Reaching out

I have not always been so perfect as I am now. Well, let’s just say I never knew how perfect I was until now!

It’s not about being better than anyone else. It’s being the very best I can be.

I believe every person is born inherently possessing both the potential for being good and evil. The universe is full of examples; from positive and negative energies to happiness and sadness.

The best example of this opposing force I’ve seen lately has been in watching a four year old battling to figure out what she wants to be and how she will accomplish it. Her obvious struggle with new feelings and ideas and the complex concepts contributing to her angst both amuse and sadden me. In watching her, I now know more about how I came to be the person I am. It makes me want to do everything I can to help her find the positive and the harmonious; the happiness and joy in life.

Inside all of us, that child continues to struggle. What great fortune for my life to have found a discipline that enabled me to finally work through my own fear, anger and negativity toward others. It has been a tremendous challenge to even see my own negativity and so I was given people who have had the courage to reach out to me; who have given me a mirror with which to observe both the imperfection and the perfection of my life, of all life.

That mercy, that love, has given me the strength to do the same for others. To reach out and share a philosophy of confidence, caring and courage. How lucky, how perfect this life.

Intolerance and Faith

Religious/philosophical intolerance has become, to some, a crusade resembling religion itself.

in·tol·er·ance   [in-tol-er-uhns]
1. lack of toleration; unwillingness or refusal to tolerate or respect contrary opinions or beliefs, persons of different races or backgrounds, etc.
2. incapacity or indisposition to bear or endure

The incessant ringing of the rhetoric of intolerance in our ears becomes just another part of the background noise of hate that has captured and suppressed the spirits of so many, destroying in its wake, any love for their fellow man. With it, goes their creativity, their joy, their trust, their ability to see beyond the man in the mirror. It is a devastating waste of precious time that could be better used to open hearts, build bridges instead of walls, and touch the minds of others.

How fortunate that my life, instead of the cruelty forced upon me making me angry and bitter, took a brilliant turn at the dawn. When the sun came up, that light showed me that I could use each day to make life for myself and others better and I did not have to wallow in nor share misery, I was blessed by the universal power of forgiveness. Having given up on a power outside myself to change my situation, I turned to the power inside me. But I would never have realized it was there without the love and mercy of others to show it to me. Those people had hope and were willing to share.

Building takes energy, planning and intent as opposed to destruction, which consumes energy, creates chaos and destroys goals. Construction is not easy and can be fraught with obstacles and uncertainties. There are often problems that require taking a two steps back for each forward one. Sometimes it seems as though the result isn’t worth the effort. Until, one day, the last bolt has been tightened. We stand back and look at the results and realize that we, alone, built this machine and it will take us anywhere we choose to go.

Instead of reveling in the raging passion of tearing down others, wouldn’t it be amazing if we took every opportunity we have to show the suffering that there is hope?

Hope is derived from faith that things can and will change. That faith comes from a belief in something we cannot see; our own ability to do whatever we set out to do. It doesn’t include nor preclude a higher universal power, but connects instead, with the power of life.

Shakyamuni said, “The truth is so close that we can’t see it. It’s like our eyelashes.” Our perception of a thing does not make it exist, nor does it deny its existence. The perception of others is at least as difficult to comprehend. We have not lived their lives, we have not shared their difficulties. Offering our hand with respect for the inherent dignity of life is both noble and humble because in the offering, we have no expectations. We may find we are lifting them up but better yet may find ourselves uplifted.

 in his favorite spot (except for next to Daddy’s side of the bed)

Eulogy for StarBuck

I moved to Illinois in 1999. Since my husband didn’t want me to be home without someone brave to protect me, he found me a dog. A pup we named StarBuck. I always added “StarBuck’s double latte with nutmeg” because he had pretty brown sprinkles all over his body.

StarBuck was my friend, albeit a little monster of a puppy, from day one. He challenged us daily, from shaking all the stuffing out of a beanbag chair (that stuff clings like spiderweb to the ceilings) to eating a large corner of an overstuffed sofa. He took great pleasure in terrorizing his mentor, “Tifa,” a sweet, Shiba Inu adopted just a few months before “his immenseness” moved in. She turned the tables on him as the alpha-bitch in the house by maintaining a firm hold on his neck as he tried to run around the yard, giving him the appearance of wearing a giant necklace.

His coat was at least half white and twice a year, or more, it would shed and cover the carpets. I got into the habit of saving his “wool” when we would strip his coat in hopes of one day, having it spun. I am so grateful, now, that I did that. Some day soon, his coat will warm me as it once did my best friend.

I used to tell “Buck” that he was the reincarnation of another dog, Mac, that I’d had when I was about 11 years old. I had no parental guidance and he wasn’t allowed in the house, so the poor old man spent his life waiting for me to get him food and water in a doghouse. As an adult, my embarrassment at Mac’s treatment knows only daily prayer/determination to be the best I can be now, for all my companion animals.

StarBuck was everything a dog could be. He was devoted, of course. He was an Akita, the epitome of canine devotion. Just watch “Hachi” sometime, if you don’t know about Akitas, or any devoted canine companion, for that matter! Have tissues handy.

StarBuck’s vets loved him. All the vet techs LOVED him. In fact, I daresay, anyone who had the joy of meeting him, LOVED him. There were many times his vet would say, “if he hadn’t been neutered he would have made an incredible contribution to the Akita breed temperament.” In fact, the head veterinarian at our clinic was once heard to say, this is the best dog we’ve ever had in here…no, I am serious!”

StarBuck greeted children, sometimes to his chagrin, in costume, every Halloween. He loved going for walks, going anywhere in the car, trips to the park and treks along the Kishwaukee River. His behavior and love for people was so amazing, even a tiny child could walk this 140 lb. behemoth with a loose “J” loop in the lead. His biggest failing was giving you a complete bath with his huge tongue whenever given the chance. He wouldn’t miss a spot on any exposed skin and didn’t care if you WERE wearing clothes…he’d just wash your jeans.

His gentleness could be put up against any golden, lab or newfie, with confidence. Whenever I heard about human stupidity, such as “breed specific dog legislation” I could just chortle the authors! With just a few more weeks training, he could easily have earned a certificate as a therapy dog. It was me, who lacked the time. StarBuck always had the inclination and the energy.

That is, until his last days.

We knew…it was time. He took his last breath on my knee as I stroked his face and told him, “I’m right here, buddy…I’ll always be right here.”

We were privileged to know such a noble, brave, unequaled spirit. It was my great fortune to be able to call him my friend and share him with as many people as we could fit into his all-to-short life. There will never be another StarBuck.