To Puppy or Not to Puppy, that is the Question!

“I wish I lived in [a]world, where it’s sunshine and puppies all the time.”
― Charlotte Huang, Going Geek

I fear the question is not “to puppy or not to puppy.” More likely it is, “Will there be one, two, or three puppies?” We are going to visit puppies today.

My bride and I have been surrounded by animals during our near forty years together…except for the previous two years. The pain of losing our darlings of fifteen years, Maddie, and Tilly, has been too much. We’ve mentioned inviting a fur baby into our lives and then listed a litany of reasons why we shouldn’t. That may be ending…maybe.

A friend of mine thinks we need a puppy and continues to send links to local shelters. I love her and hope she continues but I’ve been able to avoid the cuties until early last week. Three sisters, little balls of fur, big ears, and sad faces. “Come on old man, come get us!” We are supposed to ‘visit’ today.

Maddie and Tilly were Cattle Dogs, Blue Heelers. These are Heeler mixes and I’m in love. I just wonder. Heelers are high energy and I fear my tanks are running dry.

Tilly and Maddie waiting patiently for a checkup

Puppies, Bubba, Brodie, Bogie, Sassy Marie, Jackson, Maddie, and Tilly, short for Madeline Roo and Matilda Sue. Kitties Minnie Muffin and Santana. A myriad of goats with N-names beginning with the first, Nannie. Bunnies with B-names, the first, a gift for my wife named Buster. A one-legged rooster named Boomer. Their graves surround our home reminding us of love and commitment.

These don’t include the wild animals that grace our homestead in the foothills of the Blue Ridge. All are welcomed and make our lives richer…even the bear that occasionally tears down my fence and steals my trash.

I’m reminded of the possum gifts Maddie and Tilly would bring us. To my knowledge not one was injured or died. They really do play possum, especially the one that tired of “playing” and got loose in the dining room.

Questions lead to more questions and will lead to decisions. One, two, or three? Do we need a puppy…or three? Do we have the energy to deal with a new puppy…or three? Will we outlive our puppy…or puppies? If they are as long lived as our last three, I’ll be eighty-seven. Does that puppy, or do those puppies, need us? Is it that I just want a puppy? Am I overthinking it all?

Henley

My bride is not helping me. I can’t read her. I know she wants a puppy but am I forcing the issue? Can she resist if they are not the “right” puppies? She has never resisted anything with fur.

Are we even set up to house a puppy…or three? Fences need to be mended, literally not figuratively. If we bring them in, we must declutter…whether we get puppies or not we must declutter.

Crate training and house training…sit, fetch, stay, roll over, play dead. Geez. The fact is they train us as much as we train them…and they are so loving and soooo much fun. There is nothing like a puppy asleep in your lap.

Haisley

They aren’t children…but like children they can’t be left to their own devices. Done right, they require care and commitment. If you think putting a puppy on a chain and leaving it outside is being a puppy parent, you are deluding yourself and making an animal’s life less worth living.

We have ninety acres of land with a large fenced in area around our house. Perfect, except for the wildlife that once ran unimpeded before puppies wanted to herd them. The squirrels, the raccoons, the possums, the bunny that is almost tame. The occasional snake. Decisions, decisions.

Hartley

Like children, they are expensive. They must be dewormed, groomed, their nails trimmed and treated when they get sick. They have accidents.  You have never lived until staggering downstairs in the middle of the night and stepping in a warm, squishy, stinky, goo. “Good morning to you!”

But there is soooo much love to be had…and given. That is the big question. Do I still have the love to give? I do, or I wouldn’t be having this conversation.

Addendum

Our trip didn’t bear fruits or puppies. Turns out that they weren’t as advertised. Do not despair for us because sometimes fate intervenes. We are hot on the trail of a heeler puppy that we will visit this weekend. Until then enjoy the video.

Blog image used from Pixels. Hendley, Haisley, and Harley copied from the shelter site.

Don Miller writes on various subjects and genres. Connect with him at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR3-vMhl68w_x0yUPu5L-_NRugT5oWoOBrlnr7QolweAJPyDHgcZP1qhayI

Valentine’s Day Grinch

“On Valentine’s Day, the Spirit Club plastered the school with red streamers and pink balloons and red and pink hearts. It looked like Clifford the Big Red Dog ate a flock of flamingoes and then barfed his guts up.” ― Carolyn Mackler, Vegan, Virgin, Valentine

It seems, every Valentine’s Day is my own version of The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. Once again, I have shot myself in the foot but at least my bride hasn’t beheaded me like the original St. Valentine. I’m sure she has considered it.

When it comes to Valentine’s Day, I have the Midas touch in reverse. Everything I touch turns to poop.

My first memory of a Valentine’s Day celebration was a preteen party in the early 1960s. The Church sponsored affair was supposed to be a dress up, Sunday best kind of gala. We were Methodist so dancing would be allowed, and I prayed my two left feet would somehow transform themselves.

The day before, the world’s largest zit appeared in the middle of my forehead.  It didn’t matter. I’m sure the dance was great, but I have no memories because I didn’t get to go. My anxiety over my “first date” was so great I threw up and was kept home. It might have been something else but Valentine’s Day has been a downhill drag since.

The dance worked out well for my date. A friend took advantage of the situation, and they became a couple. This weird Cupid moment might have been the high point of my attempts at being a romantic Valentine.

Can you imagine, on the average, fifty-eight billion pounds or two point two billion dollars’ worth of chocolate will be sold the week leading up to Valentine’s Day. Over two-hundred and fifty million roses are produced just for Valentine’s Day. That is two point three billion in flower sales. A whopping six point two billion dollars are spent on jewelry.

Love-struck Americans dole out almost twenty-four billion dollars on Valentine’s Day with men spending twice the average. Men will spend on average, one-hundred and seventy dollars to prove their undying love. Women? Half of that.

I’ve all but given up on making Valentine’s Day a special event. Attempts at romantic dinners have ended with food poisoning. I’ve tried poetry, “Roses are red, violets are blue, pizza is hot, and so are you.” I’ve tried to create artistic and rustic birdhouses with tin hearts or a couple holding hands. Most fell apart as quickly as my other attempts at romantic expression. I’m waiting for a masked psychopath to show up to carve out my heart in a real-life Valentine’s slasher movie. Blood splatter replacing rose petals scattered on the bedroom floor.

Speaking of bloody, how did the violent death of a Catholic saint become a celebration of love anyway? There are three suggested stories about three different Saint Valentines. What do they have in common? Martyrdom. Violent death. Two of the accounts involve beheading. Somehow beheading seems apropos. How many of us have lost our heads over someone we shouldn’t have?  

The seeds of the holiday we know as Valentine’s Day were planted in Lupercalia, an ancient Roman festival honoring the Roman goddess of marriage some twenty-six hundred years ago. It was a pagan festival and involved excesses we have come to expect from such a ritual.

Lupercalia was a sexually charged and violent rite, involving the sacrifice of dogs and male goats as a sign of virility. Priests would cover themselves in milk and the blood of their sacrifices and run naked through the streets whipping women with strips of goat hide cut from the bodies of their sacrifices. Sounds like fun. Getting whipped would allow the barren to become pregnant and women lined up for the opportunity.

Later in the day, men would pick women’s names from a jar in hopes that they would form a romantic bond. In my mind I read that differently than it was written. I mentally visualize a Seventies wife swapping party with car keys drawn from a candy dish. I have no firsthand knowledge, I read a lot.

All this changes around 500 A.D. with the rise of Christianity. Pope Gelasius replaced the pagan rite by instituting the Feast of Saint Valentine on February 14. Christians feeling the need to end all the fun of naked men running around whipping women.

There are several stories involving Christians named Valentine who were executed by the Roman Emperor Claudius II about two hundred years previous, but the most famous was a third-century martyr imprisoned for secretly marrying Christian couples and helping persecuted believers. This Valentine was reportedly executed on Feb. 14, 289 A.D.

As fiction became more interesting than fact, the future saint supposedly restored sight to his jailer’s blind daughter. Later, the legend grew even more to include a letter he gave the girl before his execution, reportedly signed “Your Valentine.”

That still doesn’t explain cards, candy, flowers, and jewelry but a historical change in Nineteenth Century America does. Prior to this time most marriages were economic rather than romantic despite what romantic writers would have us believe. Even the poor founded their marriages more as economic alliances than romantic love. “Two can live as cheaply as one,” I was told once. Someone lied to me.

This changed in the mid-1800s from economics to romance, or at least combined the two. It also triggered an increase in the giving of tokens of love and it has snowballed from there.

I thought I had nailed it this year but once again reality has reared its ugly head. A sweet token of my love involving puppy dogs I saw online. I immediately knew it would be perfect and I ordered it a month ago. Something cute to let her know of my undying love. It won’t be here until the end of February. Typical. Why would I expect any difference? The supply chain issues have bit me upon my chubby, pink, cherubic butt. “Cupid, draw back your bow….”

Don Miller’s author page may be accessed at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR3yEfoldEBWs3ZbA6bCCQc13npcCrXWdZl0pVYvdbsRMQ86SppPZQVl3SE

Clearing Off Showers

We had a tropical storm roar through the area…odd for the foothills of the Blue Ridge.  We are more likely to experience late evening thunderstorms…in July and August, not the weekend of Halloween.  The weekend of Halloween we are normally dreading the impending snow apocalypse, the teacup full of snow we receive in late January or February. 

I fear tropical storms roaring through our area may become more frequent if we continue to deny and do nothing about global climate change…this isn’t about global warming unless we are talking about temperature increases involving my bride when she is mad.  She can cause the temperature in a room to soar like the afternoons in August…sometimes like the center of a thermonuclear detonation.

When I stepped out to enjoy my predawn cigar and meditation before the rains, I noticed the sticky feel, the oppressive humidity.  The temperature hit me in the face and reminded me of heat radiated from a pot bellied stove turning pink from the fire inside.  There was a freshening breeze that grew in intensity, violently twisting the hemlocks, poplars, and walnuts.   While I worried as the electric power failed, I thought about “clearing off showers” that had nothing to do with the weather. 

The storm front blew through leaving a deep blue sky above and a carpet of leaves. limbs and twigs below.  The winds still raged as I spent the afternoon glancing at the sky while I removed litter from underfoot.  It became a metaphor for life, at least my life, including the litter I still must deal with. 

The morning after, 4:30 in the A. M., plenty of litter remains but the nearly full moon is sharp and bright, back lighting a sky with thousands of visible stars.  As the sun made its appearance, so did a deep blue, cloudless sky as if the storm had scrubbed the air clean…a clearing off shower as I heard the old folks say…now I’m one of the old folks.

My marriage is similar…the basis for my metaphor.  My bride and I tend to tiptoe around each other, avoiding contention as best we can until the air we breathe becomes filled with the dirt and grit of annoyances and vexations.  Choking us…the smog and ash of past resentments and displeasure.  The muck that congests us and our love for each other.

There will be an explosion that jars us like a nearby lightning strike, the thunderclap loud and rumbling, the vibrations felt deeply in our hearts and soul.  There maybe a heavy rain before storm fully passes.  Once the clouds abate, the sun comes out, the air is clean and crisp.  Our love is once again clean and shiny like a freshly cleaned mirror…a mirror to our souls. 

Clearing off showers…necessary for the flowers and trees to grow.  Necessary for love to grow…for love to bloom.  

***

While Don Miller doesn’t normally wax poetic his author’s page may be found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR3Wjns8dEtr4Q8oisuqEKWNHeNuNUhqwkPoakQ2W1ydhRHJgmGEMPQMxQk

The image is from http://www.musicforbodyandspirit.com/relaxing-music-and-soft-rain-sleep-music-music-for-studying/

A Young Toad-Frog’s Fancy

 

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I am happier, and usually saner, with the advent of spring and the end of winter than I am with the death of summer and fall.  Certain birds finding their way to my feeders that weren’t there a few weeks ago, the finches and mourning doves, the return of my Redtail Hawks. They came early this year.  The deer eating my privet, not eating enough privet, certain flowers blooming at certain times and my toad.

I first wrote about “The Toad in the Corner” a year or two ago, a huge American toad that has appeared outside my back door for years.  I found it comforting to see her having backed herself into a shady spot at the corner of my foundation and rock wall during the heat of the day.  Coming out to wreak havoc on the insect population at night, sitting on a flat rock, all fat and sassy.  Unconcerned about my entrance into her realm.

Despite her ambivalence toward me, I worry about her.  The average lifespan for a toad in the wild is about a year.  She’s been extremely lucky for some five seasons now, somehow avoiding Mr. Herbert No-Shoulders, the huge black rat snake that resides in the same area along with Mrs. No-shoulders and her brood…maybe Toady has just gotten too big to eat.  She is uuuuuuuge!

I found her waiting for me early this morning while I waited for my fifteen-year-old puppy dog to find her spot.  Toady was sitting on her flat rock, but she wasn’t alone.  She had a friend, a friend with benefits I might guess.

At first glance, I thought something was wrong.  She looked deformed.  Was it that bad a winter?  I looked closer and saw what I thought was a deformity was a much smaller toad riding high on her back.  I was reminded of a baby riding on one of his parent’s backs.

I don’t think she was his momma…or maybe she was his “Hot Momma.”  I’ve seen her several times during the day and her suiter is still riding on her back.  She walks, he rides.  Mentally I make a note to look up the range of an American toad…as far as a mile from their breeding sites.  Now I’m Googling their breeding habits.

You can tell this quarantine thing is getting to me.  Combined with sciatica, rainy weather and a sick tractor, I’ve got too much time on my hands…and there is laziness too.

Through research, I found out it is not unusual for the female to carry her suitor to her breeding grounds…the breeding pool of water which I assume is the stream below my home.  For some reason, I thought about frog gigolos, “Hey baby, goin’ my way?  How ‘bout a lift.  What’s your sign?  Can I buy you a drink?”  Louis Prima is singing “Just a Gigolo” in my head.  I guess it could be the David Lee Roth version.  I’m thinking of disco, glitter balls and lime-green leisure suits, colorful, long collared “catch me, f@#$ me” shirts and gold bling.

I found out if females are scarce it is not unusual for many waiting males to climb on board creating a “toad ball.”  The orgy scene from Caligula flashed briefly before my eyes…I only read about it…maybe.  I really wanted to laugh but as I read on, I found it is usually fatal for the female.  “I love you to death” takes on a new meaning.

Image result for Toad ball

I obviously need more humor injected into my life and something productive to do.  Something is very wrong contemplating the sex life of toads and frogs or as we say here, toad frogs.  Well, it is spring when a “young man’s fancy turns to love” or a young toad’s fancy is to ride around on a big ole’ momma toad waiting for her to make the trek to her egg-laying site.  I just hope she survives her “La danse de l’amour.”  French is such a sexy language…even when describing toads.

 

Don Miller writes about whatever strikes his fancy.  His author’ page is https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR0Tk_BUmCRpeCR63Kr59dyLywOMUia36e7djQlIDqefkK6aKUYyW9svuK4

The featured and last images are from https://www.ephotozine.com/photo/toad–mating–ball–53338916

The first image is of Toady and her suitor.

 

Serendipity

I had no intention of getting married again.  I had no intention of falling into love again.  The previous memories and missteps were too painful….

Providence would intervene…has intervened for thirty-three years now…and still counting, I hope.  I am sometimes amazed I asked for your hand and am even more amazed you said yes.

I had no intention of meeting my bride on top of a football stadium’s press box or again at Halloween with an inflatable pumpkin perched upon her head.  I wasn’t looking…I was still recovering.  But she refused to be ignored.

Fate will not be denied.  Serendipity would intervene in the form of a hazel eyed, dark-haired sprite who would torment my thoughts, inappropriate thoughts because she was dating my roommate.  Destiny would step in when they broke up.

I can’t comprehend her not being around, it’s as if she has been around forever.  “Dear God, please take us together or take me first….”

I did fight it…the feeling REO Speedwagon sang about.  A song that tormented me every time it played.  I fought the feeling.  Even after she and my roommate broke their ties.  My loyalty is well defined and sometimes misplaced, and remember, I was never going to fall in love again.  We danced around the issue…maybe…maybe I danced around the issue.

We found ourselves at school and athletic functions, enjoying each other’s company.  She was a teacher and coach too.  She laughed at my stupid jokes…not as much now as she once did…she has heard them all, thirty-three years worth.

I found her captivating, intoxicating and any other ‘ating’ one might think of except ‘dating.’  I couldn’t quite pull the trigger and ask her out…I wasn’t worthy…I’m still not.  Finally, she tired of my tap dance and asked me out.  I’m slow but I’m not stupid.

A chance to accompany her to a local dive bar to hear an old friend of hers sing the blues?  Sure, why not?  It quickly turned into something else.  I’m the one who has been singing now for thirty-three years…but not the blues.

We go to family gatherings, get-togethers with friends, the occasional party…I would find myself close by…preferring to talk with her more than anyone else…close enough to touch and whisper in her ear.  I’m not being snobbish; I would just rather talk to her.  She has always been the most interesting person in the room.

We are more like leaves caught in a whirlwind…blown wherever our whims and chance send us.  Serendipity again.  She just doesn’t like to plan.  Where is the fun in that?

I remember an early anniversary when we decided to drive to the coast the weekend after our June twenty-ninth wedding celebration.  Our decision was an impulse masquerading as a great idea…a romantic idea.  I’m sure it was her idea.

As we rolled the old VW Bug into Georgetown it dawned upon us the weekend after our wedding anniversary was the Fourth of July weekend.  There were no rooms in the inn, and we weren’t Mary and Joseph.  Once again happenstance saved us in the form of the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce.  One bed and breakfast with a room was available and for a price anything is possible.

According to Otto von Bismarck, “A special Providence takes care of fools, drunkards, and the United States.”  I don’t know about the drunks and the United States but for thirty-three years Providence has taken a liking to two fools in love…still in love.

Sometimes our safe harbor has been storm-tossed and I’m sure it will be again.  But we have each other to hold on to as the waves come crashing in.

I wish I had met her sooner…had fallen in love with her sooner…but then we weren’t the people we would become…I wasn’t.  I had to bleed first before she could apply her soothing anodyne.

Linda Gail, I love you and would do it all over again a thousand times.  My heart breaks at the thought that I might sometime lose you.

To my best friend, my lover, my wife…Ashley’s other mother, Grandmommy Linda to MK and Noie and mother of my beautiful, blind puppies, I love you.  I’m so glad you were crazy enough to say yes.

Call it serendipity, chance, a fluke, good luck, good fortune, fortuity, fortuitousness, happy coincidence, or a special alignment of the stars, you have made my life a wonder and wonderful.  Here’s to thirty-three more.

Lyrics and video Can’t Fight This Feeling by REO Speedwagon.

“What started out this friendship has grown stronger
I only wish I had the strength to let it show
I tell myself that I can’t hold out forever
I said there is no reason for my fear
‘Cause I feel so secure when we’re together
You give my life direction
You make everything so clear
And even as I wander
I’m keeping you in sight
You’re a candle in the window
On a cold, dark winter’s night
And I’m getting closer than I ever thought I might”

 

For more “stuff” go to Don Miller’s author’s page at                 https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

 

A Life Well Juggled

“If you’re trying to change someone you love, you don’t love them. It’s the oddnesses, the most unique imperfections that you’d miss the most. That’s the stuff you can’t replace. Everything else is easy to come by.”
Crystal Woods

A family visitation, a funeral, a granddaughter’s graduation from pre-school and a ninetieth birthday party for my wife’s stepmother’s sister, all in the space of twenty-four hours.  My wife is up to her chin in all of them it seems…at least in her own mind.  She seems happiest when up to her chin in alligators while juggling the flaming batons of life.  She is happy a lot.

She is the wild mustang unencumbered by a bridle or rider, mane blowing in the wind as she runs hither and yon. Life, for me, is easier when she can run amok like a chicken with her head cut off. After nearly thirty-two years I realize, “She ain’t gonna change” and now I’m not sure I want her to.

She juggles OUR lives, flaming torches or razor-sharp knives be damned. She reminds me of a Lucille Ball skit, having to stuff chocolate into her mouth or blouse. Lucy and Ethyl just trying to keep up with a conveyor belt full of chocolate…hers is the conveyor belt of life.

I see her as the tuxedo-clad dandy spinning plates on sticks on the old Ed Sullivan Show. Running from pole to pole as the plates begin to slow and wobble, spinning them faster, attempting to keep them from falling off.

When all is done, she never quite loses a plate and all the chocolates are lined up neatly in boxes instead of her bra. Life can be difficult and sometimes she gets nicked or burned as she juggles but never enough for her to quit.

She said, “I’m not getting involved in this party! No way, no how!  She has sons, let them….” Translation: “She’s up to her chin alligator poop.” And by association, so am I.

Our home and yard may be wrecks but somehow, we have time to take over the party preparations because “It needs to be done right.”  That might translate into, “It needs to be done my way.” 

In between the funeral and graduation, she runs around arranging tables and chairs…again and again, and, again.  She agrees to pick up ice cream and a cake. She has plenty of time after all. 

Creating flower arrangements, she purchased plants a month ago…and two weeks ago…and yesterday.  Standing back with her head cocked to the side, deciding if it is perfect enough or does putting in a bit of greenery make it more perfect.  If one New Guinea impatient will work, a dozen will be a dozen times more perfect. Two dozen?

It is eight a. m. before the party at three.  She’s headed out to do her magic.  What is magic is how she got all of those plants, containers and pink tissue into one vehicle the size of a Jeep instead of a transfer truck.  Sorcery?

I’m left to care for the puppies, who don’t need my care.  In their youth, they feared thunderstorms and we are getting our gracious plenty.  They are so terrified, they are sacked out around my feet.  One lying on her back, the other curled up with a paw across its nose.  Really terrified.

Still, her orders, “Take care of my puppies.  Give them some love.”  They are the puppies we weren’t going to bring home fourteen years ago, “We’re not getting one, we are just going to look.” She was correct, we didn’t get one…we got two. They are blind and old now. They only have a mind’s eye for their mommy.

It’s a ploy I’ve seen through for years.  She just wants to do the preparations herself. It is just her “thing” and I’m not about to change her “thing”. Telling me to care for the puppies while she is gone is just her way of keeping me involved…without involving me.

In her mind, she is still twenty-five…and in my mind too I guess. She’s not twenty-five but that doesn’t stop her from running from hot spot to hot spot, putting out fires that need to be put out. Sometimes starting wildfires, sometimes adding gasoline, sometimes supplying a match before figuring out how to put out the fire she started.

The thoughts of her running about like “the roof ain’t nailed on tight” causes me to smile.

I wonder how a body as small as hers accommodates such a huge heart. A heart intent on doing good deeds.  A heart blind enough to say “Yes” to a two-time loser when I asked her to marry me.

I’m thankful for all her quirks and downright insanities…if we can just get through the next few hours.

The quote came from Write Like Nobody Is Reading by Crystal Woods.

The image is from https://www.scarlettentertainment.com/page/uk-fire-jugglers

Don Miller’s author’s page may be found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

Thanks for taking the time to read.

“Thank You For Accepting People as They Are”

 

There was an envelope in my mailbox.  Addressed to my wife I turned it over and saw “Thank you for accepting people as they are.”  Maybe some of you have received this envelope after having contributed to the Special Olympics.  I didn’t directly contribute but my wife has always made sure we contributed and during our teaching years were actively involved…as in she involved me during her days as an elementary physical education instructor and while cosponsoring the high school’s service-learning program.  I am thankful for that.

She has always been the poster child for accepting people at face value.  Accepting people at what they were.  Offering love and discipline but no criticisms as to what they were or where they came from.

I remember visiting her while she taught on occasion.  Smiling, snotty-nosed children of different genders and races rushed gleefully into her class, expecting to receive and returning hugs, refusing to be denied.  Sneezes, mucus, mud be damned.  Terms of endearment flowed from Miss PE, “Sugar or Honey Lamb, Snookems, Babydoll,” etc.  I saw love and acceptance.

Don’t be fooled.  She could get after them pretty good when they failed to get to or remain on their spots, but she distanced the person from the offense.  She accepted people as they were.  I wondered as I looked at the envelope…and fell down Alice’s rabbit hole.

When I saw the phrase on the back of the envelope, I asked myself, “What if we accepted people as they are?”  Gay, different races, transgender, poor, different religions, forget where they came from and accept who they are as opposed to what they are.

We are quick to criticize people who look differently, speak differently, have different religious beliefs than us.  People who don’t love the way we love or eat the same foods that we eat.  We seem to get upset because we must press one for English.  How many seconds of our life does it really cost us?

We create divides by pontificating loudly and listening little, passing judgment on one before delivering our sentences to all.  Our loud language and sharply delivered words can only be interpreted one way by those they are directed toward.

We are quick to label people with all sorts of names, explain that they are bad or different because they are a product of a lax home environment and because we have thrown god from the halls of education.   We don’t like their pink hair, their tattoo or their nose piercing and we look no deeper.  We don’t make the effort to listen to what they might want to tell us…what we might actually learn.

We make no effort to understand their thinking or consider what they might have woke up to or went to bed to.  We don’t seem to care they might have gone to bed hungry and went out into the world the next morning the same way.  Again, we pontificate loudly that it is not our responsibility.

We dismiss many kids as kooks, fruitcakes, freaks, goofballs, wingnuts, mentally ill and the one that knifes me the most…retards.  Honestly, I don’t like the label “special”, but we must have a label of some type.  After all, we are the normal ones with our normal convictions and conventions.  We must have a way to delineate the differences between us and them to make ourselves feel more important, more worthy.

I hurt for our teens.  Teens at best are troubled and all we’ve done is add to their troubles.  Dealing with those raging hormones is bad enough…and now we call them crazy because…well because.  We tell them they’ll never amount to much.  They are lazy and the worst generation ever.  They are the most disrespectful…but I notice it is always the other person’s child.

If you tell a kid enough times that he is a duck, at some time or another he will begin to waddle.  We get what we expect.  If you expect nothing you won’t be disappointed.  I notice we point our fingers but offer little cure…especially if it costs money.

We bully, we attempt to push their little round bodies into little square holes. As they attempt to find themselves, we attempt to make them into the image of ourselves.

I taught forever plus a day and found that the most interesting students, who became the most interesting adults, were the kooks and fruitcakes.  The ones who thought outside of the box, colored outside of the lines and looked at the world sideways and created something beautiful.  They were the leaders who refused to follow tired old lines.  They were the ones who hated to hear “We’ve done it this way for….”

There was a time when we put a premium on free thinkers.  Now it seems we don’t want free thinkers.  They might be left thinkers and that just wouldn’t be right.

We want our mini-mes to toe the party line, drinking deeply from the propaganda Kool-Aid.  It seems we want everyone lined up in rows like dominos, standing at attention, all boringly the same…and like a row of dominos when one tips over, they all tip over.

What if we just accepted people as they are.  Nurtured instead of ridiculed.  What is wrong with nurturing?  You can be nurturing and not be soft.  Put their little seeds in the ground not caring what the seed might be.  Add water and fertilizer, weed the bed occasionally and see what they turn into.   Provide a fertile bed for plants instead of chopping them off at the roots like weeds.

What if we accept people as they are?

Don Miller’s author’s page can be followed at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

 

Silence as I wander in the Valley of Death

 

“Yea as I walk through the shadow of the valley of death…” I hear nothing.

I first wrote and posted about Silence in December 2015.  Here it is May 2019, and the silence persists when I talk to my God.  The silence reverberates even more loudly than before as more hatred floods the airways sweeping up more and more in its wake.

My God doesn’t answer me.  Daily I give him an opportunity.  I usually converse with him as I perform my walkabout.  Out in the open, in the elements, in his creation…it should be a good time to talk, a good time for answers.  Wish he or she would answer a few questions…maybe it’s the way I frame them…I’m sure it is my fault. Sometimes my questions to him just pop out from nowhere…or from everywhere.

There are many times when I wish the voices in my head would shut up, this is not one of those occasions.  I’m waiting for a Saul/Paul moment. Maybe it is the voices in my head asking the questions instead of me or my road doesn’t lead to Damascus.

I grew up in the church…and then like so many young people wandered down a divergent path.  Later I would come back and then diverge again…a couple of times. I fear I might be in the divergent mode again.   

During those divergent days, my issues weren’t with Jesus, it was with organized religion…it still is.  I have problems with the “My God is greater than your god” group.

I have problems with people who are so sure of their beliefs whether it is a minister, layman or political pundit.  My issues were or are with Christians who spread their hate in the name of God, seemingly forgetting the love of Jesus, many masquerading as political pundits.  Is it hate or am I missing the point of Christian generosity? Can you quote from Leviticus and the teachings of Jesus?

My first divergence occurred because of a young minister who was so sure that if my mother truly believed she’d be cured of her terminal disease.  Well, she wasn’t cured, she did believe, and I was an angry young man whose religious beliefs had been shattered.

Now my confidence is being tested by the hatred I see…good people pulled to the fringes of their religion while I, if anything, seem to move in the other direction.   Hellfire and brimstone seem to swirl about me as I ask my questions. The smell of sulfur hangs in the air of my head. The punishing God of the Old Testament seems to be loading up his burning stones and aiming them at anyone not toeing the fundamentalist line…I should be ready to duck.

If you believe in a fundamental, punishing god that is your right.  I will not attempt to convert you. I just can’t believe in or worship that kind of god.  I promise I won’t attempt to transmute you to my way of thinking. Please give me the same consideration.

Generally, I’m not very open about my religious beliefs…nor outspoken at all.  Writing this is an unbelievable stretch for me. Yesterday I stretched even further as I engaged a very good friend, metaphorically laying myself bare.  She is a non-believer…maybe, sometimes I wonder. She has better than a good heart.

After laying myself bare, she attempted to apply a soothing balm, “(You are) a caring human being and a spiritual soul. The goodness I see in you doesn’t require a grand biblical gesture or event to validate or verify what and who you are.”

Her comment lifted my spirits but this morning I wonder.  I don’t feel very spiritual or validated but I do keep asking myself questions and mulling while waiting, hoping for an answer.

Rewritten From December 2015

I worry. Worry for family, country, and friends. Friends of all races, creeds, sexual preferences and colors. I pray. There is no answer, nothing but silence.  

I ask, What happened to “live and let live?”

I agonize over students having to face death in what should be one of the safest places in the world.  Students giving their lives to protect others when the people we entrust with their safety seem to only to offer “thoughts and prayers.”  While we have plenty of suppositions, we offer little else other than “It is God’s will.” It’s this, it’s that, it’s not something else but we do nothing.  The silence is becoming oppressive.

I worry about worshippers of all religions, unable to praise their god for fear of bombings, burnings or the sound of rapid-fire weapons echoing in the foreground.  There seems to be no answer from above or here on earth. Does God help those who help themselves? We might try that.

I wonder. Wonder at how the world has come to this. I pray and then I rage. Rage at Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Atheist, Liberals, Conservatives, anyone in between and any religion I failed to mention.

I pray. Again, there is no succor, only silence.

I hate. Mostly I hate myself for hating. I pray for the hatred to be taken away. From myself and from people I don’t even know.  It does not relent. The silence swells in my mind.

I ask for enlightenment. Understanding, Wisdom, Awareness, and Insight. Why do we do nothing but debate? Why do we do the same things over and over again, expecting a different outcome?  It is insanity.

Why do we do nothing but wait until the next episode of terror…? I pray. There is nothing but deep, dark silence.

My grandmother instructed me to “lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.”

I pray to look “unto the hills” but the silence has become a deafening roar in my ears.

I must keep looking unto the hills. I will keep praying…hoping God will take the silence away.

Thanks, Lynn, for listening.

Don Miller’s author’s page may be accessed at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

The image is from https://gravitycenter.com/silence/

 

A Candle in the Window….

 

“You’re a candle in the window on a cold, dark winter’s night….”

It’s been thirty-two years and the words to REO Speedwagon’s “Can’t Fight This Feeling” still resonates with memories when I hear it.  Memories of crazy older “kids” falling in love.  I heard the song this morning as I walked alone around the lake at Lookup.  Physically alone but not ever really alone.  I smiled thinking of the woman I married thirty-two years ago….  “The most interesting woman in the world” to hijack the words of a beer commercial.  My smile became broader as I thought of her.

“Oh, I can’t fight this feeling any longer and yet I’m still afraid to let it flow.  What started out this friendship has grown stronger.  I only wish I had the strength to let it show.”

I had no intention of getting married again.  I had no intention of falling into love again.  The previous memories were too painful…but Providence would intervene.   I had no intention of meeting my bride on top of a football stadium’s press box or later with an inflatable pumpkin perched upon her head.  Serendipity would intervene in the form of a hazel eyed, dark-haired sprite who would torment my thoughts, inappropriate thoughts because she was dating my roommate.  Destiny would intervene when they broke up.

“I tell myself that I can’t hold out forever, I said there is no reason for my fear, ’cause I feel so secure when we’re together….”

We go to family gatherings, get together with friends, the occasional party…I find myself close by…preferring to talk with her than anyone else…close enough to touch and whisper in her ear.  I’m not being snobbish, I would just rather talk to her.

I can’t comprehend her not being around, it’s as if she has been around forever.  “Dear God, please take us together or take me first….”

“And I can’t fight this feeling anymore, I’ve forgotten what I started fighting for.  It’s time to bring this ship into the shore and throw away the oars, forever.”

I did fight it…even after she and my roommate broke their ties.  Often my loyalty is misplaced, and I was never going to fall in love again.  We danced around the issue…maybe…maybe I danced around the issue.

We found ourselves at school and athletic functions, enjoying each other’s company.  She actually laughed at my stupid jokes.  I found her captivating, intoxicating and any other ‘ating’ one might think of except ‘dating.’  I couldn’t quite pull the trigger and ask her out…finally she tired of my dance and asked me out.  I’m slow but I’m not stupid.

She is my anchor and I am her storm-tossed, rudderless ship…except when we reverse our roles.

“My life has been such a whirlwind since I saw you.  I’ve been running around in circles in my mind.”

We are more like leaves caught in a whirlwind…blown where ever our whims and chance send us.  I remember an early anniversary when we decided to drive to the coast the weekend after our June 29th. wedding celebration.  Our decision was an impulse masquerading as a great idea…a romantic idea.  I’m sure it was her idea.

As we rolled into Georgetown it dawned upon us the weekend after our wedding anniversary was the Fourth of July weekend.  There were no rooms in the inn and we weren’t Mary and Joseph.  Once again happenstance saved us in the form of the Chamber of Commerce.  One bed and breakfast with a room was available.  According to Otto von Bismarck, “A special Providence takes care of fools, drunkards, and the United States.”  I don’t know about the drunks and the US but for thirty-two years Providence has taken a liking to two fools in love.

I wish I had met her sooner…had fallen in love with her sooner…but then we weren’t the people we would become.  Perhaps I wouldn’t have been ready to “to crawl upon the floor, come crashing through (her) door.” Perhaps she wouldn’t have been ready to be my “candle in the window.”  No, I’ll keep things as they are.

Linda Gail, I love you and would do it all over again a thousand times.  To my best friend, my lover, my wife…mother of my beautiful, blind puppies, I love you.

Thanks to REO Speedwagon “Can’t Fight This Feeling”

Album: Wheels Are Turnin’

Released: 1984

Songwriter: Kevin Cronin

Recorded: August 1984

 

Don Miller’s author’s page https://www.amazon.com/default/e/B018IT38GM?redirectedFromKindleDbs=true

Image https://fineartamerica.com/featured/candles-in-the-window-michael-dohnalek.html

Words Matter…even my own

As soon as I hit send I knew I was getting into an argument but I didn’t care.  I should have cared!  I had pointed out to the anonymous poster hiding behind his keyboard that unless he was speaking about an electrical spark, “retard” was a very archaic term that we no longer used to describe people, especially in a school setting.

I also pointed out that the accepted term today was “special” or challenged.  I said this using as neutral emotions as my fingers could muster.  I must have failed.  It probably was the line “if all you can use are terms like ‘the retard’, you probably don’t have a good argument.”  The post he returned to me began in all caps, “ARE YOU SOME KIND OF F****** LIBERAL PC ASSHOLE?”

I thought, “Just disengage you can’t win this one,” but instead my fingers typed “If treating people the way I would like to be treated is liberal then I guess I will plead guilty.”  “Yeah, a f****** libtard teacher just like I thought” was his retort. The train rolled off of the tracks with mine.  “Yeah, a sub-human asshole just like I thought and glad you were never one of my students,” I replied.

As soon as I hit send I wanted to get the comment back.  I was ashamed for giving him a forum to vent his pent-up anger upon.  I could tell from some of his other posts he was angry before he switched on his computer.  Even though I had pointed out earlier in a different post that it seemed the accepted strategy of the times was “when all else fails” express your opinion by calling people names.   I just couldn’t let him get away with the “libtard teacher” comment.  Still, I felt I had just fallen into that “name calling” strategy myself.

It is odd the way my brain works… ‘strangely’ odd.   After my exchange I found myself brooding and following a mental pathway leading to my grandmother’s front porch.  Her hands were moving “ninety miles an hour” as she talked to my Uncle Claude.

Uncle Claude Griffin was one of my granddad’s brothers and a favorite of my Nannie’s.  Short and stocky with a huge birthmark on his cheek, he looked like one of Nannie’s brothers instead of one of my Paw Paw’s tall lanky siblings.  His hands were “flyin’“ as were Nannie’s because they were “signing”.  A few minutes later my mother came up and added another pair of hands “ah flyin.’“

Occasionally they would pause while Claude dug into a shirt pocket, pulling out a pen and a small spiral notebook to write down words and phrases Nannie and mother did not understand or had forgotten due to lack of use.  As his hands flew he made sounds that were unrecognizable as words.  They were what I now characterize as “expressive grunts” and were a form of communication in their own way.  As his excitement increased so did the grunts.  Many times they would simply throw their hands above their heads and laugh.

Claude was a deaf-mute and had been since his birth.  Being too young to ask all of the questions I have now, I wonder how his family had the resources to send him to a school for the deaf and blind and where he went…and how did my mother and grandmother become so adept at signing?

Claude was called a “dummy.”  I don’t know the person I first heard use that term but don’t think that it was a family member.  It wasn’t a derogatory term then, it was just the accepted term of the period…like saying that someone was retarded from an earlier period as opposed to special or challenged.

Special is found at both ends of the spectrum and Claude was certainly special and challenged but he was no dummy.  He could read and write in two languages, sign, and English.  I find it hard to be proficient in my languages, English and “Southern hick”.  My Spanish is also “muy malo.”

Claude worked in the cloth room at Springs Mills in one of the top non-supervisory positions for as long as I knew him and would seem to have been a contributing member of society.  Again he was no dummy.  Claude lived on his own in a small apartment in Fort Mill.  While he did not drive, he seemed to be quite mobile, appearing at my grandmother’s front porch as if out of thin air.  The older me can’t help but wonder if he was lonely in the silence of his small apartment.  I would guess not.

Many years later, after my career path had taken an unexpected detour, I found myself coaching track at Landrum High School.  One of the schools that we competed against was the South Carolina School for the Deaf and Blind, and “Land O’ Goshen!” I found them to be as normal (abnormal?) as any other group of teenagers.

While standing near a group of SCSDB track members cheering on a hearing impaired teammate, one youth of color exclaimed as the starter pistol was fired, “Man, look at that n$%%@r run!”  The youngster next to him said, “Now you know I’m blind and can’t see sh#t and neither can you, so what am I supposed to be looking at!”  Both of them just cackled over their joke along with everyone standing around them…including me.

I doff my hat to kids and adults who overcome their challenges, whether mental or physical.  I have found they desire as we all do, to be treated “just like everyone else” and to be treated fairly.  They don’t want to hide behind their challenges, don’t want a free pass, and like my SCSDB tracksters or my deaf-mute uncle, they can even joke about it.  They are pretty much like everyone else.  Those who rise to meet their challenges tend to be successful and those who don’t aren’t.

I wonder what challenges my poster has not met.  Does it make him feel better about himself using terms like “dummy” or “retard?”  I wonder if terms like “gimp,” “Mongolian idiot” or worse are included in his vocabulary.  I wonder if we are all losing our humanity?  Maybe if I had handled it better…no probably not.

From the book Pathways by Don Miller.  Pathways and others may be accessed at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

If interested in romantic adventure, Don Miller writing as Lena Christenson may be accessed at https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B07B6BDD19

Image from https://www.wayfair.com/decor-pillows/pdp/barn-owl-primitives-words-matter-textual-art-plaque-owlp1039.html