Thursday, January 26, 2006

Submission and Trust

Truth be told, I'm not keen on the term "submission." Here's Merriam-Webster's definition (parts 2 and 3):

Submission: :
2: the condition of being submissive , humble, or compliant
3: an act of submitting to the authority or control of another (Merriam-Webster on-line).

We Americans (ruggedly-individual-pull-ourselves-up-by-our-bootstraps-"but-we-have-our-rights" Americans) resist anything to do with humility, compliance, or yielding control.

Labs, thankfully, aren't like Americans in this regard. They're so eager to please, they willingly (well, maybe not-always-so-willingly) submit to us.

I'm glad they're so inclined. Especially when I think of the damage lack of submission (i.e., lack of humility or refusing to yield our "rights" for the sake of another) can bring in the human world: war; divorce; child-abuse; slavery; marital conflict; destructive relationships; etc.)

It's a me-first world today--one that's lost the ideals of sacrifice, service, duty, and honor. And it's my generation (the boomers) that have made it this way (let's own up here, boomer folks).

I wish we were more like Labs, who so willingly serve and do what we ask without complaint or a "what's in it for me" attitude. They serve us, and do so with great joy.

Why? Why are they so willing to abandon themselves for our sake?

Well, partly, of course, it's their nature to do so; they are Labs after all. And partly because then are not human (filled with self-centered ego).

But I think it may also have something to do with trust (isn't it interesting that our generation is the one that came up with "you can't trust anyone over 30").

Baxter, Elsie, and Ridge trust us. They know we have their good in mind. They intuitively understand that what we do is for their best.

Just two weeks ago Don accidentally cut Baxter's toenail too short (the last nail on the last of the three to be trimmed), and it bled. And bled. And bled. We had Baxter lie down; elevated his leg; put pressure on the bleed; applied clotting stuff to the nail tip; and yet we still ended up with half-a-roll of paper towels sopped in crimson blood stains.

Yet for all our flurry of activity, and for all Baxter's discomfort, he yielded. He stayed still, didn't fight us, and allowed us to do what needed to be done.

Imagine the chaos (and mess) if he hadn't.

But he could only do so because he trusted (and trusts) us.

Don and I have a marriage based on mutual submission. We don't fight for who's top dog; we don't squash each other to get our ways; we voluntarily and mutually seek the other's best. Do we sometimes disagree? Sure. But we work it through, trying to maintain humilty and with an eye to the others' need (not just our own).

And after 24 years, we're still best friends; we love each other deeply; we like each other; we appreciate each other; we look out for each other; and we trust each other without reservation.

Ah...there's that trust word again.

Trust is huge. Without trust, we can't have healthy relationships: in our families, with our friends, in the workplace, and even with our canines.

I've been asking myself this question lately: Am I trustworthy? Can I do more? What can I do to foster even deeper trust?

And am I willing to submit? Am I willing to yield my needs (e.g.: to get work done) for the sake of another's (e.g.: the dogs' need to get exercise and attention).

I'm in process. As we all are. But at least I'm asking the questions.

Are you?

'Til next time,

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Of Sleep and Dreams

It's amazing to me how angelic our kids look when they're sleeping (canine and human, of course). It's especially true of our Labs. :o)

No impish grins.
No mischievous gleams in their eyes.
No playful yips for attention.
No pawing or jumping or teasing or nudging.

Just peace-filled slumber. Or fun-filled dreams of chasing birds, romping in the fields, and splashing in ice-cold streams.

For them, the transition from sleep to waking isn't sudden or rude. They yawn and stretch and sigh themselves awake. Then they're ready for the world. Real life, for a Lab, is every bit as fun as their dreams.

I've never known a Lab to have a nightmare (fears, yes--like Ridge with thunder; nightmares, no).

We humans, however, no matter how peaceful we look while sleeping, have nightmares. At least this one does. And sometimes our wakings terrify us.

I've had more bad dreams in recent months than in the last several years combined. Yet, life is good just now: not as difficult or as stressful as it has been; no crises; no crushing disappointments; and less stress. I'm exercising; I'm taking care of myself; I'm eating right; and all is well (with my soul and otherwise, and with that of my family members and friends).

It doesn't make sense. Nightmares now, when life is smooth and I have little to fear?

Yes, I've lived through seasons when my waking world felt far worse and more frightening than slumber land, and during those times I preferred to keep dreaming than to wake up and face the day (though face the day I did).

But life holds a gentle, quieter season for me right now. So why the bad dreams? Why now? Weird.

I'd love know what dreams really are. What's their purpose? Where do they come from? What do they reveal? And if answers to those questions exist, then how do those answers apply to our canine companions?

Mystery. Life is full of mystery. That's the wonder of living, I guess.

But I sure would like to know about dreams. And if I can't know, then at least I wish I'd quit having these dreams about death and unfaithfulness and sickness and disease and separation and loneliness and failure (you name it; I've envisioned it a dream lately).

I'd much rather join Baxter and Elsie and Ridge in their outdoor-adventure dreams, even if my legs twitched or I barked and drooled in my sleep. :o)

In any case, if I slept like my canine kids, I'd probably sleep better. Maybe I'll see if they'll tell me their secret.

I suppose I can ask, but I doubt they'll tell. ;o)

'Til next time,

Friday, January 20, 2006

So What Happened to Winter?

The canine kids are depressed. Well, this kid-at-heart is, too. ;o)

Here it is, January, and we're averaging 20 degrees above normal. Today it's supposed to hit 60 degrees (F). Gag.

We reeeeeeeeeeeeally like snow at our house. We loved having a white December, right up until two days before Christmas when it got warm and downpoured and washed most of the snow away.

Baxter and Ridge (and Elsie) raced in the snow.

They sniffed and sniffed and sniffed the snow.

The played hide-n-seek and let's-pounce-on-each-other. :o)

And sometimes they just sat and enjoyed the quiet.

Yes, it gets very quiet here after a good snow. Maybe that's why I like it so much.

We want our winter back.


You watch: I bet we get a snow-dumping noreaster here in late March, just about the time when we're ready for spring.

Go figure. But at least our seasons change, and it gives us something to look forward to (yes, I'm looking forward to that next big storm). In light of yesterday's post, I suspose the fact that we have seasons at all is something to savor. Even if they do seem to forget which season they are.

'Til next time,
Joan (who really dislikes these mid-winter warmups!)

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Learning to Savor

Ah, for a Lab, there's nothing like a good bone!

I had a busy work day ahead of me today, and I didn't want to crate Elsie and Ridge, so I pulled out some solid, flavored knuckle bones to keep them happily occupied.

And the three of them went to town on their bones.

No one needs to teach them to savor this occasional (at our house) treat: they sniff it; they lick it; they prod it; the scrape their teeth on it; they hold it in their paws; they protect it; they enjoy it until their jaws tire; and even then, after a rest, they return to savor it some more.

Why don't we savor good things, even little things, more? That is, we humans. Labs have no trouble taking time to enjoy life's graces.

We're blessed with sooooooooo much, and not just things; moments, too. Yet we blur right by them or through them with barely a notice.

When I break out the bones for Baxter, Elsie, and Ridge, it's almost as though they've never been offered anything quite so delightful before. It doesn't matter if it's the 10th or 100th bone they've received. Each is fresh and exciting and fun and thoroughly gratifying.

They know how to savor. And we can learn from them.

Here's a short list of what I'm learning to savor, and as I do, my heart is becoming more full because of my savoring:

  • my health (I can breath, see, hear, walk, smell, eat, think clearly, and a thousand other things -- my heart works, my live works, my lungs work, my brain works, my kidneys work). How quickly our health can change!
  • my marriage (not perfect, but after 24 years my husband is still my best friend; I'm learning to treasure, appreciate, and enjoy him).
  • my environment (sounds--stopping, closing my eyes, and just listening; sights--e.g.:noticing birds in the backyard and at the feeders; stopping and taking a moment to watch them; weather--enjoying the seasons and changes as they come).
  • my kids (my human ones). I'm stepping back to notice all I love about them; they're personalities, passions, strengths, quirks--just who God made them to be.
  • my work (being grateful that I have work; that I work in a profession I enjoy; that I work remotely from home most days; that I enjoy my co-workers; and that I'm using my strengths and gifts to help people).
  • life itself (that God has given me this day, another day to live--how quickly and suddenly so many die without ever appreciating the lives they had).
  • my canine kids :o) (their silliness, their eagerness, their faithfulness; all they teach me; the love they offer; their calming influence; the fact that we can afford to have them)
  • our circumstances (not perfect, but we have a roof over our heads, food to eat, clothes to wear, cars to drive, and money to pay the bills most months)

Savoring doesn't mean life is perfect: We still have tough things with which to deal and stressors that weigh on our hearts. But savoring means appreciating what's good.

And we all have something good to savor, if only we'll take a moment, open our eyes, and notice.

Just like Baxter, Elsie, and Ridge do, virtually every moment of every day.

'Til next time,


Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Wow, It's Been Almost a Month!

We've finally returned!

But I can't believe it's been nearly a month since I blogged. It's amazing how much routine influences my productivity! And routine goes to pot during the holidays, at least at our house.

But, routine has returned; so here's to my blogging regularly again!

To get started, I thought I'd offer a recap of the last month's happenings categorized in opposing camps: Good Things (GT) and related Not So Good Things (NSGT). It's a smattering of topics in no particular order. Maybe you'll find some encouragement in seeing that my life is every bit as nuts as the next guy's. Enjoy!

GT: All three dogs love the new doggie beds we bought for them.
NSGT: We only bought two doggie beds, and we have three dogs. :( I guess there's always the couch or a human lap for whoever is left out. :)

GT: I'm really working 30 hours per week now (my employer has enough work for me to fill that many hours for me working remotely now). :)
NSGT: I have less time to blog and play with the "kids." :(

GT: I'm under freelance book contract again (in addition to my day job). :)
NSGT: I have fewer evenings available to snuggle with the Baxter, Elsie, and Ridge. They miss their "Mom" snuggle time. :( And I miss them. But they get lots of "Dad" time. :o)

GT: Ridge loves to snuggle now.
NSGT: My lap's not big enough for three Labs at one time (that would amount to 270 pounds of Lab).

GT: My lap's getting smaller. :o)
NSGT: My clothes are too big, but I'm not ready to buy a bunch of new ones.

GT: The human kids all made it home safely for the holidays. :)
NSGT: Now they're back at their respective colleges (2) and busy routines (all three). It's awfully quiet around here (humans adults and canine kids find it a bit too quiet, sometimes).

GT: I got my Christmas cards/letter out on time.
NSGT: It's been seven years since I sent Christmas cards/letters. :(

GT: I received good news at my annual physical last week. My triglycerides are down 300 points since last tested six months ago (Went from 480+ to 174).
NSGT: I hate physicals. :(

GT: I'm controlling my prediabetes well with just diet and exercise.
NSGT: I'm still not fond of exercise.

GT: Elsie and Baxter aren't chewing up forbidden things (shoes and such) anymore.
NSGT(?): Elsie and Baxter are no longer puppies. The "kids" are growing up.

GT: Elsie still loves to be next to us wherever we are, even when we're working.
NSGT: It's too easy to pay attention to her, and not to the things that have to get done.

GT: We made it through Elsie's last heat cycle just fine (though Ridge went bonkers again).
NSGT(?): Elsie still has at least one (maybe two) heat cycles to get through before she and Ridge can mate.

GT: I've been invited to join a teaching team to teach at a women's conference in Zambia (in May). My husband and I taught in Kenya a few years ago; so I'm excited to go back to Africa.
NSGT: I have to be gone two weeks (which means doggies will be crated all day for those two weeks). Anybody have any ideas how to handle this?

GT: I didn't gain any weight over the holidays; in fact, I lost a couple pounds. :o)
NSGT: I still have about 30 lbs. to go.

GT: It's been a very mild January here in PA (no snow, temps in the 40s and 50s, only rain).
NSGT: I hate mild Januaries. I love the cold and snow (as do Baxter and Elsie).

GT: I've completely eliminated white flour and sugar from the foods I eat.
NSGT: I had to give up some really yummy foods to do so.

GT: I'm blogging again. :o)
NSGT: It's been weeks since my last entry.

I suppose that's enough for now. Happy New Year, all! It's good to be back!

'Til next time,