The Life And Times of a Sword Swallower

This is the first morning in over 13 years I’ve gotten up and haven’t then heard the sound of little paws coming out to find me.

Weston was my shadow. My boy. He wanted to be where I was, most all the time. Following me downstairs when I went to fold the clothes from the dryer, outside if I went to look at the blooms in the yard or just to hang out on our deck, into the kitchen or the dining room, following me into the living room with hopeful eyes that I would sit in our chair and he could join me, settling himself against one of my legs. That guy even followed me into the bathroom where I was supposed to pet him until I was done and would then say OK which was his signal to move along.

He loved love, more than anything. He loved pets. He was insistent about them. Pawing or nosing your hand to let you know it should be on him, and no where else.

Don’t get me wrong. He was cantankerous. We’ve all been bitten by Weston. K and I more than once. He didn’t like certain things… to be picked up like a normal dog around the middle, to have things taken from him that he’d procured somehow, to have someone reach at him if he was in places he considered his den at the time, or just to try and help him when he didn’t want to be helped. He was independent, to a fault, but that was his way. And he would let you know it.

He was our little Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. The most loving dog you’d ever meet who wanted nothing more than loves from you and to give kisses right back and the snarky cantankerous boy who would have none of whatever he would have none of.

We loved him so.

Our little man was an amazing thief. He stole things all the time. We realized yesterday, as we picked up after ourselves, that we’d been thoroughly trained by him to not leave a paper towel or Kleenex anywhere he could get it. He would steal it immediately. He loved to rip up and eat those things. We’ve lost many pairs of glasses and Kleenex and post-it notes and paper towels to him over the years.

He even ate things he shouldn’t. Things that were dangerous for him. We were talking last night and laughing, amazed, at all the times he grabbed things and tried to eat them, or just swallowed them in a hurry so no one would try and take whatever it was from him. We called him the sword swallower because when we first brought him home, and he was so very tiny, we’d given him this bone we’d gotten for him. We were leaving him alone in the house for the first time, in his playpen, and we wanted him to have something good while we were gone. We weren’t gone long and when we got back we couldn’t find the bone in the playpen. We couldn’t find it anywhere. What’s more, he had this weird look on his face. Sort of surprised and slightly distressed, though he wasn’t acting distressed. We took him out of the playpen and he ran off into the living room where he jumped up on his chair and ottoman. We walked out of the room, walked back in, and there was that bone, all 6-8 inches of it, harked back up, out of him onto the ottoman. Lordy. We knew we were in trouble with him from then on. And over the years we were proven right. He stole and tried to eat a rib bone, same result with the harking it up. When we were camping once he found a piece of sausage someone had wrapped around a stick and then put hooks on and used to fish. Don’t ask me what that was supposed to catch, but there it was, discarded on the side of the river, and who would find it? Weston. Of course he would. He got a hold of it and then carried it around. We kept him walking so he wouldn’t try to start eating it because we knew the hooks would be disastrous. We got back to the Jeep and took out our bite gloves (yes, we had heavy cowhide work gloves we carried that we called bite gloves for times just like this when we had to get something from him or do something to him we knew he wouldn’t like). K managed to snatch that thing from him. To this day I don’t even know how she did it. And there was that time, road tripping as we do, when we were walking the pups near this gas station (sometimes there just aren’t great spots to take them on the road) and he found a petrified hamburger. It was hard and because he thought we might try to take it from him he tried to swallow it. He started to choke. I thought, right then, Oh God, he’s going to choke to death. I was trying to figure out how to give him the Heimlich maneuver and low and behold he managed to get it down. One time we’d returned from Europe and we had a bag of these really good chocolates inside a zipped up backpack. In fact, they were in a bag inside the backpack, inside a closed closet. He managed to get into the closet (it was a slider), get the backpack out, open the zippered compartment, open the package of chocolate, and eat them all. We were horrified. We called the dog poison hotline and were told we had to get some hydrogen peroxide down him so he would throw up. So there we were in the bathroom, on the tile floor, me holding him and getting the crap scratched out of me for it, and K pouring peroxide down his throat. It worked, he threw most of it up. But man oh man, what an incident.

We had to be hyper vigilant with him. He did what he wanted and sometimes that was dangerous for him. He didn’t care. He was Weston, danger dog.

He was also a smoker. He loved to find cigarette butts on his walks. If he found one, he would eat it. So we had to be vigilant when we walked him, butts, unfortunately, are everywhere. Crazy dog. We would joke that it was time to take Weston our for his smoke break. Because as much as we tried to keep him away from them, we was sneaky and got them anyway.

He was a smart little guy. Too smart. Too cunning. A true mischief maker.

K used to take him to her office once in a while, long ago when she had one. There were like 100 proof machines and next to each one was a garbage can. He loved garbage cans. Or a better description, he loved to knock garbage cans over. He was always looking for whatever treasures he might find there. Her staff would laugh when they came back in and ask her if Weston had been there. They knew he had because every garbage can, every last one, would be tipped over. When we visited anyone, my Mom, K’s parents, we had to make sure we went in first, his advance team, to put all the garbage cans up out of his reach. We had to scan for candy, or wrappers that might be places he could grab them, and move those things up high enough he couldn’t get to them.

Here at home he got into all sorts of mischief. You couldn’t leave your coffee cup sitting next to your chair for even a moment because the second you left the area he was there, drinking your coffee. He was a master thief, lying in wait, watching all the time, waiting for any opportunity. He pulled things off shelves in the kitchen. We had to organize with him in mind, and even when we did he still went for things. His reach, for being small in stature, was amazing. One time we came back into the living room and found he had managed to pull this old package of instant breakfast we had shoved to the back of the top shelf in the cart and forgotten about. He shouldn’t have been able to get that, but somehow, he did. We found him standing over the ripped up package with powder all over his muzzle. We re-arranged our shelves, again, for him after coming up from watching TV to find him in the living room with a bag of sugar he’d managed to somehow pull down off the shelf, drag to the living room, tear open, and enjoy. The most hilarious thing was the time we were downstairs watching TV in the evening and he had disappeared, which was always a bad sign. Suddenly we heard a loud bang. We both ran up the stairs to find he’d gotten a box of cans of green beans off the bottom shelf, drug it into the living room, and torn up most of an end of the box. I’m not sure how he thought he was getting into the cans, but you know, after everything he’d pulled off, I wouldn’t have put it past him. There is an endless list of things he stole and ate, or tried to eat. A classic was the time, when we still lived in Oregon, I’d set an egg salad sandwich on our pool table while I went into the kitchen for a moment, thinking that was a safe place out of reach for him. No. I came back and my sandwich was gone. He’d managed to jump up onto the sectional, get on the back of the sectional, and jump to the pool table to get to the sandwich. He liked to jump into chairs that were left out to get to tables. We felt like he could’ve been a circus performer in another life.

Every night he had the same routine. As we got ready for bed and after they went outside to do their business he would, as we brushed teeth and got some water and changed, go into K’s office and rummage through whatever pants she’d been wearing that day. He pulled them down off of wherever she’d put them and went through her pockets. If there was anything… Kleenex, cough drop, candy wrapper, he would get it.

A standard phrase yelled in our house for the last 13 years has been, “TREAT!”. It was our way of getting him inside if he was barking at a neighbor (he was friendly to them, but wanted them to pet him and if they didn’t, or until they did, he would bark at them) or a squirrel he’d run up a tree. Yelling “TREAT!” was also our way of getting something away from him he shouldn’t have. Again, we were trained, not him. We couldn’t just take anything from him because of his snarkiness so our option was to bribe him into letting whatever it was go. It worked, but really I think it was all just part of his plan. He would steal something he knew we didn’t want him to have, we would offer him a treat to give it up. Pretty smart. But then, he was a very very smart dog. It was a blessing and a curse, and also the reason for his name.

Weston. Our beautiful boy. He was named after his birthplace, Weston, Oregon. It’s in the Blue Mountains, and it’s lovely. As we were driving to pick him up we’d already picked out a name for him. We had a tag and everything. But when we picked him up and he looked at us with those deep brown eyes, eyes that looked into you, that felt like they were a thousand years old, we knew the name we’d picked wasn’t right. We felt like he looked studious, nerdy, deep thinking. K said, he sort of looks like he should be wearing little glasses and a blazer. Kind of like Harry Potter. We laughed, but it was true. So on the drive back the name change process began. I don’t know how it happened, which one of us thought of it, but somehow in that conversation, as we were running over things, where was he born, intellectual people we could name him after, etc. we said the name of the town. We looked at each other and bam, that was it. Weston. Perfect somehow. Perfectly him.

You know, the funny thing about him, and about his snarkiness, is that we always warned groomers and the people at his vet office about his snarkiness. We always said, watch him, don’t try to pick him up around the middle, cradle him to pick him up, don’t try to take anything from him if he gets anything, etc. We did this every time. We didn’t want anyone to get nipped. But he never bit anyone at those places and in fact everyone always told us, when we picked him up, how wonderful he was. How loving. What a great dog he was.

And he was. He was a great dog. He was the best boy. Snarkiness, and stealing, and mischief, and all. Because with all of that came so much love from him. So much joy. He loved to go for walks and play ball and play with his toys and chew on his bully sticks and run on the beach. The beach was his favorite place. When we could let him off his lead he would run like the wind, chase balls, get sticks, dig holes. He ran and ran, he played, he chased birds, then he would trot over periodically to get a pet or two, giving you little gentle kisses to let you know he loved you as much as you loved him. Letting you know he was so grateful to be there with us, in whatever place we were.

He was our boy. Complicated and intense and a pain in the ass and so loving. So loving.

He had our hearts, and still does. He always will. Our beautiful boy. Our sword swallowing mischief maker. Our one of a kind, full of personality, wonderful, beautiful boy.

Sleeping

March 1, 2007 – June 28, 2020

All These Things

This has been and continues to be a scary time. Uncertainty, hidden threats around any and every corner, so many things to remember. Wash your hands, don’t touch your face, remember what you did touch and sanitize all of it, everything, all the time, stand 6 feet away, wear your masks, don’t go out but when you do go out be safe, stay apart, and on it goes. Scary, uncertain, our new normal, whatever that means.

I was thinking about all of this this morning, as I’m sure most of us are doing multiple times a day, and it occurred to me there are still things in life I love. There are still so many positives in my life. I don’t think I’m the only one who tends to lose track of that fact on the daily. I tend to be, or at least try to be, a positive person so this losing track of the positive is unusual for me. I decided I needed to sit down and go through the motions of actually writing down those things I love, those things in my life that remain positive, no matter the circumstances or the damn pandemic constantly knocking at the door and my conscious mind.

So here it is… more for me than for you. If this resonates, try making your own list. I think it’s going to help center me, if only for a small bit of time.

Me at Morcambe Bay, U.K.

And a one and a two…

I love when my dogs look at me with the face that says I love you, Mama. I love you more than anything. I love when Weston lays on my chest. I love when Riley lays on my lap. I adore our dogs.

I love how excited my honey gets about planting flowers or fixing something or going for walks and throwing balls on the trampoline with the grandkids.

I love the light that is our grandchildren and that I get to witness it growing as they grow.

I love Sebastian’s kindness.

I love Dominic’s mischievousness and wit.

I love Tessa’s use of words.

I love that all of our grandchildren are generous of spirit, genuinely sweet, caring, kind-hearted beings. I love that I get to be in their lives.

I love the relationship I have with my Mom.

I love the rain. It’s raining today and this Oregon girl realized, looking outside at the trees dripping and the water on the grass and plants that the rain means renewal and life and washes everything clean.

I love my first cup of coffee in the morning and all the cups that come after it. I love it so much I sometimes think about it before I go to bed at night, already looking forward to it.

I love making photographs

I love street art, and weird mixed media, and cartoon art.

I like the wind through the trees. I like it so much we bought our first house together because I was standing on the deck listening to the wind blow the big firs around.

I love the smell of the ocean. Salty and pungent and sometimes almost fishy.

I love cookies. No raisins, but pretty much any other kind of cookie, I’m down.

I love the smiles on the faces of my friends, even from a distance, in photos, virtually, whatever. I adore those faces.

I love small things in nature, the tiny world all around us. Plants just coming up, weird seed pods, tiny flowers.

I also love big things… the world’s largest whatever it is. There is a town near us called Casey where they have many world’s biggest objects. I love that town. It was made for me. I’ve made my honey stop on road trips to journey off the path just so I could find the world’s largest fork or whatever. Along with this I love weird roadside art.

I love finding new music. Music is huge in my life, has always been, and I love discovering someone new. I love when friends share what they are listening to and I love when I can share something I’ve found with someone else.

I love my huge, far-reaching, very diverse, beautiful family.

I love that I’m cool in a totally uncool way. I’m a dork. I can be shy and awkward but am sincere and genuine and interested.

I love truth and sincerity and genuine interest in the people around me as well. I love listening to stories and thoughts and ideas. I love ideas.

I love the sound of my honey sleeping.

I love techie stuff. New apps, phones, smart devices, computers, etc. I’m never afraid of learning something new in regards to technology and in fact embrace it fully. Did I mention I’m a dork?

I love words. Written by others, crafting them myself. There is nothing better than a great sentence. I love quotes.

I love peanut butter cups.

I love the light through the trees in the afternoon, or the morning for that matter.

I love the quiet and stillness of snow.

I love large bodies of water. Living sort of near Lake Michigan is incredible.

I love rivers. I grew up with them all around, water everywhere. I miss that a little living in the Midwest. The lakes and rivers here don’t seem quite the same and there are not as many of them, but we make the most of what we have. We find the water when we can. It soothes my soul.

I love travel and adventure. I love being somewhere I’ve never been. My honey and I share this, the adventurous spirit. Whenever we are somewhere we’ve never been we always high five and say, “New!!”. It’s hilarious, and our thing.

I love movies. I always have. From the time I was a little sprout. Mom used to take my brother and I to the drive-in in our truck. We’d sit in the back with sleeping bags and hot chocolate from the thermos.

I love road trips. This is obvious to anyone who knows me. They can be short or really long. I just love having the music on, singing, talking, listening to an audiobook, watching the scenery, seeing nature and unfamiliar cities and wildlife and fields of nothing and everything roll by. I love getting to put the window down when we can. I love road snacks. I love moments of long silence, road whizzing by under the wheels. I love the movement of it all, and then the stopping at the end. I love that too.

I love walks.

I love sports. I used to watch ABC’s Wide World of Sports when I was younger. Every week, without fail. I loved that show. Probably my favorite show when I was kid, if I’m honest (I also loved Land of the Giants and Star Trek… which makes me think of something else I love and will put down here as well). I liked all the usual sports, but also the weird ones they would highlight. I liked watching bowling and golf and track and field events. I liked the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. I still love sports. Live U of I Volleyball, live baseball, football on TV, the Olympics when they are on, all of it. I sometimes cry when I’m watching it. I’m just always so happy for an athlete when they achieve what you know is the thing they always imagined themselves achieving. Again, in this regard, I will say I’m a dork.

Speaking of which, I love that I’m emotional. I am overly emotional. I cry at everything. Happy stuff more than sad stuff. I just feel things deeply and for that I’m grateful.

I love, as mentioned above, anything sci-fi and fantasy. I always have. I read this book when I was a kid… The White Mountains (the first book in the Tripods Trilogy) and just loved it. I loved all the books in that trilogy. I loved the Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. I loved Star Trek (thank you dad) and Land of the Giants and Lost in Space. I loved Star Wars when it came out when I was 11/12. I loved Journey to the Center of the Earth with Pat Boone and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and the Sinbad movies. I still love those things and will pretty watch nearly any sci-fi movie old or new. I loved the Matrix. I loved The Martian, book and movie. I love other worlds and alternate realities.

I love when my honey and I go for a bike ride. Wind in our faces, masters of our own universe.

I love my short hair. My hair used to be long. It used to be a mane. It’s been short now for several years and the ease of it all is worth all the times I’ve gotten called sir because of it.

I love flip flops and tank tops and shorts. I also love jeans and layers of clothes and bundling up for those freezing Illinois winter days.

I love getting our deck furniture out in the spring, planting flower pots for our deck, and finding cool perennials to add to our garden. I also love fall when we put away the deck furniture and everything gets quiet and still and is cleaned up.

I love campfires.

I love the sounds of the birds in our backyard, watching them at our feeders.

I love conversations over fences and driveways with our neighbors.

I love looking at all the years of photos we have in Google Photos and marveling at the incredible life we have. We really do. It really is. It’s incredible. Which leads me to this…

All of this craziness might still be going on, and the anxiety and stress that exists on the daily is still there, but so is all of this other stuff. This great stuff. The stuff that makes up who I am, what this life is we’ve built together. And I need to take a moment, more often than I have, to remember these things, all these beautiful, wonderful things.

The Voice Whispers To Me

It’s 6:31AM. I’m awake.

Photo by TJ Parker

In these days of no certain schedule, we try to keep busy, to keep our own schedule. But sometimes we go to bed earlier than normal, or maybe we don’t and I just wake up because my brain never shuts off. It whispers to me, we are not safe.

Coffee.

Weston is alseep now, moved from being next to me in the bed to being next to me on the chair. He can’t get comfy. He’s trying. Soon, when he does, he’ll be snoring. This is a dogs life. This world we’re living in is a dogs world. He doesn’t know anything about the big bad. He just wants a comfortable place to sleep awhile.

K is working a bit this week. She wasn’t supposed to. Was actually supposed to be off all week. We were supposed to be driving back from California this week. We came home early. It was a whirlwind trip, and scary. “Did you touch that?” “Use hand sanitizer.” “Did anyone get close to you when you went in?” “A woman was coughing really bad in the stall next to me in the bathroom.” And on and on… We were not safe.

K’s working because her company, who off-shores some work to India just got word India is shutting down. India is trying to contain the big bad with drastic measures. The work will not get done. Now some people on her team are training to do some of the data entry. Her comment… this is one of the reasons we should not be off-shoring. She is proud of her team. Knows they will rock this new challenge. Many of them were data entry people when she hired them years and years ago. It’s an ever changing world right now. Everyone is trying to adapt.

We’re counting down the days until we’ve been home two weeks. It’s been 8 days today. It seems like an important marker somehow. As if when we reach it we can release a breath and say, OK, we’re safe now. But we aren’t safe now.

We put a bear in our window, it’s bear hunt time. We clean the house, look for chores. We order a lot of groceries, trying out different methods. We want to feel safe. We wave at neighbors across the street, across the fence. We ride bikes and don’t get close to anyone. Don’t get close. It’s not safe.

Sitting here right now, listening to K’s work call, Weston sleeping between my legs, drinking a cup of coffee, sound of the dishwasher running in the kitchen, looking out the window, things seem normal. Spring is here. The trees and bushes are budding out, the daffodils are up and blooming, the sun is out. Things seem normal. They are not normal I remind myself. They are not normal at all. We are still not safe.

We try to focus on moments of laughter and beauty. Those moments happen often. Like when we made a lip sync video and danced. We made ourselves laugh so hard. We keep watching it. It cracks us up. We feel the sun and look at the flowers and get a kick out of our dogs, not to mention tons of love from our dogs. We try. We want to forget, just for a moment or two, that we are not safe.

We watch the concerts of friends and singers we like, take virtual tours of museums, listen to music, try yoga, read enough of the news to know what’s going on but not too much, not too much.

We were separated for 10 days when the shit was really hitting the fan. When we were still on the West Coast. K in California with her parents, me in Oregon and Washington and Oregon again with my Mom. It was tough to be away from her, and then tough to leave my Mom. I flew one direction, but rented a car to get back to her. Seemed safer than flying again. 10 days is a long time when you’re in the middle of something like this. I got back to California and we left that same day to head to Illinois and home. We hadn’t planned to, but then who could plan for all of this? The authorities were going to shut down the bay area and we wanted to get out while we could. It was a whirlwind. It felt like an escape. It felt like a movie. To be honest, everything still feels like a movie.

I need another cup of coffee now. It’s 7:53.

I check the weather.

I try to think of some task or chore I can do right now. This post is winding down. The distraction is winding down. And the whisper starts to sneak it’s way in again… we are not safe.

We are not safe.

I’m going to go empty the dishwasher, have some cereal. Take vitamins that help boost immunity. Everyone is probably taking those kinds of vitamins now. First though, I will wash my hands. Wash my hands for 20 seconds.

We are not safe.

Let's Rodeo!

Here’s the thing… I’ve done this before. This isn’t my first rodeo. I know all about social distancing, quarantine, and sheltering in place.

In 2010 I came down with a case of Leukemia. Acute Promyelocytic Leukemia to be exact. From the moment I arrived at the oncology unit I was on lock-down. No person with even the slightest possibility of a cold could come in my room. Even people who had been around someone who might have had a cold couldn’t come near me. There were strict protocols for everything. People wore masks to see me (except Karen, who was with me all the time and not sick so she was cleared to be in there without one). I couldn’t eat any fresh fruits or vegetables (there could be dirt microbes my body could not fight off). I couldn’t get flowers or plants delivered to me. I couldn’t really let people touch me. Everyone wore gloves around me if they were going to touch me. There were signs on my door to warn people.

When I went home, after that first month in the hospital, I had similar protocols. No plants in the house, no fresh fruits or vegetables in the house, no visitors with colds or who had been around anyone with a cold. I had to wear a mask when I went in to get my blood-work done. I wasn’t supposed to touch anything. I was socially distanced and isolated.

This went on very strictly for four months. Four months people. The entire time I was going through the hardcore Chemo protocol. Every month after that first one (when I was in the entire month) I would go back into the hospital for a week-long stay to get the chemo over the course of several days depending on what round I was on. When my numbers started to come up after each round I was released home, but on the same strict protocols. No people, no plants, no going out without a mask.

I missed my first grandson’s birth. I was supposed to be there. I couldn’t travel. Everyone pitched in. My Mom came and stayed with me that fourth month so Karen could go and be there when Sebastian was born. Sacrifices were made.

After those first four months, when I finally got the miraculous all-clear and could take the deep breath I hadn’t been able to for months, I was still not really in the clear. I had two years of consolidation rounds (milder rounds of low dose chemotherapy for patients who appear to be in remission). I was on varying rounds of three different medications. Those medications, though not nearly as strong, effected my immune system a bit, my energy level a lot, and there were still rules. The rules weren’t as strict, but rules just the same.

Here’s the thing, I know this, what we’re doing right now. I’ve done it. I did it to keep myself alive, and those around me did it to keep me alive. The people that loved me had no problem wearing masks around me, if necessary, or staying away if required. As I said, I was on lock-down. Quarantine. Isolated. Distanced. I missed a lot, but… I lived. People sacrificed for me, but… I lived.

If I could do that for four months and beyond, and if the people in my life could do it for me for four months and beyond, then we can do it now. We can buck up and damn well do it. Not just for ourselves, but for everyone in our circle, in our communities, in our country, and the world.

Let’s help each other. Let’s take the bull by the horns and do this thing. Let’s rodeo!

Changes Afoot

Hello all…

I’m going to jump right in… I’ve been restless with the blog.  Not sure how I’ve felt about it for a while now.  Do I get rid of it?  Keep going?  Change platforms?  Change the look?  Change?  Stop?  Change?  It’s a sort of weird mantra.  This annoying question.

I created a page at three other sites hoping to freshen things up, to give it a new feel, a new look, but not lose the content.  I failed three times.  The sites didn’t work like I wanted, the content wouldn’t transfer easily, or would, but then didn’t work when I followed the procedure.  A bunch of glitches.  A bunch of minor frustration, because let’s face it blogging isn’t rocket science or something that will change the world in any way.

In the end, I did what I’ve done in the past.  I started playing around here at WordPress with themes and style.  I trimmed some stuff here and there around the blog.  Extraneous crap, to be honest.  I mean, is anyone really looking at that stuff anyway?  And even deeper, is anyone really even reading this blog?  I’ve been blogging for 15 years.  Yep, you heard that right, 15.  I started at LiveJournal, moved to Blogger, and then came over to WordPress where I’ve been for ages.

Anyway… I wax on.  I ended up, once again, staying here because the content is all here.  I didn’t want to lose any of it.  But, I pruned and simplified.

It’s not for anyone else anyway, it’s for me.  And I couldn’t get rid of it.  I couldn’t get rid of those long-ago essays about my grandma and life and other deaths in my life, I couldn’t get rid of all the photos and travel posts and reviews, couldn’t get rid of my journey when I was sick, or of the myriad of little posts of poetry and art and the other quirky and strange stuff that sometimes catches my attention.

I’ve been in a social media trimming phase over the last several months.  I got rid of a bunch of sites I never used but was a part of.  I’m down to the big ones – Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  I never tweet.  I will probably be getting rid of that as well.  Who knows.  It’s the same process we took with our finances at home – going over everything to see what works, what doesn’t and needs to go.  It’s a good process.  A spring cleaning of sorts.  It’s liberating.

So here I am.  Same old blog, same hosting site, but a new look, a new feel, a new “me”.  We’ll see how it goes.

 

 

 

It’s a New Dawn, It’s a New Day

I’m a huge fan of Nina Simone. My favorite song? Feelin’ Good. I like it in all its iterations I guess. Most people probably have forgotten all about Nina’s version and skipped right to Michael Buble. That’s OK. I don’t think she would mind. Nor would she care about the Muse version. I like that one a lot. Who sings it isn’t nearly as important to me as the lyrics.

I started really loving this song when I was 45. I liked it just fine before that, but when I was 45 I came down with a little bout of Leukemia. Music has always been huge in my life, songs associated with people, places, events.  Feelin’ Good got associated with my healing, my being alive.  It was a new dawn, a new day, and I was, after months of treatment, feelin’ good.

Photo by Tamra Parker

Here I am, years later, still in love with this song.  Still associating it with the thrill of being alive.  Because, well, I am still thrilled to be alive.

K and I were sitting here talking the other day about how weird it was that it was going to be 2019.  How it seemed impossible in some way, that it was nearly 2019.  I don’t know why it seemed like such a big deal because, after all, it’d been 2018 for nearly a year, but somehow it did.  Somehow time has taken a leap.  The idea that 2019 was nearly here, and I’m still here, and though I’m older than I used to be, I’m not as old as I’m going to get.  If you’d asked me in 1983 when I graduated from high school what I’d be doing in 2019 I wouldn’t have been able to even imagine it, being so far in the future and all.   And now here we are, so far in the future and all.  Weird.  Not bad.  Just weird.

Friends of ours recently asked us to attend a party.  They asked everyone who was invited to bring a bottle of booze, an appetizer, and quote or song or piece of writing to be read aloud and shared. I think it was meant as a sort of send off to the year passing and a greeting of hope and inspiration heading into the new year.  Cool idea.  Sadly, we couldn’t go, but I was thinking about what I would’ve shared if we had. 

There are a lot of quotes I could’ve shared.  I’m a quote person.  Just see the inspirations page of this blog for proof of that.  The fact that I get nervous and shy at times might spur the use of a quote.  I probably would share a quote like this…  “The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.”  ~  W.B. Yeats 

I could’ve shared a poem.  I’m a lover of all things poetic and have been reading and writing poetry since I was a wee sprout, sometime near 1983 I’d say.  I was 17 then, and graduating from high school, so my poems were very broody.   I might’ve shared a poem at the party if I happened upon or could think of one I thought might be inspirational.  Maybe the E.E. Cummings “I thank you God” poem…

i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky;and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

 
(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun’s birthday; this is the birth
day of life and love and wings and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)


how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any-lifted from the no
of all nothing-human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?

 
(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)
 

 e e cummings 

(in ‘complete poems 1904 – 1962’)

Or maybe something by Pablo Neruda, Charles Bukowski, or The Type, by Sarah Kay.

If I had my wits about me I might’ve thought of something profound or witty or inspirational to say all on my own.  Possible, if I’d had my wits about me.  Sometimes they are vacationing and leave me searching for the right words, the right feeling, the right way to say what I want to.  

Weston is currently crying over K’s shoulder as she eats her morning oatmeal.  It’s the first day of the new year.  He likes oatmeal.  Sometimes all that matters is the hope that you’ll get the last bits of oatmeal left in the bowl.  That someone will remember you like them, and that getting them will make your day.  That those bits are what will bring you joy right at this moment.  And maybe the story of Weston and the oatmeal bowl is the only profound thing worth sharing.   It’s the simple things in life that are worth everything.  Finding moments of joy.  Moments of happiness.  Moments of peace.  We don’t need a lot to make us happy and joyful.  Bits of oatmeal left in the bottom of the bowl will do.  So I’ll say this… go out there and find your bits, whatever they are for you.  See them for what they are, for what they mean to you.  Relish them.

K has finished eating and Weston is now licking the bowl.  His crying has stopped and he’s blissfully enjoying this tiny moment of joy.  I’d say, like Nina, he’s feelin’ good.  A pretty great way to start 2019.

Eight Years

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Photo by TJ Parker

Eight years ago today a doctor walked into my hospital room and told me I had leukemia.

Since then I’ve periodically asked a question of myself.  Not, as you might expect, why me, or even just why.  There is no why.  It was random, not predictable, and as far as we know not preventable.  It just was.  So the question isn’t why, but who.  Who was I then, am I the same person now, what did I learn from the experience?

I’ve written here about my philosophy of life a bit… which is basically kindness is key, our love for the people we love and who love us is all that really matters, find joy in the every day, and don’t lose hope about the things that matter to you.  But as this day rolls around every year I find myself doing a bit of an assessment.

I believe in forgiveness, in kindness, joy, hope, and love.  But, I’m not always the best at those things.  And on this day I find myself trying to remind myself who I am.  I find myself trying to forgive myself for the ways I know I’ve hurt people, which doesn’t let me off the hook for those slights, but it does let me employ one of my strongly held beliefs which is that each of us is doing the best we know how at the moment.  Sometimes our efforts aren’t that great, and we don’t handle things well, but at the moment we are only doing what we can with what we have.   It still means we have to try and do better, be better.  We owe our people that.  But, we also can’t continually beat ourselves up for the things we’ve done.  This is where apologizing comes in.  Sincere apology.  We admit what we’ve done, we feel it in our bones, the ways we’ve hurt someone, and then we say we’re sorry for it.  The apology is freeing for both people.  So I ask, have I apologized enough and meant it.  Have I forgiven others, have I forgiven myself?

Kindness.  Have I been kind?  To my people, to strangers, to myself.  Am I moving through the world as a kind person?  Do I say thank you, look people in the eyes, empathize, treat people with respect, watch out for their feelings, simply honor people as the beautiful human beings they are?  Am I kind to myself?  I hope so, I hope I do all of these things, but I know the answer is, I don’t always.  So I need to be more kind.  We can always be kinder.  I think there’s always another level of kindness to strive for.  I think the key for me is to be aware, to be present with people.  If I am, I’m kinder.

Joy.  It’s easy to get discouraged in life.  About our place in it, circumstances we find ourselves in, the state of the world.  The enemy of joy is fear.  So the key is to not be fearful.  But, that’s a tough one.  Having gone through this whole life-threatening experience I find myself afraid of the random and unknown.  Afraid of what could happen, suddenly, without warning.  This fear has no face or name or even bearing on what’s actually happening in my life at the time.  It just comes with large amounts of anxiety.  And when it comes it eats my joy whole.  Like a kipper snack.  So I find myself searching for ways to lessen the fear and find the joy.  I’m innately a silly, joyful person.  I’m a dork.  I can find joy in the smallest things when I’m not afraid.   So I’ve spent some time working on and continue to work on trying to be present in the small moments of life, which I feel is where joy lives.  In smiles and sunsets and dogs and wind in the trees and whispered secrets from grandchildren and laughs over nothing at all.  I try to remind myself to be present.  Nothing is promised to us, which certainly includes time, so we have to live now.  Be alive now.  Be joyous now.  This is a tough one, but I’m trying.  The wind chimes are going strong right now on the front porch, and the sound is magical, and there is joy in that.

Hope. It’s tough to be hopeful when all you see is the stuff that’s not working out.  But as I’m taking a look this year I find myself reminding myself that life is perception.  We see what we want.  Which brings me to one of my favorite quotes of all time.  It comes from the movie, The Abyss, “We all see what we want to see. Coffey looks and he sees Russians. He sees hate and fear. You have to look with better eyes than that.”  At the time the film was made the cold war was still in full swing, so the Russians were the bad guys.  But the point isn’t that part of the quote.  The point is the essence of it which to me means we see what we want to see, which is frequently driven by our personal fears, and we have to look with better eyes.  So, I can either see the world from a place of love and forgiveness and hope, or I can see fear, I can see enemies.  I try to come from a place of seeing people as friendly, as human, as trying.  Again, I don’t always succeed in this, but when I do, hope springs and the world looks different somehow.  Brighter, fuller, rich in color and possibility.  It is hopeful.

Love.  I believe in connection and responsibility to and for that connection.  Life is about love.  Who we love, who loves us.  It’s about how we love.  Do we say it?  Do we show it?  Do we let the people we love feel the love we have for them?  For me, this brings gratitude into my life and makes me want to share that gratitude.  To say how grateful I feel for the people and love in my life doesn’t even cover it.  I am sometimes overwhelmed by the waves of it.  Struck profoundly silent by the weight of all the love I know I have in my life.  But, it’s sometimes too easy to see what we don’t have in life, what we think we’re missing.  And in the muck of that, we sometimes forget to take stock of what we have, or even to recognize that it’s there.  Who we have and what that means to us.  Love is all around us.  It’s all around me.  So, as I go through this day I let that wave of gratitude for enormous and profound love wash over me.  Hold me up.  It did when I was sick.  It’s what got me through.  Even though I was semi-isolated when I was sick, I felt the love pouring into me.  Lifting me up.  Holding me.  I felt it.  And luckily, I feel it still.  If I sit with it for a few moments I cry.  Out of a gratitude so overwhelming it crushes me in all the right ways.  That’s where I want to live, where I try to live.  Even when things are tough, the love is there.  I have it, and I try to give it back.  We’re responsible for giving it back.  For loving, and loving well.

Eight years.  If I think of all the beautiful and strange and magical and messy things that have happened in my life in the last eight years I’m amazed and so moved by it all.  It has definitely not all been easy, and there have definitely been sad and heart-breaking times, but there have also been so many moments of joy and laughter and love.  And I guess maybe that’s the point of taking stock.  Which is to say, it’s a messy thing, life.  But it’s in the middle of all that mess we find love and hope, kindness, and joy.  And I remind myself, isn’t that an amazing and beautiful thing?

Eight years.  Eight years on top of the nearly 45 years before those.

Wow.  What a ride it’s been so far.

 

 

 

 

Gratitude and Grace

 

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Photo by TJ Parker

I had a great conversation the other night about gratitude and grace and the things that are important in life.  It was lovely, and a good reminder.

 

It’s very tough to not be overwhelmed by the things in life that don’t go as planned, the things in the world that are heartbreaking.  It’s easy to forget ourselves, forget the good and the light and the hope.  But this time of year, it’s all about those things.

There’s meaning in the little things, it’s really where the good stuff lives.  A smile, a sunset, a snuggle from one of the dogs, the laughter of a grandchild, light through the trees, a good meal, warm socks, a good hug, small kindnesses, small generosities, the bluest blue in the sky, music playing, walks in the crisp air, a good meal with friends, love, love in any form it comes to you.

I have no big message of thanks, this year, but will offer this.  It isn’t about the big things, the mighty changes, and large leaps.  Those things are rare.  What it’s about, and should be, are the small things.  Those little moments of grace and gratitude.  They are the meat of life, the soul of it.

And in that vein, we’re going to take the dogs out for a walk on this crisp Illinois fall day.  The sky is the most lovely blue.

The Whistler

As people begin to change their Facebook profile photos to pictures of their Moms I felt, this year, I needed to do a bit more than that.  Yes, I’ll be changing my photo too, but that just doesn’t seem like enough.  I needed to say a bit more about my Mom.  She’s a good one.

Where to begin.  What to say.  She is a woman of many talents, of many depths, of many experiences.  She is a helper, a champion, a sounding board, and a fantastic example to follow.  Her heart is big and holds so many of us in it.  She’s independent and fierce when she needs to be, sometimes stubborn, sometimes tough, always up for an adventure.  She smiles easily, looks you in the eye, and gives a great hug.

I have stories.  So many stories.

When I finally told Mom I was gay she cried.  Not because she was upset I was gay, but that it took me so long to tell her, that I had been conflicted, afraid, unsure.  She ached for me, for my struggle, because I had been scared.  That’s love.  That aching for another person with no thought of herself, that my friends is unconditional love.

She was just here visiting us, we had all this stuff planned, but plans change and in the middle of her visit we, she and I, ended up driving 6 and a half hours one way to drop off our trailer at the factory, we hung out for a couple of nights in that area, then drove the 6 and a half hours back home.  She’s a great travel buddy, plus she took it all in stride.  Was totally up for it.  Her adventurous spirit fully on display.  She is literally up for anything at any time.  She once ate a fish eye in Guatemala and crickets in some other place I can’t remember, for goodness sake.  I wouldn’t do that.  Mom did.

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Our family history is complex and beautiful.  There have been additions throughout the years and through it all, she opens her arms and her heart to everyone.  My step siblings, half siblings, friends, my wife and her family, and on and on.  Her heart is big.

I grew up with Mom’s whistle.  It’s an amazing thing, birdlike and stunning.   She went through a period of time when she couldn’t whistle (she had braces) and it amazed me how much I missed it.  Luckily it’s back.  Seriously, it’s a great whistle.  Some of my fondest memories are of doing the dishes with Mom when I was younger and listening to her whistle, or make up songs.

Making up songs.  Mom can be silly, she knows how to laugh, how to have fun.  When we were doing those dishes I would throw out some or other thing, a topic, an item, whatever, and Mom would make up a song on the spot about it.  She might not even remember this, but I got the biggest kick out of it.

Mom is a jack of all trades and contrary to the saying, she’s a master of many of them.  In fact, I literally can’t think of a single thing she’s attempted that she didn’t end up being able to do.  Kids always think their parents can do anything, I know mine can.  It’s not just me that thinks this.  When anyone has a problem to solve, a thing to build or construct, some gardening question, whatever… she can help.  She usually just knows, but if she doesn’t she has a great mind for problem-solving.  She’s a fantastic problem solver.

She also pitches in, helps out.  All the time.  Whenever she’s needed.  It’s above and beyond.  When I was sick she helped out at our house.  When K had to go to England for a month during my illness she would only go if Mom agreed to stay with me.  Mom agreed, even though she had her own life going on.  And that didn’t mean just staying with me, she took care of me.  Got me to appointments, stayed with me in the hospital when I spiked a temp and had to go in for a week while they shot me full of antibiotics, helped me through some bouts of anxiety and panic about leaving our house during that time, cooked for me, helped me shower.  And other times, before I was sick, and since as well, she’s helped us so many times.  Painting and dog sitting and yard stuff and working on our Oregon house before we put it on the market and with the rentals and on and on and on.  I don’t have enough room here for all the times she’s helped us, all the things she’s done.  I am forever grateful and beyond lucky.

She is full of grace.  As in she handles very tough situations with a grace and depth of feeling I admire.  Unfortunately, Mom’s lost two husbands.  The first she was a caretaker to for nearly a year before he left us, and the second suddenly, without warning.  Both times, handling it with such grace.  There was emotion and great sadness, both times, but through it all, she never acted bitterly toward those around her, she never took anything out on anyone, she kept going, stayed strong, and never gave up on herself, on us, on life. She impresses me every day.

Mom’s a great human.  Of course, she has her faults, don’t we all, but she is fully a fantastic human.  Loving, forgiving, open, honest, full of integrity, fun-loving, smart, feisty, adventurous, kind, and just plain nice.  She’s a genuinely nice person.

I don’t pretend to know all the depths of her.  No one can know all things about another person, but in my nearly 52 years I can honestly say that she is one of my two most favorite people to spend time with, the other obviously, if you’ve read this blog, being K.   Which puts Mom not just in the Mom category, but in the friend category.  I enjoy being with her, am a better person for the time I’ve spent with her.

I wouldn’t be who I am without her, wouldn’t have the life I have without all the help and guidance and love she’s given and continues to give to me.  I say this all the time because I have that Mom, the one all the friends like and everyone wishes they had, and I have her, so I say this all the time… I am lucky.  Beyond lucky.  I was blessed and lucky to have her as my Mom.  I know this.  I’m fully cognizant of the fact.

I wish I could somehow bottle the feeling I have right now, this feeling of being overwhelmed with love and joy and pride and gratefulness for having this wonderful person in my life.  I wish I could give it away, let other people experience it too.  I can’t pour it into this page so that it emanates out to everyone who might stumble across this post, but I wish I could.  It’s a great feeling, this feeling of overwhelming love.

It’s a great feeling because I have a great Mom.  A one of a kind, in her own class kind of Mom.  I can’t really, fully, describe it, but I guess this attempt will have to do.  Until that is, I can give her a hug.

I love you so very much, Mom.

Now, excuse me while I go and change my Facebook profile photo.

 

 

Missing a Film and Missing a Dog

b272c-16124110_1754114004904848_3202377720986075136_nI just now finished up posting all of my reviews for the movies we watched at Ebertfest this year.  It was a splendid group of films, as per usual.  Lots of things I hadn’t seen this time around, which is always fun.  I was shocked I hadn’t ever seen Hair or Being There, but I hadn’t. I loved the documentaries as well, particularly Mind/Game about Chamique Holdsclaw’s struggle with mental illness.  She was eloquent and brave and open.  I also really enjoyed Elle, disturbing and confounding as it was, and The Handmaiden.  The storytelling in The Handmaiden was smart and creative.  It was, as I said, a fantastic experience once again… except…

For a brief terrible time, day four, midafternoon, our little Riley went missing.  We were on a break from the festival, searching for a little chocolate to sate the sweet tooth, and in that vein had wandered into Cafe Kopi (our favorite coffee spot downtown).  We’d chosen a couple of small bars and also a little snack pack of some meats and cheeses when K got a text from our lawn guy.  He’d left the gate open, thinking the dogs couldn’t get out to the backyard, and Riley had run out.  We threw our goods back into the case at Kopi, literally, and ran toward the Jeep.  We didn’t even, right away anyway, tell Mom, who was inside the theater, or our friend Ann, also inside the theater, that we were leaving, we just left.  I drove too fast and sort of like a maniac to get home.  K’s daughter had been called by our lawn guy as well because he hadn’t been able to get ahold of K right way.  She was on her way to our house at the same time we were, though slightly ahead of us.  She hadn’t made it to our house yet when she spotted Riley running down a street fairly near our home.  She stopped her car in the middle of the road, jumped out, and called to Riley, sitting down on the side of the road to try and be calm for Riley.  Riley though, given her poor eyesight and the panic she was probably feeling at the time, ran the other direction.  Mary, K’s daughter, called K, who I dropped off, and K started chasing.  She also spotted Riley, on another street, way far way and up head.  She called to Riley, but at just that moment our gardener drove past K and we think Riley saw him (who she was afraid of) and continued to run.  K chased her on foot for a bit, not seeing her anymore, but circling around.  K eventually came back to the house and got on her bike so she could be faster and cover more ground.  Mary walked around as well, in other areas, and this whole time I drove around our neighborhood, all the places we walk (which are many).  We talked to everyone we passed, asking if people had seen her.  Some had and pointed us in one direction or another, others hadn’t.  It was terrifying and heart-breaking.  We cried a lot, though we were trying not to, trying to stay focused, trying to keep on track.  My Mom, who we’d contacted, left the theater and took an Uber to our house.  Once she got there she stood out front, with the garage door open, just in case Riley came back.

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Four hours this went on.  Four hours of looking and not finding her, of asking people, of circling and driving and riding and walking.  At one point we took Weston out thinking if Riley heard or saw him she would come to him, but he eventually got too tired and we had to take him home.  I walked and ran and yelled and asked and drove and asked and drove.  K walked and rode her bike and eventually got in Mary’s car with her and they drove around and around.  Mary walked and ran and drove.  My Mom paced in front of our house, showing anyone who walked past Riley’s photo and asked about her.  Weston fretted in the house knowing something was wrong, probably wondering where his little sister was.

We missed a film at the festival.  We didn’t care.

Finally, four hours later, I was driving along a street I’d been up and down many times, when a man, who I’d stopped and asked about Riley earlier, waved me down.  He said he’d just seen her running West.  I knew that was toward our house.  At the same time, I got a text, but I didn’t check it because I was then trying to get home to see if she was around there anywhere.  I pulled up toward our house and my Mom looked at me and gave the biggest smile, pantomiming that Riley was there, that she’d shown back up.

Relief.  Total relief.

K and Mary showed up shortly after and we were all reunited.  Other than being really thirsty Riley acted totally normal.  She lay down of course because, well, she had been running pretty much non-stop for four hours, but she was fine.  Totally fine.

As I said, relief.  Your mind tries not to go to all the scary dark places it could during these times… but they are there, inside of you, haunting you throughout.  It’s a huge amount of stress.

We made sure Riley was fine, that the gate was locked, that she had sufficient cuddles, and we then took off, back to Ebertfest.  We’d been willing to miss the rest of it if we’d had to if we didn’t find her, but since we did, we didn’t want to miss any more than we had.  We had that luxury.  Life was back to normal.  We were lucky.  Riley was lucky.

Life throws things at you like a missing dog, a missed film at Ebertfest because of it, the anxiety of it all followed by the elation.  In a nutshell, it’s a rollercoaster.

I appreciate life so much, not just because of this incident, but I would include this incident as a factor.  You never know what’s going to happen so hug your people, tell them you love them, hug your pets, tell them you love them, look at the sky and the trees and feel the wind in your face.  There’s beauty and love and light everywhere.

Riley came home.  And we’ll just get Pleasantville, the movie we missed at Ebertfest, from the library.

52 Thoughts – Tenth Thought

 

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Mind, body, spirit.  We’ve been trying to take care of the body part of that equation for a bit now.  Joined a new gym a month or so ago.  We’ve been going very regularly since save for the time we were in San Jose and then we at least tried to walk every day.  Moving the body has been great for the two other parts of that equation, mind, and spirit.  It makes me feel good about me to take care of myself.  Puts me in a good mental place.

 

That is all.

Our Boy is 10

Today is our boy, Weston’s, 10th birthday.  I can’t even begin to express what he means and has meant to our lives.  He is cantankerous, mischievous, smart, fun, quirky, and very loving.  He is our little Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde.  He can be very affectionate one minute and try to gnash at you the next if you look like you might want to take something from him.  Never try and take something from him.  He loves to play catch with a ball and can actually nose that ball back to you over and over so you are literally playing catch with him.  It’s crazy and cool.  We really should take a video of it.  He loves going on walks, letting us know in the afternoon if he hasn’t had one yet that day by giving us the half bark.  He loves bully sticks and cheese.  He loves cuddle time in the morning, wanting to be spooned with his head on my pillow, and cuddle time at night when we watch TV, laying on me with his head on my chest.  He barks to get veggies when we are cutting them up for dinner and whines to get just a little bit of oatmeal in the morning.  It’s not his fault, we give him veggies and oatmeal.  We spoil him.  We should.

Our philosophy about our pups has always been that we chose them, and because we chose them we owe them.  We owe them a good life, love, fun, walks, and our attention.  They are pure creatures.  Innocent.  Dependent on us in so many ways.  And because of this, we have an obligation to them.  Every day.  To take care of them the best way we can, to love them like they deserve to be loved, and to accept their little foibles and faults, because yes, they have them.

Weston is our little man.  Our grumpy, moody, affectionate little dude.  He is light and love and sometimes frustration, but he is ours, and we are his.  I love him more than I can say and am grateful every day for his little furry presence in my life.

Happy birthday little man.  We love you.

52 Thoughts – Ninth Thought

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Photo by TJ Parker

Be kind in big ways and small even when it seems a tad difficult.  Be present.  Listen more, talk less. Close my eyes, turn my face to the sun or the wind or both at the same time and breathe deeply.  Spend time on or near the water.  Go on long walks with the pups. Drink life in.  Be silly and dorky and unafraid to make a fool of myself.  We are bombarded with information every day so choose wisely.  Life is a matter of perception so remember I can see things in a negative or positive light. Act to change things in ways I feel I can.  Meet the world with love and good intentions in my heart instead of fear and anger.  Smile at people I know and don’t know.  Bridge gaps.  Notice a glint of sun.  Appreciate the natural world.  Think about what it might be like for others.  Cuddle the pups often.  Laugh and play with the grandkids. Write letters. Tell people I love them.  Be honest even when it’s uncomfortable.  Share. Recognize joy. Believe in hope. Dance. Cry. Be curious. Give lots of hugs. Accept compliments. Hold my honey’s hand every chance I can.

52 Thoughts: Eighth Thought

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Photo by TJ Parker

Forgiveness.

I walk down the hallway at night
House asleep
Creaks and wind and chimes filter in
I’m at my in-laws house
There’s sickness here
And a kind of hope for better
… feeling better and being better
They love me
I feel that
It’s mutual
I write poems at night when I can’t sleep
I don’t remember them in the morning
After sleep finally comes and washes them away
I think that night work is my best work
Just saying
But it gets me through the hours
Filled with creaks and wind and stray whining cats outside
There’s something special to this forgetting
As if mysteries were revealed to me
Then taken away again
I know they are there
Just out of reach
But there nonetheless
Magic
It’s because of this I forgive myself
Forgiveness for the forgetting
I walk down the hallway at night

~ TJ Parker

52 Thoughts: Fifth Thought

 

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Photo by TJ Parker

I’ve been thinking.

Today the sky is blue.  It’s cold, but beautiful.  The birds are at the feeders.  The squirrels are trying to get to the feeders.  The dogs are chasing the squirrels.  They picked up our garbage and recycling today as per usual.  I’m listening to music.  We’re about to head to the gym to do some circuit training, then we’ll go grocery shopping.  Tonight we’ll make dinner.  At some point this afternoon we’ll try to take the dogs for a walk after we put the girlie’s sweater on, she gets cold.  We’ll eat dinner and watch some TV or a movie, maybe one we will be picking up at the library as we do our errands today.  My honey will work.  I’ll do laundry, empty the dishwasher, clean up the media room.  We will pet the dogs and cuddle them.  We will talk and laugh and smile at each other.

I’ve been thinking.

It’s a great life.  We have a great life.  It’s nice to remember that.

52 Thoughts: Third Thought

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Photo by TJ Parker

Lately I’ve been struck by how much our culture has sadly moved to a do as I say not as I do philosophy.  If you want to relate it to politics, it’s both sides saying about the other that this or that has been said and it’s terrible, unconscionable, awful, then they turn around and say something equally as terrible, unconscionable, and awful and somehow that’s OK.  It’s as if people think they can say, post, write, whatever they want about a person or a thing, but others who might have an opposing opinion have no right or are somehow unamerican if they believe differently, talk about things differently.

One of the things I love about this country is the tapestry.  We are different.  We think differently about things, our lives, our problems, the solutions to our problems.  And just because I may disagree with you, or you with me, doesn’t make either one of us wrong. We just see things differently based on our personal experience.  This is where empathy comes in.  Or at least it should.

We get so caught up in our own stuff.  Our problems, our routines, the daily minutia of our lives.  Of course we do.  What’s happening for us on a daily basis can be all consuming if we are experiencing something tough in the moment.  It can be all consuming just going through a regular day.  Laundry and bills and work and dishes and cleaning the house and taking care of the kids and the kid’s schedules and our schedules and health issues and taking care of our pets and on and on.  It’s easy to be buried under it.  We have blinders on and get caught up in it all so that when we are speaking about something, looking at something and rendering an opinion about it, we tend to do it from our perspective alone. We forget that everyone else is going through the same thing, getting through it in their own way.  That’s millions of people and millions of perspectives.  Each based on their own philosophy earned from living their life.

So, what does all this rambling mean?  What am I trying to get at here?

We need to somehow remember that our opinions aren’t the only opinions.  That the views of other people mean something.  If nothing else they mean something to them. Honest criticism is good.  Honest criticism is necessary.  No one individual opinion matters more than another.  If you don’t like how I’m doing something, especially if it relates to you, or someone you care about, or a subject that matters to you, you have a right to speak your opinion about it.  I would hope you do it respectfully.  I would hope you would be genuine and sincere.  But I would hope you would say something.

Disagreement is good.  Calling someone out for doing something hurtful to others is good. Having a difference of opinion about how to run the government or raise your children or enhance education or clean up the environment is good.  It sparks conversation.  During conversation ideas are exchanged.  When we exchange ideas we come up with more creative solutions, we go at problems from more than one direction.  Things actually get done.

First though, we have to get over this silly notion of doing as I say not as I do.  Let’s instead do what we say.  Let’s expect that if we are critical, others might be critical of us in return. This does not make us unamerican.  On the contrary, it’s what makes us an American.

52 Thoughts: Second Thought

 

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Photo by TJ Parker

People are good.  Inherently good.  For the most part.

I believe this.  I always have.

We just got done watching the Star Wars films, by the numbers, not in the order in which they were made.  Why do I bring this up?  Because the whole Darth Vader story is that anyone, if they give in to anger, fear, and hatred, can become dark, can become a force for evil, for negative energy.  Conversely, it also teaches us that there is hope, even for people who may be angry and fearful and full of hate.  There is good in us all.  Some of us may have forgotten it or refused to see it, but there is good.

OK, yes, this is corny.  But, it’s true.  Maybe not for the Emporer in Star Wars, who was so evil he could not be moved toward good, but even for Darth, there was hope.  There was a part of him that was good.  I know this is a weird time to bring up a character in a science fiction film, but I believe science fiction is often a good predictor of, and reflection of, where we are going and who we are, or could be.  It’s why I love it.

Many people I know want to look on these as dark times.  I guess, from a certain perspective, they are.   I myself fight against that feeling some days.  Yes, they may be challenging.   Yes, there may be things happening in the world that don’t jive with a personal point of view, and that’s hard.  It may seem dark.  It may even seem like there are evil people out there trying to do evil things.  Some of that is true.  Some of them are indeed the Emporer.  But, I truly believe mostly they are just people who don’t do things the way I or possibly you think they should.  Does this make them evil?  Inherently evil? No.  It can make them scary, for sure.  It can make them seem dark, absolutely, but they aren’t evil.  Most of them anyway.

We need to be open.  To remember to act with empathy. To try and see people for who they are, totally, realizing they’ve come from a place of having their own life experiences, instead of as just for what they’ve said or what they believe about a certain thing.  We need to ask questions, to listen to the answers to those questions even if they differ from what our answers might be.

People are inherently good.  If we start from that place, thinking that way, imagine what we could accomplish.  Imagine a world where people gave each other the benefit of the doubt, instead of just doubting.  If people acted from a place of understanding instead of fear.  From love instead of hate.  Darth might become Anakin all over again.  What a happy twist to the story that could be.

 

Candy Coated Kindness

candy-caneWe were out and about again today, running more errands, getting ready for some upcoming Christmas festivities.  Since we were going out we thought today would be a good day for the candy cane caper.  Sounds more adventurous or slightly naughty than it was, but it ended up being pretty nice.  We’d purchased a box of big sized candy canes a while back in preparation and today we took them around and passed them out to people, saying Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, giving people a smile as we did.  Librarians, people sitting at a cafe, the ladies who work at the coffee roasters we go to, a couple of policemen, and a girl sitting outside waiting for a ride were all recipients.  My honey is really good at this.  Her smile can light up a room.  Every single person who got a candy cane smiled back at us.  We gave a few of the people two candy canes telling them one was for them and one was for them to hand out to someone else.  A sweet bit of shared kindness.

Kindness Hits You Where You Live

Today might have been the most simple act of kindness we’ve done to date.  We were kind to each other.  We slept in, laughed, talked, shopped, did laundry, cooked, did dishes, drank our nightly decaf, held hands, showed each other cool photos online, took the pups for a nice walk, problem solved a couple of things, said I love you and thanks honey a few times, and had a pretty quiet day together.  It’s important to be aware of your spouse, to be kind to them.  We do a pretty good job of that most of the time, but it’s good to talk about it, good to be present with it.  It’s a form of kindness that’s not talked about enough.  It’s great and important to be kind to others, but it’s equally important, if not more so, to be kind to the people you are closest to, people who you share your life with.  

Conserving Kindness

mead-quoteToday K and I made our yearly Christmas trip into Chicago.  We usually go to several places on our Christmas trip day, but this time we ended up just staying at the Lincoln Park Zoo all day.  We looked at the animals, had several different talks with zoo staff about various animals, ate some lunch, then strolled around the place a couple more times after the zoo lights came on.  We had meant to park at the zoo, take a bus downtown and check out the Bean, the Macy’s windows, some other sites we usually see at Christmas time, then get back to the zoo in the evening to see the zoo lights, but it didn’t happen that way.  At one point we just looked at each other and both kind of said we were having a great time, a very relaxing time, just wandering around, no rush, nice and mellow.  It was awesome.  While we were there we also decided to put our money where our mouths are and donate a bit to the conservation and research programs the zoo participates in.  Kindness through conservation.

A Morsel of Kindness

img_2468Everyone loves cookies and it just so happens my honey makes great M&M cookies.  Today’s kindness was a simple one.  She made cookies and we delivered them to three of our neighbors.  Needless to say they were surprised and very happy to get them.  Nothing like seeing people with big smiles on their faces.  Kindness through sugar overload.  That’s what we’re talking about.

A Pop of Kindness

img_2461We decided to go with a fun act of kindness today.  We taped a couple of packages of microwave popcorn to a Redbox outside a local Walgreens.  The signs said, “Enjoy some popcorn with your movie”.  We hope someone does!

Keeping The Cold at Bay With Kindness

hand-warmersWe found a big package of handwarmers at the bottom of our hat/scarf bin in our closet. At some point we bought them in bulk. Each little package is a pack of two handwarmers. It’s very cold out today so our act of kindness was to drive around our towns, both Champaign and Urbana, for a couple of hours handing out packs of handwarmers to people at bus stops and other people just walking around who looked really cold. We would pull up and K would roll down her window or jump out and offer up a package of handwarmers to the person. Some took them, others didn’t. One guy said he didn’t need them because he had socks on his hands. K tried to convince him socks weren’t warm enough. He smiled, laughed a little, and still refused. We gave that pack to the next cold looking person we saw. Even the people who refused them smiled at us. The people that took them were very grateful. Small kindnesses mean something.

Kindness Is No Joke

dog-knock-knockWe are very corny.  Silly even.  It’s something both K and I share, a genuine dorkiness.  It makes our lives fun, we laugh a lot.  Because we love to laugh, we love to make other people laugh.  Sharing laughter is a kindness.  To yourself, and to the person you shared the laugh with.  So today we recorded ourselves doing really corny knock knock jokes and sent them out to some people.  We totally cracked ourselves up.  I hope we made our people laugh as well.

Notes of Kindness

notesWe go to the library a lot.  I’m a huge fan.  All sorts of people use the libary, which is one of the things that makes it so awesome.  It’s an amazing resource.  One of the things we thought we would do as we go forward with this whole kindness adventure was to write out a bunch of positive notes on post-its and randomly place them around for people to find.  Since we go to the library a lot, and since there are all sorts of people there, we thought it would be a good place to put the notes.  Today was the day.  We note-bombed the library.  I don’t know how many notes we made up, there were a lot of them.  We each took part of the pack of them and snuck around putting them in places like seats, and on the copier, and on a book I was returning, and in the elevators.  We put them all over. They all said different things, like “you have a beautiful smile” or “you are braver than you know” or “you are loved”.  It was so much fun.  Everyone loves hearing something nice. We hope there will be a few extra smiles today at the library.