Posted in Spiritual Sundays

Spiritual Sunday: Some Things Are Sacred

Note:  I’m playing around with a new look for the blog since my previous theme has been “retired”.  Please excuse the construction until I get things figured out.  Thanks!  And with that, read on! 

Here’s some fine print about reading my Spiritual Sunday posts, should you wish to respect me.  🙂

This weekend I went camping with a group of friends. Right off the bat, I have to say that camping (especially when you accompany it with hiking) isn’t ever something I would choose to do on my own.  It’s all instigated by my hubby.  My first camping trip was with him, and every camping trip I’ve been on since has been accompanied by him.

 That being said, I always find myself enjoying the camping trips.  There is definitely something to be said about being out in the “cheap showiness of nature” (as many put it), getting away from civilization to clear you mind, and getting back to basics.

 What I always enjoy the most by far, though, is the company these camping trips keep.  It is my sense of community, my coming together at a common table, my sense of a congregation.  For a moment in time, people from all walks of life come together and share a common experience and share stories.  It’s a beautiful thing.

 When I first met my then-boyfriend, now-husband, he gave me the much-cherished gift of allowing me into a group of friends and family who made a tradition out of going camping at a friend’s property in the middle of a lush, verdant, isolated valley twice a year (in the spring and fall).  I attended these camping trips for ten years, until, like all good things, it came to an end (the property ended up getting developed).

 It was a bittersweet goodbye:  I was thankful for the memories and the wonderful friends I had made over the years, but I was so very sad that I wouldn’t be able to come back to the beautiful region and see those people year after year anymore.  We made a halfhearted vow that we’d figure out a way to resurrect it, but as of now, three years after the fact, it hasn’t happened.

 During those camping trips, we had our rituals.  Out of respect to the event, I won’t divulge all of them here.  In addition to those rituals, there were things I looked forward to seeing every year, like an old long-distance friend that you rarely get to visit but fall quickly into routine with after reconnecting.  They came to be symbols of calm for me—constants I could count on to be there each and every time I visit.  Such a contrast to my ever-changing world when I’m not camping.

 You can only imagine, then, what a trip down memory lane it was when similar symbols appeared during this most recent camping trip.  It was neither in the same place nor with the same group of people (which I’ll get to later), but the similarities struck me just the same:

*Wooded mountain view
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Present

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Past

*Nearby creek

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Present

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Past

*Secluded, easy-to-miss road to turn off on that leads to campground next to horses

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Present

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Past

I didn’t realize until right at that moment exactly how much I missed the people and the place from the past. The strength of the emotional longing struck me so hard that tears came to my eyes and I had to take a minute to compose myself.

 The second night of the camping weekend, I remember looking up and just marveling at the multitude of stars in the clear night sky above.  It was yet another similarity, and I brought it up to my husband.  He suggested something that sounds so simple, but with so much meaning: A night walk.  Just a leisurely stroll, all flashlights off, guided only by starlight while we trudged down the dirt road a few feet to the pavement road.  A walk where we’d point to a specific star in the sky, strike a pose, and stay frozen in that position on the side of the road until a car passed by.  A walk where, sometimes, because we knew just how rarely a car drove on it, one of us from the group would lie down in the middle of the road.  One where the rule was you had to have a drink in hand while walking.

…one where we only ever did it at the camping trips that I reminisced about; the camping trips of days gone by; the camping trips that will never happen again exactly the same way.

 I hold those particular camping trips very close to my heart. They were the camping trips I very much came to be an adult in, the ones where, no matter what, I was accepted just as I am and I was expected to do the same to others.  The ones where I entered a complete stranger and left feeling like I was a part of a family.  Those camping trips—and the rituals that came with them—are ones so special that they can only be done in the circumstances I remember fondly, no other place. Which is why I had to take a moment of pause before answering my husband:  “I’m sorry.  I can’t.  Some things are just sacred.” He needed no other explanation.  He just took it at face value, gave an understanding nod, and went on with the rest of the night.

 As for me, I sat back and enjoyed the rest of the camping trip, letting the whispers of the past comfort me and wondering what new traditions would be born from what we were doing in the present.

To Holding Things Sacred and Creating New Traditions,

Violet

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Posted in Thoughts on...Thursdays

Thoughts on…Thursday: Dogs* vs. Children

*For the purposes of this blog, I will mention dogs, only because I have the most experience with dogs.  But it can apply to all pets: cats, bunnies, ferrets, rats, birds, hedgehogs…whatever’s your pleasure.  🙂

I thought for awhile on how to even approach this lightly, but realized I might end up sitting on this forever.  So I’m just going to dive right into it.

I’m not a parent to a human child, though (I think) I want to be eventually.  More on the parenthetical later…

I am, however, a dog owner, and have been for a little over seven years now.  It’s the first pet I’ve ever had, and I am so in love with him.  I find myself just staring at him in admiration at who he is and how cute he is and how amazing he is.  I hug him goodnight almost every day, thanking him for being in my life as a part of my family.

It wasn’t always that way, though.  As I mentioned before, he is my very first pet.  Before that time, I was always just a little bit afraid of dogs.  Not so much as to run the other way when I saw one, but if one jumped on me, I’d feel myself tense up.  I’d let a dog lick my hand or sniff me, but I would always be on alert that they may bite me.  Even when we first got Dexter (the name he had at the pound, so not sure if he was named after Dexter’s Laboratory or Dexter from the TV series.  We didn’t feel like confusing him by changing his name, so it stuck), I was a little nervous when he would jump on me and lick my face or get close to me.  I just wasn’t used to having a dog yet.  But I did choose him out of all the other dogs we saw (in fact, my husband walked right by him, dismissing him as being “too furry”…he didn’t want to deal with all the fur on the carpet afterwards), so I wasn’t about to go back on my decision!

I quickly got over my fear of him, and, consequentially, pretty much every other dog.  (Also more on that later, I promise.)  My family, though, wasn’t quite as welcoming.  As most pound dogs (and most puppies, for that matter) are apt to be, mine had some severe separation anxiety the first few months we had him.  The first time we brought him over to stay at my parents’ house, my parents insisted he sleep in the car by himself (side note: he’s quite comfortable staying in the car by himself now, but not so much back then).  I agreed to live by their rules while at their house (I want to say it was sometime during Christmas…I don’t make it a habit to stay at my parents’ house when I have a place of my own), so grudgingly put Dexter in the car and shut the door.  He barked and cried and whined up a storm as soon as I closed the door, and my heart broke as I went into the house.  I tried to fall asleep, but could hear him barking from inside the house.  When I couldn’t take it anymore, I informed my mother that I was going to sleep in the car with Dexter so he wouldn’t be so panicked.  She scoffed at me: “You’re crazy.  It’s cold out there.”
“I’ll bring blankets.  Come to think of it, I should probably bring one for Dexter, too.”
“Sleep in here with the humans.  He’s just a dog.  He’ll be fine.”

“It’s okay, Mom.  I’m going.  I don’t want to leave him alone.”  I started to gather some of our heaviest comforters, but my mom stopped me.

“Fine, bring him inside,” she conceded.  “But only in the laundry room.  And make sure you close the door.”

So I brought Dexter inside the laundry room, made him a comfy little nest of blankets, kissed him on the snout, and closed the door.

Big mistake.  I listened to his pained howling until I couldn’t take it anymore.  The hubby and I ended up sleeping in the laundry room with Dex that night.  To this day, I’m not sure if my mom knew about that.

Of course, Dexter got more independent.  There are days that he voluntarily doesn’t sleep in the same room, mostly because he’s too lazy to move.  But if we leave him in the car, he doesn’t freak out anymore.  At the same time, my mom spoils our dog rotten with treats, and sometimes finds him napping at her feet (no more being locked up behind a closed door!).

Gruffy’s family has always had a dog in it, so it was really no problem on that side.

That didn’t, however, stop either family’s desire to want a (human) grandchild.

Which brings me to my first parenthetical.  And another Gilmore Girls quote.  😀

Rachel (Luke’s old girlfriend, and for the purposes of this blog, a 30-something-year-old) just had a chat with Lorelai (another 30-something-year-old) and Lorelai’s daughter Rory.  After seeing how well-behaved Rory is, Rachel comments, “Wow.  That is one really not-annoying kid.”
Lorelai:  “Yes.  She really is not.”
Rachel:  “See, I might consider do the whole Mom thing, if I could be guaranteed that I could get one just like her.”
Lorelai:  “Oh, you can.  You just have to go to Sears.”

Incidentally, later in the series, Lorelai adopts a dog named Paul Anka…but that doesn’t really relate to the blog.  Ahem.

Hubby and I have gone back and forth many times on whether or not we really want a kid.  For the most part, I think we’re pretty pro-kid.  Don’t get me wrong, neither of us have anything against kids.  But we are both fully aware (perhaps me moreso than him) of how much work a kid entails.  Dogs don’t require a babysitter or a parent to stay at home to ensure it’s looked after 24/7.  Dogs, for the most part, let you sleep throughout the night.  They require less feedings.  You can leave dogs at home if your friends ask you out for drinks or a party or a movie or dancing.  You don’t really hear people saying, “I’m too young to have a dog.  I want to enjoy being young and adventurous first before I settle down.”  I don’t toss and turn at night wondering if I’ve done a good job of raising my dog (okay, fine…maybe sometimes I do, but not as much as I would about my kid).  Children are a huge commitment and life change, and I certainly don’t take having one lightly.  At the same time, there is a lot of love among me, my husband, and Dexter, and we all can’t wait to share that love with the kid.  I’m excited to see this kid grow up, play, take its first steps, see what kind of wonderful things they’ll contribute to this world.  And, well, kids are cute.  But that’s not the first and only reason I’d want one.  🙂

It bears repeating:  I have nothing against children.  By no means am I saying dogs are better than children.  Not at all.  But here’s the rub:  I’m not saying children are better than dogs, either.  I view dogs and children as equals.  This, perhaps, is where I’ll get some criticism and/or comments, and that’s good.  I welcome them (as long as you keep them civil, of course).

Now, I’m not saying that dogs and children are the same thing.  Of course, humans and canines are completely different creatures and should be treated as such.  What I’m saying is that if I were asked to pick whom I love more, it would be impossible.  Both are part of my family, and I wouldn’t get rid of either one on a whim.  Again, I don’t actually have a child yet, but I’m 99.9% sure that opinion’s not going to change once I do have one.

I also have to disprove (at least in my case) the widely-held theory that people have pets to appease their maternal/paternal need.  If I really wanted to have a kid instead of a pet right now, let me tell you, I’d have one.  I’d stop at nothing to get one, whether naturally or adopting.  So having a dog is not my “cop-out” of being a parent.  The reason I own a dog is not because I’m too lazy to play a full-parental role.  That’s as ridiculous as positing that people have kids because they really want pets.  I’m not going to take my kid out for a walk on a leash (whooole other blog post topic!!), and I don’t think parents are going to throw a ball to their kid, expecting them to catch it in their mouth.  Pets and children serve very different, yet equally important, roles in a family’s life.

Which is why I cringe a little when I’m called Dexter’s “Mommy.”  I’m not his Mommy.  That title is reserved for my human kid.  I prefer being called his owner, because being an owner is so much different than being a parent.  “Mommy” is reserved for the person who kisses boo-boos, annoyingly judges potential boyfriends/girlfriends, tells my kid they can do anything they set their mind to, holds their hand when they cross the street.  “Mommy” is a title given to those who have a child who can call them so (whether through speech or sign language).

My heart breaks when some people view dogs in a less-serious light than children.  In my opinion, dogs are no more expendable than children (i.e., none of them are just things to have on a whim and give away if you change your mind and it gets to be too hard to take care of them).  Potential dog-owners should give just as much thought as to how a dog will change the family dynamic as potential-parents give thoughts to having a child.  When you get a dog, you should understand that it belongs to you until either it or you passes away.  I may get some heat for this, but I absolutely abhor it when a pet owner has a child then decides to get rid of the pet because they don’t want the added responsibility, or they’re afraid the pet will hurt the child, or are afraid the child may be allergic to the pet.  Or, in some instances, pets are given away to a pound because the place they move to doesn’t accept pets.  I know life is hard to plan, but one should really take these possibilities into consideration before getting a pet.  If you plan on having a child and don’t like the idea of your child interacting with a pet, don’t get a pet.  Simple as that.  I think that may be one of the biggest reasons why I both do and don’t want a kid right away.  I do, because I want our child to be able to meet our wonderful dog before he dies (he’s 8 right now, so I’ve sadly acknowledged the fact that he probably won’t be around much longer).  I’m looking forward to seeing them play together.  I’ve seen Dexter play with friends’ kids, and he’s just wonderful with them.  At the same time, I can’t say for absolutely certain how he’ll be around our child, so I don’t want to jump into parenthood without taking that into account first.

I’ve also heard the argument that children are better than pets because children are an investment in your future care.  As the saying roughly goes, “Pets are nice and all, but who will take care you when you’re old?  Certainly not a pet.”  To which I say, not true.  At all.  How many stories are out there about therapy animals who help to heal those in the hospital?  Pets love you unconditionally.  They don’t hold grudges (in other words, they can’t get you a BAD retirement home out of spite for giving them a bad childhood).  They cuddle and nuzzle and are there for you to just pet.  That certainly sounds like you’re being taken care of to me.

After all that’s said and done, though, I feel I get more genuinely excited about dogs than children.  I coo over dogs, pet them, have a special place in my heart for them.  When I go to a dog park, I want to know their name and how old they are, and always say how cute they are to their owners.  Not so much with kids.  I don’t have an overwhelming need to have them.  Yet picturing my life without a dog…I can’t even bear that thought.  My heart doesn’t swell when I see a newborn like it does when I see a dog.  I think babies are cute, but I don’t squeal in delight when I see them, or try to play with their tiny little hands.  What that says about me, I don’t know, but I thought it was something interesting to note.

What do you guys think about all of this?  Do you disagree and think that children are better than pets?  What of you readers out there who have both?  Who have only pets?  Who only have children?  I would love to hear from a wide range of people on this topic.  🙂

And, because I can’t resist showing off (what proud parent or pet owner can?), here’s another cute picture of Dexter:

To Loving Responsibly and Unconditionally!