Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Pet Peeves

I have a bad habit of laughing at things that some people might not find so funny.  Or maybe more like, I laugh at stuff that most people DO find funny but have the good sense not to laugh about openly because it’s inappropriate.  Yeah, that’s more like it.   Consider this opening statement to be your warning.

I come from a family of savages.  We’re not what you'd call animal lovers.  This isn’t to say that we hate them, or that we’d ever be cruel or abusive to them (consider THAT your disclaimer).  We’re just not “those” kinds of people.  The kind that buy Halloween costumes for dogs, share a warm cup of milk with a cat, or hang Christmas stockings for pet goldfish.   You get the idea, right?  Good. 

When it comes to animals, of course we think they’re cute and furry and cuddly.  The biggest difference between “those” people and us is that we don’t get very attached to our animals.   For me, at this point in my life, I'm not interested in having anything else around that eats or poops.  Add in crotch-sniffing and feet-licking and I REALLY lose interest.  All of this could have something to do with the fact that, for many years, my dad was in the business of racing and training greyhound dogs.  I just think that pets are nice for other people.  I enjoy visiting other people's pets, until they start the sniffing and licking business (the pets, not the people).

IMPORTANT NOTE:  If you’re one of those pet lovers and hearing of animal suffering of any kind is going to make you vomit or pass out or hate me, then you really should stop reading here.   Back to my story…

So our dad raced and trained greyhound dogs.  He was never abusive to them, as far as I can remember.  They were always well cared for; clean, fed, let outside several times a day, yadda yadda yadda.  Here’s the rub:  At some point, as with all animals, their health would deteriorate.  They’d become ill, sometimes with illness that was not treatable and could potentially spread through the kennel to other animals.  So, dad did what any compassionate dog owner would do in that situation.  He took them out to the desert, shot them in the head, and buried them.  You think that’s horrible, don’t you?  Just wait.  There’s more.

We lived out in the country on several acres of land.  Dad built a make-shift track on which to train the dogs for their real races.  And everyone knows that if you want the dog to chase the little lure around the track, the best way to make that happen is to use live bait.   He’d buy a crate of five or six little bunnies.  Happy, furry, cute, soft, BREATHING little bunnies.  When it was time for them to do what they were born to do (die in the name of racing and excessive gambling), he’d take one out of its cozy little crate, whack its head against the side of a steel bar to knock it out, and hang it on the lure to eventually be devoured by a very ambitious—and hungry—greyhound.

Hey, don’t even start with me.  I TOLD you to quit reading way back there.

So knowing what I’ve told you thus far (I’m stopping there for fear of legal ramifications), is it any wonder my siblings and I don’t let ourselves bond with animals?  It’s an emotional defense mechanism.  With all of the canine killing and bunny bludgeoning that went on around us, it’s incredible to me that at least one of us didn’t end up a serial killer. 

I got to thinking about my attitude towards animals recently when a friend of mine, we’ll call her Liz (because that’s her name) had a rather traumatic experience involving two of her pets.  And yes, I laughed about it.   It seems that on Christmas morning, she and her children awoke to find that their cat had made a holiday meal out of their pet bird.  Did I mention I laughed about this?  I couldn’t help it.  I apologized to her for laughing, but then proceeded to make more jokes about it.  Defense mechanism, remember?   In the process of having her pain mocked by me, she opened up about other pet-related catastrophes in her lifetime, which made me laugh even harder.  I’m going to hell, I know it.  In case you’re someone like me who laughs at things you shouldn’t, I’ll share her experiences for the sheer entertainment value. 

There was the time she opened (or closed, I can’t remember, but it’s not important here) her garage door, only to discover she had hung her cat in the process.  You’re right, it’s not funny.  But yes it is.  Then there was the time that her cute little birdie was chasing a relative down the hall and the relative—out of fear for his/her own safety—ran into a bedroom and slammed the door.  Can you guess what happened?   Turns out birds don’t make very good door stops.

All of this is so amusing to me because I thought I had the worst luck with pets.  But I think Liz may carry more of a curse than I do.  Or, we may be neck and neck.  Take, for example, the time my grandma, much to my mother’s dismay, gave me a cute little baby chick for a pet.  I was around age five at the time, I think.  That stupid chicken would run all over the house.  I had no idea at the time how much that just annoyed the snot out of my mother.  One time, as it ran through the kitchen and mom was at the sink doing dishes, she took a step back and, CRUNCH, injured chick.  I was not very happy with mom about this.  I think mom was just plain not very happy that the injuries were only superficial.  But don’t judge her.  I can’t say for sure.   I was insistent that, as part of her penance for so carelessly stepping on my feathered BFF, she do round-the-clock nursing and let the thing sleep in her bed.  Being the good mom that she was and is, she agreed to this arrangement.  The bird was dead by morning.   When you’re a heavy sleeper and you roll over on a chicken in the night, you tend not to notice.   

Is it wrong that I’m snickering as I write this? 

Wanna hear about my cute little yellow lab puppy who died the first night I had him because he drank his tick bath water?  Probably not.  Or maybe my cat, Edwin who liked to crawl up in the car engine to keep warm on cold mornings?  I didn’t think so.

That’s enough storytelling for today.  Even I’m getting depressed.

Monday, December 14, 2009

A Christmas Message for the Frazzled

It’s Christmas time and I’m officially losing it. Anytime anyone brings up how busy they are, how much they have to do, how much money they don’t have and are going to spend anyway...well…I burst into tears. I can relate. I feel the hurt. I want the ride to stop and let me off. But I know it’s not going to stop. It’s going to keep going…and going…faster and faster…until it eventually becomes my own personal holiday tilt-a-whirl, complete with dizziness and nausea.

Women are the worst about this stuff. We smile through the pain of baking and frosting and Christmas program hopping and shopping till our feet--and our bank accounts--are on fire. All the while we’re stressing and panicking and budgeting. We do it all in an effort to simply “get through the holidays.” This phrase has become an overused and sad commentary on the Christmas season. I want that phrase to be banned, and I’m starting with me.

I don’t want to just “get through” the holidays. I want to enjoy them. I want to cherish them. I want to fa-la-la-la-LOVE them. Many of you have known me for a long time. You know how I’ve always felt about Christmas. Some of you were there the year I turned sixteen and my wonderful friends surprised me with a Christmas party for my birthday, complete with carols, a guy dressed as Santa, and a fully decorated tree. My birthday is in October. Get it? I. LOVE. CHRISTMAS. Or at least I used to, once upon a time. I’m trying to rekindle the yuletide flame.

In an effort to try to help my kids get over the notion that Christmas is all about how many presents are under the tree for them, I’m forcing them to take turns each day, as a sort of “25 Days of Christmas” activity, naming something they’re thankful for. That brings us to the purpose of this letter. What I need is to stop for a moment, for my own sanity and therapy, and think about the many, many blessings that are around me every single minute of every single day. Maybe this will help no one but me. If that’s the case, then so be it. But my hope is that it will rub off just a little. I know you’re stressed, too. I can’t possibly be the only one who is tired of Christmas flying past her every year like the obnoxious mom making a beeline for the cash register after having snatched the last Tickle-Me-Elmo off the shelf.

One of the many stressors for me this year was my silly Christmas card poem. If you’ve gotten a card from me in the past, you know I’ve been writing one every year for a while now. Not to toot my own horn or anything, but gee, I know some of you like it and look forward to it because you tell me so. But it’s one time-consuming piece of literature to compose, let me tell you! So in lieu of the annual poem, and in the spirit of the 25 days of Christmas that I’m imposing upon my own children, I’m sharing with you my list of 25 things I’m thankful for this year. They’re listed here. I have to say it was hard to limit it to 25. I have an awful lot to be happy about.

What about you? What are the blessings that are around you every day that perhaps you fail to notice this time of year because you’re so busy wrapping and ordering and cooking and hyperventilating?

I hope the season finds everyone healthy and happy and grateful for the everyday gifts. Merry Christmas!

25 Things I’m thankful for, in no particular order

1. four kids who are with me every day (no sarcasm there)

2. healthy kids

3. healthy me

4. the privilege of working with some of the finest people you'd ever want to meet

5. neighbors who shovel my driveway and put my trash out on trash day and change the high light bulbs and hang my Christmas lights and, and, and…I could go on and on.

6. new tires in winter—the ones I cried about in the fall when I had to spend waaay too much money on them

7. the world's kindest landlords. they mow my lawn, for crying out loud!

8. technology, baby! cell phones, texting, the www...I'm slightly addicted.

9. the wonder of orthodontics

10. the cutest little Charlie Brown Christmas tree we’ve ever had

11. snowball fights with my kids

12. the local supermarket's genius idea to have a guy sitting right inside the entrance playing one Christmas song after another on a crappy electronic keyboard. I love that guy! I start singing as soon as I walk in the door.

13. a marvelous 2009

14. a hair stylist who gives the perfect haircut…and is literally one minute from my house

15. a safe place to leave my little boys every day while I have to go to work even though I’d rather be home with them

16. a really comfy couch

17. a flip-of-the-switch fireplace

18. central air

19. the most incredible mountains just outside my door

20. a mom who raised me right and still doesn’t let me get away with much

21. sisters who live close by who make me laugh and who look out for me

22. three amazing brothers (ok, two are "in-laws", but not really) whom my kids adore and whom I love dearly

23. best friends who changed me by loving me in the way I needed to be loved, whether I appreciated it or not. I treasure you like no others.

24. my vast collection of Christmas socks

25. the knowledge that I have a Savior, Jesus Christ, and that because of Him, I get to keep all of the important stuff on this list forever and ever.