Monday, February 14, 2011

Our Fur Children - Happy Valentine's Day

I have to refer all sixteen of my readers to Hyperbole and a Half, a wonderful blog that often includes posts about the author's dogs, sometimes known as Simple Dog and Helper Dog. After reading this post in particular, Donald and I often refer to our dog as Simple Dog, especially when she goes EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE and looks at us with a cocked head when we say "Boop Boop Boop".

If you haven't read that post, please do. I'll wait. (Yes, right now! Bring tissues - you'll be crying with laughter.)

Ok, now that you're back, I can tell you about our fur children. Sasha is our nine-month old puppy and is variably known as simple dog, mess, Sacha Monster, Sachacha, and Slobberdon Milosadog (get it?!). She's much better now than when we first brought her home - training has done wonders! In her first few months with us, she played at such an aggressive level that we were constantly bleeding and fearing for the safety of our appendages. Now, however, she has mellowed some, understands that biting is never ok, and actually sleeps through the night and past 6 am!

Bringing home a puppy is the closest we have gotten to understanding parenthood and we know from our friends who are real parents that it's not even fair to compare the two. Especially since you can't leave babies locked in a crate or train them to go to the bathroom outside. Darn!

Katov is our ten year old, long-haired grey cat who is the queen of the household. She came into our family when she was four because her previous family had a baby (a real one!) and she got jealous. Nothing like cat-pee-soaked baby clothes to make that decision easier for them. (We're crossing our fingers that she likes us better should we be lucky enough to have a non-fur child!). Katov keeps Sasha in check, often charging her and slapping her around when she gets out of hand. Good kitty.

And then there's Loki. He's turning four this year and he's a short-haired, grey cat who has had quite the adventurous life. He came from a feral cat colony and was abandoned by his mother and hand-raised, so he's a bit nuts. It has taken him a long time to understand that petting doesn't hurt him. When he was a year old, he jumped off our apartment porch, three stories off the ground, and broke both front legs. Even with casts on, he still tried to jump up to the top of our cat tree and couldn't understand what he was doing wrong. He also loves to hump our Slanket (a version of the Snuggie - hey, don't knock it until you've tried it!). Poor dude.

Our families refer to our household as the menagerie. They mean that in a good way, right?

Katov was the first fur baby my husband gave me. He was living on his own out of college in an apartment and it was kind of lonely. He knew I liked cats and decided to adopt her, even though he had never owned a cat before. It was so much fun to walk him through caring for her and telling him that she wouldn't hide under the bed forever.

The question now is, can he give me one with a little less fur?

Happy Valentine's Day to all of you, no matter the size, shape, or furriness of your loved ones.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

The Truth About Dreams

My husband told me this morning that he had had a dream about us getting it on. We both remarked that it was kinda neat that it was me in his dream and not some unknown female. I have never been the jealous type, especially not when it comes to dreams. Because we don't have control over what our dreams show us, and we both know that.

Which is why I was grateful when Donald told me that he wasn't worried when I told him many months ago that I was feeling guilty because one of my ex-boyfriends kept showing up in my dreams in sexy contexts. Even in my dreams I felt guilty, knowing that I was married, that I was acting in a way that I didn't want to be. My guilt was stemming from something I had no control over, not from any hidden desires or intentions.

The best part is that ever since I told Donald about those guilt-inducing dreams, they stopped happening. Whatever underlying cause there was for my dreams was gone, forgiven, washed away.

That said, however, I do think dreams have a very important purpose. If not for those dreams, I might not have shared that fear with my husband, which could have bothered me for years to come. Dreams do tell us, sometimes, about what is happening in our subconscious, what is bothering us behind the scenes, at some level of which we are barely aware.

Dreams are just another way for us to hear ourselves, to understand more of our own contexts and perspectives. It's like looking through someone else's eyes for a time. When we wake up, those dreams either become part of our reality or melt away.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Life Lessons from Horses

Do you like the new layout? Can you tell I'm obsessing a bit?

I've been taking riding lessons for a couple of months now, and I love it. I saw a demonstration last weekend by a local woman who has trained three wild American mustangs over the past few years and I am intrigued. Did you know that you can purchase a mustang for $125? And here I thought I'd have to save forever to get my hands on my very own horse.

My husband was not pleased to hear this, since he's working hard to help me keep my head on my shoulders instead of in the clouds.

So, I'm visiting the mustang woman this coming weekend on her farm. I promise I'm not getting carried away. In fact, I'm hoping to find out whether this dream of mind has any basis in reality.

I want to know the truth about the time commitment, the space needed, the upkeep costs, the lifestyle required for caring for horses in a quality manner. I want to improve my horsemanship so that I am comfortable in horsey situations and so that I feel competent enough to do this on my own eventually.

In my lessons, one of the things I have to keep remembering is to "look where I want to go". This is such a wonderful life suggestion as well! It reminds us to leave the past alone and focus on our goals, to make progress toward what we want, even if it isn't happening for us in the present. It's a beautiful melding of being in the present and driving toward one's goals. It's something we're trying to live by as the unknown continues to loom.

And, of course, things continue to be complicated here. Donald isn't feeling fulfilled and secure in his current job. We have been here almost a year, and while I have worked hard to put down roots quickly and deeply, we are still restless and consider leaving. Will we ever stay put?

Are we finding that we are truly nomadic in nature? If that is the case, then we're going to have a hard time accomplishing several of our goals, such as home ownership. What are we actually looking for?

I would argue that we're moving towards what we want, yet we don't always know what we want. Donald dreams of teaching high school history. I dream of owning a ranch and horses out West. The real thing stopping us right now is the belief that we lack the funds to safely do these things and raise a family. While we know that we will never feel like we have enough money to have kids, we also feel like we're not secure enough to have kids AND make our dreams come true.

Are we the only ones putting our own dreams on hold because of the pressure/desire to have children? I highly doubt it. How do we move past this and figure out how to do it all? Or is my optimism unfounded and we truly do have to make a choice?

Friday, January 28, 2011

Supporting Military Families

My new job has me connected with the most amazing momentum I have ever experienced when it comes to instigating positive change.

On Monday, January 24, the President, First Lady and Mrs. Biden announced a Presidential Initiative called "Strengthening Our Military Families: Meeting America's Commitment". This initiative will leverage the resources of the federal government to meet military family needs across the board. If you want to watch the announcement, go here.

Then yesterday, Thursday, January 27, the First Lady appeared on Oprah, evolving this initiative from a government effort to a community effort, asking every American to figure out what they can do to support the 1% of Americans who are shouldering the burden of protecting our country.

This is not about whether you agree with the wars or not. This is about whether you support the families that sacrifice alongside their soldiers, whether they are active duty, guard or reserve, Veterans or fallen.

Several phrases have stuck out for me this week as I have listened and watched these stories unfold. First, is the wonderfully alliterative "service, strength, and sacrifice" that our military personnel and their families live every day. Second, President Obama said that when he visited the troops in Afghanistan last month and asked them what he could do to help them, they said "Take care of our families." And third, the First Lady said on Oprah, "I suck it up" when she is having a bad day or feeling sorry for herself and remembers that military families are enduring so much without complaint.

Do you know the military families in your community? Do you know someone who is currently serving or deployed? Do you know how to help?

There is a wave of service-oriented action sweeping our nation and assisting our military families is one way of participating. Be the instigator in your community. Find out what your community is doing to support them and get involved. Let me know if I can do anything to help.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

An Open Letter to The Pioneer Woman

Dear Ree,

I am desperately envious of your life on a ranch, to the point that reading your blog makes me sad and desperate.

My biggest fear is that my fantasy of living on a ranch is not really what I believe it to be and that if I take this giant leap to move out West and figure out how to make it real, that I will be sorely disappointed.

Your website makes me believe that ranch life is all I imagine it would be (although in my version there are no calf nuts or cattle - it's not a working ranch that I seek). Your photos of horses and wide open land and big skies make me ache with longing. I desire the dirt, the hard work, the early mornings, the elegantly simple and functional ranch buildings. With every fiber of my soul, I want that life.

Is it possible for me to find what I seek? If not, please tell me now and put me out of my misery. I would rather know the truth and let this happy dream die than to move my husband and our dog and cats to the middle of nowhere for something that doesn't exist.

I guess I'm asking you for some kind of certainty, which I know you cannot give.

The dreams in my head stem from growing up in southern California, always wanting horses in my life and never quite figuring out how to make it happen. As you know, suburban life has plenty of distractions and I had a generally happy childhood. I went far from home to college and grad school, married my best friend who I met in college, and have finally settled into a career that I love. I make time for Western riding lessons and yoga once a week. We don't have any children yet.

You would think we would be happy. And yet… we are restless.

We dream of open spaces, mountains in the distance, big sky, and horses. Owning land. Riding the fence perimeter and weathering storms.

Our dreams seem to be in stark contrast with "real life". Where do we work, where do our kids go to school, where do we buy groceries? Will we have an internet connection? How far do we want to be from an airport?

And the fear creeps in. Can we handle this? Will our families think we're crazy? Is this a responsible course of action? What happens if we fail? How can we possibly afford to do something so risky? Can we afford it at all?

And yet, I continue to dream.

I dream of a home for my family. A place that encourages exploration and asking questions. A place that is modern and rustic at the same time, balancing access to technology and a reminder of our roots. A place where my children can learn and be challenged and will be prepared to contribute to improving their community on whatever scale they choose. A place where my husband and I can stretch and grow and learn more about each other. A place where we feel free.

I dream of the kind of place others want to call their home too. A place that has lots of visitors, people who come to get away from it all for a day, a week, or two. A place where they can walk for miles and see no one, where they can ride horses, a place where they can eat hearty, healthy food that tastes like home but better. A place where they can choose to spend their time in solitary retreat in their sunny and comfortable room, or where they can join in board games, puzzles, and other group activities with other visitors. A place where they are treated like family and where they feel whole. A place where they feel free.

I dream of a place that is a home for my soul. A place surrounded by open land, mountains, and horses. A place with dramatic thunderstorms, snowy winters, and breath-taking life. A place where a pick-up truck is used on a daily basis to haul things the way it was meant to. A place where cowboy boots are the footwear of choice and necessity. A place where four-footed friends are as common as two-footed friends. A place where I can sit and gaze as far as I can see, watching storms roll in, watching the wild herds running, crows feet gathering in the corners of my eyes from the sights and the smiles this place brings me. A place where I feel free.

Please, either tell me that this is possible and show me the way to achieve it, or tell me that it doesn't exist so I can find some way to be happy with a suburban life. I need to know.