Monday, June 27, 2011

Doggie Update

My sister, who is a vet tech, emailed me and said not to be too concerned with the attachment Percy has to Winston. I'm choosing to take her advice and am reminded again that you really can find someone, somewhere, to side with you when it comes to parenting issues!

I did take Percy out by himself today though, because I can see how the dogs each need their special time (this is what parents of multiple human children do too, right?). Who was crying when I took Percy...Winston! Percy was perfectly happy, but Winston was distressed. I'm sure the tables will be turned when I take Winston for his time. Percy and I worked on some of his behavior and went for a short walk. When I returned Percy to the crew there was just way too much excitement and some dominance demonstrating from Winston. A few minutes later Winston was still too excited to sit, but Lucy and Percy were cuddled together. Earlier this morning I caught Percy and Winston cuddling - Winston with his head on Percy's back. There's a lot of love in that little trio.

So in my quest to take advice/criticism with a grain of salt, and to listen to my own intuition, I feel good about today's efforts. Percy, Winston and Lucy have their own funky relationships and instead of trying to fix them, I'm going to give them each some time away from the others, but also let them work things out on their own.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

A Visit to the Vet

Friday we hauled all 4 of the furry animals (meaning not the snake and turtle) to the vet's. We had 3 separate appointments and we used them to ease the staff into meeting our lovable crew.

Jada, our kitty, was first and in typical Jada fashion, she acted very upset and inconvenienced about the whole thing. After receiving her vaccine she turned her body away from us and positioned herself so she was facing the wall. When we brought her home she ran off and wouldn't grace us with her presence until she determined we were forgiven. Jada was easiest only because she's the lightest of the animals, but her attitude stinks.

Next was Lucy, who couldn't have made us prouder! She sat when offered a treat and took her vaccines and blood draw like a champ. I often describe Lucy as stubborn and unpredictable, but yesterday she was compliant and gentle. We did talk with the veterinarian and vet tech about Lucy's behavior around small children, which makes us nervous, because it looks like she wants to take them down. We were assured that this is normal behavior for a dog. Small children often know no boundaries and to a dog, that is very discomforting. It also seems that all that hugging I love to do with Lucy might not be her favorite thing in the world. WHAT?! The two humans in my family are not big huggers, now this? I'm going to go ahead and order that inflatable doll.

We saved the beasts, I mean best, for last. Percy and Winston were warmly greeted by another pet owner in the waiting room who commented on their dignified names. Oh yeah, my boys are dignified, so dignified that the garbage can had to be removed from the exam room because they couldn't get their faces out of it! Winston got his blood drawn and took his vaccines ok once we removed him from the same room as Percy, but the emphasis is on "ok." Winston, don't you know I tell everyone that you are the good dog?

Here comes the tough part, Percy. We suspected Percy had some vision loss and we were told by his vet in Utah that it was probably so, based on his behavior. This vet expanded on that and talked about Percy's attachment to Winston and his inappropriate behavior around other dogs. Percy does not look away when another dog makes eye contact, instead he stares straight ahead, because he can't help it. It seems Percy was born with the vision problem, but we have exacerbated things by keeping him so close to Winston. I felt like the bad parent, oh the shame...but wait, didn't they see how great Lucy was? Oh yeah, we got Lucy when she was 2 years old, the boys we've had from day 1, so there is nobody else to blame for their issues. We always found the boys' togetherness endearing, but it seems it might also be problematic.

I am not one to take criticism well and to me this was criticism. I take it very personally and can dwell on it for a very, very long time. However, I am trying to be a stronger person (trying, trying, trying) and see that one negative assessment does not mean I suck completely as a person (this is what I generally think). I am also learning that dwelling on the problem doesn't solve the problem, but this is tough when you are obsessive and prone to ruminating. Also, I took this criticism and applied it to my parenting skills of my human child and man, did that cause a downer. So I did what works for me and watched Kramer vs. Kramer, laughing at the scene in which Dustin Hoffman's character says, "I hate you, too" to his child after a spat over ice cream. Later in the film, in the courtroom, battling for custody, Hoffman points out that he's not perfect, but he's been a constant in his son's life. If you are present as a parent, you make mistakes, but if you keep showing up with good intentions, I think that fact overrides the damage you've done. We've got some work cut out for us, but we're present, we show up and that right there is half the battle.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Observations from MI to PA

Sophie and I headed to PA last week to see my family. Steve stayed behind with the dogs, cat, turtle, snake and work for his online course. Driving the whole 560 miles myself had me concerned, but I did it and I actually liked it!

Some observations I made while on our trip:

  • Fangboner is a very odd name for a road.
  • The rest stops in Pennsylvania have gotten a lot better and I knew I was "home" when I saw those Tastykakes on display at one of the stops.
  • I'm glad I calculated enough cash for the toll roads - and why are the tolls so high in Pennsylvania?
  • Being with family can be tricky. Sometimes there is drama, unpleasant history, unmet expectations and favoritism, but I am happy to say I felt none of that this time around. Maybe it's because we're all getting older and more mature and realizing that life's far too short to gripe and groan and it really doesn't do much good anyway.
  • Having late night conversations with my sisters is an experience that can be topped by few others. Add the sugar cookies and peanut butter pie and it moves even further up the ladder.
  • It's very cool to have a family member, who is not related by blood, take an interest in your child's interests. Sophie had a great time visiting local graveyards with her uncle and cousins - yes, my daughter loves graveyards and scary folklore and validation that it is cool from her uncle made her feel very special.
  • It can still be odd to realize that your siblings - the ones who basically tortured you growing up (and nope, I never took part in the torturing aspect), are parents. We are all very different in many ways, which means we parent differently, and yet we all have very kind and interesting children. It reassures me that there is not just one way to successfully parent a child.
  • The Book Barn in Chester County, PA is the coolest bookstore I have ever been to. If you visit, be sure to ask to see Bird, the residing dog. He is absolutely adorable.
  • My former high school has been completely renovated and looks to be about 4 times the size it once was. The middle school looks exactly the same.
  • Spending Father's Day with my dad, something I have not done in far too long, was very special. I love that he wanted to go to Pat's Pizzeria - we are not a family of high-falutin' tastes and fancy desires. Togetherness is the key element.
  • For you Robin - I still find the fascination with Breyer Horses baffling and seeing them all lined up did cause me just a wee bit of angst. I was wishing there was a door nearby I could slam, just to see what would happen :)
  • I was nearing the tolls exiting PA, getting ready to pay the huge fee and the GPS unit told me to go left, so I did and I bypassed the tolls. I left Pennsylvania without paying a dime. Should I be concerned? I asked the toll booth operator about it in Ohio and she kindly reminded me that she does not work for the state of Pennsylvania and didn't know anything about it. Oh.
  • Coming home - to a place you still don't quite consider your home (we've now lived in Jackson 10 months...), is nice. Having your husband beaming and yes, a sparkling bathroom, is REALLY nice. Right now I am counting my blessings.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Meeting Expectations

I thought my fascination with Mormonism had left, but it appears it was just lying dormant, waiting to be renewed by the sprinklings of a good chat with a friend from Utah (thanks Annette!). We were talking about the documentary, Sons of Perdition, which is "the story of polygamy's exiled youth." I haven't seen the film, but our conversation and a viewing of the trailer for the film really got me thinking.

The trailer gives a very dark impression of the life of restriction and obedience the boys were forced to live on the compound, before their brave escape. They were withheld from the larger world, presumably to keep them from questioning the authorities in their own community. There is a scene in which 2 boys are in a Catholic Church and one asks the other (I'm paraphrasing), "Catholics believe in Jesus?" This depicts the sheltered existence they led, but this is not unique to just kids from a polygamist compound. Many kids are raised well-versed in the beliefs of their parents (religious and otherwise), but not knowledgeable in the ways of others. Part of why we do this is because it is what we know, but there is also that part that doesn't want to expose our child to the other ways of the world, thinking that by shielding them, we are somehow eliminating those ways as options.

I started thinking about this in regard to boys in mainstream Mormon society and the 2-year mission. As a person who lived in Utah for 12 years, I definitely saw the advantage given to those men who served their missions. I also saw how boys, from a very young age, were raised to assume they would go on a mission. In Utah this appears easy to do - such a high proportion of boys go on a mission that Sophie was prompted to ask Steve where he served his mission after living in Utah only a few months (Steve's response was that THIS was his mission, our life in Utah...take that as you will). It's nearly such a given that a boy will serve a mission at the age of 19 that it leads me to wonder, what alternatives are given to boys who opt not to serve a mission? Do parents even talk about that while their sons are growing up? Is there any ostracizing of those boys who do not serve missions?

I'm not sending this out to invite attack of this practice - many religions have rites of passage members are expected to meet. I'm interested in how this practice is viewed by my friends who have experienced it. I also realize that as parents we often lay out only one path we expect our child to follow - we do this because we see it as the best path for them. We worry that by even entertaining alternatives, we are giving our children permission to stray from the path, but should that be our fear? Or should we fear that our children will follow the path, out of a sense of obligation and perhaps risk lying to themselves along the way.

Friday, June 10, 2011

From a Minority's Perspective

A local high school has started (finally, in my opinion) a Gay-Straight Alliance chapter and it appears to have caused a bit of a stir. I really don't understand the opposition to a group of students getting together, gay and straight, to support one another. As it was stated in the newspaper, The Citizen Patriot, the "GSA groups offer students a safe place to talk, provide teens with resources and information that can help them make better decisions, and make a statement to the rest of the school community that LGBT students are valued as much as any other student." Sounds good to me.

To those opposed, please understand that the reality is that students who are gay are part of a minority and minorities need to be protected. I recently read a blurb in a national magazine that stated there are far fewer people who are gay in our country than most people think. Some people put the estimate at 25%, but those Americans who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender is really at 3.8%.

Of course there is the argument that being gay is a choice. Oy. Another book has been published in 2011, Gay, Straight and the Reason Why, by Simon LeVay, that evaluates research showing the biological differences between people who are heterosexual and people who are homosexual. I think it's been made pretty clear that one does not choose their sexuality. One's sexuality is comparable to one's race - and schools have chapters celebrating racial differences: Latinos in Action, Black Student Union, Asian Student Association, which offer students the opportunity to spread awareness and understanding, while receiving support from their peers.

One parent is quoted in the paper as saying about the GSA, "They shouldn’t get to push it down other students’ necks," but isn't heterosexuality pushed down their necks all the time? As my friend, Tom McMillen-Oakley, wrote in his response to the article, "I would like to point out to the student (wanting to start a heterosexual group) that they already have many opportunities and venues for support, an option not always enjoyed by LGBT youth." Again, I compare it to race. We have months designated to the historical efforts of minority racial groups, because the majority of the time is spent learning about the efforts of the white people in our country.

I often tell people that one reason I am so glad to have lived in Utah (aside from its beauty) is that it gave me the chance to be a minority. I remember leaving a job interview after being told that I would not be hired because I was not part of the majority. I was angry - not because I didn't get the job, but because this person felt he had the right to make me feel less than I was, since he had the support of the majority. It's a pretty comfortable place to be - surrounded by those of like mind, reinforcing the belief that your way of life is normal and everyone else is wrong. I suggest if you are in that position, you branch out of your comfort zone a wee bit.

I do not know what it is like to be gay and I am pretty sure I inadvertently perpetuate the idea that heterosexuality is normal. It does me good to hear of groups such as the GSA, to help me realize that there is a need to accept and protect others. I love that my daughter can attend a high school that has a group educating everyone that homosexuality is normal. The more exposure we get to that fact, the better off we will all be and perhaps one day there won't be a need for a GSA, but until that time I say rock on enlightened students of Columbia High School!

Friday, June 3, 2011

If You Don't Have Anything Nice to Say...

I'm reading the book, The Four Agreements (thank you Leah!). The four agreements are:

  1. Be Impeccable With Your Word.
  2. Don't Take Anything Personally.
  3. Don't Make Assumptions.
  4. Always Do Your Best.

I'm only on #2 in the book, but really, as stated in the book, if you can follow #1, you will find a world of difference.

Oh, how hard it is to follow #1! Why is it so hard for humans to refrain from gossip, hurtful words and hateful language?