(Not) Doing it All


There’s a walking route that’s become our default over the years for an easy stroll with the dogs. It’s quite lovely, really. Within a few minutes of leaving our busy street we’re on a dirt path between corn fields and the Farmington River.

It’s the first part of a route I used daily when I trained for a half marathon so I can tell you exactly where I should be if I’m running a 10-minute mile and have been running for 26 minutes. 

Yet I have no idea how long this loop takes to walk because I try to leave the phone at home and just enjoy my human and canine company. Sometimes we see other people walking with their dogs, to the delight of Roxy and the chagrin of Stuey. Sometimes it’s just us. There’s often a sunset.

But now we’ve got company. And it’s really pretty great. The other evening we said hello to a family of six as they rested on the little bridge overlooking the Pequabuck River, just as it merges with the Farmington. We’re probably neighbors but we’ve never seen them out before. What do they normally do at sunset, I wondered. 

Sheltering in place is freeing up some time for many people. And although this is some scary stuff our world is going through, a silver lining is the additional fresh air and exercise more people are getting. You’ve probably seen memes showing how happy dogs are that many of us are home more now.

But this extra time can also make us feel inadequate for not doing more. I got an email from a well-meaning person this morning suggesting that I use this down time to write another book. Sigh.

I usually spend a bit of my day exercising but I can’t because of an injury, so I have even more extra time on my hands. I should be able to accomplish so many things. I see Facebook posts by friends who are recording music and organizing their pantries and otherwise being awesome. For some reason, though, I’m stuck. 

I’ve owned a ukulele for probably two years and I still can’t play it. I thought this would be a good time to cross that off my list so I took it out. But I can’t seem to get motivated. It sits on my coffee table, in the way, barely touched.

I borrowed a jigsaw puzzle from a friend and took it out of the box last night. My guess is The Fiance will be the one to complete it. He also cleaned out the gutters. And hooked up our new stove. Jerk.

It could be the pain from my injury is messing with my head. Or maybe, like other people are probably experiencing but haven’t yet acknowledged it, we’re paralyzed by the fear and uncertainty of this virus.

Friends are dealing not only with this fear but also the challenges of working from home while attempting to educate their young children as effectively as their teachers do. I tell them to cut themselves some slack. Simple. It’s funny how much easier it is to give advice than take it. Maybe I should be giving myself a break about not organizing my sock drawer or learning to play an instrument. 

It’s OK to binge watch some bad TV and not teach yourself a new language. It wouldn’t hurt for some of us to start appreciating a slower way of life. Yesterday I used the drive-through to buy a pound of coffee, then deposited some checks at the bank, and picked up a prescription. 

And that’s enough. So is everything you’ve done today, even if it’s not very much at all.

Gimme Shelter (in place)


The last time I had the flu was during the Reagan administration. No kidding. It spread through our high school so fast that we had to cancel a basketball game because we didn’t have enough players. 

I really don’t ever get sick. I almost never get a flu shot (although, did they make me when I was pregnant? Those days are a bit of a blur.) But this year my mom was getting chemotherapy so I made the decision to get one. After I got my shot I kept thinking I was getting the flu — not because I think the vaccine gives you the flu — but, you know, Murphy’s Law.

Now I’m at the stage of this pandemic where I, like many of you, can’t stop thinking about symptoms. Is this tickle in my throat my first symptom? Am I sneezing more often than normal? Is my obsessive cleaning too obsessive? Or am I not doing enough? 

Maybe you’re worrying about your elderly parents or your child who has asthma. Or maybe you’re just bored. Or angry because your plans are getting cancelled. Or panicking because you’re not getting paid. I feel for my friends who are sheltering in place solo. I feel for graduating seniors. And brides-to-be.

I know lots of parents are feeling inadequate because they’re not really doing anything well — they’re supposed to be working and educating their kids at the same time. And keeping the house stocked with toilet paper.

I’m not only worried about getting sick or getting my loved ones sick, I’m frustrated because this is the time of year that Roxy and I visit the most schools — sometimes two or three times a week. This is our busy season. Not only do the boxes of books remain unread in my basement, I lose out on the much-needed boost I get from connecting with kids about rescue and writing. I can’t stop thinking about the kiddos in this picture, whom I saw just a day before Hartford schools were closed. Most of them, I was told, had been eating at their school three times a day. 

We all react differently to crappy situations. Let’s be (virtually) present for each other. Let’s try to be understanding of the ways we all react to this new kind of stress. And let’s cut ourselves some slack. We will get through this.

Stuey (Reluctantly) Goes to Camp


Hi friends. It’s Roxy, coming to you from my people’s new camp. You would not believe how great it is here. CHIPMUNKS ARE EVERYWHERE. And get this: Flying squirrels! It’s perfect. I sit in the dirt all day long and stare at these critters. Maybe it’s the cool Maine air, but I’m not even chasing them. I’m just enjoying watching them.

Stuey, however, is not adjusting so well to camp life. He got himself locked in the car, and our people went crazy looking for him. Apparently, he figured if he sat in the car he’d get to go home. Later, I heard my people talking about how the side of the car got all scratched up from some branches. You know what I think? I think the scratches are from Stuey, trying to scratch his way into the car.

I realize not everyone is cut out for camp. I’ve heard about kids who get homesick while away at camp. I get it, really. But our people are here! We go hiking! We go swimming! (No, actually, we don’t. Stuey and I don’t swim. But we could.)

How are you and your pups spending the summer? Let us know. Share vacation pictures with us. And please, send a word of encouragement for my poor, annoying little brother.

Moving On, Taking it Up a Notch


Sometimes we parents seek advice from professionals: We read the “What to Expect” books, we ask our doctors, we read John Rosemond’s column (for those times we want to feel inadequate as parents.) But most of the time, we just want to hear from someone who’s survived an explosive diaper in the dentist’s waiting room, someone whose kids ask weird questions loudly during church, someone whose life is far from perfect but still manages to get up every day and make the coffee.

For 10 years, I’ve been that latter person, letting nice readers know that they’re not crazy if they let their 11-year-old play outside alone. I put myself out there in columns addressing breastfeeding in public, the Boy Scouts, and miscarriage.

But this right here is my last column in the newspaper I’ve been reading since my brother taught me to read when he was 6 and I was 4 (we weren’t brilliant, we just didn’t have cable TV and Pong had not yet been invented.) You’ll still have access to Rosemond’s syndicated column, but the dwindling freelance budget has fully dwindled.

I’ve been writing in various capacities for the same publication for 20-plus years, but my role as parenting columnist was the most rewarding, entirely because of the connections I made with readers. On the Saturdays I knew something I wrote was going to irritate someone I eagerly checked my email. But really, most of the readers who wrote to me were grandparents who read the column for a bit of nostalgia and perhaps some reassurance that they had done the best they could.

Because in parenthood, we need allies. We need to know there are others in the trenches who are just trying to do the right thing. We need to support one another and to stand up for one another. We need the people who dare to look away from their phone in the line at Target and offer a word of encouragement to the mom with a crying infant and two wriggly toddlers. That stuff goes a long way.

We need, at all phases of parenthood, to know that someone else gets it. We need someone who understands what you mean when you say you absolutely cannot tolerate another human touching you when the kids are young and clingy, but also understand when we say how much we’d give for just one hug from a grown, distant child.

As much as I’d like to say I’ll find another landing spot for my column, this is 2018 and the newspaper industry is nothing like it was when I became a reporter in 1994.

And maybe this is the universe’s way of telling me there’s something with a greater purpose for me to do. Sharing with elementary school kids my children’s books about the two rescue dogs currently on my lap is the most energizing work I’ve ever done, but I need to take it up a notch.

Upon finishing preschool (we didn’t “graduate” back in the 1970s) our teacher gave each of us a little book, inside which she left us each a personalized note. I didn’t own too many books, so I cherished it. That copy of “The Little Red Hen” has a prime spot on my now-crowded bookshelf.

Because of that gift, and because I’ve witnessed this joy on the giving end, getting books into the little hands of kids who don’t own any books has become a focus of mine. I’ve done many “sponsored” author visits in Connecticut’s inner cities, made possible by businesses or individuals who also value literacy (and dogs.) My friend’s mom earlier this month sent me a check that enabled me to give a copy of one of my books to 125 third and fourth graders at Kennelly School in Hartford’s South End.

I believe we’ve been put here on earth to take care of each other. That support comes in many forms. Years ago, working from home with office-mates in varying stages of potty training, the support I often needed was from a fellow freelancer/mom, whom I’d call and ask to pour a glass of wine at 5 o’clock, so I wouldn’t be drinking alone.

You’ve never come to my column looking for advice or words of wisdom from the perfect mom with the perfect family. But here’s some advice anyway: Pick up every dropped binky in the bank line or parking lot: Any mom with a child using a binky has much more back pain than you. Don’t concern yourself when other parents choose to bottle feed or return to work or feed their kids Froot Loops. And support each other through the crappy times while also cheering loudly when when everything clicks for them (even if we’re a little jealous.) We’re all on the same team.

Please email tpelham@comcast.net for information on sponsoring a school visit.


The Great Puppy Rescue of 2014, Part 3


They met the puppies today!

Hi, it’s Roxy. I heard all about those six squishy little puppies, and I’m not sure if I want to snuggle with them or eat them. They kind of look like Guinea Pigs. Except cuter. Look at that pile of puppies!

My people also had a fun time meeting the mama dog, who is being named Lana (pronounced Lane-ah.) She’s taking wicked good care of the pups, and they’ll all start their journey north tomorrow morning.

I can’t wait to meet them. Can you?


The Great Puppy Rescue of 2014, Part 2


Hi, it’s Stuey. My people just sent this picture of the mama dog and her six puppies. They will all meet each other tomorrow, and I’m totally jealous. Do you know how horrible it is when they leave me home to go on their adventures?

They’ve been swimming. (Oh, I forgot. I hate swimming.) They’ve stayed in hotels. (Actually, I’d rather stay in my boys’ beds.) They’ve been in the car for 14 hours. (Are you serious?)

So anyway, here’s the picture. I don’t remember much about my mom, but I’d like to think my first days were something like this. All puppies should be this lucky.

The Great Puppy Rescue of 2014


They’re doing it again.

Hi, it’s Roxy. I’m stuck at home while my mom and my rescue mom and their boys are all going down to Tennessee to rescue some puppies. I hear they’re cute and squishy. That’s greatl, but have I mentioned that they didn’t take me along? So not cool.

Anyway, from what I hear, things are still pretty bad with the whole overpopulation problem down there. The puppies being rescued have a pretty sad story. Their mom — a pretty Belgian Shepherd — was hungry and about to have her puppies in a shelter in Tennessee. My rescue hero, Melissa, brought her home. She didn’t want those puppies born on the concrete floor of a shelter, so she fattened her up, and helped her deliver those little pups at home. My people are bringing all of them back to Connecticut and will find homes for all of them, even the mama.

The travelers sent along this picture of a dog they met wandering in Virginia. He was super-nice, they said, and you know how much I love the shiny black dogs. His collar didn’t have a name, but instead read “Don’t feed. Send Home.” That’s cool, except he hasn’t had that procedure at the vet that makes it so he can’t make any more puppies. Not cool. Even though he looks pretty handsome, he’s part of the problem. Sorry, dude.

I hear my people are on the road again tomorrow, and will get to meet those little puppies. I can’t wait to meet them, can you?

From Newtown to Hartford, Love Wins


Last January, in the tear-filled weeks following the horrible attack at Sandy Hook Elementary School, we decided to donate a copy of “Roxy’s Forever Home” to all Sandy Hook students. Many of our friends donated books, which were all dedicated and signed. We talked several times with school staff, choosing a date for Roxy to bring some therapy to Newtown, as many other therapy dogs had.

But this fall, it was decided that the students had lost too much instructional time. And the town was simply overwhelmed by donations.

So just yesterday, after talking with the principal of Sanchez Elementary School in Hartford, we made the choice to give the books to all of Sanchez’s first, second and third-graders in celebration of Three Kings Day in a few weeks. We can’t wait.

Since this anniversary is marked by both sadness and hope, it seems fitting that Roxy’s love and comfort will now be shared with children who, while not in the same situation, can certainly appreciate the importance of a secure home and caring for others.

Roxy and Religion


Seeing as I’m a Little Brown Dog, unaffiliated with any sort of organized religion, I was happy to start my day today with a visit to the Quaker Meetinghouse in West Hartford. Of course, I know nothing about religion, other than the fact that God spelled backwards is dog.

But this place was great. They’re all about silence. Honestly, sometimes I forget I even have the ability to bark. Occasionally I howl at my boyfriend, Panda, across the street, but I’m generally a quiet dog.

Not only are the Quakers quiet and peaceful, they have soup rather than coffee after they’re done thinking about stuff. So smart! While my mom blabbed on about rescue dogs and signed books, some nice kids fed me beef stew and bread.

So here I am, after a long day of being peaceful and cute, sitting by the fire, being as peaceful and cute as I can possibly be. If only I could get a little more of that beef stew …