Birth Announcement

I think I may have mentioned a while ago that I am rebranding Off the Couch. Did I or did I just dream it? Sometimes my dream world and my awake world get mixed up. Like last night I dreamt Tom asked me to leave my nightie on to have coffee on the deck in the morning. So this morning I did, it’s private enough, but I realized as I sat there feeling slightly exposed, Tom hadn’t really asked me, I had dreamt it..but I digress.


So, yes, I have renamed and rebranded this blog. As a result, I feel like I am dumping an old friend. I know this about myself, I tend to attach to inanimate objects. I personify my cars by talking to them, thanking them for their steadfast loyalty, for never letting me down, for getting me places safely, for spending so much quality time with me, that I feel disloyal, ungrateful and abandoning when I trade them in for a newer model. I ask their forgiveness. They always grant it.


I love Off the Couch Blog. I love the very clever, double entendre name. I love Duke, boldly sitting on the couch like he has every right to be there. I smile every time I look at him. I loved writing for Off the Couch this past year and a half. But, it seems, many blog writing therapists are equally as shrewd and Off the Couch is used in many different combinations making it an excessively used name. (Not so clever after all.)


Ergo…rebranding was necessary.


So, I am announcing the birth of being Boswell. And what a birth process it has been. Seven months, almost full term, of time, money, and angst to push this baby out. This past month I have been waking at 3:30 each morning, the witching hour, begging who ever is in charge of these matters to get it the f@#k out of me. (I demanded the same from my obstetrician during the birthing of both of my kids. A girl can only take so much.)


The due date? Well, as so often happens, the timing is serendipitously perfect, despite all of my kicking and screaming, panting and blowing.


Being Boswell will go live this Thursday, December 6th at 12:15 pm. My birth day and time, 55 years ago.


I am so excited and relieved. I feel 30 pounds lighter.


So keep your computers on and your eyes peeled…a baby is coming!!!!!

Not to the Rescue

(Note to reader….I wrote this post several days before we euthanized Clea due to her failing kidneys. It seemed more appropriate to post about her death in a timely manner and save this post for a later date, even though it meant the time line would be a bit confusing. It’s just too funny to not share with you.)


Sitting last night on the sofa, tired from a long day, full from a satisfying meal and glad to be home with Tom sharing the end of the day, I heard Jena screaming from her upstairs bedroom, “IT’S SO GROSS, OMG, IT’S SO GROSS.”


To my utter amazement I didn’t budge. I didn’t reflexively run up the stairs to save the day…night. I simply listened. Curious. Had the cat thrown up? Had the cat died? I knew instinctively that Jena was okay because no one who is not okay can annunciate so clearly and repetitively. So very unlike the mother I was in my youth, or even last week, I sat.


Eventually Jena came down the stairs. I think a bit startled that my butt was still on the sofa, my hand still on Tom’s leg. “CLEA HAS A TICK. YOU HAVE TO GET IT OFF HER!!!” (Something you must know before I go any further is that I have been giving Clea subcutaneous IV’s fluids using a needle the size of a fish hook to help her failing kidneys. I tolerated my own skin crawling, nausea, the sound of skin popping as the huge ass needle was stuck into her flesh, almost sticking myself in my shakiness, for my love of Clea and for my love of Jena. Clea is Jena’s cat and the last of the family pets from her childhood. I womanned up and did it.)


But this time, without thought, without several sessions with my therapist to practice boundary setting, I sat there, calmly, with no inner angst of being a bad mom and said, “I’m not doing it, I hate ticks!”




Now I have known Jena longer than anyone. I know her facial expressions, her tonalities, her nuances, her body mechanics. But tonight, with an embedded, engorged tick in the neck of the cat she sleeps with every night, that she was playing with thinking it was a mole on Clea’s neck, whose legs were moving around as it burrowed deeper, Jena made noises and did things with her face that I had never seen before.


As will happen in these crisis moments, I began to laugh. Hard. The more animated Jena’s contortions became the more hysterical I became. The more she pulled her arms up into her oversized sweat shirt to spin her empty sleeves like a talented stripper with pasties, hopped up and down like someone was shooting at her feet, turned her mouth in the most perfect upside down U a mouth can make yelling, “YOU HAVE TOO, IT’S TOO GROSS. MOOOOMMMMMM,” the harder I laughed. I couldn’t stop. Tears rolled down my face.


Those of you that know me, or have been reading this blog for any length of time, know how much I love my kids. Like most moms I would lay my life down for them. But this is where I drew my line. NO TICK REMOVAL. I’m not doing it and she can’t make me.


I loved feeling so clear. I felt absolutely no guilt holding firm to my NO.


Eventually I held Clea while Jena removed the tick…still hopping up and down on one foot then the other, but she did it. I didn’t look. I let myself be a wienie. I think I may do that more often. Bravery is often over rated.


When Jena finished poor Clea ran up the stairs as fast as a dying kitty can. Tom said she paused in the living room, staggering from weakness, then hid behind the couch.


Later that night, Clea and Jena tucked into bed together, Jena worried that the head of the tick was still in Clea’s neck. “Will she be all right Mom?”


“It won’t kill her,” I said flatly as I headed to bed, tired from the drama of the evening.


“Touche.” I heard from the dark of Jena’s room.

Mom’s Who Do To Much

The other day a coworker asked what I was doing for Thanksgiving.

nice gloves




She asked if I usually cook Thanksgiving. It struck me as an odd question. Who else would cook?…I am the mom…after all.


“Yes, I have cooked, give or take a year, for the past 27 years.”


Her eyes got big, “Wow, I never cook Thanksgiving.” Now I was intrigued. She is a mom too. How did she pulled that off?


She explained that the first time she cooked a turkey it wasn’t fully cooked when she served it, so her family didn’t want her to be responsible for the next years, or any year after thats’ holiday meal.


Brilliant. Why had’t I thought of that? I had, after all, accidentally burned the first shirt my then husband asked me to iron resulting in his never asking again. I had the paradigm. I saw how it worked. I didn’t take the hint.


Later that same day, when rescheduling a client, I offered a session the week of Thanksgiving. She declined explaining she will be too busy preparing for Thanksgiving. She was cooking.


I thought of the many Thanksgiving weeks that I worked in Pittsburgh while living in Chalk Hill. An hour and a half commute that I returned home from on Wednesday night around 6 or 7. I had made the stuffing, nut bread, and cranberry bread and shopped the weekend before so all that needed to be done to get dinner on the table in the next 20 hours was par boil, peel and make the white sauce for the creamed onions; peel, boil and mash the potatoes; prepare and boil the green beans to toss into the sautéed garlic and chopped shallots; whip the heavy cream into perfect decadence; put the leaf in the table and set it for 8-10 friends and family; panic because every year I seemed to forget the cornucopia themed paper napkins leaving me with Scott Every Days to design the Martha Stewart wannabe table; oh yeah, stuff and cook the turkey.

Apple and pumpkin pie was deliciously prepared by my then Husband. I never learned how to make pies, so he did. (Hint, hint.) Kathleen brought the sweet potato casserole. Heidi another dessert and/or vegetable.


This is what I expected of myself. And soon it became what my family expected also. I  trained them well. It never occurred to me that it was too much to do or that I could do less. Especially when working a full week. Out of town no less.


It is Thanksgiving again with Christmas right around the corner. And you know I am no easier on myself at Christmas. I usually begin asking myself, sometime the morning of December 26th, why I do this to myself year after year, concluding with my traditional New Years Resolution promising not do so much in the new year.


I do it for other reasons too. I do it for the sake of tradition, so my kids have endearing holiday memories, because my mom cooked Mama B’s cornbread stuffing and creamed onions, although she did not work outside of the home and the tension at the well set table of china and sterling usually made dinner a fast and furious event, because when all the preparations are complete and the people I love most in the world are sitting around the table, I feel sweetly and fully blessed.


Yesterday I was offering to teach Jena how to make her great grandmothers Alabama corn bread stuffing. (Perhaps unconsciously passing the torch…PLEASE.) Jena said she was planning on being one of those people that never learned to cook. (She does seem to date guys that love to cook.) I heard myself judgmentally ask,”How do you think that will be for your kids?” My question shamed her into retracting her statement saying she was only kidding.


As I retold this exchange to Tom I owned how sexist it was of me to assume holiday traditions will be her responsibility.


So how does a mom do it? Create tradition, if that is important to her, and not exhaust herself in the process? Ask for more help? Do less? Care less? It is a labor of love that can end in tired resentment.


I would love to hear your ideas. How do you do it?


And Happy Happy Thanksgiving!

What is Good Enough?

I am sitting with Clea this morning, waiting for the vet to come make a final house call.


Yesterday I sat with Clea, eye to eye, nose to nose, asking her if it was time for her to go. Her empty gaze, dilated pupils said it all. It is time.


I think. Is it? I hope I am reading this right. How do I know for sure?


I worry I should be doing something special, a ritual of good bye, a meaningful something for Clea. Truthfully, not for Clea but for me. To ease my pending guilt when I accuse myself tomorrow morning of not doing everything I could to save her, of helping her go peacefully, for euthanizing her to early, when I tell myself now it is too late and it is my fault. (Whatever the IT may be.)


I foresee this self destructive berating on my horizon. I have beat myself silly though out my life with other perceived infractions. So, I am attempting preemptive action.  I am writing to you as Clea lies next to me. It is the only thing I want to do. It is the only thing I can think of to do. It is my way of comforting myself.


Clea is the last of the family pets. With her passing she takes with her the last connection to the family home, the family we once were, the way things were supposed to be. Again I feel guilt. I sold the family home, I divorced my kids father and changed the family unit forever. Granted Clea would still be dying even if we lived in Chalk Hill, but at least the safety net of original family and home would be there.


You may be realizing by now, as am I, I have a very close relationship with guilt. Somehow it all becomes my fault…my not doing it right…my missing something…my something. Tom says he wishes I weren’t so hard on myself.


The logical question is how come I am?


My therapist says it is because I never believe I’m good enough. He is right. The truth is I can never be good enough because I keep moving the bar. Upping the ante.


This keeps me in a perpetual state of pushing. Like Sisyphus. Except, unlike this bad boy, I don’t do it as a punishment for tricking the gods, I do it because excepting what is, without guilt, let’s me off a hook I value. The hook is a false sense of power, control, ability to change life so the day turns out better.


What if I let myself trust I am doing my best with Clea? And what if my best is all I have? What if it is all any of us really have? At the end of the day.


So I will do my best even when it isn’t good enough. And I will live with that. Some days more comfortably than others.


Today I feel very sad about my best.