Category: LIfe Musings

Reflections on an Ice Storm

I love winter with its crisp, cold days filled with the aroma of wood burning fireplaces. The beauty of falling snow always fills me with the same wonder and excitement as when I was a child. However, the past several days have somewhat diminished my zeal for this season, hopefully only temporarily though.

In the early morning hours on Wednesday, a storm covered my town and surrounding areas with a thick coating of ice, bringing trees and power lines down. Over 700,000 homes and businesses lost electricity, and to date, some are still without power. Power was out at my house for 55 long hours; I was very lucky. But during those 55 hours, I wasn’t feeling so fortunate. The temperature in my house was into the 30s by Friday morning and I was about to go looking for a shelter, hoping to find one that would accept me with two large dogs. Throughout the entire 55 hours, I kept holding out hope that the power would come back “any minute now.” That’s why I stayed in the house.

Maybe my brain was suffering from hypothermia but the things that go through your head during times of crisis such as these can be like you’ve never experienced. The regular concerns of everyday life – paying the bills, sticking to my writing schedule, and the usual to-do list – fall by the wayside. All I could think about was survival. I was so, so cold and wanted nothing more than to get warm. The dogs and I sat huddled together on the sofa, covered in several layers of blankets. We actually went outside for walks in order to get warmer! Once the roads were cleared of ice and unblocked from downed trees, we took rides in the car. A hot cup of tea tasted better than a gourmet meal. At night, I slept under four blankets and comforters, me dressed in hat and gloves and the dogs donned my long sweaters. We would have been a comical sight if the circumstances hadn’t been so dire.

The experience made me realize that so many worries that have been plaguing me lately no longer mattered. It was good to be alive, safe and warm again. I was grateful to have my neighbors and friends who looked after me and each other, and for my dogs who kept me company and seemed to enjoy the adventure.

Oh no, it’s snowing again. Yes, I still think it’s beautiful.


A New Year

It’s a new year and time for new beginnings.

A recent post on Facebook about who else, Cesar Millan, made my blood boil and has given me considerable pause. Sadly, the post was an interview of Millan by a very respected spiritual author who I would have believed to have known better than to feature Millan. I guess not. I commented on the post in my usual fashion, pointing out that Millan’s methods are antiquated and often do more harm than good to the human-dog bond. Well wouldn’t you know it, the administrators of this author’s page deleted my comment as well as others who also share my views! They kept all of the comments of those who praised Millan. Talk about making my blood boil!

But then I had to think this through – of course. Analyzing everything is what I do best! There had to be a lesson in here somewhere. This whole situation was making me feel physically terrible and my feelings had no impact whatsoever on Millan. He’s laughing all the way to the bank! My efforts to educate others are making me upset and causing my body harm. What good is that? Our feelings are the barometer for what we should or should not pay attention to. Obviously, my body is telling me that I need to ignore Cesar Millan and anyone who talks about him. It’s a topic that needs to go away for me in order for me to be happy and healthy.

As we know, when people have opinions, it’s very difficult to change their minds, even with solid research and personal experience to back it up, as I have with my dealings with people who have used Millan’s methods. Force-feeding doesn’t work. The only reason why I want to educate people is to help the dogs. It hurts me deeply when I hear of poor training methods that can harm the dog and the human-dog relationship. I think I’ve provided plenty of that education here in this blog and on my web site that I no longer need to go there.

So for the New Year, I am resolving to change my ways. I will no longer try my hardest to make others see what’s wrong in some methods of dog training but to highlight more about the spiritual nature of our bond with our dogs. That’s where my head is now and maybe yours is too?

If you have been reading The Trumpeter in the Woods, you’ll know that my dogs and animal guides have brought me to a new place in my life. It’s still evolving as I grow spiritually. I hope to draw others here to share how their dogs have made a difference in their lives too and their spiritual experiences relating to animals.

Our dogs are a reflection of us. From my years of working with people and their dogs, I have seen countless examples of it. In posts to come, I will explain more about how they reflect us and talk about how dogs can be our teachers to help us to grow.

Happy New Year, everyone.

Do you often feel unappreciated or disrespected at your job? I have been feeling that way lately. After choosing to leave a very lucrative career in telecommunications to work with animals for a meager salary and a much less “prestigious” job, I have occasional feelings of longing to be respected for the knowledge I have accumulated over the years in management, planning, marketing, and other skills that came with managing a department and budget within a large corporation. Instead, I am viewed in only the place that people see me now – a dog trainer, behavior specialist, a public speaker, a published writer and a media/marketing professional at an animal shelter . But all of that should not matter, because I consciously made the choice to leave the “corporate me” behind to follow my passion. True, however, it is very difficult to dismiss the talents that I once worked so hard to perfect and want others to know about. I guess that’s human nature, to want to be valued. 

I was having lunch with a friend last weekend and as we watched the wait staff work very hard, we got into a discussion about thankless jobs. Certainly, being a server at a restaurant is not easy work, and often is met with very unpleasant people. I worked as a server in a restaurant in college; I remember it well!  I mentioned to my friend that kennel workers who are scooping poop all day are not appreciated for their contributions, and my friend suggested that hospital aides have tough jobs. These professions, and others that are performing challenging work to serve others, are extremely valuable and must be acknowledged. 

Each one of us has chosen the work we are doing and I hope that others’ respect these choices. Working in the non-profit sector is a personal choice, knowing that the salaries are not going to be anywhere near corporate wages. We are all different and what makes you happy may not satisfy me, and vice versa. I may not be able to tolerate a job as a hospital aide but that person may not want to spend time in a stinky animal shelter!

For myself, I have followed my passion with no regrets. So that must mean that the respect of others shouldn’t matter to me. I’m in it for the animals and my own satisfaction. I hope that people will learn to look at others who have made similar choices and give them the respect they deserve.

What Price Freedom?

This day always brings back memories. Many, many years ago (I won’t reveal just how many!), I had the very best New Year’s Eve date ever. It set the bar quite high and I’ve never had a better time on this day. I was in high school and dating a guy who had a couple of good friends. We always went out with them and their girlfriends. That New Year’s Eve, we attended a dance at a fire hall. Sounds hokey but back then, and for being as young as I was, it was magical. The place was decorated with streamers and there was a live band.  We danced, we ate, and we enjoyed each other’s company. There was no alcohol because we were underage and that group of people just wasn’t into getting drunk.  We had fun without it. Maybe that night was also so memorable because I was in love and it was the first date I ever had on New Year’s Eve.

Nine months later, I broke up with that young man. I wanted freedom. I saw all of my friends going out together and having a great time. I guess I was too young to be tied down to a boyfriend. I cried for days after I ended it with him because I really did care for him. He was a wonderful person and treated me well. He set the bar high for boyfriends. So not only did I have high expectations for New Year’s Eve established at a very young age, I also had the same high standards for men. Yet I gave all of that up for my freedom.

As I reflect back on the past year and on my life which we often do on the last day of the year, I see the price I paid for my freedom so many years ago. Who knows, I may have had many more memorable New Year’s Eves with that same boyfriend.  I’ve never forgotten him and wonder what might have been.

I’ve made other choices in my life so that I could have freedom. I had to do it, my soul was guiding me and I would not have rested unless I choose freedom.  I know that we can’t look back and second guess these choices. But there’s just something about New Year’s Eve that sparks reminiscing. Maybe it’s the lyrics to Auld Lang Syne – “Should old acquaintance be forgot and never  brought to mind? “  Or maybe it’s the way we deal with closure. The end of a year, the beginning of a new cycle.

Freedom seems to be a theme throughout my life. Maybe that’s why the plight of puppy mill breeder dogs affects me so deeply. They have no freedom. The thought of them being stuck in a cage with no opportunity for release makes me cringe and hurts in places I didn’t know existed. We all have choices and can choose freedom, but they cannot.

I am hoping that my choices over the years, where my soul has guided me, will make a difference for the animals. They were not easy choices and the path has been difficult, but nothing worthwhile is easy.

Happy New Year to all of you, and I wish for everyone to be able to listen to their hearts and follow their dreams.

Men Behaving Badly

I’m going to divert my attention away from animals for today’s post to a topic that has taken the top spot in recent news: Men behaving badly. Actually, I prefer to comment not on their actions but why they are allowed to get away with it. We’ve always had men behaving badly (and women too, but they don’t seem to make the news quite as much) and we always will. That won’t change. It’s really about how the issue is managed and how people react to it.

Let’s face it – it’s all about money and power. The reason why Penn State football’s Jerry Sandusky’s alleged improprieties with boys was not brought to the authorities was simple: If people found out about the issue, it could impact the reputation of Penn State and potentially impact their football program and enrollment.  Money!! You can just imagine the conversations that went on, “We can’t have that getting out. What would it do to us?”

The same issue occurred in the Catholic Church several years ago when the higher-ups were covering up the Sandusky-like behaviors of certain priests. Instead of doing the right thing (the GODLY thing) of turning these people over to the authorities, they covered it up – again, for the same reasons, for fear of sullying the church’s reputation and impacting funding. It’s a sad reality in our society that money takes precedence over ethics.

And the Herman Cain allegations of sexual harassment. Several women have now come forward with stories. I’m not here to pass judgment on who is telling the truth here but it sure smells like another puffed up, self-important, egotistical businessman/politician who thinks he’s above it all. I’m tired of these overinflated egos. We allowed Bill Clinton to get away with his shenanigans because he was “a good president” but now look at the precedent that created.

 Could it be that the Occupy Wall Street protests are really shouting about these exact issues – overinflated sense of self-worth and entitlement of men in power? The feeling of entitlement to millions of dollars in earnings and bonuses at the expense of the majority of Americans? At the expense of ethics.

I’m not a prude by any stretch of the imagination but I am about doing what’s right. All of these examples point to one bottom line – it’s time for people to return to ethics and stop worshipping money. Make decisions based on what’s right, not what’s going to affect business. It certainly looks like these “business decisions” are coming back to bite these people in the butts and will eventually impact their businesses anyway, despite their efforts to avoid it. How about doing the right thing from the start?

I’m all for courtesy, especially when driving. It really is a rarity nowadays, contrary to what most people seem to be doing when driving: Chatting on their cell phones, texting, not using their turn signals, tailgating and other driving faux pas. I’ve become very aware of a new trend and I’m not quite sure if it’s a courtesy or just another annoyance.  Please let me know what you think.

Have you ever been turning left at a stop light or an intersection and have someone in the opposing direction, who clearly has right-of-way, wave you on? I’ve been seeing this trend a lot lately and at first glance you say, “What a nice person.”  But look closer. Call me paranoid but what happens if this person waves you on and you turn in front of him and an accident occurs? You would be at fault.  Could they be one of those people you hear about who intentionally cause accidents and then turn around and sue you? Okay, I may be just a little paranoid.

But it really is curious when you see them sitting at the stop sign well before you arrive there and yet they wave you on. “What’s going on?” you think. Are they lost? Are they afraid that you will hit them?? I haven’t quite figured this one out.

And another reason why this new courtesy is strange: You’re waiting for a red light to change. You’re about ten cars back and the person in the first car decides to wave the opposing car to turn in front of him, holding up the whole line of cars behind him. By the time the turning car confusedly accepts the invitation to turn out of turn, the light has changed. Ugh!  And the rest of us get to sit through yet another light. Get the picture?

I’m all for courtesy but when the traffic rules are being overlooked, it causes confusion to the drivers and a disruption in the flow of traffic and the possibility for an accident. The right-of-way rules were designed for a reason so that people know who goes next.

What’s your take on this observation? Are you seeing this behavior and how do you react? Or maybe you’re one of the courteous drivers extending the go ahead. Tell us why you feel it’s a good thing.

I walked down the steps to my living room one bright, sunny morning a couple of weeks ago. At least it was bright and sunny outside. My living room was dark and cave-like. The blinds were closed; the curtains drawn. My house has lots of large windows that allow in the sun and keeps me warm in winter. In summer, I can sit on my sofa and have a 180 view of green.  Yet the windows which give me such a beautiful view also deliver a great deal of sun and heat. My budget simply doesn’t allow for non-stop air conditioning and I must do what I can to keep the house cool without it.

I felt sad and depressed all day.  I couldn’t figure out why I was feeling so blue.  I had been looking forward to a day of writing and spending time with my dog, Gizzy, so my mood made no sense.

By chance, I found an article on-line a few days later about a rare condition, seasonal affective disorder (SAD) during the summer. It was one of those “ah-ha” moments for me. The article confirmed how I was feeling. SAD is typically an issue in wintertime when people get depressed from lack of sunlight.  Was I sunlight deprived because I hated going out in the heat and humidity, and kept my house dark to save money on air conditioning? Yes!

I am one of those unusual people (so I thought) who does not like summer. I do love the long days, the last vestiges of dusk still lingering at 9:15. But being out in temperatures above 80 degrees gives me a headache and makes me nauseated.  Plus, my poor old Gizzy can’t handle the heat either, panting and rasping when we walk even in the cooler morning hours. I daydream endlessly of moving to the mountains of Vermont where the days are cooler and crisp, and the snow lingers through the spring.

So I decided to get more sunlight, regardless of the heat. And I opened up my blinds and curtains – to hell with the electric bill!  I feel better. What made me feel even better still, I found that I’m not alone by a long shot.  I’ve talked to people and surprisingly, quite a few admitted that they hate the heat and feel depressed in the summer.  I found several Summer SAD groups on Facebook and a few chat groups. One even has a “countdown to the darkest day of the year” on the site!

Summer SAD is complicated. Some people are affected because they get too much sunlight and instead of getting depressed, they are more manic. That’s not me. I love being outside in the sun and when I can’t get out due to the heat, that’s what brings me down.

How about you? Are your moods affected by the hot weather in any way?

I like to stay informed on current events by tuning into morning news magazine shows and local TV news for a short time every day. But the TV commercials seem to be hell bent on scaring the daylights out of us. The number of ads by pharmaceutical companies and hospitals have grown like the cancer they convince you is growing inside of you. If I wasn’t a hypochondriac before, I am now. I’ve seen so many commercials about prostate cancer that I’ve started feeling pains there. Oops, that’s right, I don’t have a prostate!  Plaque is forming in your arteries, you’re at risk for diabetes, breast cancer is inevitable and the doctors have only given you three months to live. They are determined to create so much fear and anxiety that you’ll need the anti-anxiety drugs they’re peddling.

STOP! I’ve had enough!  I find that I’m avoiding these shows more and more, and opting for other ways to stay current. I can now get just about all of the news I need on Facebook, thanks to my friends and to sites that post interesting news. And I also can tell Facebook that their ads for stroke prevention and thyroid disease are uninteresting or offensive (stop targeting me with ads for old people!) and the ads eventually go away.

I opened a Readers Digest the other day and 99% of the ads are for medications. Who reads these??!!!  Not me.  There’s no wonder that medications are so bloody expensive – most of the money is being used for advertising. I wonder why they advertise to the public?  Will you be more inclined to suggest to your doctor that you’d prefer Boniva instead of the Fosamax that your doctor prescribed because The Flying Nun endorsed it? I doubt it. So then why all of the ads?

But the Internet is not without fault for ads. It seems that every time you Google a topic, an ad for something related to that topic pops up in your cyber-travels. Our search history is no private matter anymore, and advertisers assume that we’re interested in what we search about. Considering that I write about a multitude of topics, especially now that I’m writing a mystery novel, I’ll bet that advertisers are have a field day with targeting ads to me. “Hmmm, should we send this woman an ad for hormone replacement drugs or for on-line courses on how to become a detective?”

I guess the answer to all ads, either on TV, in print or on-line, is to ignore them and hope that they go away. I just hope that I never get an Internet ad for Alzheimer’s meds. I may have to forget that I saw that.

Christmas Sweaters

In the 80’s, sequined Christmas sweaters and sweatshirts and turtlenecks with holiday motifs became very fashionable. I had a large collection and I have to admit, I’ve kept most of them. Each year, I lovingly hand-wash them and wrap them in tissue paper then store them in a cedar chest. They will probably be wearable forever. Is that a good or bad thing?

A lot of people my age and older still think these holiday clothes are fun. Is this a sign of old age?? I will continue to wear them. Selectively. Family parties, casual lunches with friends, Christmas shopping. But I made the mistake of wearing a long-time favorite – a black sweater adorned with beaded snowmen, snowflakes, candles and other ornaments – to a holiday party where many 20-somethings were in attendance. They made fun of me! I was surprised at their reaction; I had never been met with such ridicule. Here I thought that I was being fun and festive. After all, the stores still sell fleece and sweatshirts with holiday designs.  Okay, well, you may not see many beaded sweaters anymore…  That you wear over stirrup pants…  I was not embarrassed to wear the sweater and I cherish it. After all, isn’t it the season when tacky is acceptable?

Take outside house decorations, for instance. I drive by some houses and stop to look with amazement at the mish-mosh of lights – small twinkles in white and multi-colors mixed with larger C9’s and a sprinkling of the newer LEDs thrown in. Oh yeah, and then there’s the blinking lights and the chaser lights. To me, that’s tackier than my beaded sweater. At least the neighbors don’t have to look out their windows and get blinded by my sweater.

I’ve always been a fan of modest, elegant decorations outside. A white candle in each window (no orange lights allowed), white twinkle lights carefully strewn on the bushes (and no blinking either), and a wreath on the door illuminated by a spotlight. Beautiful or boring? I guess if everyone decorated just like that, it would be dull. 

And the same goes for clothes. Forget what the fashionistas on the 10 Biggest Fashion Mistakes have to say.  I’m wearing my holly turtleneck underneath my red fleece pullover with Santa saying Ho, Ho, Ho! And don’t forget the socks with reindeer on them.

Election Ads

The night before the election. Finally. We won’t have to be subjected to endless TV ads filled with negativity and we won’t be pestered with robo-calls at dinnertime. It will be worth the 2+ hour wait I’m bound to encounter at the polls tomorrow. I have a propositon I’d like to suggest for the next election: Make the candidates match dollar-for-dollar what they spend in advertising and contribute it to charity. No, not a political action organization!  Something useful. A non-profit that helps people find jobs, a food bank, an animal shelter, schools, etc. And, how about if the candidates are penalized every time that they run a negative ad? They must donate the dollars they spent on that ad to a worthwhile cause. I know!  Wherever the ad is running, they must put money in the district’s coffers to help lower taxes.

I think my proposals are brilliant. But there’s only one glitch. The legislators need to vote this into law. And these are the same folks who are running these awful, brain-melting ads. Oh well. So much for creative innovation… Jon Stewart, where are you?