Chasing the Squirrels of Summer
by Lynn Stacy-Smith
I have had the worst case of writer’s block in recent weeks. As a dog blogger with a goal of five posts a week, writer’s block is not welcome in this brain of mine. Although maybe instead of writer’s block I should call it writer’s distraction, because right now I feel a little like my favorite character Dug from the Disney movie Up in terms of my ability to focus.
If you are not familiar with the movie Up, you will want to click here to see what the heck I am talking about before moving on with the rest of this blog.
This year I started planning out my blog posts in an awesome blog planning binder that I learned about from another blogger. Along with a calendar from PetPlan pet health insurance with all of the special pet awareness days, I spent all spring efficiently planning out the topics that I would share with you.
In addition to my binder and that calendar, I have ideas stashed away in Evernote, in various notebooks, on slips of paper, and even old receipts that I’ve used as scrap paper when I am driving or out and about and have a thought or inspiration. I get ideas when I am walking my dogs, playing with my dogs, washing my hair, drying my hair, reading social media. There is an endless array of blog topics at my finger tips as well as in every handbag I have used for the last few months.
That is until I can’t think of anything to say or make my mind focus on one of these fabulous topics.
Anyone who knows me would laugh out loud at the notion of me without something to say, without an opinion, without some helpful tip or random fact to share, especially on the topic of creating a happy, healthy, holistic lifestyle for dogs and being a responsible lifelong owner to forever dogs. I mean, the whole reason I created this blog and felt so passionately about turning my passion for taking care of dogs into a career, is that I was already being approached by everyone I knew for dog advice and information. And yet for the last few weeks I have not been able to put my thoughts into my laptop in a way that anybody would want to read.
Summer around our house is like Penn Station, with people coming and going all day, every day, with different destinations and purposes, but always with the utmost urgency. It has been like this for as long as I have lived here, as our human kids have been able to have somewhat of an “old fashioned” childhood, playing with friends outside each and every day until it is dark outside and we force them to come in, instead of sitting inside playing video games in dark, stinky bedrooms.
We are all friends here on our cul de sac and we all have kids ranging in age from mid-twenties to babies and toddlers, which means there are a lot of teenagers and kids coming and going. Although our own teens have outgrown actually “playing” outside, they have swapped it for simply hanging out outside with each other. Sometimes the teens will play with the younger kids or watch them to make sure that they are safe and sound, which warms my heart and reaffirms that they are really growing up like family more than just neighbors.
Although this is wonderful and I would not change it for the world, it also results in our teenagers coming in and out of the house all day, every day. And if you are a parent to human kids, you know that with kids come questions. Lots, and lots of questions.
“Can I go in the _____ family house?”
“Can I go for a bike ride with _____ and _____ ?”
“Actually we are going to walk instead, is it ok if we walk instead of bike?”
“Can _______ and _______ come in our pool?”
“Can you help put my bike chain back on?”
Uh, no, but your father can.
“Can we ride to Walgreens?”
Uh, who else is going? Ok, yes.
Then there are the teens with cars, one of whom is 18 and will be attending college in the fall. He does not always have to ask to go somewhere, but we still require he check in with us from time to time.
“I’m going to my girlfriend’s and then to work.”
Ok, keep us posted if plans change.
“I am going to go here, here, here, and then there. And then to eat.”
Yes. Keep me posted from time to time.
The phone rings, “Instead of what we were going to do, can we come hang out at our house instead?”
Yes. Keep me posted if things change again.
Our other teen with a car just obtained her license and car this summer, so she has been fabulous in taking her sister places and making unsolicited coffee runs.
“I’m running to Dunkin Donuts, do you want coffee?”
Heck yes, and you are officially my favorite child for the day! Here’s some money!
I think you get the picture. Again, don’t read this the wrong way. This human family of mine is one of the greatest blessings I have ever known, and I never want the questions to stop. I just would maybe like them spaced apart a bit more.
I laugh at myself often, though, because when I first became a step-parent I was slightly hurt that the kids would walk right past me to ask their father a basic question when I was right there and perfectly capable of telling them if they could have a juice box or go into a friend’s yard. Now I laugh as they text and call me first because they know I have my phone on me at all times. Sometimes I look at Jax and Tink and tell them, “I am glad you two can’t talk!”
I am both proud and happy that our teens listen to us and ask before they do something, tell us if they are going somewhere, even if it is a distraction from my train of thought…and my next thought, and my next thought, and my thought again twenty minutes later until that train of thought is derailed and crumbled up in a heap of blog topics and to-do list items.
The kids are not my only squirrels who are distracting me. My own love of summer is also to blame, like a big fat squirrel with a huge bushy tail, frolicking along right smack in front of me. In fact, it is the most alluring squirrel of all. I love sunshine and water, and when both of those are in my back yard, I am torn between being raised to “do your work first and then have fun” versus the words of my late Nana Fern.
Nana Fern was my mom’s mother and also a writer who published hundreds of childrens’ stories in Highlights and a few other magazines in the 1950s and 1960s. Although she passed away from cancer when I was just two years old, my own mother always told me that Nana would frequently stop in the middle of what she was doing on a sunny summer day, whether she was writing a story or doing housework, and say, “It’s too beautiful outside to work, let’s go to the beach!”
My own mother was a teacher, and so she had every summer off, and we spent essentially every day of her summer break at the beach at our lake on which we lived in New Jersey, and then at our pool in Valparaiso, Indiana after we moved halfway through my high school years. We never missed a sunny day of summer fun, largely inspired my my Nana Fern’s outlook on living life to the fullest, especially when you are blessed with a perfect summer day.
Since I am master of my own schedule, I take Nana Fern’s approach each and every time. In the north we are lucky to get from May through September in our pools before adding the special pool closing chemicals, putting on the cover, watching the pool walls and cover get whipped with ice and snow all winter, and then hoping for the best (no algea or cloudy water) when the cover is removed in the spring.
My other squirrels who distract me are my husband and my dogs, none of whom I can resist when they want my attention. To be married to someone who likes to talk to me, likes to do things with me, is another incredible blessing. And of course when Jax and Tink say it’s time to play, it’s time to play, no questions asked!
I follow as many entrepreneur pages and blogs as I follow dog related topics, and most of them talk about the hustle that it takes to make your business work, the non-stop pushing your way to the top, to the point where you feel like everyone else is leaping out of bed, making thousands of dollars in sales each hour, signing the biggest deals of their lives, or whatever it is that they do in their particular business, and essentially living the life of the investors on Shark Tank until they go to bed at night.
I could do that, but I’m not going to.
I could have also done that at my previous job and worked my life away on someone else’s dream in pursuit of promotions and fancy titles that sounded impressive but left my soul empty. Hell would have frozen over before I did that.
I often feel incredibly guilty that I am distracted by the squirrels running around instead of growling at them like a boss and making them run away with their bushy tails between their legs. It seems as if those other entrepreneurs who are always posting about hustle and hard work would never be distracted by squirrels and their bushy tails.
In the middle of writing this blog I had a long talk with my business/mindset coach about the squirrels that I keep chasing and how I’ve been very down on myself the last few weeks that I am not like those other entrepreneurs who work their business from sunrise to sunset. In fact I started to wonder if this blog was to make myself feel better rather than explain why you have not seen as much Love, Laugh, Woof as you are used to.
Of course my coach reminded me that one of the reasons that I am pursuing a life as a dog blogger and self employed solopreneur is because the squirrels who are distracting me, the squirrels that I am chasing, are my squirrels that mean so much to me. They are my why, my reason for choosing a career in which I could be flexible and work when I want to work on my own terms and spend more time with my family, with my husband, with my dogs. Of course the other major why is to help as many people as I can create a happy, holistic lifestyle for their forever dogs like I work so hard to create for Jackson and Tinkerbell. I cannot write about that life if I am not living that life myself!
So while the “work first, have fun later” teachings are telling me to leave those squirrels alone and to focus on business, my Nana Fern’s mindset is winning for a reason. By taking advantage of every chance that I get to spend with our teenagers, with my husband, with Jackson and Tinkerbell, or reading yet another chick-lit novel while floating on my lounger in my pool with nobody else around, I am reminding myself of the whole reason that I embarked upon the whole mission behind Love, Laugh, Woof. We only get so many days with our dogs, we only get so many days with our other humans, and we only get so many days with ourselves, that our focus should be on making the best of them in a way that we want.