Thursday, January 2, 2014

For the Love of Animals

Our Percy

The other day we started to watch The Family—a movie about a mobster family who’s been put into a witness protection program. In one of the opening scenes the family is seen traveling along in the car with their German Shepherd. My son commented, “Oh, I hope nothing happens to the dog.” We all concurred. (Well, most of us did—not sure if Doug completely voiced an opinion.) Sure, I’d feel bad about any of the people who happened to get gunned down—and quite a few did. But I was most nervous about the pup. (Those movie writers sure know how to build suspense around a pet!)

Which brings me to my next, sad (non-fictional) story. I came home the other day and asked Doug how his day was. He said he found one of his cows dead in the creek. No! I exclaimed. A mommy? He nodded. But how? Must’ve been pushed in, lost her footing, he stated solemnly. A horrible death. Will her calf be alright,I asked. Doug said so, but I couldn’t help but feel sad for a cute little cow looking for his mother. Tears emerged. Doug said my daughter had the same reaction. No, I didn’t even know the cow. And I eat cows. But I can hardly stand to think of any creature suffering.

I've decided every day should be spent with just a tiny does of animal musings. It brings about a certain joy that humans can't replicate.

Here are some examples: 

  • Every morning I pass a beautiful horse on the way to work. It takes me less than five seconds to enjoy one of the most noble creations on earth. Sometimes I pass by and forget to look and the chestnut equine and my heart feels a little sad. 
  • Our wiry dog has gotten into the habit of snuggling up with Cole every morning after we let him in. Even though he’s probably creating a huge hairball mess on my son’s bed, it’s the most heartwarming scene you could imagine—seeing the mutt sidled up to a skinny twelve-year old boy with the hair of Medusa. Precious.
  • Even the self-absorbed cat gives us quite a few chuckles as it plans guerrilla attacks on a Terrier who could bite its head off in one taking. Oh the joys of violent animal outbursts.
Anyway, when Doug and I began our family, we definitely weren't on the same page when it came to pets. He absolutely said, "No pets in the house." That lasted about six months. Pretty soon a kitten showed up. Then there was a dog. Now we're on our second dog...and we've had several cats come and go. But I can't imagine our household without a little animal animosity. Because even when there is some "human" tension in the air, animals always find a magical way to dissolve it.

Monday, December 2, 2013

A Dead End? No Way!

Most recently a bridge was removed from our road. (We don’t exactly own it, nor have they named it after us yet. But I feel a claim to the gravelly path since we are the only residence on the ¾ mile stretch.) Now we live on a…dead end. The sign humors me every time I make the corner to go home, especially after a long day at work. There’s nothing metaphorical running through my mind! Really!

Actually, I have been thinking how quickly I blinked and found myself at the age of 44. Didn’t I just turn 25 a few years ago? 31? Then I wonder, have I achieved everything I set out to achieve? If my 25 year-old self would look at me now, I’d probably say, "Pretty much." Yet, there has been a certain restlessness–a certain lingering feeling, making me wonder if there was more that I should be doing. 

So I got some ideas!

Working hard. Learning the ropes. Obviously, all important in the making of a career. Purpose has almost always consumed me. And now that my kids no longer need their steaks cut into bite-size pieces (most of the time), the question of purpose really hovered over my cup of morning tea. Recently, I was inspired into action after reading two books: When Everything Changed by Gail Collins and Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg.  Ms. Collins gave me an education on the Women's Movement and Sheryl Sandberg reminded me of all the gender challenges I've faced in my career. Together, Sandberg and Collins convinced me to start a mentoring program at work. And after conversations with some other high-performing women at the Shelby County State Bank, we all decided to carry on the dialogue in formal framework–to encourage each other, to boost confidence, and to help each other in our careers. While we've only just begun a program, our roundtable talks are being received with great fervor. And just as Ben Stiller's enthusiasm soared when his Museum came alive in Night of the Museum, I'm feeling a sort of second-wind in my career as well.

Without trying to sound to cliche, I really do think God works in mysterious ways. I read a book which inspired me to laugh at the newly posted "Dead End" sign on our road. I guess when a bridge closes up, you just turn around and take the long way around. Sometimes, the scenery isn't only nicer–it's a better route. 

Just to give you a taste of Lean In and the conversations we've started at our place at work, see Sheryl Sandberg's Ted Talk here. It's fabulous.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Bless me Father–It's Who I Am!

Before attending an advent reconciliation, I debated on a number of things to confess. Once I sat down to confess my sins to the priest, I finally boiled down my guilt down to feelings of ingratitude. Most of you can probably relate to a certain extent. I.e., Do things as trivial as someone’s dirty dishes on the counter annoy the shit out of you? don't think twice about having those dishes, or that counter, or that food piled on the dishes?

So after telling the priest about my bouts of resentment, along with my inability to appreciate all that I have, he quietly said,

“You’ve probably heard these words before, but remember it’s not about what you have, it’s about who you are.”

At first I wondered if he had understood my confession. I was expecting him to give me a prescription on how to manage my life differently, but he didn't. Admittedly, I didn't connect the dots–at first. So he sent me away to pray an Our Father and reflect. So I did.

Now I can’t shake the words from my head.

I spend an awful lot of time fussing about my purpose in life–wringing my hands, wondering if I'm doing enough in this world. There are lots of big, important causes out there in the world. Sometimes it’s overwhelming to figure out how we should make a difference. How can we help those victims in the Philippines, or comfort the vast population suffering from incurable diseases? Certainly, we can write a check. And while that's helpful, it never feels like enough.

It’s not about what you have, but who you are.

Maybe our actions don't have to be grand or ostentatious. So, I'm not a person who is powerful or important. But I feel that I am kind. And I like uplifting the spirit of people around me if at all possible. Have I been doing that? Have I engaged with my family? My friends? My coworkers? Or even the sad-looking person at the grocery store? Maybe not. Maybe not lately.

So it there's one thing I can do, it's show people I care. A smile, a hello, an empathetic ear. It might be a small gesture, but at least it’ll be sincere. It won't be like Oprah giving away cars, but that's not really who I am–right now anyway.

Monday, November 4, 2013


Interested in reading some short fiction? My other blog is dedicated to all things writing, so I've posted a short story I recently wrote called Phoenix Sun–about a mother who decides to take a short vacation from her life. But it remains to be seen whether she'll go back to her daily grind...

If you like to read, but don't have the time to dig into a book, here's a nice alternative. Hope you enjoy. (And I welcome comments–good, bad, or ugly!)

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Remember Alice?

Hello? Is there anybody there? 

Between two writing classes and the buzz of everyday life, my poor blog has taken a way, way back seat! So, after my first free weekend in about three years it seems, I thought I'd touch base with my small group of followers! (Hi Mom.)

I spent much of the weekend, getting reacquainted with my house. I.e., peeling back the layers of grime to make it not so disgusting. It was practically a Herculean effort because no one does much cleaning around here. And I really suck at making my kids accountable for anything. (I believe they call this working mother's guilt.)  Since I've been reading Gail Collin's When Everything Changed–a book about the women's movement, I'm really consumed with the fair division of household duties. But since Doug is working until midnight every night this time of the year, I guess it's my turn. Ugh.

If you have ever felt badly about your sense of domesticity, consider this:

  • My kids' sheets hadn't been washed in such a long time, I couldn't even find them. Apparently, neither of them realized they existed. I found both of their top sheets, and a pillow case, under each of their beds. I hope they appreciate their new, freshly laundered bed clothes.
  • I cleaned two piles of dog shit and one one mound of cat puke in the garage. To avoid puking, I simply didn't breath for about five minutes.
  • I'm pretty sure I vacuumed up a snake. Or maybe it was a long dead worm. Something possessed me to lift the chaise–only to find one of our animal's treasures. It had to be the evil little cat.
  • I started doing laundry on Friday night. It's Sunday, at 9:30, and even with the extra hour, I'm still doing laundry. There will still be at least three loads left to do when I go to bed tonight. At least, I'm proud to say, everyone in the house will have socks and underwear tomorrow morning.
I didn't finish a bunch of other "chores." The kitchen floor. The toilets.The intricate dusting of my fake ficus tree. After some serious consideration, I've come to one conclusion: I need an Alice–like on the Brady Bunch! This way, I can free up my time to pursue worthy endeavors like watching more movies with my family, writing more short stories that probably won't get published and, of course, playing with the pets.

Taking applications immediately.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Wicked Awesome!

Just got back from vacation last weekend, and I have a great idea for a short story. It goes something like this:

An Iowa farmer sells all his ground to buy a lobster boat and relocate his family to Boston. The farmer befriends an old fisherman at an Irish pub. The old fisherman decides to bequeath his Red Sox tickets to the farmer.

The end.

I think the telltale sign of a good vacation as that we're already nostalgic about our trip. It seems that the Boston accent hasn't quite left our brain yet. (Get in the cah! Wouldja! We're wicked late!)  We've already scanned the hundreds of revolutionary and not-so-revolutionary photos on our camera and iPhones. Doug, who has been a staunch Bud-liter for years, bought himself some Sam Adams already. And, of course, we watched Fever Pitch.

You always worry about vacations turning out to be more work than what they're worth. This vacation just happened to snap into place. It was the perfect combination of history and fun.  (The kids might argue we overdid the history tours and didn't quite do enough swimming, but I think the ratio was just about perfect.) We all agree we could've taken in one more Red Sox game. Our walk to Yawkey Way was certainly the highlight. I'm not sure the team could've set up a more exciting game for us. Trailing 7-2, the Red Sox came back to win in the bottom of the 9th. We didn't wanted to leave Fenway as the Drop Kick Murphy's continued to blast through the speakers. Thirty minutes later, we finally decided it was time to head back to the hotel...(Usually we always try to dodge out of a stadium as quickly as we can.) I swear my husband was converted that night.

But the Red Sox aren't everything there was to Boston. Beyond all of the history that revolves around the city (the USS Constitution–"Old Ironsides," the Boston Tea Party, Bunker Hill...), you couldn't help be caught up in their spirit of education! Apparently, half the population is made up of students. Like Hahvahd. Where they make you smahtah. And MIT are comprised of a bunch of clever pranksters–who convert buildings into awesome droids like r2d2. These same students are recruited by some of the most noteworthy companies in the country. That's who I want working for me!

Now, we're back and it always feels good to come home and look over the pretty fields of Iowa. Looking back, I can't say, there isn't anything we didn't do that I wish we would have. Oh, except for maybe one...we didn't get to glance at the Patriot's quarterback. That would've been nice. Maybe next time.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

A New Happy

As I was listening in church this past weekend, and thinking about service and God and all that stuff, I decided something. I need to quit being so bitchy. And help out more. And not be bitchy about helping out. My kids were putting up such a fuss about being servers in church. Really. For one heroic hour, they help our priest perform Mass. Our priest doesn’t happen to be one of those “beat-you-with-a-ruler” if you screw up types. He’s fairly forgiving when mistakes are made. And it’s not like the tasks are excruciating, so I was wondering why the kids were so put out. Perhaps they get their sour attitudes from their parents. As I thought more deeply about their parents’ approach to service, and life, I wondered…perhaps we’re not the best role models in terms of looking at the glass half-full. We do tend to gripe...maybe too much. You know? Bitch for the sake of bitching?

I really think my innate nature is to look at the sky, rather than search the ground for snakes. (Although, I’ve come across TWO in the vicinity of our living quarters recently, but that’s another story I don’t wish to discuss in case the kids read the blog and find out some unpleasant truths…) But for some reason, I’ve allowed myself to be coated with a negative aura. I hear myself feeding into the slightest bit of juicy gossip—even if it doesn’t impact my life whatsoever.  For example, I recently noticed myself criticizing Kanye and Kim's choice of "North West" for a baby name. Why should I care if it sounds like an airline! I'm sure they don't care what I think. Here's the right way to think about that whole business: Another beautiful, healthy baby was brought into the world that will probably bless us with either A) fabulous music, or B) another...reality show. Okay...I'm gonna stop with my commentary while my positivity is still overriding my cynicism.

Back to  task. I want to be the mom my kids and hubby are happy to see when I come home. Not the one, whom they hide from in the basement or the office, hoping I don’t complain about the mess or insufficient completion of chores. So, here’s my plan. I have a twenty-minute commute between work and home every night. I usually listen to NPR—basically just another extension of work to gather information from Marketplace. But maybe I need to pray during that time…to think about what good things there is to be done in the world (or at least in Shelby County… or maybe just our farm). And when I get home, I’ll discuss those ideas with my family, instead of how freaking messy the house is.

I’m pretty sure they’ll like the change of pace...

I've actually been experimenting with this new system already, but my family seems unaware. They look at me I'm trying to catch them in the act of wrongdoing. It might take awhile for them to acclimate to the new me. (It's only been a few days.) Admittedly, it feels a little strange–this new habit of not being crabby when I walk in the house. But it feels kind of good. I like it. I even cooked something a bit gourmet the other night. Take a look at this! Alex and I were the only ones who really liked it, but I think everyone at least appreciated the attempt.
Bacon, potato and asparagus pizza!