Category Archives: My Family

It Wasn’t Until Last Night That I Knew

Ubi_Face

By now, if you have read my earlier postings, you have met Ubi, and you know that he is a Cavachon.  You also know that a Cavachon is the lucky offspring of Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, and a Bichon Frise.  I say lucky because, well, just look at him.  Look into his eyes.  My neighbor gets credit for this picture.  She dropped her keys and he started to eat them, but she got him to look up at her long enough to capture one of the best photos of him to date.  Every time I look at it, and look at those eyes, tears come to mine.

I am so blessed to have this guy in my life.  He is teaching me so much about patience, tolerance and understanding.  So far he has gone through several USB chargers for my phone, and two power supplies for my Microsoft Surface Pro 4 at $80 a piece.  He has destroyed several of his toys in an explosion of fluff.  He has peed and pooped all over the area rug and hardwood floor in my living room, but that’s ok.  I purchased the rug just for him.  It’s made of polypropylene.  And yes, I can’t find half of my socks.  I’m sure they will turn up somewhere one I find his hiding place.

I tried letting him sleep in bed with me, and at first that worked out just fine.  But then he decided it was more fun to kiss me than go to sleep.  I don’t mind him kissing me, but not when I’m trying to fall asleep.  So now I’m putting him in his crate by my bed until he is a little older and learns that when the lights go out it’s time for bed.

As you know, Ubi broke his leg.  He healed spectacularly.  To watch him run is a wonderful sight.  He is so fast.  We are in puppy class right now, and he is the smallest puppy in the room by far, but he doesn’t care.  During play time he plays with the bigger boys and girls and loves it when he can get them to chase him.

So what is it that I didn’t know until last night?  Well another neighbor was over with her dog, and Ubi was playing with her and the other dog, and me.  Ubi is so friendly to everyone.  He loves it when people visit.  He runs up to them with so much enthusiasm.  He is just so irresistible.  I’m very happy about this.  I want a dog that people don’t have to be afraid of when the come in to my home.  I really hope he stays this way.  But there’s also a part of me that wants him to be attached to me more so than others.  I want him to know that I am his caretaker, and that I am, well, his Daddy.  But I figured, if he is friendly with everyone, I guess that’s good enough.  At least I don’t have to worry about him biting anyone.

But last night something happened and I knew.  While we were playing, with my neighbor there, and the other dog there, and new bully sticks that the dogs were chewing on, I had to go upstairs to make sure the doors were closed, so the dogs didn’t get into anything up there.  So I go upstairs, and I’m closing the doors, and I turn around, and there was Ubi.  No bully stick, neighbor and other dog downstairs, but there he was, looking up at me, seemingly with relief that I didn’t leave the house through some hidden exit in my bedroom.  What did I know?  I think you know what I knew.

The Road To Gratitude

So it’s almost 10:00 on a Tuesday evening, and I’m not tired yet.  I don’t want to watch TV.  I don’t really have anything to do, hmmm…  Oh!  I haven’t written in my blog in a while.

I haven’t really been doing much of anything lately to be honest with you.  When some stuff happened in my life, I crawled into a shell, and ultimately wound up extremely depressed.

Now first, I want to warn you, because I’m about to talk about God.  Not the traditional God that many people think of.  I’m not a Christian, and even though I’m Jewish I still don’t believe that Jewish parts of the Bible are meant to be taken literally.  I’m not even talking about an all powerful, omnicient being, that guides our every day lives.  In fact, I’m not talking about anything predefined.  The word God is what we use to describe something that means different things to different people.  I’m going to use that word for brevity sake, but really what I mean is, higher power, and by that I mean anything that is more powerful than me.  Myself and a friend.  Together we are more powerful than me alone.  Myself and a group of friends.  Even better.  Myself and a group of friends and loving family members.  Or maybe it’s not people for you.  Maybe it is the God of the Bible.  The point is it doesn’t matter.  What I’m talking about is anything that you feel can help you when you need help, better than you can help yourself, or, anything that can help you help someone else better than you can help them yourself.  For the rest of this reading, God = hire power.

God has helped me a lot lately.  When I found myself in my depression, just wanting to stay in my hole and not deal with the situation I was going through, some very loving, caring people in my life gave me some help that I needed.  First, it was my family, and I didn’t really need to ask too hard for that help.  All I needed to do was pick up the phone and say, this is what is happening, and the help was offered.  My father and step-mother love me so unconditionally.  Sometimes I can be the biggest baby about things, and sometimes there are things I’m going through which they can’t possibly understand from my perspective, but they don’t care.  They just love, and they show it by doing as much as they possibly can, whenever they are able.

The problem is, they aren’t as able right now.  My step-mother just had knee replacement surgery, and my father is going to have a heart valve transplant sometime very soon.  But they were still there for me when I needed them, as much as they could be.  However, this time, during a crisis I was going through and I’m still going through they couldn’t offer as much as they’d like to be able to, and that meant I needed to grow up just a little bit.

That was very difficult for me at first.  I wanted more care than they were able to give, and I finally had to face that fact after a week of hell, and a trip to the emergency room because I thought something was horribly wrong with my stomach or abdomen, or I had some other major medical issue going on, only to be diagnosed with constipation.  That’s ok.  You can laugh. That shit really hurt man!

Then, quite frankly, I started to pray to my higher power.  Now, again, if I’m sitting in my living room saying, “God, please, I need your strength here!”, is anyone listening, or am I just affirming in my head, that I need help from something more than myself, and trying to work through how to get that help in my head.  The weirdness is not in the asking.  The weirdness is in the answers you get, and recognizing them.

At this point it was another family member who came through for me.  My aunt, who just lost her husband and my Uncle from cancer sent me an email one morning, asking me if I could help her with some computer problems.  I told her about my situation, and how debilitating it was for me, and that all I could offer was to keep in touch because I thought it would be good for the both of us.  I then asked her a question.  How is she coping?  Because she’s pretty depressed right now too.  She told me about how our grandmother used to make her make up her bed as soon as she got out of it, so she would at least have that to say she accomplished that day.  So for some reason, I got out of bed, I not only made my bed, but I finally changed the sheets, putting clean ones on, and then I put the dirty ones in the washing machine along with some other laundry I needed to do.  Then we chatted back and forth in email, and eventually she asked me a specific computer question, and it gave my mind something to do.

At first I just explained what it could be, and pushed it back on her.  But we kept chatting.  Then I decided to do some searching online, and I was able to at least partially find the answer to her problem and help her get it more under control.  I was still in a bad place, but my mindset had changed a bit.  Frankly, having something to do made me feel less depressed.  So we continued to chat, and I continued to pray.  I also had to make some very tough decisions about some things in my life which I will talk about in another post some time.

I started doing a few more, manageable tasks around the house.  More laundry, wash the dishes,  vacuum a little bit.  And then I allowed myself to take a break because I had accomplished some things that I needed to accomplish.

Another pretty much sleepless night went by, but I got up and took care of some things I needed do.  I went to a doctor’s appointment.  I had to take a cab there because of some other real (more than constipation) issues I’m dealing with right now, but I went.  I asked the doctor for help with some things and she went over and above to help me.  Certainly a higher power there.

Another sleepless night, still chatting with my aunt, still getting small, manageable tasks done, still praying.  By the way, my prayers were pretty simple.  “God, please help me to know what to do next.”

This time the answer came to make some phone calls, and I did.  I called very good friends.  That was today.  I had several phone conversations.  Then I got a ride to another doctor’s appointment from one of those friends.  Then I met my parents for lunch, and took care of some business that needed to be taken care of to make it easier for them to help me in ways that they could help me.  Then I met another person and took care of some more business that needed to get taken care of.  Then another friend picked me up, and we went to meet with some other friends.  I got home at about 8:30 after a very full day.  I made a few more phone calls.  And now I’m writing this.

Will I sleep tonight.  Who knows?  If my body needs sleep, I will sleep.  It will eventually come, but it sure will come a lot faster if I’m up and moving, and doing things and staying active.  By the way, I meantioned more phone calls.  Tomorrow is a very full day.  Thursday will have some activity in the evening, and I can always think about how to do more between now and then, and then make some more phone calls.  Oh, and I need to go grocery shopping.  Luckily the grocery store is in the same shopping center where my condo is.  I think I can manage a 3 block drive.  I was told so by one of my advocating friends..

So now it’s midnight.  I’m not really sleepy, but I’m tired, and that’s a good thing.  I have to deal with chronic pain, and managing that is tough because it adds to the depression causing the sleep issues which adds to the depression and yes I did mean to say depression three times.  But today was a good day.  I was up, and active, and tomorrow and the next day will be the same.

I’m certainly not out of the woods here.  I’ve got a lot more to do to get back into life.  Find a job for one, but I need to take care of myself first, and this one was a bit of a nose dive so I’ve still got some climbing to do, but I’m grateful, because I have help, from my higher power.  As long as I ask for it, and am able to recognize it when it is presented, it will always be there.  People, activity, things to think about.  They are keeping me sane, at least for now.

The Road to Gratitude

So it’s almost 10:00 on a Tuesday evening, and I’m not tired yet.  I don’t want to watch TV.  I don’t really have anything to do, hmmm…  Oh!  I haven’t written in my blog in a while.

I haven’t really been doing much of anything lately to be honest with you.  When some stuff happened in my life, I crawled into a shell, and ultimately wound up extremely depressed.

Now first, I want to warn you, because I’m about to talk about God.  Not the traditional God that many people think of.  I’m not a Christian, and even though I’m Jewish I still don’t believe that Jewish parts of the Bible are meant to be taken literally.  I’m not even talking about an all powerful, omnicient being, that guides our every day lives.  In fact, I’m not talking about anything predefined.  The word God is what we use to describe something that means different things to different people.  I’m going to use that word for brevity sake, but really what I mean is, higher power, and by that I mean anything that is more powerful than me.  Myself and a friend.  Together we are more powerful than me alone.  Myself and a group of friends.  Even better.  Myself and a group of friends and loving family members.  Or maybe it’s not people for you.  Maybe it is the God of the Bible.  The point is it doesn’t matter.  What I’m talking about is anything that you feel can help you when you need help, better than you can help yourself, or, anything that can help you help someone else better than you can help them yourself.  For the rest of this reading, God = hire power.

God has helped me a lot lately.  When I found myself in my depression, just wanting to stay in my hole and not deal with the situation I was going through, some very loving, caring people in my life gave me some help that I needed.  First, it was my family, and I didn’t really need to ask too hard for that help.  All I needed to do was pick up the phone and say, this is what is happening, and the help was offered.  My father and step-mother love me so unconditionally.  Sometimes I can be the biggest baby about things, and sometimes there are things I’m going through which they can’t possibly understand from my perspective, but they don’t care.  They just love, and they show it by doing as much as they possibly can, whenever they are able.

The problem is, they aren’t as able right now.  My step-mother just had knee replacement surgery, and my father is going to have a heart valve transplant sometime very soon.  But they were still there for me when I needed them, as much as they could be.  However, this time, during a crisis I was going through and I’m still going through they couldn’t offer as much as they’d like to be able to, and that meant I needed to grow up just a little bit.

That was very difficult for me at first.  I wanted more care than they were able to give, and I finally had to face that fact after a week of hell, and a trip to the emergency room because I thought something was horribly wrong with my stomach or abdomen, or I had some other major medical issue going on, only to be diagnosed with constipation.  That’s ok.  You can laugh. That shit really hurt man!

Then, quite frankly, I started to pray to my higher power.  Now, again, if I’m sitting in my living room saying, “God, please, I need your strength here!”, is anyone listening, or am I just affirming in my head, that I need help from something more than myself, and trying to work through how to get that help in my head.  The weirdness is not in the asking.  The weirdness is in the answers you get, and recognizing them.

At this point it was another family member who came through for me.  My aunt, who just lost her husband and my Uncle from cancer sent me an email one morning, asking me if I could help her with some computer problems.  I told her about my situation, and how debilitating it was for me, and that all I could offer was to keep in touch because I thought it would be good for the both of us.  I then asked her a question.  How is she coping?  Because she’s pretty depressed right now too.  She told me about how our grandmother used to make her make up her bed as soon as she got out of it, so she would at least have that to say she accomplished that day.  So for some reason, I got out of bed, I not only made my bed, but I finally changed the sheets, putting clean ones on, and then I put the dirty ones in the washing machine along with some other laundry I needed to do.  Then we chatted back and forth in email, and eventually she asked me a specific computer question, and it gave my mind something to do.

At first I just explained what it could be, and pushed it back on her.  But we kept chatting.  Then I decided to do some searching online, and I was able to at least partially find the answer to her problem and help her get it more under control.  I was still in a bad place, but my mindset had changed a bit.  Frankly, having something to do made me feel less depressed.  So we continued to chat, and I continued to pray.  I also had to make some very tough decisions about some things in my life which I will talk about in another post some time.

I started doing a few more, manageable tasks around the house.  More laundry, wash the dishes,  vacuum a little bit.  And then I allowed myself to take a break because I had accomplished some things that I needed to accomplish.

Another pretty much sleepless night went by, but I got up and took care of some things I needed do.  I went to a doctor’s appointment.  I had to take a cab there because of some other real (more than constipation) issues I’m dealing with right now, but I went.  I asked the doctor for help with some things and she went over and above to help me.  Certainly a higher power there.

Another sleepless night, still chatting with my aunt, still getting small, manageable tasks done, still praying.  By the way, my prayers were pretty simple.  “God, please help me to know what to do next.”

This time the answer came to make some phone calls, and I did.  I called very good friends.  That was today.  I had several phone conversations.  Then I got a ride to another doctor’s appointment from one of those friends.  Then I met my parents for lunch, and took care of some business that needed to be taken care of to make it easier for them to help me in ways that they could help me.  Then I met another person and took care of some more business that needed to get taken care of.  Then another friend picked me up, and we went to meet with some other friends.  I got home at about 8:30 after a very full day.  I made a few more phone calls.  And now I’m writing this.

Will I sleep tonight.  Who knows?  If my body needs sleep, I will sleep.  It will eventually come, but it sure will come a lot faster if I’m up and moving, and doing things and staying active.  By the way, I meantioned more phone calls.  Tomorrow is a very full day.  Thursday will have some activity in the evening, and I can always think about how to do more between now and then, and then make some more phone calls.  Oh, and I need to go grocery shopping.  Luckily the grocery store is in the same shopping center where my condo is.  I think I can manage a 3 block drive.  I was told so by one of my advocating friends..

So now it’s midnight.  I’m not really sleepy, but I’m tired, and that’s a good thing.  I have to deal with chronic pain, and managing that is tough because it adds to the depression causing the sleep issues which adds to the depression and yes I did mean to say depression three times.  But today was a good day.  I was up, and active, and tomorrow and the next day will be the same.

I’m certainly not out of the woods here.  I’ve got a lot more to do to get back into life.  Find a job for one, but I need to take care of myself first, and this one was a bit of a nose dive so I’ve still got some climbing to do, but I’m grateful, because I have help, from my higher power.  As long as I ask for it, and am able to recognize it when it is presented, it will always be there.  People, activity, things to think about.  They are keeping me sane, at least for now.

What’s he thinking?

This is Bene.

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Sometimes I wonder what he’s thinking.
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Is he thinking, “Daddy don’t stopping rubbing my belly please!”

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Is he thinking, “Daddy’s leg is soft.”

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Is he pointing at a fly on the ceiling thinking, “Daddy Can I eat that for dinner?

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Is he thinking,  “Daddy, why are you such a big, funny looking cat?”

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Is he thinking, “This is the life!  My sister Seri, and my big retarded sister Jamaica who drools and pants a lot, and my Daddy and me.  Things couldn’t get much better!”

Then I stop wondering what he is thinking, and I stop thinking, and just enjoy the moment, because I realize that is what he is doing.  He’s just living in the moment, and for all of us, right in this moment, things are pretty good. 

So I thought I’d share this special moment with whomever is reading this.  I wish you many special moments in your life, today and every day.  When you notice one, stop what you are doing, stop thinking, and do what Bene does.  Just be!

How To Be Truly Humble

Here’s a fortune cookie and an abstract thought for you all in one.

“True humility is the knowledge that one can never be truly humble.”

If you don’t understand that one, don’t fret.  I won’t be able to explain it to you so that you can feel the meaning of it in your heart in a few sentences in a blog.  It’s something I’ve come to understand over time, and I mean a lot of time.  I used to think humility is what you felt when you drank all night, made a fool out of yourself, and had to be told the next day what you did to make a fool out of yourself because you didn’t remember.  But people would give you that look.  You know the one I’m talking about.  Or maybe you don’t.  It was the look that said, “There he is!  That’s the guy that did that stuff last night!”  For someone like me who craves being the center of attention, it was certainly attention alright, but not exactly the attention I was looking for.  Still, it was attention.  And attention is attention.  So if that’s the only way you know how to get it, then that’s what you keep doing, over and over and over, until, well, it doesn’t work for you anymore.

Yep that was the kind of humility I knew.  The kind that kept landing me in the same place over and over, wondering why I kept winding up in that place.  It was a lack of balance, when you come right down to it.  I had no idea how to get the attention I so desperately needed in a less self-destructive manner.  So time after time I wound up humiliated.  The way I delt with it was to just not be around people anymore.  I decided that I needed to be alone for the rest of my life, and the way I was acting, I think a lot of people agreed with me.

Well, that didn’t work so well either.  Because then my only critic was me.  I was really hard on myself.  I still am.  But at least when I was with other people who were as self-centered as I was I had some camaraderie in our self-centerdness.  I eventually had to make some drastic changes in my life, and those changes have led me on the quest for perfect humility.  Wait?  Ummmm…  Like I said, if you don’t get it, you don’t get it.  Keep reading anyway.  It will all be OK.

Humility, as I’ve come to find out is something completely different than humiliation.  With most problems in life, as the one I was speaking about above, I lacked a sense of balance.  To quote a very good book, “I utterly lacked the ability to form a true partnership with another human being.”  Don’t go looking in your bible folks.  It’s a different good book.  If you don’t know what book, and you want to know what book, send me an email.  Anyway, it doesn’t really matter.  That was my problem.  I just didn’t know how to get along, with people, with work, with anything or anyone.  Not even plants.  I killed several of those.  Seriously.  “Ah, it can go a couple more days without water.  I know, because it’s a Chia Pet and I’m an expert.”  All of it came down to one simple, but extremely complex thing.  Humility.

To explain humility, or what it means to me, is easier to do with examples rather than just defining what the word means.  To me, humility means balance, which I’ve already eluded to.  I didn’t know balance.  I knew extremes.  I still know extremes.  I just don’t wander in their direction as often anymore, but I certainly know where they are.

Let’s take one extreme.  The person who only cares about themselves and their own problems.  Yeah, that was pretty much me for most of my life.  Still is sometimes.  Some would call this person selfish, self-centered, self-important, and pretentious.  They’d be right.  This person may at times pretend like they care, but they don’t.  Ultimately it’s all about them, and as long as things go the way they want them to they are perfectly happy.  This person utterly lacks humility.

Then there is the other extreme.  The person who cares nothing of themselves.  They are constantly serving others, doing what pleases others, putting their needs last.  Some would call this person selfless, other-centered, self-unimportant, and altruistic.  They’d be wrong.  That’s right.  You read that correctly.  THEY’D BE WRONG!  Now, I’m not saying this person doesn’t have good intentions most of the time, but so does the person at the other extreme.  The selfishness here is much more subtle, and I’m sure I’m going to get some hateful comments about this.  But at the extreme, this person can be an enabler, a codependant, and yes, I’m going to say it, selfish.  In fact, they could be even more selfish than the person at the other extreme.

How is this possible?  Because they are missing a huge part of the equation which comes with being able to form a true partnership with another human being.  They have forgotten that they are human, they have problems, they have needs, and that people love them.  Stay with me here, I’m not talking about everyone, just the extremes.  People in this state sometimes believe that the only way they can be loved is to be selfless, other-centered, self-unimportant and altruistic.  They forget that the people that love them want to be there for them, and feel a bond with them when they are being their for them.  They have utterly forgotten that a relationship goes both ways, they utterly lack humility.

So, before you stop reading and send a hateful comment, this is just a reminder that the person I was describing above was an extreme.  I was in no way saying it is bad under all circumstances to help others, to be there for others, to care for others, and to show others you love them through the actions that you take.  I’m just saying, sometimes it is your turn to receive, and when it is, be accepting of the help that is being offered to you.

So what is true humility?  It is balance.  It is the ability to be selfish and selfless at the same time.  It is the ability to understand that you don’t have all of the answers to life’s problems, but you do have some of the answers, and when you do have the answers you should share them.  It is the ability to know what answers you have and what answers you don’t have.  It is the ability to know when people want you to give them answers and when they don’t.  It is the ability to know when to ask for help, and when asking for help may be putting too much of a burden on a loved one.  It is the ability to know when to give and when to receive.  So who does this perfectly?  Raise your hand!  I don’t see any hands.  Well, probably because I’m sitting here typing this in an empty house at 11:15 PM on a Wednesday night, and the only ones that are looking at me are my cats, and they don’t have hands, they have paws.

I’ll bet nobody raised there hand though.  The reason for that is simple and the answer to my original question.  It is impossible to be truly humble.  Now I didn’t say it was impossible to be humble.  I said it was impossible to be truly humble.  To be humble, all you have to do is try.  All you have to do is admit when you are wrong, learn from your mistakes, and hopefully do better next time.  Humility is the knowledge of true humility and the quest for it, with the understanding that as a human being, you will never find it.

When you are living you life at one of the extremes, and you are finding yourself becoming more and more alone either because of the demands you are making on others or because you won’t allow people close enough to help you when you need it, you are not living a humble life.

When you are living your life at one of the extremes, and you are finding that you don’t need people because they always disappoint you, or you are trying so hard to hold on to them or serve them that you are giving more than you have to give at the risk of your own health and sanity, you are not living a humble life.

When your life is going in circles, and you keep winding up in the same place over and over, not knowing how you got there, think about humilty.  Think about the fact that you are human.  Then ask for guidance, because there is another way to live.  There is the way of humility, and forming true partnerships with many human beings, and if you are spiritual, with God as well.

Wow it’s late.  Time for bed.  Good night.

Where the F’ is my F’ing Cat?!!!

I can’t explain the biochemistry behind what makes me love something that pees on my favorite blanket, or knocks my plants over, or decides it’s playtime at 3:31 AM and starts chasing her brother around the house, singing and chirping loudly and happily, that is until I throw a blanket at it (which it proceeds to pee on).  Nor can I can explain the biochemistry that makes me love something that lies down prone in front me, allowing me to rub it’s belly while it coos, or does a little pat pat pat pat with it’s paws on my chest while it is picking just the right spot to put it’s head down, or makes me laugh when I take its favorite ball on a string and start twirling it around, creating the worlds only living bobble head cat.

No, I can’t explain what creates the bond, during good times or bad times, but I know it exists.  Sometimes it takes something very stressful to realize just how strong that bond of love really is.  Sometimes the thought of losing something or someone with whom you’ve formed a bond is exactly what it takes to make you appreciate that bond, which in turn helps the bond to grow even stronger.

Although I am never one to be satisfied with the status quo, there are certain patterns of events in my life which I have come to appreciate, and almost depend upon.  One of those would be the ritual of coming home from work.  Generally, I have the dog already with me because I have picked her up from dog daycare where she has spent the day playing, or lately because of her advancing age, playing and then resting.  I’m so fortunate that I can afford to be able to offer that for her.  I know she is a happier dog, and has lived a more fulfilling and satisfying life, and probably a longer one too.

When I open the door, I release the leash, and the dog climbs the stairs to the first landing and then turns around and waits.  She knows she is not supposed to continue up the stairs until I have removed her leash, and she has received a rub on her head, a pat on her side, along with an enthusiastic, “Good girl!” Then, as I’m leaning down to scratch behind her ears, she licks my nose, and once the lick has been completed, she continues up the stairs.  She didn’t just naturally start to behave in this manner.  I trained her to do this.  She is a smart dog, so it didn’t take long, but just like I get used to certain patterns in my life, so does she, so it has now become her standard behavior, and will remain so as long as I’m consistent about reinforcing it.

As I’m removing the dog’s leash, another ritual commences. I look up and there are two little heads peaking around the corner on opposite sides of the top of the stairs.  Seri is usually on the left, and Bene is on the right, but this varies for some unknown, and unimportant reason.  The important thing is that they are both always there.  When the dog and I climb the stairs, the meowing commences.  Seri will generally go over to her bowl and start eating her food, which is actually non-existent at this point because I haven’t put any food in her bowl yet.  Again, I have no idea why she does this.  Is it to give me a hint that she is hungry, or is she associating the fact that I have arrived at home in the evening with the fact that soon there will be food in her bowl?  Her reasons are unimportant.  What’s important is that she does this, and I hear her doing it because the tag on her collar is clanging against the metal bowl.

If I don’t get to feeding the kids immediately, more rituals ensue. Seri will “Meh!” That’s the only way I can describe it. The sound she makes is “Meh!” That’s the sound of “Daddy feed me!” That, and along with the occasional “Lerreh!” If you have read a previous posting of mine then you know that this is Seri saying my name, and yes, she really is saying my name and I don’t care how crazy you think I am.

Her little brother Bene will simply meow, like a normal cat. Rather I should say, a normal whiney cat. It’s more like, “Meeeeooooowwwooowwwooowwwoowwww!” If it takes too long for me to feed him he will stand directly under my legs, and try to trip me. He teams up with Jamaica, who stands in front of me and pants and dances, tounge hanging out, and when I try to avoid stepping on Bene I invariably crash into her. Yes, a couple of times I’ve gone down. Too many creatures in the kitchen at the same time.

Since Bene is a little piggy who will eat everyone else’s food before he eat’s his own, even if it’s the same damn food, I have trained him (yes you heard me correctly), to go into the lower cabinet across from the sink as soon as I open it. Bene knows to go in there because that is where his food will appear after I put it in his bowl. He will usually wait patiently for about 2 minutes until he starts banging on the inside of the cabinet door, eventually crashing his way out and jumping up to steal his sister’s food if I have already put it in her bowl. Generally I haven’t, so I scoop him up and put him back in the cabinet. Once I do fill his bowl, I give it to him in the cabinet and close the door, and give his sister her food. Then I get Jamaica’s food ready while Bene is distracted. Sometimes Bene decides that he is bored with his food and will come crashing out of the cabinet and jump up to steal his sister’s food, and his sister doesn’t even fight back. Stick up for yourself woman! I will grab him by the scruff, and put him back in the cabinet with a firm “No!”, this time remembering to put a heavy object, like a chair in front of the door so he can’t get out.

Once Jamaica (That’s right, Bene at 7.5 lbs will steal Jamaica’s food also and she, at 45 lbs will just back away. Stick up for yourself woman!) is finished, and Seri is finished, I let Bene out, and then for the rest of the evening the two cats chase each other around the house, knocking things over, and generally making a nuasance of themselves. The dog, at her advanced age, generally lies down after a long, exhausting day of playing and goes to sleep.

So this is a normal evening in my home, and I’m used to it. The other day though, something happened to change the normal pattern. I knew almost immediately that something was wrong. We got in the front door, Jamaica climbed to the first landing, I did the usual rub and pat and “Good girl!”, and she licked my nose. Then I looked up and only saw one little head instead of two. Bene was there, but no Seri. I didn’t panic immediately, but I did panic. After I entered the kitchen, and there was still no Seri, and put food in her bowl, but there was still no Seri, that is when I started to panic.

On this day, the cleaning service that used to clean my house came back for the first time in months. I had another lady coming for a while, but she was far too expensive for what she was offering. I originally let the first service go because I had new cats, and I already had a communication problem with them sometimes just trying to get them to be consistent with what I wanted and did not want done. I had seen how they had moved the furniture around in a hurried manner, and left doors open, including the front door leading outside, and I was worried that one of the cats would get squashed, or locked in a room or closet, or get out. They were just kittens at the time, and I didn’t trust anyone, including myself, to be alone in the house with them.

Now that the cats are older, and one of them is no longer a kitten, I decided to try the old service again. I went over the rules about the cats with them. Be careful when moving the furniture. Leave all doors open inside the house. Keep all closet doors and drawers and cabinets closed (no need for them to go in there anyway, so I thought). Be very careful when opening and closing the front door because by the time you see them, they are gone. The cats are always lurking by the front door when I’m leaving or even just taking the dog for a walk. In fact, they are so smart that they even wait now when they see I am taking the dog for a walk, and they have tried a few times to get past me as soon as I open the front door, bringing the dog back in. In fact, the day of this incident, a few hours after it happened, Seri did get out, and she started playing the game of human and cat with me. So I played the same trick I do with the dog. I closed the door instead of chasing her, and sure enough, 3 minutes later I heard her meowing (or making her “Meh!” noise I should say) and I opened the door and she ran in and up the stairs like she was on fire. Perhaps it had something to do with the fact that it was about 6 degrees outside.

Anyway, no Seri. What do I do? I call the cleaning service, like they are going to be able to tell me where the cat is. They don’t answer. I call their other number. No answer. I send them a text, “Where is my cat?” I go outside and start looking around in the bushes. I open every door to every room. I look under every piece of furniture. I move furniture and look under it again. Finally, after about 45 minutes of searching, I open the door to the linen closet in the bathroom, and there she is, sleeping.

I sent another text to the cleaning service telling them I found her. I ask them to please not open any closets, cabinets, or drawers, and to please leave every door in the house open. We’ve been through this before. I tell them that if they need something from a drawer or a closet or a cabinet, to let me know ahead of time and I’ll leave it out. There response was, “Can’t you put the cats in a cage while we clean? It would be easier.”

I wasn’t sure whether to laugh, be furious, or to just let it go. I chose the latter and told them that this is not an option. What I definitely didn’t do was fire them.

I’ll tell you what though. During the time I was looking for the cat, I went through several phases. First was panic, then anger, then “They are going to pay for this!”, then “The stupid morons!”, then sadness, then tearfulness, then acceptance of a loss, and then finally, “The cat has got to be somewhere, and if she got out, she’ll be Ok and she’ll come back if she likes being here.” She does like being here. Loves it in fact. As I said. She spent about 3 minutes outside the other day and said, “This is not for me.”, and came charging back into her home like her life depended upon it.

We develop bonds with people, with creatures, and with patterns in our lives, and when those bonds are broken or disrupted, even for a short period of time, we feel fear. The fear manifests as panic, anger, disorientation, and stress. The fact that I had fear though says something. As much as the things in my life irritate the shit out of me sometimes, I am blessed to have them, and I should be grateful that I do. Sometimes it takes just a couple of seconds of disorientation to reorient our lives, and make us appreciate the simplist things, like help with cleaning my home, like a dog who doesn’t climb the stairs until she’s kissed my nose, and like two little heads peaking around the corner, staring at me when I come home from work in the evening.
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Pain

Pain comes in many different forms.  At the root level though (no pun intended for those in the medical field), pain is either emotional or physical.  Sometimes one creates, and then perpetuates the other.  For example, sometimes physical pain prevents us from being able to sleep, which in turn not only hurts our bodies further, causing everything from obesity, to problems with our immune systems, but the lack of sleep also interferes with our judgment and reason skills, causing us sometimes to be short tempered, depressed, or anxious.

On the other hand, emotional pain causes stress, or anxiety, or depression, which can take a toll physically on our body.  Causing insomnia, heart problems, digestive problems, cancer.

Sometimes, when dealing with chronic pain, people who are not doctors, or therapists like to think that they are.  To the pain problem they would say, “I take Aleve, and that takes care of all of my pain.  I do acupuncture.  I exercise.  I lost 40 lbs and my pain went away.  I go to a physical therapist.  I go to a chiropractor.  I get a massage every week.”

The advice for the emotional pain may be, everything from, “I use St John’s Wart.” to “Just let it go.  Get over it.  Why are you holding on to this?”

The only fault I can find in this type of advice is that what worked for them may not work for you or for me, and maybe the advice should instead be, I’d see a doctor about that.  It seems to me that the family physician I have today is perfectly capable of assessing my situation and determining whether or not he can help me.  If he can’t help me he will refer me to a specialst, like a chiropractor, or an acupuncturist, or a physical therapist, or a massage therapist, or a personal trainer or a dietician.  In my case though, it was a pain specialst.

The people in our lives offering advice are probably just trying to help though, so don’t be too upset with them.  In my case though, I’m glad I went to the doctor, and I’m glad he referred me to a pain specialist.  For the past 1 1/2 years I’ve had moderate success with my physical pain.  But let’s go back through my history for a moment so that I can illustrate the events leading up to today.  Not so much so you can understand me better, or sympathize with me, but so that maybe you can relate.  Maybe there are others out there who will read this and feel comforted that there is someone out there who knows what they are going through and struggling with, and maybe can relate.  If you are one of those people I’d love to hear your story.

I was born with a rare congenital deformity of my right shoulder.  My parents searched far and wide for a solution, to hear everything from, “It’s just a broken collar bone and will heal on it’s own.” to “There’s nothing we can do.  He’s just going to be deformed, have little use of his right arm.”

But then they found a doctor only 30 miles away at John’s Hopkins hospital in Baltimore, MD.  He knew exactly what the condition was, and was confident he could help.  So at 22 months old I was under the knife for the first time in my short life.

The surgery was as successful as one would have hoped, but I was not out of the woods yet.  Although I looked more normal, and had more motion in my right arm than I would have, I still had a great deal of challenges to face.

I grew up with horrible asthma, most likely unrelated, but still it took a deep emotional toll having to be rushed to the hospital for epinephrine shots, and constantly being on medication.  At 12 years old I was diagnosed with scoliosis, and cifosis.  I was supposed to wear a full body brace 22 hours a day.  Although I wore it to sleep, and when I was at home, I refused to wear it outside of the house and my parents didn’t force me.  Because of this I probably deal with a lot more physical pain than I would have if I had followed directions.  Plus, my body would look more normal.  Not that it’s bad, but it is different.

When kids were old enough to know how to be cruel, they were.  I was made fun of, called “No Neck”, bullied by many.  I started taking Marshall arts, and when I started to fight back, the bullying stopped, at least at the physical level.

At 13 I had to have surgery for a hiatal hernia along with acid reflux.  This was likely related to the deformity.  Over a week in the hospital, and weeks away from school.  You have to remember this was 1980.  More physical and emotional pain, although it was meant to relieve other chronic pain, which it did, for about 7 years.  Now I have a big scar, and I take prescription strength Prilosec chronically.

At 25 I was the passenger in a car which hit a tree.  The seat belt grabbed me so hard that my sternum snapped in two.  I’d never felt such pain, and I never would again, until I was at the pain doctor’s office the other day and he was injecting me with a steroid to try to get the swelling down in my lower back.  More about that later.  I was taken to the hospital by ambulance, admitted of course, and I spent several days there.  Even with the pain medication they were giving me, it hurt to move, and it hurt not to move.  Even breathing hurt.  Staying in one position for too long hurt.  Changing positions hurt.  There was no way to get rid of that pain for the first few days, except for sleep which came rarely.  Even then, I’d dream about it.

Around the end of the ’90s through the early half of the 2000s,  I started experiencing severe abdominal pain, particularly in the lower left.  The diagnosis this time was diverticulosis.  Flare ups of diverticulitis, meant trips to the doctor’s office and antibiotics.  The pain would go away for a time, but would return eventually.   The flare ups became more and more frequent, to the point where the last one was nearly deadly.  The infection had caused a perforation in my large intestine, and it was in my blood stream.  I was at a wedding in Cleveland when it got really bad.  I was up all night with intense pain, a mid grade fever, and vomitting.  When my Dad was ready to take me to the airport, I told him to take me to the hospital instead.  Good decision.  They did a CAT scan and immediately admitted me.  I spent 4 days in the hospital in Cleveland, over 500 miles from home, on a high dose of antibiotics, while they told me that if they couldn’t get the infection under control I would wind up with a colostomy bag, and I’d have to have a second surgery to put my broken lower digestive tract back together.  Luckily they did get it under control, and I went home, scheduled the surgery, and although this was yet another physical and emotional toll, that problem was fixed.

I had to give up a trip to Kenya because of this last incident.  It was paid in full.  This would have been my first major trip in years.  Instead, I had to spend months contacting the airlines, and hotels, and excursion managers to try to convince them to give me at least some of my money back, which of course caused further stress.  Ultimately I got a full refund from the airlines, but not much else.  This was about a third of the total amount I had already spent for the trip.  But that was Ok.  You wouldn’t believe the amount of help I received from family and friends.  The love they showed, not through words, but through actions, made it so much easier to accept the situation as it was, rather than to complain about what it could have been.

All this time, I was still dealing with skeletal pain.  This was not creating the emotional pain I was feeling, but it was certainly contributing to it.  Still, I had almost accepted it as just something that would be a part of my life.  It was always something there in the background which was just the result of getting older.  After all, I had tried the chiropractor,  the physical therapist, the exercise,  losing weight, the massage, and even the NSAIDs, and occasionally the narcotics, but ultimately these things either didn’t help at all, or helped so little that it wasn’t worth the effort.

All this time I was still dealing with emotional pain.  Perhaps a lot of this was my inability to shake the habits, and reactions to the world that I learned as a child.  Even though my actions are my responsibility,  sometimes my reactions are more than what is called for, and then the actions that come from those overractions, are far too swift and far too judgemental than what is appropriate.  I have dealt with the result of these overractions to the world in many different ways in the past, mostly in ways that cause further self-destruction.  Lately though, I try to deal with them by seeing a therapist, and by being with people who like me, are trying to overcome a lifetime of adversity.

When I was 23, my mother died.  My relationship with here at the time was rocky at best.  Then again, my mother’s relationship wth everyone towards the end was rocky.  She had pushed everyone out of her life.  She was on unusually high doses of pain medications,  muscle relaxants,  mood stabilizers, and anxiety reducers. She was depressed and angry all the time.  Sometimes her behavior was quite frankly, psychotic.  She had quite a rough childhood, and although this was not an excuse for the way she viewed and reacted to the world, when I look back, and relate her life experiences to my own, I can understand why she had become the person that she was, and how I could use her as an example of where I could go should I not make the right choices.  At the age of 48, she just didn’t wake up one morning.   The coroner said she had not taken any of her medications at a dose that was more than prescribed,  but that the dosages she was taking, and the combinations of medications she was taking most likely caused her heart to fail.  There is another factor which the coroners never take into account, which is that the drugs of sadness and loneliness, or more specifically the chemical reactions they cause and the damage they physically cause to our bodies, were also a contributing factor.

My mother’s death was hard to take, and I still cry about it every time I think about it because the last time we spoke we were having an argument about why I didn’t tell her I was back from vacation.   My last words to her were, “I’m afraid to talk to you!”.  I had stopped talking to her many times in that last year, sometimes for months.  Too much pain to talk to her, and so much pain not to.  But I was not alone.  There weren’t a lot of people left in my mother’s life who were able to tolerate her.  Today though, I have forgiven her, and I even thank her.  My experience with her has taught me much about myself, and especially about how I react to the world.  Most importantly,  she has shown me an extreme of where I could go if I don’t stay in touch with people with whom I have a healthy relationship, and do whatever is within my power to keep that relationship healthy.

So what is this leading up to?  As I have been somewhat successfully dealing with the emotional pain I have been through in life, I must also deal with the physical pain with just as much enthusiasm.   The people in my life, who can help me with physical pain are doctors.  The pain doctor has tried multiple different methods to help me with the pain in my lower back.  That’s right.  The deformity is in my right shoulder, but a lifetime of compensation has caused the joints in my spine on the lower left side to weaken, form arthritis,  pinch nerves, and cause me so much pain that I can’t sleep.  Sorry helpful advice givers, warm milk is not going to help here.

The doctor has tried a variety of methods, not just for this area of my back, but for other areas which are difficult for me.  Some have succeeded and the pain is gone.  Yet, some like this lower back pain have failed.  The doctor ordered an MRI.  I’ve had them for other parts of my back, but not here.  Unfortunately the results did not look promising.   The doctor read the report, and showed, me the pretty pictures, and showed me just how much of the pictures that weren’t so pretty.  He told me that he could give an epidural injection which would be directed at the main nerve which was causing the problem in the back.  He wasn’t sure how effective it would be, or how long it would last, and reminded me, that it was only treating one of my issues, and only the symptoms caused by that issue.  He then asked me if I had spoken to a surgeon.  Folks, when you are going to a pain doctor who’s motto is “Non-surgical solutions for pain”, and he is asking you if you have spoken to a surgeon, it’s time to make a difficult decision.

I asked him if there were exercises or physical therapy or any other less invasive methods.  His answer was, as he was shaking his head, I’m not going to tell you not to exercise.  I agreed to have the shot, and I couldn’t walk after he was finished.  The broken sternum was a long time ago,  but I can’t remember feeling the amount of pain I was feeling when that needle went in, for that extended a period of time, ever. It was only a minute.  60 seconds.  Holy shit!  But maybe it would be successful.  Maybe I could avoid surgery.  Maybe it was worth it.

Afterwards, the doctor and I were talking and I said, “Maybe I will just have to accept the fact that I’m going to have some amount of physical pain for the rest of my life.”  His answer was, “From what I saw in the MRI, not as much as you have been experiencing lately.  What you need to accept is that you are going to have to make a choice between chronic pain medication or surgery.”

I contemplated this for less than half a second.  Pain medication treats the symptom.  Ultimately you have to take more and more of it to have the same effect.  Finally, even on dangerously high doses, it no longer works, and then you are back to the choice of surgery if you don’t die first.  At that point though, you may want to die.  You may have pushed everyone in your life away because you have become dependant on the pain medication,  and that changes you.  You become self-righteous, self-absorbed, and self-serving.  Your thoughts become focused on your next dose, and everything else in your life backs off, fades away, and becomes unimportant and unecessary.  Your body suffers, your loved ones suffer, your mind suffers, and both your body and mind begin to die.  If it sounds like I’m speaking from experience, it’s because I am.  I’m not just talking about my mother either.  Thank God that this is not my life today.

This next part I have not experienced, but what do people in this situation do when they finally do have surgery?  I would expect they suffer.   If they have built up a high tolerance to pain medication, then how much will they need to handle post surgical pain?

I made the decision to wait.  If the injection didn’t work, I would get a second opinion,  and if the second doctor agreed, I would begin looking for a surgeon.  Unfortunately, although the injection worked for a couple of days, the pain is back today with a vengeance.   I will give it a couple more days, and then call the doctor back.  Did anyone see the puns in those last two sentences?

There are things from my past that I must let go of, but I can’t erase the memories.  I can only accept them, and hopefully learn from them, perhaps discovering that forgiveness is the best way to let go of the pain those memories cause me.

There are things in my life that I must accept, but sometimes I need the help of others to figure out what I need to accept, and what I can change.

Sometimes I have to listen to my friends and loved ones, and to experts, and combine that with my own experience to make the best decision possible for myself.

Then, once the decision is made, even if there are still doubts, I must take a leap of faith and let God handle it from there.  But I must not hesitate.  A decision to do something is not actually doing anything.

This past 3 years, I’ve decided I wanted to take some of those major trips I was discussing earlier.  It took me a while to build the courage back up to make such a financial commitment after what happened with Kenya.  In 2012 I went to Italy.  In 2013 I went on a tall ship cruise from Italy to Montenegro, to Croatia, to Slovenia, and back to Italy.

This year I decided I wanted to do something different, and at the end of October, I am going to Kenya.  I am only going though, if I take this leap of faith, and I do so in enough time to allow myself to heal.  So the time is now.

For now I have chosen to not accept the pain, and to make a decision that has the most likely chance of long term success.  If I was not living such a wonderful life today, with such wonderful people in it, I might have made a different decision.  Thank you to everyone who has been in my life, and who currently is for helping me to see clearly, and today get through painful times, whether they be emotional or physical.   I hope I can be there for you some day too.