Aging Ain't For Sissies.

When I Die…

When I Die

When I die do not talk of heaven and forgiveness and redemption. Release me to the cosmos. It is where I belong and where my heart yearns to be. Let me stand on the edge of the galaxy and inhale the splendor that only a creator undistorted by human beings could create.” ~ (Terri Onorato)

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If I think too hard about the vastness of the universe it’s overwhelming. When I add to the fact that there are countless galaxies beyond ours and countless more beyond that I fear my brain will explode. A positive side effect of pondering such things is it brings into perspective just how big creation really is. It also makes the god that I learned about in years past appear much smaller and less loving.

God…sigh…who has been so painfully distorted by humans as to become unrecognizable. The truth of this creator long-ago buried between the lines of a book written by humans and reinterpreted ad nauseam by anyone who did not like what they read. A god of rules and regulations and the threat of hell. A god I do not recognize.

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To live life under the threat of going to a very bad place when we die is not living at all. We were given life so that we may live and a conscience so that we may live well. Love and hell cannot go hand-in-hand.

Do not call me a sinner. I am a flawed human being with a flawless but imprisoned soul. I do the right thing and I make mistakes. I possess a good side and a dark side. My ego gets the best of me one moment and I feel humbled and unworthy the next. I am all this and more all at once. I am who I was created to be. My choices are a by product not a definition of who I am.

People speak wistfully of meeting their maker upon death. But we meet the creator of all that is every day in every nuance of nature and every person with which we interact. To wait for death for such a meeting is to completely miss the point of being alive.

Contrary to what our ego insists, we no more understand who created us than we do the true depth of the universe or life in the darkest, most inaccessible recesses of the ocean. Our concept of God has been wrapped up in a neat, often legalistic little package adorned in judgement and placed within the pages of a book that no one can agree on.

I will take my chances with the creator I see in the stars and hear in the wind. The creator I meet in the eyes of an old woman and feel in the heartbeat of a sleeping dog. The creator who makes my heart ache and makes it burst as well.

When I die do not talk of heaven and forgiveness and redemption. Release me to the cosmos. It is where I belong and where my heart yearns to be. Let me stand on the edge of the galaxy and step off, taking my chances on the one I know will catch me.

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When I read the story about Kyle my immediate reaction was to cry. Not only because he died needlessly. Not only because he was so tormented by bullies that at 12 years of age he took what might have been a simple household item, put it around his neck and hung himself. I cried because I felt his pain.

From a very young age I was bullied. At home, in school and later in the work place. As a child I had no power to stop it. As a young adult I didn’t know how. It took many, many years before I found out how to stand up for myself. Sadly, Kyle and far too many like him will never get the opportunity to fight back.

It’s hard for me not to write this out of pure anger – anger at the bullies but also at those who overlooked (or ignored) what was happening. I have to wonder how many more young people are going to end their lives over bullying before the rest of us start paying much closer attention to the signs. I won’t sugarcoat it, kids can be cruel. And often times they don’t realize the absolute devastation they can cause with a word or an action.

As someone who spent her entire childhood trying to figure out why she mysteriously sucked so bad that kids (and a few adults) bullied her and everyone else ignored it, I can tell you that these kids who are being bullied need empathy. They also need protection not only from the bullies but from the adults who sit back and do nothing.

This world will never be an easy place to live in. It will never really be safe either. It will always have a spattering of assholes and bullshitters. There will be suffering and neglect and ignorance. And I guess I will never understand most of it. But what I do understand is why a child who is bullied mercilessly ends their life. I can empathize. I know first hand the pain and the loneliness of being bullied. (I still tend to attract people who like to bully but I don’t allow it anymore.)

I find it perplexing that we are all different, we are individuals, and yet all too often we are singled out and treated horribly because we are exactly what we are meant to be…different.  Or sadly we do the singling out. We are all guilty of it at one point or another.

If I see someone who is overweight, well, so what? Their weight tells me nothing about them as a person. Unless I choose to be a judgemental asshole and assume, based on looks alone, that they are lazy or eat too much or some such crap. And if I want to be a real flaming asshole I will take a picture of that person (whom I don’t know but am judging based on how they look) and put it online for everyone else to make fun of too. Yeah, that really makes the world a better place.

Personally I don’t give a damn if someone is black, white, brown, whatever… it’s not for me to decide if people are good or bad based on a physical characteristic like color. Judging actions is one thing, judging color is another. And sexual preference – holy hell – who gives a flying shit anyway? It is not for us to decide that a particular sexual preference is good or bad. And don’t even get me started on religion. It’s about actions people, actions.

Apparently my soapbox was a little bigger than I realized. Regardless, I believe we have to find a better way to help young people see that being different is how we are meant to be. Being different is something to embrace not ridicule. Whether we are a parent or not is irrelevant – it’s certainly not going to hurt to try and lead by example in how we treat others. If our actions make one kid stop and rethink the way they treat people then we’ve accomplished something.

And lastly, I hope that young people like Kyle are at peace and the ripples their lives set in motion will forever lap the shores of this life reminding us that being different is a BEAUTIFUL thing.

 

Take My Advice

Since joining Facebook I’ve witnessed any number of different ways people interact and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a gathering place as overflowing with unsolicited advice as Facebook. I find it amusing and kind of sad. Amusing because we are so sure our advice should be required reading material (without even considering it might not be wanted.) And sad because we have expectations we never voice.

It’s not a hard concept – if you don’t want advice when you post something then say so! Tell people what you need. Some will listen and some won’t. Appreciate the people who do and flip the silent bird to those who don’t.

Some time ago I saw an exchange on Facebook that illustrates what I mean. I’m changing the names and context of the subject matter to protect the innocent and the asses.

Clarice was upset and posted, “My poor Charlie has a hair ball! I feel so bad for him.” :( :( Notice that Clarice does not tell anyone what she expects from her statement – does she want sympathy, empathy, advice, a pie in the face – what? She leaves herself open and encounters these typical responses:

a) “Aww so sorry. Hope he feels better soon.” **hugs** – (Short, sweet and nice.)

b) “Omg, that’s nothing!!!! You should hear what happened with my kitty!!!!! She had a hair ball the size of a Mack truck engine!!!!! We had to have it surgically removed and then send her to therapy because she was so distraught and then we had to put her on Prozac because she loved that hair ball!!!!! Just be thankful Clarice that your kitty’s hair ball wasn’t worse!!!!! Hugs!!!!” – (Do I even have to explain what is wrong with this? The minute someone says “Oh that’s nothing…blahblahblah” they’ve proven they could care less about you. Intent, intent, intent.)

c) “Sorry to hear about Charlie’s hair ball but sometimes it all comes down to the food you feed him. And the quality of the water. And what size bed he sleeps in. And whether or not you vaccinate him. And what time of day you flush your toilet. And if your sheets are 500 thread count. If you don’t do everything the way I do, because my way is the only way, then you’re just going to have to deal with hair balls Clarice.” ;) (A winking smiley face never makes a know-it-all look better. They still look like an ass. A winking, smiling ass.)

d)“Clarice you might want to consider electroshock therapy for your kitty. My mom’s friend’s dad’s cousin’s uncle’s nephew’s masseuse did this to her mouse because it was obsessed with some kind of ferris wheel thingy in its cage. Apparently it was successful because the mouse is so quiet and timid now. It worked for the mouse so it might work for your kitty‘s hair ball. Good luck!!” (Bad advice is bad advice is bad advice.)

e) “I don’t know why you bother even having a cat Clarice if you’re going to let him get a hair ball. Did you not research cats before you got him??? Did you get him from the pound??? No wonder he has hair balls, he has no pedigree. I don’t understand why anyone gets a cat and then lets them get hair balls. If cats are properly cared for they will not get hair balls Clarice. Sheesh.” (There is nothing to say to someone like this. They live to make another look foolish because that’s what their deflated ego requires. Don’t feed the beast. Move on.)

Clarice, understandably pissed off, chimes in, “For your information Charlie is an IGUANA! That’s right people, an IGUANA. An IGUANA with a HAIR BALL. And I’ve ALREADY taken him to the iguana DOCTOR. If you’d JUST ASKED ME instead of ASSUMING Charlie is a CAT then maybe you would UNDERSTAND that I DON’T need advice about CATS. I DON‘T want your advice AT ALL!”

Can we count all the mistakes made here? Firstly, Clarice did not tell people that Charlie is indeed an iguana and she did not inform them that she wasn’t looking for advice. People aren’t mind readers. If you don’t tell people what you’re looking for you won‘t get what you need. So if you’re one of those few individuals that actually has an iguana with a hair ball then you damn well better state it upfront. Details people details!

As for those who answered Clarice, they naturally assumed Charlie was a cat (understandable) but they went a step further and assumed their advice was welcome. No matter how many passive-aggressive emoticons someone places in and around their words, it is the words that matter and it is the intent that shows a person’s true colors.

"ugh, I don't feel so good."

“ugh, I don’t feel so good.”

Misunderstandings happen but damn we need to cut each other a little slack. There will be times when something serious is posted and we feel a strong moral nudge to respond because we see harm in someone’s future but those type of posts are not nearly as frequent as the ones where we could actually, you know, just shut up.

And while I’m at it let me call it like I see it in regard to advice in general – not every piece of advice is good advice. This is coming from someone who was told my fibromyalgia could be knocked right out of my body if I would simply partake in a daily juice concoction that the giver-of-unsolicited-bad-advise read about in a book she got with a juice machine. Yeah. No.

So go forth and Facebook to your heart’s content dear readers. (Yes I made Facebook into a verb. Just let it go. ) Be kind, be fair, cut each other some slack and watch out for iguanas with hair balls.

Listen

“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” (Stephen R. Covey)

I’m big on personal responsibility and confess that there are occasions when I’ve been guilty of listening with the sole intention of responding. These are instances when instead of really listening to who is talking I pay more attention to the response forming in my own head. I’m not proud of the times I’ve fallen into this trap because it’s rude and disrespectful.

I see an unwillingness to really listen all_the_time. It’s born of an inflated sense of self. We are so intent on offering our opinion and advice that we mow right over the person talking. Once we have shared our necessary pearls of wisdom we can sit back feeling quite satisfied in our rightness. Hey world! Look at us, all wise and oh so right and everything. (Fist pump!)

“Wisdom is the reward you get for a lifetime of listening when you’d have preferred to talk.” (Doug Larson)

Everybody has opinions. But guess what? We don’t have to express every single thing that crosses our mind! Yeah, because you know, not everyone is interested in our responses. Maybe all they were looking for was someone to listen. Novel concept, no?

One of the most basic human needs is to understand and to be understood. It’s a need we can fulfill for people simply by listening. It doesn’t cost us anything other than time. All we have to do is be still and pay attention to what they’re saying, not what is being said in our own heads. We do not have to fill lulls in the conversation with opinions, advice, or observations unless we are asked.

There is a time and place for what we have to say and a time and place for what others have to tell us. We have to learn when to be quiet and let someone else do the talking. It’s not easy. We have things to say! Things that we believe are of the utmost importance. But let’s call a spade a spade – sometimes it’s only important to us. Ouch.

The great thing about listening is it helps build trust and it can make someone else feel a lot better. It may not benefit us (or so we think) but that’s where we have to put our egos aside and not worry about whether there’s anything in it for us. We should do it because it makes someone else’s life a little bit better for that moment in time.

There is an entire industry filled with people we can pay to listen to us. People who, at the end of the day, go home and deal with their own problems. People who don’t actually care about us in the deep, familiar way as friends and loved ones. Yet for a price they are the ones who will listen to us. I’m not saying there isn’t a place for therapy, I know better, but I believe we could all improve our listening skills.

Even though I’m someone with a lot to say I don’t always need to say it and oftentimes I don’t. Listening isn’t as easy as talking but it has a great deal of importance.

“Listening is a magnetic and strange thing, a creative force. The friends who listen to us are the ones we move toward. When we are listened to, it creates us, makes us unfold and expand.” (Karl A. Menninger)

Scrubby scrub scrub

I got a six pack of these neat scrubby things – for the kitchen, bathroom, garage, etc. They work in different ways depending on the temperature of the water they are submerged in.

Scrubby thing

Scrubby thing

Today, instead of doing about a dozen other things I wanted to do, I took one of my new scrubby things and proceeded to text the following to my long suffering husband.

Maybe these weren’t such a good idea.  I think I’m being stalked.

“Hon, maybe these weren’t such a good idea. I think I’m being stalked.”

His response was reminiscent of Duck Dynasty. Enough said.

Things are getting creepy hon.

“Things are getting creepy hon.”

He said, “Don’t let them get wet, they multiply.”

Our food is in jeopardy.

“Our food is in jeopardy.”

To which he so lovingly replied, “Your inner self has morphed into this huh? You better watch out.”

"This is where I draw the line.  Shit just got real."

“This is where I draw the line. Shit just got real.”

He says, “Feed me, feed me, feed me.” (These are my Keurig k-cups we’re talking about here!)

"I'm afraid it's too late for Willow.  The eye of the tiger, errrr, the eye of the sponge, got her."

“I’m afraid it’s too late for Willow. The eye of the tiger, errrr, the eye of the sponge, got her.”

My husband – “Wtf?”

"Willow I am your fathaaaaa."

“Willow I am your fathaaaaa.”

Fred – “I hope she grabs it and kicks its little yellow ass.”

(Insert several additional Star Wars references here.)

Me: “You never should have married a writer. I’m going to blog about this while thing.”

“Say what?????”

Now I’m thinking maybe I should take scrubby on vacation……………….

Unbreakable Bond

It has been my experience that a deep bond with a dog is rarely an immediate development. I’m not talking love at first sight as this is not necessarily an unusual occurrence when a human and dog meet. And then for some there is an undeniable instant connection, a kind of knowing that you belong together. But what is not instant, what does not happen at first sight, is a deep unbreakable bond.

The bond between a dog and a human develops as the two get to know each other. When the excitement of the first few days together morphs into a more regular routine, the human and dog observe and learn each other’s habits and quirks. Pretty simple, standard fare in the scheme of things. But it’s what’s happening underneath the surface that really counts…the building of trust. An unbreakable bond is wrapped in trust.

If a dog is important to us we try and do all the right things. We buy the best dog food, the fluffiest bed, the most durable toys. We get them vet care and proper training. These are good things. Important things. But in and of themselves they don’t mean much if we ignore the core of the relationship and that is trust. A dog will forego a meal, abandon a toy and sleep on a concrete floor if it means they get to be with the one they trust. The one with which they have a bond like no other. Trust takes time.

I think we do new pet owners a disservice if we don’t teach them that it takes more than proper, textbook care to build an unbreakable bond. It takes many things like patience, effort and keen observation. Add in love, play and quiet time as well. Above all else it is respect for another living being sharing a place with us on this planet. Sharing each other’s lives, building trust and in return being blessed an unbreakable bond.

Perry waiting patiently for his favorite peep.

Perry waiting patiently for his favorite peep.

Willow Bean

Adjustment to life with a puppy continues. Willow is very sweet and far too smart for my own good. Just when I think I’ve got all my bases covered, she uncovers another base.

Flurry is not impressed with our new bundle of energy. Flurry isn’t impressed by much to begin with so I’m not surprised really. Willow seems to think Flurry is some kind of whippet anomaly due to her rather harsh opinion of Willow.

What...is it?

What…is that thing?

Perry isn’t sure what the hell this is all about. We had a good gig going here, he owned all the toys and life was quiet. I hang my head in shame when he looks at me like this.

We had it made.  What were you thinking??

We had it made. What were you thinking??

I have a habit (good or bad, depending on how you look at it) of nicknaming my dogs. In this case it’s Willow Bean. With a poorly executed British accent repeated frequently throughout the day. (Don’t judge.)

We got Willow a toy that was intended to make her think. It’s a fuzzy toy eagle that has a tummy stuffed with squeaky balls. It was her job to figure how to get the balls out of the eagle. It took all of about 10 seconds so now I have to spend part of each day shoving balls back inside the eagle so she can prove once again how much smarter she is than me. The other day she took a ball and hid it in my marigolds. I caught myself in the back yard hollering, “Willow! Willow Bean, where are your balls? What did you do with your balls?” (I said don’t judge.)

willow_12

Willow loves Fred. She talks to him. She gets all girly girl around him…coy you might say. She’s a player, that one is.

willow_nap

Life with dogs…never a dull moment. Thank goodness. :)

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