Saturday, December 29, 2007

On the Twelfth Day of Christmas My True Love Gave to Me


A CAL-ORE FAMILY CHRISTMAS







On the twelfth day of Christmas,
My true love gave to me
Twelve trackable items
Eleven dogs a'barking
Ten ducks a'laying
Nine baby punches
Eight poopin' weenies
Seven talks of worms
Six overstuffed suitcases
Five smoking grownups
Four snowballs flyin'!
Three security checks
Two precious children
And one Santa under a fallen tree


Twelve Trackable Items

Those I have been talking to about my trip to the California-Oregon line for Christmas know that I was most excited about the opportunity to do some geocaching in three new states. I brought with me twelve trackable items (travel bugs and geocoins), some I found and some I own, to drop along the way. I wasn't sure I would find enough caches to leave them at, but as it turns out I dropped all of them and found twice as many caches on our trip: 24 of the 81 I was researching. The snow effectivelly curtailed many geocaching adventures, particularly once we got to New Pine Creek, up near the mountains where the roads were slick with ice and snow. My favorite geocache finds of the trip were:





Belly Up! a cache hidden inside an old crematorium on an antique wagon up near a general store in a frontier logging town up in the mountains of Northern California. I was the FTF on this cache, which is odd since it had been out for four months. That would never happen in Houston (especially the northside)!

Modoc History a rose colored ammo can hidden next to the Alturas History Musuem (think cowboys and indians)

Spanish Springs Resort an ammo can hidden inside the buckboard of an old wagon at the entrance to a fancy rustic resort



By the second to last day we were there, I finally convinced my brother in law to take us up one of the mountain roads to attempt some of the more remote caches. The first one we tried took us on old logging roads that had steep dropoffs to the right and cliffs to the left, and too many dangerous turns and dropoffs in the snow for my courage. I convinced him to turn around so he took us up another road to find a different one. We were driving on a foot of snow, across creeks and up mountains. The inclines and vertical shots were making me anxious, until he pointed out the tracks in the snow ahead of us and I had something new to worry about: first the cougar, then the bear, then the bobcat. By the time we got to GZ, I was a bundle of nerves and the guys kept messing with me. Between my fear and the foot of snow, there was no way I was going to find the rock that covered the hidden container. That day pretty much took the geocaching urge out of me.



Eleven dogs a'barking


My friends also know that I love dogs. I do. My in-laws have eleven dogs at their house. Three live outside mainly: the mastiff Bella, and the border collies Bandit and Fritz. I always had a love for Fritz and tried to keep him once and make him my agility dog, but he and Rascal kept getting in the trash, chewing up items, and chasing cars on the road. Rascal never did those things on his own (well, except chasing cars, nasty habit) so we had to take Fritz home. Bella was very sweet to the baby, and mostly Bandit and Fritz played chase and stare games with each other.




Ten Ducks A-Laying


I think there were ten. They kept sqawking when the baby and I came close, and moved from one frozen patch of yard to another. I noticed my mother-in-law got three fresh duck eggs while I was there. She also keeps some chickens and turkeys. We didn't go in the hen house but we checked it out from the fence. The chickens were hiding but Kaleb did get to check out a turkey close up.


Nine Baby Punches


My youngest learned to hit just before this trip. He was practicing on us during the night when we were trying to get him to sleep with us in the RV. You would just be falling asleep when suddenly you would get slugged in the face. You had to learn to protect your face and be aware of his actions at all times. He started wanting to smack AJ in the face and would sneak right past the barrier I was making with my arms. It was funny but we don't want to reward it by laughing. I hope this is a quick temporary stage.


Eight Poopin' Weenies


Lately my in-laws have developed an infestation of miniature daschunds (a momma dog had a rcent litter). Four belong to Sherry and Richard, and four belong to Alex, Ted's brother, and his girlfriend who live at the house. Most of the dogs at some point ended up pooping on the floor in various places of the house. I guess the weenies don't like to go outside to do their business, or much care where they go. It was freaking me out though because I just got done with a continuing education course about the zoonotic danger of Toxocara canis and Ancylostoma caninum, or more commonly, roundworms and hookworms. The current message from the CDC is that puppies need to be dewormed every two weeks beginning at four weeks for a total of four times. Or course I had to ask the question about deworming protocol and we got


Seven Talks of Worms


So what if I made the children wear feet coverings in the house and made sure they stayed clean, particularly hand to mouth? I was concerned about the risk to myself and the children, and just tried to quietly freak out about it but Ted was running interference between his mom and Alex and Mary about me and got them all worked up about the worms. We kept having to talk about it.


Six Overstuffed Suitcases


Which turned into seven on the way home, because we just had to stuff these giant pillows Sherry got the kids into suitcases that were already brimming with clothes and various gifts. Those were such a pain to haul around, especially at the airport. It worked out okay, though. We managed to come home with everything we brought, and it even seemed less stressful than last time we went up there for the holidays, when I was freaking out about our million little things.


Five Smoking Grownups


The smoking room in the house is the front room, where the Christmas tree blinks and the TV runs, but which also happens to be the room for the children. Curiously, my children had a bit of a cough by the time they left.


Four Snowballs Flyin'


There was much winterland adventure planned for while we were visiting, but as it turns out, it was a lot of talk. The last day we were there, AJ asked why we had not done any of the things we had planned on (riding on the inner tubes behind the truck, etc) and it was decided that there was just enough time left in the day to do one of them: have a snowball fight in the yard. AJ threw two snowballs at his dad and had Alex hiding, where he threw two at Ted as well. Ted threw four at AJ. The guys said it was fun but it wasn't much of a snowball fight.


Three Security Checks


One in Houston, one in Reno, and then one more in Reno because I failed to pack my carry-on in accordance with TSA policy. I had to go down and check it, which was fine because it gave me a chance to get out for a smoke before the harrowing journey home. It would be nine hours before I could have another one, which would be difficult since you know, I have fallen in step with the in-laws habits.

Two Precious Children


Who got their white Christmas and presents under the tree. I worried the whole time over their safety during the journey and at our various destinations. Angels with attitude.


And One Santa Under a Fallen Tree


My in-laws have a very large live fir tree for Christmas, heavily laden with garland, lights, and ornaments. All on one side. And when "Santa" was arranging presents under the tree, there was a mishap. An avalanche. The tree landed on top of Santa. Richard had to tie it up with baling wire. How's that for excitement?

It was a good trip. I forgot what it was like there in some ways. No computer access for days was driving me insane. I tried to use a neighbor's computer but it was a slooow dialup connection, so it was so not worth the time. The roads scared me. The turbulence on the airplane on the way home scared me. We had good gifts, good food, and good fellowship, though, so it was a good Christmas for all.



Wednesday, December 19, 2007

IF YOU WANT A GOOD CRY

Just watch this. Reminded me of the Baby Grace story.

Again, where is the "momma bear" in these women? I am trying to understand how things like this can happen in this world, and why women do not protect their babies at all costs.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

HINDU: REVERE THE COW



Farmer: Feed the Cows

Animal Rightist: Free the cows

Animal Welfarist: Love the Cows

Environmentalists: Reprogram the cows


Recently, scientists in Austrialia have been investigating ways to reduce methane emission of livestock. I find this very interesting. When it was originally presented to me, it sounded more radical than it really is, but in learning about it, I wonder why we never tried that earlier.

I wonder, though, if that is a little too close to "playing God".

And then I get angry, because it makes me think about the stem cell research controversy. I think about how Bush and I are on other sides of the fence on this one. He has vetoed every attempt to get stem stell research federally funded. I think that stem cell research has the potential to help find the cure for Parkinsons, which my father has, and whose symptoms are getting worse. I feel his time is growing short and that research could not come fast enough, and why doesn't the government throw us a bone on this one?

I think about the children who have cancer, and the desperation of their parents for research that will find a way to save their child, ease the pain, provide comfort and cure, as I throw a marshmellow at my "research model." I think about how we should do our best to serve the animals that serve us, and I think about how understanding their behavior will help us build a better research model.

And it takes me back to the cows, because I remembered a day where I believed that understanding their behavior would help us build a better farm animal: an animal that was comfortable and therefore produced more meat, more milk. Now I am trying to build a better research model, one that is comfortable and therefore enjoys better health and more hair.

But it's all the same.


I'm just here to love them.

Saturday, December 01, 2007




QUE SERA SERA AT THE SKATING RINK

When I was just a little girl
I asked my mother, "What will I be?
Will I be pretty, will I be rich"
Here's what she said to me.
Que Sera, Sera,
Whatever will be, will be
The future's not ours, to see
Que Sera, Sera


This evening, I took my oldest son to the skating rink. Not just any old skating rink, but Champions Roller Rink, the skating rink I went to when I was a young girl. Even though I have been there since my adolescence, tonight really brought back the memories of who I was as a person when I used to go there.

This flood of memories was jogged by a familiar song, a song they used to play when I was a child skating here: Micheal Jackson's "Thriller". Talk about a blast from the past. I was listening to the song and thinking about the video to it, and how we all thought it was so cool back in the day: the pants, the style, the dance, all that was great about 80's Micheal Jackson.

While I was digging the song and trying to remember my skating moves from back in the day, I was watching the people all around me. There were certain people that stood out in the crowd.


One of them was a young girl on the cusp of becoming a woman. She had the curves, and she had a "rocking body", but she also bore braces and bad skin. She stood out out in the crowd mostly because her outfit, a white crop top tank and black low riding short shorts, was displaying a lot of skin, and because she was fast and graceful. She was the fastest skater in the fast skate round, and during the regular songs, she danced on skates while singing along with the song that was playing, performing for her friends. She could turn around on a dime and started moving backwards, her feet keeping rhythm with the beet of the song, swinging her hands around.
There was another woman there who was older, and slower. She looked to be in her fifties, with long greying hair and lines on her face. She was listening to a headset and watching a pedometer. She was wearing loose jeans and a button down shirt worn loosely. She mostly kept in the back corner near the wall.
And I skated next to my son (although not too close, because he has a wide stance on his inline skates and sometimes moves his feet erratically) and ran through an entourage of memories of my youth spent here.
When I was going to the rink often, it was in a time in my life where the future was still a very magical possibility. I stopped going around the time I started junior high, a couple of years younger than Ms Hot Stuff in her short shorts. I would gauge MHS to be around fifteen years old. I feel like she is at the age where she thinks about sex, but hasn't experienced it yet. With that rocking body and enthusiastic attitude, I am sure it is not long before some boy tries. That's just the way life is. She is about to experience her future.
I stopped going skating when my future was still a dream, and held many possibilities, back when the wonder was always present on our lips. What will my life be like? This was still during the age of Barbie, and all that she represented.
You know, that Barbie was a real 'ho. She was always going out with Ken, and sometimes they did very naughty things in the backseat of the pink Corvette. And we wondered, will I be pretty?, as we brushed Barbie's hair and put on her stilleto heels. We met boys at the skating rink at the end of my days there, maybe got phone numbers! but we never called. We wondered if we would ever ride in cars with boys to dances and parties, if we would ever fall in love, get married, have children and families. Would anybody ever love us? Would anybody find us beautiful?
Only I find it odd that we should make that connection between attractiveness and love. It is not only attractive people that are loved and allowed to breed. In our society, we have an equal opportunity procreation pattern. There are many people we meet in the world that are not attractive (to us) but have marriages, families, children, people who love them and perhaps think of them as beautiful even if the world does not. You are not barred from the world of love for not being beautiful.
I think MHS is beautiful, and will be loved in part because of that. It reminded me suddenly of pictures I had looked at over at my friend J.'s house the night before, and how I had been fixating on them. J. was like "get over yourself already" and I was trying to explain "but it's subjective, and personal", that I was thinking I just looked a whole lot better in these pictures than I have recently. That girl in the pictures was so far removed from me, she seemed like someone else. I didn't even recognize her bones. But dang, she was a hottie.
I thought about the answer to that question hanging in the air when I was a child: well, was I pretty? For a while, I was, and I still sometimes do all right. I went to the skating rink before I had a boyfriend, and I ended up having many of them. Before I had left junior high, I'd gone through about thirty little "boyfriends"; you know, during that stage where you're "going together", as in "will you go with me?" scrawled in ink pen on a college ruled notebook and passed over to you in class, or in a note at your locker, or face to face on a dancefloor. Most of my boyfriends lasted about two weeks, before my fickle heart ran some other way. My junior high notebook has many a young boy's name scribbled, pledges of undying love. Hilarious.
In high school it was the cars, although it was never quite like Ken picking Barbie up in the black Ferrari. For me, it was more like "dad's landshark" or "the old Ford", something like that. At any rate, there were dates, dates with boys with cars to dances and parties. There was first love, first heartbreak, first fights and first fooling arounds. There was all that and more. Then there was college. Yikes.
I thought about the plans we were making for our lives back then, what did we imagine we'd do. Will I be rich? Will I have all the things I wanted to have? I could never have imagined my having the various jobs I've had when I was a child. I don't know that my imagination stretched that far. I'd had a vague idea I wanted to work with animals, but how?
Geez, during those days, I have to admit, I was much more about Brenda Breyer than Barbie. I played Barbie with my friends, but when I was alone, I had Brenda. I wanted to be Brenda Breyer when I grew up. I wanted to have a stable full of horses, and different riding gear, and make my living the way she did: running a boarding/training stable, teaching horseback riding lessons, "breaking" colts, raising foals. Funny, I did have some of that, though, looking back. Lots of horses in my professional life, at a few times ran a barn for a short time, taught lessons, acted as a breeding assistant and mare widwife. I made more per hour teaching private riding lessons than I have ever made, but the problem was I didn't have enough horse to do that full time. I taught lessons off my horse, and sometimes I "borrowed" a horse (with permission) from the stable owner, and they can only be worked so long. I remember in those days thinking that if I jst had eight more horses, I could make a good living doing that. And sometimes that was my job, but with someone else's horses; three different summers as a camp horsemanship instructor, the one who fed the horses twice a day, who picked their hooves and saddled them for the children, then led lessons with twenty horses and twenty children every hour for six, eight hours a day.
I got a little of what I wanted, but it didn't come to total fruition. I didn't become rich caring for animals, in the financial sense, but emotionally I did, I did realize my goal. I became rich of heart instead. What would you rather have?
As we were leaving, I saw the older lady coming to take off her skates. She sat down next to her husband and he made some smartass remark, and she bit into him with a bitterness. You could feel the tension, her anger, their drama, and that is was a worn and familiar refrain to them. It made me sad and hope to never be like them, and how sad her life must be. Marriage.

Will I be pretty? Will I be rich?
Will I ever fall in love, get married, have a family?

And I had some of that, all that, and I am glad. I fell in love five times, and that's more than most people get. I have a family, a husband that has his moments and two sparkling, darling little boys. I thouht of my old BFF from back in the skating days, and how she is married with three boys, about the ins and outs and ways and means of married life, about the couple I was witnessing, and their failure to redeem their marriage.
I thought about MHS and her shining, precious future, and wished her the best.


Whatever will be, will be

Thursday, November 29, 2007

SHOO FLY AND BABY GRACE

This morning, as I was doing my usual fecal sample analysis at work, there was a fly hovering over the waste bin. Every time I threw another sample in the trash, the fly buzzed around and came back to rest on the lid to the biological hazard bag. I was trying not to think about the fly sitting on the trash can because it was making me sick.


My thoughts, though, kept buzzing around and coming back to rest on another image that made me feel even more ill.





This is the face of Riley Ann Sawyers, thought to be "Baby Grace", whose body was found in a plastic box in Galveston Bay.


In a statement to Galveston authorities, her mother, Kimberley Dawn Trenor, said that the child was beaten with leather belts, had her head forced under water, and then was thrown across the room and landed on a tile floor. I read somewhere that there were three skull fractures found in the autospy report.


In a way, I wished I had never read this article this morning, because it upset me so very much. All I could think about this morning is how terrified that little girl must have been. I thought about the details that have come out so far, about how the mom moved in with this guy she met online in June, how the "stepfather" wanted her to use corporal discipline to teach the child manners. In July, the little girl died because she didn't know to say "please" and "yessir" and "nossir" to her new "stepfather".


On the Roula and Ryan show in the morning, they were talking about this story, and Ryan Chase, who admitted that he is "as liberal as they come" and generally opposed to the death penalty, thinks it is warranted in this case. He said "there's a special place in hell for people like that."


I am ambivalent about the death penalty, and I am not sure which is worse: serving a life sentence for being a "baby killer" or being put to death. I do think that Royce Clyde Zeigler II is a monster for doing this to a sweet baby girl, to any human. I don't think he should be allowed to breed and I am really upset about the news that supposedly Kimberley is pregnant with his child.


It makes me think about Andrea Yates, and about this show I saw on WE about "Women on Death Row" in which they featured a woman on death row for very similiar circumstances to the one that Kimberely Dawn Trenor is facing. In both situations, there was a child being beaten over a prolonged period of time by a man who was not blood related and who was punishing the child through brute force for something that was not age-appropriate for them to be able to understand. Both of those children died from head trauma from being slammed up against something.

In the end, both the woman who was on death row and Trenor failed to protect the child. I don't understand these women. There are options! Like taking the child and getting out of there, like calling someone to come save them, like going "momma bear" on his ass. Our primary job as mothers is to protect the children. Even if they are not yours, like in the case of the woman on tv, your duty is to protect.

It makes me so scared to think of my children coming to harm. Like the fly on the proverbial crap, that fear keeps coming back. Sometimes when my husband is disciplining them, I worry it might break their little spirits and hover over them waiting to offer comfort. His punishment is not corporal, but he does set boundaries, and sometimes I worry it is too harsh; for instance, thinking the ten minute time out should really just be five. If I felt he was really crossing the line, I would intervene and stand between him and my child. I would rather feel pain than have them experience it.

Not that there is danger of that with the man I live with. I worry about the mental damage, never the physical, and I would never allow it. I would keep my cub between my legs and show my teeth. Where was that instinct with these women?

More on this to come.....?


Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Check Your Premises



“Contradictions do not exist. Whenever you think you are facing a contradiction, check your premises. You will find that one of them is wrong.”
Ayn Rand


At our bible study lesson, we are watching a video to our Song of Solomon. The minister who is doing the video series makes a comment denouncing existentialism, stating it caused the sexual immorality that we see in our culture. His claim is that existentialism would have us believe that truth is subjective, and without absolutes, we lose self control.

I wonder if this is true. The problem is, to determine if it is true, you have to take it apart. You have to define the parameters.

Let's start by defining existenialism. The problem with that is that there is no clear definition. There have many interpretations and representations of this school of thought, and even among the more famous representatives, there is wide deviation in explanations. Here is what the dictionary has to say about it:



Existentialism: A philosophy that emphasizes the uniqueness and isolation of the individual experience in a hostile or indifferent universe, regards human existence as unexplainable, and stresses freedom of choice and responsibility for the consequences of one’s acts.
American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Third Edition © 1992 by Houghton Mifflin Company.


Another source1 states, "Existentialism cannot be precisely defined. In fact, an exact definition is usually avoided by existential philosophers, since to define it would be to lose it in the bondage of too restricted confinement...Existentialism, as the name suggests, relates the destiny of the individual thinker to the ideas that engage and can be understood by his own mind."



In order to disprove the preacher's point, I set out to answer the following questions:

Does believe in existentialism negate belief in God?
Does it take away the absolute of moral authority?

Does existentialism represent a threat to Christianity?

In doing some research on existentialism to prove my hypothesis, my clarity begins to bend and finally disappears altogether in face of the different metaphysical viewpoints presented by various "existenialists". I try re-reading Nietzsche's "Beyond God and Evil", including commentary by philosophical researchers, for clues about how existenialism juxtaposed with Christianity, but I end up just getting a headache. Learning more about Nietzche, I come to see that he believed that, "even though Christian morality is nihilistic, without God humanity is left with no epistemological or moral base from which we can derive absolute beliefs."1

In that sense, then, perhaps the preacher and Nietchze would have been of the same mind.

What is bothering me is the idea that because one believes in existentialism, one has no absolute believe in a moral framework, AND that having no moral framework leads one to sexual immorality.It just seems like flawed logic to me.

So I did a little deeper....


TO BE CONTINUED

http://www.adventistbiblicalresearch.org/documents/existentialism.htm

Saturday, November 03, 2007

The Beautiful Mystery


"Meaningless! Meaningless!" says the Teacher.
"Everything is meaningless!"
Ecclesiastes 12:8



This is both the opening sentence and the closing sentence of the book of Ecclesiastes. In it, the narrator, "The Teacher", also believed to be King Solomon, expands on the wisdom he has gained through experience in his life.

King Solomon was an ancient king who ruled a united Israel, perhaps the last one to do so. He is credited with writing a few books of the Bible, or perhaps inspiring them. One of the books credited to him is the Song of Songs, which is a story of erotic love. There is much debate over the meaning of this song, over whether it is an allergory of God's love, or a literal story of married love. Some teach that the ideas presented in the Song of Songs represents what God wants from us in terms of courtship and intimate love, his guidelines for us. There is also an interpretation that it was a story to be acted out, with three main characters; the woman, who is perhaps the Shulammite woman, The Sheperd, and King Solomon. However you attribute it to, the book is a story of love.

As I sat in Bible Study to begin the lesson on what the Songs of Solomon can teach us about how to find and keep lasting love, I was reading my preface to the chapter in my Life Application Study Bible. I was struck by a sentence describing King Solomon.

"King Solomon probably wrote this 'song'in his youth, before being overtaken by his own obsession with women, sex, and pleasure."

I wonder, then, how we can use this book to explain the way God wants us to love, when obviously this is a story of a love that comes to an end. How can one love so intensely another, as the pages describe, and drop it for such selfish pursuits? What does that say about lasting love?


These are the question I ask myself, as I look on my best friend. How can something seem so perfect and turn out not to be? And I wonder if it makes me question the foundation of faith in love. We've known the relationships that were built to last come crumbling down. Does it make us stop believing? How does it affect our faith?


In the book Misquoting Jesus, the Story behind Who Changed the Bible and Why, by Bart Ehrman, the author explains the history of the New Testament and how it was changed over the ages. This is from the perspective of a biblical scholar who has devoted his life to the study of this issue. At one point in the book, the author details information about various scholars who have spoken up about the variations of the Bible over the years. During the sixteenth and seventeeth century, there were those who would like to discourage this kind of textual criticism, because of the fear that this might cause people to lose their faith in the Bible.


As I was reading this book, I questioned if it changed by own faith, much as I questioned my faith in love in light of the dissolution I see around me. I find my heart filled with questions, and I turn to scripture to examine what else has been "divinely inspired" along these lines.

I want to know what happened to King Solomon and his lady. In Song of Songs, 2:15, he speaks so sweetly to her, "How beautiful you are, my darling! Oh, how beautiful! Your eyes are doves." How is it that this same Solomon was the one who also was reported to have 700 wives and 300 concubines? If he could love this true, why was it not a faithful one?

When I search for the traces of Solomon's affair, I find countless explanations for the different theories on what is happening in this book, and what it means, but never any vestages of a failed relationship with the jewish maiden he loved. Where did his love go, how does love like this just end?It seems like everyone has an interpretation, and which one of those is the true meaning?

What I do find, though, is the hint of experience, the hint of wisdom, the hint of repentance. It came from one of the other chapters accredited to Solomon, the book of Ecclesiastes. It is said that Solomon wrote Ecclesiates at the end of his reign, when he was sixty years old. The legend has it that Solomon was allowed to ask God for whatever he wanted, and what he asked for was wisdom, although he was already considered to be very wise.

I want Ecclesiastes to tell me the meaning, to answer the questions that have been raised in my heart from the fragility of the human bond; the incogruency that lies somewhere between the love story of a king and a maiden, and his subsequent descent into indulgence, between the perfectly matched personalities and the eternal seperation, between the sheets of desire and the fabric of the human soul.

So what can be concluded by of all this wisdom? In Ecclesiastes, that is what Solomon is thought to be relating; however, the overriding theme seems to be a lack of a defined conclusion.

All this I tested by wisdom and I said,

"I was determined to be wise -

but this was beyond me.

Whatever wisdom may be,

it is far off and most profound-

Who can discover it?

So I turned my mind to understand,

to investigate and to search out wisom and the scheme of things

and to understand the stupidity of wickedness

and the madness of folly"

Ecc 7:23-25



This only I have found:

God made man upright, but men have gone in search of many schemes."

Ecc 7:29


The work emphatically proclaims all the actions of man to be inherently "vain", "futile", "empty", or "meaningless," depending on translation, as the lives of both wise and foolish men end in death. While "the teacher"clearly promotes wisdom as a means for a well-lived earthly life, he is unable to ascribe eternal meaning to it. In light of this perceived senselessness, the preacher suggests that one should enjoy the simple pleasures of daily life, such as eating, drinking, and taking enjoyment in one's wife and work, which are gifts from the hand of God.

According to some religious traditions, the point of Ecclesiates is to state that all is futile under the sun. One should therefore ignore physical pleasures and put all one's efforts towards that which is above the Sun, i.e. "God".

I think about John Mill, and his edition of the Greek New Testament with its notation of thirty thousand variants, and how now scholars believe there may be upwards of three hundred thousand variants. I think about how the latest research points to the fact that the book of Ecclesiastes was thought to be written between the second and third century BCE and not in fact the seven hundred years or so prior when King Solomon was still alive. It is commonly believed, in fact, among religious scholars that this book was not written by Solomon at all, but acredited to him to give it more credibility, and it was really written during a time when the Greek Epicurean viewpoint was prevalent.

So what kind of truth can we really obtain from this, really? When truth is only relative to experience and perspective, how do you define it? If the answers cannot be found or the source can not be trusted, how can we determine the answers, and have any faith in them?

My friend Lorraine sits next to me at a baby shower. I remember her husband is a Lutheran minister, and I ask her her interpretation of Song of Songs, of Ecclesiastes, of what the Bible is telling us of love when all we can see are things that were not the answers. This is what she tells me,
"You're looking for a perfect thing in an imperfect world."


I wonder how many of us that could apply to. She goes on to explain that there was only one perfect person, and he was not even really a person, but a divine one. Humans are flawed, every one of us, she tells me. We are all, at best, only human. Searching for perfection in dating relationships, in marriage partners, in even the best of spouses is a futile enterprise, and in the end we are only disillusioned if we expect to see that perfection there.

She also reminds me of the school of thought that the Bible, although "divinely inspired," is not considered to be the "unerring Word of God", which I agree with as well. That is my answer for why reading Ehrman's book does not shake my faith in God. My belief in God has nothing to do with my belief in the teachings of scripture. I accept that the Bible is not a perfect or accurate representation of the knowledge God wants to impart to the world.


My belief in lasting love, likewise, should not be solely based on the experience of the disillusionment I see around me, in the foolishness of one who refuses to see what love really is. Like the New Testament, it is based on interpretation. With all these various interpretations, the only truth becomes the one inside of you.

I am still not satisfied with that answer, though, because how can that be absolute?


I go to worship to seek the answers, only to be disappointed that the scripture reading was about something totally different. I put it out of my mind, then, these questions, and concentrated on the lessons of the day. After Communion, I sat in my pew, concentrating on the cross in front of me until it becomes the only thing I see, a reminder of the Christ who gave up his body to us so that we, sinners, with all our many schemes, can be absolved of sin. The more I open my heart, the more I feel it filled by the Holy Spirit, and that is when it comes to me.

Faith is not something you know or decide from reading a book; faith is something you feel. My questions surrounding my faith dissolve as I feel the warmth of the love of Jesus in my heart. My faith in love need not change based on the foolishness of a man. Truth is individual, based on perception, experience, emotion. The answers of which we seek lie within ourselves, if we simply open our hearts. If we search our hearts, will we find that our faith is amiss because of the imperfection of men, or intact because there are those who have shown us what it is to truly love another, to truly believe?
So I am not sure, in the end, if I have some great meaning to give to you, my friend, that is based out of my faith and can answer all the questions you have. All I have is the line from John 14:27 that settled my own heart in church today.

"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you."

I hope you are able to find the same peace that I was, and be able to look past the imperfections, the incongruencies, the inconsistencies, and find only faith and love left in your heart.

Sources:


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ecclesiastes


http://jeru.huji.ac.il/eb32s.htm

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Fool’s Gold


In the dream, the man and woman are walking along a verdant green path that leads into a bright, wet wonderland, presumably somewhere in the Pacific Northwest, probably Seattle by the way the look of the natural flora. She is looking at him and smiling, and he is carrying their young daughter over his arms. She is probably around three of four but she is the most beautiful little thing, and he is laughing and smiling at her.
And it is you, and it is I, that woman and man, but I am above it, and there is an emotional component to the dream that somehow supersedes the scenery below.
A great sensation of happiness.
And I woke up resolved to obtain it, which was probably related to a conversation last night with Pegs about “the power of positive thinking”, which she was calling “The Secret”, which I thought was also vaguely appropriate.
But I want to hang on to that image, hold it like the breaker against that tide that threatens to pull me over the edge. It ties me to the mortal ground like an anchor.
In that respect, it reminds me of another time when a dream of the future anchored me, a time when my youngest baby was in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, struggling to breathe, with a future dependent on how valiantly he fought. I was scared, and alone, that night in the hospital room when the doctor came to tell me about his prognosis. I cried for hours but in the morning, I reached some solace when I was given a dream.
In the dream, a sweet blonde haired boy was running through a field, laughing, at my side. He was probably three or four, and his eyes were bright with humor and we were having so much fun. We were out in the physical plane, existing on a level of true bliss. I knew he would be all right, I knew we would be together in this lifetime.
I believed on one level that God gave me that dream as a source of strength. It gave me solace and allowed me to focus on my newborn instead of my troubled emotions. Sometimes I am not sure if it will come true, exactly. I wonder if I am just supposed to take it literally, or simply find the moments in my life that resemble it. Am supposed to experience the moment in that dream in small pieces that share some of the same properties? I question my ability to accept it as is, in fragments that look like the real thing, without having it in its entirety, and in the end I think I am okay with that.
I thought of that today, while out with that young son, who is now about eighteen months old, as we walked along a pebbled path next to a lake. He was very interested in the pebbles, and wanted to pick up his favorites and place them in my hand. As each one hit my hand, I saw the speckles of gold in the coral stones light up briefly in the sunlight, and thought about how that would seem so precious to children, like fool’s gold. It is just as shiny and bright as the real thing, but doesn’t cost nearly as much, because, as you know, it is not the real thing. Although fool’s gold shares some of the same properties as real gold, those who know the real value knows it is not exactly the same. But sometimes it has nothing to do with the material value we assign such things, but simply has to do with the aesthetic appeal. We want it because it is shiny, and that brightness makes us feel happy inside. Particularly when we are children, or at least maintain some of the same qualities as children.
As we raced up the grassy knoll to the shade of an oak tree, laughing, I thought, as I have, more than once, “is this it?” I feel this moment is one of those specks of gold in the pathway pebbles, and I think of my dream of him, and then it reminds me of my dream last night, and how I was carrying that dream underneath my breast, soothing myself from the winds of wildness that threaten to take me away.
And I realize it may be fool’s gold. I know it might simply be a fantasy and not a premonition of the future. And I find it curious the idea that if it was fantasy, it was a fantasy about having an emotion, which seems so funny to me I want to laugh out loud.
But the thought that maybe someday I would get the pieces of that one unfold, like the moment I was having with my child, the speck in the pebble, is still strangely comforting. Even if it is just that, I am okay with it, because at least I know we would be all right, we would be together in this lifetime, and in between I could carry that dream along as a source of solace and strength.
Like a piece of fool’s gold in my pocket.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Elephant Bones


They say that elephants never forget. Having closer contact with elephants than the average person, I cannot attest to that myself with any certainty, having been unable to understand their thoughts completely. However, I find it intriguing that elephants in the wild are known to return to "elephant graveyards", even if they have never been there themselves in their lifetime, and to stroke the bones of the deceased with their trunks, perhaps reliving ancestral memories, or mourning the loss of a former beloved.
Now, naturally, they are trying to find scientific reasons for this phenomenon. http://www.animalliberationfront.com/News/2005_11/ElephantGraveyard.htm


I have been know to stroke the bones of memory myself, but commonly I forgot some details. Then something happens, like seeing a picture from the past, that jogs that memory, and the details come flooding back. Then I, like the elephant, remember everything.



Like for instance, a place in the picture I saw in my virtual world. It would be incongrous for the casual reader, but for me, it is a shock to the system, a visual reminder of a sweet moment in my lifetime. We were there, once, you and I, and under that waterfall you sang a song in my ear, a song that I have never been able to listen to since without my heart breaking, no breach in the wall that they put there it hasn't been able to pass through.
In that remembrance, history flows back uninvited and without warning. I remember everything about the weekend we spent there, starting with the beginning, with the book you read as you waited for me, a tire change in the rain on the side of the highway, the electic restaurant choice in Austin, even the rag I bought from the street pedaler down on Sixth Street. I remember making love under the stars on top of the vehicle when we finally arrived, and the words you murmured then that struck a chord in my soul. I remember stolen moments, such as a requested song on the guitar, the Patsy Cline tune that rolled across the lake from the tourist boat out on the water, the ham and cheese and croissants in the kitchen, the questions from the family, the boundaries crossed and uncrossed. I remember a walk outside at night, and how it struck me, that entity that lived and breathed around us, the realization that two people could create something that had a life of its own and was stronger than the individuals involved, that two could make One that was bigger and better, and almost palpable. I remember holding a hand as we drove, and looking over in disbelief that my hand was joined with one that belonged to such a marvelous creature, as you looked over and told me a story about an object made for me, a most beautiful object, and I could not believe that I could inspire one like you.
I remember getting lost on the way home, and ending up spending the night at another lake, holed up inside the car listening to cheesy love songs, and how we laughed at them and ourselves because they seem to be written for us, and how we made love during the night.

Oh yes, I remember everything. For years, I was tormented by those sweet memories. The torment caused a restlessness in my soul that I tried to soothe through various ways. I tried to fuck the memories out of my system, but the lovers were just a series of bandaids over a gushing artery. The relief was only temporary, and then I was back to the void inside.
I began to put a name on it, this terrible feeling of loss, and it almost became a living, breathing beast of a creature that lurked near my bed and inhabited my dreams at night. Life itself forced me to finally push those memories aside, for there was no other way to deal with them. It left an endelible mark on my soul, however, and will forever be a part of who I have become.


I think of the elephants I worked with, and my first exposure to the difference in free and protected contact. There was a "bad" elephant, who could only be worked with from behind bars and even then, only at a safe distance. She was prone to bursts of naughty behavior, which could be very dangerous as one would expect in an animal of her size. Even from behind the bars, one had to keep their distance. One time, the supervisor got too close, and was grabbed by this elephant's trunk and slammed against the bars, causing broken ribs.



One of the other keepers told me a little of her history. He had worked with her in the past, and then had returned to find her temperament and handling changed. He said that she used to be as friendly and trustworthy as the other elephant, whom was allowed to go on walks in the zoo, carry people on her back, and was handled freely and without fear by us. She had suffered badly at the hands of a mean keeper, though, in his absence. She never forgot, and it changed her inside. She developed nasty behaviors towards people, and could never be trusted again.
She never forgot how she was treated, and never really got over it, although she had learned to deal with it in some way. She did not show malicious behavior while I worked with her, but the threat was always under the surface, lurking, like the beast in my heart.



Although my memories are not maleovent like the elephant's in the story, they did keep me from being content in my life. For years, I ached from them, but time dulled the ages for a while, until I find myself in the elephant's graveyard of memories, stroking the bones and remembering the life they once possessed.

These bones, they hum Stone Roses.

Friday, September 21, 2007

OH GOD


Yesterday, one of my coworkers showed me this bill he had. At first look, it looked like it was a million dollar bill. When you looked at it closely, it had a religious message inscribed all along the margins. The message spoke of repentance. It denounced sin, and called for those who love God to reject all sin in their lives. After I read it, my coworker and I had an interesting conversation. I told him that I was suprised to see no mention of redemption in there, no mention that Jesus died on the cross so that our sins would be forgiven. I also mentioned that this seemed more like "the God of the Old Testament", the wrathful God. We talked about sin and forgiveness for a couple of minutes, and I told him my friend Michelle's perpective, which is that God is understanding, like in her case of her reading Harry Potter books, which to some fundamentalists would be considered sinful. However, I also reminded him that Jesus says in the Bible that the way to Heaven is to "love God with all your heart, and all your soul, and love your neighbor as yourself", and if we did that truly, there would be no sin in our hearts. He was laughing about the part on the bill that mentioned that any man who has lusted in his heart has committed adultery, and he was telling me how hard that was for men, basically that they lusted for women so much, that he frequently committed that sin.
I told him how I spend more time each week sinning than I do worshipping God, which was a wakeup call for me. And I confessed I had been sinning on the way to work that morning.
Oh God, I am in trouble.
Of course, I did not mention the part about what sin I was committing in my heart, and who it was directed at. I don't want it to become office gossip. However, this conversation coincided with another completely different topic of conversation that has been going on all week between another friend of mine and I. Maybe someday I will finish the blog piece about this subject, something I am writing about the "sin" that is in my heart. But I just can't help it.
Lord, that boy is fine.
Yep, that's what I said. This man, this sexy man I work with, I cannot help but admire. I have to watch him walk. Like that song abou the honkeydonkbedonkeydonk or whatever, I hate to see him go, but I love to watch him leave. When he walks past, there is the slowing of my stride, and the turning of the head, and the watching of the ass. Oh man.
So he has become the frequent visitor to my midnight fantasies. I wonder if Michelle's forgiving God understands that, I wonder how much closer to Hell I am getting when I get out my favorite toy, close my eyes, and pretend, imagine that I am dancing the lambada with him, rubbing up against his hard body, kissing his soft mouth, inviting him to my private places. The next day, I have a smile on my face when I see him, the smile holding the secret of the night before, and sometimes it has me feeling an intimacy with him that I don't really possess, and I am afraid I might betray my secret by leaning too close, smiling too much, lingering too much by his side as he works.
So all week I have been telling my friend Pegs about it, because man, I got it bad. I walk past him and get all weak in the knees. I touch my lips and wish my fingers were his mouth. I find excuses to hang out in his area and talk to him.
Only I don't, not really. I think I am going to talk to him, and I think of things to say, but in the end, I can't. I am a married woman. I am not looking to have an affair, am I? What is it that I really want from this?
At the same time, Pegs and I have been discussing the issues in my marriage, and I have been coming to terms with some of them, or making new decisions about how to handle them. I can see that my attraction for this man is really just a factor of my disillusionment with my husband. My longing for him is really a longing for the tenderness and compassion he exhibits with the animals in his care, and a wish to have someone treat me that well.
Then I walk by him again, and the thought comes. "God, he is so hot." And the fever goes straight to my brain and I forget that I am a kept woman, that I am a woman who is not as cute as she used to be, a woman fifty pounds heavier than she was in the days when she could get any man she wanted. The fact that I have a college degree and he can barely write english doesn't stop me from feeling inadequate near him. Nor does it stop me from imagining him and I locked in a naughty lovers' embrace.
And I wonder. What does God think about all of this? I think about how frequently he must hear his name, when in fact people are not addressing him at all. I suppose it is a function of the use of the word "God" in the American slang to mean a sort of a priori "so much". As in "OMG" and "God, look at that". Do you think God gave a pause at the conversation at the beginning of "Baby Got Back" - "Oh My God, Jenny, look at her butt." We use his name in vain so often, and you have to wonder how that affects his listening to prayers. When we pray, especially alone, it usually begins with us addressing him: "God, ....." So how does he differiate between when we are talking to him, or when we are just talking? How does "God, I want him bad" get transmitted differently than "God, I am so sorry I keep sinning. Please help me remain strong against this temptation, and know that I love you above all."? Because I am thinking them both with regularity this week, and it makes me feel...torn...and confused.
As confused as I am about what to do with this lust. In the olden days, myself would walk right up to that man, would flirt, would invite him out. Oh yeah, I was that brand of hussy, the one that asked men out if she wanted them, who made it clear she wanted them, who was bold enough to go after what she wanted. And what is it that I want, exactly? Oh yeah, I want to do him, and I think he is hot.
Really, though, he is not, not in the way society determines hot. There is another man who works here that I am sure most women would term "fine". That man has more of the classic qualities that the majority of women find attractive. I have been talking all week about taking my crush's picture so I can show him to Pegs, but then I thought about what makes him attractive and it is really more of what is on the inside. If you just looked at him, the first thing you might notice is a deep scar or burn running along one side of his face and disappearing into his shirt. Sometimes I wonder how long that scar runs, but oh that just makes me think of him with his shirt off and damn, here comes the lust again. He does wear his clothes well, neatly pressed and tucked in against a strong but fit body. There are these attractive qualities about the way he looks, but it is really the way he acts that makes him so gosh darn sexy. Like the way he kind of tilts his head and smiles when I walk by, a smile that starts on the lips but spreads to the eyes. His eyes shine with a brightness, a tenderness, and I know eyes like that would have to belong to a man who would not hurt me. Those eyes make you feel safe and loved and like everything is right with the world.
Oh God. That is one sexy man. And I am in big trouble.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

I've Got You In...My Sights

This morning, they were playing "Hungry Eyes" on the radio when I walked by you. The words seemed to be exactly what I was feeling when I looked at you. I was imagining you and I intertwined in some dirty lamba. I stand by you in your crisp Chinos and pressed shirt and I feel so inadequate. Even though I have a college degree and I don't even know if you can spell my name, I feel like a fish out of water near you, like there is so much you could teach me. Your voice is like a river coursing through my heart. When I hear it, I am floating home. Your smile comes out through your eyes and it makes me warm inside.
Sometimes I feel so familiar with you because you are in my thoughts at night, and I think I might betray my fantasies by acting too casual with you. Yet I want to know you better. I want to take you to the zoo to the see the monkeys. I want to invite you over so you can meet my dogs as they press their cold noses into your palm. I want to ask if you want a drink and wonder if I am going to kiss you.
The Muddy Waters of Reflection
I was thinking this morning about my "romantic landscape", a favorite place for me to go, and I had some realizations, remembered some details I had forgotten about.
I had started out thinking about what God wants from us, and so I am not really sure how I ended up thinking about the Top Five Loves of My Life, but there I was. I think about the Top Five a lot, perhaps in the context of trying to understand how I got to where I am romantically.
Today I was thinking about the second and fourth "loves of my life". For reference, I will just call them "N" and "R". I had gotten to the point in my relationship with both of them where a decision had to be made about where it was going. You know, that precipice that we reach in serious, long term relationships where you have to decide whether this love that you have is going to lead you to marriage.
I suppose I was thinking about this because part of my mind was remembering an affectionate conversation I had with "N" last week. We have managed to stay friends over the years, because those things we had in common we still have, and then some. It is easy to stay friends with him because neither of us allows the past to be an issue in our friendship. Some people might have issues with our friendship, because there are people out there who think having this kind of relationship with an ex is dangerous, and even sometimes I have to draw boundaries with certain people. He is never a concern, not even for my husband, who encourages me to hang out with him, sometimes even pushing me out the door or to the phone to call him. He is not the least bit threatened by my relationship with "N", and all who know "N" understand why. "N" is just not the kind of guy who would ever make a pass for another man's woman.
Anyway, "N" and I were talking about the topic we dance around and never really discuss, which is our affection for each other. We had this moment where we were both being honest and open with each other, each of us saying "I will always love you" to each other. It was not like "so let's run off together", it was more like an open admission of the things we feel in our hearts, like that we will always remember that we had a great and powerful love, and even if our relationship became "something dishonest", as he said, underneath it all, there was always a great friendship, a great affinity for each other, and we will always have those feelings, and still both continue to think of each other as one of our best friends, as a long chapter in our respective lives, as a fond memory. In a way, it is poetic justice, because it has become like the song that we swore would always be ours: "Think of me, think of me fondly, when we've said goodbye/Remember me, once in a while, please promise that you'll try".
So that conversation was wrapped around another common thought of mine, that I could see myself with him in marriage, that we would actually probably have a better marriage than the one I have now.
That is kind of the frequent "romantic landscape" theme - hold each of them up, compare, imagine, how each relationship would have panned out in the end, and which of them might have held the most promise of happiness.
So then, why, you have to ask, why didn't I marry him, when it came down to it? Ah, back in the day, I had a list of a dozen reasons. After the years went by, I forgot those reasons, and only had one left, the one that keeps the boundary intact between us, the reason I can be friends with him - a sexual attraction issue. Oh sure, there was a time where I lusted for him, and there was a time where we fulfilled each other in that fashion. Even when it was supposed to be over, when we knew it was over, we still made love to each other frequently. We couldn't really ever stay out of each other's beds, even when we were committed to someone else. So it seems really strange to say that is the reason we did not stay together, and will not be together. There was a point, though, where I realized that he could never really satisfy me in that direction because of some preference issues, and maybe that was the reason I could never stay faithful to him, and so the line was drawn and so the line has stayed.
Today, though, in thinking about it, and comparing him to "R", and thinking about the time in my life where I was deciding between them and choose neither, I remembered some of the other reasons why I could not marry him. Ironically, I don't think they have anything to do with the original "Dozen Reasons". They have more to do with the actual ability to live with someone in a partnership.
He was a mess. Literally and figuratively. He came home at night and threw his dirty clothes in a heap on the floor, and in the morning he grabbed something off the heap and put it on. He and many others smoked in his room, ashing in soda cans, and sometimes they ashed in the one you were drinking and nobody realized until you got a mouthful. He was emotionally and mentally unstable. He couldn't hold down a job. He had some issues, and those who know him know why and sure it is a good reason, for a while at least, but it went on for way too long. He was unreliable. He would say he would meet you somewhere at some time and never show. He was always at least two hours late. He was a terrible person to be in a long distance relationship with, because you could never find him. No one ever knew where he was, or if they told you where they thought he was, it was always another reason to worry. He was in and out of mental hospitals, in and out of people's lives, including maybe some other women, in and out of school, in and out of his parent's house. In thinking back on it, it was a wonder we lasted as long as we did. Maybe that is a testament to how much we truly cared. He was a jellyfish, floating around life with no real ambition, direction, no plan for the future. How can you plan a future with someone who doesn't have a dream of it themselves? How can you know if your goals are compatible if they don't have any?
I always believed my relationship with "R" was reactionary. It was the complete opposite, and he was 180 degrees from "N". He was a good man. He was hard working, ambitious, reliable, dependable. We could have the same kind of intelligent conversations I had with "N", but we also had more passion, and he suited my preferences in the bedroom much better. He was like the man in all those romance novels; chivalrous, guarded but loyal once you got to his heart, noble, romantic, handsome. So why, you might ask, would someone give that up, or why would someone look at that one and say, "Oh, but I never would have been happy with that one"? Many women would have loved to be married to that man, I feel sure. Not me, though. When it came down to it, I knew I couldn't do it, could not marry him, because he did not possess the spirit of acceptance. He had high standards. I don't like to be boxed in. I have a great need for acceptance, and to live a life without judgement, without reservations. Acceptance is a double-edged sword, this I know, and maybe his high standards would have propelled me to be the best I could be. However, I would always be worried about losing his favor because of some deficiency, and I don't think I could live like that.
So, the question that always remains is, upon the retrospective romantic reminiscing, would I really have been better off with any of these men? Is the solution better than the problems?
All these years of thinking about it, and really no clear answers.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Questioning Happiness
So, to celebrate my birthday the other night, I met my best friend at a favorite Tex Mex restaurant. Oddly enough, I realized on the way there I had celebrated my 16th birthday there, albeit at a different location, which is exactly half the age I was turning now.
Anyway, afterwards a couple people asked me if had fun. Fun? Not really. It was fine, it was nice, but it wasn't really fun. It got too sad. At the end of the meal, she turned the conversation towards a tricky subject, the subject of my marriage. It really bothers her that I stay married to the man I am married to. Similar words, similar conversations I have with my other best friend as well. I understand what they are doing. They love me and they want me to be happy. They don't understand why I stay with a man who is so wrong for me. I wish I didn't have to talk about it with them all the time, though. It is a real drag and frankly sometimes I think it is really none of their business and not something they should tell me what to do about. I find myself constantly justifying the reasons I stay married with them, which have more to do with perceived need and children than any kind of real happiness or desire on my part. There was a time where I thought I didn't deserve happiness, but that is over. I know I deserve it, but I can't see just splitting up a family, taking my children's security away from them like that, robbing them of some happiness just because I want to be happy. It makes me uncomfortable when other women do that. Sure, I deserve to be happy, but does that entitle me to make pursuit of my happiness center stage, does my desire trump the needs of my children?
So, the conversation ended with my making two points. One, I have read a lot of books, memoirs, that describe relationships much worse. My friend questioned whether I would leave one of those men, either, but I know I would. That is the tough thing about my marriage, because it is all a fine line, a gray area. He doesn't hurt me, he takes care of my children, he just doesn't meet any of my needs. My second point was why does he have to satisfy my needs, that I am getting those needs met, just not through him. I am very careful not to do or feel anything that crosses that marital line, but I have other people that I rely on to fulfill my mental, emotional, spiritual needs, and my physical needs I take care of myself. I don't need him to fulfill these needs and I am okay without him. I just wish he was the one who was doing it, because yes, it would make my life with him more rewarding. Sure, sometimes I wish I could feel certain things in my marriage, like romance, like being wanted, like companionship. It is very lonely without those things. I have learned to live without, though, and I am fine.
But last night I had this dream. When I awoke, I realized that the dream was showing me another life, a life where my needs were being met, and I could see specifically what they were, what those things were I was missing. In my dream, I met up with someone I know. There was a band, and a woman in the band was dedicating a song to her dog that had died that afternoon (which was the preface of my dream, because I had been involved in trying to save her dog), and this man was crying soft tears over her loss. That to me shows tenderness and compassion. I long for tenderness. I am not treated with tenderness and really that is the way I need to be treated, because even though I act tough, inside I am frightened and scared. I sat by him and a movie came on, with Barbara Streisand no doubt, and I was leaning my head on his shoulder, and he held my hand, and we were talking and laughing about the movie, about an article that he had read, about the world in general. I felt true companionship and intellectual curiosity. That is something that I am lacking and that I long for. Afterward, we walked home, and when we got home, he kissed me. It was one of those powerful, passionate, knee-trembling kisses. I remembered what it was like to kiss like that, and it seemed like it had been so long for me, and I have missed it like a person in the desert longs for water at the horizon. Then he left, but I had been drinking out of some bottle of homemade port or something, and thought it would be funny to surprise him, so I wandered to his house and just kind of let myself in. I started feeling nervous, though, because I thought he would be mad if he saw me, so I had started to leave when he came out wearing some silly outfit with chaps that just made you laugh to look at it, and started playing some silly game with me, and we were laughing and chasing each other all up the block.
I tell my husband all the time we need to learn to have fun together, but there is rarely laughter in my relationship, no spontaneous fun. People have this perception that I am serious all the time, but really I have this very goofy, silly sense of humor that just needs to be tapped into to bring it out. The more comfortable I feel, the more amusing I can be, and when I am happy, I am just darn hilarious. It is ironic to me that people tell me all the time I am too serious and I need to laugh more, because I think about how I used the be "The Entertainment" when I was in school. My friends would bring me to parties and drive around with me just to hear the stuff coming out of my mouth and laugh.
So I woke up from this dream to a baby crying, and got back to my life of taking care of others, but I couldn't stop thinking about it. I thought about the way I felt in the dream, and how I want those things for my life, I want it to be real.
Interestingly enough, I had another similar conversation the day after my birthday, while out geocaching with some girlfriends. There is apparently a hot studly single geocacher, and my friends have talked about introducing us before, and I know what they were up to. We had kind of a funny conversation yesterday, where I told one girl, Elisa, that we should come up with a way to introduce this guy to Becky, a friend with us who is single (and very attractive). She kind of talked around it for a minute, and then said "Actually, Keely, Rhonda and I were hoping to introduce him to you. We wanted to set you up with him." I said "Well, I understand that, but there is a little problem with that" and showed her my wedding ring. We all laughed, and then I told Becky that Elisa and Rhonda were trying to give me the hint that I needed to get rid of my husband. Becky said "oh, that seems to be the general consensus, doesn't it?" and they all laughed. I thought it was a bit funny because Elisa and Rhonda don't know the half of it, but Becky does. I have cried on Becky's shoulders a lot about my marriage. She was there for me during a time where things were really difficult. She never told me what to do. She only helped me deal with it emotionally. Anyway, while Becky and I were at a geocache, we talked about it some more, and I told her a little bit about the conversation I had with my best friend. Becky said she kind of agreed with my point about needs and happiness, that she feels that way and that is why she doesn't have a man in her life and isn't really seeking one, because she is able to fulfill her needs otherwise as well, and happiness is a little overrated anyway. "I mean, who is really ever truly happy anyway?" she asked.
I don't know the answer to that one.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

A Well-Examined Life
I was thinking today, as I am prone to do, about certain people in my life, and how their lack of self-awareness has caused tension in our relationships. I will always stand by my conviction that introspection is key to understanding one's life, that a well-examined life is the only one worth living, that spending some time in honest self-exploration is time valuably spent.
Sometimes I have difficulties getting along with other women. I was thinking about two of those women today, one whom is a crucial element of my family and one who is an old friend. I was thinking about certain situations and trying to understand why they acted the way they did in that situation.
I suppose I was thinking about this because my birthday is coming up, and I had mentioned that maybe we would invite this old friend of mine to come celebrate it. I was thinking back on some birthdays I have celebrated with her. She has been a part of my life for over ten years, and at one point was my constant companion. However, the last time that she came out to celebrate my birthday with me, there was this incident. The only way I can see how things unraveled in the way they did is if she was talking about me behind my back when I went to the restroom. I thought about that, and questioned if I would ever do that to one of my friends. There are many things this girl does that I would never do to a friend. I have a little bit more loyalty, or maybe I just try not to ever hurt anyone, which is ironic in a way because later this girl told me that "everything you say and do is designed to hurt people's feelings", which is completely off base.
Anyway, while reflecting on what I know about this friend in an attempt to understand her motivations, I developed this hypothesis. My hypothesis is that when this girl is confronted with something that makes her uncomfortable, instead of internalizing it and trying to understand why it makes her uncomfortable, she immediately rejects it and says there must be something wrong with this thing, this thing that makes her feel bad. She attributes the way she feels to something about that thing (person, object, situation), and not to some inherent condition about herself.
This friend has been extremely competitive with me in the past. She was especially competitive with me for male attention back in the days when we were all single. She would get irritated if I would "win", and that would compell her to behave in ways that were completely obnoxious to me. I think that a little introspection, a little exploration of her feelings, would have led her to the conclusion that the little victory had nothing to do with her or with I, and was really not worth the tension in the house over it. It is like she would be bothered by me, without ever really trying to understand why it was and gain some acceptance of it.
Since I spend so much time with dogs, I try to relate everything back to them. My theory on her behavior reminds me of the warning against using a shock collar to train a dog to stop behaving aggressively. In dog behavior, especially these days, they talk a lot about "arousal levels", and warn that you should not use an aversive training technique (like a shock collar) on a highly aroused dog, or one that has potential for aggression, because it could backfire and make it worse.
As an example, say your dog is barking and lunging at the fenceline, behind which is another dog. Let's say you had a shock collar on him and you zapped him. The dog could erroneously come to the conclusion that the dog behind the fence caused the shock. It kind of makes sense, really...if every time you come close to this thing, you get zapped, then you might start thinking that that thing is what causes you to be zapped, if you are the dog. It would be hard, in fact, to make the leap that your behavior, in fact, caused the zap, and not the thing itself. It might be hard to understand that if you feel bad, that badness is coming from someplace inside of you, is internally motivated, and is not in fact caused by the external stimulus, even if that badness only comes in association with that stimulus.
So I guess I can understand that it could be hard for her to understand that if she feels bad around me, maybe that bad feeling is internally driven. Having known this person for a long time, I know she is more action-driven than thought-driven. She is not one to sit around and explore her feelings. I know that she has "issues" with my complicated romantic situations, that they never seem to fit her idea of what is right in the world, and usually that is the driving force behind her obnoxious behavior towards me. As a mutual friend said once, "she will never understand you, because she thinks only in black and white, and you are so many shades of gray."
I think, though, if she took some time to explore her inner world, it might make our relationship a lot easier. For instance, if she realized that what was bothering her was really these decisions I make with men, but that really it was my life, and it wasn't her decision, so she didn't need to necessarily have an opinion on it and respond to that opinion in a mean-spirited way, then it might really help us to get along.
Maybe that is what it is with the other woman I mentioned, too. If they would both just come to terms with the fact that my decision doesn't have to be their decision, too, and let me live my life without that kind of judgement, then we would all get along much better.
Can't we all just get along?

Monday, September 03, 2007

Remnants Remissed

For some odd reason, I felt compelled to tell this total stranger some key thing about my life. I found the urge very peculiar, but I liked what I had to say.

I traded horses for dogs a while back, mostly because dogs are more portable and more affordable. I wanted a horse my whole life, and so while I was growing up, I spent all my spare time with them. I took riding lessons from ages 5-17. I went to a Girl Scout camp every summer where I would get to ride, and when I was old enough I was a wrangler there, and later a horseback riding instructor in the summer. I studied them in college and worked with racehorses. I bought my own horse for myself when I was 21. I had him for five years and we had some great times. Selling him was a very difficult thing, and I still think about it with sadness. Oddly enough, I once had the occasion to speak to Sonya Fitzpatrick ("The Pet Psychic")about him about a year ago, due to my taking care of one of her pets at the emergency animal hospital. She helped me a lot.

I sometimes find it very odd, the snippets we choose to tell total strangers. The funny thing is this is not the first time I have talked about this very thing to other strangers. In my daily life, it does not come up much. Everyone knows I miss Bullseye but they figure I sort of got over it after a while.

What Sonya Fitzpatrick told me about this horse was this: That it was our fate to be seperated like that, everything happens for a reason, and even if he didn't have a better life, you were supposed to part with him. You or him, or maybe both of you, had learned what it was you were supposed to learn from each other.

What was that, that thing we learned, o horse of my heart?

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

I found these little gems in my poetry journal circa 2004. I thought they were reminscent of two "conversations" I've been having lately.

Homages

To the thousand nights of loneliness
To the sound of love
Falling not on my ears
To the brief encounters
So quick in passing
And the inexhaustible truth
Underneath it all:

That I will never behold
My mother's love
Except reflected
In the love for my son

and this one, whom for now I'll dedicate to Holli.

I play this game all the time
Wonder what we would say
If we suddenly ran into another
What would I be dying to tell you?
Would I tell you about my work,
My son, my man, my mystery?
The dog instead of the horse,
The Also-Ran instead of the champ.
How am I doing these days?
I hardy know my self,
Though I spend all my time exploring

The way we shift and change
And yet still remain the same

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Compartmentalization

I was thinking about my "romantic landscape' the other day, as I am prone to do, and I was making some connections between that and certain duties of my job. I was thinking about how I have this ability to compartmentalize sentiment, which is a trait that I feel is sometimes necessary in the kind of work I do. Often in working in the veterinary field, or with animals in general, you have to put aside emotional feelings in order to accomplish a task. Mostly I am referring to euthanasia. As a person who performs or assists with euthaniasia on a regular basis, you have to be able to put aside your grief or sadness over the loss of animals, or else you are in danger of becoming depressed, burned out, or suffering from compassion fatigue. There are many reasons and situations in which animals get euthanized, and most are very sad: a group of animals gets "culled", like at the facility where I work now for being unsellable, or at an animal shelter due to failure to be adopted and lack of room, an animal is old and sick and needs to be put out of its misery, an animal is hurt beyond the owner's ability to pay or cope, or the owner cannot deal with a physcial or mental problem the animal is having. Sometimes the owners are next to you, weeping at the loss of a family pet, and sometimes no one is weeping and the bodies are piling up on the floor, which is also sad.
I am very good at euthanasia. I am good at "turning it off", not allowing myself to feel unmeasurable pain, and being able to perform the duties asked of me. I also believe, though, in helping the spirit of the animal pass, and in dying with dignity. I hold their paws, I pet them and soothe them, I tell them they have been very good and have been loved so much, and that it is okay to let go. I tell them anything I know about their family or their history, how it showed how wonderful they were. I tell them their owners are letting them go to this wonderful place because they love them so. I tell them something nice about the way they look or act. I let the last words they hear be soothing words of comfort and love, even if they have no owner and nobody loved them. I do this because I love all of them collectively, even if I have never seen them before.
And myself, I put that love in a box. I pack my emotions away in that box in my heart and seal up the edges with strong tape. I refuse to look at it. I pretend it is not there. That love is there, and this is here, and if it is over there and I don't look at it, it doesn't hurt.
Sometimes I get so good at this game, I almost believe it. I sometimes think I put it so far away I become desensitized, and I wonder if I have become heartless. And so sometimes I let myself cry. I go with it, and it makes me feel real again, and reminds me that I care. I let myself grieve once for a Lab that I hardly knew, who belonged to a man I knew well. I knew how much he loved his dog and how he tried so hard to keep her alive, and it reminded me of how much I loved Rascal, and when we were done with her, I sat in a dark exam room, snuggling my friend's poodle and wept for an hour or more, weeping for all the dogs I never cried for.
Thinking about putting the sentiment in a box and forgetting it, putting that aside while I continued to function, reminded me of my love life before getting married, back when I was a serial cheater. Some people might not understand why I was able to be with a man I loved one night, and a man I was also sleeping with another night. When I was with each of them, they were all that existed, and I was having fun and was able to put my emotions for somebody else in a box and let them go.
Some people can't do this. Like my exboyfriend for instance, who says he cannot be friends with me anymore because it brings back old memories and interferes with his relationship with his wife.
I wish he could, because I believe in staying friends with the people I once loved. To me, the friendship is valuable because I still see the good in them and respect them. I keep my old memories in that box, along with the feelings I had for them, and don't look at it when I am with them, so I can just be friends in the here and now. Sometimes I wish everyone had that ability.
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Scout and I at our second big win lately. This was Point #2 of the 3 he has earned so far, a fifth of the way to his championship. The thrill of victory has proved to be a powerful motivator and has encouraged us on our quest.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007


Senses

I've been doing some thinking about compatability between people, and I have decided that sense of humor is overrated. Not that I don't think it is important, but I find it odd that it shows up on the top five things both men and women are seeking in a mate, and it is the only "sense of" that shows up. I think there are other "senses" people can have that might actually be more beneficial in the long term, or maybe more suited for individuals as opposed to the masses. I am speaking from my personal experience, which I think is the starting point for most people when deciding whether or not they agree with something.
In my experience, I have decided sense of humor is not on my top five list of qualities I would seek in a long term mate. I would rate sense of adventure higher, or even sense of compassion. Why don't those "senses" come up on a list?
Here are some that I think are left out when determining compatability, some "senses" people may possess along a spectrum:

Sense of Self Sense of Purpose Sense of Adventure
Sense of Wonder Sense of Compassion Sense of Entitlement
Sense of Direction Sense of Community Sense of Security

I think it would be interesting to rate the important of these to you along a spectrum, and try to match with someone who also shares some of these same qualities. But then you get into the question of whether it is better to be similiar or complementary. When breeding animals, you want to seek mates that share the good features and complement each other on the weaknesses.
If I have a sense of humor deficiency (like some say that I do - haha - I disagree becasue I happen to find myself hilarious, and if you can laugh at yourself, I would tend to think you have a sense of humor), is it better to be paired with someone who has a greater sense of humor, so they can lighten you up? I think it would depend on how much value that other person places on sense of humor in a mate.
There are also other "senses" in which the description comes first, such as "people sense", "common sense", "horse sense", "animal sense". These could also be important.
If I had my life to do over again, I would spend much more time comtemplating compatability before choosing a mate, and then I would want to make my choice based on reason, more than emotion. In my life so far, it seems I made an emotive decision and then just hoped for the best. Emotion versus reason...it sounds like some Plato inspired rambling, the "old quarrel between philosophy and poetry".
Welcome to my dichotomy.