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Thursday, August 30, 2012

Politics and Discovering True Growth From Exploring Your Truth

My hubby and I are the butt of jokes amongst our friends. We passionately debate politics in ways that assume whomever wins the debate will change policy forever. When we first went out with friends and would start in with our normal banter, they would retract from the conversation with a "whoa, they really don't like each other" or "did we just befriend two people on the brink of divorce" look. But that's just who we are. Every night when we watch the news, we whisper commentary under our breaths at one another. Opposites in our beliefs on almost every topic.

But I wouldn't have it any other way. Because what I've discovered through our polarity is the reason and depth behind the beliefs I hold so close to my heart. My husband's views have required me to examine why I proclaim certain things as truth and why I hold the priorities I do. In defending my "agenda" vehemently to the one I hold dear, I've better understood what defines me. He doesn't dismiss  my ideologies as falling along "party lines" or "religious beliefs." His love for me presumes a thoughtful authenticity. And I've come to understand that his questions to me, just as my questions to him, are with the desire to truly understand the other's point of view. Not to excavate ammunition.

As a result, we've both grown intellectually, ideologically, and spiritually. Honestly discussing important topics from dichotomous points of view forces a re-evaluation. I've learned that it's a wonderful thing to be elastic in thought rather than immovably concrete. What seemed offensive twenty years ago is now open to consideration.

In supporting my honey the last couple of days by watching the Republican National Convention and its speakers, I've tried to do so with an open mind. Because I've realized (in the infinite wisdom of my 40-something age--LOL) that considering opposing views opens the mind to expansion and not redefinition. Although we all bring our uniqueness to the table, we're--in the bottom of our hearts, minds, and souls--fundamentally the same. So I hope. I pray.

With the events this week and next, let's not allow labels, finger-pointing, and predispositions to continue to divide us. For our wonderful country to thrive, we need to find a meeting place where what matters to the masses is more important than what matters to a few. This country was founded on democracy. One person. One vote. And our leaders should come together to offer solutions. Not sit on opposite sides and shoot spit balls at each other.

Monday, August 13, 2012

The Closing Ceremonies of the Olympics and The Beauty of Its Spectacle

As I watched the closing ceremonies of the Olympics, it amazed me to see a choir sing as drumsticks struck smaller versions of the London Eye and the Tower Bridge. When the Olympics began centuries ago, they were a test of the finest athletes. Although our culture has evolved and our technology has inspired a spectacle of lights, the heart of the games remains unchanged. In the age of Twitter and the internet, results were known before the events aired. But that didn't matter. The spirit of the games remained pure. And it was a joy to watch.

These athletes are the best of the best. They've dedicated their lives to represent their countries by excelling in whatever sport has called them. Sixteen-year-old children who've known nothing but pursuing their goals. Thirty-somethings who've been declared beyond their prime fighting for one last medal. They've awakened before dawn their entire lives in the pursuit of one goal. To be deemed the best. To stand on a podium, hear their national anthem, and have a medal placed around their neck.

Last night's closing ceremonies were a stark contrast to the hard work and sweat these athletes have endured. Men paraded across the stage in yellow suits, hung from harnesses, and wore party hats to participate in a spectacle. Beefeaters carried tubas. The silliness belied the hard work the men and women who participated in the games put into the last four years. Into their lives. Why did the closing ceremonies have to be such pomp and circumstance? It seemed so disconnected from the actual games. Then I realized why. If I were a gymnast who'd sacrificed my childhood. My life. Hamburgers and chocolate. If I were a Kenyan runner who came across the world to race for one minute and forty seconds. If I were from South Africa and made history as the first double-amputee Olympian, who ran 400 meters in just over 46 seconds, I would want a spectacle. An over-the-top party. I would want princes and pop stars and acrobats celebrating my life-long work. My accomplishment of simply being present at the Olympics, much less setting world records. I would want exactly what last night was.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Ten Things I've Learned From My Dogs

A couple of weeks ago, I posted some things I'd learned recently from a two-year-old. In thinking of what I'd learned from unexpected places, I realized I'd also discovered a few life lessons from my dogs:

#1: The moment you meet someone you know whether they're a good person or not.

Dogs have an incredible spidey-sense about people. A few months ago, when we had our deck stained, a rather rough-looking guy stepped onto our deck. Our three dogs barked incessantly behind the glass doors until I let them out. They ran to the guy like he was the dog whisperer. No more barking. Just lots of licks and tail wagging. I knew he was a good guy.

#2:  Snuggling evinces the deepest form of trust.

Our 14-year-old dog, Taylor, was a rescue who has had trust issues her entire life. Even though she's in heart failure, she races across the yard like a puppy when a stranger dares step onto our property. But at night, she finally relaxes and allows herself to sleep tucked in next to me and Jamie. Our most recent adoption, Ellie, lived on the streets for a while and is in constant alert mode. It's taken some time, but she now trusts us. When I drape a blanket across my lap, she jumps up and curls her crazy long legs into a tiny ball and completely surrenders.

#3: Allow yourself to nap during the day if you're tired.

I love curling up on the couch on a Sunday afternoon with one dog curled up in my arms and another in the crook of my legs. It's a yummy sleep, and gets me rejuvenated for the week to come.

#4:  Respect the alpha of your pack.

No matter how many dogs you have, there is only one alpha. The alpha commands respect but her role is actually to make the best decisions for the pack. We moms are the alphas of our families. In fulfilling our role of protector and decision-maker, we can't tolerate disrespect. Nothing shatters a family faster than disrespect between spouses or between children and parents. Although it usually arises from annoyance or impatience, the recipient feels it viscerally as hatred.

#5:  You need that person that will clean up your pee and poop with a simple utter under their breath and no true anger.

Having little dogs with little systems sometimes leads to little "accidents." Having two elderly dogs who became incontinent added a new level to my patience. When I watch my dad care for my mom, who's in the end stages of dementia, his love and care humbles me.

#6:   Lie in the sun at least once a day because nothing feels as good or will make you smell like Fritos. 

I love lying on the beach. Next to a pool. Or just out on the deck. There's something inexplicable about having the sun's warmth on your face. The comforting heat causes us to pause.

#7:  Stick your head out of the window of a car while you're riding down the road. It makes you feel alive, allows you to appreciate the speed, and gives you a glimpse of every relevant smell along the way.

We often focus on the destination when the journey is just as good.

#8:  Celebrate when the person you love comes home.

One of the many wonderful things about having a dog is the pure, unadulterated joy they show when you walk in the door. Even if you've only been gone for thirty minutes. If only we showed our loved ones such joy simply because they're present.

#9:  Bark when someone threatens those you love because even if it's just the UPS guy, you never know.

Becoming a parent has released the Kraken that is the mama bear inside me. Whether it's a school bully, a cranky teacher, a screaming coach, or my own family members, my normally docile disposition vanishes in the shadow of my protectiveness of my children.

#10:  Chase your tail when it smacks you unexpectedly because it's obviously unruly or just seeking an outlet. 

Our terrier, Ellie, has unbelievable energy. Sometimes when she's wound up and her tail is wagging, it accidentally hits her. And she attacks it for a split-second before she feels the pinch of her own teeth and realizes... In our hectic lives, our responsibilities sometimes overcome us. The proverbial "tail wagging the dog." Stop it.