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Thursday
Jun262014

Just John

In late March, we made the difficult decision to rehome one of our Old English Sheepdog puppies. We had enthusiastically and ambitiously chosen to embrace littermates -- brother and sister -- last July when they were seven-weeks-old. In hindsight, a precious, educational, and exhausting experience. With sadness, regret, and feeling defeated, my family and I unanimously waved the white flag after eight months. Taking on two puppies was more work than we had anticipated. In the end, we simply didn't have the time -- even collectively -- to care for each dog properly.

Birdie, the high-energy, intelligent female required a lot of physical and mental exercise. She also dominated our 8-year-old son, Redmond. Her eyes locked on him when he entered a room, and she frequently lunged and grabbed his arm with her mouth when he walked near her, sometimes with a growl (not a vicious bite, but the potential for disaster was there, especially as she grew larger). Redmond was an Inspector Clouseau to Birdie's Cato Fong, minus the manservant part.

A trainer tried to help Redmond and Birdie redefine their relationship. Things improved, but we still needed to remain hyper-vigilant when Birdie -- who now outweighed Redmond -- was in the same space as our youngest boy. Again, we don't believe she was an aggressive dog, but she was the boss of Redmond, and he was afraid of her.

John, Birdie's larger, low-energy, not-so-bright brother, was easier to manage. It appeared he was trained because he often sat when we said, "Sit." I maintain it was, and remains, a coincidence. He likes to sit more than he likes to move.

The two dogs together weren't twice the work; they were ten times the work especially as they grew. Focused on each other and desiring to play ALL THE TIME, our home often resembled a post-party fraternity house. Our hardwood floors look like we gave the kids butter knifes and said, "Draw!"

We decided that if we were going to whittle our pack by one, Birdie was the one to go. Big dumb John would be easy to care for and he didn't try to dominate anyone.

A local business that we had used for training and dog daycare agreed to assist us. They're not a shelter, but have occasionally helped families like us. Birdie went to a familiar facility with caring people she had known for months. She was comfortable, played with other dogs, and received more training. The owner and head trainer personally interviewed potential adopters. It took a month, but Birdie was finally rehomed with a young couple. I'm told they have no other pets, no children, are active, and most importantly, that they fell instantly in love with Birdie.

We miss our girl, but are shifting the angsty energy to love and attention for John. He seems happy and unfazed.

Happy and UnfazedAs I struggled through the process, crying frequently, feeling guilty, losing sleep, etc., an experienced dog trainer advised me to stop applying human psychology to dogs. She said that, yes, some dogs are more sensitive and grieve a rehoming, but that Birdie adapted seamlessly (not exactly sure how people know for certain what an animal is experiencing, but I digress). Birdie's strong, independent, bouncy personality, combined with her healthy young age, comforted me. She would be fine.

So, we sadly say farewell to Birdie, knowing we did the right thing for her and our family, and thankful that she landed in the arms of a couple who feel like they hit the lottery. And as I type this, I look at John -- 100 pounds of stupid and handsome -- lying on the floor beside me, and I say, "Get off my foot, John."

Just John

 

Monday
Dec162013

Sunday Snow Angels

The following also appears on the American Fork Citizen site, directly beneath the "From the Editor's Desk" column, and titled "The Last Word."

*****

My book, to Mormons, with LOVE, continues to enable me to participate in many discussions. Topic specifics vary but conversation always centers on religious and cultural differences. People enjoy sharing their experiences and stories; and questioning me further about mine.

Often, I’m asked, “What do you believe?” Great.

When I was very young I asked my mother—a quasi-hippie—essentially the same question. “Do you believe in God?” Her answer was, “It’s not important what I believe. What’s important is what you believe.”

She wasn’t shirking her parental duties, or avoiding a question. She empowered me to think, feel, and pray for myself. My mother made it clear she respected whatever path I chose. There were also guiding words like, “All I know is that deep within myself, something speaks to me and helps me feel if a choice is good, or not good. Listen to that. Pay attention.”

Holy Spirit? Higher Self? Does it matter?

I’m a runner, although recently more of a hiker due to a neck injury. My running and hiking friends attend church on Sunday, so I embrace the time alone. My summer Sunday mornings are like the opening scene from Oklahoma. People walk to church, smile brightly and wave to me as I run by. The sky is blue, perfume and aftershave fill the air, and scriptures are reverently carried. “Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin’” plays in my head. I think it plays in everyone else’s head, too.

Winter is different. The skies are often grey; families are in cars, sometimes taking a corner on two wheels because they’re running late. (We’ve learned to avoid driving lessons for our student driver beginning five minutes before church starts through about 45 minutes after.) However, I still always get a smile and a wave, even if it’s a little rushed.

Recently, friends and I have been hiking near our home. Sundays, when I head up solo, I climb, talk to God, and give thanks. I’m thankful for a body that allows me to move, the deer that seem unbothered by my presence, and the overwhelming sense of peace that I feel. When I arrive at the top of the hill, I sometimes make small snow angels with my feet. I like to think there are angels and spirits all around me on that hill. Some familiar, most not, but I welcome them all.

Snow angels with my feet

I always pause to take in the view. I look at my town, knowing that in the churches I see (there are many), my friends, and people I don’t know, are worshipping. And praying. For me, for you, for themselves. And I graciously receive.

View of my town from the hilltopSo, what do I believe? Not that it should matter, but I know most who ask that of others are purely curious. My path is fluid, and I’m comfortable with that. But…

…I believe in God. And, I believe that God believes in ALL of us.

Peace and blessings to you and yours.

Thursday
Aug222013

Sheepdogs and Celiac Disease

Mary, our beloved Miniature Schnauzer, died in March. We knew we'd eventually get another dog, but Chris and I told our sons it was important to grieve Mary. We assured the boys that this summer -- after a few trips and events that required our full attention -- we would get a puppy. Probably.

We hit the promised sweet spot. Boys wanted a large breed; my stipulation was a non-shedder. Our research led us to the decision to add an Old English Sheepdog to our family. I insisted on a female because leg-lifters and humpers are worse (in my mind) than shedders...or reptiles.

A beautiful female was available mid to late summer, exactly when we were. A puppy seeker in California was interested in her, too (so the breeder told me). We needed to make a decision fast. One other pup was still available in the litter -- a male -- described as "chill" and "laid-back." I asked if something was wrong with him. Was he skittish? The breeder said no.

I'm not sure how the holes of the Swiss cheese lined up, but somehow Chris and I decided we were open to purchasing both puppies. "Let's ask the boys," I said to Chris. "They're pragmatic. Maybe two puppies won't appeal to them."

I'm an idiot.

*****

Earlier in the summer, Duke (13YO) transitioned to an insulin pump to manage his diabetes. With the support and encouragement of his older brother, Parke (15YO) -- who uses the same pump, Duke quickly adapted. He loves it. No more shots (or very rarely), and much easier to enjoy food spontaneously.

Both boys had diabetes-related routine blood work done, as well. We were informed while on vacation in Arizona in early July, that a celiac disease screening came back elevated for Duke. Biopsies of his stomach and small intestine were completed within a few days of our return to Utah. Duke was asleep for the procedure. They went through his mouth to get the tissues, so other than a sore throat and anesthesia recovery, he felt fine the next day. Results took close to two weeks.

*****

A couple of days after receiving our precious puppies, we received news that our precious Duke was diagnosed with celiac disease. We cried, but not for long. The tears were less about saying farewell to conventional pizza, pancakes, and cupcakes, but more about the fact that there's one more thing Duke must manage...for life. But again, we wiped our eyes and blew our noses, found a couple of outstanding gluten-free bakeries, and celebrated the fact that there are many delicious, nutritious foods that aren't glutinous. And, the fact that there are worse diagnoses.

So, here we are. Puppies, John and Birdie (nickname for Elizabeth), are more joy and work than we imagined. Their energy, size, and innocent personalities have captured the focus and hearts of our entire family. The five of us feel victorious and fulfilled after a day caring for the brother and sister sheepdogs. We're united...and distracted.

Life is so much more than pizza and cupcakes.

While searching for and eliminating hidden gluten, I left the refrigerator door open as I read labels. Birdie helped. We felt happy.

Birdie

 

Monday
May062013

Mormon Times

My poor blog. I need to find a rhythm again. Soon.

In the meantime, here's a segment that ran April 28, 2013 on Mormon Times. The first two minutes aired last November, but the remaining interview is new.

Tuesday
Mar192013

Mary

On March 2, we traveled to California for a long-awaited family vacation. Our 10-year-old Miniature Schnauzer, Mary, had exceeded the two-month prognosis she was given in early December after being diagnosed with brain tumors. I found a compassionate-care animal hospital to watch Mary while we were away. Our goodbye was longer than normal when we dropped her off, just in case.

She was thin—usually 17 pounds, down to 9—and rested a lot, but she didn’t seem to be suffering. Mary looked forward to her meals and loved affection. I believe simply watching our family move about the house from her bed gave her comfort. She appeared content.

It could have been any day…maybe even weeks or another month.

We were at the San Diego Zoo, four days into our vacation. An elephant was about to receive a pedicure. One zookeeper explained the procedure while another worker prepared the area before retrieving the animal. The worker placed a stool, an elephant-sized nail file, and a bucket of cucumber treats in the pedicure area. The bucket had the name of the elephant written on the side. Her name was Mary.

Thirty minutes later, the vet called my cell phone. Our Mary had had a grand mal seizure. Medication temporarily helped, but she continued to mildly seize for several hours. “The beginning of the end,” the vet had said. “I think Mary’s telling us it’s her time.”

We made the decision to euthanize Mary later that afternoon.

Sea World, Legoland, the beach, and being away from home—all buffered our grief. Family vacations are important, pets die; this is life.

Re-entry was rough. We drove home from the airport recapping highlights, feeling thankful for a fun 10 days, but anxious to sleep in our own beds. At the same time we were heavy-hearted about the reality of seeing an empty dog bed.

Mary was cremated. A few days after we returned, I picked up her remains along with the pink sweater she was wearing the day we left. I placed her in the front seat of the car next to me, cried hard, told her I loved her, and that I needed to swing by the liquor store before we went home. She waited patiently.

We know that it was “time”, and that there was no chance of recovery. But, of course we miss Mary and feel her loss in powerful and unpredictable waves. Pet grief is unique.

Chris, the boys, and I spread her ashes in the backyard after a short, awkward family memorial. The day was windy. It didn’t seem to matter which direction we sprinkled, the wind always shifted, blowing the light grey powder back towards the person sprinkling. Mary clung to us. She even got in Redmond’s (7) eye. Damn dog.

Rest in peace, sweet Mary.

February 10, 2003 – March 5, 2013

Wednesday
Feb062013

Lately

I'm struggling with how many (and which) personal anecdotes to share on my blog, hence the gap between posts. I'll figure it out, though. In the meantime...

Here is a piece that I wrote for a local online newspaper -- The American Fork Citizen.

My Immune System Survived a Direct Hit

And a piece for LDS Living.

Baptisms and Bar Mitzvahs

I appeared on a local television show, Studio 5, in a segment titled, Breaking the Mormon Code. The piece is 12 minutes long, and the live discussion begins after three minutes (although I encourage you to watch the pre-recorded sound bites if this is a topic that interests you).

Breaking the Mormon Code

Thank you for continuing to check in. :)

Monday
Dec312012

The Twofer

My parents travel from Arizona to Utah every year to spend Christmas with us. It’s become a tradition. My mother’s birthday is December 22nd, so they arrive in time for us to properly celebrate her before Santa visits. It’s a twofer at our house!

This year was no different, except Mom entered a new decade. A number she prefers that I not mention, because she says, “The only people who want to be “number-ty”, are people who are 80.”

We decided to go tubing on Mom’s special birthday. I called Soldier Hollow (a local winter sports place) and shared that my parents were…older than me…and asked if the hills were safe and mellow. “They’re totally mellow,” the young man said on the phone. “As long as a pusher doesn’t spin you.”

Got it. No spinning. I asked him if there was any way the day could be not fun. “Nope. Just layer your clothes. It won’t suck.”

This year, December 22nd was opening day for the tubing hill. Fresh snow had fallen days prior, the air was crisp, and the seven of us – aged 7 to “number-ty” – were ready for some old-fashioned fun! We climbed into our tubes and were towed up the hill.

I went first. Fast. And out of control. I blew past the orange cones where I was supposed to drag my feet to slow down, past the employee at the end of the run, and through a mesh safety fence. I stood up, and looked toward the top of the hill. Mom was getting ready to head down. I was…concerned.

“Hey. Can you tell my parents to go back?” I said to the employee. “Do you have a walkie-talkie? I think this is too much for them. They’re a little older. It’s my mom’s birthday. This seemed like a good idea. Is that pure ice?”

Then, down came Mom. The ride was quick, she drug her feet to stop, didn’t fall, and had a big grin on her face. I was happy she didn’t break a hip, because it’s always curtains when someone breaks a hip.

Then, down came Dad. Like a bullet. He shot through two safety fences, snapping a fence pole with a dramatic crack. He was fine and Mom cried with laughter, like watching Dad’s “agony of defeat” crash was the best gift ever.

We made a few more runs, had some hot beverages, then piled in the car and headed home. The seven of us took turns sharing details of successful and failed tubing techniques, recounting Dad’s rocket run many times.

Before the first run!

Hooking on to a towrope to climb the hill is a nice treat once in a while, cresting can be daunting, but the trip down is nothing to fear. The sweet spots seem to become more clear...over the hill.

I hope when I’m “number-ty” that I’m able to fly down a tubing hill on my stomach.

After a long, fun day -- Mom's number-ty birthday!

Tuesday
Dec182012

The Too-Tall Tree

We put a hole in our ceiling with the Christmas tree. My holiday enthusiasm was bigger than the reality of my space. Chris, the boys, and I marched a 23-foot tree into our house then tried to erect it in a room with 18-foot ceilings. I blame the tape measure.

We don’t have a large family room, but we have high ceilings. Every year, the Friday after Thanksgiving, I head to Ault’s Christmas Trees and look for Leo (Grandpa) or his son. “Show me your prettiest tall-skinny. You know I’ll make a quick decision,” I cheerfully request. They always remember me, and often take me to the tree earmarked for Leo himself. Or so they tell me.

I don’t know what happened this year. We measured, chain-sawed the trunk, trimmed branches, removed bird nests and squirrels, and re-measured. Then we called neighbors soliciting help to carry the tree into the house. Everyone we called was either heading out the door for a prior commitment, “I hate to be rude, because I’m running late…but good luck!” Or they were nursing an injury (probably from helping us last year).

The tree was heavy. “This one seems bigger than last year’s,” my husband said as he shouldered the majority of the weight.

“Duke! Are you even lifting?” I yelled to our 13-year-old.

“Redmond, get out of the way! If we drop it, you’ll get hurt…real bad!” I shouted to our 7-year-old.

We made it into the house, navigated doorways and a ceiling fan, and began the hoist after Chris counted to three. Before we knew it, we had a giant tree bowed and stuck…in the wrong spot.

“Everybody stay calm. Don’t let go of the tree,” Chris said.

Frankly, I think we all could have walked away and that tree would still be in the same place, securely wedged between the ceiling and floor.

There was counting, grunting, pushing, and barks of, “Hold it! Watch the lamp! The fan! Duke, lift! Redmond, move!” We laid the tree on the floor and stood for a few seconds in silence.

“I’ll get the clippers,” I nonchalantly offered as I walked toward the garage.

“There’s a hole in the ceiling!” Chris called after me.

We trimmed a few feet off the tree, successfully erected it in the proper spot, and I doled out the maximum dose of Aleve to all family members that evening. The neck and back pain were gone the following morning.

Was it worth it? We think so. Christmas isn’t about a tree, or outdoor lights, or stockings hung by the chimney with care (ours happen to still be in a pile on the hearth – rough few weeks), but that tall-skinny tree gives this family much joy.

Holes can be patched.

Too-tall tree and stockings piled by the hearth

**********

NOTE: For those who read last year's post about The Creepy Christmas Monkeys, they made it on the tree this year. If you look closely, you'll see one of the horrifying little creatures about three feet down from the star, staring directly at you. The other one's up there somewhere. Mom will be able to see them (with binoculars), but the monkeys won't be easy to move. Win-win!

Sunday
Dec092012

One More Catchall

The Studio 5 segment aired a few weeks ago on November 16. You can check out the prerecorded piece and the live interview via the links below.

Bridging the Religious Gap (prerecorded piece -- 3 minutes)

Teaching Kids Acceptance (live interview -- 9 minutes)

*****

And here are a couple of articles I wrote for the American Fork Citizen:

The Question I Didn't Get to Answer -- “What would be worse, if your child was ostracized because they weren’t LDS, or…if they converted?”

A Christmas Mary-cle -- Our Miniature Schnauzer has been sick, sick, sick. She was diagnosed with diabetes among other things.

 *****

Life is full. Christmas is around the corner and I'm not ready. The stockings aren't hung by the chimney with care. They've been in a pile on the floor for several days, patiently waiting. Wreaths for the front doors are lying on the porch, also patiently waiting. Today, stockings and wreaths will go up! I hope.

Tuesday
Nov062012

The Catchall

I'm just going to dive in and write about the status of a few things. Don't look for clever segues, thoughtful prose, or well-written anything. Expect non sequiturs. Disclaimer finished.

Personal

  1. Duke is doing well living with diabetes. He's entered the honeymoon period which means he's coasting on less insulin. We don't know how long that will last, but it's allowing him to catch his breath. He joined his brother Parke and me in a meeting with an insulin pump rep. Parke's ready for a new pump and Duke thinks he'd like to try one. Next week, Duke will wear a saline pump for a few days. It's the best way to see if he'd prefer a pump delivery system to injections. Everything's under control!
  2. A skin biopsy in August revealed that I have a basal cell carcinoma on my left nostril. I was scheduled for Mohs surgery, but after the surgeon used the word "disfigured" while explaining that the nostril is difficult to "reconstruct", we went to Plan B. He removed a layer of skin, then I began a 6-week course of Aldara (imiquimod) -- a topical chemo-like cream. I'm over halfway there. The side effects of the cream result in red, swelling, oozy, scabby skin. But, no surgery and no disfiguring scars. Use your sunscreen, kids.
  3. Twenty-three! My husband and I celebrated our 23rd wedding anniversary on November 4th. We rarely have an unblocked layup when it comes to ticking off years, but we seem to always hit the jump shot. We're good at keeping the game exciting.

Writing

  1. A piece I wrote for LDS Living in early October -- "Why Relief Society Should Run for President" -- was very popular. You can read all of my "To Mormon" pieces here.
  2. The past few months, I've contributed short articles to the American Fork Citizen, an online newspaper.
  3. A producer from a local television show -- Studio 5 -- contacted me about appearing on a segment that discusses the LDS member/nonmember divide. She and a cameraman were here earlier this week. I'm not sure how the segment will end up, and I feel nervous about the editing process, but I'll be on the show Friday, November 16, at 11:00 AM on KSL 5. (My left nostril will be there, too.)

Dork Alert ... or ... A New Drinking Game

I attended the LDS Booksellers Association convention in August. With very little notice, authors were asked to create a YouTube video in an effort to pitch books to the end-user. Speaking directly into a camera (while pretending a potential book-purchaser is listening to your shameless plug) is not as easy as people on the evening news make it look. Especially without a teleprompter.

If you choose to play, take one drink every time I say "community." For the daring, take a shot every time I say "people." (TIP: Have your beverages ready near the middle.)