Kindness

I had to see one of my doctors today and I told him that I wanted to thank him because I referred a friend to him and she told me that he was the first doctor to actually listen to her and what a difference it made to her. And when I said that he put his hand on his heart and listened to the story and when I was done he said, “Oh my God, thank you. You know, sometimes things are hard, in any job, and you think, “Why am I doing this?” But hearing that and knowing I made a difference to someone, that gives me what I need to keep going.” And then he hugged me.

And this is a DOCTOR people. Whom we assume has the best job, right? I’m just sharing this to remind you that you can 100% make all the difference for someone, anyone, even a stranger, and you have that opportunity every single day.

I stumbled upon a Twitter feed as well today, where writer Nicole Cliffe asked the question, “What is the kindest thing a stranger has done or said to you?” The responses had me sobbing in minutes. I added 3 stories myself, but feel free to read the responses here:

Stories like this restore our faith in humanity, am I right? Whenever the horror in the “news” gets to me, I remind myself of one simple, clear and unavoidable truth. People, for the most part, are good. When I feel like the world is a big bad place, I remind myself that for every unspeakably awful thing we hear about, for every person we feel has done horrifying things, there are 100 people – hell, maybe 1,000 – who are not that way. Who will help. Who will show kindness, or compassion, or a smile.

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“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” – Mahatma Gandhi

The Kindness Factory helps me to remember this as well. If you’ve never heard of it, The Kindness Factory is looking to log a million acts of kindness. You can go there to log your acts, or log acts that have happened to you, or – if you’re like me – go there to read the acts that others have logged, in case you need some help smiling today. Check it out here.

http://kindnessfactory.com/

Remember these things when you are losing hope in the world. Remember that it literally takes one single act of kindness to change someone’s day, someone’s week, someone’s life. And the most incredible thing about that is that every single one of us already has the power to make that change happen, every day, multiple times a day, just by being kind. How incredible is that?

This Kind World

I’ve been thinking lately about the state of the world. I stopped watching the news years ago because it made me upset, depressed and afraid. I took a journalism class in college, and we did in fact learn that one of the first rules of journalism is this: “If it bleeds, it leads.” News channels, and now the internet, is full of scare tactics. Click bait. They need you to click, to watch, to read. They need the ratings. But the truth is, the world is an incredible place, full of incredible people.

If you look for it, you can find many websites dedicated to good news stories. Stories of heroism, love, strength, and good deeds. You can also read the statistics. While it may seem as though our world is getting worse over time, it’s actually just the opposite. We hear more about awful people doing horrible things – not because it’s happening more often, but because technology has given us the ability to know about everything that happens everywhere.

In fact, mankind has actually improved over time. Studies have shown that empathy in people has actually increased over time, not lessened. And the incidences of people rising up to help others is prominent. I did a quick bit of research to give you some examples. When you look at my state, Ohio, for example, you can see that in the late 90’s to early 2000’s, there seemed to be an increase or constant of rape, violent crime, robbery and manslaughter. But then the numbers stop increasing, begin decreasing, and continue to lower over time. This is even despite the fact that the population continues to grow. Now, these numbers aren’t as low as they were in the 1960’s, when the earliest data is available – however, they are declining over time (the report is able to go only to 2014, so more recent data is unavailable.) If you want to see how things have changed in your area, the website is https://www.ucrdatatool.gov.

Regardless of all of this, though, I urge you to put it to the test, as I do every day. Leave your house. And see how people act on average. Do they wave you on first when you’ve both stopped at stop signs at the same time? Do they let you over in traffic? Do they hold the door for you? Do they smile at you? Do they offer to help when they see a need?

The other day I decided to venture out – alone – with all 3 of my youngest children. Something I’d never done before. My husband and my oldest son had gone to do some father-son adventuring. My kids are 4, 2 and 7 months. The older 2 are boys in the throes of the terrible 2’s and the curious 4’s, so I was on high alert. The first store we went into has carts that have cars in the front for kids to ride in. My hope was that if I put the boys in it they’d be content long enough for me to grab what we needed and get out. But they were out of the carts. As I realized this after we walked in, I said to the kids, “Oh, it looks like they don’t have any car carts today, guys.” An employee overheard me and said, “You want a car cart? I’ll get you one!” and ran out to the parking lot and brought us one. Later, towards the end of our visit, the kids were starting to come unglued, they were climbing in and out of the cart, and I was probably obviously struggling. A woman saw me and said, “Don’t worry, we’ve all been there! Someday they will be big and you’ll miss these moments when they were little. Even the ones that make you crazy. You’re doing a good job.” A complete stranger. She stopped and said that to me, just to help. Later, as I was loading everything into the car, she was exiting the store and walked past me, headed to her car. She said, “Hey! See? You did it! I’m proud of you!” And even though I didn’t know her at all, it completely made my day and reinforced my belief in myself and my ability to get through that shopping trip. That day, as we went to other stores, people stopped to tell me how beautiful my children were. They held doors for us. They picked things up when we dropped them. They smiled knowingly when my children acted up. Once Bennett escaped and ran from me, and a gentleman caught him and steered him back in my direction.

This is the world I choose to see. This is the world I want my kids to grow up in. This is the world I will foster and grow by holding doors for strangers. By complimenting them. By allowing them to go ahead of me in line. By practicing politeness and kindness and community. It truly takes a village to raise our children. And while this doesn’t mean that there aren’t bad people, or good people who do bad things, it does mean that we shouldn’t focus on it. There is exponentially more good in the world than there is bad. And I truly believe that if that is where our focus lies, we can continue to steer things in that direction. Less fighting, more understanding. Less hate, more love. Less weakness, more strength. And when you see someone struggling – do something.

“Be the change you wish to see in the world.” – Mahatma Gandhi

The Love of an Animal

It’s hard to explain the love we have for our pets. Some people don’t understand it. They think animals are just animals – their worth not equal to that of a person. I disagree. Sometimes I think they may be worth more. They have the capacity to love and yet retain an innocence that people typically leave behind once they enter adulthood. I once had an idea – perhaps pets are angels. They are sent down to live with us, to comfort us, and help us in difficult times. To show us unconditional love and to remind us to be kind and to care for those who are unable to care for themselves.

When my husband and I moved in together, we decided to get a dog. We already had a couple of cats at the time. My cat Sadie, and his cat, Larry. I saw Bruno on Petfinder. His big, smiling, happy face made me smile when I saw it. He had been rescued by a couple who tried to rescue dogs who would be euthanized. Bruno was a Bernese Mountain dog/Rottweiler Mix. His foster parents had rescued him from the pound and gotten him up-to-date on everything and microchipped. We went through the adoption process for him and then we brought him home. They believed him to be about 3 years old. When we took him to the vet for  the first time, however, the vet thought he may be older than that.

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Our Bruno, in his youth.

Bruno would follow me around everywhere. He would just stare at me. He had come from a home with other dogs, so I though maybe he was lonely. So we rescued a puppy from the pound and named him Brautigan. They quickly became best friends. But Bruno still followed me. Still stared at me. I realized that I was his person.

Bruno was incredible. He loved other dogs, all people, cats, and children. Good lord, he especially loved children. We’d have to hold him back whenever kids were around. He’d knock them over trying to lick their faces. When we got him we were trying to figure out a name for him but ended up keeping the one he already had. I did give him an official name, however, as I do with all of our pets. He was HRH Prince Bruno Roth of Switzerland. Over the years he received many nicknames. Brune-Brune, gentle giant, baby bear and pupper. We had him 10 years, which means he was at least 13. That’s a nice long life for a dog whose breeds average a 9-year lifespan. But still, it was hard to let him go.

I think one of the hardest things in life is deciding to put a pet to sleep. Sometimes it’s obvious. A terminal illness or a vet recommendation. But sometimes, it sneaks up on you. A few years ago Bruno developed a tumor on his side. The vet said it was a fatty tumor, probably not cancerous. He lived with it for years. As he got older it started to interfere with his ability to turn around on that side. And then he started falling down. At first it was down steps. So we tore the outside stairs down and my husband built wider, less steep stairs that Bruno could use much more easily. And when those started to be hard again, we added non-slip coverage. The he started falling on the hardwood floors from time to time. Then he started falling everywhere. Now by this time he was practically deaf and partially blind. And he started to spend most of his time sleeping. But he still went wherever I was.

At night, after my kids were in bed and my husband went to sleep, I would do the dishes. Bruno would always join me. Sometimes he would lay right at my feet and I’d trip over him and say things like, “Dammit Bruno, do you have to lay right under me?” But even then I knew the day was coming when I’d miss tripping over him. I’d turn on some music and in the quiet of the evening, load up the dishwasher while my big old dog snored. It was a relaxing way to end every day.

Then Bruno started refusing to leave his kennel in the morning. I started reading articles about knowing when it was time to put a pet to sleep. No one really seemed to have the answer. Some said you’d just know. But I didn’t know. He was having good days and bad days. But then I read something that talked about pets having accidents in the house. And Bruno never had accidents. So then I thought, “That’s how I’ll know. If he’s going to the bathroom inside, I’ll know it’s time.” A couple of weeks later, he started to have accidents. It was a couple a day and it was like he didn’t even know it was happening. And even though I said that if that happened I would know, I was still unsure. But then I remembered an article that said something along the lines of it being better to be two weeks early than a day late. We have the ability to let them pass before they are in agony, so why wait until then. I had already made that mistake with my cats. Tony and Sadie. I waited longer than I should have and they suffered. I didn’t want to make that mistake again.

I called the vet and I set everything up. I prayed that he would have an awesome last day. And he did! He had more energy and seemed more like himself than he had in quite awhile. He seemed happy and full of life again. It made me second guess my decision. But that night, as I was doing the dishes, and crying, I looked over at him and he was looking at me. I said, “I just wish I could know that I’m doing the right thing. I wish you could tell me that it was OK.” And I swear to God the most incredible thing happened. My dog responded. He made 3 little growly sounds at me, and then laid down. He’s never done that. Not ever. So I decided he understood me and he told me it was time.

The next morning we took him in. I brought his blanket so he’d be comfortable and it would smell like home. He was laying in the waiting room and when it came time for us to go back he couldn’t stand up and the vet tech had to help us get him up. He’d lost weight, but he was still a big guy. We went back and he laid down. They gave him a shot and my husband and I petted him. I was laying on the floor with him, crying, but trying not to. We told him what an amazing dog he was. How much we loved him, and how much we were going to miss him. He fell asleep. We continued to pet him until the second shot stopped his heart. We left. I had made arrangements for the funeral home to pick him up and cremate him. He was too big to bury in the yard but we wanted to bring him home. The funeral home dropped his ashes off to us the next day.

It’s been several weeks since he’s been gone. I had to wait that long to write this because I knew I wouldn’t be able to. I’m crying now but not sobbing hysterically as I would have been if I’d tried to write this any earlier. I find solace in him being home. I find solace in knowing, in retrospect, that it was definitely time and that we did the right thing. But boy do I miss him. My big gentle giant. He was such a lovely soul. I wonder if I’ll ever have a day when I don’t think of him. For now, I keep his collar in my dresser drawer, and I do the dishes in the daytime – when the kitchen is filled with distractions.

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Us, on Bruno’s last day.

 

 

Marry A Man Who…

Not all relationships are perfect – or even good. The relationships I’ve been in have all ended, including my first marriage. All of them have ended – until now. My husband and I have been together for 12 years. Sometimes when people see us together they ask how long we’ve been married. I think they expect us to say a year or something so that they can say we’re in the “Honeymoon Phase” – and when we say how long, they look surprised. We’re the couple who makes our friends pretend to gag over our love. Here is what I can tell you about my marriage, in hopes that it helps you find the right man, or woman, for you.

We met all those years ago on Match.com. After my father convinced me to try it out, I did. I saw his profile and he wasn’t the kind of man I would have picked out of a crowd in terms of his looks. He’s a great looking man, don’t get me wrong – but I wouldn’t say he was my “type.” But I had learned a few things by that point, one of them being that choosing men based on a type had gotten me nowhere, so I read his profile and he was so funny and clearly intelligent that I was interested, so I winked at him. He winked back and then we spent a couple of weeks emailing before finally meeting. And when we met, I got butterflies in my stomach and my breath caught for just a second. That’s never happened to me before. Years later when we talked about how we met, I asked him why he didn’t wink at me first and he said that he thought I was too pretty and that he didn’t stand a chance. He proposed to me while we were out at our local bar. My friend was bartending and we were discussing our future. We’d been together about a year and a half and my lease was about to be up on my apartment. I was thinking about moving but I didn’t want to sign a new lease if our future was together. I jokingly asked him how much he loved me and he said, “Enough to forget about the perfect moment,” got down on his knee right there and proposed to me with a ring he’d made out of the foil of a cigarette pack. He told me later that he’d been looking at rings and planning some elaborate proposal, but that in that moment he just wanted to do it, so he did. I still have that ring. It’s in my jewelry box and is my most prized possession. A few months later he replaced it with a real one, that we picked out together. A year later, we were married.

The last 12 years have put our relationship through many trials. We’ve moved 3 times. We lost my grandmother, his father, his grandfather and both of his grandmothers. We’ve renovated 3 homes. When we tried to get pregnant we were unsuccessful and struggled with infertility for years before having our children. We went through the process of adoption to get our daughter. And throughout it all, we’ve never really had a fight. We’ve had discussions and been irritated but we’ve never raised our voices at each other or said anything regrettable. The last 12 years haven’t been perfect, but they’ve been damn close and here is why I think that is. When he gets home I ask him about his day and I really care about his answer. I listen and try to help him problem solve. I regularly let him know how damn much I love him and that I’m attracted to him and that I find him to be charming, intelligent, funny and kind. I never allow myself to take him for granted. I treat him the same way today as I did when we were dating. I care about him and I always make sure that he knows that. I don’t get angry over little things. I see him for who he is, and that includes his flaws. And I accept him as that person and love him regardless of those little flaws. That doesn’t mean I never say anything, or that I just ignore it. But I don’t expect him to change who he is. After all, I love him just the way he is, and to quote Sex in the City, “Be careful trying to change a man. They’re like sweaters. Pull the wrong string and the whole damn thing falls apart.”

And here’s what he does for me, and how I know he’s the one for me. I suggest you marry a man who comes home from work and always gives you a kiss. Who never hangs up the phone without saying “I love you.” Who comes home to a house that looks like a tornado went through it, doesn’t say a word about the mess, and buys you shrimp and grits for dinner. Marry a man who tells you that you look better without makeup, who tells you you’re sexy even after you’re still carrying 15 pounds of baby weight on you. A man who pushes you behind him when you encounter a dog if you’re out on a walk. A man who supports your dreams and your endeavors. A man who listens and accepts you and your little, weird issues. That’s the man who will give you a happy life.

Put each other’s needs either before your own, or equal to them. If you both do that then you can’t go wrong. Never raise your voice. If you’re angry, try to take time and think about how you want to express yourself before you speak. This is especially hard for passionate people, I think. Passionate people are led by feelings and emotions and it’s harder for them to stay quiet and not express what they are feeling. But if you can do that, then you never run the risk of saying something you’ll regret. And each day, look at your love and try to remember how you felt when you first fell in love. Then hold on to that and let that feeling, let that place, be the one from which all of your actions and words are coming from.

Us, on our wedding day.

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