The little things…

I have learned a lot from Wiseguy about relationships.  In the past, relationships to me meant I had to give it my all and expect nothing in return.  It meant turning the other cheek or saying nothing, even if I was really upset because that was how you kept a relationship running…no issues, no problems and lots of denial.  Through thick and thin. For better or for worse.  Right?  Here are some lessons I learned.

BE YOURSELF:  Most people in relationships believe that they are being honest and truthful with themselves.  Have you ever given up doing things you like to do because the person whom you are dating doesn’t like it?  Maybe it’s the opposite.  Maybe you are starting to do you things you don’t like to do.  You pretend to like exercising or maybe you have become vegetarian because you think your partner will love you more since that is their preference.  The same holds true for you trying to change the person you are with.  Accept them for who they are.  Oh sure, people grow and change, but becoming a totally different person just to please someone else is not how to live a happy life.  Be happy with yourself and who you are.  If you love being the yappy, talkative person in the room, don’t become the quiet, shy person when in a relationship.  Be yourself.

SAY THANK YOU:  When you first start dating, you are always on your best behaviour.  You are also very polite and say please and thank you for every little thing.  That should not change once you have been together for awhile.  To this day, Wiseguy will thank me for any meal I have prepared.  Even if he doesn’t like it, he will thank me for making it (and then politely ask me to never ever make it again).  I used to tell him that he didn’t have to thank me.  He explained that since I made the effort, he should thank me.  The children were taught this as well.  Just because you are Mom or Dad or Spouse, it doesn’t mean that your work should not be acknowledged in a positive way.  Feeling appreciated makes for a happier home environment.  Thanks for getting the groceries.  Thanks for doing the laundry.  Thanks for driving us to the party.  Saying a meaningful “thanks” is always nice to hear.

SHOW APPRECIATION / GRATEFULNESS:  When you are dating someone, buying little gifts and tokens of love are usually the modus operandi.  After you have been together awhile the gift giving drops off and there is usually a daily routine that ensues.  Certain chores are done by certain individuals.  One person will do the cooking and one person will do the laundry.  Someone will load the dishwasher and empty it.  One will mow the lawn and / or shovel the snow (welcome to Canadian looooooooong winters).  Indoor chores and outdoor tasks need to be completed.  Now, when your life gets topsy turvy and your usual division of labour leaves you overwhelmed, it’s nice when that 50/50 split can become 70/30 without anyone griping about the sudden amount of work they have to do around the place.  Yes, I am thinking of a specific example.  I am the dishwasher loader/emptier and I am also the garbage-taker-outer.  This week I had some additional errands to take care of and was exhausted just thinking about completing my at-home tasks.  To my supreme delight I arrived home to find the waste and recycling by the curb, the dishwasher emptied, and the dishes put away.  OH JOY!  Yes, it is THAT simple to show appreciation.  Wiseguy appreciated the fact that my life was a bit more hectic this week and I was grateful that he did this without my asking him.

COMMUNCATION:  This is THE most important lesson I have learned.  I would oftentimes assume that Wiseguy knew what I was thinking.  More often than not, I would get angry with him about things that he had no clue I had even thought about.  Not fair.  Even worse, I learned the “silent treatment” from the master…my mother.  Not a word spoken, while I slammed doors to make sure he knew I was upset.  It would be up to him to figure out why I was upset.  Adults tantrums are not pretty.  As adults we have a vocabulary to be able to communicate what is on our minds.  We are not mind readers.  We cannot assume that other people know what we are thinking.  So, if something is bothering you, take the time to talk about it.  Those who do not communicate are the ones who let each little angry moment start a pyramid of disaster.  Brick by brick it builds as you hold every bothersome incident inside and then suddenly CRASH!  One little thing will have the whole pyramid of anger cascading down.  Hurtful things will be said as you dig deep into your memory for past trangressions that the other person had no idea had been bothering you.  Let it out.  Talk it out.

Relationships are give and take.  Relationships involve work.  You are two people who used to live your own way, with your own rules and who now live together while trying to figure out whose rules would be the best to incorporate as a couple.  Start off with these four simple rules and you’ll see how much easier this transition can be.  More often than not, it’s the little things that can make it or break it.

You think YOU’VE had a bad day…

I am sure you have heard the phrase that there are two sides to every story.  It seems like most of life is like that.  The yin to the yang.  The black or the white.   The truth or the lie. Up and down.  Left and right.  You get the idea.  Now, this morning was a little different.  I awoke (same as usual), went downstairs (same) and let my dog outside so that she could empty her bladder (same).  Suddenly, I noticed a dark mound in the back corner of the yard (NOT same as usual).  Before freaking out, I grabbed the wee mutt and brought her inside.  Something was not the same and it threw me off my usual game plan for the day.  What the heck was it?  How could my day start off so traumatically!

My mornings start off the same everyday.  I have awoken to barfing dogs, but other than that, nothing all that exciting happens at my house.  I went muttering through house “what is it, what is it, what is it…”  Being quite near-sighted (actually, way beyond “quite”, more like “extremely”) I went back inside and grabbed my glasses.  Another trip to the back door.  IT was still there.  I still couldn’t recognize what IT was.  So, back inside with another brilliant idea.  My camera!  I grabbed my fancy camera and photographed the invader.  I was trying to zoom in, but my brain was in a panic fog and I kept hitting the wrong buttons.  Grrrrr.  Finally, Wiseguy heard my lunatic mutterings and asked me what was going on.  I shared my information about the intruder.  He went out to look.  He thought it looked like a raccoon.  A deceased one.

How on earth did a raccoon end up in our backyard?  Especially a dead one.  We went all CSI: crime scene investigation.   What if someone poisoned the raccoon?  What if it got bit by a mosquito and got West Nile virus?  What if it was rabid?  How would we find someone to remove it?  After our propensity for asking unanswerable questions had run its course, it was time to actually do something proactive.  There were my first futile attempts, using Google:  Animal control.  Well if we had a LIVE animal we could pay them to remove it.  I found a few of those.  Finally my brain was calm enough to come up with the right search question for Google:  “Dead animal pickup, city of Hamilton”.  Ok, ok, I know it sounds morbid and maybe even juvenile, but I found the correct website and phone number.  Note to self:  be as detailed and accurate in your search description with Google.

Wiseguy called them and after he hung up he looked exasperated.  “What happened?”  I asked.  “We aren’t a priority,” he began, “they will get here when they get here.”  I took doggie Lucy, on leash, outside to do her business on our front lawn.  With that done, it was time for me to get back inside and get ready for work.  As I closed the front door, I looked at Wiseguy and he asked, “What about the turkey vultures?”  Oh NO!!!  Dead animals is what they love.  There are about six of them in our neck of this suburb.  YIKES!

I could not think about this anymore.  I had to get ready for work.  I hoped for the best and proceeded to leave Wiseguy and our two fur babies to wait it out.  At 8 a.m. I received a “call me” text from Wiseguy.  Good news!  The ‘coon was gone.  The lady who picked up the deceased animal said, “Oh, this is a small one.”  After numerous inquiries from Wiseguy with regards to the demise of our friendly neighbourhood stalker, the corpse remover declared that it could not have been West Nile Virus.  “More likely,” she said as she pointed to a large pole in our backyard with strings of wiring going from post to house, “it was electrocuted.”  Wow.  Our CSI skills did not even imagine THAT happening.

Well, that got me thinking.  I was having a bad day.  Having to worry about my dogs getting near a dead raccoon.  Imagine if my day started off as the raccoon.  I had tap danced across the fence, climbed down by the dog water bowl, and had a lovely cold drink of water.  The sun was up.  The birds were singing.  Ahhh…what a glorious day.  Then maybe, as Ricky Raccoon, I would’ve perhaps heard a dog barking and it was time for splitzville.  So, as Ricky I would dig my nails into the wood and begin my ascent up the post.  As I started skillfully climbing up and admiring myself for my wonderful intelligence in finding a convenient water trough I think … Ahhhh…life is good.  That would be my last thought as…ZAAAAAAAAAAAP!  BZZZZZZZZZZZZ!   FRRRRRRRRRRY!  My body would stupefy and fall backward to the ground.  Me…dead.

Ok, at first as I visualized this I thought of the Wile E. Coyote cartoons.  That was something that would totally happen to him.  Then it got me thinking about mortality and how life is short.  Really, Ricky the ‘Coon was having a great day and suddenly it was done.  Life was over.  You never know how long you have to live.  Appreciate what you have everyday.

My second thought was a little more common place, but still important.  I thought I was having a bad day worrying about a dead animal in my backyard and how we would get rid of it and what I would have to do to ensure the dogs didn’t get sick.  But…boy oh boy…I think being electrocuted is kind of more traumatic.  So yeah, I can almost hear Ricky Raccoon saying:

You think YOU’VE had a bad day…

I Forgot to Say Thank You…

Traffic is horrific. I have been sitting here in my car for over half an hour now, inching my way home.  I hate my job.  The kids drive me crazy.  The price of food is outrageous.   My bills are getting higher. My pay isn’t increasing.  Does this sound like your typical day? If you grew up with a morning devotional prayer, you would warble out your devotion and then search out that much needed cup of coffee.  Remember the old movies and tv shows where there were little kids saying, “…and bless mommy and daddy” etc.  Whatever happened to our gratefulness and thankfulness?

First, let me explain that I am not a practising Catholic. I GREW up in a staunch Catholic family upbringing, but as I got older I started looking at the world around me and doubting many things that are part of the Catholic faith.  I learned more about science and what is believable and what isn’t believable.

As a result of my faith and school knowledge clashing against one another, I decided that I would just agree to believe in God and Jesus, but not actually attend any services or say any prayers.  I would thank them every once in awhile, but otherwise I felt I controlled my own destiny.

Then one day, or evening rather, my life changed forever…

I had quit a very stressful job.  Before starting a new job, I decided to visit my father in Croatia.  I needed some time to decompress and he was happy for me to come visit him.  It took some time for us to get used to each other’s routines.  He was an early riser and I was craving sleep ins (having previously been waking at 4 am to go to work). I was a smoker (at that time).  He hated it.  I didn’t want to go anywhere and he was instructed by mother to take me places to see the tourist hot spots.  In the end, I was becoming more my normal happy yappy self again.

After two weeks, we were sitting down eating dinner and he asked me, “Why are you here?”  I thought that was a strange question.   “I quit my job and needed a vacation,” I replied.  “I thought I would see the house that you built,” I continued.  Again he asked, “Ok, but why are you really here?”  I didn’t know what he was alluding to.  Finally I said, “I have noticed that sometimes I feel like I need to do something, but don’t know why.  Eventually the reason is shown to me.”  It sounded so hokey and nutty, but he nodded his head and then went back to eating his dinner.

During my last week there, my dad ran excitedly into the house and said, “I found bees!” He grabbed the phone and called a neighbour.  A few minutes later, and with many thanks, my father hung up the phone and had a huge grin on his face.  “Get ready!”  he exclaimed.  “We are going to get some bees!”

I was HORRIFIED!  Shaking my head vehemently I said:  “NO WAY!”  He proceeded with his litany:  it was safe and bees in a swarm don’t sting and it will be fine and finally…you can just hold the flashlight.  So, this was how my life was going to end, I thought.

We drove the car through the village and parked at the bottom of a steep cliff.  My dad, carrying a mover’s blanket, and I, carrying the flashlight, started our ascent up the cliff, using the angled rock steps to get to the top.  I could see the swarm hanging off the tree. My dad left me to go back and get something from the car.  I waited.

The sky was so clear.  The stars were so bright, I felt I could almost touch them.  Then something made me say, “Please Jesus, I don’t know what’s going to happen next, but could you please just let me live.  I would really appreciate it.  Thank you.”  I took a deep breath and by then my dad had reappeared.  He motioned for me to get closer to the hive.  “Hold the flashlight,” he whispered.  Then he threw the blanket over the swarm and yelled, “RUN!”  Boy did I run!

I ran in the opposite direction of the tree and then I heard my dad yell, “NOT THAT WAY!” My legs kept moving and suddenly my right foot hit a rock and I fell chin first on the ground.  My glasses flew off.  My knees were scraped. My teeth ached from being knocked in the chin.  My palms smarted from the scratches of the forward sliding motion.  My dad came running over to see if I was ok.  The look in his eyes…was it remorse, hurt, fear, relief?  So many emotions all in one look.  I felt like an idiot for tripping.  I ached physically, but mentally I just felt bad for him.  He looked me in the eyes and said, “Thank God you fell.  If you hadn’t tripped you would be dead.”  My look back at him was clearly wide-eyed with an are-you-kidding-me-look.  Yes, had I not tripped on that rock, in another two feet I would have fallen over the edge of the cliff and  down to my death.

I haven’t told many people this story.  It was a life changing moment for me.  It made me realize that I don’t need to say a plethora of Our Fathers or Hail Mary.  I have my buddy Jesus and I know I have angels who watch over me.  How do I know?  I have done some pretty stupid things and lived.

So, I guess I’m still here to live and learn.  To share and to try and help other people find all the good that is in their lives.  Our society focuses so much on negativity that we have been trained to be sarcastic and demeaning.  We learn to talk about everything that is bad and regurgitate it to others.

It is time to take our happy lives back and look for all the good!  I propose a simple two-step process.  Yup, only two steps.

1.  When you are feeling overwhelmed and you think you can’t cope.  Take a deep breath in through your nose (about 6 seconds), then exhale through your mouth (about 6 seconds).  Do this 3 times and suddenly things don’t seem so overwhelming.  I didn’t believe it until I tried it.  It works.

2. Don’t be the one who forgot to say thank you.  Every morning and every evening, find a couple of things that were actually really good and made you feel happy:  Thanks for getting me safely home.  Thanks for my family.  Thanks for my pets.  Thanks for my home.  Thanks for my food.  Thanks for being there, even if I can’t see you.

3. If you feel like you have time for a 3rd step.  Appreciate it all.