Jan 31, 2011

He's a Keeper

I met my husband a little over 27 years ago.  I had recently been through a pretty tough break up.  The kind where your heart tells you to stay but your head tells you it's time to go.   I was convinced that I wouldn't meet anybody ever again.  The few guys I did talk to were all losers, just guys on the make, no heart, no soul.  

I resigned myself to spinsterhood at the age of 20. At that age the status quo feels like a whirlpool sucking you down further and further.   You haven't learned yet that your life can sometimes veer onto an entirely new path in a heartbeat.

I went with my Mother to a bible meeting.....for the benefit of those that know me..... that's right....... I said bible meeting.  I kind of figured I had nothing to lose.  As I walked through the door I immediately noticed the guy sitting on the couch playing a game of chess with somebody.  It's no surprise that I can't remember who he was playing chess with.  My husband had my undivided attention for the rest of the night.   He had reddish-brown, moppy, hair with a moustache and full beard.   He was a good looking guy.  I could tell he noticed me.

At that time I was still overcoming a nearly crippling lack of self-confidence.  My strategy back then was just to plow on through moments of self doubt and timidity, act like I was confident.  So I sat down on the couch right next to him and said "Hi, I'm Christine".  He looked at me and smiled a smile that twinkled into his green eyes too.  "Hi, I'm Jim."  And then we talked.  I flirted shamelessly .... touch the hair, giggle, you know the drill.

This guy was different.  He was funny and thoughtful and sensitive.  Plus he seemed sincerely interested in me as a person.  I could tell I wasn't just another conquest.    The evening ended and I had high hopes that he'd call me.  One week went by, then another. Hope waned. Finally, he called and asked if I wanted to go see his guitar teacher perform at a local bar and then a movie.   I accepted.  He called me back a few days later and with a little bit of shame said that his car was broken down.  I thought he was going to cancel.  Instead he asked if I would mind driving.  I said not at all.

We went to Ashley's in Ann Arbor.  It's still there.  Then we went to see Return of the Jedi at the dollar show.  It was a great evening.  We talked and talked.  I invited him to my 21st birthday party at my parents house the following week.  He said he would see me then.  The day of the party I opened the door and saw him standing there with flowers in hand.  He had shaved his beard, trimmed his moustache and cut his hair.  This guy was definitely a keeper.

We were engaged about three months later and then married another four months after that.  Crazy, I know.  Do I feel lucky that it's lasted this long?  No, luck had nothing to do with it.  We've earned these years together, trust me.

Sometimes the routine of life takes over.  Being with someone for 27 years breeds a comfortable familiarity.  Like a favorite pair of pajamas.  Once in awhile it's good to remember back to the time he made my heart race every time I laid eyes on him.  Not something to be taken for granted because it's a good thing I've got going here.

Jan 25, 2011

If You Say So

I have a really bad memory.  Anybody who knows me would back me up on this one.  Sometimes I call myself absent minded but that's only because it makes me feel like I have a good excuse to forget things.   Like there's so much going on in my head I can't cram it all in there.  I'm not selective either.  I'll forget people, events, places, appointments, facts.....  whole episodes of my life.  I wonder sometimes if other people experience memories the same way I do.

Some memories are so crystal clear.  I could close my eyes and be taken back to that moment in time.  Remembering the sights, exactly what was said, someone's tone of voice or a facial expression. Most surprising of all, these memories bring back the feelings, both good and bad.   Life changing moments like the first time I held both of my children in my arms.  Or the first time I laid eyes on my husband.  The time I sat holding my uncle's hand as he lay dying.  

Sometimes I wonder if some of my memories are only there because someone captured a picture of that moment.  I clearly remember cutting my sister's bangs when she was five and and I was nine.  No matter how hard I tried I couldn't get them even. I kept cutting them shorter and shorter until my mother finally intervened.  My shortlived career as a pre-teen hair stylist was memorialized in her school picture the next day.

I remember more details than just the haircut.  I sat her in a chair in the backyard while I chopped at her bangs with the dull kitchen scissors.  I put a towel around her shoulders to catch the hair.  I even remember it was a blue towel with flowers on it that my mother got out of a box of laundry detergent.   Is it the picture that solidifed those memories?  Every time we pull out my sister's kindergarten picture the story is retold.  How could I ever forget it?  Or was it my mother's anger that cemented this memory in my brain?  Why this memory above so many other forgotten moments?

Sometimes a memory is nothing more than a flash.  I have a picture in my head of myself up on the roof of my neighbors garage with all the neighbor kids trying to coax me to come down.  A big tree is just within my reach but the two inch gap looms like the Grand Canyon in front of me. I had to have been three based on where we were living at the time.  I don't remember getting up on the roof and I'm not sure how I got down either.  I  remember the terror I felt though. 

Most troubling of all is when I can't remember something that somebody else remembers so clearly.  A friend saying "Hey remember the time we......." and I have no flipping clue what they are talking about.  Could have been something from high school or it could have happened only a few years back.  I'm also ashamed to admit that a good 20% of my high school facebook friends are people I only think I know.  I really don't remember them.  They have the same friends I do.  The name seems familiar.  But if my life depended on it I couldn't recount one single conversation I had ever had with them. 

It sometimes seems as if I'm racing through my life leaving behind key pieces of it.    It's very unsettling. 

Jan 18, 2011

A Handful

I wrote before about volunteering at the local animal shelter.  I'm glad to report I graduated to dog walking and now spend 2-4 hours per week walking a few of the many homeless dogs the shelter takes in every day.  I really enjoy it.  I get some exercise and feel like I'm doing something worthwhile in the meantime.  The big payoff though is getting the chance to meet and play with new dogs every week.  Most of them are not there long enough to get too attached to them.  That's a good thing.  It means they found new homes.  But there are a few dogs that seem to have a hard time finding new homes.  There are even a few that have been there since I started  back in October.  Usually these long-timers are either senior dogs or, more often, they're pit bulls.

I like to think I have a natural ability to discipline and train dogs.  It really is just a matter of letting them know who's boss with gentle firmness.  I'm mystified by the cases I see on the Dog Whisperer.   The way some people let their dogs push them around.  I'm not afraid of handling the big dogs at the shelter.  I find that most of them can sense a dog person when they meet one and I'm definitely a dog person.   The pits though are a little intimidating. 

I've never really spent much time with pit bulls until now.  I'd heard both sides of the controversy over this breed.  The side that says they get a bad rap and that they are no more vicious than any other breed.   The other side insisting that these dogs are inherently dangerous.  I think the truth lies somewhere in the middle, as it so often does.    

If you've walked these dogs you know how powerful they are.  Pure muscle with a little bit of stubbornness and determination thrown in.  If you've seen them play you know how they love to play tug of war with you.  It's then that the thought runs through your mind how you would be at this dog's mercy if he really wanted that tug toy.  Rationally I know that's true of other breeds too but I've never seen one shake a toy the way the pits do.  It's a little like they're practicing the death grip.

To make matters worse these breeds are often most attractive to people who really shouldn't be owning dogs.  They don't know how to train them, care for them or discipline them properly.  They want pits because they're tough and aggressive.  They think somehow this makes them tough by virtue of ownership.  Once these dogs become too much to handle they end up in shelters.  Along with all the puppies born along the way because so many of them aren't fixed.  

Early on I started walking a dog named Bluto.  He's a white pit bull with a big brown spot over his face.  The first time I walked Bluto he had gotten into the bad habit of jumping on you to demand a treat. I tried to handle this the way I do with my dogs, firmly say no and turn my back to him.  He ended up jumping up and biting my arm, drawing blood.  It wasn't serious but it surprised me and made me a little scared.  

I read the notes the other walkers had written on him.  "Bluto jumps up a lot but settles right down once you tell him to sit and give him a treat." No wonder, the dog had been trained to treat us walkers like treat vending machines.  The shelter dog trainer worked with him using a squirt bottle and he no longer jumps up on people.  He is a real sweetheart and will snuggle up to you and give you kisses when you stop at the bench on the walking trail.  But I can't ever forget how he bit me.  It's good that the shelter works so hard to match dogs to the proper environment.  He's a powerful, strong willed dog and needs an owner with some experience.

The only down side to my volunteer experience continues to be some of my fellow volunteers.  Some are introverts, like me, just there to walk the dogs.  Many of them though have something to prove about either their knowledge of dogs or how dedicated they are to the shelter.  They show it by commenting as you pass by with every dog you walk.  "Oh, Sheba, she sure does love to fetch balls."  "That Whiskers sure was a handful yesterday."  They drive me nuts.  I'm there because I like dogs, and truth be told, more than a lot of the people I know.   So, I smile and move on.  I just keep coming back for the dogs.