A friend E who I haven’t seen in a while stopped by yesterday for lunch and a walk down to the grand opening of the new organic grocery store. We run into each other from time to time and are reminded to make plans. Helping The Girl get through feelings of having no friends has inspired me to nurture the ones I’ve got. (see last post) It was a great day for a lunch time stroll–there was not a cloud in the sky. Working inside all day–it’s special to get out and enjoy the sun for an hour especially on a winter day that feels like spring. After we caught up, E asked what I was doing to feed my soul. Buddhist activities aside, I’m not doing much these days. Blogging of course counts. But most days are filled with work and then our evening family routine begins. DH and I get maybe an hour together before I retire exhausted to bed. So I’ve decided to find more ways to feed my soul. Today was another gorgeous day. So during my lunch break I planted the nasturtium seeds that have been sitting on the counter wondering their fate. I have so many fond memories of my kids much younger picking the flowers and eating them while we lived in New York. The Boy would pop one into his mouth and make a face, “spicy” he would say and then pick another. Friends also feed the soul. E and I made plans to go for a walk in a month and another good friend K is coming over for a lunch time chant tomorrow. Now if only I could get my butt back to Hot Yoga I’d be filling up my soul for sure! What about you–how do you feed your soul?
The Girl found out this weekend that she wasn’t invited to 3 parties and a play date was canceled. For a 10 year old this is a lot of disappointment. It would even upset this 38 year old if it happened to me. Middle School starts next year and I can’t imagine it will be any kinder to The Girl. Getting your feeling hurt happens–maybe not so much at once, but it happens. It is so hard to watch a child’s self confidence waver and then plummet. Why Mommy? Why don’t people like me! Yea..heart breaking. After the let down about the play date The Girl enjoyed a splendid day in town with Dearest Hubby who boldly stepped in to the rescue. She came back refreshed and ready for her next disappointment which followed shortly after. But I thought she was my friend? What’s wrong with me? Yea…it crushes me to hear this as a parent. How am I supposed to respond? I reminded her that we all get left out sometimes and that parents have to limit the number of guest invited to parties just like we did at her birthday. I assured her that there was nothing wrong with her–that she is smart and compassionate and that she will be a better friend to kids when their feelings are hurt because she knows what it’s like. (I had to throw in a little Buddhist lesson.) And I made her tea. We sipped it slowly and talked about all the fun activities we have planned as a family. Tea is calming and rejuvenating and a wonderful thing to share between mother and daughter. Then I put her to sleep by rubbing her feet and went directly to the Gohonzon. I prayed that these little (big) hurts heal quickly and that in each one she learn how to be a better friend. All I can do is be there for her every time there is pain; boost her self confidence as much and as long as a mother can; and pray for her. What else can I do? Do you have any advise to share?
Freshly brewed tea
So I thought it might be time to tell the story of how we got our lovable but very bad dog Wado. But first, I’ve made a list of all his infractions so you have some idea of what he’s like to live with.
- He never comes when he’s called and only responds when he feels like it–which means he’s never allowed off leash and some nights we can’t even get him to come inside.
- He’s an escape artist. We lived in a house once with door handles that you push down to open and yea…he pretty much had that figured out day one. Now we have a wireless collar on him which sets up a perimeter around the house and gives him a warning whistle if we gets too close and he is constantly testing it and gets out the minute the battery needs replacement.
- When he has his freedom he hunts the neighbors’ cats and barks at people walking down the street particularly if they are Asian or Black (see next line) and even chases bicyclists and runners. Also he tramples the neighbors flowers.
- He’s racist. We lived on a campus in New York and he would bark and scare only the Asian and Black faculty and students. This aspect of Wado Dog mortifies me.
- He also hates all postal and UPS workers–we sometimes don’t get mail and packages delivered when he’s in the front yard. He’ll start barking the moment the trucks enter the neighborhood and will not stop until they have passed our house.
- It is not uncommon to wake up at 2am to Wado Dog fighting with a raccoon. The neighbors love it when this happens.
- Speaking of neighbors–they stop by to chat about Wado Dog with various levels of complaint. At the last block party one new person said when I was introducing myself and pointed to my house, “Oh you’re the one with the dog. I’ve heard about you.”
- Wado Dog gets skunked every chance he gets.
- He digs holes everywhere including in my rose garden. He also bites through the watering system’s tubing every time we replace it.
- One time he killed a fawn and proudly brought it back to our door.
Upon reading this Dearest Hubby’s response was, “I don’t know why we keep that dog.” Of course deep down he loves Wado Dog and is secretly elated that I brought home a 4 month old puppy when my eldest was 4 months old herself even though he specifically said no dogs. You’re welcome DH!
And that brings us to the rest of the story: How Wado Dog came into our lives.
We were in Texas. The Girl was 4 month’s old. 911 had just happened and I was pretty freaked out and not venturing out of the house much with the baby. One thing that I did do was visit and chant with Buddhist friends. Just as I was leaving my friend’s house I noticed some boys hanging a puppy by the neck with shoelaces. The puppy was twisting and struggling and was clearly being strangled. I snapped and handed the Girl to my friend and shouted, “Hey!” running over to the puppy. The boys scattered. I called to my friend to get some scissors and I cut him down, put him in the car with The Girl and drove off. My friend later disclosed to me that the SPCA had been called on that family before. I knew I did the right thing. No one who treats a puppy that way deserves to have him.
Now DH and I had talked about getting a dog before the baby arrived. We even visited a shelter. But after careful thought DH and I decided that we shouldn’t get a dog. It just wasn’t the right time with a new baby and all the added responsibility. So when I brought home this cute little puppy what did DH do? Did he try and find him a home? No, he named him Little Bear. And that was the beginning of a love affair with Little Bear who later became Wado Dog but that’s another story altogether.
Wado Dog beside his latest set of holes
“’From the indigo, an even deeper blue.’ This passage means that, if one dyes something repeatedly in indigo, it becomes even bluer than the indigo leaves.” –Nichiren Diashonin
Since I first started practicing this Buddhism 20 years ago (wow really?) this passage has stood out for me. It has changed significance over the years. At first it was about following my mentor’s path in fighting for world peace and becoming a deep blue activist for human rights. Then it meant keeping up a consistent practice of meditation every morning and evening to deepen the color of faith. When I got married, I wore a blue dress and had a Buddhist ceremony promising to continue to grow and develop that precious relationship. Now this passage is all about my children. I want so much for them to surpass me in terms of riches of the heart. I wish for them an unshakable happiness and a life full of discoveries. The how-to-build-this-life-for-them part is a bit fuzzy though. Clearly I don’t keep the cleanest house and frequently wash the whites with the darks, and there’s a pile of unsorted socks in the laundry room with pairs the kids have grown out of by now. But the house is relatively peaceful (except when it’s not) and I try and support my kids in what they like to do, and encourage them to get up at a Buddhist meeting and read a poem, and let them experience extreme boredom until a brilliant idea of something fun flashes into their brains. I try and do my best while learning from all the crazy things I try–like coaching my son’s soccer team even though I’d never even played the game before. So hopefully someday after getting washed in the indigo of our family life the kids will turn out stronger than I with a heart filled with hope, never letting go of their dreams, and with a seeking spirit to learn and do more.
I tend to like all things comforting: soft beds, yummy food, fuzzy pets, warm socks, clean kitchens, and enjoyable fiction I can put down at any moment if it gets too intense. I shy away from all things uncomfortable: conflict and exercise being at the top of the list. A nice long walk with Wado dog is comforting. A three mile run is not. The thing about comfort is—it only lasts so long. Eventually a challenge will come up. And that’s how I grow and become a better person. Tackling a mountain will involve learning and strengthening aspects of myself that need to be faced and examined in order for me to transform into the best Jennie I can be. Instead of sitting in comfort until the ordeals find me, I should strive toward continual growth—which means marching up the mountain and saying to the universe, “Bring It!” But how easy is it to sit back and enjoy the status quo? I want to be the person to stand up for injustice even though it’s unpleasant. I can start by making hard decisions, and having those tricky conversations, and going back to hot yoga. Maybe I should be wary of comfort—because in it I’ve hit the pause button. Can I change into someone who enjoys rollercoasters and willingly signs up to complete a triathlon? Maybe I need to be more involved in the community, getting a chance to stand up for what is right and fair. I remember in my 20’s being so quick to take up the cause of everyone struggling to voice an inequality. I didn’t seek out comfort as I do now—I zipped through my karma at a surprising rate, altering myself as needed. There are countless things I don’t want to revive about that period in my life, but I would like to have back that ability to walk away from comfort and strive toward a passion. As I ponder all of this, I’m just going to slip on a pair of cozy socks and pour myself a glass of wine.
I’ve been having a hard time getting Wado dog inside at night. Unless it’s raining, he’d rather protect the family from deer and small critters. I wouldn’t mind so much except for when things like this morning happen. Everyone on our quiet street knows our dog by name. At some point most everyone has come by the house to talk with me about my dog. Mostly it’s complaints about his barking but I’ve heard that he hunts the neighborhood cats and routinely wanders into people’s yards when he escapes (I really should have named him Houdini dog). It also disturbs the folks next door when I call for him at night, but I’m so desperate to get him in for fear of having “another one of those mornings”. So should I have been surprised when before dawn I hear Wado dog barking as if he’s on fire? I don’t understand acoustical science but somehow the hill behind our house amplifies the sound of his bark, making it incredibly loud—particularly at 4am. This is when most of the small critter incidents happen. It must be small furry party time. Dearest Husband bolts out of bed and runs outside. Wado dog has cornered a raccoon as big as a small child who is putting up a good fight. DH is screaming which only adds to the commotion but doesn’t in any way give Wado dog pause. The last time this happened, a neighbor called the county and Wado dog was quarantined for a month for fear of rabies. I can just imagine what the fall out will be this time. In the end, the raccoon took off and Wado dog survived with a few scratches on his nose and a sore paw. When the sun finally came up I found him curled up in fresh hole right in the middle of my rose bed.
That Wado Dog!
It all started with a comment from Dearest Husband.
DH: I like those shoes.
DH: The high heel platform ones.
DH: You know most women wear heels.
OK a little background for those of you unfamiliar with my stunning array of footwear. My most expensive pairs of shoes include my red cowboy boots and my Chaco sandals. Just about everything else I got at goodwill or a garage sale. So when I noticed a shoe warehouse next to my favorite coffee shop, the above conversation flashed into my head. Just a week away was a school potluck which was actually catered. (You can probably guess what the attire is like for a catered potluck dinner…) It occurred to me that I could pop into the shoe warehouse and pick up a pair of sexy shoes to wear to the potluck. Just my luck there was an entire section of platform pumps. I found a perfect pair that went with a grey dress already in my closet. And then I tried them on. Now I danced in 3 inch heels as Cha Cha in a middle school production of Grease—but there was no way I could walk across the store much less make it through an entire event. What was a girl to do? I bought them anyway. Eliciting advice from all the women I know who wear unbelievably high heels, (which mostly—ok only—included my very fashionable and stunning boss) I learned that the best thing is to practice on carpet a little every day. By the end of the week I could walk across the room, stumble up the stairs and was incredibly uncomfortable. In the end I decided that it was best to enjoy myself at the party and not obsess about my feet all night. Now I don’t have any data to support DH’s statement about most women, but I’m sure about one thing: I’m not like most women–which is why DH married me in the first place.
On the hill behind my house there’s a patch of open space studded with Eucalyptus and Brume. It overlooks our little tie-dyed town. Today instead of taking a challengingly hot yoga class, I took the dog for a hike up the hill. Wado dog looked very sad this afternoon curled up in a thin line of shade—being a dog can be so boring—so I couldn’t help but to call out the words Walk Wado Walk! He ran up to me with not just his tail but his entire back end wagging, hardly looking like a 10 year old. Along the way he lifted his leg until he ran dry and sniffed every other dog’s scent. It’s easy to get up a steep hill when you stop to catch the whiff of dog sign every few feet. As you go up, the houses get pricier and the yards look professionally kept. When we were looking to buy a house my daughter had one single non negotiable request: Do not buy a house on a hill. This seemed completely reasonable and made for a much better mortgage, so we bought at the base of a hill. The family can hop on our bikes and ride into town without a climb, which I love. Still I can enjoy the hill on days like today. Just as you go into the open space there’s a clearing with a wide angle view. I was tempted to let Wado run off leash—but getting him back could prove to be nothing less than a giant nightmare. He wasn’t aware of his fleeting chance of freedom and seemed perfectly content. Just for fun I take a different way down.
on a hike with Wado Dog
OK so I have a weird relationship to sweat. I’ve never been much of a sweater myself, having never had the opportunity to really get sweaty. When I first met my husband I put on his drenched t-shirt after a dance class. Yea I was loving that! But 3 weeks ago I took my first Bikram yoga class and for the first time sweated profusely. Let me explain real quick that Bikram is Hatha yoga done in a 105 plus degree room. If the yoga doesn’t kick your butt, the heat will. During class my eyes are blurred with drips. I completely soak my towel every time. My pores open up and cry. Afterwards I float home and am literally on a yoga high until bed. I’m completely addicted to Bikram–I wish my schedule allowed for me to do it everyday. It’s not just about the sweat. I love really pushing myself to complete exhaustion–again something I’ve never done (except maybe in child birth.) Even when I used to run I never went past my wall–I’d stop every time it got really hard. The last 3 weeks I have been driving myself past all comfort zones into the tremendously challenging brink of…well…it feels sorta like you’re about to die. But you don’t die. You struggle through and stay in the hot room, stretching and twisting until at last you walk out feeling better than you ever have before. There is a lesson there somewhere.
Over the past few days I have been praying for someone to get a job. Buddhist prayer isn’t about asking or making a request. Buddhist prayer is about getting in sync with the rhythm of the universe and making something happen. Here’s a quote from Nichiren Diashonin who taught us how to pray writing, “I am praying that, no matter how troubled the times may become, the Lotus Sutra and the ten demon daughters will protect all of you, praying as earnestly as though to produce fire from damp wood, or to obtain water from parched ground.” I pray every morning and every night but how often do I pray with such fervent determination? Over the past few days I have prayed until I was absolutely sure that she would get the job beyond a shadow of a doubt. Needless to say–she got the job! Now if only I could pray like that all the time!