Thursday, November 25, 2010

Giving Thanks

Thanksgiving couldn't have come at a better time.  At no other point in my life can I remember really needing to be thankful for things.  I hit a slump, reached an all-time low, sank so far down a break in the clouds was not visible.  In trying to do a good thing, I set off a catastrophic chain of events that I'm not sure I can forgive myself for.  Well, that's being a bit dramatic.  I could kick myself, if I still maintained enough flexibility of youth, but since I perpetuate my own antics, forgiveness is a given.  Plus I'm a Catholic--we're always looking to forgive someone.

It all started with Facebook, which I am beginning to believe is evil incarnate.  Yeah, I know, too much drama.  Well, I have a flair, don't you think?  I saw this dog, this puppy, with the saddest sweetest face, who was going to be PTS if someone didn't step up and rescue her. (the kind way of saying murdered--put to sleep.  Killed, put to death, animal lover had to have thought of "put to sleep".  Where's Buddy, Mom?  Well, he's sleeping, dear.  Good Mom, not crushing her kid with the weight of truth and death, right?  But she left off a crucial word--FOREVER.  Hand him a copy of Rainbow Bridge next time, Mom, or better yet, read it to him.  He'll learn more, and appreciate life and love more that way.  And "euthanasia" just candy coats murder.  And isn't "humanely euthanize" an oxymoron?  I can understand ending an animal's suffering, but humanely euthanizing is not a good phrase for it, if you ask me.)  Okay, off on a tangent, like you didn't see THAT coming!

Her name was Maggie, she was "under a year" and was said to be shy.  In all actuality, her name was Maggie, she is farther under a year than it seemed, and she must have reserved her shyness for the rescue.  Anyway, although I never thought he'd agree to it, the man I married allowed the rescue to take place.  We drove to Chesterfield, SC, and picked up an emaciated, flea-infested happy puppy.  Thankfully the vets at Banfield/Petsmart agreed to see us with no appointment since Maggie couldn't have a bath for another week due to recently being spayed.  She got a great pill called Comfortis which eradicated the fleas in a half hour, and after a night of confinement in our garage, finally made her way upstairs to meet the pack.  I should have had some clear sense of foreboding when the transition went without a hitch.  I've seen enough horror movies to know that just when you think everything is fine, you turn around and get your head chopped off.  In my defense, it's been eight years since I've had a puppy, and Dakota, Thor, and Jack require very little supervision.  

To make a long story a little shorter, Maggie has been a member of the family for almost three weeks now, and has ruined a sweater, numerous socks, a pair of underwear, chewed my slippers (they're fuzzy and must look like a toy), shredded six toys in one sitting, and, the piece de resistance, managed to pull a $1700 BTE hearing aid out of my ear and chew it to ruin.  Worst weekend of my life so far.  I had barely had them a month.  I cried two days straight, barely ate anything, and was completely open to abandoning all hope.  With Dakota just being diagnosed with Atypical Cushings and her vet bills skyrocketing, I cannot afford another ear.  Feeling hung out to dry, chewed up and spit out, and utterly alone, I did what any strong person would do--I crumbled into a blubbering mass of despair and hopelessness.  Maggie annoys the living sin out of Thor, chews anything she can get ahold of, pees and poops at will in the house--even by the sliding door--and doesn't seem to be too shy.  In fact, she's rather hyper.  I decided right then I didn't like her, and any recovery from that seemed impossible.

She must've known.  She was sweet, dainty, lovable, and did so good letting me know she had to go out.  I couldn't help but decide I loved her.  I picked her for a reason, things happen for a reason, so I just had to learn my lesson from this and keep plodding along.  What else could I do?  Returning her could be a death sentence, because anyone with less inner strength than me would not keep her. So long haul, here I come!

Things have a way of working out.  You just have to be patient.  Have faith.  Learn from your experiences, take that knowledge and grow.  See the silver lining in that gray cloud.  Know that God never gives you more than He knows you can handle (although I can honestly say I can totally relate to Job and how he must've felt.  It's very defeating.  You feel forsaken.  Makes you wonder if God's been placing bets with Satan again, only instead of Job it's your faith on the line.)  My hearing aid should be covered with a $200 deductible.  If it's not I'll just find a way to get another one.  You deal because really, what's the alternative?  Curl up in the fetal position and die?  Although I considered it--briefly--it's not an option.  

So I am thankful on this day, for so many things.  My family, my friends, my animals, myself, life, love, laughter and happiness, I'm as thankful for the bad times as I am the good, because you can't have one without the other, and besides, you merely enjoy the good times, but you learn from the bad times.  I've learned more about myself and the person I am in the last three weeks than I have in a long time.  So even though my car is in desperate need of a tune up, I had to battle Aflac to cancel my poor excuse of supplemental insurance, I have to buy a new hearing aid and oh, did I mention I had to get a new keyboard for my computer as well, even though I seem to have more debt than money, it really is only money, after all.  It's not what really matters.  I can do without a lot, but if I can no longer laugh, love and have fun, then I've truly lost it all.  

I am not perfect, but I'm here.  I am alive, my 44 year old body is still running (the only thing I've owned for that long that still works!) I have a job, a home, a car, coffee in the morning, and even though Dakota's medicine is expensive, she's still alive.  I have so much good in my life, I just need to open my eyes and see it.  Thank You God, for all the blessings You have bestowed on me.  Because even in a cloud of bad, there's still good shining from within, and as long as you can see that, you've got reason to be thankful.  

Friday, October 22, 2010

Don't Sweat the Dog Stuff, Because it's All Dog Stuff

I am a dog lover.  The scratch on my chin made by an exuberant Husky at the mere mention of the "w" word (the "w" word is walk, and even though we spell it out, I swear their ears perk up like they have learned what those four letters mean) is a testament to that.  Most of the time my body resembles that of someone who battled a thorny bush and lost horribly.  Although there are only three dogs remaining, they are my canine children and I love them dearly.

If you are a neat freak or a germaphobe, you would not last ten minutes in my house.  You would immediately notice the pine straw deposited on the carpet from shaggy tails, the tumbleweeds of dog hair, or that distinct smell of soggy doggy that no air freshener can defeat.  There are various pee spots from the males marking territory or overactive bladders.  Not to mention the dog hair that inevitably ends up a special seasoning in whatever meal I actually get around to cooking.  It's a given.  Dog hair is either cooked into the dish or will end up there via your clothes.  When I go to sleep at night with my three dogs right there with me, I put a thin layer of Vaseline on my face to help keep it soft, so I always wake up with a face like the wolfman from shedded fur that sticks to me as I sleep.  I live in fear that one day I will go to the doctor with a stomach ache, and he'll tell me I have a fur ball.  Of course it would make the news, and eventually post on YouTube, and I will be forever immortalized as the woman with the ten pound hairball.  You can't just cough that up!

There are times when I think back of the brief period when my beloved Sheltie died and I wasn't ready to get another dog, or when our beloved mutt Sega escaped and got killed by a car.  I tried to distance  myself from animals so I wouldn't have to see them die, sparing myself of that pain.  But what I didn't realize was I was robbing myself of the joy they bring during their short lives.  

I wasn't ready for a dog when the man I married decided he had to have a yellow Lab.  I didn't want a dog yet.  We walked with the breeder past these outdoor kennels, with these happy friendly Labs running along the fence.  My heart began to thaw.  By the time we got to the litter we were to choose from, my heart was melting fast.  When we saw the small yellow body sleeping in his food dish, I looked up at my husband as a female yellow lab puppy came over to me and said, "Can we get two?"  It was decided that day, my destiny.  I believe we don't choose our fate; rather, it chooses us.  Mine was sealed that day.

One dog led to two, because come on, it wasn't fair to Austin to have to chew on things to keep himself occupied, he needed a friend.  That friend turned into Dakota, who in turn had a litter of seven puppies, which of course led to three dogs in da house, which led to another litter and another dog.  I knew then although I would have kept every puppy if I could have that I had reached my limit.  Four dogs are a lot of work, especially when you're doing the majority of the care yourself.  I didn't complain (much), because I was the reason for this development.  So accidents, dog hair, dog smell, well, you get used to it after awhile.  Having a pristine house never really mattered to me.  Having furniture no one could sit on because I didn't want it soiled or ruined wasn't gonna happen.  So my life became a house of falling apart furniture filled with the love of good dogs.  It doesn't matter to them, though.  They love me and they don't really care what the house looks like.

When Austin passed from cancer, I was fine with the three amigos, Dakota, Titus, and Jack.  Until a friend of the man I married was giving away a Husky, another dog the man I married always wanted.  I was less than enthused.  I had adjusted to life with three, and was quite content.  My traitorous human children betrayed me by saying we should take him.  I saw more work and expense for me--not to mention trying to add a strange dog to this tight-knit pack.  I couldn't see it working.  But...the crazy dog lady gave in.  It was rough at first.  Dakota did not like him at all.  But when I saw him, that heart of mine was a puddle on the floor, and I thought well, there are worse things that four dogs (like dog hair, pee spots, pine straw, dog smell, dog breath, fleas) but I accepted my fate.  

Now we have just the three--Dakota, Jack, and Thor, after losing Titus to cancer--but I still stopped and took a quick gander at the woman holding a "Puppies" sign in the parking lot at WalMart.  Lucky for the man I married they were Chihuahuas for a price and not Golden Retrievers or Labs for free!

Even the man I married finds time to complain, about the hair, dogs on the bed, bones laying around to be stepped on, and dogs always walking in front of the cable box when he's trying to change the channel.  We've had dogs chew MP3 players, pencils, toys, lip gloss, cords, books, and just about anything else you can imagine.  I used to sweat the dog stuff, but not now.  It doesn't change anything, and it causes me to lose valuable time that could be spent playing with my three wonderful canine children.  I've realized my yard will never have grass, my bushes will always need pruning, and my front porch with the railings falling down might never get fixed.  I might never have nice furniture, or a bigger house, or new linoleum in the kitchen.  But that's okay.  I've got a great family, both human and dog, filled with love, laughter, and memories.  Let everybody else keep up with the Joneses, and compare material possessions.  I'll take three dogs waiting to shower me with kisses every time I walk in the house.  Where else would I ever find such unconditional love and adoration?  No diamond ring or dozen red roses could ever give me that.

So I won't sweat the dog stuff, because it's all dog stuff.  And it's all good.

(on a side note-- I highly recommend reading the book "Dogs Don't Bite When a Growl Will Do" by Matt Weinstein and Luke Barber.  I've learned a lot about living my life the way my dogs live theirs--with excited happy abandon!)

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Where I Wanna Be

The road to happy is riddled with pot holes, slick with oil, a long winding road that seems flat and endless.  But it's where I wanna be.  

Depression has jumped on my back and dug in its claws, refusing to relinquish its hold without a battle.  I have no will to fight.  I have fallen in the rabbit hole, and can see no sign of escape, of rescue, no sign of light.  The day is sunny, but the darkness surrounds me.  My heart is heavy, the tears threaten to fall over everything and nothing in particular.  I just want to be left alone but don't want to be lonely anymore.  

I'm tired of hopelessness.  I'm tired of sadness.  I'm tired of wandering lost thru a life that is supposed to be mine.  I'm tired of negativity, manipulation, threats and stress.  I'm tired of trying to grieve and having my time interrupted by the insecurities and needs of others thrust upon me.  I'm tired of being misunderstood by people who not only don't try to understand me but don't want to.  More than being loved I want to be understood, accepted, for who and what I am, instead of trying to be fixed, altered, to be someone who is easier to get along with.  I am difficult yet simple if you just try.  It might not seem worth it but the payoff would have been so big it would have made it all worthwhile.  I am tired of being chained to the past.  I'm tired of worrying about the future.  I'm tired of coming in last every time, I'm tired of being blamed for everything, I'm tired of the twists and turns that confuse and confound me, the verbal barbs that wrap around my heart and head making me dizzy and heartbroken.  I'm tired of closing myself off because I'm so cynical I know that when I try I am only going to be taken for granted.  What I give freely will not be returned, because I am not worth the effort.  That is not my fault, but the fault of the ones who deem me that way, who see an easy target, who tell me the horrible deeds I'm capable of when I do not have an evil heart.  They can not convince me I am this horrible person, because I deflect their attacks, hold up the mirror so they can see what they try to put on me is really their reflections.  

So I push myself along, on the road to happy, hoping it will be around the next corner, over the next hill, hoping, always hoping I will arrive at my destination.  I know happiness will not rescue me.  I know happiness will not fix what is wrong in my life.  But happiness will make the hardships easier to bear.  Happiness will knock depression away, salve my wounds, and give me a reason to keep going.  It will act as my guiding light thru the darkness that surrounds me.  It will pick me up and keep me going when I otherwise want to give up.  

We are responsible for our own happiness.  I have not always been happy with my circumstances, with the direction my life has taken, with the people or things in my world.  But I have discovered a happiness with myself.  I finally see that what others find annoying I find endearing.  What others think is high maintenance is really quirkiness.  What others see as weird is really weird, in a good way.  If only they could have celebrated me the way I do.  If only they could see that maybe the problem isn't me, but within themselves.  If only they looked into a mirror instead of just glass.  If only they were happy with themselves.  Maybe we could be happy together. 

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Undefeated Death

"If death meant just leaving the stage long enough to change costume and come back as a new character...Would you slow down?  Or speed up?"--Chuck Palahniuk

Death is the one thing in life that, no matter how much hope you have, you will never defeat.  It is amazing that we can live productive lives knowing that one day we will cease to be.  I can't imagine not being alive, or that I lose people I love and have to go on without them.  So many people wandering around in this world, wasting their lives, and I am one of them.  We think we will always have tomorrow--to achieve our goals, to change our lives, to be happy, to tell someone how we feel about them--but we don't know with all certainty that tomorrow will be there.  

I am still relatively young, at 43, and God willing I could possibly have another 43 years left.  But I curse getting old.  I hate it.  Each year brings something else I don't like--a wrinkle, an ache, a change in my body that I swore when I was svelte (too skinny) and young (stupid) would never happen to me.  Time ravages us, no matter what care we take, it has its way with us at its will, on its terms, and we have no choice but to be victims.  Sure, we can take this vitamin, the latest supplement, eat fruits, proteins, carbs or no carbs, certain meats, no meats, vegetables, grains and fibers, deprive ourselves of cake and ice cream and candy, jog until we feel like our heart will explode, use this cream, lotion or salve to stop wrinkles, aches, or dryness, but time marches on, in a zig zag willy nilly pattern all over us, leaving wrinkles like tire tracks etched in our skin, in our lives, until there is nowhere left to hide but in plain sight.  Our bodies grow weak and flabby, our minds dull and forget, we move slower, step by painstaking step until we have to stop for a breather.  Soon we need this pill or that pill, this surgery or that surgery, the operating room table like a cutting board and we are the turkey offered for Thanksgiving.  It's sad and depressing and then it's over, just like that.  We live--if we're lucky, that is, because too many of us just exist--and we laugh and we love, and then it's over.  We are gone.  Or they are gone and we are left to live without them.  How do you do this?  How do you ever get used to losing people you love?  Do you ever adjust to it, or is it like a knife every time?  I used to love being the youngest but now I know I am more likely to lose more people in my life because of my placement.  I've got a lot to lose.  So much pain.  

But then...

I think about it.  How lucky am I to have so many wonderful people in my life?  To have known so many people that have given me so much, so many people I have been honored to love and share my memories with.  We all have so much but we don't see it!  We don't let it in!  We let the pain rule when we should let love rule.  Sure, my body is 43 years old, but what else have I owned in my lifetime that has lasted that long?  NOTHING.  It's foolish to think it won't need a tune up along the way.  I can't stop living in anticipation of dying; in fact, I need to live more because of it.  I don't mean make foolish choices and say nothing matters because I'll be dead someday, but I mean work to fulfill my dreams, live each day like there's no tomorrow by appreciating being alive, being able to see, hear, experience--good, bad, joy, pain, laughter, tears--because it's all a vital part of my life.  Use this pain to learn more about the kind of person I want to be.  How I can change me to be that person.  Do something with this life I've been given before it is taken away.  We can choose to stay in grief, or we can choose to feel that grief and turn it into something better.  We can choose to ignore the living in order to remember those we've lost, choose to feel alone instead of feeling part of those still here, choose sadness over happiness. Everything is a part of life, the good and the bad, and we must experience it all.  But then, we must choose to live.  I will not be a walking dead person.  I will be alive, until I have only the last breath to give.  

So in answer to the question in the quote at the beginning of this post, I would definitely slow down.  Because although my life has not been perfect, nor have I, it is my life, and I like being me.  And I wouldn't want it any other way. 

Monday, July 12, 2010

No Evil, Please, I'm On a Verbal Diet

"Hear no evil don't you see no evil don't you lay no evil down on me
You're gonna burn in hell
Speak no evil don't you think no evil don't you play with evil cause I'm free
You're gonna burn in hell."--Twisted Sister

It is hard for me to fathom that the course of my life could be altered by the irresponsibility of others, by a carelessly flung adjective, a remark taken out of context, an overzealous exclamation, or an outside observation.  I don't know why it's hard for me, I've had it done before.  Maybe as cynical and distrusting as I can be, I still have that hopeful naivete that I can believe in someone.  I've been burned before; painfully blistered and scarred, my cracked soul still has not fully recovered.  But even still I know I could never do to them what they have done to me.  Does that make me a better person?  No.  Well, maybe, but that's not a judgment for me to make.  It just makes me who I am.  I can be a bitch.  I can be someone you don't want to piss off.  But the repercussions of that is not retaliation, but a cool, quiet aloofness, an invisible wall I erect to keep out those who burn me, impenetrable to the fires they breathe on me, impervious to wicked forked tongues that speak from both sides of their shameful mouths.  

I am dangerous, and they don't even realize it.  I go along with them, as if I am one, but I watch, I listen, I record.  I hang back and observe.  I can treat someone with respect, treat them as I would a friend, all the while not trusting them; hell, not even liking them.  But they don't even realize.  I process this information solely for my own use.  It is what I use to decide if I can let this person inside the wall.  Most fail.  Some are allowed in.  Some get inside only to be kicked out.  I can work very well with someone I don't like, because that's what I do, and they are none the wiser.  I choose my words carefully, plan out my sentences, and the information I choose to share is carried from me to someone else, via this person, this telephone line.  My responses are calculated, executed without the knowledge or consent of the vessel I use to deliver them.  What to them seems like something I share in passing is really a well planned verse.  And they don't even know it.

I am many things but I am not evil.  I can be careless, I can be recklessly passionate, I can be angry, and yes, I can even be hurtful (though that is a side of myself I do not like to portray) but I am not evil.  I wish ill-will on no one, not even my worst enemies.  That serves no purpose in my life.  Sometimes I wish Karma would rip them a new one, and when it does I relish it, but I wish no permanent damage.  Just cosmic order.  

That is why I try to see no evil, hear no evil, and speak no evil, because that which is dealt out shall be returned.  And I'm not anxious to be Karma's bitch.   

Friday, July 2, 2010

Ssshhh...Silence is Golden, and Ignorance, at Times, Truly is Bliss

 "In our appetite for gossip, we tend to gobble down everything before us, only to find, too late, that it is our ideals we have consumed, and we have not been enlarged by the feasts but only diminished."--Pico Iyer

I have been called many things in my day, some that have impressed me with the ingenuity behind the alleged insult, some that have been true so I've simply shrugged them off, some that have pierced my heart like a needle bringing tears to my eyes and a stinging in my soul, some that have outright pissed me off and more than a few that have made me laugh.  I've deserved some, earned some, and done nothing wrong to get others.  Mostly they've just been labels flung at me by a society who feels the need to fit in and belong at all costs, and I've managed to survive because I don't cling to conformity.  I like to fit into the fringes of society, just enough to function but not enough to get caught in the endless and tiresome games society plays at a randomly chosen victim's expense.  

I have been a randomly chosen victim.  An easy mark, if you will.  Because I have possessed one thing that these labelers have been unable to grasp--silence.  Is it merely a coincidence that I've acquired the skill to stop a forked tongue before it wags, or is it related to the hearing impairment monkey on my back since my pre-teen years?  Call it quiet, call it shy, call it withdrawn, it's probably all of those and more, but it's definitely something I've known was different about me since I was in kindergarten, maybe even before.  I've always felt it, that eerie distance, I've always known I belong outside the circle.  I used to think it meant there was something wrong with me, but now I realize it's just how it is.  Sure, sometimes it's lonely, but sometimes it's comforting too.  And I've given up pretending to be someone I'm not.  No, I save the costumes for Halloween.  You will not find a more loyal, honest, or reliable person than me, if you dig thru the outer layer of frost to get to the warm soul underneath.  Not many people have succeeded, but those who have will always have an ally.  I will always have their backs.  All I ask is that same loyalty in return.  Needless to say, I'm disappointed quite frequently.

I prefer to stand in the background, watching and listening, absorbing the scene playing out around me like a sponge.  I don't need the spotlight, the standing ovation, the reassuring praise and pat on the head saved for those whose insecurities are obvious.  I toot my own horn, so to speak, in the shadows, in the darkness, usually with the people that the labelers wouldn't even acknowledge.  Because they are the heart and soul of the world.  Not the ones always shouting "Look at me!  Listen to me!"  The ones who hold their tongues, who keep the secrets, they are the people I associate with.  Words are sacred to them, and I know they are capable of going to the death without revealing a confidence.  I'm one of them.  I've done it.  Well, not gone to the death, obviously, because I'm still here, but kept it until it was divulged by the person's own will.  Done it more than once, actually.  So when I say "You can trust me" you should know you really can.  

But there are those whose diarrhea of the mouth is used to gain them friends, attention, notoriety, fame, kudos, whatever sick and twisted thing they are missing in their own sordid lives.  Hell, half the time these people will call themselves out, opening their own secrets for the world to see.  The others are merely hypocrites, outing other people while sticking their own secrets in a lock box and swallowing the key.  And the ones who confide only to those who will side with them, they are a whole different hot mess barely deserving a side note in this entry.  

I have no use for small talk, even less use for gossip.  Sometimes I don't hear things until way after the fact, when the smoke has already cleared.  Sometimes I don't hear it at all, thank God.  Sometimes I hear and pretend I didn't, and when a friend is the butt of the nonsense I let them know.  Gossip never ever helped a situation.  I've never heard anyone say "I'm so glad you told me all that about so-and-so, I feel much better about the situation now!"  No, no good can come from it.  I listen, sometimes.  It's unavoidable.  But I try to keep my mouth shut.  Lately though I realize that's not right, either.  When the gossip dragon looms in front of me, even if it wasn't breathing fire in my direction, I need to do my part to slay it.  That would be like a superhero walking past a person in need saying "That's not my fight."  It is my responsibility to do what I can to end pointless and evil gossip before it spirals out of control, enveloping everything in a torturous kudzu of sentences growing wildly out of control all because one individual overheard one tiny seed and decided to plant it in another person's garden.  If I don't, I'm an unwilling cog in the wheel of gossip that allows it to keep turning.  And that's not something I'm comfortable with.  

It's easy to get caught up in the gossip wheel.  It's usually interesting, because it's always the dirt about someone.  But that someone is usually a randomly chosen victim, maybe even someone who thought they were talking to someone they could trust.  I have betrayed trust in the past, and I have had my trust betrayed more times than that.  I know how horrible it feels to do and have it done to me.  It's a choice.  It's always a choice, isn't it?  It's easier to succumb to it than to stand against it.  I'm too strong to take the easy way out.  I'd rather stand for something.  That's my choice.  I choose silence.  It is golden.  It is kind.  It is quiet.  And coming from someone who uses technology just to be able to hear a regular conversation, that says a lot.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

A Blog By Any Other Name

A Sarcastic Fringehead.  How can you not love the name?  Watching him defend his home is enviable.  If people could puff up like that, there would be a lot less fighting in the world.  This seemed like a natural name for my blog.  Maybe I can identify with this fish, maybe I just really like the name, but I think we all have some fringehead in us, and those who don't should.  But there were a few runner up names that would have been more than sufficient.  Now you're gonna know what they are!

The Blue-Footed Booby.  The name speaks for itself!  I first saw these birds on a show about the Galapagos Islands, a place I have since become fascinated with.  What is not to love about the Blue-Footed Booby?  Just the name makes you want to grin, it makes you want to say "You're just makin' that up!" when someone talks about them.  But now you know, they are real.  This picture is the dance of the Blue-Footed Booby.  Perhaps it will catch on and become the staple of clubs around the world...although I'm sure we've all seen some boobies on the dance floor, and I don't mean necessarily the ones on a woman!  This would have been a viable choice for a blog name as well.

The Naked Mole Rat, as ugly as that hairless Chinese dog, though somehow lovable.  Yet another creature you never would have believed existed if you hadn't seen a picture and heard the name.  I think there is a little Naked Mole Rat in all of us, just waiting to get out...but their vision sucks so they might never find a way!

Those were the top three runner ups, three very distinct creatures from the animal kingdom.  Here are a few honorable mentions:


The Flying Fox of the coolest looking creatures I've ever seen.  I wanted one of these as a pet when I was in the fourth grade.  Mom said "No."  I never understood why...

Okay, he was never a serious contender, but I had to give him the credit he's due.  I love dogs but I don't even think I could rescue one of these.  Kudos to those who can, God bless you!

This one just makes me smile!  Who couldn't laugh at a small dog with big dentures?  Thanks, Pedigree, not only for donating to rescues, but for giving us this ad campaign!  It's classic! 

Hopefully this brief encounter with creatures I've taken a liking to will leave you with a smile.  If not, there's always dogs with big teeth!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

If Only I Knew Then...

that duct tape was meant for actual ducts, things would have made more sense.

that sushi actually tastes good, I would have eaten more of it.

that one day I wouldn't be able to bask in the heated glow of the sun, I would have appreciated it more when I could.

that I would sell myself short, I would have upped my price.

that one day I would fear that I wasted too many years, I would have made the most of every day.

that one day I wouldn't believe in myself, I would have given myself more of a chance.

that sometimes as much as you try to love someone they make it really hard for you to do so, I would have tried harder instead of giving up.

that I wasn't really ready for major life changes, I would have given myself more time to prepare and mature.

that life sometimes really does give you lemons, I would have offered life a trade, perhaps some prunes, or an avocado.  

that motherhood was this freakin' hard yet the best thing I ever did, I would have enjoyed it a lot more, even the vomit, sleepless nights, tears and boogers, because one day they might not need me anymore.

that I would gain weight, I would have bought some bigger clothes and ate more dessert!

that sometimes you really do have to know when to say when, I would have said it years ago.

that other people would try to tell me how to live my life, I would have told them to go to hell.

that you can't please everyone, I would have tried more to please myself.

that I was important, I wouldn't have let anyone else forget it.

that other people's problems, insecurities, jealousies, hatred, bias, possessiveness, doubt, shame, guilt weren't my problem, I would have cut them out of my life and enjoyed myself more.

that no one has the right to tell you who they will allow you to be friends with, I would have had a bunch of friends.

that no one owns me, I would have owned myself.

that no one has the right to treat me any way they want and expect me to take it, I wouldn't have taken it.

that I really didn't want to be by myself so much, I would have enjoyed company more. 

that hugging, a caring caress, a warm smile, holding someone's hand for comfort, a pat on the back, and a kiss on the cheek is okay, I would have opened myself up and given more to those who truly need it.

that it's great to be crazy, I wouldn't have tried to appear so sane!

that normal is overrated, I would have been myself--and liked it.

that I have a purpose, I would have accomplished more.

that all I really wanted was to be loved by someone first, I wouldn't have accepted being loved by someone last.

that some people won't let themselves be happy and will never appreciate the good in their lives because they focus on the bad, I wouldn't have allowed them into my life.

that life isn't painless, you will hurt and be hurt and you will learn from it and grow and change, then I would have learned a long time ago to forgive--myself and others.  No one can expect you to never hurt them, and you can never expect to not be hurt.  But you can choose to forgive and move on.

that I would find myself stuck between a rock and a hard place, I would have stayed in the field full of wildflowers!

that I really am a good person despite the bad things I have done/will do, I would have loved myself more.

that when someone treats you badly, you should leave, I would have left.

that happiness really does make you feel better, and being nice gives you peace, I would have always been that way.

that laughter really is the best medicine, I would have laughed every day, and given someone else laughter, instead of letting someone's frowns run my life.

that that little itch could be telling me something, I would have bought stock in Head and Shoulders.

that it's okay to be me, I would have been me every day.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Teaching an Old Dog

My voyage of self-discovery hit turbulent seas, uncharted waters, and sharks circling the dinghy (By definition, a dinghy is a type of small boat, often carried or towed by a larger vessel.  In this reference, however, the dinghy could refer to my mind, or consciousness, being towed by the larger vessel of my body.  However, I could have used dingy--commonly confused with dinghy for those not current on their aquatic vernacular--which means  to be a little bit ditsy, not all together there.  Usually refers to a shallow or not too bright person.  Both would be perfectly acceptable when referring to me and my mind.)  I can barely tread water, forgot my life jacket, and there's a hole in my life raft.  Plus, I sunburn really easily.

Okay, let's head to the beach for a minute, swab some zinc on your nose, grab a fruity drink with dangling paper umbrellas, and watch as reality hangs over our heads like a dark storm cloud, thunder rumbling and lightning bolts ready to strike.  I've discovered lately that the cumulonimbus is always ready to descend, always threatening to rain on my parade, always whipping the seas into a frenzy tossing my poor ol' dingy into the rocks.

I realized that the more I learn about myself the more questions I have.  That could be construed as valuable; it means I'm always learning, always growing, always changing, always willing to see a different side of things with an open mind.  But it can create chaos, utter confusion, and actually cause me to look in the mirror and not recognize the face staring back at me.  I might perceive me to be one way, and someone else sees me in a totally different light, and a third person sees someone else entirely.  How can I say that I am just me, when there are so many mes that different people see? (Okay, now I sound like a Dr. Seuss book, perhaps called How Many Mes Do You See? with a three-headed traumblebot on the cover...I made that up.  There's no such thing as a traumblebot.  No, not even in a Dr. Seuss book.  Seriously, I'm not a traumblebot...but you have to admire that it's a mythical three-headed creature and I used its name three times.  Yeah, I'm clever like that.)

So anyway, who am I, really?  Why can one person think I'm all that, while another thinks I'm no good, when another thinks I'm quiet while the other person thinks I'm too loud?  How can I be all that and still be able to say I'm just me?  Just me?  WHO IS JUST ME?  And which me is right?  The one I think I am, or the one he, she, or they think I am?  Maybe I'm a chameleon, a different person to different people depending on who that person needs me to be, while remaining true to myself when I get home and shed the exterior of what the world believes me to be.  Can I be a sober drunk?  A lazy jogger?  An ugly beauty?  A thin fat person?  A messy maid?  Can I be June Cleaver, Marge Simpson and Roseanne Conner all rolled into one?  Or can I simply just be?

I have learned some interesting things about myself in recent weeks, some I've had a feeling about, others I pretty much knew already but certain events removed all doubt, and others I never even had a clue about.  But age brings wisdom, and with it a deeper understanding of our human complexities and simplicities, our machinations and our divine enlightenments, our morals, motivations, thought process, consciousness, habits, tendencies, values, dreams, goals, and failures.  Each of those discoveries helps us to be a more complete person, able to be who we need to be to whomever we need to be that way with.  That will keep us on the right path in life, seeking answers to the questions about who and why we are.

Someone once told me that I am the hardest person to live with.  Am I?  Aren't we all?  I've never heard anyone say "So and so is the easiest person to live with."  But take it from someone who has lived with me for 43 and a half years and has reveled in her dingy dinghy--I ain't so bad!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Speak Up, Will Ya, My Ear's in the Shop!

Imagine, if you will that one day you're just cruising along in life, doing the best you can, and your left ear just stops working.  You give it a couple of good whacks, but it just up and quits on ya.  Frustration, terror, anger, sadness, all these emotions tidal wave you until you wish you'd just drown already.  How will you get thru the work day, when that ear just happens to be the one closest to the dentist you're assisting?  Do you bother to explain to patients why you sound like a doofus saying huh? what? excuse me? after nearly everything they say?  And what do you do when you get a mumbler--a hearing impaired's worse nightmare?  Not to mention the soft spoken--fuggedaboutit!!  

This is one of my worst nightmares, a dilemma I've become all too familiar with.  So let's continue with my situation--now the average person can't take their ear to the shop, but since becoming depended on acrylic masses of circuitry and batteries, I can.  And I have.  Quite often.  In fact, this latest adventure marks the third time I've had to drop my ear off for repairs, the second time for the left, so I can confidently deduce that the right one will blow in the near future.  I will have owned these ears a year come August 14, and they've been repaired more times than my tv, stove, dishwasher, microwave, car, and computer combined.  So much for modern technology.  So the ordeal that began one fateful day in February of 2009 when my old, out-of-date "cheap" ears (they were $950 each, the low end of the digital ears, lasting six years with NO repair time even after I accidentally dropped one in the toilet trying to put it in way too early in the morning!) decided they had heard their last word, succumbed to the ravages of sound technology.  Best advice--never trust just anyone with your ears, because the hearing don't value sound like someone who can't hear.  They take it for granted, confident that when they get up and go to work their ears will hear everything they need to hear.  Those of us who depend on machinery and the expertise of others just to be able to hear the blessings of a loved one, or even the curses of an enemy, always carry a bit of nervous hesitation.  When the low battery signal beeps, is that the aid's dying breath?  Will changing the battery, changing the filter, be enough to resuscitate them?  Tune in next week for the exciting conclusion of When the Hearing Aid Dies...

But seriously folks, here's an experiment for you, something that can teach you to value the gift of sound.  One day, when you wake up, put an ear plug in one of your ears, then go thru the next three or four days with only one ear.  People think I have super hearing because I have something to amplify sound, but it only gives me regular ears, and when one is in the shop, it messes everything up.  I still don't hear everything, but I can hear what matters.  So after you go thru a few days in my world, in my ears, take the ear plug out and be thankful for the amazing things you hear.

My frustration comes from people who act like it's no big deal for me to struggle thru my day with only one ear.  "Well, it'll take a week to repair", "You'll have to pay to have it shipped overnight even though it's still in warranty", these out of the mouth of the hearing, blasphemers in my hearing impaired kingdom, in which I am the queen.  "Off with their heads" I shout, though no one hears me because their ears are damaged and have been sent for repairs.  Thank God we don't need our ears to think or read.  I wish I could make the hearing understand what it is like for us, the impaired, but until someone takes away their ears, they will never know my world.  Keep in mind I am by no means rich.  I don't have a money tree, and my bank account is the same number as my I.Q. more often than not.  So to think of the money I shelled out for these wonderful advancements in modern technology for the hearing impaired, enough money to buy one or possibly two of my children a decent used car, I cringe every time one of them dies.  If they were a car, they would have been classified a lemon by now, and I would either have gotten a replacement or my money back to get a replacement.  But basically the office tells me I'm S.O.L, 'cause my 30 day trial period is up.  So all because some whacked out "professional" audiologist dicked me over, I have to pay for these and wonder every day if it will work when I turn it on, and live in fear that one day both will stop on the same day.  (and I take way better care of these than i did the "cheap" ones that lasted six years with no repairs)  Or I can plunge even deeper in debt, go to my new ENT and have new ones made.  I should have taken better care of the money tree, and probably shoulda planted those magic beans instead of serving them with tacos.

I don't have the luxury of putting my life on hold when this happens, which seems to be frequently.  I can't just say "Sorry boss, no can hear" and take a week off until they get around to fixing my ear.  No, I have to struggle thru my days, knowing that people will think I'm stupid because I can't hear, they will label me defective, they will talk about me behind my back or worse yet to my face, and I will never know.  This is my cross to bear, and I've been dragging it around since my teens, and I will continue to do so for the rest of my life, living in fear that one day even machines won't help me and I will be left alone in silence, watching life rush by without me.

I am a firm believer that what does not kill us makes us stronger, and the fact that I've been marching along for 43 years is my testimony that I have endured many hardships, and God willing I will survive many many more.  I am learning to accept my impairment, my defect, my imperfection.  I can joke about it now instead of ignoring it, hiding from it, keeping it a secret, or worse being embarrassed by it.  I can stand up and say "My name is Joyce, and I am hearing aid dependent" with pride.  I saw a news story about a man, Donnie Fritts, who had to have a portion of his face removed due to a tumor or he would die, and he overcame being afraid to go outside and letting the world see him how he is.  He is alive, and his wife Sharon is still madly in love with him, because even though part of him is gone, he's still the same person he has always been.  He will be a source of inspiration to me as I suffer set backs, because no matter how badly I think I have it, I know this cross I carry is nothing compared to some.  I am lucky.

I will pick up my ear today, and hopefully it will work and I will be temporarily restored until the next time.  My ears are a small part of me as a whole, and those who really matter to me know that.  Being impaired has taught me compassion, patience, understanding, it has shown me that I need to reach out to those who feel they are defective and let them know how wonderful they are.  I hate to break it to ya, but everyone is flawed in some way, even those who preach perfection.  We all have something wrong with us, but who cares?  How boring would life be if we were all these immaculate automatons marching thru life in the same shoes?  How would we learn humility, empathy, or sympathy?  I will accept you, flawed and vulnerable, as I hope you will do me.  (sorry, I had a "that's what she said" moment over the last part of that sentence.  i'm flawed, remember?)  

So maybe I have found an objective, a goal, a cause to defend.  Maybe I need to fight for other hearing impaired individuals, that we are treated fairly, and work at getting hearing aids covered by insurance, because for a great many of us, they are a necessity.  Maybe this experience is prompting me to learn sign language, something I've always wanted to do anyway.  And maybe, growing up good friends with a girl whose sister wore hearing aids practically from birth was a sign of things to come.  You do what you gotta do to get thru each day, and with any luck you will touch someone else's life along the way and change it.  I think the hearer's need an awakening.  And I'm gonna make them hear me loud and clear.  My ears are defective, my hearing is impaired; I however, am not. 


Sunday, May 23, 2010

Top 25 Most Played Tunes on my iPod

I debated starting at #25, but decided not to.  Too much work, and I'm not mentally prepared for it.  So here they are, the top played, so you can see where my musical tastes lie in comparison to your own.  Hopefully you are as unique as I strive to be.

 1.  Bad Things--Jace Everett, 26 hits
 2.  I Gotta Feeling--Black Eyed Peas, 23 hits
 3.  Athena--The Who, 20 hits
 4.  A Little Less Conversation (JXL Radio Edit Remix)--Elvis Presley, 19 hits
 5.  The Little Things--Danny Elfman, 17 hits
 6.  Handlebars--Flobots, 15 hits
 7.  Are You Jimmy Ray?--Jimmy Ray, 15 hits
 8.  Down with the Sickness (Explicit)--Richard Cheese, 15 hits
 9.  Friend Like Me--Robin Williams, 14 hits
10. Come Home--Back Door Slam, 13 hits
11. What I'm Lookin' For (Ad Version)--Brendan Benson, 13 hits
12. Brown Derby Jump--Cherry Poppin' Daddies,  13 hits
13. Feeling Good--Michael Buble, 13 hits
14. Say Hey (I Love You)--Michael Franti, 13 hits
15. Everything Falls Apart--Dog's Eye View, 12 hits
16. Don't Lie to Me--Dokken, 12 hits
17. Suicide Boulevard--Little River Band, 12 hits
18. Real World--Matchbox Twenty, 12 hits
19. Bedrock Twitch--Rock Roll, 12 hits
20. Cradle of Love--Billy Idol, 11 hits
21. Run-Around--Blues Traveler, 11 hits
22. Jerk it Out--The Ceasars, 11 hits
23. Sisters are Doin' It for Themselves--The Eurythmics, 11 hits
24. Happy Anniversary--Little River Band, 11 hits
25. Vogue--Madonna, 11 hits

How many of these songs do you like?  How many have you never even heard of?  I've got bits and pieces of everything on my iPod.  2,716 songs and growing.  I've even got Barbra Streisand!!  And honestly, I'm surprised Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego isn't up there, that's a favorite, or Eep Op Ork Ah Ah (that means I love you).  I get a lot of my songs from T.V. shows, movies, and commercials.  Half the fun is finding them.  How colorless would life be without music?  How dull and uninteresting.  Life would be no more than bland, chilled food on a paper plate without music to give it warmth and spice.  I love my iPod, my music, and I will continue to belt out tunes while in the shower, or driving my car, no matter how off key voice cracking like Peter Brady I sound.  Life is supposed to be off key, so march to your own drummer, crank whatever music you like, shake your booty and belt it out like the fat lady ending the opera!  You'll feel better if you do! 

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Food for Thought, A Midnight Snack

“Life moves on, whether we act as cowards or heroes. Life has no other discipline to impose, if we would but realize it, than to accept life unquestioningly. Everything we shut our eyes to, everything we run away from, everything we deny, denigrate or despise, serves to defeat us in the end. What seems nasty, painful, evil, can become a source of beauty, joy, and strength, if faced with an open mind. Every moment is a golden one for him who has the vision to recognize it as such.” Henry Miller

"I don't know if I continue, even today, always liking myself.  But what I learned to do many years ago was to forgive myself.  It is very important for every human being to forgive herself or himself because if you live, you will make mistakes--it is inevitable.  But once you do and you see the mistake, then you forgive yourself and say, 'well, if I'd known better I'd have done better,' that's all.  So you say to people who you think you may have injured, 'I'm sorry,' and then you say to yourself, 'I'm sorry.'  If we all hold on to the mistake, we can't see our own glory in the mirror because we have the mistake between our faces and the mirror; we can't see what we're capable of being.  You can ask forgiveness of others, but in the end the real forgiveness is in one's own self.  I think that young men and women are so caught by the way they see themselves.  Now mind you.  When a larger society sees them as unattractive, as threats, as too black or too white or too poor or too fat or too thin or too sexual or too asexual, that's rough.  But you can overcome that.  The real difficulty is to overcome how you think about yourself.  If we don't have that we never grow, we never learn, and sure as hell we should never teach."--Maya Angelou

Two very powerful, thought-provoking quotes.  I will come back to these often myself, for guidance, inspiration, and a reminder that I am flawed, but I am also forgiven.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Who Says You Can't Go Home?

Be it ever so humble, there's no place like home.
Click your heels three times, and repeat after me:  "There's no place like home."
Home Sweet Home.
Home is where the heart is.
Mama I'm comin' home.
"Home is a place you grow up wanting to leave, and grow old wanting to get back to."--John Ed Pearce
"Home is where you can say anything you please, because nobody pays any attention to you anyway."--Joe Moore

Home.  A simple, four-letter word that has such depth and meaning.  It might invoke bad memories for some, good memories for others, and for others, they create a home wherever they go.  A house is merely an abode, a structure with four walls and a roof that allows us to weather the storm, a lifeless, breathless mass of wood/cement/aluminum/brick that offers us repose.  It has no heart, no soul, no voice...until someone calls it home.

I recently had the luxury of spending a week in my childhood home, with my parents.  Such vitality in that house, though the occupants grow more frail with each year of age on their life tally sheet.  Everyone--family, friends, and even strangers--will feel it, the homeyness pulsates, radiates, so inviting.  I feel peace when I am there, like all is right in the world, the universe is aligned, order wins over chaos, and I can breathe and be myself and know that's all that is expected of me.  I belong.  No questions asked.  I am one of them.  They are my people.  They will always love me, and sometimes that is just what I need, to be loved for who I am.  My parents created me, so who better to accept me than them?  

I am extremely blessed.  I had an A-1 childhood, and the memories that come back to me each time I cross through the doorway wrap around me like a homemade quilt, surrounding me with love and laughter and a warmth that stays with me long after I leave.  We didn't have everything we wanted growing up, but we had everything we needed.  We were our own planet, the Nuthouse--we were all we needed.  Dad, Mom, four sons, three daughters, a crazy, fun bundle of family life.  It never occurred to me that some families who gather for the holidays invite cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents etc, because we had a full house with just us.  And that was fine.  The insanity continued of course when we married, and had our children but still, my parent's house, my childhood home, was where everyone wanted to be.  Our friends called my parents Mom and Dad, and that was fine by them.  Because their home extended to anyone who needed a place to belong.

Home is where the heart is.

I returned home to my family yesterday, adding to the heartbeat by reuniting my daughter to her father and brothers, and mama dog to the boy dogs.  I stepped into chaos.  I was gone a week, and as I crossed the doorway I shed my calm, folded the homemade quilt tucking it neatly away with a longing sigh and grabbed my cape, not eager to return to my role as SuperMom, able to leap tall stacks of laundry in a single bound.  They came at me from all sides, this and that and more of that and then this again...I wanted to take out my ears and relish the distorted quiet.  Alas, I couldn't, for this is my chaos, my heartbeat, and as much as I wanted to run back to the quiet of my childhood home, I knew I was needed here.  I do what others don't want to, I take control and hear complaints when I do.  I was gone a week--seven days--and my house was like an unraveled ball of yarn.  For all the good they did, something was undone, and by the time I crawled into bed at 2 a.m. I felt sad, I felt lonely, I felt overwhelmed...I felt like running home.  Because let's face it, even Moms need to go home, even Moms need a break.  We need to be permitted to be our aliases from time to time, to recharge our batteries, to recoup our thoughts, to regain our strength so that we can keep the heartbeat loud and strong in our homes.  When reality crashes down upon you, washing you up on the rocks, you feel it--in body, heart, soul, and mind--and no apple a day or two aspirins are gonna wipe that away.  But our family will.  They are our salve, our pain relievers, our reason why we don our capes and selflessly march off to face hard cold reality every day.  You get no thanks, SuperMom.  Sometimes you're even cast as a villain.  But it's your home, and you will defend it.  It's what we do.

"Home is a name, a word, it is a strong one; stronger than magician ever spoke, or spirit ever answered to, in the strongest conjuration."--Charles Dickens

So in one home I felt contentment, peace, relaxation, and I long to be in that home's loving arms.  In the other home I felt panic, chaos, disruption, anxiety, and I long to escape that home's clawed clutches.  Be it ever so humble...

In one home, I sought refuge from reality, while in the other home I was the refuge that was sought.  And I realized today I belong in both homes.  They are both a part of me, and I need them both, for without chaos I could not realize calm.  I am the extension of heart in one home, but I am the heartbeat in the other.  So my cape, stained with life experiences, wrinkled with time, emblazoned with my emblem, is still mine to wear, and I wear it proudly.  

Whomever said you can't go home again, obviously didn't have a home worth going home to.