Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Be Happy - Part Two

Well, I certainly got the wind taken out my sails since posting part one of this...in more ways than one.

After coming to the conclusion that I was responsible for my own happiness, it is still a chore to remember that. Life gets me down and I fall into old patterns. But I find it interesting that every single friend I have is struggling with positivity. While this is most likely a sign of the times we are living in (under???), it could also be that we are are all at the age where we are beginning to wonder what life is really supposed to be about.

Without fail, all of my friends are either seeking a job or are currently grossly under-employed or both. It's a struggle to find a way to be positive when you send out resume after resume and nothing happens....or when your business is failing. And while most of us learned a long time ago that our happiness is not tied solely to our jobs, the lack of income definitely plays with the positivity we feel on a daily basis.

Several of my friends have all passed around the cd for The Secret. Cliche? Yes.... but I didn't realize how negative I sounded until I started listening to that book. And I have to say the positivity is helping me mentally and emotionally.

Example - I know I posted a photo of a very large root in my backyard ages ago. I've been digging and hacking at that root - larger than fire logs - for months. At first I enjoyed the challenge, but then it became a source of frustration. I would walk past it and curse. The cherry shrub I bought to plant there nearly died in our wind storms and so I cursed the $50 I spent on that shrub.

And last week, I decided to change my point of view. Instead of cursing that root, I stood there and visualized what my shrub would look like planted there, healthy and growing. The next day, I noticed several large feeder roots that were attached to the large one. I cut them with shears and suddenly the root was moving a bit. A few more whacks with my axe and it was out. And my shrub is planted and springing back to life.

It is a daily struggle to be aware and reject the negative thoughts in my head - to figure out a positive way to say what I mean. But I'm working on it. And, I am making myself make time to do something I really enjoy every day...hiking, torching, beading. And I'm making an effort to be present while doing those things. And maybe that's a start.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Be Happy...Part One

Carmon's post On Choosing Happiness has sent me in an emotional spiral....upwards...but a spiral nonetheless. The last paragraph was a doozy for me. In it, she asks her readers to see themselves on the last day of their life, how they want to feel and reach for that. Or how you want to remember yourself on the last day of a loved one's life.

Both of these really hit home for me. I look at my precious mother, 86 years young, and think of all the unhappiness she's had. She was born a poor farm child during the Great Depression in South Mississippi. She was the only sibling to graduate high school and while she had opportunities, her father forbade her to take them. So, she married the first boy that looked at her funny and nine months later had a baby girl with colic so bad, Mom couldn't put her down for two years. By then that boy had started beating both my mother and my sister.

Mom eventually got away from him...he'd cheated on her too many times and she'd put him in the hospital too many times when dared raise a hand to her or her daughter. Husband number two was a cheater and just weird. He'd hide in a closet to hear what Mom or Sis would say about him. They never talked about him so he'd hide for hours and then just pop out and scare the crap out them. When it became obvious that he would never straighten up and fly right, Mom had his base commander deploy him to Alaska.

My dad, while the love of her life, never belonged to her. I was a shocking surprise seven years into an 18 year affair that ended only when he died. She lost her job after I was born and was the talk of our small town, but she held her head high.

Husband #3 = more of the same. These stories only scratch the surface of my mother's tumultuous life. But she saved every penny she could - paid cash for my education. Helped buy cars and houses for my sister and I. And through it all, we have loved her - worshiped her. And I can honestly say out of our 19 other cousins, none of them are as good to their parents as my sister and I are. But it is not enough.

We have spent our lives to see the light in her eyes...to just make Mother happy. We've heard over and over, "I could be happy if ya'll would just do right."

"Do right" could mean anything from just simply agreeing with her to letting her run roughshod over our lives.

Which brings me to why that sentence in Carmon's blog hit such a nerve. The biggest fight I've ever had with my mother was when I said to her very quietly, "Mom, why can't you just be happy?"

From her reaction, you would have thought I had called her a liar and a thief and a murderer. She ranted and raved and cried for hours on end. OH THE DRAMA! I was in a wheelchair at the time. She was here to help me through some surgeries. I would wheel into my office and call the BFF a/k/a my "Shiny Happy One."

She would tell me over and over, she's a child; approach her as if she were one. Tell her you love her. I did. Mother picked up the phone to call the airline to book her flight home. She was going to leave me here all alone in a wheelchair with surgery impending! I called the Shiny Happy One again....lather, rinse, repeat.

As I wheeled into the living room one last time to again tell my mother how sorry I was, I came to a decision. I was going to do what I had to to make sure I got through the next month even if that meant kowtowing to my mother. And after that, I was going to be happy, dammit!

I had spent over 40 years on this planet, never being enough, never being right, hating myself for being born. And as I rolled down that hall one more time, I knew I was done with all that.

I told my mother I loved her. I told her that I was sorry that I wanted to see her happy. I told her that of all the people I know, she deserved happiness, but that she needed to want that for herself, no matter what my sister and I do. I had to fall out of my wheelchair and crawl past the coffee table to hug her, but I did.

To hear her tell it, I begged her for forgiveness for the way I talked to her (!!???!!). Whatever Mom. That day, I stood up (O.K. I knelled UP) for my happiness. That being said, it's still been a helluva hard row to hoe.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Man On the Moon... Clothing Labels

I'm starting a new category call Man on the Moon, as in "They can put a man on the moon, but..."

They can put a man on the moon but they can't create labels for my clothing that don't drive me insane because they are so dang HARD. They irritate my skin and I'm constantly trying to rip them out.

It's no wonder that one of my little nephew's first words was "Tag!"

He would toddle about, reaching behind his neck at the offending tag. He would keep repeating that word, more and more frenetic each time. "Tag! Tag!!! TAG!!!"

Finally, one of us would take pity on him and cut out the offending appendage from his shirt and he would return to being the happy little boy.

As I find myself reaching back behind my own neck, frustrated at the constant scratching, I think of that boy and how I'm certainly not that cute in my own anger at that stupid label.

I have actually ripped clothing from own back to get that label out. And I swear, if I could meet a famous clothing designer, that would be my first question - Why to labels have to hurt?

Hane's no label tees are a Godsend in my book. I just wish other manufacturer's would figure it out.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

As the Creek Churns

I've come to the realization that my life is a soap opera. And I'm not even the star...just some "B" character actor in the role of "Nosy Neighbor Lady." What brought me to this conclusion??? I've stumbled on no less that three, three, affairs going on at the creek in less than a weeks time!

Like Sands on the Shoreline...

For ages, I've seen this nice gentleman and his lady walking arm in arm with their two dogs. They are together every morning and I've often stopped to chat with them. It is very clear they adore each other. I thought it wonderful that people in their sixties could still be in love...until I was hiking with the other rottie mom on a gorgeous weekend morning and we both noticed the man was with a different woman. But first we noticed one of his dogs was missing. As we were both about to ask, he interrupted us.

"I'd like you to meet my wife, ____________."

We both stood there looking at him and then her. I know the poor woman had to think we were the rudest women. We couldn't get away fast enough to contain our laughter.

The Biker & the Beautiful...

I've known a beautiful young woman in-the-girl-next-door kinda away (as opposed to L.A. beautiful: fake and plastic) since I started hiking the creek. She has a medical condition that prevents her from working...so she hikes. She hikes for miles and miles, cell phone on her hip and dog at her side. She hikes morning, noon and night.

I quite enjoy her company the many times we've run into one another on the trail. And I know many things about her. She lives with her parents and her disabled husband. I know she adores her dog.

Last weekend, the hiking buddy and I ran into each other on the trail. We both noticed a man in his fifties that we both assumed was homeless. He was hanging out at the end of the levee, holding on to his beat up bicycle. HB thought this was strange but I thought he must be waiting for all us day hikers to leave so he could bed down for the night. Only when we circled back, I noticed him talking to the beautiful girl.

That alone is not unusual. She, like me, knows most all the homeless in the creek. We both talk to them, ask how they are doing, etc. Except, I started seeing them together every day. Once, driving by, I saw her leaving the creek with him and his bike but her dog was no where in sight! She never hikes without her dog!

So, nosy neighbor lady that I am, it was killing me to not know. But he was always by her side. But, one day, he was tossing a ball for the dog. I sent Mabel in to keep them busy and I asked her, "Why are you always with him?"

"I've been seeing him."

"Isn't he homeless?"

"NO, he's not."

"And what about your husband?"

"He doesn't matter."

And then the biker guy was with us.... no more info.


The Young & the Raunchy...

As I was pondering all these events today, I noticed a pick up turn in to the street where I park. It was a dead ringer for the hiking buddy's truck so I waited a bit, thinking the dogs were giving her trouble and that was why she parked so far down the street. The truck sat and we left to hike.

It was still parked there when we returned to the jeep to go home. As we pulled down the street to turn onto the main road, another car pulled in and parked behind that truck. As the car parked a young man in biker attire got out (Uh, Harley, not Schwinn). A young woman in a business suit emerged from the car. She ran to the man who had been waiting there, on the edge of the wilderness for over an hour. She lept into his arms, wrapping her panty-hosed legs around him as he spun and pushed up against the driver's side door of the truck.

Most certainly another affair for the neighbor lady to investigate.

{SIGH} If only my own life were so interesting....

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Cream of the Crop

Twinky licking the cream.


One day while reading Alison's blog, I read that she got her dog, the glorious Cheyenne, a cup of whipped cream when they went to a coffee shop together.

I've been doing that for Mabel ever since(Mabel sends her eternal thanks, Alison!) and it's especially funny when I do this with one of our hiking packs. But I never had a camera with me...until yesterday.

I've written about the gorgeous trail my friend Kat introduced us too around Christmas. Yesterday, I was having a very stressful Monday when Kat called and asked us to join them on the trail. Being Monday, we didn't get there until 1:30 and it was scorching hot.

The creek is way down with our sudden temperature spike.

Kat also has yet another addition to her menagerie. With four dogs, the heat and me just feeling cranky, we only hiked around two hours before meeting up again at Starbucks. Here's a video of the girls and their cream:
video

Dialog:

00:01 - OK girls, here we are with Lily our newest pack member... .

00:05 - And Twinky

00:08 - ...and Linguini is the white and black Dalmatian and Mabel... Mabel is the rottie mix.

00:17 - So we're gonna have some whipped cream.

00:22 - So this is Twinky's

00:23 - Kat: These are my pants!

00:25 - This is Twinky's ...yes it is. O.K.

NOTE: I found that if I call out which dog is getting the cream, there is no issue with the others in the pack!


00:30 - Kat: These are my jeans! {She was worried I would spill!}

00:31 - This is going to be 'guini's...yes it is!

00:40 - Next, we're gonna get Mabel. Mabel? We have whipped cream!

00:50 - And would Lily like to try some whipped cream?

00:54 - Kat: I don't know man.

00:55 - Maybe just a little??

00:57 - Kat: No.

00:58 - No, we're not going to do this? THIS IS TWINKY'S!

01:00 - Kat: After (unintelligible)...she got diarrhea... There goes your video!

01:07 - This is 'guini's

01:13 - This is Mabel's... And that's our pack eating whipped cream!

==========
I realized that I really need a wider shot of the girls. As I call out one pup's name, the other's will look at the one. It's so cute that they know each other's names and share so well!

Twinky had cream on her chin for the longest time. She could smell it but would lick UP instead of down!


Mabel was quite the center of attention...It's weird but people often focus on ONE dog! Some boys sat down next to us with Jello pudding cups and a can of whipped cream and Mabel went nuts! They ended up sharing their cream with her to the chagrin of the rest of the girls!

After a hot walk and a snack, Twinky fell asleep in my lap!

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Old Age Is Getting to Her

I was asked to set up an email account for a website business for the BFF. We've known each other for more than 20 years so I knew immediately that I could easily pick a password she could remember.

I was on the phone with her helping her set up her email receiving program when I gave her the password - a combination of letters and numbers when she said, "You have such a head for numbers and I'm always fascinated at what they mean to you. How did you pick those numbers?"

Laughing, I said, "You're kidding, right?

"No...how did you pick them? What do they mean to you?"

Laughing harder, I ask, "Really? They mean nothing to you???"

"Noooo."

"SERIOUSLY???"

"No."

It took me a while to stop laughing and explain the numbers embedded in the middle of a Hungarian word were HER birthday!

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Finding My Voice

(NOTE: This was originally published on Holly's Folly Bead Blog. I'm having so much fun with this class, I wanted to share it here too!)

I've been taking a workshop on Facebook (is there anything that doesn't go on there??) on finding my voice as a beadmaker led by Sylvie Lansdowne. It's meant to encourage lampworkers to find their own path and avoid copying others.

This is week two of my class and we were to interpret a painting of Sylvie's choosing...she chose 24 for the fifteen of us to pick one. I got to pick first (thanks to my being on FB all the time!). I chose this one by Ford Smith called Serenity Rising.



And here is my interpretation (front and back):

I went for a very literal interpretation and I love the results. I went for this option because I enter a monthly contest on Art Bead Scene and this year, we are interpreting famous paintings into finished jewelry. I've longed to be able to do a literal translation in glass but the inspiration paintings there never "spoke" to me in that way. But this one did...

I was exhilarating working on this bead in the flame for over an hour, praying it didn't all turn to crap. I made a crucial mistake halfway through by putting in my treetops before finishing the water and trunks... that ruined my hope of it looking two dimensional with a flat / painted surface. But in the end, I realized that was sort of silly and I love the dimension I ended up with.

I also love how the devit on the purple makes the back look like a two dimensional version of the front.

This project was fun and eye opening for me!
I hope to be able to do more of these. I also LOVE that I have a new favorite painter!

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Amazing Tail - Mato's Christmas Cookies

Writing about dogs that growl over food reminded me of breaking our great champion of this habit. Mato was NOT a "normal" dog by any means and I doubt this "technique" would work on any other dog.

Mato came to us from a puppy mill. My brother-in-law had been raising Shepherds and didn't like how much inbreeding was going on in the late '80s - early '90s. So he got this puppy rottweiler. I met her during a hurricane and decided I would hate her...She wasn't the Shepherd I loved and she was apparently too dumb to get out of a hurricane. No, smart girl stood in the driving wind and rain until we brought her inside. She came in and I fell in love - not only with her but with the most affectionate dog breed I'd ever encountered.

Mato had a rather illustrious career as a show dog and went on to be ranked #3 in the U.S. After she got her championship points, she simply refused to be called by her name. If you called her "Mato," she would tilt her head upwards in the air and not look at you. We would call her again; she would look in another direction, acknowledging our voice but not us. Finally, we called her "Champion Mato," and she came running. This went on for two weeks until her ego deflated a bit!

Mato had a horrible time having puppies. Each delivery would make her scream like I've never heard any mammal scream. And each pregnancy yeilded many dead puppies and one living female. After two of these, Mato "retired" and went to live down the street with her Granny, my mom. And a glorious retirement it was.

Mato with her second daughter, Big Bertha. Check out Mato's gorgeous, soulful eyes!

Mother had a much larger yard and within that she built a smaller run for Mato should she need to secure the girl for any reason. This run was the size of maybe 8 kennels and had a huge shade tree and a dog house. But mostly, Mato had full access to both the yard and run and loved sleeping in my Mom's utility room.

One Christmas, I was home. I brought speical Christmas dog cookies for Mato to have during the holidays. As usual, when I woke, I went outside to get a Christmas cookie and have a little wake up time with my favorite girl. She was in the smaller run, gate open, watching a squirrel. I handed her a cookie and she was so excited to see me, she left it on the ground.

Within minutes, Mother decided we needed to run some errands and she wanted them to be over with quickly to avoid Baton Rouge traffic. I locked Mato in the run to make it easier for us to get in and out of the bigger yard with the car. And, as usual, I got her a cookie before I left.

Mato's butt was to the back of the kennel gate and she was now chewing on the first cookie when I tossed in the second. Then I squatted down to scritch her heiny and tell her we wouldn't be gone long. Suddenly, I had a snarling rottweiler inches from my hand! I had known Mato since she was a pup and this behavior was not cool.

I poked her butt hard and yelled, "NO!" And Mato snarled again. With each poke, she got closer to my hand while at the same time, covering those cookies with her paw. My mother finally yelled at me to leave her alone. I left feeling hurt and dejected.

I decided I would simply ignore Mato. We got home and I went in the house and had Mother let Mato out of the run. I no longer went in the yard with her. I gave her no cookies. I spent no time petting her. This went on for days until I decided it was Christmas and I simply didn't want to spend it mad at the dog I loved.

Mato had alays been a dog I could talk to. She would look at me with those deep intense eyes of hers and I swore she understood every word. So one morning, Mother was gone to the grocery store and Mato was in the run. I went in there and sat on the concrete in front of her dog house. Mato hesitated until I motioned for her to sit in front of me. She sat down and looked me square in the eyes.

I started talking about how badly she hurt my feelings. I told her I bought those cookies for her and wouldn't dream of taking them away. I told her how my trust in her was shaken. I talked for over 10 minutes and finally asked her, "Can we be friends again?" She lifted her paw for me to shake.

We played and rough-housed for quite a while and I went in, got her a Christmas cookie and brought it out to her. I gave it to her by the gate and she dropped the cookie on the ground and watched me walk across the yard. Wanting to respect Mato's cookie eating space, I sat back down on the concrete, thinking she would eat it and we would resume playing.

Mato gingerly picked up that cookie, but she did not bite it. She walked over to me, turned around and sat down in my lap. Then, she ate the cookie. I'm certain it was her way of letting me know she trusted me to touch her while eating.

Mato lived to almost 15. She never growled at me again while eating...or anyone else in the family.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

When the Dog Bites

The Boy with his boo boo.


I'm really sad because I've heard of two dogs being put down in the past two days, all for being a dog.

The first was a normally happy pitbull. She was in her front yard minding her own business when the brat child next door, decided to tease the dog. The little girl was unsupervised and obviously had never been taught not to tease a dog she doesn't know. When the girl's own small yapper dog rushed the fence, the pitbull had had enough. She jumped the fence, attacking both child and small dog. Both of them needed stitches, but they lived. The pit wasn't so lucky.

The second occurence took place in my own family and has me spitting mad. My little second cousin, a 12-year-old who is more along the size of an eight-year-old, (he was always small for his age and talks like a toddler... really makes me wonder about his mother's wisdom of smoking incessantly while pregnant!) got bitten in the face by his Labrador.

He had just but food in Sarge the lab's bowl when, as my sweet little cousin is apt to do, he decided to hug the pup. Sarge protected his food and paid with his life.

I've always owned older rescue dogs...Mabel was my youngest ever. And many have had the growling while eating issue. With each of my girls, I have worked carefully and cautiously to break this habit. I wouldn't want them to attack a friend or my 86 year old mother when they were feeding my dogs. This takes time, awareness and patience.

My brother-in-law has always trained dogs and worked around dogs my whole life. As I child I was taught how to approach strange dogs or how to "read" one of our dogs that may be acting strangely. I still managed to get bit in the face by a strange German Shepherd at the age of four. And no one in my family took my side. They were all quick to point out what I did wrong to the dog.

I wish all parents took the time to teach their children how to behave around an animal. When my godson was a toddler, he wanted their rescued greyhound to play. Ticket was tired --- they had already played a lot. She ran and got under the piano. The boy crawled under there to try to get her to engage. His mom heard the dog growl and warned the boy to leave Ticket alone. Ticket ran into the kitchen; the boy followed and this time, she bit him.

I had babysitting duties the night the Boy was bit. As groggy as he was, he still insisted on feeding himself.


I've was so proud of my BFF that day. She got her son stitches and used the event as an educational opportunity. My godson learned that when Ticket growls, he better back off. Today he is a happy teenager with a cute scar on his chin and nose. And he LOVES dogs and animals of all varieties. He's one of Mabel's favorite people on the planet. And Ticket was a beloved and trusted part of the family until old age took her.

That's the Ticket!

I wish all parents could take a long hard look at the way their kids interact with their dogs. It's the responsible thing to do and really, if you aren't willing to take the time, you shouldn't have a dog...or a kid for that matter!