Simplifying Life

97958E1E-21D2-4323-85DC-56BED6952B28

Have you ever found your life getting too messy? I don’t mean cluttered with stuff. I mean psychologically and emotionally messy. Cluttered with unwanted emotions inside your head caused by either events in your own life or events in the life of others close to you, perhaps friends, family members, even the world at large. When that happens to me, and it has a number of times in my life, I find I have to take inventory about what I need and don’t need in my life to make me happy.

When this happens to me, I don’t always recognize it initially. I have to find myself under so much stress that I can hardly cope. Once that happens, I make a priority list. The first item on my list is health. I have to eliminate the sources of stress in my life, at least to the extent that I can. I find that I, personally, can’t be subject to over-stimulation. I have to lead a fairly quiet life to be happy. I don’t have to be a hermit – far from it. But, I have to have the time and space to quiet my mind and emotions to keep my health on an even keel. Sometimes, I have to be pretty brutal and distance myself from situations that are causing stress in my life.

The second item on my priority list is the truth of reality. I have to live in the real world. My friends often tell me to be optimistic and that is a nice sentiment. I think I am usually optimistic, maybe too much so. I prefer to be realistic. You can have hopes and dreams and still be realistic. You can strive to make your hopes and dreams come true and I did that with regard to my own career. However, I knew it was not realistic to strive to be the Queen of England. That’s an extreme example. I’ve found if I keep it real, I’m far happier than if I put myself under stress trying to make the impossible happen or be someone I’m not.

The third priority on my list is love. Realize that you can’t make people love you. Let’s take families. Not every person in your family is going to love you. That’s realistic. Nothing you do or don’t do is going to make them love you. At some point, it’s time to quit trying. The same is true for relationships with a significant other or with friends. You can work hard at a relationship and sometimes it will turn out well and sometimes it won’t. You have to learn to compromise. But, you can’t make them love you. You have to know when to let them go.

My priority list works for me. What’s yours?

 

 

#SoCS – 02/03/2018

IMG_0789

Dogs are not dollar signs. This is both a personal stream of consciousness post and a sort of public service announcement/op-ed piece. In other words, you have found me up on my soap box today.

Yesterday, I had to have my beautiful little dog, Hanna, put down. Hanna was not yet a year old. A little more than a year ago, I had to have my sweet Cavalier King Charles Spaniel put down. Betsy was only four and a half years old. Why did Betsy and Hanna have to die so young? Because of poor breeding practices by the purebred breeders from which they came. Neither did any sort of genetic testing. Both were irresponsible.

Hanna’s breeder decided to develop a “designer” dog and mixed two purebred breeds. To my knowledge, they did no genetic testing. In doing that, they created puppies with extreme fear aggression who couldn’t learn and who were fear biters and worse. They didn’t know what they were doing. It wasn’t Hanna’s fault. She should never have been born.

In Betsy’s case, she developed a fatal genetic disease called syringomyelia that was incredibly painful. It could have been avoided by genetic testing and Betsy would never have been born and would never had to endure the pain she endured.

Both breeders saw dollar signs instead of sweet puppies.

I don’t pretend to know the answer to this problem since breeders of purebred dogs are not subject to any sort of controls by any governing body except the American Kennel Club and various regional clubs that set the breed standard and govern showing purebred dogs. Unless the various breed-specific clubs impose some sort of rules and sanctions, there are purebred dogs that are going to become extinct. The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, for example, is thought to have about fifty percent of dogs carrying the gene for syringomyelia, the condition that killed Betsy. Many breeds are known to be fear aggressive, like Hanna, and the condition is almost impossible to treat. The dogs have to be put down. I could cite many more examples.

Be very careful if you buy a purebred dog. Question the breeder about their breeding practices. Ask about genetic testing. Ask if they offer a health guarantee. Don’t just fall in love with a puppy, pay a huge price, and walk away. Ask questions. Get guarantees. Otherwise, you’ll end up with a lot of vet bills and a broken heart.

A Fake Friend: An Essay

Not so long ago, a woman that I called one of my best friends lived in a city I had always wanted to visit. I’ll call her Maggie. She and her husband only lived there during the summer. All three of us were college professors and we taught the other nine months of the year. To my delight, Maggie invited me to spend a week with her one summer. I could manage five days away and took her up on her offer. We made our plans.

Maggie and I had met each other more than 15 years earlier when we were both students in a doctoral program at a major university. We were in training to teach on a university level and do original research in our respective fields. It didn’t take long for us to become friends. Maggie was a little hard to get to know, but over time, I thought we became good friends. We had a lot in common due to our careers and much that we enjoyed discussing. Maggie had some issues, both personal and family, that were unfamiliar to me. There were serious mental health issues in her family. She suffered from depression. That’s all I knew at the time and for years afterward.

When I went to visit, Maggie and her husband, Ron, picked me up at the nearby airport and we made our way to their home. Maggie was driving. I had seldom been with her when she didn’t drive. She was a self-proclaimed control freak about some things and driving was one of them. She seldom even let her husband drive. As we drove, Maggie complained about the big vehicles on the road. I don’t mean the very large trucks. I mean normal-sized SUVs. She said she didn’t like them and talked about their energy inefficiency, how their drivers were bullies, how they took up the entire road, and more. There I was, in the back seat of her van, the proud owner of a SUV. Something Maggie knew. I didn’t know quite what to think.

I didn’t understand why Maggie was difficult when we were at home. She talked very little to me. She shut herself off in her bedroom for hours on end with the door closed. Picked fights with Ron. If I tried to start a conversation with this woman with whom I usually talked so easily, she didn’t seem to want to participate. Ron was very quiet and only talked with me when Maggie did. I found myself wondering why I was there.

Before I took a shower on the third morning of my stay, Maggie asked me to please not wear cologne or use any shower gel or soap that had any scent. She said that all scents caused her to have headaches. I had been with Maggie hundreds of times. That was the first time she had ever mentioned this to me. She had stayed at my home. We had carpooled together and shopped together. Never had there been mention of this problem. I was baffled.

On that third night of my stay, one of Maggie’s neighbors was giving a cocktail party for Maggie and Ron and she asked me to join them. Of course, I said that I would. If it hadn’t been for the upcoming cocktail party, I was going to ask Maggie what was bothering her. Had I done something I hadn’t realized to upset her? Since we were going to the party, I didn’t say anything.

Off we went to the neighbor’s cocktail party. I met many of Maggie’s neighbors, all of whom seemed genuinely fond of Maggie and Ron. A man sat down beside me and struck up a conversation. Shortly after that, Maggie came over to me and asked to speak with me. Laughing, she said that she had been interested in that particular man. After that, I tried to stay away from him, but it felt like everywhere in the room I went, he appeared.

Soon, the party was drawing to a close. As Maggie, Ron, and I started to leave, the hostess asked me if I was Dr. Carlson like Maggie and Ron were both Dr. Smith. I saw Maggie’s face turn white. I told her just to call me Rosemary. I realized why Maggie looked so startled. Even though we went through the doctoral program together, she didn’t finish her degree. She had left the impression with her neighbors that she had and she was afraid I would blow her cover. Of course, I would never do that.

After that, we walked back to Maggie’s home and she was extremely angry with me about talking with the man she wanted to talk with. I knew that most of the problem was her fear that I would tell someone she had not finished her degree.

The night ended with Maggie and Ron going into their bedroom and not coming out. It was clear to me that I was not welcome there and I didn’t want to make Maggie uncomfortable. I got my things together, called a taxi, and left for the airport.   It took eighteen hours to get on a standby flight.

When I got home, there was an email waiting for me from Maggie. She told me that she had no desire to continue our friendship and she gave me a list of my “sins.” I wrote her back and got a nastier email in return. It was like talking to a stranger.

I still don’t know why Maggie was upset with me. She issued the invitation and then, clearly, she didn’t want me there. Our so-called friendship ended. I was left feeling like we were never friends at all. I’ve never heard from Maggie again. My contention is that this experience was a function of Maggie’s depression. Unfortunately, I’ll never know.

Protecting the Environment


I’ve always been an environmentalist. I will soon be living, at least part of each year, in an area where protecting wetlands, and the plants and animals that live within them, is of vital importance. This may be difficult since there is a movement in the nation’s capitol to abandon environmental regulations and concerns. 

The current budget, presented to the U.S. Congress by President Donald Trump, abandons most, if not all, environmental regulations. The Environmental Protection Agency has essentially been defunded. The Keystone XL Pipeline has been approved. The waste water of coal mine operations is going to be allowed to pollute the water around the coal mines of West Virginia and Kentucky. This is not an exhaustive list of the effect of the proposed federal budget on our environment. 

My area wetlands in Southwest Florida support a large variety of tropical plants, birds, and animals. Part of the area has recently been rehabilitated and the wetlands restored. Wetlands only exist if there is symbiosis between the species of plants and animals within them. The Florida Everglades are an example of wetlands where the symbiosis of the area is not only being disturbed, but destroyed.  Snakes that people have kept as pets and that have gotten too large have been dumped into the Everglades. Pythons, boa constrictors, and others. They are not native to the area and are upsetting the symbiotic balance in this very important wetland area in the United States.

Another environmental issue that is particularly important to me is in the state of Kentucky and its coal mining operations. I, of course, want the people of the state that I have called home for many years to have jobs. Many people in the eastern part of the state work in mining. They blame federal regulations for the loss of their jobs. To increase his popularity, President Trump has dropped the regulatory requirement that coal waste water not be dumped into local waterways. In reality, federal regulations are a small part of the coal miners’ problems. They will simply end up with polluted water and jobs that won’t last very long, if they are rehired at all. 

The Keystone XL Pipeline will run the width of the United States. The chances of a disaster of epic proportions regarding oil spills is high. That is one reason that environmental groups have protested against the construction of this pipeline.

Perhaps the most troubling action against the environment is the dismantling of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in this President’s budget. When we think about the advances in cleaning up our air and water since the federal government established the EPA, it is shocking to think of what dismantling it might mean. The symbiosis between species of plants and animals within the environment will disappear as environmental regulations are dropped. Entire species will vanish as well. We don’t know what effect that will have on our environment and, ultimately, on the human population.

The Mongrel

img_0437

I already had the most wonderful dog, Eliza, a Cardigan Welsh Corgi. She was my baby, my friend, my protector. One Saturday, I went to the pet store to stock up on supplies for Eliza. Saturday is the day the pet store invites the Humane Society in, and some of their rescued dogs and cats, in case any of the patrons want to adopt a pet. If I’m there on a Saturday, of course I have to see the dogs. I am a dog lover.

As I was walking down the aisle of rescued dogs, I came to a large cage. Lying in that cage was a large dog with the saddest eyes I’d ever seen, and I’ve seen a lot of sad eyes.  Something about those eyes stopped me in my tracks. I leaned down in front of the cage and there was a big dog, obviously a collie/shepherd mix. Immediately, a name jumped into my head – Murphy. I have no idea where that name came from. I sat there and talked to him for a while. He didn’t really respond. He just looked at me. There was just something about that dog. But, when I got up to leave, he looked up at me and whined. Everything in me told me to take this dog home with me.

I found one of the Humane Society workers and asked them about the dog. He was a stray they had picked up. He was hard to capture, very afraid. He acted like he had been hurt or abused. He was a biter. They were afraid he was vicious and were not sure they should even have him there for that reason. Something in my heart told me he would not be vicious with me or Eliza.

I left the pet store. I had to think. I ran some other errands. The Humane Society worker told me they thought he was an older dog. So did I. There was something about that dog that was pulling at me. He needed a home for his last years on earth. I thought he needed my home and my care. He needed Eliza as his friend. But I had never had a large dog and I lived alone.

I went back to the pet store and set up the adoption process. I was going to adopt him or at least give it a try. I just had a strong feeling it would work out. The Humane Society was going to neuter him. I could pick him up in two days. I bought a big, cushy bed for him, healthy food, a toy and chew bone, and then I went to tell him he was coming home with me. Maybe I was imagining things, but he stood up in his crate and seemed to brighten up.

Two days later, I went to pick up Murphy, his new name. I had also bought a new collar and leash for him. We walked out to the car. He was very good but didn’t understand cars. I taught him to jump in the back of my SUV. We had a 70 miles trip home. Murphy never made a sound.

We got home. I guess the rest is history. He and Eliza got along famously. I had to housebreak Murphy, but it only took one time. He lived in the house with Eliza and I and spent lots of time on his new bed, which he seemed to love. I don’t think he’d ever been in a house. He was the sweetest dog to me and became my protector. He loved my girlfriends, but he hated men. I had to be very cautious when any man was around because he would have attacked them. Obviously, someone had hurt him. During the entire time Murphy lived, that never changed though I tried.

Murphy was healthy. My vet thought he was at least eight years old which is getting on in age for a large dog. Eliza and I loved Murphy for three years. During those years, Murphy developed hip dysplasia. He had the beginnings of it when he came to us. Finally, he couldn’t get up anymore without great pain even though he was on medication. At about 11 years of age, I had to have Murphy sent to the Rainbow Bridge, but I was gratified. His last three years had been wonderful. It was apparent he never forgot the first eight years of his life, but I could always tell he was so appreciative of his last three years.

I loved that big dog. He loved hugs so much. Was Murphy a mongrel? Not in any negative connotation. He was a mixed breed but he was my Murphy and one of the most wonderful dogs I’ve ever had.

img_0425

Click to purchase at amazon.com