Saturday, July 19, 2008

Our Little Escape Artist

The other day, I climbed into the puppy playpen, as I do at least once a day, and I was playing with the puppies. They are of an age where they are awake for more than just feeding now and Snowdoll doesn't always want to stay in there to play with them. However, when two or three of them want to play and the others are trying to sleep, my getting in there helps to burn off some of the puppy energy while also allowing the already sleepy puppies to sleep undisturbed.

I was in there and, as usual, I counted the puppies. One. Two. Three. Four. Five. Six.


Recount. One. Two. Three. Four. Five. Six.



I look around and sure enough I see a gap through which a diligent puppy could possibly escape. Immediately panic ensued. I started picking up puppies and plopping them up onto the bed. Maybe the missing puppy had not made a run for it but was tucked under one of the many towels I have spread out for the puppies.

No puppy under any of the towels. Snowdoll, in the meantime, having no clue what it is I am doing, jumps up onto the bed to protect her puppies from Romanov who is also in the bedroom wondering what it is I am doing and why. The puppies, in the meantime, are quite excited by their new environment, are not at all sure what to make of this new surface, and begin walking towards the edge of the bed!!!

One topples over, landing on a pillow that I had quickly tossed onto the floor. Plop goes another puppy and then a third tumbles down. This is not working. I grab the remaining three and without much ceremony dump them onto the pillow which is now free from the previous three puppies because they are now off and moving, exploring the great new world that is my bedroom.

Not knowing what else to do, I grab the puppy den-box and take that into the kitchen. I quickly relocate the six puppies to the den-box confident Snowdoll will follow. She does and begins nursing them. I can only hope that the excitement of being hauled from their domain into new worlds with edges off which they can easily tumble has tired them sufficiently and I won't find them scrambling their way across my kitchen floor. I am, however, confident that the slippery quality of the kitchen floor will keep them from getting too far.

But I can't worry about any of this now because I have a puppy to find. I close the door and listen, hoping to hear a howl or mewl or yelp or bark or something but nothing. Not a sound. Silence.

I begin tearing apart the playpen to search all the way around it, under the bookcase, all the while trying to calculate when did I last number the puppies and wondering if it is at all possible that this one puppy has been missing for longer than I care to know. What if the worst has happened and this poor lost puppy . . .

I can't think like that. Instead, I begin pulling things out from under the bed. Boots. More boots. Shoes. Books. Magazines. Books. More magazines. And I swear enough Romanov fur to make another puppy!

Still no puppy!!!

There are a few things standing up beside the bed, books and magazines I am in the process of reading. And as I am pulling these aside I am thinking to myself is it really necessary to have twenty books around the bed when I know that even I cannot possibly be reading twenty books at a time. I reach past where this last pile was and I feel the softest of puppy furs meet my fingertips.

Collapsing to shove myself as deeply under the bed as I can go, cursing the idiot who invented bed skirts and myself for buying bedding that came with one, I quickly feel that the puppy has effectively wedged itself between the bed frame leg and the wall. There is no way for me to get a firm grip upon the puppy without risking hurting her.

And there is a huff of puppy breath along my index finger that assures me she is alive. YES!

I very quickly get up and heave the mattress to a vertical position and shove it into the corner. I then do the same with the boxspring and, voila!, there she is, sleeping in her entrapment. I am able to carefully, without disturbing her, move the bedframe a couple of inches and reach down to pluck her up.

I snuggle her close, to my breast and then under my chin knowing that she is probably wondering why this crazy lady pulled her out of her nice dark corner and woke her up. I hustle her into the box and attach her to Snowdoll still not sure how long it has been since she's been fed and wanting to assure myself that she would not starve.

Over-react much? Me? Never!

Before I took the time to rebuild the puppy playpen, which included swapping out the towels for clean ones, I carried the frame into the kitchen and left it there. Our mattress and boxspring are on the floor and will stay there until the last puppy has found a new home.

In the meantime, here is our little escape artist.

This is E . . . who will heretofore be known as EA as in Escape Artist. She is one of the twins--E & F. Here they are side by side.

Of course as soon as I go to video them they stopped playing with one another! How typical. They no longer look so much like twins. The fact is, while F stayed dark black E has begun to show signs of becoming grey like her mother.

Snowdoll does not appreciate my taking videos of her puppies, apparently, as she lay down between me and the camera. Hrm . . . So I tried to get one of EA in the playpen. She was being very noisy, howling and wanting her siblings to play with her. She would pounce on first one then another but they would have none of it.

And of course, as soon as I get my phone ready to take a video she sits down and . . . nothing. It's a plot, I tell you. She and her twin are in cahoots, thwarting my attempts at taping puppy cuteness.

Common Courtesy

Whatever happened to common courtesy?

For instance, the advice: If you have nothing nice to say, say nothing at all. I noticed recently that there is a “No Gossip” challenge being done somewhere. (Sorry. I couldn’t find an official link to this “event” but I saw something on the news while I was doing housework.) The report showed some snippets of vlogs in which high school students were sharing their experiences with avoiding the act of gossiping—whether speaking or listening.

I started thinking about myself and how I will occasionally slip into gossiping about others. More often than not I start venting or talking about a situation with a friend that genuinely has me concerned or perhaps I am even expressing my frustration with some of the choices someone else is making. The next thing I know, I am saying, “Oh you aren’t going to believe this . . . then she/he . . .”

Well, I used to do that a lot. Not as much anymore. I try to catch myself before I slip. And now, whenever I do talk about someone else, I step back afterwards and assess the merit of what I did.

But the idea of not having anything nice to say goes beyond gossip. Last year when I was deep in my convalescence, I had some friends who would come over to visit. Never on the same day but one would drop in one week and then a few weeks would go by and another would drop in. It was a lovely thing to have people come and make sure I was okay, even if all we did was sit and watch a dvd. I enjoyed the company and it made the dailyness of my condition more tolerable.

I actually had one person comment on my body and another comment on my home décor. And not in a flattering way. I just off-handed the comments with “I know” or “I agree” and changed the subject but afterwards I thought about the comments. I didn’t ask these people for their thoughts. I didn’t encourage them to give me any advice. I didn’t in any way invite these unkind remarks.

For the record, I obviously have more than two friends and I definitely received more kindness than not. And even from those who felt compelled to tell me what they thought even though I had not asked them for their thoughts, I did receive some kindness.

Still, whatever happened to not saying anything at all? If someone asks you how they look in something and the color or something is not flattering then of course tell the truth but if a person doesn’t ask you can’t just walk up to them and say, “You look fat in that.” Suggesting to someone who doesn’t have a job that it really is time they bought a new car or some new furniture is not at all helpful, unless you have a car and some furniture you are giving away.

I remember when I was working in an office with a young woman who was rather arrogant. Very few people liked her and she was especially rude to me, something upon which others had commented and about which I was trying to find solutions. That others noticed her blatant rudeness was not helpful. In fact, their observations reinforced my experience and made it more tangible. And that didn’t help at all. Had these other people kept their observations to themselves then I would have been less inclined to take it personally, to fall into a feeling of victimization, and I certainly wouldn’t have become as defensive as I almost did.

Almost but not quite. I decided to approach the situation from a different angle. I could have dug my heels in and just written this other person off as arrogant and rude. Instead, I chose to give her compliments, to offer to help. Every day, when I first saw her, I would begin with saying something about her hair, her outfit, or something she had done the day before. Later, if I did not have a crazy day before me, I would seek her out and ask her if there was anything with which I could help her.

It worked. While others in the office continued to complain about her inability to connect with anyone in the office, she began returning my compliments with compliments of her own. A few times she even managed to compliment me before I was able to compliment her. We never became friends, never even went to lunch together. But when I approached her for some work related assistance I no longer got the immediate frown and refusal. Instead, she would listen to my request and respond with openness.

It was a valuable lesson for me.

Friday, July 18, 2008

And the Winner Is . . .

Last week the puppy eyes were beginning to open. I told Rob that this would inevitably lead to their realizing they were living in a box and would want to climb outside to see the world. This required our creating a puppy safe play area for the puppies so they could climb out without disappearing beneath any furniture and without risking their destroying the carpet.

We did this in a nick of time because that very night I woke up and found Snowdoll feeding G outside of the box. Above are the three guilty parties--G is in the center. He was the first to escape the confines of the box. On the left is C (aka Junpei) who was the second puppy to find his way out of the box. And on the right . . . well, I'll share that story later, sometime this weekend or early next week. But that one on the right is our little escape artist.

G is quite the adventursome little puppy. He still looks the most like Romanov although he is brown and not black like his daddy. G's nose is also not turning black but had darkened from pink to a love brown to match his patches of fur. And he has those beautiful blue eyes.

And this is G playing by himself, which is unusual because he is the one who is most likely to assault a sibling who might be soundly sleeping. If there is a noisy puppy, more often than not, it is G trying to get some attention.

Just after the video on my camera phone automatically stopped, G barked at me as if to say, "Why did you put me onto this slippery floor when I am still learning how to walk?"

Just Another Friday

According to California geology professor Lee Silver, the samples [taken from the first moon landing], "showed more about the first third of the solar system history than we ever got about studying the earth. The moon turned out to be the best source of insight."

I received this in an email newsletter (Daily Celebrations which is a misnomer because I don’t get them daily). I have been thinking a great deal about the concept of living outside myself and I hope that as I write this I can find the words that will adequately communicate what I am thinking. I have known several people who are, by nature, pessimistic. No matter how good their lives may be, they are always depressed. Whether employed or looking for work, they are miserable. Although they are physically attractive, they have painful relationships. No matter how successful they are, nothing is enough to make them consistently happy with themselves or their lives. And they want more than anything else to have someone listen to them talk about their unhappiness. So I listen. I don’t offer words of advice or tell them what I think, about how sometimes one choice leads to another, that repeated failures are not always our own fault, or even how often we can choose to see something as a blessing and a curse all at the same time. I want to tell them to get outside of themselves for a little while and really look around them. Nobody is free from suffering or pain. We all struggle with it, trying to define ourselves in spite of our circumstances. Nobody is really free from self-recrimination or judgment. All of us want to feel and be loved. What I want to say is that sometimes, to really see ourselves, we have to be open to seeing someone else, to love ourselves we have to truly love someone else. To have peace we must give peace and this chaos that some people constantly feel, in spite of their personal blessings, is so heartbreaking. And sometimes I just want to shake them. Or do what Cher did to Nicholas Cage in Moonstruck after he professed that he loved her. She hauled back and smacked him hard across the face. Twice. And then said, “Snap out of it.” I want to say that the best thing that these people, that I, can do is just stop talking and listen. Go out into the world and listen to someone else’s pain for a little while. Or maybe volunteer for a cause about which you truly care, whether it is political or social or whatever. What I want to say is that sometimes to understand, love, and be at peace with yourself you have to give yourself away.

And here is a video, a soft and lovely song full of anger. I love the honesty of this--Ani DiFranco.

I share this video aware that the person I would most want to see and listen to it will probably never do so . . . and still . . . sometimes getting angry is the first step to healing so if you are out there and you see this I give you permission to be angry.

Aries Horoscope for week of July 17, 2008

After studying your astrological omens for the upcoming weeks, I got really excited. There was so much I wanted to tell you. I popped a chunk of organic, fair-trade, cruelty-free, espresso-tinctured chocolate in my mouth and sat down to type an extravagant message. Maybe it was because I was overly pumped up, but in the next moment I accidentally swallowed the candy whole. What a waste! I'd gotten none of the bliss of sliding it around my tongue and mouth. But I recognized this apparent bad luck as a sign of what I needed to tell you: Don't get so worked up about the oncoming pleasures that you engorge them whole without even tasting them.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Freeform Yoga

In the August issue of FitYoga there is an article on freestyle yoga which resonated deeply with what I have been feeling lately. I love doing my yoga dvds but I often find myself wishing I could stay in an asana for a little longer or I may like an asana on one dvd but not necessarily want to do the entire practice. But it is not easy to pause a dvd and stay in the moment of the yoga. Which is why the idea of doing yoga more intuitively immediately appealed to me because this is what I have been feeling I need. While I love and recognize that I need the structure of a formalized class, whether it is held in a yoga studio or recorded on a dvd or streamed online, I can hear my body saying “Please, let’s stay here a little longer. We need this.” Then I misplaced the magazine and was unable to find anything online that matched what the article described. Freestyle yoga. Intuitive yoga. I searched for a few days and gave up. (Oddly, I began the search on the magazine’s website and found nothing helpful there which is unfortunate.) Luckily, I found the magazine (finally!) and was able to link to the website the writer of the article, Anne Jablonski has created which includes a wonderful article on the concept of freeform yoga. My plan is to begin approaching this style of yoga this weekend. I want to commit one day a week to doing yoga without a dvd playing in the background. (I often do the yoga with my eyes closed only looking at the dvd to see if I am doing what I think I should be doing. Some dvds have become so familiar that I no longer have to confirm that I am, indeed, in upward facing dog and not cobra.) I will go into the practice with certain asanas in mind. I would like very much to begin in Virasana and once I feel centered move into a sequence that feels right for me. I know that, for instance, I would like to do Dolphin Pose, a variation of Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog). I suppose going into the idea of a freeform practice with the intention of doing certain asanas but I trust myself enough to know that having a few asanas in mind won’t preclude my choosing what I feel I need to do at the moment. At least that is the plan. I know how my weekends usually go. I make plans to do something a certain way and something complicates things or disrupts it or . . . well, my silent retreat experience is a perfect example of what I mean. Still, I can tell that this is something I want and even need to do so if the weekend becomes so chaotic that I can’t make it happen, I’ll just try to hit the ground running on Monday. Or should that be hit the yoga mat mindfully?

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

29 Days of Giving

I thought I would share this challenge with everyone. The challenge is to give something every day for twenty-nine days. It is free. You can give something that is an object but you can also give of yourself--your time, your presence, your love. I have a profile there and have begun to blog about my progress. I hope that if you choose to join this challenge that you will leave a comment so that I can keep up with your blog there. I hope you enjoy the video even if you choose not to join in the challenge.
Find more videos like this on 29-Day Giving Challenge

Tanning and Shifts

I believe we should make the world safe for our children but not for our children’s children because I don’t believe children should be having sex.—Jack Handey I get a lot of nonsense in my email inbox and today I noticed a newsletter that purports to show me how to get a “healthy summer glow.” The truth is, I tan very easily. I don’t have to fight to get a tan. I can just sit outside for a few minutes every day and I would end up with a dark tan by the end of the month. I don’t sunbathe by choice. I know how dangerous and very unhealthy it can be and I don’t think it is worth the price. Besides, I am 46 and still able to say that I don’t have much wrinkling at all. (When I smile there are signs but I am comfortable, even content, with the idea of having happy wrinkles as opposed to having frowning miserable ones.) But this subject line, encouraging a “healthy summer glow” pointed out to me that young women are not going to eagerly jump on the “pale is lovely” bandwagon as long as they read about “healthy summer glow.” Until we recognize and proclaim consistently that having a tan is not healthy we will continue to have statistics that talk about increasing numbers of melanoma incidents, how younger and younger people are showing signs, etc. It doesn’t end there. I have seen bathing suit articles that discuss how a nice tan will help reduce the signs of cellulite. There is nothing nice about a tan that can lead to cancer. Unfortunately, in order to get this message across, there would have to be a significant shift in perception, a paradigm shift even, which would require the media also join in the commitment to ending this propaganda about tanning being a healthy look. Okay. I am jumping off the bandwagon now. Here’s some pretty music to reinforce my personal paradigm shift into a more peaceful place.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Don't Just Do Something, Sit There by Sylvia Boorstein

Don’t Just Do Something, Sit There by Sylvia Boorstein is a Buddhist retreat in a book. Boorstein walks the reader through the preparation of how to have a silent retreat in your own home for however long you want to go. After walking through the why and how, the book is divided into three sections or, actually, three days. Day Two is the one that can be repeated as often as the reader likes. If time allows, and you wanted to have a week long retreat using this book, you would repeat Day Two. Day One is the entry into the retreat and Day Three is the exit.

Unlike Bliss in a Box or How Not to Be Afraid of Your Own Life, both by Susan Piver, Boorstein encourages the reader not to bring along a journal or a book to read or anything to distract from the intention of the retreat—to sit in silent meditation. Or eat in meditation. Or walk in meditation. Essentially, the purpose of this retreat is to learn how to infuse each and every moment with meditative practice. The Day Two section offers various stories, lessons on which the reader can meditate.

The truth is, the thought of going into a retreat without even a journal at hand is overwhelming, bordering on the frightening. It would take the kind of focus and discipline I am not convinced I have. Still, I think that if I were to do another silent retreat with a Buddhist focus this is the source to which I would turn, the foundation on which I would build the experience. I love Boorstein’s writing. She makes Buddhism accessible. Perhaps not as stimulating as D T Suzuki but I don’t always want to read something that is challenging. Sometimes it’s enough to sit with a book that makes me feel welcome, like coming home.