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13 April 2011

Packing Transgressions

Everyone has their own special methods to prepare for a trip away from home. It seems that half the fun of going on a trip, is planning that trip. Especially in our family. Especially when it is a family trip.

Back in the deep dark depths of winter, it came upon me one chilly wintry night, that it was time for a family get together. A trip of some sort. So where to go this year and when? Then I got to thinking. I am the proud owner of one of the rare spring birthdays in our family and this year is going to be a big one. The big 4-0. What better way to spend my birthday than with family. Before proposing it to everyone, I had to have not only a date but also a location and lodging details. With our ever burgeoning families, we were going to need some serious space. Unbelievably, I found a giant beach house that would provide not only a bed, but a room for each couple, complete with a kitchen, game room, beach trail, wireless, laundry and all that.

Now that I had all my details in place, it was time to alert the family to see if they were game. Of course they all were. And this is where the fun begins. Since the actual date of our supposed trip is 4 months into the future, we have plenty of time to discuss and prepare. And although we use the phone a bit in our preparations, most of it is done by emails, long email trails consisting of our humorous and outlandish and inspirational ideas for our retreat. Late night calls will no doubt follow as the date of departure draws near, excited whisperings of plots, plans and ideas hatched while envisioning our weekend away.

One of the most important aspects to any of our trips lies along the lines of food. What are we going to eat? We are a family where food revolves around everything we do, especially family gatherings. In our every day lives, most of us are lucky if we eat one full meal a day and snack through the rest. But for retreat planning, we pay special attention to being sure we have a delectable menu item for each of the days required meal times: breakfast, lunch and dinner. Usually we split up our meals between couples, letting snackers and picky eaters fend for themselves.

Once the food is planned, there is of course another important characteristic to our planning. What will we drink? And I'm not talking milk or juice. What I am getting at is we are a family who value our together time by hydrating ourselves with our specialty alcoholic beverages. And of course, we all have our preferences. Vodka with blue cheese olives. Screamers. Chocolate Martinis. Wine. Gluten Free Beer. Locally brewed beer. Holiday beer. Whiskey and coke. And so on. There is much to plan as we all check our liquor cabinet reserves and wine cellars and we make lists to run stock up before the trip.

Laughably, with this particular trip, there is actually a bedroom for all. But then another string of emails begin, calculating very carefully where everyone should sleep. Or should I say, where everyone would prefer to sleep. All without trying to really say where they want to sleep. Those who seem to think they have toilet issues, believe they should have the master suite with the full bath. Those with kids who sleep lightly believe they should have the farthest bedroom from the late night noise guaranteed to occur. Others want the bedroom with the door that goes out to the deck or the bedroom that faces the ocean with the hot tub inside. With all our spoken preferences, nothing will be for sure until we arrive to our rented house. And there will always be many switches and bargaining going on. Pssst, I'll give you my bottle of wine and put your kids to bed for that room with a full bath!

My family will continue the planning until the moment we all actually arrive at the beach house, yet here's where it gets interesting. Or should I say even more intriguing. We all have our funny little quirks about how we individually prepare to pack for the trip. Some of it could be nature, some could be nuture. Either way, we are all a little nuts about it.

We'll start with myself. If I have weeks to plan or months which is even better, I will organize the shit out of my plans. There will be of course first the budget spreadsheets. How much to save each month. Then the reservations come next - rental car, dog sitter, cat sitter. All those go into my newly created trip spreadsheet. On another tab of my spreadsheet is what to pack, then what to buy for food, what to do a week before the trip, two days before, the day of. Then important dates go on my electronic calendar. As the months, weeks and days pass, I will be checking off my list to do, memorizing everything. I believe this may have been inherited from my dad whose spreadsheets and lists littered countertops before every childhood camping trip. And I suppose this is still how he prepares for trips. My mother is one who plans the meals, prepping, cooking, storing, shopping; ensuring there are snacks for the drive, snacks when we arrive, snacks for any time of the day and drinks to go along with all. My husband packs 10 minutes before we walk out the door. Well, I would too if my significant other had everything else organized the way I do. Geeesh!

One sister has a very special ritual for packing. Not much thought is put into packing until the night before the trip, at which time, they buy a bunch of beer and pizza. They get drunk and pack and then go to bed early (or at least they try to). It seems to work for them except for the minor hangover the next day.

Another sister makes mental notes along with paper notes.  She makes numerous lists, checks the weather forecasts obsessively and researches nearby restaurants.  I would too if I had three kids, two of whom have definite allergies to specific foods and no one wants to leave home without items essential to providing young children with enough to do and enough changes of clothes to match the changes in weather, especially this time of year.

My other sister will most likely fly by the seat of her pants due to her busy schedule and never ending motherly duties.  She'll crack open a bottle of wine late in the evening after the kids are in bed.  Then she'll talk on the phone while she throws her listed items into bags, does last minute loads of laundry.  She'll stay up way too late and then scramble in the morning, racking her brain about what it was that she was going to bring.  She'll most likely pull out of the driveway with her coat stuck in the car door, a kid screaming because he was buckled up in the carseat backwards and it will be only luck that every family member will be accounted for.

Somehow we will all make it to our destination.  Somehow we will make do with what we have packed and laugh at what we have forgotten.  We'll get lost in the joy and chaos of all being together and none of our packing transgressions will matter anymore. 

06 April 2011

Memories of Another Way of Being

I have always had a true deep down gut feeling that I chose to be born at this time in history. In addition, I've been told this by several spiritual sources over the years. What escaped me though was why? Why did my starlit soul decide to ride in a human body in this day and age? It's baffled me for years, although it seems I have always known generally why, the specifics always eluded me. They why - I chose to be born so that I would be here for humans transition from clueless wasteful creatures who had forgotten their purpose to humans who have begun to recall their spirituality and connection to all earth's creatures and to the stars beyond their imaginations. Over the years I have seen underground movements form, all seeking wisdom through serving the earth and the great spirit, grow to almost overwhelming masses of people, some scattering the globe. All of whom are working to share the knowledge that was born to them in an effort to turn back the clock and reverse the damage done to the mother earth. But I know my spirit did not come back to earth just to watch, for I could not be satiated with just observing from afar.

I'm am here to experience the end of the world as we know it (isn't that a song?) and in doing so, I can slowly extricate myself from it's long held grip. The fall of complex corporations, money, banks, consumerism, mass sensationalized media, traffic, pollution, chemical agriculture, endless NOISE and so forth; all of these dependent upon the Mother's resources, assumed to be there for the taking. I am here to be with humanity as we learn the old ways again. Those who are healthy, self sufficient in growing food, hunting food and networking for food will survive. Others will lie, cheat and steal and eventually die because the world as they knew it did not require them to think or try to survive.

I suppose for me there is somewhat of a thrill in the will to survive, to rely upon what mother earth can provide. The decaying rope of this current industrialized culture will finally break away and I will be free! I won't have complex yet shallow worries. No mortgage, no owning land (I mean really who really owns land), no having my identity being stolen because a hacker found his way into a multi billion dollar advertising corporation and stole a file. I won't have to ask my sister every year to sit down to a bottle of wine with me and do my taxes. I won't have to worry about a paycheck, what is money worth anyway when the whole system fails, well, it may be good for starting fires to keep warm in the winters..., I won't have to prove myself worthy of insurance, health care or a raise.

So why am I tickled pink at watching the world fall apart? What part of me is so delusional that I must find humor in the tragedy of a grave situation. Well, for one, initially survival after the fall of the world, will be brutal in many ways. Finding good food and clean water will prove to be difficult, especially if the collapse is due to nuclear fallout. Protecting ourselves from those who go crazy and can't handle the forced change will become a way of life. Keeping warm, treating injuries and sickness in the ways of a healer. And so on. I supposed it's because I've known all along that this way of life will not sustain the earth or her creatures. I've been ready all my life for it to go awry. Industrialization has always had a dark looming final chapter that has yet to be read. But many of us still hold memories of another way of being, maybe not in this life, but some of us know that we have lost our connection and that we must re-establish that lost bond if the human society is to survive.

This new emergent society would value Community and I see that it may become more of way of life than just a word. Humans will come together to help each other survive. As years, decades and centuries go by, a new generation of humans will emerge from the destruction. Sort of like the legend of the great flood goes, only a handful of humanity will survive in hopes that the lesson has finally been learned and mistakes of the distant and not so distant past will not be remade. It could be a human fatal flaw though. No matter how many times the earth is destroyed for us or we destroy the earth, we may not learn. Of course, I won't be around to see that part, where humans are once again living as once again in harmony, as the mother earth prefers. But I will be here, at least I hope to be, to assist my fellow human compadres to get through the initial dramatic and dark changes to come, reassuring that there is hope for us. So then that must it, I am here to be a part of the great awakening and the great change, while at the same time knowing with out a doubt that I will soon celebrate my long awaited freedom from the rat race that was not meant for us.

22 March 2011

Forces of Nature

Winter was cruel son of a bitch this year.  He knocked Fall from here to kingdom come and took over with brutal force, ravaging us with winds, rains, floods, hail, snow, ice and bitter, bitter cold.  He's having a helluva time trying to continue his nefarious rule over the seasons, but Spring is resisting and steadily gaining control.   For even though Winter's cold is still evident, Spring has managed to poke it's head out just enough to encourage the sleeping trees and dormant bulbs to stir, setting in motion that miraculous thing we call life. Winter may imagine himself to be the more daunting force of nature but Spring is resilient and set in her ways.  She will toss him from the dominion, his tail tucked between his ass cheeks, and a harsh sentence in hand mandating that he stay far, far away until the other seasons have had their analogous time on the throne.  And so it goes, in the kingdom of seasons.

04 February 2011

A loving rivarly, maybe

You could say it was bred into me - my love for the Green Bay Packers, that is. If you aren't familiar with the Packers, let's just say, in my own unbiased opinion, they are the best professional football team in the National Football League. My daddy was a cheesehead, my momma was a cheesehead, therefore, my sisters and I became cheeseheads. Even my brother-n-law was born in Green Bay, who, now that I think about it, was welcomed quite enthusiastically and warmly into our family, no questions asked. As soon as a niece or nephew is born, it's a race to start dressing these new little beings into baby Packer outfits during football season.

As it was with our family, so it is with others. However, my husband grew up in a household who yes, spent Sundays worshiping the gods of football but who also sported split allegiances. Papa was not a rolling stone, but he was a lifelong Cleveland Browns fan. Mama, you guessed it, was a Packers fan. But my husband's path was to be colored with black and gold, as he at an early age, declared he was a Pittsburgh Steeler fan. Luckily, when we married, my husband was welcomed with opens arms by my second brother n law who also bleeds Steeler colors.

Through out the early years of our marriage, I sent good vibes to his Steelers in hopes that they would eventually reach the Super Bowl and win it for him, since in his lifetime, the Steelers had been less than mediocre players. Then suddenly, Pittsburgh got better and soon they made it to two super bowls and won each one. As proud and happy I was for my husband's team, I earnestly wished for the impossible - a Packer/Steeler super bowl. I mean, how cool would that be to be going up against the love of my life in the all time sports event. However, for this to happen, my Packers would have to start shaping up.

As the fervor of the 2010 football season was commencing, I said to my honey, that this was the year that my Packers were going to meet his Steelers in the super bowl. As good natured as always, he said it would be cool, but probably unlikely. Yet, now that we are approaching Super Bowl 49, the impossible is happening! The dream has come true! We are matched up against each

other, each of us in gold, but our second team colors run dramatically different. In fact, not only is this once in a lifetime super bowl just a fantasy come true, it is the sports fanatic's idea of the makings of what is being touted as the ultimate match up - and could possibly being the undoing of our families.

This Sunday our alliances will be divided. We will all be holding on to the hopes that our quarter back doesn't get taken out in the first quarter, that we can out run, out defend, out think, out throw each other's opponent. I mean come on, his Steelers have been to the Super Bowl, not once, but twice, in the last few years. He's been able to whoop it up on Super Bowl Sundays and claim his stake in football history. It's time for the Pack to hog the coveted spotlight. So, I'm sorry honey, I love you but we're gonna stomp all ovah your black and gold asss Sunday!

27 January 2011

Grocery List for a Happy Life

I am only one, but I am one. I can't do everything, but I can do something. And what I can do, I ought to do. And what I ought to do, by the grace of God, I shall do. ~Edward Everest Hale

We all have dreams right? And just how often do we follow those dreams? Regrettably, we seem to be lacking in follow-through. Too many obstacles appear to stand in the way. ‘What if's’ abound and doubting Thomas' overloads you with disparaging dissuasions. Soon, our dreams are demoted to silly pipe dreams and eventually, as we realize the error of our ways, are consigned to remorseful 'could have beens.’

No way, not me. You won't find me mourning or apologetic for failing to attend to my heart’s desires, which consist of a steady diet of love, kindness and comfort. This so-called grocery list for a happy life isn’t made up of tangible items that can be purchased or collected. However, they definitely can be earned, shared, and most simply, gratifying. Take any human being, for example, and peel away the layers of money, status, material things, heartbreak and baggage. At the core of their being lies the most delicate layer of all. Peer in closely and you will unearth the most humble, barest essentials required for us to flourish: the need for utter kindness and to know love in all its immeasurable bounds.

These innate prerequisites for a happy life may be accessible in us all, but only those of us who choose to share these fundamentals with others in need, can really experience the reality of pursuing our dreams. Whatever your aspirations are for your life, you must make a difference. You must always look for a chance to show compassion and offer a plateful of thoughtfulness, initiating the birth of someone else's dreams. You are part of the universe, along with every plant, animal, human and dirt particle. Every act of goodwill weighs heavily on the scales of humanity. Only when you have done this, can you finally toss those preconceived notions aside, open your heart, and take the first stride towards what makes you happy. It is then that you will find the determination that you can, you will, and you shall make your dreams come true.

09 January 2011

Baby Mama

I got lucky this holiday season.  Two weeks off of work! I had big plans that included doing a lot of nothing.  A slothful break from every day routine was definitely in my book, that is, until I received an email from a local dog rescuer who was in need of a foster home for a puppy.  We haven't fostered a dog since we adopted our last foster, turning our two dogs into a happy, unstoppable pack of three.  But this puppy, oh this puppy was adorable.  A 10 week old white pitbull baby with the sweetest puppy dog eyes stared out longingly at me, begging me to be her foster mama.  Plus, with a pending two week vacation and no set plans, it would be the perfect situation to train her.  Knowing that I'd have to convince my husband, I casually mentioned it to him then stategically showed him her picture.  It worked, he was hooked right along with me and soon plans were set into motion and a date was set for her arrival the following sunday.

Having raised 3 puppies in the last 5 years, I had no misguided notions about the work that puppies require, not to mention that we had no idea how our 3 dogs would adapt to a puppy in the house.  What I was not prepared for was how attached I would become to this little darling.  Lilly, arrived at our house on a rainy cold evening.  She looked so much smaller that her pictures.  All white with black spots on her ears and nose, she sported a pink little coat and shivered in the freezing wind as we tried to get her to pee before coming inside.  Her little tail wagged and wagged as we petted her, cooing over her sweet little muffine face. 

After a nervous introduction with our dogs, it was quickly determined that not everyone was going to get along.  Out came the baby gate, separating the kitchen from the dining room, creating a safe place for Lilly to roam without fear of becoming dinner. Our female, Huckleberry, instantly took to Lilly and donned the momma bear role as if she'd raised puppies all her life.  Our life settled right into the new routine of taking Lilly out to pee every 20 mins or so, supervising play time, crate training, making sure our dogs got their share of attention, and discouraging biting (damn puppy teeth are sharp!).  At night after Lilly was in her crate and all the dogs asleep, I dropped into bed completely exhausted. Luckily for us, Lilly slept through the night with no accidents so a good nights sleep was a given.  Her favorite thing to do was to crawl into bed to snuggle with Warren before breakfast.  She insisted upon it and would not eat until she had cuddle time. 

Of course Lilly had many suitors who called to inquire about her and a couple of people even came to meet her.  As carefully as we screened potential adopters, it was Lilly who told us who she wanted to be her forever family.  It turned out to be a young couple, way to young we thought at first.  But Lilly insisted and the couple turned out to be just what Lilly needed.  Both were raised with pit bulls and other dogs, and were very knowledgeable about the breed.  They had just bought a house and the girl had always wanted an all white pitbull, which apparently are not that common.  Lilly bonded with them right away, just as we did.  After passing a home visit and an intense application interview process, everyone new these folks would be her forever family.

Lilly's new parents came to pick her up on the last day of my vacation.  It was tearful, full of hugs, promises to keep in touch and laughter.  As they drove away with Lilly, I knew I'd done my job.  We gave Lilly a little over 2 weeks of constant love, training, and socialization.  Just what she needed to be able to start her life on four solid paws.  We will miss her as she etched out a piece of our hearts just for her.   But it feels so good knowing that another dog has a forever home and another dog will be loved and cared for forever. 

In the end, my slothful vacation days were much more action packed that I had planned.  Bein a baby mama takes a lot of work, focus and time.  Yet when I returned to work the next day, I was fulfilled and in a good place knowing that as a bonafide dog rescuer, I had done only what I could have done, and that was to open my heart and home to a dog in need.