Archives for Relationships

Animal Mentors

Turtle Lives Matter….a LOT

Being a turtle mommy, for me at least, has been like winning free tickets to the "learning curve rollercoaster" - that really fast, scary one I never wanted to ride in the first place. If you've been following Malti's adventures on her blog, you probably remember that she recently went missing for 6 days. Those were pretty much the 6 longest days of our life together to date. In our personal network, no one seemed surprised that I would ditch work, socializing and pretty much everything else for 6 consecutive days to search for my baby turtle. (This, of course, is because our flock has the coolest network ever.) But outside our network, and sometimes outside (literally) as I was searching, I would get "those looks." Like, "Why are you on your belly on the ground looking under my car with a flashlight?" Well, um, "My baby turtle is lost and I'm searching for her." Oooohkaaaay. "Your baby - what?" "Turtle." "Well, uh, good luck with that...." Yup. 
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Inspirational

A Definition for Faith

For those of you who have been following my progress for this year's intention, "The Year of Having Faith," you are no doubt aware there have been many starts and stops, aha moments and setbacks thus far. Recently, nearly halfway through this faith-focused year, I came across a definition for faith that I actually resonate with. In a sea of definitions that read like textbook-based memorization lessons (i.e., "having complete confidence in someone or something" and "strong belief in God or in the doctrines of a religion") it was a real relief to stumble across a definition that felt - human. Authentic. Compassionate. Inclusive of both questions and answers. This definition, discovered in an older yoga lesson I recently re-read, stated: Faith is believing the unseen is as real as the seen. 
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Celebrity Mentors

Seeing Our Body with Eyes of Love

I follow Don Miguel Ruiz, Sr., on Instagram. I say that because recently he re-posted the opening lines of from a chapter in his book called "The Mastery of Love" on his Instagram. Now, I have read this book many times.....oh so many times. I credit "The Mastery of Love" with the many oopses I have avoided making in my own relationships. It is truly a miracle worker in print. This particular chapter, titled "Seeing with Eyes of Love," read: If you look at your body, you will find billions of living beings who depend on you. Every cell in your body is a living being that depends on you. You are responsible for all of those beings. For all of those living beings that are your cells, you are God. You can provide what they need; you can love all those living beings, or you can be so mean to them. I read it. Then I read it again. Then I read it again. Something in me was reading in a new way, at a new level, at a depth where suddenly I GOT IT. I can almost say I felt each one of those billions of cells, those living beings relying on me with such trust and devotion, hoping each day that this will be a day when I am loving and not mean. These cells, with their humility, their willingness to follow, somehow are also serving as my mentors, ever so hopeful that I will learn to see with the eyes of love today, if not yesterday, or if not today, perhaps tomorrow. Their hope was - is - so palpable. 
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Animal Mentors

Confronting the Cruelty Within

As I mentioned in my last post, I recently finished reading a book by David Grimm called "Citizen Canine: Our Evolving Relationship with Cats and Dogs." The book gave me a lot to think about on a lot of different levels. And while I expected to feel upset, especially while reading (or skimming, or sometimes skipping over) stories about the cruel things people have done to animals that is now prompting a push to give cats and dogs expanded "human" rights, I didn't expect it to become personal. As in, I don't think of myself as a cruel person. I have pets - my parrot, Pearl, and my tortoise, Malti - plus a puppy named Flash Gordon to whom I am a proud auntie. I have never deliberately harmed any creature...or at least I thought I hadn't until I read "Citizen Canine." The more I encountered stories of cruel animal abusers, the more everything inside of me began to revolt. To rage. I started questioning everything I thought I believed about how we are all connected....somehow....even though I couldn't begin to explain where my beliefs come from or how all that alleged connectedness might actually work. But I mean, how could I - gentle soul that I consider myself to be - have anything in common with those so-called humans who commit such horrific crimes against the non-human beings we share this planet with? How can those people - the cruel animal harmers - even be considered "human?" And if they are in fact human, then what species am I? I mean, I honestly think I have more in common with the garden rocks in our backyard than with those kinds of people. So I continued to ruminate as I continued to read. I continued to ponder, to worry and rage. This went on for days. And then one day, a small band of black sugar ants snuck under the sill of my kitchen window and onto the counter. 
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Animal Mentors

When Pets Become People

I just recently finished reading a book by David Grimm called "Citizen Canine: Our Evolving Relationship with Cats and Dogs." I won't lie. I was expecting something a little....lighter. At nearly 300 pages and with a 2014 publication date, the book took me on a journey from our earliest interactions with companion animals all the way up to today. Along the way we hit a few (many) rough patches. This was especially true in the chapters addressing animal research, animal rescue during disasters, animals and religion and working animals. In the chapters detailing how dogs and cats' legal rights have moved increasingly closer to our own rights (what the author calls "personhood"), I found myself wishing the book included parrots and tortoises (and all other animals, of course). In the chapters reviewing all the horrific stuff we've subjected our canine and feline counterparts to, I found myself wishing to change my own species affiliation. People can be pretty awful sometimes. There is also an ongoing book-wide parallel drawn between how slaves became full citizens and the trajectory dogs and cats appear to be on now. This (at least as I read it) is not to downplay the significance of the end of slavery, but to signify how, when we change our mindset about the worth of any being, positive changes in the quality of life of that being tend to quickly follow. For instance, after quite a lengthy battle, pets can now legally inherit money left to them in people's wills.  But canines working for the military are still classified as "equipment" themselves, and there are groups actively fighting to change that even as I type right now. Perhaps the most gripping part of the book is near the end, however, when one Rutgers university professor named Gary Francione makes an unorthodox suggestion - to do away with "pets," period. When I first read that, everything in me revolted.
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Mentoring

Are You a “Giving Tree?”

Once upon a time, I made a new friend. Over time, we became very close. When we first met, she mentored me. As we got to know each other better, we mentored each other. Then things shifted and I began supporting her through some of the toughest times a human being can endure. During those years, she gifted me with a book by Shel Silverstein called "The Giving Tree." This book talked about a relationship between a boy and a tree. The tree loved the boy, and the boy loved the tree back. But whereas the tree's love was unconditionally giving, the boy's love was focused on getting. At first, this was so innocent - after all, the boy was little. He needed a lot from the tree, and the tree gave it all willingly. But as the boy grew up, he continued to take. The tree continued to give. At last, the boy had grown old himself. He had taken so much from the tree that only a stump remained. Then the tree gave him even this. The book ends with these words, "And the tree was happy." 
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Inspirational

Faith is Faith

So it is now early into month 5 of "The Year of Having Faith." This morning I had a startling revelation. I was contemplating one of my all-time favorite films, "Contact." In the film, Jodie Foster's character, a brilliant agnostic scientist, challenges Matthew McConaughey's character, a brilliant author and man of faith, to prove God exists. He asks her, "Your father - did you love him? She replies, "Yes - very much!" He says, "Prove it."
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Emotions

I Hate You (You Hurt Me)

I learn a lot from Facebook. I mean, not from Facebook itself, but from the awesome folks I meet there. Recently, a sweet friend tagged me in a post featuring 17 slides. Each slide addressed an area of life where people commonly struggle. I scrolled through, and the slide that first caught my eye said this: Anger is a natural defense against pain. So when someone says "I hate you" it really means "you hurt me." This statement hit home like, well, (insert compelling sports metaphor featuring fastball + pro athlete here). And (just for clarification's sake) I don't mean to imply on any level that "I hate you" doesn't also mean "I hate you." But under that feeling of anger, rage or hate, more and more these days I am personally finding pain. Hurt. OUCH. To further complicate matters, I'm learning that sometimes, when I say "I hate you" to someone else, I really am talking to myself. Sometimes I am talking to both of us. Sometimes I am addressing the circumstances rather than any particular person, or I'm stomping my inner 2-year-old's frustrated little foot, because, after all, life isn't fair! Saying (or shouting, or even thinking) "I hate you" is sometimes the fastest, easiest, and most effective means of getting the e-motion OUT. So the hate-feeling often comes first. But then the pain hits. Then the grief process begins to unfold, with its denial, anger, bargaining, sadness and (if I'm lucky) whatever I needed to learn that can lead to an eventual acceptance and the ability to move along. Why is this realization so impactful for me? I would have to say it is because I used to hear myself thinking or speaking the words "I hate you" and I would immediately stop whatever I was feeling/thinking/doing to jump on myself with judgment and condemnation. 
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Inspirational

When We Surprise Ourselves

I'm not sure exactly when I began to believe I didn't have any surprises left in store for myself. After all, I still learn new things about other people and my pets each and every day. But at some point I guess I just stopped paying attention to myself in that way...like there wasn't going to be anything new left to learn about me. That ended last month. It has taken me a bit of time to wrap my mind around what I recently discovered about myself, but it has been time well spent. By that I mean, I've needed the in-between processing time to finish a big task I set for myself - constructing my growing baby tortoise's new habitat. My red-foot tortoise, Malti, is one and a half years old and nearly 4 inches long. She is growing fast, and her habitat must grow with her. This is more challenging than just buying a bigger enclosure for several reasons: 
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Good News

How to Get to Know the Real YOU

I have spent years searching for the "real me." Every so often I would catch this fleeting glimpse of someone - a free, funny, warm, spontaneous, creative, loving, laughter-filled being - as she moved through me. I would try to follow her, but she was very quick....so quick she often seemed to be formed out of sheer wishful thinking or my (always) overactive imagination. But I kept searching for her anyway. I kept searching because she was irresistible. She was marvelous. On the days she would spontaneously flit through me, the effect was not unlike finding out the FBI had just caught the real suspect and the handcuffs could finally come off. The jail cell door was opened and I could go home now. I was free. 
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