Leifing Las Vegas

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

28 Hours of Agony

Rosceaux, circa 2002
I just couldn't make the call.  So, my husband made the call (#100 on the list of reasons I love my  husband…#5 is the day he brought Rosceaux home on Christmas Day).  

It was time, we had decided, that Rosceaux was just having zero fun at all being a dog anymore.   Knowing that we wanted to give him a dignified exit at his own home required us to make an appointment at least 24 hours in advance.  This is why it took longer than we thought it would to make the call.  Rosceaux kept rallying, just like the New York Rangers vs. Washington Caps in the previous series of the Stanley Cup Finals (husband comes up for air sometimes during these playoffs…).  But, in the end, his days consisting of merely picking through his food, taking meds, laying comatose on the floor all day, and falling into his poop almost every time because of his failing back legs, were beginning to look like the Minnesota Wild in the same series.  Just plain sad.

So, having to call ahead is a bit creepy, really.  We found ourselves like characters in Monty Python's  "Search for the Holy Grail", during that part where the plague has hit and the guy is going through the town with a wheelbarrow calling out, "Bring out your dead!  Bring out your dead!", and folks are bringing out oldies who are barely moving but can at least say, "Hey!  I'm not dead yet!"  We found ourselves suddenly on this fricking emotional roller coaster that was making pitstops at grief, sorrow, fond memories, horror of death by lethal injection gone bad, emptiness, etc., all while Rosceaux is milling about, dragging his legs, wondering why he can't remember why he is milling about, dragging his legs, and telepathically communicating that "Hey!  I'm not dead yet!" whenever he saw us looking at him and starting to cry. 

Then it hit me.  The absolutely icky feeling of knowing something about him that will utterly change his life that he has no clue about.  That his life is going to be over in 28 hours.  Because we say so.  This is the story of pet companionship, really.  This is why they are so much like children for us.  Because we know something that they don't know and it's going to affect their lives, measurably.  We have had Rosceaux for 13 1/2 years, and have not known our house without him.  We have not known our married lives without him.  So for me, anyway, he's pretty much as close as I'm ever going to be to having a child of my own.  

Twenty-eight hours is a whole lot of time to grieve over something that isn't even lost yet, but that you know will be gone.  So, that's just weird.  It's a lot of time to wonder, to doubt, to worry, to question.   And it brought me to my mom and her laying in her bed, telling us at least every 2 weeks that this was the week she was going to exercise her right to die.  WHAT a burden!   That ultimate decision.  That wondering if it's the right thing to do.  She was making this decision for her own life in light of the lives she knew she was leaving behind and could no longer help or hinder.  When I wonder what was going through her mind, I realize that I'm doing the same thing I do when I anthropomorphize about Rosceaux.  I mean, I couldn't know what my mother was thinking because she really didn't ever say it out loud.  So I was left to wonder.  Just like I'm wondering now about Rosceaux.  

I'm not comparing Rosceaux's life and death to my mother's.  They each occupy a place in my heart of separate but equal depth.  They both were terminal (cancer and old age), just as we all are.  And decisions had to be made.  The capacity to do what is deemed best lies within each of us.  It takes some swimming through oceans of tears, waves of doubt, and eventually washing up on the shore of surrender.  

Rosceaux in his prime

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Anthropomorphism Rules

Caterpillars at Work
Caterpillars are loud.  They even sound like some wild beast, growling, as they tear apart their prey, ripping through fur, gorging on flesh, and chewing on bones.  And when the killing and feeding is done, little is left of what once was.  Maybe a bone here and there….a skull perhaps.  Its work is done.  Belly satisfied.  Time to move on to the next meal.

Lone Mountain Park is headed into Phase II (or is it Phase III or Phase IV?….can't keep track) of development.  Call me melodramatic, but every morning I'm up there walking my dogs to the deafening sound of these machines (yes, I am even missing the sound of mockingbirds!), I cannot help but feel just a bit mournful for the natural desert that is being devoured, not to feed the housing industry this time, but to make a recreation area "better" than what was already there, "better" than what nature already provided, offering "better" teachable moments to children than what nature herself could demonstrate (will the world's animal lawn ornaments be the only clues we have of the real ones that actually roamed our neighborhoods?…but hey! you retort, lawn ornaments aren't pests!).   I muse about the destruction happening to so many little homes, homes for rabbits, snakes, moles, ground squirrels, chuckwallas, reptiles, tortoises, birds, spiders, scorpions….To them, the horror of these yellow monsters burying their homes (most likely with some of their residents still in them!) and destroying their entire habitat is not much different than the recent earthquake in Nepal, burying homes and people in them, wreaking mass destruction.  Mother Earth just wanted to change things up a bit.  Make things better.  Move some rocks and earth around. You know.  

When it's all over, when the dust is settled (and turned into paved parking lots, grass, and rockscape), the rabbits will come back.  The snakes and reptiles and birds will return.  They will adapt.  I know this because I see and hear them in Phase I of the park that I use everyday.  I wonder if they have stories passed down to them from their ancestors.  "You can't IMAGINE what this place was like before!  Before the disaster.  Water was a bit harder to come by, but the solitude!  The desert!  The stuff to hide under when the hawks were out in the middle of the day!  Oy!  Now, we just have to deal with all these newcomers and their fricking dogs and kids who keep trying to terrorize us…."

Just like the stories my family passed down to me, having come to this valley in 1910.  

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

"You'll Take This Compliment, and You'll Like It!"

"Why, thank you very much!"

I was not born the gracious gift (or compliment) receiver that I am today.  In fact, I can point to the exact moment when I learned the skill of receiving a gift, particularly in the presence of the giver.   I use the word “skill” because it is a learned behavior and over time, when used regularly, becomes easier and strengthens our relationships with others as well as with ourselves.

As my father and I were leaving a Christmas Eve party at a relative’s house, the host retrieved a gift from under the tree and presented it to my father.  He staunchly refused, even going so far as to keep his hands in his coat pockets!  “No!  I told you not to get me anything!  I have everything I need!”  While it may have been true, that he had everything he needed, the scene was downright uncomfortable and the despair on the host’s face was apparent. 

 “Here!  I’ll take it for him, and thank you so very much!  Merry Christmas!” I said.  I knew exactly what I was going to say to him in the car.

I began, “Do you know that feeling you get when you watch me open a gift from you, and you swell up with pride or whatever it is you are feeling when I say ‘Thank You, Pop!’?

 “Yes”, he admits.

“Well, you just stole that feeling from the person who presented you with this gift!  You didn’t allow them to experience that joy that you yourself love to feel when you are the giver!”


Lesson learned.  When we graciously receive, especially in the presence of the giver, we in turn become the giver, bringing to life the joy and recognition that is reaching out from both hearts to touch one another.  Whether it’s a material gift or a spoken compliment, a heartfelt “Thank You” is the most powerful gift you can immediately give in return.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Just Because You Love Something Doesn't Mean You Have To Own It

Is this what they mean by "owning my morning?"
I have a dilemma.  After the real estate market crash here in ground zero (Las Vegas),  I did not emerge unscathed.  In fact, there are scathed people everywhere in the real estate industry here.  Currently, my most precious possession is the mantra I tell myself anytime the "ownership" feeling starts rearing its ugly head, "Just because I love something doesn't mean I have to OWN it."  (Serenity now….).  

Which brings me to my current dilemma.  I LOVE mornings.  It is hands down my most favoritest, gloriousest, fuzziest, joyest, funnest, lack-of-anything-having-gone-wrong-yet time of day.  And now, NPR's new mantra for why I should continue to tune into their morning newscast (Morning Edition….I bow to you!) is that I will OWN my morning if I continue as the dedicated listener I have been for the past….how many years?  How can I explain to them that I am not allowed to OWN things I LOVE?  

I found myself perplexed with this phrase, "Own your morning".  To be quite honest, I hadn't heard it before, which isn't surprising because there was a time in the not too distant past that I had to ask who this Kardashian character was and which selfless act of charity was she alone responsible for that she should be so widely recognized?  So, a little research of "ownership" and "morning" led to a site that linked to an article in "Entrepreneur" magazine, and the highlights of "owning your morning" included:
  • Having a routine works wonders for keeping your mornings calm and relaxed.
  • Don’t press the snooze button! However tempting it may seem, snoozing can actually make us feel groggier for longer.
  • Get moving! – Whether its just a stretch or a full body workout, it gets your blood pumping and keep you feeling more alert.
  • Don’t check your work emails before you get to work – remember the morning is yours to enjoy!

Well, I'll be brief:
    #1.  But I DO have a routine!  However, my animals unfortunately are not routine about how and where and when they vomit or otherwise release their bodily fluids during the night, so often, my routine is thwarted by "Attention: shoppers! wet cleanup in aisle 3!", putting me already behind schedule!  Oh, crap!  Wait a minute….I must stay calm and relaxed.

  #2.  I LOVE my snooze button.  More than once, I have felt disappointed in my new phone because it only allowed 3 snooze sessions.  Maybe I should just be honest with myself and reset the original wake-up time?  But, I love the routine of swiping the snooze icon!

  #3.  See #2.

  #4.  Guilty as charged.  Ok.  I think I can do that.   I could stand a little "the morning is yours to enjoy"….

So, I guess this "ownership" they are talking about is really "taking responsibility" for how you want your day to go based on how you spend your first hours of the day, or something like that.  Ok.  Honorable.

Meanwhile, I'm really trying to rid myself of the need to own things, including time.  

Time is something we rent, not own.  It isn't ours to keep.  It is ours to use.  I don't want to "own" my morning.  I don't want to ever experience buyer's remorse for time spent doing one thing when I could have spent it on something else.  I want to "rent" my morning with the same immediate purpose that I rent anything else in my life.  I have a definite purpose when I rent something, be it a car, a tool from Home Depot, a movie, a boat, a bike, whatever.  

And when I'm done, I return it to where it came from. 

And when I'm done here, I'll return to where I came from.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

"Feelin' Groovy", or Slow Down, Ya Move Too Fast

One day, as I was driving the freeway to an inspection on the east side of town, I looked over the barrier at the oncoming traffic because, of course, there was an accident.  All lanes blocked.  "Bu-hu-hu-hummer", I said out loud, while looking not at the aftermath of the accident itself, but the tragedies unfolding in every car behind that wreck.  Faces in cars whipping by me like a train, revealing the upcoming late arrivals at job interviews, or ruined lunch dates, or thoughts of doggies at home inside, desperate to relieve themselves when "mom" comes home, or a piano recital about to happen without dad in the audience, or an already rescheduled specialist doctor's appointment that will be missed…..so many cars, so many lives, so many stories, all locked up in time, stagnant on the freeway.  

This jam went on for MILES, and there was no way off for those at the front.  I kept glancing over as well as I could at 60 mph, because I wanted to see how long it went, and how the traffic was when it came upon the tell-tale stream of red lights in front of it.  Further back, cars were slowing.  Then, cars were spreading out.  Cars were lane jockeying, trying to get around the car going just the speed limit.   I could actually SEE people being mean to other people, and trying to gain the system…."WTF, you mother!  Get out of the left lane!  What, you gettin' paid by the hour?!!"….What came to me at that moment was that I, Teresa Owens, knew something about ALL of these peoples' future that they did not know…that they had no CLUE about!

Whoa!  Is this what it's like to be god?

"Hey you!  Yeah you! Passing that car at 80 mph on the right? Because you think you're going to get somewhere faster?  Guess what? "

Now, my trip had become a game of keeping my eyes on both sides of the highway long enough to be entertained by all the machinations of people trying to get "ahead" in their lives on the opposite side of the road, and yet still stay alive on my own side of the road.

I love the lessons to be learned by everyday, mundane activities.  The takeaway from this 10 minutes of my life was that it really doesn't matter who you get ahead of in life.  It really doesn't matter how clever you think you are about maneuvering your way through obstacles.  We're all on this "freeway" together, and when everything jams up, all your maneuvering is for naught.  Someone is on the other side, watching you…and laughing at how you think you are getting somewhere faster or better than someone else.

Don't worry.  We all get to our destinations soon enough.  Or later.  

Saturday, January 31, 2015

If "Life is a Party", Does that Mean I'll Have to Go Home?

"Man Sets Himself on Fire After Fight Over Sword"…….

It's true.  We all have to go home.  No-one gets to stay at the party forever.  Not even you or I.  And damn it, this is a GREAT PARTY!!!!  I don't want to leave, and it just seems like more friends keep showing up!  But on Wednesday night, one of these friends who I recently reconnected with, made his exit….went home.  And the party isn't nearly as lively as it was a day earlier.  Or a month ago….or a year ago….or a decade ago….

I've been thinking lately (dangerous) about all my acquaintances, friends, and family who have relatively recently left the planet, and left me (us) here to "party on, Garth!", and the myriad ways they have made their grand exits: Motorcycle wreck, suicide, pulmonary illness, cancer, cancer, cancer, infection from too many surgeries in a row, aneurysm, stroke, heart attack, rock climbing fall, old age, cancer, cancer, and more cancer, cycling accident….There's even a book you can buy at the gift shop at the Grand Canyon, devoted solely to all the different ways people have died there.  And of course, I have it in my personal library.  

Because I find death at least as interesting as birth.  I think of it as being birthed somewhere else, just as we were birthed into this life.  Of course, the reality is that I have absolutely no clue "what happens" to me when that which I need to be alive on this planet stops functioning.  I didn't have a clue "what will happen" to me when I was in my mother's womb, either.  My comfort in any of this is to come to this party, visit the buffet table of human life, see what's there, partake of the things I know I like, maybe try a few new things (I'm really not big on that, by the way….my huge loss, I'm sure), go through time doing as little damage as possible, and then….making my exit in some surprising-to-me way.

Barry was a friend, a loving father, and devoted husband, and I wish I had bumped into him more often during the party.  I was off in some other room, chatting and gabbing and partying with others for a long time, and came back into his circle only recently.  And he was there to welcome me back, as though no time had really passed.

So I look around at the party.  Another person has gone home.  The party is a lot quieter, and getting thinner.  My husband keeps telling me, "You are ALWAYS the last one to leave the party!  C'mon, let's GO already!"  That's right.  I am.  

And that's what I wish for all my remaining friends and family:  May you be the last ones to leave the party.

RIP, Barry McCall.  We loved having you here and are GLAD you could make it!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The Reality of Safety

Another tragic gun accident splashes across my Yahoo newsfeed, and I’m transported to that place in my head where the gun control debates live.   Only this time, I just can’t shake the sadness of the event: a 29 year old mother, shot dead while shopping in a Walmart with a loaded gun in her special purse made for concealing firearms, but which was accessed by her 2-year old while the purse was momentarily unattended.   This is so tragic on so many levels, it would be disingenuous to discuss it in terms of gun control.

Instead, I asked myself, “What makes a person feel so afraid for their lives that they feel the need to carry a loaded gun into a retail store?”  Here is a worthy example.  My friend and former classmate lives in a Quonset hut above the arctic circle far from civilization and thus any available help  (she has recently become a reality TV star on NatGeo’s Life Below Zero), completely on her own at the mercy of the elements and any wolves, bears, etc., that she happens to encounter.  Is her daily environment dangerous enough to warrant carrying a gun at all times?  Let’s just say that the last time she put her gun down to fill up her water tank in the river, she suffered a nearly fatal attack by a brown bear.  So yes, the reality and her perception of her dangerous environment are congruent.  Yesterday, my husband was at a PetSmart in one of the lowest crime rate areas in Las Vegas, and the customer in front of him had a gun in his holster at his side.  Is his daily environment, including his trip to a local pet food store, so dangerous that if he left his gun in his car, his life would be in mortal danger?  Well, thousands of patrons and I visit this store each year and the number of deaths occurring there do not bear out his perception of danger.  Therefore, the reality of his daily environment and his perception of its danger are not congruent.  

This isn’t about guns, per se.  It is about the disconnect that exists between the reality of our daily routine and how safe it actually is, and the perception that our lives are in imminent danger at every moment.   

Consider the actual fact that the world is becoming a less violent place overall.  Consider the biological fact that human beings have learned to coexist better than any other primates.  Consider your own daily routine and how often you are actually confronted with a potentially life threatening situation (in my 23 years of appraising, I have felt this way exactly 2 times).  Now, compare these things with the perceptions you have about how dangerous your environment is.  If they are incongruent, what is causing that disconnect?  It actually reminds me of when I was afraid of the dark until someone would turn on the lights and all the things that were scaring me would vanish.  The reality of my overall safety was illuminated.

Nowhere is it more obvious than out here in the west that we live in a gun culture.  I’m not so interested in how that started, but am more interested in how it is perpetuated.  I have many friends who are responsible gun owners and vehemently speak of the benefits and necessity of owning them.  Some have conceal/carry permits, some would like to get their permit.  Each and every person speaks of their need for carrying a firearm due to the unsafe nature of their daily environment and having a gun would make their environment safer.  And yet, I live in the same environment and I just don’t see it or feel it.   So I ask myself, “Am I na├»ve, or are they paranoid and fearful?”  What is the reality of our daily environment and what is our perception of our daily environment and do they coincide?  If not, what is shaping our perception?   And does an incongruent perception create a self-fulfilling prophecy?  

This is not an argument for or against gun control.  It is merely an inquiry about the source of the disconnect that happens to so many of us, who live in such a rich, vibrant, and safe country when we begin to be filled with fear to such a degree that we feel the need to carry a gun whenever we venture out into the society that we hold to be the envy of the world.