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Saturday, January 28, 2012

It's not easy being a green germaphobe

   As I stumble through my life accidentally on purpose, I can't help but notice some of the opposing forces that influence me. No wonder I spend so much of my time being confused. For starters I have a strange fascination with chickens; I just love them. I don't know why. Maybe it's their little feathered bodies or the adorable noises they make. Maybe it's the way they are so small, but they strut about like they own the place. At the same time, I feed my dog a natural raw diet with chicken as a primary food source (with other things to balance it appropriately, of course). My need to feed my predator a species appropriate diet is constantly at war with my love for chickens. In fact, I am an animal lover to my core, but I don't think I could live long-term as a vegetarian. I am so conflicted.

   The easier solution (and one that would placate me and assuage some of my guilt) would be to become an organic localvore. I would be exceptionally happy and at peace to know that the meat in my diet was well-cared for and respected (my dog eats free-range chicken parts from a local farm), and that everything was hormone and chemical-free. I could call my nutrition-minded friend Maureen (It's All Connected) and ask her to help me put together something healthy. That is the goal. When I can afford it, that is. Until then the dog eats better than I do and I live with the guilt. But this is only the 'diet' stuff.

   See, I'm kind of a germaphobe. I had to learn that I don't need to bleach everything all the time, and I did so because of the toxicity of bleach. It was even effecting my breathing. It was hard, but I learned. I have worked very hard to be mindful of the toxicity of cleaning products, and the amount of water and  paper products I use, even though my most base instincts tell me to wash everything in poison to kill germs and wipe them down with paper towels to not spread germs and to do that a LOT. I control my impulses by reminding myself that I had a healthy upbringing with my hands covered in dirt from gardening. I loved that feeling. And I've always lived with and around animals, which for some reason just don't register with me as 'dirty'. Sure I've brushed caked mud off horses more times that I can count and I've mucked a stall or two (million) but I never felt repulsed, even when my dog licks himself THERE (okay, maybe that's a little repulsive). But now I live in an apartment building that feels to me a little like living in a big petri dish. Every time I take the dog out I remind myself constantly not to touch my face until I get back to my apartment and wash my hands. I can only imagine how many people have touched the door handles, the elevator buttons, etc. I know, I have a problem.

   So I wash my hands a lot, and then wipe them on a clean towel set aside just for that purpose. It's a learning curve. I have hand sanitizer (by the gallon), but I try to use it sparingly. Some germs are good, right? And what do we do to our immune systems if we don't give them a little somethin' somethin' to work on once in awhile? I always question my admittedly compulsive mind-set, and then I'll see somebody's child (petri dishes on LEGS) sneezing openly on the button-panel in the elevator, or running around the hallways emitting open-mouthed coughs into the air wherever they go. It makes me want to walk around with a can of Lysol, but I don't. I gave up Lysol. I thought it might take a 12 step program, but it didn't. Barely.

   I think more than anything, in order to stave off my germaphobic tendencies, I need to be living my life; not just one that allows me to survive but one that's a reflection of my values and interests. That would mean NOT living in an apartment building, but being surrounded by healthy, dirty things like gardens and horses, and possibly chickens. I'm working on it; I'm working on it REALLY hard. Until then I'll do the best I can to balance the needs of the Earth with my compulsions:-)

Friday, January 27, 2012

Dogs in Service

The awesome Murphy
   I said I wasn't going to write much about disability, and I won't. I DO however, feel like I need to address some issues around service dogs. I usually like to put a humorous spin on things; to make light (if possible) of the things that irritate the hell out of me, but some things aren't funny. Even better, I am trying, ever so hard, not to get 'hooked' by the things I find especially provocative. I prefer to act on my surroundings and circumstances, not to have them act upon me. I think most of the time I am fairly successful if I have a moment or two to mull something over before I need to react. Sometimes though...not so much. When it comes to outright ignorance around service dogs by people who should know better, I quickly lose my patience. Fortunately, I have this awesome outlet where I can simultaneously vent my impotent outrage AND set the record straight.

    I can completely understand why the average person is clueless about service dog rules and etiquette. Why wouldn't they be? Even so, I have found in most of my dealings with the public that people are usually quite polite and understanding. I have rarely had access challenges, even while traveling by air (love you JetBlue!) and I am very appreciative of that.  I have been very fortunate that when I have encountered someone who wasn't clear about what the rules/laws are, they have been very willing to be educated. I think that's great. Even so, I know of many folks who's experiences have been much more confrontational because a 'gatekeeper' didn't have a clue and was rude, belligerent and unwilling to avail themselves of all the readily available information about service dog laws. THAT, to me, is unacceptable. I also have a very difficult time when the media gets it wrong. Come ON! The correct information is so clear and so easy to find (ADA Service Animal Info) There is really no excuse.

    To summarize I will clarify some of the most common erroneous beliefs that set my teeth on edge:

1) Therapy dogs are service dogs.

NO, they are not. Service dogs and therapy dogs are NOT THE SAME THING. Never have been, never will be. The laws governing the two are completely different. Every time I hear somebody call their therapy dog a service dog (or worse, a 'working service dog'), I want to scream. When I hear the media use the terms interchangeably, I want to throw something at my TV. NOT the same. Not even close. And while we are on the subject, psych-dogs are also NOT therapy dogs. They are SERVICE dogs with all of the specialized training associated with that title.

2)A 'real' service dog is licensed and/or certified.

Wrong. There is NO certification or licensing process for service dogs. None. In fact, it is not legal to ask for proof of either, or to deny access because the handler doesn't have them. There are plenty of companies that offer these things over the internet, but it's something you buy, not something you earn. Some program dogs come with certificates, but not always. It is recommended that a dog earn it's CGC (or similar) before it progresses to Service Dog in Training status, but it's a guideline, not a requirement. Also, identification and vests are at the discretion of the handler and lack thereof is also not grounds for denying access. My personal feeling here though (and this is my PERSONAL OPINION), is that I will always 'dress' my dog, just out of consideration to the public and gatekeepers. I think it's weird enough to see dogs in unusual places that I make it as easy on people as possible. In turn, I rarely get challenged. It's all good.

3) A 'real' service dog is trained by a special organization

 Not necessarily. A handler absolutely can train their own dog. In fact, many service dogs working today have been trained by their own handlers, often with the guidance of a trainer. Consequently, I know more than a few disabled handlers that are also exceptional trainers.

4) "But how do you know if it's fake? Shouldn't we limit who can work with a service dog?"

I've heard that more times than I can count. NO, you do not take the dishonest behavior of some people out on the disabled public. That's stupid. Who needs a dog is determinable by an individual and their doctor. Period. The ADA agrees. The best indicator of a "fake"? Their behavior. A pet rarely has the skills to be calm and attentive in places like bus stations, restaurants and airports. Imagine just taking your pet to the grocery store. Could they do it? Service dogs are trained to handle it and do it every day, and it shows. An establishment is well within their rights to ask that a disruptive or dangerous animal be removed, even if that dog is a legit service dog, so there is recourse.

    Okay, well that's my little rant for today, inspired by a ridiculously bad news report that a friend posted on Facebook (because it was so bad). The news station pulled the story because of the heat they got, so I had to resort to writing my own story instead of lambasting them directly. Oh well. The media has no excuse for being that ignorant and sharing that ignorance with the public. NONE.

Murphy's collar is by Paco Collars. They are AWESOME!!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Age of Asparagus

    .....And only an Aquarius would be 'off'' enough to sing it that way. While grocery shopping alone. In public. And I wonder why my daughter doesn't like to go anywhere with me? The poor dog doesn't have any choice. And the sun IS in Aquarius; it is officially my birthday month. When I turned the tragic age of thirty some ten-ish years ago or so, I couldn't even imagine ever looking forward to another birthday again. I threw myself to my bed in a dramatic fashion, called my boyfriend at the time bawling incoherently (sorry Tommy!) about how I've 'amounted to NOTHING...whaaa!!!!' and basicly went all 'drama queen'. I handled forty with dignity and aplomb. Thank God.

    I don't mind birthdays anymore. I actually kind of like them. It's like a whole day, all about me; my own personal holiday. The older I get, the more important that little 'holiday' becomes and I'm blessed with a family that indulges the fantasy. My sister usually takes me out for dinner. The food and the company are always the best and we have a great time (no matter who's 'personal holiday' it is, this is true!). My birthday is a couple of weeks away yet, but as I get closer to fulfilling a monumental personal goal, I remember last year's birthday and how everything was just an idea; an encouraging possibility. Will my book get published in the next couple of weeks? Well, no. But in less than a year I've gone from the rough beginning of a story to a finished manuscript. All that's left to do is for Debbie to help me sound smart with her brilliant editing skills, for my daughter to finish the awesomely-spooky cover art and for me to grow some and submit it.

   I've come to the understanding that I'm probably never going to write some epic masterpiece that gets discussed in classrooms long after I'm gone. In fact, my first little book is a true story of a harrowing haunting experience that I was personally involved in. I like it, and I think other people will too. For me, that is more than enough. The most important part in the whole process for me was taking it on and finishing it. I often get discouraged with things that don't show some immediate result, and I DID get discouraged with this too. The difference here is I kept going. I took a break when I needed it, but I didn't give up on it. Now I'm at the fun part, and I am SO excited! I know now what I can do and it's given me the confidence to keep on doing something I love dearly.

   So even on these discouraging and dark winter mornings, when it takes everything I have to get out of bed; these days when I don't even open my gritty little sleep-puffy eyes until AFTER I've walked the dog and chugged a pot of coffee, I still have this. As long as I have a mind (okay, who am I trying to kid now, eh?) or some approximation thereof, I will have this. Sometimes; more often than not, it's more than enough.

Friday, January 20, 2012

The Plight of Snoopy

   I was recently pulled into a drama (well, not really, just emotionally. Same thing, right?) by my Mom. She sent me an article about a little Pit named Snoopy who had recently found himself in heaps of trouble. His story takes place in Volusia County, Florida, which personalizes it a bit more for me. I consider Volusia County my 'other home'. I spend time there, with my dog, every chance I get. I'm not terribly well-read in terms of dog-laws and regulations, but I'm quickly learning that it would behoove me to be a little more aware. Murphy is a service dog which means things are somewhat different for him, but he IS a dog and he IS a Doberman; I'm well-aware of the ill-informed prejudices that still exist. It's my understanding that in some places, Dobermans are banned. Murphy is protected under federal law here, but the fact that these prejudices exist mean that the laws are often beyond unfair to certain breeds of dog, even where outright bans DON'T exist.

    And that brings us back to Snoopy, a dog who was just out for a walk (on a leash) with his owner. They were doing everything right (except Snoopy wasn't muzzled...we'll get to that). Snoopy and his person were out for a walk when a smaller dog broke free of his owner and attacked Snoopy. Snoopy defended himself, and was subsequently impounded for a "second biting offense". When I first read this, I was appalled by how over-the-top ridiculous this situation was. I mean, really; what dog wouldn't defend themselves in this situation? How, by any definition, can this be considered a "biting offense"?

   As I read on, I learned that Snoopy had a prior incident of attacking another dog. Because of this he was labeled 'dangerous' and was required to wear a muzzle when out in public. I thought to myself that maybe this wasn't as cut-and-dried ridiculous as it initially appeared. If Snoopy was dog-aggressive and was supposed to be wearing a muzzle, why wasn't he? Even so, this second incident, in my opinion (and in the opinion of much of the dog-owning public) still was not anything close to resembling an 'incident'.

   I dug a little deeper and learned that Snoopy's first 'biting incident' was nothing more than getting into a spat with his housemate (also a pit) in his own back yard. It happened once and never before or since. Huh?! I am DEEPLY concerned that Volusia county considers this worthy of a 'dangerous dog' label and calls it a 'biting incident'. It is the equivalent of arresting a child and convicting him on assault charges for slugging his brother. As most of us who have had multi-dog households will tell you, sometimes fights happen, the breed of dog is irrelevant. So, add the second incident to the first, and it seems to me that we have a dog that's been nothing but railroaded. NONE of what I've learned about Snoopy's behavior is at all worthy of a 'dangerous dog' label, so what gives? How did this happen? Is this the kind of thing that's happening in other places?

   I can't get involved with the dog-laws in Florida because I'm not a resident, but I am about 90% positive this sort of situation would never fly in Vermont. I am also wondering (as I'm sure others are) if the dog that attacked Snoopy was given a 'dangerous dog' label? It is my understanding that it has not. If you've heard otherwise, please let me know. That dog's behavior actually IS dangerous, so I would really like to know the answer to that one. As much as I would hate to see any dog being unfairly treated, I think there should be some serious consequences for the owner of a loose dog that has the opportunity to attack another dog , irregardless of size or breed (or perceived breed). I understand this owner WAS fined.

   Fortunately for Snoopy, he has a lot of people fighting for him. But it is my hope that BOTH of the incidents on his record disappear because they are both erroneous. It would also be great if people who actually knew something about dogs were the ones making the laws for them. Maybe then, things like this wouldn't happen and breed specific legislation and breed-bans would be a thing of the past so that laws that REALLY offer protection to the public could be put into place. Ah...better days....

If you are interested in Snoopy's story, you can learn more here: Effort underway to save "Snoopy"

Sunday, January 15, 2012

What Does the Dog Think?

    There are definitely times when I REALLY don't want to know what my dog thinks. I especially don't appreciate the looks I get when I'm getting out of the shower, or waking up to find that I fell asleep sitting up on the couch and I'm drooling. I usually open my eyes to find my dog staring at me like I'm some fascinating but horrible museum exhibit that he just can't tear his gaze away from. It's a bit disconcerting. Murphy is quite expressive, and he's not one bit shy about expressing his disdain or disapproval. And I can't be absolutely sure, but I could almost swear that he laughs when I fall on my keester when it's icy.

   I've found over the years that in spite of the language barrier, dogs are exceptionally good at expressing themselves if you are at all willing to listen. My first dog, a Greyhound named Garth Smart, could express a myriad of emotions just with his eyes. His favorite expression of all was the 'martyred sigh', which he had honed to perfection.

   Murphy isn't given to such things as subtlety, and prefers instead to emote forcefully and oafishly through his life. There is no mistaking Murphy's opinions. I rarely have to wonder what he is thinking, and he's quite annoyingly-direct about his likes and dislikes. On some level I have been grateful for this tendency because Murphy is a service dog and it has helped the two of us to develop an understanding and cooperative working relationship. I've found some of his opinions to be both entertaining and enlightening, particularly his opinion of headcollars (both Halti and Gentle Leader).

   I decided to try a headcollar after Murphy was attacked (full story here) and became reactive. I had trained Murphy first with a flat leather collar, and then moved into a prong collar after he learned manners and knew how to give to pressure and walk politely (see how that works? TRAIN them first, THEN use the stronger tools when you add distractions...just sayin'...). For him the prong elicited no more of an emotional reaction than the flat collar; it just 'turned the volume up' when we started working in more complex situations. It's like training a dressage horse: you work for years in a simple snaffle, and only use a double bridle on a fully-trained horse to refine the communication. Such is the nature of my prong-collar use. Even so, I was reading all manner of stuff on the subject. I trained Murphy with lure-reward and clicker methods, and many of the positive folks advocate head collars. "Sure, why not?" I thought to myself. It can't hurt, right? Well.....

    So I did a month-long deal, teaching Murphy to accept the thing on his face. It took another month to get him to accept the pressure of a leash without completely freaking out (read: throwing himself to the floor in a dramatic fashion and pawing at his face). It occurs to me now (but didn't then) that if something takes that long just to be ACCEPTED, if it's that tough to deal with out of the gate, it may just not be a great idea. Nope; didn't occur to me then. We had to walk around with it for awhile, Murphy throwing regular tantrums (and breaking his first headcollar. Dummy-me went and got another one) and basically hating walks. Needless to say, it didn't help anything. I thought that by sparing any possible negative stimulation from the prong-collar, Murphy's rehab would be simpler and progress faster. Instead I turned my cooperative and happy dog into a dog that dreaded work, dreaded walks and pawed at his face any chance he got.

   Fortunately, I had an epiphany. One morning I got out the headcollar for the morning walk and found my 100 pound dog trying to squeeze himself into the 8" or so space beneath my bed. Murphy had spoken, and I finally listened. The headcollar was made of soft straps; the prong collar looked scary and mean. Murphy wasn't fooled by appearances. The headcollar wasn't humane or kind, it was an aversive that he couldn't escape. A prong collar only activates when the pressure is needed. It made perfect sense to Murphy. Just wearing the headcollar was aversive. No matter how well-behaved he was, Murphy couldn't escape the annoying thing on his face. In his very direct and dramatic way, Murphy taught me something vital: If you want to know what the humane choice is, don't base the choice on your own emotional reactions; ASK THE DOG. How can you work cooperatively and with focus if your tools, by their very existence, create resistance and distraction?

   A month or two after we had given up the headcollar experiment, we were walking along the sidewalk and encountered a woman walking toward us. She stopped to tell me that she was a pet-owner who had taken a class (oh boy! LOVE advice from random pet owners...) and she thought that my prong collar was mean. She suggested that I try a headcollar (I was glad that I was all incognito that day with my super-dark, Lennon-esque shades because I'm pretty sure I involuntarily rolled my eyes). I told her that we had, and that we had had terrible experiences. She shook her head knowingly and patiently, and told me that I really should have stuck with it. After an awkward conversation in which she suggested that "the more a dog resists, the more they need the magic of the headcollar" and I just kept saying "no", I asked her where her dog was. I learned that her Golden Retriever (oh really? you mean NOT a high-drive Doberman?...huh...) was at home. Apparently, she just can't handle him on walks so she doesn't walk him any more. Seriously?

Friday, January 13, 2012

The F-Bomb and Christmas Dinner

   I had Christmas dinner at Koto's with family and friends this year. It's a new tradition for us, created in part to minimize the amount of work and mess on Christmas day, but also to take our attention away from those we miss every year. When we were little our traditions were almost written in stone. Our aunt, uncle and cousins would spill out of their station wagon and rush the house filled with smiles and excitement. My uncle always bought the wagon with the wood along the sides, so we would decorate it like a tree when he wasn't looking. There were six of us kids, our mother and grandparents in addition to our aunt and uncle, making us a large and noisy bunch. It was the same happy scene every year.

   We all got older, our grandparents passed away. One by one we each had families of our own and our Christmas tradition gradually became a thing of the past (though I still find myself having to really engage my decorating impulse-control on the rare occasion that I see a woody-wagon). Our Mom moved away, and then it was my sister, daughter and I at Christmas. It sounds crazy, but part of what drives me to reach my financial goals is the desire to have the means to spend more time with my family. But I digress....

   Our Koto's tradition is pleasant in itself. We descend on the grill, a diverse group of family and friends who are like family. Often we find ourselves making connections with the other folks sitting at the grill with us too. It's pretty cool. But one member of our group was going through an especially difficult time this year, and unfortunately this meant that every other word out of his mouth was an expletive of some kind. Keep in mind that this is a good guy and local business-owner, so he has no excuse. After the third or fourth F-Bomb, I finally elbowed him and gave him 'the look'; he got the point.

   I am a champion swear-er, especially after a traumatic event (like hitting my head on a cupboard). I consider it a birthright since I am from Vermont's Northeast Kingdom. In the Kingdom, we don't need to be drunk to punch somebody, and we can swear like champs. Even so, because I had a good upbringing, I have largely grown out of my need to react in a physically inappropriate manner. I now prefer to stun my opponents into submission with my ninja-like mental acuity. It doesn't always work; I try not to take it personally. It's tough to reason with somebody who's best argument is "F*** you".

   In spite of my lack of desire to get into physical altercations, I have retained the characteristic "Potty Mouth" so prevalent in my region. I think having a potty mouth is fine as long as you are 1) not in a public place and 2) not simultaneously smoking a cigarette while pushing a stroller (YUK!)  3) NOT HAVING CHRISTMAS DINNER. It's a respect-thing, you know? There are certain words I will absolutely avoid, anyway. I will not take the Lord's name in vain. I just won't do it. It is so ingrained in me that I cringe when I hear someone else do it. There are so many great words out there that there is really no need to.  A well-placed F-Bomb will get the job done just about every time, especially if you are not a habitual user. I am not opposed to the F-Bomb when the need arises. But at dinner (or in public, period), let's keep it clean.


Thursday, January 12, 2012

I Heart Squirrel

  I heart squirrel, at least most of the time, though not in the same way that Murphy does. And of course, my squirrels are metaphoric. Even so, I can relate to the frustrated whining and intense gaze of my dog whenever one of these fuzzy little creatures shows themselves, twitching their tails and moving in quick zig-zags to make their presence even more unbearably tempting. The more unattainable something seems sometimes, the more desirable it can become.

   I get it, I do. And I am in two minds about my own 'squirrels'. I understand the experience of being so wrapped up and so obsessed that I can't tear my 'gaze' away from whatever it is that holds my attention. Squirrels can mean addiction; something unhealthy that takes a person away from their lives. A person (again, metaphorically) can cross the road in front of a truck running after a squirrel, or get so far away from where they started that they can't find their way back. Certainly, for both dogs and people, squirrels can have deadly repercussions. What starts as a seemingly innocent, instinctive interest can lead to unanticipated, unhelpful automatic responses.

   Is it always bad though? Sometimes my tenacity and obsessiveness has done me a lot of good. Sometimes tenacity is the only thing that stands between success and failure. I guess there is a bit of a need to recognize when it's helpful and when it's not. Fortunately for people, we don't have to blindly obsess and chase after our 'squirrels'; we have the ability to assess whether or not the chase is worth it. But we have to be careful here too.

   Sometime we can see a goal and it seems so unrealistic we don't even want to try. But what is unrealistic? Can't luck prevail in our own lives as much as in anyone elses? There's no shortage of luck, there is plenty to go around. I think it's a matter of believing that we deserve it and staking our claim. If we approach our goals refusing to see the negatives in our peripheral vision, if we keep our eyes facing forward to 'the big picture', then that is precisely where we are likely to end up. Even Murphy has caught some of his squirrels. It's certainly likely that we can too. We have a much better chance of doing so if we at least try. And in this case I can learn something from Murphy: Even though his 'success rate' is low, and even though his opportunities are few, he will try for that squirrel EVERY TIME the opportunity presents itself. It seems that Murphy is an opportunist extraordinaire:-) And what's wrong with that? Making the most of our opportunities can be a big part of moving forward. I think working hard and creating our own road is the other part, and that's where we humans have the advantage.

   SO, now that I've written an entire blog entry based on my dog's bandanna and predatory tendencies, I think it is in everyone's best interest that I stop now and go get myself a cup of coffee;-)

Murphy's bandanna is by Rein Designs and can be purchased here: Jibber Jabbers

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Eat Your Vegetables...

Nana in Nursing School
   When I was little my grandmother used to make sure I ate my vegetables every day. It was easy then because my grandmother always grew them herself so they were extra yummy. They were always fresh (or freshly frozen) and I knew that my grandmother wanted to keep me healthy, so I obeyed. I was always pretty good at doing as I was told when my grandparents or my Mom were the ones doing the telling. I had so much respect for them and I knew that they always had my best interest at heart. My grandmother grew up in a 'depression era' atmosphere and survived it well. When food and clothing became hard to come by, she didn't whine about it. She gardened and learned to sew, and did both very well. She was kind but stoic, heart-centered and hard-core; the matriarch of my beloved family. My elders were always kind and benevolent; if I asked "why?" they would take the time to tell me. They weren't just ordering me around to feed their egos, and it was obvious.

   I have always been exceptionally grateful for the stability of my childhood, but it left me with high expectations in terms of how people should treat each other. In spite of some of the tumultuous relationships of all kinds that I've had over much of my adulthood, I still expect (and always will) to be treated respectfully. I don't respect bullies, I respect people who respect me. I heard a quote some time ago that I really like, but can't seem to find the author. It's: "The ability to control other people may make you powerful, but the ability to control yourself makes you more powerful still". Whenever I've found myself in a position of leadership I've tried to remember that. It seems that most of the folks that I've encountered who really seemed hell-bent on controlling the lives of other people had little to NO control over themselves or their own lives. They were essentially bullies with a more subtle affect. And I had zero respect for them.

      I think we all have something special to offer, and if we look at people as that 'something special' that is unique to them, it's not difficult to be respectful. I don't care about your income or ethnicity, what job you do or what you aspire to; we all deserve to be treated with respect.

   I am writing this as a reminder to myself. I have no worries at all that I will be disrespected or disrespectful, but having highlighted that aspect of human interaction, it is in all of our best interest to learn how to work cooperatively. That hasn't always been my forte. I have always been the most comfortable sitting at my keyboard in relative isolation, but even I am not an 'island'. As much as I love reaching out with words, sometimes there is no substitute for actual face-to-face contact. It is time to learn something new: It's time to have a little faith in other people, to give away some of my power. Not in a demeaning way, but because it is now in my best interest to do so. The people in my life now are benevolent and kind. They have my best interest at heart and they know more than I do.

   I find myself now surrounded by people that I respect deeply; it's been a long time. It's time to eat my vegetables.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Here There be Monsters...

   I've always been fascinated by 'monsters'. I don't care for the human kind; I don't want to spend too much time contemplating the psychological and moral failings that create such a beast. But I love legends and tales about such creatures as Bigfoot, the Wendigo, the Manitou, get the idea. I also find myself being quite interested in stories of the supernatural. I do enjoy watching 'crime' shows on TV, but I usually find myself busily doing something else while the actual crime is occurring, and only become engaged when the solving of the crime begins. I love how the pieces fit together to solve the mystery. I love trying to put it together for myself, even though it is within the artificial world created by television. Maybe I love monsters because of the mystery they represent.

    I guess I like them too, because I can believe in them...or not. I have to admit, though, it's much more fun to believe that they exist. There is something exciting about the idea that there are things around us that we are unaware of or could never understand. Actually, I think it is MORE likely that we are unaware of much of what exists, and that our perception of reality is exceptionally limited. I think it is sheer hubris that allows us to believe we have an accurate bead on things.

   I like the mystery in the world. I like knowing that there is much yet to discover, that there are many more interesting and surprising developments yet to come. It's just cool. So as much as I like to keep a positive outlook in my 'real world', to fill it with bright sun and warmth, I love to explore the darkness and write about mysterious and spooky things. I like to create worlds in which these things actually DO exist, where they do go bump in the night, and where we get a glimpse into the mindset and reality of such creatures. In a world where the monsters actually ARE monsters, people can be human. The best side of human nature can be highlighted as all pretense is stripped away in favor of survival against a terrifying beast.

   I'm not saying that there won't be a character or two that bears a striking resemblance to someone who is a real-life thorn in my side. And I'm not saying that those characters will not meet an untimely end. I'm just saying that it's more likely to result from an encounter with the long and sharply-curved claw of an unknown creature than a psycho with a knife;-)

   In any case, I prefer to see monsters on the OUTSIDE of people...unless...

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Don't Dis Ability

  I'm finally starting an 'official' blog. I write all the time, I can't seem to help myself. When I don't it feels like the top of my head may blow off, and it's uncomfortable. Also, I think there may be an 'ick-factor' to cerebral detonation. SO, to be on the safe side, I just keep writing. I've written over 600 blogs, but on Myspace, so they don't count. I keep clogging my 'notes' section on Facebook with my random ruminations too. I wrote a nice, creepy book last year that I hope to get published this year, but more about that later. The point is, I write a lot.

    I created a blog last year, but I largely ignored it because it consisted mostly of me griping about dog-equipment failure, often involving squirrels, at least peripherally. Fortunately, the incidents of failure were few and far-between; unfortunately the coinciding blog entries were too. So, this is a re-vamp. Okay, technically a complete and total overhaul.

   My interests are so diverse that nailing down a topic was tough. It was suggested that I discuss disability and life, challenges etc. with a disability because I can speak to all of those things from personal experience. Aside from this intro, you probably will NOT hear much about disability. Well, I'll talk about my service dog, Murphy, a lot because he IS the center of the Universe after all. But not why I need him.

   There was a time I let disability define me. I've seen it a lot too; people so focused on what they can't do, what they believe their lives can't be, that they can't see the gifts that are right in front of them. I wasted years in this manner, feeling helpless and hopeless and trapped within a set of psychological and financial parameters that narrowed my experiences and my beliefs about the future to a suffocating degree. And then I read one of those stupid little sayings on Facebook. You know the ones; they are cliche and preachy and ever-present. This one was "What if you woke up tomorrow with only the things you thanked God for today". I had probably read that several times before, but for some reason on that day, in that moment it made me think.

   No worries, I'm not going to come over all 'religious' here. I am Catholic, I do have a strong faith but I have no need whatsoever to shove it down anyone's throat. My point is, I started looking for things to be grateful for. The more I looked, the more I saw. I began to realize how fortunate I really am. The more I realized that, the more fortunate I actually became. The more I was able to see what I CAN do, the more excited I became by my life. I could finally envision a future for myself. The more I saw what that future could look like the more clearly I was able to see a way forward. You see where I'm going with this?

  So, essentially this blog is about moving forward and getting on with life. For me, that means giving my disability and the circumstances around it the same consideration that I give the scar on my knee from falling off my bike as a child. It's there, it will always be there, but I don't think about it much anymore and it certainly isn't what my life is about. So, to (loosely) quote comedian Stephen Wright: "Buckle your seatbelt, I want to try something. I saw it in a cartoon once, and I think I can do it..."
Wanna come with?