Michele Minehart

words & yoga

Category: homefront (page 1 of 4)

How much is that doggie in the window?

When Kristy and I lived together, we decided to venture into the doggie world and found one at the local shelter. In her wisdom, Kristy had me agree to a puppy prenup before we brought Dinah Mae Crowder home, so I fully recognized that when Kristy moved out, the dog left with her. Within a month, I found the absence of the canine energy unbearable and began a search for a new dog. JJ agreed, but only if we adopted two.

We drove a few hours away to get our girls, litter mates, (or so they told us, because they bore no familial resemblance.) We loved the silky coat of the blond, and a certain boxy black pup caught my attention. We brought home Lizzie and Roxanne when they were about 8 weeks old and fell immediately in love.

We could propose ours were perfect dogs. Our girls never chewed on things. They didn’t get on the furniture. They loved children. Lizzie was a known favorite by babies; she would recline on her side and toddlers would crawl into the pocket of her 4 legs and lean back in comfort. Lizzie might lift her head, as if to check on which child was taking a turn, and then return to her lounging.

And I came to agree with JJ’s insistence on two dogs, even with the fortune we spent in dog food. When our children arrived, the pups had one another to roll their eyes at every time we brought home a new baby. They slept together every night, shared a dinner plate, and like two widows who needed to take their medication, they made sure the other remembered to go outside to pee.

We lost our Roxie a year and a half ago to the diabetes. (Lesson learned on the cheap dog food. We extended her life from a one-month prognosis to over 6 months just by switching to grain free.) The last 18 months without her beloved sister left Liz in a funk, mopey, despite the extra love and attention our kids would shower upon her. The kids had been indifferent to the dogs; they were fixtures, like the big brown chair that has always been a part of our living room. But once Roxanne was gone, the impermanence of our creatures sunk in and they began to give more value to the doggie in our living room.

This week we had to say goodbye to our sweet and affectionate Lizzie as well. It happened quick, after what we thought was just an incident of her finding and ingesting the thanksgiving turkey, but she got worse rather than better. We weren’t afforded the months in advance to emotionally prepare. One day she had bad gas, and then a few days later our home was significantly more empty, despite the 6 humans who occupy the small space.

Beyond my own grief, this process of walking with my children through loss and heartache gave me opportunity for reflection. One of them goes to bed and arises in tears. My oldest asked me, “mom, do you cry with tears?” I told him I cry in a thousand different ways. He told me he really only cries with tears or without them, but that he cried with tears for Lizzie. Even our littlest, who only understands time in terms of “yesterday” and “tomorrow” no matter how many days separate us from the past and the future, broke down at our little burial when he realized the dogless situation wasn’t changing. It’s here I notice my tendencies and natural desire to change the situation for them, even when the voices of wisdom tell me to respond otherwise.

The kids are already asking for a pup and part of me wants to say, why? so it can rip your heart out all over again!? If we don’t get a new dog, I won’t ever have to watch them feel like this. Their willingness to love after loss is far greater than my own. It’s amazing how my experience of the world has taught me to clamp down on my heart to protect it, to harden rather than to risk hurt. My kids still have a trust in the goodness of the world, even despite pain and disappointment.

But I’ll be honest: It’s taking every ounce of power in my being not to run out and find a puppy for under our tree this Christmas. Everyone is right, I do NOT want to potty train a pup in the winter (or at all, as JJ is so talented at it), which may be the only thread holding me back from liking every doodle-selling page on FB. I crave the dog energy in my home. I want to share space with another being when my kids have left me for the school day. But most of all, I want the pain of absence to fade to the background. I don’t want to feel loss anymore, so my natural inclination is to go get something; fill the gaping hole of my love for my dogs.

Their willingness to try again, coupled with my desire to fix it all, is a dangerous situation. I have a feeling this is the breeding ground for codependence, so again I must heed to the voices that remind me the hard thing is the good thing, and I must resist the puppy (and quick and simple solution) temptation.

The irony lies in my yoga class from Monday, when I taught a yin class and implied that we often get into places (poses) that bring about discomfort and our tendency is to wiggle and move – to try to find a way out. We don’t let the pose in, so it never does its work in us. Grief** is probably one of the most commonly avoided emotions in our culture, and we sidestep it by doing all the things I really want to do right now, like buying a new dog.

I awake to the absence. When I’m working around home, my sense of being alone is heightened. For years now, I’ve become annoyed with the growing mountain of dog hair I had to sweep. I griped about the cost of leaving the dogs while we traveled. But not long ago, a wise teacher asked, “do I see the hair or do I see the dog?” and it made me reflect before it was too late. What these girls added to my life was far greater than the time it took to run the vacuum or the costs of booking a doggie sitter. I wish it didn’t take absence to heighten the love. Maybe that’s should be intention of the next furry creature that will eventually pee on our carpet: to engage the process, not just grieve when it’s over.

 

**If you’ve not read anything by Caleb Wilde, you should. His blog was Confessions of a Funeral Director and his perspective on grief and grief support is astounding. He even made it onto the Robcast recently.

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From Seed

We’ve always had at least a small patch of dirt to grow our tomatoes, our peppers, maybe a green bean or two. Last year we added cucumbers because JJ was determined to make a good clausen pickle – and he got very close. We’ve experimented with greens and broccoli, here and there. So, we’re not garden newbies.

Our new-to-us, for-nearly-one-year house came with a massive garden space. The plot had already been dug a few years ago, though when we moved in, it remained vacant. Last year we had to rely on farmer’s markets for anything fresh, and it would be an understatement to say that JJ’s disappointment in BLT season was massive.

So, this year we’re upping our game. Not only are we filling that vacant spot in the backyard, we’re starting it ourselves. That’s right. We’re growing from seed. And not just any ol’ seed packet from 3 years ago. We ordered heirloom packets from Baker Creek. We don’t mess around, no, we don’t mess around, nuh-uh. We purchased a few starter pots and a grow light, because we lack a good western-facing window.

JJ's garden mapping. He even researched which plants grow best together.

JJ’s garden mapping. He even researched which plants grow best together.

We had the kids fill the little pots with the fluffy organic soil and I carefully doled out a few seeds per pot, and marked them with painters tape on the cup, because we lacked foresight to buy those little stick-things, and – let’s face it – the odds of those being removed and used as a weapon runs pretty high in this house.

And then, we waited. And waited. Finally our onions (yes, onions! He thought he was getting starts, but no) gave us tiny slivers of green poking through the dirt. And then the tomatoes! We moved from the hotpad-prepped table to the light table. We even have alarms going off each morning and evening to remind us to water and move the pots around.

This growing stuff is serious business. We’re leaving overnight and have a little bit of concern about our sprouts. We check them regularly, and every time we see a new little stem, we celebrate. Right now, it’s a tad unfathomable what it will be like to pick a tomato that came from a plant that started as this teeny-tiny seed. There’s a certain amount of miracle, not only in our ability to keep these things alive, but in their inherit ability to grow and produce and to feed.

JJ said last night, “and just think about next year, after we collect the seeds from our own harvest and save them, and then start them again next year.” I think it’s akin what grandparenting might be like – watching this thing you grew, produce again and again.  You’re not at all in control, yet, without you, this life would cease to exist as we know it. We’re not the source. We can’t even “make” anything grow. Yet we’re vital to the entire process.

Of course, someone else, somewhere else, is growing perfectly “fine” little cherry tomatoes and banana peppers. We could always just let them do it. We can continue to go to the store and buy our imported romas, twice the size of the normal (because we Americans like everything “bigger and better”) and be on our merry little way.  Leaving it to the professionals is always an option.

When we continue to outsource, we don’t have to rearrange our lives. We don’t have to water and weed and pluck. And, for sure, you’re able to steer clear of the heartache of a bad season, a diseased favorite purple pepper, or the frustrations of a bug infestation. We can absolutely bypass the work of growth by buying it ready made. This is always an option.

So why do it?  And, as with gardening, so with life. Marriage, children, starting – or even working – a business. Why toil, strain and love?

I. Don’t. Know.

Except to say that in the process of growing something else, we reap a new kind of nourishment, one reserved for those who dig in wholeheartedly. This cannot be described with words, only by eating a tomato fresh from your garden. Or watching your child hit his first home run. Or standing beside your spouse as she accepts her Citizen of the Year award. Or hearing from a customer how you made her wedding the most beautiful day of her life. Or delivering yet another healthy baby. Or finding a donor to fund a cause that will change lives. Or helping someone find a home that will keep their family safe and warm, a respite from the world. Or helping a child write their first “book.”

There’s no reason to put in the hard work, other than the fact that hard work – whether it be with plants or people – blossoms and feeds you. It’s beautiful.

Obviously, I’m not mandating that every single person in the world must buy packets of seeds and set watering timers. This is simply our most recent peek into blessings of putting in the hard work. It helps me to answer the “why.” Why we don’t watch a ton of TV. Why we opt to bake bread instead of letting McDonalds fry it for us. Why we rearrange schedules so we can be with friends. Why we move to a small town for a lesser-paying job in exchange for nearby family.

We do hard things because they are good. Perhaps even better than easy things. Hard things give us a new sense of life and the enjoyment of it. There’s a certain beauty at discovering the connection between your soul and the rest of the universe. With a little love and attention, we can be a part of the process of creation, not just the consumption.

“Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” (John 12:24)

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Where’s Terri?

Terri saved me more than once already. We’ve been in our new/old town for just over a month, but the number of times I’ve left her office full of gratitude is greater than the number of times I’ve went to Walmart. (I think both Terri and I can all consider this an all-around success.)

The most recent occasion for my visit to Terri’s corner office was my upcoming mortgage payment. These new houses – well, they need paid for. Which required me knowing the amount of my monthly payment, along with finding a way to get money into and out of the checking account that would pay it. And if we could make all this happen in a way that repeated itself without so much effort, double word score. So I slumped into Terri’s office to admit I had indeed lost the passwords to make my online banking come alive AND I couldn’t find the payment books the bank had just sent. (Banking is hard. And so is moving.)

And then, she fixed it. Zim, zam, zoom, everything worked. I signed my name. She picked up the phone. Magically, all things banking-related worked again. How do real people do this? I wondered aloud.

How do real adults keep passwords and mortgages and school registrations and apply to see new doctors and salvage hearing aids left in the rain and read aloud to their children and potty train? And some of them – they even WORK. ALL YEAR ‘ROUND. How do they do this and not loose their ever-loving minds? 

It turns out that not just banking is hard. Or moving. Adulting, my friends, is terrible. Terrible! I’m not sure why this is a thing. Who decided we all needed to “become responsible” and “take care of ourselves” and “become productive members of society”? I’d like to talk to that person. I’d like to hire them to keep my calendar straight. And also, potty train the baby. This is going terribly as well.

Sometimes I look around and try to find the Terri’s of the rest of my life. Who around here is going to make this easier for me? People like Terri have spoiled me. Now I’m put off by people who aren’t trying to make my life easier. Like the woman at our former doctor’s office who wouldn’t let me email a form to the office but instead insisted I mail the hard copy with a stamp. (Add “buying stamps” to the list of hard things adults do. This task derails me every time.) And don’t tell me the office “doesn’t use email.” They do all their doctoring on ipads and laptops.

And where is The Terri at the school? If I suddenly go missing – after checking the laundry room – it would be best to look under the pile of 37 pink and green forms that the school requires. Per child. I could be buried alive. One person was so kind to point out that this is going to be my August activity for the next 14 years of my life. Times four. Can we please get a Terri in this office who will make things work electronically, so that all 62 people who need my cell phone number “in case of emergency” can simply pull it off the database?

I need a Terri everywhere. Someone who makes the day work just an eensy bit better. People who love their job, no matter what it is, enough – or so much – that it makes life better for others: these are my people. Like last week: I drove through Starbucks. The barista cheered for me when I made my selection. This. This needs to happen more. Cheers and helpfulness. Not forms and stamps.

Go, my friends. Be a Terri. Make some magic happen for someone. Make life a little better. Cheer, help and encourage.

(And just so you know that I practice what I preach, I just woke up my husband so HE could go be an adult. I didn’t even wake him with loud noises or a smack on the leg. We can do this, friends! We can be helpful to one another! And kind! It’s not as hard as we might think!)

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