Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Lizards, caterpillars and the occassional dead bird

I have had lots of pets, dogs for the most part, with a small sprinkling of fish, who I managed to keep alive just long enough to remember I am not good at keeping them alive.  As my dad told me when looking at the brand new tiny shark swimming in my 5 year old son's aquarium, "When they stop moving, they die." Yep, they sure do.

Even as a child, I never had cats or guinea pigs, birds or lizards.  Unless you count the horned toad my brother bought back from a camping trip in the desert when he was 10.  Once my mother found out he planned on catching live flies to feed it, it was promptly released into the garden where it scurried under the fence to the neighbor's yard.  Lizards can move pretty quickly with the right motivation. Just after that I decided that the fuzzy caterpillars that were abundant on our orange tree would be the perfect pets for me.  I captured 4 of them and put them in an open shoe box (so they could breathe) with some dirt and a few twigs under my bed.  Imagine my surprise when the next morning I brought them a lettuce leaf only to find them missing.  You will probably understand why I decided not to ask my mom to help me find them.

About a week after caterpillar-gate, my best friend and I found a dead crow in the front yard.  Here was a pet that couldn't run away or die! We played with the bird all day, which mostly involved us taking turns carrying it around, propping it up so it could watch as we played hopscotch and skipped rope.  When it came time to go in for supper, we had a lively debate about which of us would get to keep it overnight.  I was crushed when my mom, after me having won the right, wouldn't let me in the house with it.  She may have even screamed a little.  I offered to keep it outside but for some reason she thought it belonged in the garbage can.

It was just after that, that we got our first dog, a mutt named Mitsy, followed by a miniature dachshund and then a toy poodle, who my mom named Mimi.  I had voted for Tinkerbell but was outvoted. My brother voted we get a real dog, like a German Shepherd or a bulldog. He was outvoted as well.

I have had a procession of dogs since that time, including one I bought as a surprise for my boyfriend after learning that his dog had died while he was in junior high (the boyfriend, not the dog). His dad was adamant about not having that dog in the house right up until the next afternoon when it took a nap on his chest on the couch. He and that dog he didn't want were inseparable from that point on. I once accidentally acquired a Sheltie outside a pet shop when a girl asked me if I wanted to hold it.  I cuddled it close, showing its cute little face to my then husband, turned around to hand it back and saw the girl running across the parking lot. I adored that dog and named it Gypsy because it seemed somehow an appropriate name.

Since that time I have rescued dogs from shelters, bought them from breeders and had one gifted to me by my boss.  From Lightfoot the mutt to Cricket the Springer Spaniel, from Nashville who grew to enormous size to Mollie from the shelter, I have loved them all. Whether I chose them for myself or they were chosen for me by circumstances, I have lived most of my life loving and (hopefully) being loved by a dog. As Charles M Schulz once wrote, "Happiness is a warm puppy". He was a very wise man.
Colton and Grover

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

A piece of my mind

Words are powerful...we all know this.  And yet, knowing this, we still manage to inflict such terrible wounds on each other.  I have long thought that some people just don't have that filter, the one that reminds them to bite their tongue, and instead they just spew out whatever they are thinking without much reflection on how that might affect the person being spewed upon. No doubt there are countless others who go to the extreme opposite, keeping feelings and thoughts bottled up within them, allowing them to fester. Surely there must be a middle ground.

Long ago I mastered the art of giving whomever I was furious with a huge piece of my mind.  I would spill out all of the things about them that truly bugged me, really lambasting them with the cutting edge of my tongue.  But always, always, always somewhere they could never hear me.  I cannot even recall how many times while my children were teenagers that I got into my car, alone, and drove around town, ripping them up one side and down the other.  Sometimes in the middle of the rant I would think of something better to say and start all over again.  I was eloquent in my verbosity. Only after I had finished with my last "and another thing" would I return home, calm, relaxed and ready to deal with whatever had driven me into the car.

That lesson in dealing with teenagers has been invaluable thru the years, especially since I now work from home. Because I am not even in the same state as my boss, I am completely free to call her an idiot...I just have to make sure the phone call has been terminated! It is not unusual for me to keep a running narrative while I read work related emails...something I could not do if I worked in an office setting. A friend told me that when she gets ridiculous, silly or outright insulting emails, she finds it therapeutic to write a scathing response and then delete.  That's great, but what if you accidentally hit send?  Then what do you do? With an entire state between me and clients, I am pretty sure I can't be heard, plus there is something very satisfying about actually speaking the words out loud.

I was in Target this past weekend, just wandering around, looking at things I don't really need but like to look at, when I passed a mother berating her son for reaching for a toy when she had apparently told him several times they were not buying a toy.  She loudly told him that she was sick and tired of repeating again and again that he can't have a toy. I had three thoughts.  First, I cannot hear the words "sick and tired" without thinking of Bill Cosby in his comedy chat about him growing up.  His mother had started a phrase "I am sick..." and he finished it with "...and tired!"  It didn't go well for him.  Then I thought, what are you doing in the toy section if your goal is not to buy a toy?  Yes, I am aware that I am being judgmental here, no doubt there are many reasons for them to be there that don't involve a purchase. But I am not in favor of yelling at kids, especially not in stores, and if she is just browsing, window shopping as it were, she needs to do that when her little boy isn't with her.  You want to raise a child who hates spending time with you?  Yell at him in a store for reacting as a normal kid.  My last thought was, wow, this lady really needs to drive around the block a few times and judging by my reaction to her, so did I. 

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Snow, Rain, Slush and Snow Days

I love snow, I really do.  But this past week was brutal.  Here in Missoula we typically get several hard snow falls spread out over a couple of months. We are used to this...we are prepared for this...we even look forward to this.  But this past week we got a huge amount of snow combined with extremely cold temperatures and swirling winds that lasted nearly a week.  Snow plows could not keep up with the snowfall, barely managing to clear the main streets.  People who lived on side streets, which is most of the people who live here, were stuck in their houses for days. One of my friends skied to the market! I live in an apartment just off a main street. Our parking lot was not plowed but the street in front of us was. I watched as cars struggled to find purchase on the slippery surface and more than one car got stuck at the exit spinning its wheels until some strapping young college students pushed it out onto the street.  We are fortunate to count as residents some drivers of huge pickup trucks with enormous tires.  Once they had mowed over the snow drifts it was enough to let the rest of us mere mortals in SUVs and compacts also escape. They didn't send anyone to clear our sidewalks until long after the storm was over, which made walking my small dog a real challenge.  At 35 lbs I can't just heft him up under my arm as my neighbor did with her pug, but had to plow thru the 3 ft deep accumulation, clearing a place for him to walk. It was snowing so heavily that by the time he was ready for another walk, the trails I had plowed had been filled in by the swirling winds and new snowfall.  I was bundled up in so many clothes to fight the -25 degree weather, that I had visions of myself falling over onto my back and not being able to roll over, kind of like that little kid in A Christmas Story.

Then came the rain...freezing rain that turned all of that lovely snow into ice covered mounds and what sidewalk was cleared into slick, treacherous pathways. When that happens, I have to make a decision about footwear.  Do I go with the regular snow boots that will keep my feet and ankles nice and dry or switch to my lower hiking boots to which I have attached my spikes.  I won't slip in those spikes, but boy, will my ankles get soaked!

Finally came the sun, which was lovely to see but disastrous to deal with. It melted the parking lot into slush, which then refroze into deep trenches of ice/mud/water.  What a mess! Definitely spike wearing time.

It was such a bad storm that they cancelled schools on Friday and again on Monday. When we moved here from Southern California in 1988, my kids were excited to be in a place where they would surely have snow days and lots of them.  But no! Not once in the entire time they were in school here did they ever have a single one. We had lots of bad snow storms, tons of snowfall, but it was never enough to call off school. Twenty some odd years later my daughter is still a little bitter about that.

I have never been so thankful that I work from home as I was this past week. It was nice not to have to be anywhere other than my living room.  Nicer still not to have to be on the roads, adding to the traffic problems. 

But even bundled up so that I can barely move my arms, hat pulled down to my eyebrows, scarf up over my nose, ice spikes strapped to my shoes, I still love living here and can't imagine living anywhere else. Although I do feel bad for the rest of the city.  When I moved here in 1988, Montana had the worst winter in 30 years.  This is my first winter back here in a couple of years...oops!