Riding Life!

Riding Life!
Life is like a wild horse--Unless you ride it, it will ride you! (from the movie: "Princess of Thieves.")

Sunday, December 19, 2010

C: The Warm Glow of Giving

nativity Wow!  Did I ever discover a satisfying last-minute gift giving idea.  One of my facebook friends, Cindy Jackson Knull, posted this link to the New York Times : Gifts of Hope.  It lists several smaller (as opposed to the “biggies” you always hear about) nonprofits with varying angles of charitable giving.
I have people on my list whom I just know will enjoy the fact that gifts have been made in their honor and, especially, in areas about which they are impassioned.  (And I KNOW they’ll enjoy it more than a trinket I might pick for them…).
Check these out.  Myself, I am passionate about women’s issues, especially education.  I was pleased to donate to several of these organizations that promote education of women in Afghanistan and prenatal care in Somalia. 
For the teacher on my list, I found the “First Book” program that Happy_Birthday_Jesusdistributes books to poor children in the United States. 
For my nurse friend, there is Nurse-Family Partnership which sends nurses to work with first-time impoverished mothers here in the states—working to break the cycle of poverty and poor health.
Jesus said “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”  Matthew 25:40. 
As I pushed the “donate” buttons each time, I got a little glow that maybe I might be giving Him a birthday gift He can enjoy….I mean, what are we celebrating at Christmas, after all?
Why don’t you consider  sharing that warmth I got from these giving opportunities!  Love to you all, C

PS - In my early-morning-writing fog, I forgot to add Cindy's blog link.  Go there--amazing photographs and writing!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

C: Scout Gets Sick—For the First Time in Her Life

My faithful lDSCN1075ittle Sheltie, Scout, is  now twelve years old.  The past couple weeks, MIL and I have noticed her having an occasional cough and it seems to take her longer to get from MIL’s to my house each evening.
Scout is a near-perfect dog.  She is smart, attentive and willing.  MIL and I are central to both my dogs’ lives—their routine revolves around us, and we appreciate that.
Scout is hardy.  She has only been to the vet for well-checks her entire life.  We had a Sheltie, “Gus,” at the time we got her and had planned to have puppies, but she never conceived.  She has lived all her years(save the first eight weeks!) here with me in the country.  She is an outside dog in the day (unless she cons MIL into letting her in, which happens frequently) and spends her nights in with me (occasionally staying the night with MIL).
She is a peaceful soul who occasionally goes out on the back porch to visit Kitty Sasha with me—unlike Chili, who gets a predatory gleam in his eye when he sees Sasha through the window.
Yesterday I began to get really concerned.  She would not eat and seemed a bit listless.  I made a mental note to watch her and consider taking her to the vet.450
This morning, about 7:30, she plumb fell over.  Right there in the living room as I wrapped the last few gifts, she just plopped over and could not seem to get up for a minute.  I was still in pajamas and called Son.  By the time he got downstairs, she was up and moving around but when I told him what happened, Son scooped her up and took her to our local vet.
$200+ worth of lab work and prescriptions later, here’s what we found:  She’s lost weight and is anemic.  He does not know why.  The blood work shows no sign of heartworms or other parasites which could be making her ill.  The vet gave her a Vitamin B shot with a steroid.  We have a prescription for the anemia to give her daily until it is gone. 
She actually seems to have perked up this afternoon and ate some canned chicken.  Maybe she’s afraid we’ll take her back to the vet if she doesn’t!
M215IL and I will be off to the store to buy richer dog food and, who knows? We may come back with chicken livers or other iron-rich foods to tempt her into building her blood back up.
The couple hours that Son was gone with her were long for me.   The $200 was hard on the budget this time of year, but I was so glad to see that she got to come home, that I was glad to pay it. 
It is amazing how close we can get to our animals.   I know that Scout is getting older now.  I’m just not real prepared to let her go…will keep you posted.  C

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

C: A Heart of Mercy

cats in woods I just really have to let you in on the kind of heart V has.  Last October we had a wonderful gathering in honor of her grandson’s first birthday.  The party was held at a park under a pavilion near a river and surrounded by woods.  We had a wonderful, beautiful day.

As we ate, we noticed two young cats furtively watching us from the edge of the woods, occasionally inching closer and then disappearing back into the forest line.  (These pictures are not the cats of whom I speak, but I thought since I am on a cat theme, I’d use them anyway…)

V began to take food out toward them and before we left, we saw them eat.cats in woods 2

But those cats, clearly abandoned to their own devices, weighed on V’s heart.  Since that day, most days she drives miles out of her way to feed these cats, usually after a hard day’s work.  She goes out on weekends, too.  Cats have to eat then, too.

She worried about them when we were out of town.

As word has gotten out, five cats have been counted.  Last night she says they were waiting on her.

V cannot catch them because of their skittishness. Who can blame them?  Being dropped off and abandoned to possible starvation is no recommendation for trusting people.

The nights are getting colder now, really cold, and we know that they depend on every scrap they can get.  V has worried even more about them.  She has contacted a local organization about getting live traps and taking them in to a shelter.  The bad news is that these folks have no more room for catcats in woods 3s.  They will provide food but cannot take them in.

No room at the Inn.

V’s plan is to feed them through until Spring and and warm weather, capture them, beginning with the males, and have them neutered.  This organization will pay for the operations.  We will then have to release them back in the park, as neither of us can take them.  V has several cats of her own and I have a Chili dog who would love to get his mouth around their necks—just can’t seem to get that prey drive out of him.

At least the neutered cats won’t be able to add to the population.

And I just can’t help but scowl right now as I am writing this at the thought of heartless people who do the despicable and drop these animals off like this. 

But I did want to praise V’s heart of mercy.  C

Saturday, December 11, 2010

C: The Diminishing Returns of the Holidays

 christmasfireplace When we think of holidays, we think of bustle, I know.  In my own life this is largely because I just haven’t gotten things done ahead of time, like I always plan.  But Christmas holiday preparations have their quiet serenity, too.  This morning is one of those times.

The bustle this week was at my work.  This morning, as I wrap gifts, son is snoozing on the couch, after having coffee and conversation with his Mom.  The hard rain I awoke to has softened to a drizzle with occasional patter, and inside my home is warm, snug and comfy, although it is not cold enough here for a fire in the fireplace.  I am, I know, drinking too much coffee this morning, but it is so good as I linger in pajamas and as I Scotch tape beautiful paper around these gifts.

As I wrapped, I realized that for years my gift list grew and grew with each year.  My sister and my youngest sister-in-law were prolific in their progeny (each with 4!) as compared to the other siblings and sibling-in-law and each year for a while it seemed that the gift list grew with a new niece or nephew.

Now I believe the procreation of my generation of the family is over (or there will be mental breakdowns, I assure).  And both my father and father-in-law are gone.  My stepmother is no longer in our circle.  Some of our “near-family” gift recipients have died.  And, of course, my husbandchristmas list has his own Christmas circle now and is certainly a major strike off my purchase list.  So I find that, after all those years of steady growth, my gift-buying list is declining, rather than growing.

Turning point reached.

There are other changes.  Since MIL has graced me with nearness, youngest SIL and her brood are quickly becoming a part of our Christmas tradition.   This year will be the second in a row in that they will fill our home for Christmas.  In years past we have always spent Christmases apart from them, making do with mailing gifts and telephoned Christmas Day greetings.  Son and I are thrilled.

I chuckled at myself in thinking how quickly we have adapted them to our own Christmas tradition—after one year and looking forward to a second.  I find myself thinking things like:  “E always wants a ‘real’ tree…we’ll leave that artificial one in the attic and choose one when she’s here to help…”  What’s this “always wants” after one year with us?  I think it means her wishes have been absorbed into our traditions—voila

Orchristmas gifts thinking: “Second Nephew of the Bunch cannot have chocolate, remember.  Must be sure to have plenty of cookies he can eat and eat and eat…”  Feasting is a hallmark of holiday, you know.

These four kids (some no longer really “kids,” but will always be so to me, are an absolute delight and added such exuberance to our holiday last year.  We await the same this time.

So, yes, my Gift-Person list has grown shorter.  But the pile remains impressive. 

Don’t panic—I don’t spend that much on gifts, but I adore seeing my Christmas morning attendees have multiple gifts to open.  I find that a small gift, a few Dollars’ worth and brightly wrapped, is a delight on Christmas morning.  So the pile is high, if not costly.

So, I’m happily at the Christmas business this morning in relaxed mode.  Seeing the seasons of my life marked by the length of my Christmas buy-for list.  And seeing the diminishment of that list juxtaposed against the adaption of new traditions as a reminder that loss is often exchanged for another kind of blessing.

And I am, this morning anyway, feeling the sentiment of this clipart.  Hope you  are, too.xmas

Merry Christmas!  C

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

C: Butterflies in an Airport Coffee Shop

ponytail Appearances deceive sometimes.  Our minds can fill in what we want to see but isn’t there; our assumptions can lead us astray.

Sometimes this is merely interesting.  Sometimes it can lead to peril.

I was in an airport awaiting a flight to Florida some time ago.  Walking ahead of me was a woman in a brown leather jacket with a long, beautiful ponytail swishing attractively in high contrast to the dark leather.  I just could not help noticing and admiring these beautiful locks.  Imagine my surprise when she turned to expose an equally-impressive beard, a grizzled, worn face that I would never have put with that ponytail!  This was, in fact, a man!

It happened again, to a lesser degree, on the same trip.   I was deplaning in Houston to make my connection, standing in the aisle.  I was behind a young African American woman.  I “knew” this because she had attractive braids streaming down her back, a cute figure dressed in jeans, and a stylish purse to die for hung over her shoulder. 

Then she turned impatiently and said to me, “And I thought I was being smart getting right up from my seat…it seems we are going no where!”

Well, she wasn’t young.  She was maybe a little younger than me.  And her face told me life had not been a walk in the park.

I  had a layover and headed for some breakfast.  As I sat at my tablbutterfly greene for two, back against the wall, in she walked, looking around for a place to sit.  There were plenty of seats, but I thought “Why not?” and motioned her over.  She came.

We ordered our food and exchanged pleasantries, my tablemate bowing her head to say “thanks” when our food arrived.  Another lone woman sat down on my right, well-dressed and in her fifties.  It wasn’t long before another nearly-thirty-type woman took her place on my left.  We were all within easy spitting distance and each started out trying to respect the space of the others.

“Yolanda” and I continued our exploration of each other, and she was quite interesting.  She lived in California and was unemployed.  She made her small living selling her hand-crafted bags.  She had two daughbutterfly yellowters, twins who were recently out of high school and were working.  The talk turned to the men in her life, and it wasn’t good.

Her first husband, father of her children, had abandoned them all.  Child support had been sporadic over the years, and he was in and out of their lives.  Second husband had been more helpful for a while but this, too, turned sour with alcohol and other women.  She was now separated from him with no formal separation action and no help from him whatsoever except when he waltzed back in occasionally, apparently at will.  She knew that she should not allow this, but she had no money for a lawyer.  She felt powerless; he sometimes helped financially during his “visits” home.  Her mother had paid for this trip to visit family just to give her respite.

This revved me up, and I began to lecture, I’m afraid.  What I most wanted her to do was to encourage her daughters to get into school and prepare themselves for a different life than their mother now faced.  I wanted her to help them avoid a life of dependence on men.

We began to talk about the divorce situation in general, and my profession as a divorce attorney came out.  That’s when the facade of “not eavesdropping” by Ms. Fifty-Something on my right and Ms Not-Quite-Thirty fell like a ton of bricks.  The elder was first to make a move.

I’m sorry, but I’m afraid I overheard your conversation. Did you say that you are a divorce lawyer?”  She scooted her chair around to the side of our table.  She revealed she was from Florida, flying to close a deal onbutterfly blue their second home.

At that, Nearly-Thirty turned her chair toward us saying, “Can I join in?  My roommate is in a terrible situation…”  She was from D.C.

So, there we were, a cluster of butterflies in an airport coffee shop, from the four winds, in a huddle of grievances against men.  Sounds dreary,  doesn’t it?  Yes, I agree, but it is necessary.  A metamorphosis was required in all these lives we were discussing.

Ms. Florida’s concern was a friend, a woman who had been married 25 years and had two children still at home.  Husband was “in love” with another woman and was openly cavorting.  He was still officially living at home but was doling money out to wife, and she had no real idea about what they had or where it is located.  Wife had been a devoted stay-at-home Mom. 

Ms. Florida was afraid that this man can’t be trusted not to cheat his wife financially (duh!), but her friend was like a deer in the headlights; immobilized by fear.  She held hope that if she did not rock the boat he would return to the marriage.  Ms. Florida was afraid that he was only solidifying his financial advantage.

Ms. DC’s roommate was a co-worker, a little older than DC, who had moved in with her when she discovered her husband’s infidelity.  They had all three gone to church together, and he had been leader of DC’s small group at that church.  His betrayal had been a shock to all.  He had promised to straighten up but wife had found evidence to the contrary.  She had no butterfly monarch children and had wisely decided on a divorce on the theory that he can’t be trusted.  Smart Girl.

DC, however, was concerned about roomie.  She was depressed and emotionally exhausted.  She searched ad infinitum for ways she could have prevented his straying, shouldering blame.  DC said she felt it might be damaging her.

I began to quote statistics on divorce rate and about how many men commit adultery and the studies that show that even a wonderful wife and relationship can be victim to betrayal.  A wife taking blame for husband’s infidelity is something I have to fight with my clients about all the time.

The women were keenly interested, voicing that they had no idea how widespread this was.  Ms. F spoke up saying her friend needed to hear that statistically her straying husband was never likely to again put his wife and their children first.  He has gone into “me” mode, entirely, and is not likely to pull out of it.  Friend needed to spring into action before money slips away, if it isn’t already too late.

DC’s friend needs to know she must not blame herself for her husband’s moral failure. DC says that she, herself, had learned from this that she was going to be darned sure to be on firm ground herself and not rebutterflies bunchly on a “Mr. Right” to take care of her because statistics show that it is ill-advised.

And Yolanda, well, her situation was hard.  She has no money and, truthfully, neither does her no-good husband.  There is nothing to save or get from him.  I just want a new psyche for Yolanda, one of independence that will impart to her girls the urgent message that they need to grow  their own wings.

Because things (even marriages) aren’t always what they seem—they aren’t always what our rosy imaginations make them out to be.  It just may be that the ponytail is just a cover up for a grizzled life.  C.

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