Are My Dogs Having More Sex Than I Am?

No amount of natural family planning education could have prepared me for the conversations about sex that I have had with and about our dogs Cooper, a big, beautiful un-neutered 2 year-old yellow lab and Bella our 1 year old Chesapeake Bay Retriever, who started her first period five days ago. Even if we HAD been paying attention and not giggling during most of the six week long NFP course we enrolled ourselves in over 20 years ago when I decided to throw away the pill after the two oldest boys were born and be free spirited and open to whatever and whoever came our way. Grant willingly went along for the ride which resulted in four more kids. 

The instructor was LOVELY and very knowledgeable but everyone in the class was so dang serious, taking notes and nodding their heads. Meanwhile in the back of the class Grant and I were giggling and drawing pictures of penises and making gagging noises every time the instructor talked about the consistency of the deposits left on the woman’s undies when she was ripe for the picking. Who KNEW that was a thing? And though I will admit that by number five pregnancy I did say to myself a few times that perhaps we should have paid attention a bit more, David was my most mellow and happy baby, so I was rewarded more than I was harmed by my inattention. And we DID learn enough to only get six instead of twelve kids. So I’m happy we took the classes but also glad we were not super rigid on the “rules” or we’d not have had near as much fun during the chaos. Nor would we have these six amazing people in our lives.  The truth is I never felt like my people where all here until our youngest arrived fourteen years ago. And then I just knew that was that. And it was. Even though we continued with our free spirited approach. 

BUT I am really struggling with the dogs and the subject of sex and teenage dog pregnancy. 

Now mind you, I have had many conversations with my kids about sex. I think we’ve been relatively open about the subject without being over the top. It’s my and Grant’s job to try and steer them to live their best lives by making good choices for themselves and for others. My standard line is “Sex always complicates things, so you’d best be certain your relationship is strong before you go down that path.” That is really the only true advice I can offer my kids about sex, to be sure you are in a good relationship before complicating things. And I feel like my kids are going to do their best to be mindful about a very personal subject. 

But the dogs? I’m not completely certain they are listening to any advice I’m giving them.  

Now. Before you judge you need to know that we have ALWAYS spayed and neutered our pets in the past which I GUESS it’s the right thing to do. Though sometimes I wonder what the animals think about us controlling their lives so much. If someone forced ME to get spayed, how would I feel? I’d rebel of course. It would be Planet of the Apes all over again. Only super different. 

But with Cooper and Bella things kind of just snuck up on us. Cooper is technically our oldest son’s dog (which is a whole different story). But we all agreed that we would wait until he was full size before we discussed taking his balls from him because of the research we did about neutering dogs too soon. But now, here he is two years old, with GIANT balls that seem wrong to take. And the boy/men in the household, who love Cooper almost as much as I do, adamantly believe with deep, full body shudders, that he should keep his balls. 

When Bella came into our lives at about 12 weeks old, I was in this place where I felt like I could take on anything, including Chesador puppies. We had agreed to wait until after her first cycle to get her spayed (that full growth thing again) but I had that deep down longing to just let nature take over. My life has gone quite well with that approach (save for the whole bank account thing). Besides, why should it be the girl dog who has to be the one to go through the pain of getting spayed? Girl dogs are people too!  

I felt great about this idea until Bella got her period. And then holy hell. She is currently a moody messy pile of stinky insecurity. It didn’t help her self esteem a whole lot when we put her in these flowery Velcro dog panties with a hole for her tail. “CuteBone Dog Diapers”.  She doesn’t know this, but she is soon going to be the spokes-dog for these diapers. I submitted a 5 star review complete with pictures of her to Amazon Prime, so I’m sure we’ll be getting the six figure contract any day now. Or at least some free dog food.

Cooper and I have talked a lot about how sex complicates things and that Bella is much too young to be a mother and he just looks at me with those beautiful, serious brown eyes and wags his tail in agreement, so I mostly feel like everything will be fine. He’s a good dog, with morals and convictions. And he has professed his deep love for Bella so I feel certain he will wait until they are both sure it’s the right time. It’s clear how much he loves her. 

He also told me that he LOVES puppies and would be a stay at home dad if Bella wanted to be a working dog mom. Do you see how great he is? Just look at that innocent face (he is sitting on our dining room table in this picture): 

IMG_4617

But Bella? I’m pretty sure she’s a total slut. The boy dogs ALWAYS seem to get blamed, but seeing the way she is starting to act as she gets closer and closer to prime puppy making time I feel like the boy dogs might be getting an unfair tail shake. Consequently, when we leave the house, she is the one who gets locked in the bathroom for safe keeping. I know it’s terrible to talk about her this way. She’s normally so cute and funny and smart. But right now, she’s completely lost her mind. Here she is looking like a circus monkey, sulking about her diaper on the couch:

IMG_4525

Yesterday, when I was doing yoga in my daughter’s old room (now dubbed the yoga room) I forgot that no one else was home when I shut the door. The dogs always want to be on my matt and interfere with my awkward chubby girl stretching so it was habit to close them out. Five minutes later, a loud banging started up against the yoga room door and I pulled out of my downward facing dog pose super fast, hobbling to the door with a now tweaked back and yanked the door open only to find both dogs right outside the door looking very guilty. Bella’s diaper was pretty much in tact and  it turns out that they were fighting over a tennis ball but I still yelled at them, my chillaxed attitude about sex and mother nature and making good choices pretty much out the window: “YOU MAY NOT HAVE MORE SEX THAN I DO! THIS IS MY HOUSE TO HAVE SEX IN NOT YOURS.” I swear Cooper nodded his head in serious agreement, but Bella? She just smiled her stinker face dog smile and said “Why don’t you just close that door again woman and get back to your chubby yoga and we’ll just see about your silly human rules.” 

IMG_4479

Embracing All and Nothing

The other night I had a panic attack. I’m talking breathing into a paper bag, heart pounding in my eyes, dark thick fog, standing on the ledge panic. Luckily by the time it set in all the way I’d placed myself in a nice hot bath, which for me is the best place to have a panic attack. The soothing sound of running water masks the sound of spazzy hyperventilation and the heat soaks into my bones, making me sleepy and a little less internally combative. So no one in the house knew the marbles were temporarily running loose in my head. I’m trying to learn how to keep that shit to myself because the fewer people who get caught in the crossfire of my irrational panic the better. I generally pass through crazy town faster when there aren’t any hostages.

The reason for this particular panic attack?

I blame the damn vegetables.

Hear me out.

Every year for as long as I can remember, I have written a new year’s manifesto that includes at least 50 items I want to experience, achieve or learn about in order to BE A BETTER PERSON. And every year I mostly kill myself the first part of the year trying to check all those things off my list in order to be smarter, more successful, skinnier, richer, happier, funnier, prettier: BETTER.

The second part of the year I pretty much eat all the cookies.

Lists are my crack.

So this year, in attempt to get sober and healthy, I decided in late December that the only thing on my new year’s manifesto would be this:

“In 2018 I will be kinder to myself and to others.”

Nothing more. Nothing less.

Just kindness.

I have spoken the following words (or similar ones) to my people over the years:

“Beautiful, lovely, smart, funny, dear friend! Be kind to yourself! Do YOU. Embrace your perfect self AS YOU ARE right now in this moment and the next kind step will present itself to you without a drop of struggle.”

And I have meant and still believe these words with all my heart. My people are so perfect. If only they would just see that they don’t need to change or become better. They don’t need to make a list of rules to be their best selves if they just wrap their arms around themselves and BE.

But as my mother used to say “Do as I say, not as I do missy.”

(Insert hypocritical snort here.)

But THIS YEAR was going to be different.

And it was my total and complete intention to LEAVE my beautiful and perfect manifesto ALONE and try to let the ‘next kind step present itself’ without a crazy ass list and wrap my arms around myself and celebrate my AS IS self.

Then voila, along came my next kind step, a workshop (that I’d signed up for clear back in November) called “Balanced Goal Setting” that was offered by one of my friends. While my main purpose at the time I signed up was to support her growing business, I thought, knowing my history of manic goal setting, that the content in the workshop (namely the word BALANCE) would help me keep true to my 2018 Manifesto.

The day was wonderful. I immediately fell in love with the small group of talented, ambitious and openly honest women. The discussions were guided well by Rene’ to keep us all on task but there was a rawness to much of the discussion and I was able to confess to the group my all or nothing behavior and how my hope was to find some middle ground in my goal setting so that by mid year I wasn’t in fetal position from exhaustion eating all the cookies.

We did this fun activity where we were asked to draw our current state of reality and then our desired reality. There were no rules. Just coloring. Which is my jam. My talentless jam. Which is why it’s my jam: zero performance pressure.

I wanted to be truthful and committed to my simple goal to be kind to myself and others and gently acknowledge my current state: complete and total physical, mental and spiritual chaos with the inability to hone all the things coming at me in a balanced manner:

And here is the desired me with tidier hair, better physical flexibility, cute hippie jeans that fit, and all of my catholic chakras in balance, kindness overflowing.

I went through the motions of identifying a few key long term goals, examining my why, setting some time lines for action steps and ways to be accountable. I shared some of them with the group and feel like I received and gave good feedback. But deep down inside, I had the nagging knowledge that it was dangerous for me to be doing any kind of list making and kept glancing at my desired reality picture and breathing in deeply with the Bette Midler version of “Human Kindness” running through my mind. This was going to be me in 2018.

I left the workshop with some wonderful new friends and a sense of peace that I had taken some basic ideas that were relevant to my quest for human kindness and would NOT, I repeat NOT go over the top with this.

But an addict will do all kinds of things to get a fix. It started with a simple question “What are some things I could do to be kind?” My first response was:

“Eating more vegetables would be a kind thing to do for myself and it would leave less room for shit food.” (Note to self: swearing does not qualify as kind.)

But then: “How will I keep track of this vegetable consumption? How on earth can I remember to be held accountable for this act of self kindness? It’s not like I’m gonna REMEMBER to eat broccoli, no matter how kind it is..”

So I made a perfectly innocent little daily checklist that looked like this:

3 Greens ______ ______ _______

The size of a sticky note. Absolutely no big deal. Though as I type this I am thinking what a great sticky note marketing idea this would be:, 365 sticky notes that say: “Did You Eat your Veggies Today? It’s Kind”. _____ _____ _____

Don’t copy me. It would not be kind of you. It’s my idea.

But then I thought, another kind thing to do for myself would be to consume a little fruit. Balance is kind. Fruit tastes good. Especially after broccoli. A kind but healthy reward for putting miniature trees that taste like crap in my mouth.

3 Greens ______ ______ _______

2 Fruits _____ _____

And then maybe some Yoga. Every day I will do Yoga. It’s peaceful and will help my body feel better. That would be kind. 20 minutes minimum every morning. Of aggressive Yoga.

3 Greens ______ ______ _______

2 Fruits _____ _____

Yoga _____

But the piece of paper looked weird with so few words and so few things to check off. So I added a few more things for Feng Shui:

3 Greens ______ ______ _______

2 Fruits _____ _____

Yoga _____

Lots of water _____

Write for 30 minutes a day _____

Read for 30 minutes a day _____

List 10 gratitudes everyday _____

1 Handwritten note to someone _____

The list grew and grew and grew. I’m too embarrassed to expose all of it. But before I knew it I had THE MOST PERFECT DAILY KINDNESS CHECKLIST in the history of all time. ALL for the sake of kindness to myself and others. And it was only January 5th so it wasn’t too late because everyone knows the first week of January is just a “warm up to the resolutions” week.

I put the title “Balanced Day Checklist” on it and printed up 360 8-½” x 11” sheets and put them in this cute little clippy thing so I would have record of all these lovely things I needed to check off each day for kindness to self and others. So that I would be accountable for my kindness. 24 hours of highly efficient kindness. It felt reasonable and solid.

I showed a couple of my friends the “plan”. I casually told them “It’s not etched in stone, it’s just a sort of guideline. To keep me in tune with things. If I don’t get to it all, well, so be it.” They were polite and encouraging. “That’s so inspiring!” “Wow! Good job!” My daughter said “Gimme that I need to copy you.” One friend said: “Wow. That’s a New Year’s resolution on steroids. I’m just going to try not to shit my pants this year.”

Enter the night of the panic attack. I’d had a very busy couple of work weeks and pretty much shit my pants on the whole kindness thing. 14 of the 21 days with nothing checked off except “drink lots of water”. Which wasn’t really kind. I was just really thirsty.

The rules were in writing. And the boxes were not getting checked. My grade was a 30%. Worse than just an F. It was negative FFF. Fuck kindness. I can’t be kind when I’m FAILING to check all the boxes.

I got out of the tub, pulled myself together a bit and did what addicts are supposed to do: I contacted a sponsor. The friend who said my list was on steroids and basically nutto. I sent a text :

“That stupid daily balance sheet I put together: it’s too much. And I don’t know how to back away from myself.”

My friend’s response: “Simplify.”

Me: “The checklist WAS an attempt to simplify.”

Friend: “Oh I see the dilemma. Make it a weekly balance sheet and split it into 5 days with 2 days off.”

I mentally imploded at the logical idea of changing things up. I had already printed up the pages and there were 339 pages left to complete. I texted on and on trying to work things out, without any further response from my friend who knows better than to become a hostage on the crazy train. Then I had myself a small cry and went to bed.

The next morning I cut up the 339 pages into scratch paper (small tantrum) and then made a simplified weekly balance sheet with a few less spaces to check. But I only printed six pages because I wanted to be able to regroup without having another panic attack. I need to save those for more important things like bad hair cuts and pants that won’t zip.

See here’s the thing: if I am going to truly be kind to myself and wrap my arms around myself “as is” like I have told so many of my perfect people to do, then I need accept the truth that part of who I am includes extremism. I’m probably never going to stop setting over the top goals and making lists and then failing to accomplish everything on the list. This is part of both the fun and the agony of being me. And I think the kindest thing I can do this year is stop trying to fight the all or nothing me and embrace the all AND nothing. That pretty much covers every angle and level of kindness possible, which begs to become a perpetually changing list.

I have to go. It’s time to eat a serving of small bad tasting trees _____ _____ _____

Namaste perfect people.

When Things Get Hairy

The Sunday before my oldest son’s birthday we decide to meet him along with the rest of the kids after church at our favorite restaurant to celebrate. My husband asked me on the way to church, which I was attending for the first time in a very long while “You having the chicken fried steak?”

It’s what I always order when we go to this place for breakfast. It’s to die for: yummy goodness on a plate. I say “Hell no. That meal is ruined forever for me. Have you forgotten about that horrible day?” My stomach does a sickish little turn at the mere thought of chicken fried steak.

He looks at me with total amazement. “Are you kidding me? You’re letting one little incident ruin the best breakfast in Spokane?”

Now, if this were a flashback scene a survivor was having in a horror movie, you would hear the foreboding music that plays just before someone is about to be slashed with a machete by some creepy masked guy. The camera would first zoom in on a big, black hair that sat right on top of my gravy in perfect corkscrew form which made me feel CERTAIN it was a pubic hair. Then the camera would pan in on my face, horror in my glazed over eyes, lips thin and pale but stoically resolving to not scream. I wave my hand for the waitress who comes over quickly. “What can I get you love?”

“Could I have a double bloody Mary with extra olives?” I ask, trying to keep my eyes on her face and not look at the glaring abomination that has ruined my $14.95 breakfast.

“Sure thing honey!” and she trots off to get my drink.

My husband asks “Why didn’t you just tell her there is a hair on your food?”

“If I say something, then all they will do is take the plate back to the kitchen and take the hair off and maybe throw some more gravy on my plate, nuke it in the microwave and serve it right back to me. And that’s only if they feel BAD about the hair being there. If they think I’m a brat they will leave the hair and just cover it with gravy. And even if they did give me a new plate, I’d always wonder if they really had. No. The damage is done.”

“You have serious trust issues. Do you maybe need to see someone for this?”

“Look, I know that I probably eat plenty of other people’s hairs all the time without knowing it. But the emphasis for me is on the NOT KNOWING. Once I KNOW it’s just all over. See? So I understand that in reality this is not a big deal and if I were a mentally strong person I would pick the hair off and carry on with eating. But I am NOT strong in this category. No sense complaining about something that is my issue, unless of course the cook put that hair there on PURPOSE. But just thinking that would mean I am paranoid and just plain weird. So I am going to drink my breakfast and carry on. And YES I have guilt for wasting food. But that is a whole different issue.” The waitress brings me my new and improved breakfast and I raise it in a toast while my husband shrugs and digs into his food. He knows I am a lost cause.

Enter us, birthday breakfast day, into church. The prodigal daughter and her husband, the holy one who doesn’t let hairs get in the way of his enjoyment in life.

As I knelt down to try and pray, the hair incident stayed on my mind. Why did I so often let little things stop me from experiencing joy? I listened to the readings and then to the heartfelt homily from the priest who was new to our parish, or at least to me, the fallen one, and a swoosh of warm, delicious peace came over me. And as I returned to kneeling position in overwhelming, goose-bump awe after receiving communion, I realized I had I let my distaste for the previous priest, hold me back from witnessing a perfect place of Human/God connectivity.

Now keep in mind, I’m a convert to the Catholic faith and I have it in my mind that converts are looked upon by cradle Catholics in the same way people with new found riches are viewed by “old money” families: we simply don’t know how to use our riches properly and our ways of enjoying those riches are often frowned upon. But we newbies don’t really care. One example for me is that not going to Mass has never created a whole lot of guilt for me. I have always known, since I was a little girl that God wants us to WANT to hang out with Him, wherever we find ourselves. Going to church simply for fear of eternal damnation has always seemed counterproductive. Plus, no one wants to hang out with a friend who clearly would rather be somewhere else than with you. Right?

And this is the double edged loophole logic along with the excuse of disliking how another human spun HIS connectivity to God that I used to to stop attending mass for so long that I forgot how good it felt to go and got to a point that I no longer had the thirst to do so.

Funny the hell we can create for ourselves without any help from the devil. But grace is pretty bad ass and takes on all kinds of forms to open up our hearts. Sometimes in the shape of a yucky black hair on gravy.

Later at breakfast my husband raised one eyebrow when I ordered the chicken fried steak and a bloody mary with NO olives. On account of the fact that I was feeling pretty filled up.

Airplanes, Shit and Sloppy Love: A Reflection

I haven’t written a blog post in a long time due to a fantastic but slightly traumatic job change that has used much of my creative energy these last few months. But recently I traveled via airplane for work and while I am not exactly afraid to fly, I do have a rather detailed ritual that I am convinced has kept the plane I’m on from crashing. With each takeoff I visualize the face of each person I love, saying thank you, I’m sorry, and I love you to each of them. Then I have a double Jack and Coke (or Vodka Tonic if I have an after flight meeting and don’t want boozy breath) and wait for the landing part when I ask myself “If I died right now, am I good with shit?” The internal answers vary and always seem to help me zero in on what I’m doing right and where I have gone terribly WRONG.

On my return flight from LA after a day and half visit to a carpet mill, I was crammed up against the window by a very large man who clearly didn’t want to talk. He had his coat pulled up around him and only his eyes and nose peaked out. I don’t think he felt very good. The fact that he immediately (before we had even taken off) began passing gas that smelled like dog shit helped me deduce this. I’m sure he was a nice man but I pretty much had my face smashed up against the cold airplane window trying to find some kind of non-putrid air, so I didn’t try to engage, telling myself that if I had dog shit farts, I would NOT want people talking to me. Instead, I visualized all my people and made note of who I needed to give more attention to, ordered my stiff drink and kept my nose close to the blessed bourbon.

But the landing, which was a little turbulent, made me zero in pretty abruptly on the question “If I died, am I good with shit?” And I’m not referring to the shit smell coming from the guy sitting next to me. I was NOT good with that, though he eventually worked some things out in the bathroom.

Three things stood out:

First, that while I deeply missed the travel agent from my old company who KNEW to always put me in an aisle seat, because I am extremely claustrophobic and have a weak bladder, especially when drinking booze, my dramatic job change was the absolute right thing to do.

Second, the words “I’m not writing enough” rang loud and clear. Writing is air for me and when I’m NOT writing my soul doesn’t feel comfortable in the skin it’s currently living in. Thus this post, which will hopefully get the juices flowing enough for me to revisit the book I’m trying to write.

Third, and I’m not sure if it was Double Jack and his skinny pal Diet Coke making me feel chill or if I really meant it, but I answered my own question with the words “Other than the not writing thing, I feel like my shit’s together enough for me to go, if it’s meant to be.”

And these words made me totally panic, thinking that I may have just given permission for God to take the plane down along with its innocent passengers all because I was having a rare at peace moment. Luckily I am STILL not the center of the universe and it turned out that there were enough people on the plane who DIDN’T feel the same way I did for us to land safely.

In retrospect, God might have thought “Ummm. Girl. Your shit is SO not together and regardless of the fact that the guy sitting next to you pretty much begged me to take him when he was shitting his guts out in the tiny airplane bathroom, the fact that you say you’re ready to go tells me you’re NOT. Sorry. No plane crash on THIS day.”

Which is fantastic! The ritual worked AGAIN!

But that brief and rare moment of peace made me ponder this: how DO we settle our souls so that we can be comfortable enough to deeply believe at each moment “If it’s my time to go to a new and waaaay different place right now I’m good.”? For certain there will ALWAYS be unfinished business. I look at how I kept putting off resigning from my old job in order to take on a new and more challenging one, thinking “I just need to do this one more thing before I go. My customers need me for just a little while longer.” But activity always leads to more activity. Solving a problem always leads to a whole new set of problems. There is never a good time to go if we judge our lives with an infinite checklist of to do’s. I finally had to say “It’s time to just leap and let go and accept that someone else will have to finish that business because I have some place else to be now.”

This calm acceptance I felt on the plane is something I want to somehow capture in my everyday living. Of COURSE I like it here on earth making a bunch of awful messes while at the same time putting a whole lot of sloppy love on my people and I want to keep doing this for as long as God’s gonna let me. But having peace in the fact that someday I will leave this fantastic place even though I didn’t “get it all done or do it all the right way” makes the messes seem quite magical and the sloppy, imperfect love I put on my people feel so very perfect. And complete.

My Name is Heather and I am a _____ist

According to several websites, there are approximately twelve hundred words that end in ‘ist’. Though I’m pretty sure some of them are made up words which I’m totally down with. If you want to make yourself seem like a badass at something just put an “ist” on the end of whatever it is you think you are good at and you can instantly become recognized as a resident expert on the subject.

For instance if I said I was a cruciverbalist you would know there would be NO SENSE in trying to beat me at solving crossword puzzles. Though at first glance, I thought the word meant being super good at eating vegetables. And my vegetable eating is about par with my ability to do crossword puzzles which is pretty much zilch. But I bet you too have now learned a new word today. You’re welcome.

But I digress from a place I haven’t even GOTTEN to yet.

With all of these words ending in ‘ist”, of which FIFTY or so start with the letter ‘R’ my question is did any of you jump to the conclusion from my puzzly attention seeking title that you were going to read about me confessing to being a racist?

Really? What the fuck people? ALL those words to choose from and you assume it’s THAT?

You clearly don’t know me very well.

I forgive you though. I really do. Because racism (and other words that create dark division) is on many of our minds lately thanks to social media and news reporters suffocating us with stories about mean things we are doing to each other on a regular basis all over the damn world, except in Australia, where apparently nothing bad happens.

So it’s natural I suppose that some of you would make the assumption that I am admitting to being a racist. Especially since my last blog was about why it’s my fault there is war. I tend to be a little dramatic in taking on the world’s problems as my own. And the truth is, I have been stewing for MONTHS about whether or not I am capable of intelligently writing about the subject of racism. It’s a dark, heated and emotional subject and quite frankly has given me a terrible case of writer’s block.

TWO painful months of it.

I wish I could blame the muse for the block but he and I are getting along relatively well. The problem is that I have been unwilling to sit down and FACE this subject. I’ve been full of perfectly logical reasons to stay away from it: work, kids, sleep, painting a bunch of things in my house BLUE while listening to the comforting voice of the late, great Bob Ross tell me from the television “Yeah…just tell the paint what you want it to do…it’s easy really, juuuuust let it happen”, me saying back “Yeah Bob, blue is where it’s AT.” And the muse is unwilling to chase me down and make me sit still. He is difficult that way. Apparently it’s an unwritten rule that sitting still is my part in this writing “gig”. Some kind of damn free will thing. His job is to whisper “H. You’ve got this. Just settle yourself down and focus on what calls to your heart and TELL about it.” And I nod at his soothing words, start typing and pretty soon sentences turn into paragraphs.

But this topic, this mean spirited hateful thing that is happening all around us from all different directions: it’s painful and AWFUL to have calling to my heart because I simply can not make sense of it.

The writer’s block hurts just as badly though, maybe worse, so I am sitting still now, doing my part and  the muse is whispering to me: “Write it H. Make sense of it in YOUR way.”

So, with permission given to do it MY way, I’m going to take a little detour and talk about a phrase one of my friends recently sent me, suggesting I write about it:

“I’m an island of such great complexity.”  -Author Unknown

My first thought was “Hell NO I’m not going to write about a statement like that! Whoever wrote it is self absorbed and braggy about being all complex, which means that they are above being “figured out” by the average Joe and henceforth are hoity-toity. But the statement has been festering in my head (annoying) and when that happens, well it needs to be addressed or it won’t go the fuck AWAY.

AND really? Doesn’t this describe us all? Each one of us really IS an island containing blood, bones, water and organs wrapped up and contained and physically SEPARATED from each other by this thing called we call SKIN. Damn skin that we hide our unique souls and our beautiful minds behind because we so often let our egos run the island and egos do everything based on fear. They try to protect us from looking stupid or being hurt by other islands that don’t seem to care enough about us to transcend their skin and say “Hey! What’s goin’ on beautiful complex island sister? You sure look different than me and that feels scary and so while there is no way I’m EVER going to know everything that’s going on in that fantastic brain of yours, how about we figure out a few things we have in common and see if we can’t get a little CLOSER to each other because I’m lonely and kind of wondering how I stop this sad, lost feeling from blowing up inside me like volcanic lava.” Our egos tell us “Why should WE turn ourselves inside out for anyone? Why should WE try and see past someone else’s SKIN and find out what’s going on below the surface? No one does that for us!” And so we all keep our distance from each other and our complexity remains unexplored. It’s just so much easier to judge a book by it’s cover than dig deep into the story.  

So yeah. Islands. Which we can simplistically describe as little land masses surrounded by water until we zero in closer and see that each island, which has pulled up from a larger piece of land for one reason or another (maybe it was tired of being under water and wanted to see the sun) contains its own complex ecosystem defined by soooo many other things than just the color of the soil. And while each island is different and complex and thinks it is isolated, it is still connected in some way to the mainland, a.k.a. mother earth. It has just forgotten. See?

Think about that with me for a minute.

Now QUICK: what is the first thing that comes to mind when you read the word “race”?

I wish I could ask 10,000 people this question and see what the most common answer is. Was your first thought “skin” or a vision of someone’s skin color? Or did some of you think of a contest? Like a marathon or the Indy 500? Did ANYONE think of rushing water? If you did, you are either a linguist or a vampire. I vote the second option but only because it’s funner to think vampires are reading my blog than linguists, who can be kind of judgy.

Logic has never been my strong point.

But I’m going to try for a bit of that by taking a simplistic look at the etymology of the word RACE. The very first definition of “race” came about in the 12th century from a Scandinavian word “rasen” a verb meaning “to rush” which is akin to the Norse word from the 13th century “ras” a noun which means “a strong current of water or a rushing”. (Do you see now what perfect sense it makes for me to believe you could be a vampire? How else would you remember words from the 13th century? You look GREAT for being 600 years old!)  In the 14th century it came to mean “the act of running”. It wasn’t until about 1510 that the word came to mean a “contest of speed” and then LATER in the 16th century, about the year 1540, the word came also to mean “a people of common descent” from the Middle French/Italian word “razza”. The English sense of the word at this same time period was a way to classify things like wine flavors, occupations and generations. Then around 1774 the word became associated with the idea of dividing or grouping mankind based on physical characteristics.

And skin color, to this day, is one of the more obvious surface characteristics upon which our eyes help us define, group, sort and sometimes sadly DIVIDE ourselves. Which is the most asinine thing I can think of. A skin race. Determining the winner can be pretty fucking subjective.

The reality is that despite the fact that the actual word RACISM wasn’t recognized in the English language until sometime between 1933 and 1934, this has been mankind’s thinking since the beginning of recorded time. Just because we don’t have a word for it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

I don’t think that we can pin this divisional thinking on any one specific person, unless you want to take the easy way out and go all the way back to the story of Adam and Eve. And heck if I know or care what color THEIR skin was. I bet they didn’t care either. They had a lot more important things to worry about than who had the best tan. Like that nasty meddling serpent who brought to their attention not that which made them joyful and peaceful and connected to life in this yummy symbiotic way but who instead LIED to them and told them that KNOWLEDGE was being kept from them and they were therefore inferior to God. And in this awareness they became separated from their maker, from the universe, from each other. Isolated, on a complex island.

Without the very knowledge that they had all along until they believed that they didn’t.

Does being aware of the differences between us make us racist? Does this disconnect that came about with Adam and Eve’s ‘awareness’ of being different from their maker, that same disconnect that comes about on a daily basis in each of our lives that causes us to strive to find meaning and balance and our PLACE in this universe by doing what we humans naturally do: define, sort, label and seek order so that we have some kind of comparison and the illusion of control as to WHO WE ARE and how our island connects to the earth, how our souls connect to our God, does this create division instead of unity, isolation instead of wholeness? But viewing racism as a journey toward wholeness seems kind of absurd.

“Absurdists” also focus mostly on the differences between us all but simply chock it up to the fact that the universe is irrational and meaningless and that the search for order and understanding just brings more conflict. Racists place superiority and scorn upon the differences whereas absurdists just throw their hands up in surrender to the chaos. There is no salvation in THAT thinking.

“Salvationists” (otherwise known as evangelists) while meaning well, often have a rather narrowly defined path for which to reconnect to our origin, calling all other roads taken to be fatal.

Yet “fatalists” believe all things and events are inevitable and without ANY option to change things. They say that we are powerless to do anything other than what we actually do. That things are out of our control. But there is NO WAY that our existence can’t be altered by the choices we make when we set ourselves out to discover how we are all connected.

 My name is Heather and I am a connectivist.

“Connectivists” believe that life is a precious and amazing treasure hunt where we explore how we are all woven together into this fluid, infinite mosaic by glorious, loving, technicolor thread.

What if we all let go of our fear and tell our egos to rest a little? They must be so tired from thinking they needed to protect us from the knowledge we forgot we had about our eternal connectivity. We just thought we were all separate. It gets confusing when the colors are all so bright.

FullSizeRender (2)

 

 

 

Why It’s My Fault There is War

This Saturday morning I was up at 4:30 am thinking about WAR.

It’s because of something I saw on the news the night before.

Now, those who know me, know that I don’t watch the news. Or read the news. Or listen to the news.  I decided several years ago that it was affecting my happiness too much with all the devastating events that were happening in the world and I pretty much just stopped trying to understand or care what’s going on globally, nationally, even locally.

It’s a perfectly logical and healthy reaction: if you can’t understand or change something that is hurting you, IGNORE it and pretend it doesn’t exist.

FullSizeRender

 

And it’s worked quite well for me for the last ten or so years. Because despite the fact that I have a four year degree in Political Science, where I took a WHOLE BUNCH OF CLASSES on world happenings, past and present, I let all of that knowledge slide out of my brain like a slow but steady leak until there was zero, zilch, zippo left…because I chose to not continuously apply what I learned in the here and now. It’s like not practicing a second language or a musical instrument. Use it or lose it. I opted to lose it. And I have been mostly okay with that.  

I wanted to be a writer not a politician.

But last night my husband made me watch ‘THE NEWS’. He said it was about time I paid attention to some shit that was a little deeper and more important than watching a Facebook post of a cat eating a piece of corn on the cob for a longer period of time than would deem interesting for anyone with any kind of an IQ greater than that of a squirrel. Which is what I was doing when he switched the television to ‘THE NEWS’.

My head jerked up away from my phone. “NOOOOOOO!” I said. “Turn it to something else! It burns my ears and eyes!”

Murder, Murder, Rape, Wall Street Corruption, Murder, Child Molestation, Bank Robbery, Rape, Embezzlement, Murder, Unemployment, Murder, Murder, Murder, Poverty, Airplane Crashes, Murder, Murder Murder, Suicides, Bombings, Suicide Bombings,  WAR WAR WAR. Trump, Hillary,  BLAH, BLAH, BLAH.

Despite him trying to force me to watch, I literally was able to just block it all out like the stubborn brat that I am and make all the reporters voices sound like the adults from Charlie Brown cartoons. “WA, WA, WA WA WA WA , WAWA.”

But then something actually sparked my attention, completely against my will. There was this beautiful young woman, a local here in Spokane, Washington, named Tiffany Smiley,  who spoke about the idea of spending fifteen minutes during this memorial day weekend thinking or doing something to honor our veterans, past and present.  Her husband had been blinded in combat and two of their friends killed. She just wanted them and others to be remembered and honored for serving their country. My eyes and heart opened for the first time in a long while, when it came to thinking about anything beyond my immediate H World and I thought to myself “I could do that. I could pause for a simple fifteen minutes and really think about what Memorial Day is about.”

Here is the link to the newscast:

http://www.krem.com/news/local/spokane-county/spokane-couple-reinforces-meaning-of-memorial-day/218227927

I went to bed with this idea of ‘fifteen minutes’ in my heart and I woke up with it in my head. My morning journaling, which is normally filled with narcissistic vomit just flowed with thoughts about my country, its veterans, the subject of honor and how to honor, the different kinds of war, the reasons for war, all the people globally who have died as a result of war since the beginning of man’s existence. But then those thoughts started to HURT my heart, God they HURT. And I found myself wondering ‘has there ever been peace?’ and I COULD NOT ANSWER THIS QUESTION and my brain pretty much just spiraled out of control and exploded with the realization that my own HEART is a PERPETUAL WAR ZONE and that I AM AS MUCH TO BLAME for war as anyone in this world with my ignorance and my self centered attitude and the fact that I can pretty much pick a fight with a gnat. And God knows lesser things than fights with gnats have started wars.

So, immediately after my journaling, and six cups of coffee and four hours of manic internet research on the history of the the world, all the while thinking “MY GOD how did I MISS all of this in college? Was I drunk the whole time??” I announced to my husband: “I’m going to write a blog post about WAR and why it’s all my fault.”

I wish you could have seen the look on his face. He looked absolutely and completely appalled and I know it took everything in him to very calmly say (in a tone one would use to speak to a psychiatric patient who’s been off her meds for too long) “Well, you might want to be careful with that. It’s a very sensitive subject and considering it’s Memorial Day Weekend, you’re possibly going to piss some people off.”

What I heard him say was: “You are a fucking idiot who has not watched the news in over ten years so you don’t know shit about anything and have no right to write about war you moron wife of mine. I have deep, deep regrets that I distracted you from the corn on the cob cat. I’m not sure what I was thinking there.”

And thems is fighting words even if they aren’t what the real words were.  So I indignantly gathered up all of my college textbooks from the basement including my favorite one that I never read called “Europe Since Napoleon” and stacked those books up on my desk like a BOSS along with “The Essential Rumi” (for balance) and proceeded, while writing this post, to get in a fight with my husband. He just didn’t know it until I told him a couple hours later. Which is exactly what my point is. Sort of.

Think on this idea with me:

According to Conway W. Henderson, a writer about international law and relations, “one source claims that 14,500 wars have taken place between 3500 BC and the late 20th century, costing 3.5 billion lives, leaving only three hundred years of peace.”

Here is a website that lists chronologically the most renowned wars if you want to get upset, I mean educated, with me:

http://www.datesandevents.org/events-timelines/24-timeline-of-war.htm

This doesn’t include all the undocumented battles that occur everyday on a local, individual and molecular level. Like my little battle with my husband that he didn’t know about until I told him. But that’s documented now: 14,501.

And obviously those three hundred years of “peace” did not happen consecutively because there would be a book about it somewhere detailing 300 years of happy sighs and joyful singing and a whole bunch of ‘who begat who’ lists. And the reality is that while begetting is quite enjoyable (wink wink)  it would be a pretty boring read without any smoting in there somewhere, which is WHY (in my fruitlessly educated opinion) there have not been very long periods of peace. Someone is always smoting someone for begetting someone they shouldn’t have. It’s a vicious cycle of begetting and smoting.

Plus! Not only can we not agree on how to achieve world peace (I just read a summary of nine different peace theories that could possibly work for for the MAJORITY of us if everyone would just agree on one, which we can’t because a majority in peace means a minority is pissed and ready to rumble and that’s not World Peace), we can’t actually define what peace actually IS because it’s a subjective word and the reality is that sometimes one person’s peace comes at the expense of another’s. (Just ask one of my six children at any given moment.) So even when we might be in a brief period of not killing each other, we are still at least scowling at each other over the fence because of at least one of the three major causes of war: economics, power and religion. (The H World Cause of War Theory of begetting the wrong person and then getting smoted for it fits nicely in all three of these causes if you zero in the lens).

The reality is that war IS as much my fault as anyone’s. NO you dirty minded, wretched people, I haven’t been begotten by someone who should not have been begetting me (at least in recent times). BUT I AM a prickly bitch much of the time and my heart always seems to be fighting about something. I get mad and bitter when I am broke. I get angry and defensive when I think I have been made to feel small and powerless. And I have slammed the door on evangelists who don’t speak my spiritual language when I could have at least offered them a drink of water. We ALL need a drink of water every now and then.

So on this Memorial Day my hope is to ponder what it means to have peace in my own heart. Or at LEAST a temporary ceasefire when my family comes together for ribs and cornbread. This is the one thing I CAN do to honor the brave people who have made the ultimate sacrifice, for MY country YES, most absolutely and assuredly, but also those who died on “the other side” whose loved ones mourn equally. Death is brutal, painful and certain for all of us, even when there is NOT war. And while I can only try and fix my own heart in this broken world, you’ve all read the famous Albert Einstein quote:

“I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.”

the reality is we (and I) will probably always be at war in some way shape or form. It’s what we do. We, most of us, are lost and angry and scared people who lash out. And I speak for myself ONLY when I say that burying my head in the sand is not going to stop it. Nor is fighting with mostly innocent gnats and husbands.

But I can from this moment on keep my

eyes wide open,

heart as well

for with knowledge and love

there’s a story to tell

I just made that up. But it sounds rather poetic and hopeful.

#MemorialDay15

I’m Not Their Real Mother

The three youngers (not to be confused with the three olders who were each at their various jobs-so-they-can-afford-to-buy-me-stuff-some-day) paraded into my room this morning carrying their Mother’s Day tribute: a rose, a carnation, a bag of Reese’s peanut butter cups and a Mother’s Day poem written by Mitchel, the youngest of the youngers, about what a great mom I am and why. I informed them that I loved it ALL and immediately popped a peanut butter cup into my mouth and sent Mitchel to get some food coloring to put in the water to see if we could turn the greenish white carnation a different color for an experiment. When he returned with purple food coloring that was already all over his fingers before he’d even started to put drops in the water, I told him I especially liked the part in the poem that said R is for “Really good at handling all 6 kids”. I  said I would keep it forever. Because while I’m disappointed in the fact that M is for “Magical No! Best Mom, Yess!!!!” (Clearly he doesn’t realize I have magical powers: how else would one handle all six kids?) he made up for it with the second line O is for “Other moms are good, but not as good as you”.

FullSizeRender (12)

 

Hello! Winning!  Sorry all you other moms. There can only be ONE “best mom”. GOOD is just going to have to do for the rest of you!

I thought about sharing the Reese’s but then quickly thought again and tucked the rest of the bag away in my underwear drawer where it would be safe from thievery. I’m just not a sharer especially when it comes to my favorite candy.

Mitchel wanted to know if I saved everything they gave me. “Even the flowers?”

Remembering what happened when I tried to save a dead grasshopper Duncan once gave me in the same container as his preschool art work, I said “No, I learned the hard way years ago to stop saving anything that used to be alive. I don’t want all those great letters and pictures you guys made to get mold on them; it’s important to keep them in tact for when your real mom comes back.”

All three of the boys snickered a little bit at that and then each gave me a hug and scampered off to do various youngers activities, tribute over and done with. Which is fine. Tribute makes me feel slightly uncomfortable and extremely guilty. Their real mother, the one I invented when I was young, energetic and optimistic, left years ago. I’m just the stand-in who’s doing an adequate (at best) job of mothering. Selfish peanut butter cup hoarding is just one very small example of many. I could fill a book my good people. So though I joke about being the best mom ever, I am fully aware that there is just no sense pretending that I’m even trying for a GOOD rating.

I is who I is.

Kids, if you’re reading this, I’m sorry but I don’t think your real mom is coming home anytime soon. I’ve TRIED to find her but her last known number has been disconnected and I don’t have the cash for a private detective. She clearly doesn’t want to be found anyway so why waste any more effort? It’s probably time to face the fact that you are stuck with me as the stand in. So let’s save the tribute for Father’s Day where it has been earned and is deserved.

You olders probably remember your real mom and all of her fantastic mommying: all those healthy breakfasts, clean clothes, notes in your lunch boxes, lipstick kisses on the day-care window, homemade clever Halloween costumes etc. I could go on and on but quite frankly doing so would probably make us all a little bit bummed out. Her sole purpose in life was to make your lives rich and fun and full of love so that you all would go out into the world as good, kind, nurtured people who would spread love and peace into the world. You know: that ‘make good ripples’ line?  Please don’t tell the younger ones too much about their real mom.. They are just going to feel ripped off. Plus it creates so much pressure for me to try and fill her shoes. My feet are way too big for those cute little sandals she used to wear because they, along with the rest of my body have grown quite wide over the years. Practical footwear is where I am at now.

Along with practical mothering. Which involves as little effort as possible on my end.

So, That being said, here are some ideas for Mother’s Day cards that my kids SHOULD give me:

*****

Front of Card

Mom: Well mom, you tried.

Inside

You did TRY, right?

*****

Front of Card

Mom: At least you’re not as weird as grandma

Inside

Mostly.

*****

Front of Card

Mom: thanks for making me do all that stuff by myself, you know, like cleaning my room, doing my own laundry, getting out the band-aids all on my own for my bloody skinned knees so that I wouldn’t get blood all over the carpet and get killed by you.

Inside

Lazy meanie.

*****

Front of Card

Mom: A is for Affort

Inside

Too bad you didn’t help me study for my spelling when I was young. I could have ben someone.

*****

Front of Card

Mom: I’m sure you’ll finish STRONG!

Inside

Hopefully you won’t die before it’s too late.

*****

Front of Card

Mom: remember all those times you were there for me?

Inside

No wait, that was dad.

*****

Ha ha!!! I suppose that may be a little harsh. I’m not THAT bad of a mother. And quite frankly my kids are turning out really fantastic despite the fact that I have not lived up to my own ridiculous and over the top expectations of what a “good mom” is. So who’s to say that if their real mom had stayed longer that she would have any more right than me to take credit for how awesome they are.