Murder and Dove Bars

Today ends a 6-week streak (five houses) of having a place to live for the purpose of pet-sitting (and having a roof over my head!). Now I will begin my stay with some friends who have offered to house me until my next gig in a couple of weeks. I leave this house with some sadness…as I have left every house so far. Interestingly, when I am at someone else’s house, I realize that it becomes MY house. I arrive after the owners are gone and leave before they return. I am the only one here. Pets sleep on MY bed, I put my food in the refrigerator, I come “home” to the house every night after work. Lacking my own home, these surrogate homes are all I have and I adjust very quickly and easily.

Leaving is always strange. The doggies and kitties love me and I love them back. Then I just put the key on the counter, say good-bye, close the door and leave them forever. WHAT?!  It feels so weird and unkind. But, of course, I don’t get to see the grand reunion of the pets with their long lost owners who have miraculously returned to them. I am left with good memories and lots of pet hair on all of my black clothes. HA.

This particular house will always have a special place in the memory sections of my brain and heart. It was while here that I learned of the murder of my 18-year-old great nephew—my brother’s oldest grandchild. It was from here that I drove twice to the viewing and funeral in Richmond, Indiana. It was here that my niece and her daughter from Oregon stayed overnight on their way to the funeral of her brother’s child. It was on this back porch that I struggled with making sense of this family loss. It was here where my anger has built over the fact that our country cannot get any sensible gun control laws passed.

It is just so hard to reconcile ANY deaths by guns, but, of course, everyone believes that gun violence will only knock on the doors of others—until it knocks on their family’s door. I could expound on this topic forever, but it won’t bring him back. It won’t bring any victim back. The parents’ agony and devastation of every murdered child cannot by minimized, but neither can it be mitigated. It’s just wrong. So wrong. So very wrong.

pam's catThankfully, this house belongs to a friend and it provided comfort and solace to me. Her kitty purred on my lap. Her little frozen Dove bars helped me cope. Sometimes chocolate and kitties are the only things that can help a sad heart.

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Death and Familiarity

Violence, revenge, death, comfort, family. On this cloudy Sunday morning, sitting on the back porch listening to the strum of the loud cicadas and the whistle of the State Fair Train, today is a day of introspection and reflection. Violence, revenge, death, comfort, family. These are the mental and emotional topics that swirl around me, that overtake me at a moment’s notice. Lately, I’ve been wondering if something is wrong with me because I am so comfortable in my new lifestyle of nomadism. My lack of a home, leaving my home and beloved gardens, really seems to be just a very minor blip on the radar.  I am enjoying my time in each new home and with each new pet and in each new neighborhood.

When almost everyone around me tells me that they could never do what I am doing, I’ve been wondering why this is OK—even fun—for me. Those answers are still gelling in my mind. This week, my comfort level was tested with a horrid family tragedy. In the face of tragedy, would I long for MY couch, MY home, MY back porch? Would familiarity help lessen the shock of a violent end to a family member’s life?

I spend much of my life teaching students and parents that violence and revenge is clearly not the best way to solve conflict. But I often feel like my efforts are like swimming upstream. So much of our culture teaches that revenge is the value of choice when we’ve been wronged. Even countries teach that “we have a right to defend ourselves” when what they are actually saying is that if someone hurts us, we have a right to hurt them back. That is not self-defense: that is revenge. However…revenge never ends. Everyone just waits for the next strike. But, again…swimming upstream. Ugh.

My brother’s 18-year-old grandson (my great nephew) was shot and killed in his home in the middle of the night this week. From all appearances, it looks like it was plain and simple revenge, although we don’t know many of the details yet. But what we do know is that another young life, on the cusp of adulthood, is extinguished because much of our society teaches that payback is important. So many believe that guns should be readily accessible to all who want them. An excessive number of guns and the strong belief in the value of revenge lead to our country’s extremely high homicide rate. This fact has always caused me great pain, but today—the day I will see a family member in a casket—this fact makes me literally sick to my stomach. Sigh.

How does living in someone else’s house affect my pain? Not at all. Pain is pain, happiness is happiness. I am finding more and more that my surroundings don’t affect my inner life as much as I would have expected. I am able to house relatives from the West Coast who came in to be with their family members—just as I would have done in my own house. Nothing has really changed. My family is still my family. Life goes on when I’m happy. Life goes on when I’m sad. Where my body happens to sit doesn’t seem to affect any experience very much. And it seems like that’s a good thing?

Sweet Taste of Freedom

linda suiteAs the locusts chatter and the blue jays scream from the trees that surround the deck, this moment seems to be all that matters. I woke up in ‘my’ 5,000 sq. ft. home in my beautifully decorated bedroom suite on this sunny, Saturday, August day with nothing on my calendar. And by nothing, I mean NOTHING. No lawn to mow, no errands to run, no friends to visit, no events to accept or turn down. I mean…this is a foreign feeling. I still can’t say that I like the feeling, but I’ve decided that I’m going to try to luxuriate in it because this is where I am at the moment.

gremlinMy weathered housemate, Gremlin (name changed to protect his identity), wanted to snuggle as soon as I woke up. I petted and talked to him for a very long time and he enjoyed the extra attention since I had to jump out of bed this past week to go to work. When I stopped petting for a minute, he gently reminded me of my job by lightly touching my cheek with his paw. He is a real sweetheart.

I next went straight to the window to see if the Morning Dove mama was still sitting on her nest in the evergreen tree right outside my window. She was still there, patiently performing her job as well.

Now with my cup of Keurig-made chai beside me, I plan to sit in this divine, 75-degree weather and read my book on my Kindle for as long as I can make myself stay put and enjoy myself. I know it must sound strange (or maybe not), but being crazy busy is a hard habit to break, a difficult lifestyle to change. Previously, even when I made myself stop and enjoy some quiet time, the ticker tape of tasks was still always running in the background of my inner hard drive. So sitting here without the background noise, without the A-list, the B-list, the C-list of tasks constantly being unconsciously processed is the strange part of this section of my journey.

I’ve decided I want to feel comfortable with this nothingness before I start filling up my social calendar again. I want to read a book for hours and not feel guilty. I want to listen and smell and absorb without mental distraction. I want to leave my yoga pants on wrong-side-out…as I just now noticed they are. I want to go inside and make myself a second cup of chai and settle in for a marathon book-reading session. And those last words all sound pretty wonderful to me.

lake at sunsetP.S. I took this picture last evening on my very long walk through some extraordinary neighborhoods.

Good Morning, Jyoti! I Love You!

Terry4Terry’s mother was particularly anxious that Terry and I might not get along because Terry (whose name has been changed to protect her identity) is a little persnickety. Terry is a Pit Bull who is loved deeply by her Mama.

Terry2I will admit that I had a tad bit of anxiety as I am aware of the media-driven hype behind the reputation of Pit Bulls.  However I am also aware of the extreme devotion of families to their Pit Bull pets.  So I was excited to become friends with my first Pit Bull buddy.  When I went for my initial visit to the house, I stayed for two hours so that Terry could get to know me well and I could get a sense of the household routines.

Terry1As is usually the case, Terry and I bonded quickly.  At night, if she doesn’t sleep ON the bed with me, she jumps up as soon as I wake up.  These are a few of this morning’s pictures that I texted to Mama to put her mind at ease.

I think we get along just fine, Mother!