Monday, November 28, 2011

Thoughts on Forgiveness....

 I think we all like to think of ourselves as forgiving people. We think of the times a spouse may have hurt our feelings and we let it go to "keep the peace". Or perhaps a time when a co-worker made an error that made our job harder, and we forgave them for it, agreeing that we all make mistakes from time to time. Some things are easier to forgive than others, of course, and I think we would all agree it's easier to forgive people we like than it is to forgive people we dislike.

But I've recently discovered something interesting about forgiveness that has me pondering once again. I believe that forgiveness is an aspect of Love, and since Love has been the centerpoint of my life, I have found myself forgiving a lot of hurtful things over the years. In the past I have forgiven hitting, cheating, threatening my life, stealing, lying, and seriously injuring my body. More recently I have forgiven teenage drivers for rear-ending my jeep while I was at a standstill at a red light, despite the damage they caused....twice....sending them on their way with a request to "Pay it forward."  I have forgiven people who don't even know me for being rude and cruel because they think they know something "about" me...when they really don't know anything. I have forgiven people for assuming things about who I am and what I'm doing...and why. And I have forgiven people for making my life difficult by sabotaging my efforts to earn a living.

Love and forgiveness are so important to me that I've noticed over the years that it has become a habit, a natural "first response" to the things people do to me, and gradually the old version of me; the one that would respond with outrage to a perceived wrong, has vanished and been replaced by a version of me that just smiles and tries to be nice in the face of other people's hurtful behavior.

Two weeks ago my little dogs became ill. India moreso than Killer. At first, I thought that India had swallowed some non-food object that was causing an intestinal blockage so I tried to help her by massaging her tummy and feeding her soft food. But on the 4th day she went into shock, staggering like a drunkard and her tongue white as snow, so I took her to see a Veterinarian and discovered she had been poisoned.

Now, anyone who knows me, knows that I keep close tabs on my dogs and am very protective of them. I see to it their environment is safe and poison free, so you can imagine how stunned I was when I learned my dogs had been poisoned. I was particularly shaken by the fact they had been poisoned just a few days after I had written and posted a blog about how much I appreciate them. Of course, I have no way of knowing who does and doesn't read my blog, and my address isn't posted anywhere on the blog, but the coincidental timing was disconcerting none the less.

In the days since then I have wracked my brain trying to figure out who would be so cruel as to poison these two sweet, loving, and harmless dogs....and "why?" I only went out of my way to share that blog post with one person and I know with absolute certainty that *he* would not poison them, so it's been a puzzle to me.

With each passing day, Killer has grown stronger and stronger; clearly making a full recovery, while India has begun to show signs of severe kidney damage and I've had to face the reality that I may be forced to end her suffering in the not so distant future. It's tearing me apart from the inside out, my heart breaking for her, as I agonize over what possible "wrong" I could have done to someone that they would feel the need to strike back in such a cruel way.

And yet, I feel no anger, no hatred, no need for vengence. It's as if I have crossed some barrier along the way and achieved a capacity for forgiveness I did not even know I was capable of. And yet, I feel this inexplicable guilt about not being angry and vengeful. I feel that I *should* be combing the streets, searching for the culprit so that I can rain furious wrath and punishment on his or her head. And I find myself wondering about that. Why don't I feel the need to avenge my little dogs? Why do I feel guilty about being able to forgive someone who is clearly nothing more than a cruel and spineless coward? Never in my wildest dreams did I ever expect to feel guilty about being forgiving.

I don't know what to think about that.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Yep, I think too much....

Been hearing that my whole life. "Sallie, you think too much!"  If I had a dollar for everytime someone has said that to me....well, there goes my brain--wondering "What WOULD I do with all that money???"  Yep, that's how it works. One thought leads to the next and then the next and then the next and pretty soon I'm dancing on the edge of trying to solve the riddle of perpetual motion...........again.

But seriously now....what's wrong with thinking? I mean, isn't that what our large brains are for?

Y'know, I don't think it's really that people think I think "too much"'s that they feel uncomfortable with what I think ABOUT.....or at least whatever it is they *think* I think about......that's what they are REALLY objecting to......

So, want to know what I think about?

I wonder if it's possible to sit in the woods and watch hoar-frost grow on the trees...

I think about cliche's. I wonder where they originated. Like, who was the very first person to ever say "A watched pot never boils." And yes....I did once stand over the stove, staring at a pot of water trying to discern the moment the water started to boil... and I swear, it started to boil at the exact moment I blinked. Sigh.

I think about how evolution is just creation still happening.

I think about how much it amuses me to have a bench grinder and a drill my livingroom.

I think about how it feels to slide my fingers through the coarse, yet soft, hair that grows on a man's chest...and how I can't remember the last time I did that.

And I wonder about the things we are taught, like how we are taught "that is the color blue" and wonder if what each of us identify as blue, is perceived in the same way....

I wonder about people and why it's so much easier for them to be cruel than to be kind.

I think about how learning to laugh at my troubles was the most valuable lesson I ever learned.

I wonder if it's really true that no two snowflakes are exactly alike...and how would one go about proving that?

I think about how everyone in the world dreams of true love....all the while pushing away those who would love them while clinging to someone who does not.

I think about how I am aware of occupying my body and wonder if other people are aware of occupying theirs. And then I think about "what does that mean?"

I think about how people get so caught up in owning "things" that they don't realize the things really own them.

I think about how people are just so sure they know what's going on, that they never bother to question anything....least of all, themselves.

And I think about how much fun it would be to travel the country in a motorhome with someone special, earning what is needed along the way....and how depressing it would be to do that alone.

I think about how parents think they are doing a good thing when they push their children to excel, not realizing the message the child hears is "you're not good enough YET."

I think about how at any given moment, I am traveling over 142 miles per second around the center of the Milky Way Galaxy.

I think about how easy it is to heal a hurt and move forward....once a person decides that's what they want to do.

I think about how a handful of greedy people have tricked the rest of our society into being lemmings on a hamster wheel; nothing more than slaves...who don't even realize that's what they are.

I think about how hard I worked to be "self-sufficient" just to please a man....and now men tell me I am intimidating because I am so self-sufficient...because it leads them to believe I don't need anyone. (so not true!!!)

I think about how much I would like to live a simple life filled with simple pleasures shared with a simple man.

I think about how there's a whole "other world" existing between our roads and towns that goes mostly overlooked while people scurry about, worrying about schedules and deadlines and bills. And I think about how the critters are so much wiser than we are.....

I think about one person I miss very much, and wonder if he ever misses me too.

I think about what a privelege it is to live on this planet that has such beauty and diversity everywhere we look.

If it's a crime to look and see and think, then I am guilty as charged. But it is because I think so much, that I have learned appreciation and gratitude, and my capacity for love and compassion and forgiveness and understanding has grown exponentially, right along with the meanderings of my inquisitive mind.....

Blustery Winter Days....

I love the first snow of winter, I always have. It always makes me feel like cooking all day. I don't know why, it just does. So today I'm here in my cozy little trailer house and I'm.....well, okay...trailer houses aren't exactly known for being "cozy"...more like living in a drafty old shoe-box shaped corn-crib. But today, it feels cozy to me. The storms are up and drafts are limited by clear plastic window coverings. The furnace is working and I have a big pot of bean and ham soup simmering on the stove. Soon I'll be baking fresh bread and the aroma will add to that sensation of coziness.....

But I think the best thing about days like today is they provide an opportunity to take a "time-out". Most activities are cancelled on a day like today and a person doesn't have to leave their house unless they want to, or if there is some "must do" thing they just can't get out of. I left my house this morning to get a headlight for my jeep because I knew if I didn't get that fixed, traveling in this weather could be a problem....if it became necessary. By the time I returned, I'd made a couple extra stops, was rear-ended by a teenager in a jeep cherokee, and my headlight started working again on it's own. (I guess the jeep just needed a good "kick in the butt"...haha!)

But now I'm home where I want to be and while the soup is simmering on the stove, I'm thinking about blustery winter days of the past.....

I recall in the mid '70's a series of blizzards that literally trapped us in our farm house 10 miles from town. We ran out of fuel oil for the furnace and my parents were forced to move us all into the basement where an old wood-burner would keep us warm. My sister's and I thought this was a great adventure as my Father took doors off of hinges to set on stacks of cinder blocks as make-shift cots to set our mattresses on. The old coal room became the bathroom. My older sister thought that room was scary with the candlelight flickering across the old cobwebbed walls, so on the second day she used chalk to draw a giant colorful butterfly on the wall across from our makeshift commode. A few years ago I discovered that butterfly is still there despite the house having changed hands several times over the years.

We spent the days playing board games or singing songs or learning yarn games such as Cat's Cradle and Jacob's ladder. My mother taught us all to crochet and knit, while my Father was champion of the board games. Morning and evening my Father would venture out into the storm to feed the livestock, using a rope strung from the porch to the barn to find his way. My Mother would be a nervous wreck until he returned. But the best part was, with the electricity out....we could eat all the ice cream we wanted because it was just going to melt anyway. Believe me, we ate plenty!

Between storms my Father would allow us to venture out into the winter wonderland nature had created. Giant snowdrifts as high as the barn roof became forts with stairs carved into one side and slides down the other. We would dig tunnels and create rooms with windows and doors. Our two farm dogs: Barney and King, would play "tag" with us through our forts. Such fun we had!

Years later, when snow storms would keep my own children home from school, I remembered our adventures in the basement, and when my children started showing signs of cabin fever, I would pull out dice, decks of cards, and board games such as Aggravation and Yatzee. I'd make special treats such as Pigs-in-a-blanket with maple syrup for dipping, or peanut-butter candy. And when all else failed, I'd bring out long loops of yarn and teach them to play Cat's Cradle. Less than a week ago, I was pleased to watch my own daughter teach her two daughter's that old yarn game. It was fun to see how young girls in today's techno world of computors and video games, can still become deeply engrossed in a simple game played with a single piece of yarn....and I realized it's value in teaching concentration and cooperation.

So today, as I watch the snow fall and drift across my porch, I find myself spoiling my little dogs a little bit more than usual. Partly because they are the only one's here for me to spoil, and partly because sometime before this last Tuesday...some unknown person poisoned them and I am extra grateful they are alive. So they are my "children" that I will play with on this blustery winter day......and since the Vet has recommended a liquid diet for a few days, I'm sure I will share my soup with them as well.......

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Thank God for Dogs.....

Dogs just don't get enough appreciation, in my opinion. So I'm going to dedicate this post to my two Miniature Pinschers: India and Killer....

India entered my life when she was 9 weeks old. I had driven to the place of her birth intent on adopting her brother; the only male left in the litter, but India had her own ideas......Right from the first moment I entered the kennel filled with friendly, happy-go-lucky Min-Pin puppies, India decided I was hers. She chased all her litter-mates away so I could not even touch them and then stood guard at my feet. Looking up at me with hope-filled eyes, she was determined that I take her, and not her brother. Not one to argue with Fate, I surprised everyone and chose India to be my new companion. I have never regretted that decision....

Every morning I awake to find India sprawled beside me, under the blankets but with her head beside mine on the pillow. When I stumble to the bathroom, she sits patiently outside the door, guarding it from possible intruders. Fumbling about in the kitchen to make my morning coffee, she nudges the back of my legs with her nose to remind me she's there so I won't step back and trip over her. She waits patiently for me to open the front door so she can rush outside and bark dutifully at any ghost that may be lurking about, and then quickly comes back inside.

As I carry my coffee to the desk for my morning email check, she follows along and watches as I turn on the computor and then grunts quietly to remind me of what comes next. Then follows the daily ritual of "The choosing of the chair". There are two chairs in my livingroom; a blue recliner and a black rocker with a leopard print pillow. Each day she jumps on the ottoman and then studies each chair for a moment, debating which one she wants to snuggle into for her "morning nap". I stand aside patiently, blanket in hand, and once she has made her choice she leaps from ottoman to chair and curls up in a little ball and then I cover her with the blanket. There is where she stays until I have finished my coffee and email and decide it's time for a shower.

She never follows me to the shower, but she is always there when I get out....laying on the bath mat in a position of attention, facing the door, once again watching for intruders. She reminds me of Egyptian statues of Anubis. She is my guardian.

Killer, India's runt sister from the same litter, didn't come into my household until she was already a year and a half old. A thin, wormy, 2 lbs 9 ounces compared to India's hefty 12 lbs, Killer was a pitiful sight. Suffering malnutrition; her hip bones and ribs were easily visible through skin that was half hairless and her little legs were mere sticks. She couldn't even jump up on a chair without assistance. Over-grown toenails caused her to trot in a stilted, unnatural manner. But despite her suffering, she was a loving and interactive little dog, anxious to please and always begging for love. I soon wondered if I should change her name to "Onya" because she's always got to be "on ya".

Killer stoically tolerated the process of recovery; cooperating with wormings and baths and gulping down the mashed potatos and rice I fed her along with her regular dog food, she quickly gained weight and regrew the hair she'd lost to worms. She is without a doubt, the toughest little dog I've ever met. At a pudgy 6 lbs 9 oz. she gives big sister India plenty of competition and rowdy play-time. But by age 3, her early malnutrition caught up with her and one day she curled up atop a heat vent and stayed there for nearly 8 hours until I realized she hadn't moved from that spot all day. Retained baby teeth had resulted in oral deformities and abcesses. Never even wimpering, she could not open her mouth to eat or drink. Through the generosity of a friend, Killer received the oral surgery she required, but I could not afford. When I picked her up from the Vet's, she crawled inside my shirt and stayed there for the rest of the day. Again, without so much as a complaining whine.

Killer has settled into life here with myself and India. She is such a good fit it's almost as if she were here from day one. While India and I enjoy our morning routine, Killer, who had been curled into a tiny ball behind my knees all night, stays in bed and continues to sleep....Never moving as I carefully extricate myself from the blankets so as to not disturb her. Forever worrying that I might crush her in my sleep, I always wake her before I leave for work to reassure myself she is alive. She blinks those big brown eyes at me accusingly, then wags her little stub tail in greeting before burrowing back beneath the blankets to continue her snooze.

Like clockwork, when noon time comes around, both India and Killer are energized. Certain that THIS is THEIR time, they begin to pester me for their daily walk. How they know what time it is, is a mystery to me. Even the 1 hour change of daylight savings doesn't seem to phase them. They still seem to know when it's noon. Perhaps there is some noisy ritual here in the park that I am unaware of, that tips them off to the time. I am always torn between submitting to their demands or "changing it up" from day to day so they won't be so expectant and demanding. But really, noon usually works okay for my schedule as well. But not always. But they are sure to remind me the second I walk in the door if they haven't had their walk yet. They stand beside their harnesses and leashes, ears up, little stub tails wagging frantically and make me feel like a giant poopy-head if I say no. So I usually say yes...unless it's raining or too cold outside.

The Walk-time ritual is an amusement in itself. As I drop to my knees beside their leashes they nearly burst with excitement; jumping and dancing in circles, barking in earsplitting excitement. First Killer, with her little red CAT harness (the only one small enough to fit her). I hold it out and she shoves her head through the loop, then holds up her right leg so I can push it through, then drops her head while I buckle it behind her ears. India barking instructions the whole time: Hurry! Hurry! Hurry!  Then India with her black harness that she knows perfectly well she has to wear, but still must tease me by staying just out of reach while barking and wagging her tail until I pretend to give up. Then she hops into my lap and stands quietly while I fasten it around her. Of course, Killer is now barking instructions as well.

Then out the door and down the steps as these little dynamo's nearly yank me off my feet. Yes, I do know how to teach them to heel....but truthfully, this is more fun. A lifetime "animal trainer", I decided early on that I was going to allow first India, and then Killer, to just "be who they are" and not demand more from them than that they be house-trained and not chew on my possessions. They have done their part and in return, I just let them express themselves freely.

As they run and jump and scurry and stop to investigate every object and every smell, I think we must be quite a sight at times. I frequently find myself standing sideways beside the road, arms outstretched like a scarecrow, while little munchkin dogs pull and lean with all their might, trying to go in opposite directions, only to switch places; leaving me to look like I'm hugging myself with crossed arms. Sometimes they toy with me and run around me in opposite directions, but I have learned to spin like a ballerina with arms in the air to keep them from wrapping me in their leashes. I am amazed as I watch how they first entangle and then untangle themselves and eachother, sometimes "on the run" and never missing a beat. Occasionally they find an unsuspecting field mouse or a frog and leap through the air to pounce, and then argue with eachother about who gets to carry their prey. They are quite miffed when I insist they drop it beside the road before we return home.

Like angels in disguise, these two little dogs bring so much love and joy and amusement to my life. Always happy to see me when I come home, and sorry to see me go when I leave. When I am feeling down, it is my sweet, gentle India who comforts me. When I am restless, it is Killer who entices me to play tug-o-war or "shark dog". When I become too serious about working, they conspire together to nag and pester me until I take a break and watch a movie....just so they can snuggle on my lap.

I would be lost without these two little dogs. I hug them both every day. Thank you, God, for little dogs. :)