We have a dog, who is actually more than just a pet. He’s the baby of our family, the very apple of his daddy’s eye, and is more spoiled than any of our other children, who were born without fur, ever were.
Our baby is a member of the hybrid breed known as Morkie. He’s a cross between a Maltese and a Yorkie, and he turned four years old this past Christmas Day. He weighs all of seven and a half pounds. We became his forever family when he was eight weeks old. My beloved fell in love with him from a photo my daughter brought over that she’d printed from the internet, from a site here in Canada called Kijiji (which is comparable to Craig’s List).
Three months prior, we’d lost our beloved dog, Rochie (short for ferocious, which he never was), a ninety-pound lab-cross. Rochie was eleven. He’d suffered a stroke overnight, and the only humane thing to do was relieve his suffering, as he couldn’t walk and seemed completely confused and disoriented. David really loved Rochie, his best friend who he’d raised from a pup that had belonged to one of our grandsons. In the months following his loss, David seemed a little subdued. Our daughter informed me her father was lonely when I returned, in early February of that year, from a week away. She told me, admonished me, really, that Daddy must have another dog. I was unconvinced. This led to her bringing that picture and showing her daddy, and asking him if he would like to have “this cute little puppy”. And her daddy, who had previously admonished me in no uncertain terms that there would be no more pets in the Ashbury household? Yeah, he caved like a house of cards.
For the doggie daddy, it was love at first sight. David really wanted the dog, and I’m not one to say no when my beloved wants something. Mr. Tuffy represents a couple of notable firsts for our family. He’s the first dog for which we paid money—and a lot of money, at that. He’s also the first small dog we’ve ever owned.
When he arrived here, we both fell in love with him. He was his daddy’s baby first and foremost, and while it had been agreed that the puppy would sleep in his crate (which was actually a baby’s play pen) beside the bed each night, almost right from the beginning, and unbeknownst to me at the time, David snuck him into the bed with us.
Yeah, that whole pretense of using the playpen only lasted until that day a couple of months later, in May when our daughter arrived to babysit him while we went to a writer’s event in the U.S.
Mr. Tuffy has earned his place as a beloved member of the family. He is, in reality, at the center of life here in the Ashbury household. He will eat dog kibble, but only as a side dish. Otherwise, his diet consists of chicken, pork, beef, liver—and even lamb. Hamburger, not so much. I shouldn’t say even lamb, because it is one of his favorites. Mr. Tuffy has a wardrobe filled with sweaters and jackets. He actually has more sweaters than I do. He has a box of toys in the living room. He sleeps on our bed at night, as I said, and during the day, one may often find him perched on my desk, between my tower and my monitor.
He also has his own “bed”, of course, and that is on the floor beside my desk—his second favorite daytime resting place. In this bed is a “blanket”, and several bones. He loves his bones. We refer to his bed as his bone-bed, and he’s in it for at least one nap every day—unless, of course, the cat decides she wants the bed, instead.
The cat has a habit of stealing his sleeping spots and has stolen every one except for the one which is our bed. On the rare occasions that the cat demands to sleep on the bed at night, her preferred (and only) spot is just above my pillow making it easy for me, her servant, to slip a hand under her and one on top of her as I try to go to sleep—and for her to bat me with her paw if I don’t.
Mr. Tuffy also has issues, the main one being extreme separation anxiety. This has been an issue that developed gradually and unexpectedly when he was about two, and has been ongoing. The vet has said we could medicate him, but neither of us has any desire to do that. Instead, we do what families do when one of their members develops “issues”. We simply cope. Mr. Tuffy is no longer left alone, ever. If we have to go out to a place where he cannot come, we take him to the one other place in this world where he will feel ok—our daughter’s house. She has Chihuahuas who have been his buddies since day one. And, considering the role she played in making sure we had Mr. Tuffy as her baby brother in the first place, it’s only fitting her house is plan B for us and for him.
I’ve known people in my lifetime who would have considered this kind of a problem to be a deal-breaker. I’ve known people who’ve decided after the fact that pets weren’t really for them, and have removed them from their families. But that’s not us. We take our obligations seriously. In our view, once you adopt a pet, that pet is yours—in much the same way that a baby born to you or adopted by you is yours—forever.
So yes, this is Mr. Tuffy’s forever home, and we will likely continue to spoil him, and deal with any future issues he may develop which, really, is no chore for us at all.
Giving in love, whether to a pet, a person, or a purpose is one of life’s greatest callings and purest joys.
Wednesday, March 29, 2017
We have a dog, who is actually more than just a pet. He’s the baby of our family, the very apple of his daddy’s eye, and is more spoiled than any of our other children, who were born without fur, ever were.
Wednesday, March 22, 2017
Life sure is complicated these days, isn’t it? Everything happens at the speed of light. People want what they want, and they don’t just want it now, they want it five minutes ago. Not only individuals, but our entire society, it seems, has pivoted to the instant, and even to the unreal.
There are instant foods that you pop into the microwave, aka the instant cooker, to prepare your daily bread; there are machines on street corners and in most stores where you slip a piece of plastic into the slot and receive back instant cash—and it doesn’t even have to be cash you have in the bank. It can be cash you don’t even really have at all.
Then there are all the bells and whistles attached to this behemoth we call the Internet. Talk about unreality? I like to play games. I always tell anyone who will listen that playing a few games each day helps my brain to stay limber. Insofar as that goes, it’s true. But one of the game sites I go to, where I pay a fairly modest annual fee to be a “member” will allow you to purchase, for money, things such as backgrounds and clothing, pets and other accoutrements for what essentially is a non-animated computer-generated image that is your “face” on the game site. Yes, you can pay real money for something that truthfully isn’t real at all. And what you’ve purchased is only “yours” for as long as you’re a member of that site. Stop paying your annual fee? Bye-bye avatar and all those purchased items.
This modern age we find ourselves in is a time when we, as individuals, as a society, have re-defined so very many previously well established and accepted concepts and norms of life.
TV commercials now show an “ideal” home life where evenings find family members sequestered in different rooms in the house, where they’re “on line”, or “watching movies”. Groups of kids in two separate rooms, and the parents alone in a third. This is the new, modern family time.
But it isn’t just activities that are being redefined, it’s actual tenets, the codes by which we as a society are organized and behave. I can recall a time, not so long ago, when individuals and society as a whole condemned the telling of lies. There was a time when, if you lied even once, you became known as a liar, and it was a long, long time before you would be trusted again. Being known as a liar was an anathema.
Making a mistake in life was something we all avoided, and still do, but it would happen regardless, and that was bad enough. But add onto that mistake the crime of lying? That didn’t just make your original mistake doubly bad—it made it practically irredeemable.
But today we are sliding into a world of “alternate facts”. People who should be our role models as examples of decency are lying on a daily basis, and getting away with it. They are getting away with it because we let them. We say they are confused, or not completely informed, or that they really didn’t mean, literally, what they’d said, or tweeted, or any number of euphemisms we use these days instead of good, old fashioned plain speaking.
I would dearly love to see us return to that plain speaking. I know it’s normal for someone of my age to wish for simpler, kinder times; hell, when I was in my teens, I heard older people then express this same, basic desire. But here’s the thing: There wasn’t anything as overtly alarming in those past times that inspired this desire in the older generation for those kinder, simpler days. It was more a longing to embrace once again that which was familiar, that with which they’d grown up. The desire was, basically, sentimental in nature.
It can be very disorienting when the minutia of life changes so much that those who are older can feel left behind, and long for the days when they weren’t in the dark, long for the times they felt included and a part of it all.
That is worlds away and far different from the problems facing individuals and our society today. The problem we face is not a problem of feeling lost in the unfamiliar: it is a problem of being divorced from basic decency and the truth.
The bad news is that until people stand up for what is right—until they are willing to speak truth to power and say, “no, sir, that is a lie”, and curb that tendency toward lying at every turn, things are only going to get worse, and they will get worse in ways we can’t even fully imagine yet.
The good news is that I just picked up a book that many of those very people who appear to be unwilling to do the right thing, claim to hold as a treasured source of inspiration. This book they claim to be the cornerstone of their lives, is a book that they claim to hold in reverence. I opened that very book, and I quickly thumbed to a specific point, and, whew, what a relief! Just when I thought everything had changed—turns out, it really hasn’t!
Exodus 20:16 still reads and means the same, exactly, as it always, always has—and always, always will.
Wednesday, March 15, 2017
Crocuses and daffodils and tulips are awakening in my garden, (currently covered with an inch of snow), the grass had dared to turn green in places, and as I, despite the recent blanket of white, await signs that my small lilac trees survived another winter, at times it really does seem as if spring is in the air. My thoughts turn briefly to that age-honored tradition of spring cleaning—and then skitter away from it again. I used to look forward to spring cleaning—when I had the stamina to clean for the entire day. Oh, the joy of having those windows opened wide and the sweet, spring air flooding into my house! Good times, indeed!
I’m down to about half a day’s worth of stamina now, the other half taken up with resting in between spurts of activity. But it’s not only lack of stamina that I, as a sixty-two-year-old woman, must cope with in the here and now. It’s also a decrease in my flexibility and level of mobility that hampers me. Gone are the days of climbing onto the sofa or a chair or even a small step ladder to reach some out of the way spot. While I will, on occasion, use my small kitchen step stool, I’m very cautious when doing so, ensuring I have solid surfaces to hang on to just in case.
The other challenge I have is that I seem to have less “stamina” in holding my focus. Week by week, it seems more difficult for me to keep my mind centered each day on the main thing. Sometimes, the biggest battle is remembering just what the main thing is. I understand it’s a facet of getting older that our memories become less reliable than once they were. Yes, I do understand that, but I sure as heck don’t have to like it. And trust me, I don’t.
I’m at that stage in life where I’ve taken to writing myself reminder notes, and even as I do so, I chuckle, recalling my late mother-in-law and her experience doing the same thing. She was coping with this exact problem, and wrote herself notes so she’d remember what she had to do the next day. One of those notes, on one particular occasion, was to remind herself to pay the phone bill. She showed me the piece of paper as she related this incident. It was a torn scrap, and the words “Phone Bill” were printed on it in her shaky scroll and yes, each word began with the upper-case letter.
As she showed it to me, she laughed, telling me how she’d picked it up, looked at it….and tried to remember who “Bill” was, and why she’d wanted to call him.
That’s going to be me, next year, the year after, at the latest. I just know it. Getting older really isn’t a game for sissies.
My beloved has pointed out, more than once, that a faulty memory can be a fine thing indeed. I can see his point. Since I do, truly, want to keep seeing that glass as half full, I can rub my hands together in anticipation of all the books I can read all over again, for the first time. Now I just reread them to revisit old friends. Then, I will re-read to meet new friends. Sounds good to me.
But despite all the new challenges I face as I get older, I really wouldn’t want to be 30 again—unless I could keep all the knowledge, sounder judgement, and better attitude I’ve developed over my lifetime. And that’s the whole ball of wax, really, isn’t it? The purpose of life is to teach us lessons, for us to fully experience what comes our way, and, learning these lessons, to grow and mature and become the very best person we can be.
For now, I’m doing my best to cherish each day as it comes, to anticipate that my “good old days” are ahead of me instead of behind me, and to practice laughing at my self at every opportunity I’m given.
Fortunately, these days, that means I laugh a lot.
Wednesday, March 8, 2017
I’m not much of a movie buff anymore. These days, I don’t even go out to a movie theatre except on rare occasions. I don’t watch many movies at home, either. In fact, my daughter was astonished when I told her that, this weekend just past I watched two movies, one on Friday night and one on Saturday: Arrival, and Trolls. Thinking about this past weekend has brought to mind those times long ago when the kids were younger, and our weekends completely predictable. Every Friday, we’d head to Blockbuster, and pick out four, or sometimes six movies as our weekend entertainment. Every once in a while, there would even be snacks and soda to go along with those movies.
Then, for the next two nights, we’d gather together on the sofa (the boys liked the floor) and watch those movies together. That was family time for us, and those times were golden. They inevitably led to our other great family time, Sunday Morning in Mom and Dad’s Bed. The kids would pile on, usually waking us up, and we’d talk and laugh, tickle and snuggle and read stories. At the time of our lives when we had precious little money to spare, we did what we could to promote family unity.
Supper time, our other great instance of family time, was always all five of us at the kitchen table, every night, together. It was a time of communion, with the television off. You can be certain if cell phones existed then, they’d have been off and away from the table as well—as ours are now when we sit down to eat, just the two of us.
This was our life in those lean but not so dismal years, according to my own recollections. I don’t doubt the facts of those memories. It’s possible, of course, that the beauty of them, the degree to which they were at the time of making them, cherished, might be open to interpretation. We’re all human, and our memories, our experiences past and present are inevitably colored by our own perceptions. We all have filters, built in filters and biases that have been molded and adjusted according to our own life experiences—and how we’ve reacted to those experiences—through the years of our lives.
The most vivid example of this I can give you is something to which I’m certain we can all relate. We all know at least one optimist who, no matter what, clings to their positive outlook. Conversely, we all know someone so miserable that they even complain about the whipped cream and the cherry on top.
It could be said that striking a balance between those two forces, pessimism and optimism, has been my life’s work. I’m not naïve enough to believe that life is all sunshine, lollipops and rainbows, to quote a song from my youth. But it’s not all doom and gloom, either. I’ve lived long enough to understand that our perceptions have a lot of power. They have a huge influence on our emotional well being and how we react to everything we experience.
You might not believe this, but the reason I focus so much on this topic is because, from my early twenties, right through my thirties and even into my forties, I really had a crappy outlook on life. When I would look back on my younger days, or past incidents, I had a tendency to recall every time I was dissed or disappointed or hurt. It wasn’t the sunny days I recalled, only the rainy ones; not the joy of a friend’s company I remembered, but the hurt of that same friend abandoning me.
That I was able to change my perspective was no mean feat. It required hard work and prayer, which is to say, I learned to get out of the way, and let God do the heavy lifting on that one.
Once He opened my eyes to the fact that having that negative perspective in the first place was the source of most of my misery and heartache, I finally got on board with mostly looking at the glass as half full.
That’s why I try so hard to encourage people to have a positive attitude now. As long as you practice that tenet, as long as you tell yourself that no matter what happens to you, you’re going to choose to smile instead of cry, then your emotions will be your friend, and not your enemy.
And as long as you continue to choose to be positive, to smile instead of cry and step out on faith instead of cower in the shadows, then, no matter the minutia of the details, you will have won.
Wednesday, March 1, 2017
Who could have imagined days of seventy degree temperatures in February? Not me, that’s for sure. I’m 62 and I don’t think I recall ever hearing of seventy degree days in February. What I do recall is being a child of 7 who had a father who referred to the mid-winter month of February with a prefix that was a blasphemous expletive. What I do recall is that for most of my life—and maybe because of my father’s opinion of the month?—hating the month of February for the deep, bone-eating, joint-screaming sub-zero cold temperatures it usually brings.
I think February, ultra cold and foreboding as it traditionally has been, could be used as another example of the principle behind that old saying, “it’s always darkest before the dawn”.
But today is the first day of March. And in this household, March is celebrated as the last month of winter. That coldest season is marked on the Ashbury’s calendars as October to March, inclusive. That is, I believe, the only topic upon which in my thinking that is more glass half-empty than glass half-full. Each season is technically of equal duration on the calendar, according to all the dead scientists and government people who long ago decreed such things.
What I have experienced that led to this outlook, is that it can often be way too cold and even snowing in October, and we don’t get true warmth again until the first or second week of April. Any cold weather after April the first is spring—an unseasonably cold spring sometimes with rare spring snow storms, but spring nonetheless. The up side of using my stated belief in a six month long winter, is that just days after winter has officially arrived, it’s already half over.
This is the time of year that tries what little patience I have. For example, on this past Saturday, in the morning, the weather was chilly and wet with rain, with greenish brown grass everywhere. And by Saturday evening it was cold and snowing. All the snow in our entire area had melted days before, yet we awoke last Sunday morning with a dusting of white covering everything. My inner curmudgeon (which really isn’t so inner anymore) was screaming, enough, already! Get rid of the white kaka!
In the back of mind came the whispered words: patience, grasshopper.
Patience, indeed. I’ll let you know if I find any. In the meantime, my heart always yearns for spring, because it’s my favorite season. It’s the season of renewal and rebirth, a time when it is so easy to believe that anything is possible.
Now that I have flower bulbs planted in my front yard, I look forward to seeing those green shoots poking up. Last year, when several of my crocuses and daffodils and hyacinths were bravely emerging from their winter sleep, snow came yet again and covered them in an icy blanket. I honestly didn’t know if they would survive, or not, but they did.
I’m even more hopeful this year, because in our area the winter of 2016/2017 was a fairly mild one. Or I should say, is a fairly mild one, so far.
My hands will forever itch, each spring, to get into the good earth, working around my gardens and caring for my plants. This isn’t going to happen as it used to because of how very difficult it is for me to get down on the ground and get back up again. Fortunately, we have “window boxes” that we plant each year, and that we then hang on our front porch railing.
While I can get one of my grandchildren here for an afternoon to weed and tend my ground plants, I can get my own fingers into the top soil/peat moss blend we use for the planters. That’s not as personally satisfying as it was back in the day when I could be on my hands and knees in the dirt, ensuring the health of flowers and vegetables alike.
But the secret to happiness really is learning to improvise, adapt and overcome. Because it isn’t the body that needs to touch on these tributes to the past: it’s the soul.