Dog Proves Attitude Is Everything

I am convinced God put dogs and man together for a reason.

Earlier this week I visited a friend and his wife in their mountain home. Quiet, peaceful, serene. Trees so plentiful you can hardly see the sky. A place where you wish rules outlawed cell phones and Internet service.

There I met Amari, a short blonde dog long on energy, who would remind me how powerful our attitude is in determining happiness.

Years ago Amari had a terrible experience with a lawnmower resulting in the removal of a hind leg at the hip.

But to Amari, he still had three good legs and a tail that twitches like a hummingbird’s wings.

I first met Amari as he raced around the outside screened in porch of my friend’s place. Moving as if he’d recently lapped up several double espresso shots, a blonde blur might be a better description to his speed. He never stopped moving.

Stepping outside I immediately found two paws leaping up and a face begging for attention. Up, down, up, down, followed by tight circles at my feet. Dogs, as opposed to cats, are the greatest salespeople in the world. They simply will not let you ignore their pleas for attention.

Walking down the pea gravel pathway, Amari ran ahead of me, behind me, and up and over anything he could jump across or up onto. If I didn’t know my friend better I’d have thought Amari lacked human contact. Instead, Amari suffered from the opposite – he couldn’t help but to spread joy with every waking moment.

In a rare moment, Amari stopped in front of me, rolling on his back for a petting session. Only then did I notice him having only three legs. At first I did a double take, wondering if I was missing something. But as my expectations crossed over to reality, I realized I was experiencing something remarkable.

Moments later he became restless, rolled back over onto his legs and returned to the blonde blur.

I couldn’t help but feel inspired. Life can be hard. Someone ignores us or says something unkind. Or maybe we’re feeling sorry for ourselves because we’re caught up in the practice comparing our lives to others, failing to be thankful for what we have verses the never ending list of desires.

Amri wants us to get over ourselves. Like others who’ve suffered an unexpected change in the circumstances or direction in life, Amari faced a new world after his terrible encounter with a lawn mower. But after getting up of the veterinarian’s table, he found away around the unnatural path in front of him to live a happy life.

Some may pass this off as a simple analogy – a dog does not face the same challenges in life as humans. But I’d argue we can learn a great deal from how Amari adapted to his circumstances, not letting anything get in the way of him doing what him doing what he lives for in life – spreading love.

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Forever Is Not Enough Time

This column has been writing itself for 35 years.

On a Thursday morning, following a first year history class in college, a nervous young female blonde student left with an equally nervous male student on a first date. Before the day was over, they both new they were done looking.

My wife and I have now been sharing a life together for thirty-five years. And while we’ll both admit this ride contained plenty of potholes, bumps, and scrapes, we wouldn’t trade our time together for anything.

We’ve grown together – emotionally, as a family, and as friends. And we’ll also admit, one (me) required more work than the other. But the important thing is we’ve come out on the other side so close, so connected, we can’t imagine – or bear – to be apart.

The other day a friends said when traveling on business he can no longer get a good night’s sleep in a hotel room.

“I guess I’ve been married so long I can’t sleep without being next to my wife,” he said.

Yes, it gets like that. I know what he means. He’s not talking about the physical touch, but security of knowing the most important person in your life is nearby. It’s about knowing the last voice you hear before drifting off to sleep – and conversely the first in the morning – is from the person your heart is hopelessly intertwined.

This is the woman who took me from a teenager with an adolescent, carefree attitude about life, to an adult. And she had her work cut out for her. In college she drove me to get off my tail and go get a part-time job. And being in love, I did it. But only after she told me spit out my gum into her hand before walking into the interview.

There is no way I can ever express how much I love this woman. The gift of life, family, and friendship are impossible to every repay. And her steady, but gentle hand, in guiding me through life is without a doubt the biggest reason I am the person I am today.

We joke God put us together on a dare – saying “hey, watch this…this outta be fun to see what happens.”

And for what it is worth, we’re glad he did.

Somewhere along the line mortality slipped into my heart – and along with it the realization my time with my best friend, my wife, the love of my life, is likely less than the time we’ve already shared. And that weighs heavily on me.

This weekend I woke up, rolled over, and said those words to my wife. And with the remarkable wit she has shared with me over these years, she tried to put my angst at ease.

“Think about it, we’ll both be old, blind, deaf, and wrinkled. You won’t be missing much,” she said.

What she doesn’t know is that is those very moments – the ones just like this – is what I’ll miss the most.

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Blue Skies Offer Warmth On Cold Day

Bluer than blue.

When teaching Mindfulness, the exercise of allowing your mind to become more aware of the moment, your senses become raw. Sounds, tastes, even your thoughts sharpen to a fine point you rarely experience without practice. Everything is so close, but simultaneously as far away as the planet Jupiter.

To me, the sky above was never as pure blue or my senses so isolated as on the afternoon of September 11th, 2001.

No matter how many years pass, the single most powerful memory – one I can call up as easily as reaching for the car keys in my pants pocket – is the color of the afternoon sky. Blue. Bright blue. Intoxicating blue.

Fifteen years is a long time. Time enough for images to fade, for emotions to soften their edges, and for memories to gracefully cloud around the edges.

After a gut-wrenching day of planes crashing into skyscrapers, buildings crashing to the ground, and experiencing a newfound and painful vulnerability, I stepped outside onto the street near our home. I felt as if my ears wear ringing, only they weren’t. My head, however, was suffering from a bell-ringing of unimaginable horror.

With my family safely inside, I tried to quiet my mind, to push the images of death away – even if only for a moment. I needed a breath of normalcy, a place where I could be while not thinking.

Streets were eerily quiet at 4 pm in the afternoon. The world, at least the one I lived in, meekly shut down as the awareness of our new reality ebbed to the surface.

Standing there, my feet on the ground, I found myself looking to the sky. Maybe I was looking for answers. Maybe I was looking for a sign. A giant blue canvas, instead, filled my eyes.

Planes were grounded, leaving the skies empty for nature to paint with clouds and birds. Only on this day, even Mother Nature put both on hold. The blue pouring into my eyes were bluer than blue.

Life is different when your senses are operating on overdrive. Probably awaking our ‘fight of flight’ instinct buried in our lizard brain, I’m sure most of experienced something similar – how could you not? When you are threatened, nature takes the steering wheel. No more autopilot, no more casually going through the emotions.

I can’t recall the temperature or whether recently fallen leaves blew between my standing feet. But I do remember the color of the sky and the uneasy emotional feeling as if standing naked and alone in the middle of a large empty space.

The blue kept calling to me, as if inviting me to listen, to let the sky wrap itself around me. I did. Tears came out. Emotions, buried inside for hours – ones intentionally suppressed as I tried to make sense out of the new reality around me – burst to the surface. And as they did, the bluer than blue faded from my sight as tears filled my eyes.

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Office of Presidency At Risk

“In America, anyone can grow up to be the President.”

My mother, an immigrant from a European nation supporting a king and queen, repeatedly told this to me as a child. To her, these words were meant to be inspirational, motivating, pointing to a higher calling.

I wonder now, decades after her passing, if she’d retire that phrase if she’d lived to see her grandchildren.

As a matter of fact, if we are learning anything from this current election cycle, it is her words should serve more as a cautionary warning than inspiration.

As a citizen, I’m pissed at the quality of candidates each of the major parties brought forth. One unpredictable, unbalanced, and smart enough to be dangerous. The other is manufactured candidate, with similarities to how a hot dog is made – you don’t really want to know what goes in it. Problem is, we do know. And it is disturbing. Neither would I trust any further than I can throw them.

Which brings me back to why this election cycle worries me.

Besides the policy debates, the character flaws each major party candidate projects, and the massive amount of negative baggage each carriers like stink on sewer water, there is something larger at risk – the respect for the office of the presidency.

I was raised in a home where patriotism was cultivated, taught, respectfully passed from one generation to the next. The American flag was never to touch the ground, remove your cap when the national anthem is played, and place your hand over your heart when pledging allegiance.

Today, with a cesspool of ugly politics, mean-spirited words, and one where money drives the outcome, actions, and motivations, I am disgusted with the process.

The office, which I will always hold the highest respect for, is being devalued into a cheap reality show or huckster tent at a traveling carnival.

And, sadly, not the office I would use as an inspirational phrase to an elementary school student. Not even close.

The reality is not everyone can grow up to be the president. And if we’ve learned anything in the past few decades, a handful of families – the Bush and Clinton families – have monopolized the pool of potential candidates. And this incestuous cycle may lead us to a correction where the meaning of ‘anyone’ literally means ‘anyone’ – but now with a negative connotation.

Anyone, when interpreted as the latter, is a scary proposition.

If anyone is listening, here is what I want from my president. I want courage, honesty, empathy, and a healthy respect for the office of the presidency. I want someone I can trust to make – and communicate – decisions with the American people. I want a leader I can believe in – not someone being elected solely on the merit of having lower negatives than their opponent.

I am so thirsty for someone to believe in, to trust, and to get behind; I’m darn near desperate.

And that is exactly when we, as a nation, should be afraid.

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