit before landing on some of the tomato blossoms and then moved over to the marigolds and then back over to the squash. Witnessing this brought me a lot of pleasure because I was wondering whether or not it would be worth planting any pollinator flowers the first year. As if my garden needed more time to gain traction on the Pollinator’s Yelp website before any of them would start visiting.

But no, mother nature didn’t need a social network to ensure the cycle of life continued. Somehow everyone just knows what to do, when to do it, and where without any interference whatsoever. It just shows how much smarter nature is than we think.

The vegetable garden is doing great as well. If north Texas would at least stick to having consistently cool, spring weather rather than these random cold snaps, I think the garden could be more productive. It hasn’t really stopped us from being able to enjoy a constant supply of lettuce, kale, and more recently sugar snap peas.

Peppery French Breakfast radishes and some Sugar Snap Peas

I am eager to get to try some of those tomatoes and peppers, but I know those are weeks away from being ready. In the meantime, you can just admire the photos of these little bursts of green that are forming.

Garden Pests and Failures

There are a few things that I’ve had issues with though. We have an uninvited guest consuming some of our kale and although it hasn’t stopped us from harvesting the untouched kale, it does reduce our available harvest. After researching, I found that there are some natural repellants that I could’ve used in the beginning, such as rosemary oil or peppermint oil diluted in water. Those mask the scent of the greens that attract the pests. However, I don’t know if that will ward off an infestation that’s already underway. I can probably try and see what happens. Maybe it’ll at least slow it down.

Some of the damaged kale.

The other problem I’ve encountered is with spinach and green onion. I just haven’t seen any growth from the two at all. out in the garden. I direct-seeded the two back in early spring and only plug of spinach showed successful growth. The green onions never even left the seedling stage. Again you’ll see the spinach is being eaten by something, but only because I just kinda neglected it after awhile. The other seedlings never even got much bigger than what you see pictured.

The sad little spinach plants that we never really harvested.

I’m debating whether or not I want to start some spinach indoors and transplant them, although I’ve read they don’t transplant well, take 7 weeks to mature and don’t grow well in hot weather. Perhaps it’s too late? Maybe I’ll just replace it with another plot of sugar snap peas instead. Those have been successful and we know we like those a lot.

Still, having this garden is a sanity saver during this unusual time in our history. By sheer luck we started this project last December, but it’s become the most important thing in our daily lives–in my daily life mostly. Not only do we receive a meager nutritional return, but it does provide a sense of pride and accomplishment as well as some distraction when there are limited distractions available right now.

It’s also created a deeper connection between me and my mom, who, on every phone call, always asks how my garden is doing. Not only that, it’s awakened stories of her past about her parents, my dad, his parents and how they all were avid gardeners at some point in their lives. I find myself learning something new each time I talk to her.

I wonder if this pandemic never happened, and if I had still spent 50 hours a week away from the house, would I still have had the time and energy to dedicate to the garden’s success? Or would my enthusiasm for the project have faded off halfway through and shelved before anything came to fruition, much like other projects in the past? I don’t know. I would hope not.

Izzie Sits on the Porch in 2016

She Knows Where Her Heart Is

This photo popped up in my Facebook memories and made it a perfect segue into what happened yesterday afternoon.

I had just finished work for the day and decided to begin my afternoon ritual of unwinding. I switched out my computers and let Izzie out into the backyard. I put my yard shoes on and gathered some pruning shears and joined Izzie outside.

The weather was lovely and brisk, not nearly as hot as it was earlier in the week. In fact it was quite chilly. I picked up the garden hose and started watering some of the plants and as I did I started looking around for Izzie. Our yard is pretty large, flat, and pretty wide open except for a fenced off corner that we refer to as the “pig pen” even though we don’t really know if that’s what it was used for. Usually she’s not hard to spot, but this time I didn’t see her immediately. I didn’t think anything of it because this wouldn’t be the first time that I’ve lost sight of her in an overgrown hedge.

But as I’m standing there, watering hose in hand, I hear, “Hello, hellooooo!” from behind me. I turn around and there’s one of our neighbors, a tall guy about my age or older, standing at our side gate with Izzie in his arms.

“Oh my goodness, Izzie!” I said, dropping the garden hose and rushing over. Then I realized what happened. “Ugh,” I said. “Craig must’ve forgotten to close the gate when he was working out here.” I was relieved but also amused because she seemed pretty proud that she brought a friend home. “I’m so sorry, I hope she didn’t bother you.”

He laughed. “Oh no, well the funny thing is, when she’s in this yard, she acts like a tough little badass barking at everyone from behind the fence, but when she was out there, she ran up to me just as sweet and friendly as she can be!” And then he said to Izzie, “We know what you’re really like, don’t we?”

“Oh goodness, what a silly girl,” I said. “Thank you so much!”

“No problem!” he said, and closed the gate behind him. I laughed again and scolded her playfully.

This is not the first time that Izzie has left the yard. Unlike other dogs who would probably take off wandering for miles, Izzie never really goes far. She will often just wander over to the neighbor’s house, or even just walk around to the front door and bark to be let inside from there. I’ve always been very relieved that she does this. I like to think it’s because she knows her heart is here with us, but let’s face it. This is Izzie. Her heart is wherever her treats are.

Not Quite the Celebration We Planned

It was way too early in the morning. The bedroom was still cloaked in darkness, but Craig was already dressed for work and preparing to leave the house. “Ok, honey, I’ll see you later,” he said from the hallway. “Have a good day today.”

I was still in bed, eyes barely open. “You too, “ I said. He disappeared down the hall. 

Then I remembered. “Honey?!” I called after him.

“Yeah?”

“Happy Anniversary,” I said.

He paused probably because, just like me, he had almost forgotten as well, “Happy Anniversary, my love.” With everything that’s been going on these last couple weeks, it’s no surprise we had lost track of the days. Investing in a quality mattress for such occasions is a good idea and one can know What’s a Hybrid Mattress and maybe opt for that too.

We would’ve been preparing for a trip to Hot Springs, AR. this weekend to celebrate our third wedding anniversary and to visit his sister and brother-in-law. But due to the shelter-in-place order for Dallas county, we’ve cancelled our plans and stayed home. 

Instead, we both spent the day working, him out in what we refer to as “the danger zone,” and me at home, in front of a computer screen. Thinking about how we are celebrating this year makes my heart hurt and my chest ache. 

This will be my third week in isolation and I guess you can say the effects of it are wearing on me. I cry a little sometimes. I cry from the fear and the uncertainty. I cry because our lives have been completely turned inside out and I worry things will never be the same.

I can’t seek comfort in my husband’s arms because we’re both afraid of what might be transmitted between us. Maybe that’s the part that makes me angry. All the things that I love are slowly being taken away from me by something I can’t see. Because lord knows I will not let anyone or anything take this life I love without a fight, even if that means to the death.

How to Keep it Together While Working From Home (Indefinitely)

Last Thursday, we received a memo at work that all employees needed to begin working from home if able. With COVID-19 now in the news on a daily basis, we couldn’t deny the drastic shift that was upon us.

I’ve been home for 6 days, 4 of those have been actual work days. I have to say though it’s really… strange. In some ways, I feel like it’s a positive change for me because now I have to be more self-disciplined and regimented about my morning routine.

Start Promptly and Get a Morning Routine Down

Work starts for me at 7:30 a.m. Because I no longer have a commute, I start getting ready for work at 6:50. I shower and I eat a quick breakfast. Then I dress to shoes; I even do my hair and my makeup. I don’t do a full face, just simple, every-day makeup and straightened hair. Some days I wear my glasses, some days I don’t.

By 7:25, I’m usually at my desk in my home office. This means I have to disconnect my personal laptop and connect my work laptop. I’m also fortunate that I have a proper office setup so that I can close the door if needed.

Starting at about the same time every day encourages self discipline, which builds character and self worth.

Be Regimented About Taking Breaks

My company requires that all employees take a lunch break during the day, up to an hour. We also are allowed two 15 minute breaks during the day for getting up and walking around, bathroom visits, or, for some people, smoke breaks.

It’s important to not forget those extra breaks during the day. I will usually get up and do something else around the house like start a load of laundry or take the clean dishes out of the dishwasher. If it’s not raining like it has been all week, I’ll walk out into the garden to see how things are doing out there. Not only do I get some fresh air and sun, but I also get to check on some of the growth, or maybe even plant something.

Breaks allow your brain to rest from grueling and otherwise repetitive tasks. Don’t deprive yourself of them. They’r essential!

(Try To) Keep a Tidy Workspace

I almost feel a pang of guilt writing out that sentence. Considering that, as I sit here, I’m staring at an endless pile random shit that really doesn’t belong on my office desk, this is something I should practice, not just preach.

However if you had told me weeks ago that there would be a global pandemic in my community that would lock me up in my home, I would’ve laughed and said, “What movie is that from?” That’s how I find myself trying to make do with what I have, which in this case is a really cluttered home office.

I know that my office has potential. So during some of those breaks, I spend 10 to 15 minutes tidying up. I focus on one particular area and one by one, I just start putting things away. Pretty soon I’ll have a home office that I will be worth the 5 second commute.

I believe that having a reasonably tidy desk does help with productivity because it removes all distractions and gives you a blank canvas to work with.

Model Your Home Desk After Your Actual Work Desk

Friday friend told me over chat that she was just as productive working from home now (if not more so), once she modeled her home work space after her real work space. She even went as far as buying the same keyboard and mouse.

My coworker took all her desk plants home as well as a monitor. I’m sure though that taking home the plants was more out of their own survival than to maintain a zen workspace.

Since she and I were planning to meet up, she disconnected my headset from my docking station and brought it to me. I’m often in meetings or doing training sessions enough to warrant having a really good headset. Thankfully our company permitted us to take home whatever equipment we needed so I chose my headset. Sometimes having familiar items around just helps us get into the proper mindset. It doesn’t have to be specific work equipment. It can even just be as minuscule as a picture frame of you and your spouse on your wedding day. Whatever it is, don’t downplay its importance if you know it helps you keep your morale up.

If You Started Your Day Promptly, End Your Day Promptly

This is one of the first lessons I learned. Not only do I start my day on time, I end my day on time no matter what. In fact, I’ve started winding down my day about 20-30 minutes before my actual end time.

I review everything that I’ve done that day and document meetings and important reminders. Next I make note of any outstanding items that need to be addressed for the next day. Then I update my project hub in Microsoft Planner.

Once I’ve done all of that and it’s time to end the day, I put my laptop to sleep and physically disconnect it from my monitor so I can connect my personal laptop. However, I don’t dive right back into another screen. Instead I get up and I walk to another room and do something else for a while. Sometimes I watch TV in the bedroom, sometimes I go out into the garden. But either way, I make sure to mentally switch gears out of work mode by doing some other mindless task for a while.

Ultimately: Do What Makes Life Easy For You

There’s no right or wrong way to survive this whole work-from-home thing. Some people can do it, while for others it’s a challenge. Whatever you do though, remember that supporting your mental health is key here. Do what makes you happy.