Rat Terrier Teachings

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rat terrier

I’ve finally revised my About Page. It took most of the week to get the written ‘selfie’ into shape, so I’m cross posting it here. I don’t remember the rat’s name. I wish I did.

 

I saw the rat terrier sometime after I’d been chased by the pig. Or maybe it was before. It was, after all, over 15 years ago and I don’t have a memory that sticks moments to a bulletin board.

But one day around 1994 when I was cleaning the dog kennels at the Whatcom County Humane Society, a dog the size of a ferret sat shivering in isolation without much hair to protect her from the cold concrete. She’d bitten someone. That’s what landed dogs in those back kennels away from the public and the adoptable dogs.

The isolation kennels had a guillotine structure between them, allowing cleaners to put food on one side, open the guillotine and then the dog moved to the other side. Most dogs went willingly. This rat terrier did not, so I had to try to get her to move over. I knew she was ‘in’ for biting but thought something less than 5 pounds wouldn’t be hard to manage and swung open the door.

She slipped out the chain link kennel between my legs before I could bend down far enough to stop her. Then she bolted down the back side of the kennels and turned the average bored barking of the dogs into the frenzy of dogs barking at other dogs – especially loud since she dared to run past their cage door fences.

Shutting the noise out of my mind, I walked the concrete floor in my rubber boots trying to scoop her up. The terrier shivered and, when I finally got her in a corner, she bared her teeth. I was still green enough to think I could pick her up because she would sense that I only wanted to help her. True to all the doggy signals she sent, she bit down hard on my hand the moment I picked her up.

My hand throbbed and, after managing to get her in her kennel,  I shook it, feeling shock more than pain.

My life comes at me sometimes like that rat terrier – it feels like a series of small things that bite hard and teach me lessons I need to learn.

language

My life is also learning languages and then trying to teach them to others, beating my head against a wall when we can’t communicate and then feeling the joyful zing of sudden understanding.

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

My life is running because it brings me intense joy and then stopping because I’ve overdone it and got tendinitis in my hip, regrouping and building myself back up again.

knitting

My life is wrapping bits of yarn together by clicking needles together. And then pulling that yarn right back out because I have not yet figured out how to carry the colors across a row. The third or fourth time I start to make a square for the blanket that I can begin to love.

And for this blog, my life is throwing things on the page and screen in a first draft, knowing they absolutely stink, reworking them beyond the point where I want to give up more than I want another cup of Earl Grey tea and then reaching a sparkling moment where I think, “You know, I actually LIKE this post. Who wouldda thought?”

Strangely enough, the feeling is like that rat terrier’s bite. Sudden and unexpected, almost like a sharp pain. If I remember right, that scared dog made it home again, like I do every time a piece comes together.

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How to See Your Life Flash Before Your Eyes

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Dad on a raft - TPL file

If you’re anything like me, you’ve got scads of photos floating around on the hard drive of your computer. My hard drive isn’t even originally mine. It first belonged to my dad who bought the computer I’m working on now the year before he died.

Dad’s photo was once again in the paper this last Sunday. (He’s the one in jeans above.) I bet when he skipped school to paddle on Hoodlum Lake, he never imagined the computer now holding the digital version of him I bought yesterday from the Tacoma Public Library.

Looking at one of these few photos from his childhood got me to thinking about all the pictures I tucked away on this computer and how I’d like to bring them up from storage without the killjoy of organizing them.

About that time I noticed my screen wasn’t going into save mode. I monkeyed around with the display settings and found a program that scrolls through my pictures and randomly throws them up. I set it to go off after one minute. Sometimes it’s distracting when I’m journaling to see those photos, but most of the time I enjoy the pause. They pop up in no particular order, urging me to guess what was happening or remember suddenly that day we went to the beach. 

Seeing images from my life over the past few years reminds me of my everyday best moments a bit like opening a happiness jar. Those moments swirl with kids playing in lakes on hot summer days, artwork in downtown Puyallup, selfies I took while walking near my home, my treks to Whidbey Island, photos I took to post here, and even the boring garage pics I took for the insurance company after we were robbed. My life flashes before my eyes without me having to die just yet.

The Daily Digi has some ideas for using photos, and I may even get a few canvas prints done. But in the meantime, I’ll keep pausing to gaze at what flies up on my screen after a minute has passed. Those faces and places remind me that it is a wonderful world, just like Louis Armstrong said. (Yes, I do hear that cheesy sweet song in my head while looking at my own photos. Go ahead and call me sappy. I know I am.)

Have you looked through your own bazillion photos on your hard drive? As long as you’re not trying to organize them, I’m betting you’ll hear the same song.

The Grass is not Greener When You Lose Your Kitty

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IMG_2685I was cleaning windows this morning when I saw the cat grass I’ve considered planting for years.

I thought, “It’s spring. I think I’ll do it this year. Seamus will like it.

I started to even go down the path of why I haven’t planted it for all these years: He’d be more encouraged to eat my house plants down to the nubs. I’d have to find a pot, find some dirt, mess with all the water and so on.

Then I remembered. My cat is gone. I took him to the vet for his last time this week, bawling as he always did when I put him in the carrier with the handy opening at the top and then settling down as we waited in the vet’s office, purring in my arms to the very end.

I’ve noticed two painful parts in my last few years walking with grief.

First, I run into this moment like the cat grass. I know he’s gone. But I forget. And I think for a moment of something I’ll do with the missing person or critter.

Then I remember. Like stepping off the stairs to a step that doesn’t exist, I get a jolting falling feeling and the ache opens up again.

On top of that, I hurt for the grass he will now never get to eat because I never got off my duff to grow it for him. This happens with every person or critter I lose, too. No matter how I try to live each day to the fullest, say what I need to say to those I love and do what I need to do for them, I always fall short.

I guess it’s human. I guess it’s a part of life that is sometimes losing. But I don’t like it. I wish I had grown the stupid grass.

Why I Put Fire in My Name

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Like Her Hair’s On Fire: Writing to slow down and warm up to life

The lady in this shot has the feeling I’m going for in my blog. For that matter, she has the feeling I’m going for in my life.

I posted before that I am doing the Zero to Hero 30 day challenge. I’m beginning to wonder if the 30 days will turn out to be a year long process. I’ve now finished posting a new theme and giving myself a new name. It took forever. I’m waffling on it (and may change again if my brilliantly creative niece comes up with something better) but am going with what Gilbert says here:

These bloggers with their catchy names inspired me when I first started renaming.

The Book Addict

Witty or Not, Here I Come

cupsrunningover

She’s a Maineiac

I attempted to find my own name by mind mapping, muttering to myself, scribbling in my journal and annoying my teen by asking for his suggestions. My circles fell back on each other because I’m not writing about running specifically or about writing (although I’ve written much about both lately). Instead I’m writing pieces from my life in hopes of connecting with readers who might later like to read my published works. It feels like a crazy idea (writing in general, that is), but I can’t stop myself and as a woman I admire said:

“Whatever you’re meant to do, do it now. The conditions are always impossible.”
― Doris Lessing

Here was my thinking behind the name and the theme that I picked to go with it:

I once read (but cannot now find) a quote from Buddhism that urges you to understand that you have already reached enlightenment and, at the very same time, you need to practice like your hair’s on fire.

The longer I plug away at writing, the more I realize that I need to apply the same feeling to this practice. I am already a writer. And I need to practice like my hair is on fire because I urgently need to get better. The older I get, the more I notice how quickly life flutters by me. If you want a longer more eloquent explanation, here is a link to a Shambala Sun article I found while searching for the original quote. It’s got the fire but not the enlightenment already idea.

Plus, I have been messing with my hairstyle lately, so the bit about hair in my name feels appropriate to my life as it is now. (Don’t worry. I’m not planning to change to flaming red. Yet. Maybe in my 60’s.)

Writing to slow down and warm up to life

My tag line has to do with a Carly Simon song from my long ago days listening to KOMO radio with Larry Nelson as my parents drove me around.

In “The Stuff that Dreams are Made Of” Simon croons to a woman who longs for more pizzazz in her marriage. Simon tells her to open her eyes and see the beauty of the marriage she’s in at the moment.

In case you haven’t heard that song or it is sitting back where you don’t remember it, here’s a clip. It’s sappy. Be warned. You probably need only a few seconds to get the feel or jog your memories if you also listened to your parents’ radio station.

In my best writing moments, when I get myself to my page and type out those words, I am able to see the joy in my writing life right now. Without a book deal or Amazon numbers or Goodreads reviews or even enough writing income to got a 1066 for Uncle Sam last Thursday when I did my taxes. The slow and steady fire. Thanks, Carly. And thanks to the lady I’ve never met with the fiery red hair on Pinterest. You made my blogging day.