Who let the dogs out?

This morning I was frantically trying to get everything taken care of in preparation for leaving town later. I was on the phone with the insurance company, my sweet yardman was been here and Tucker is pawing at me to go out. In my distracted state, I assumed that the yard was done and let the dogs out and went back to my phone calls. I’m interrupted by a frantic Paxton asking where the dogs are. As luck would have it, he happened to see them escape out the opened gate. Let me introduce the bandits:

They are big, obnoxious, annoying, loud, barking, yet loveable mutts. I did not choose them, I didn’t really want them, I’m just the mom who says, “I’d be glad to do whatever I can to help!” The dogs and I have managed to develop a healthy love/hate relationship. But back to Friday, unbeknownst to me, my sweet yardman is cutting two lawns in my neighborhood at once, which is not his normal routine. I thought he was done, but he was across the street and still had to come back and blow the grass off, so when I let the dogs out, they discovered an open gate and ran for it! Strangely, Paxton thought he saw them run by his window and came to look for them. I run, jumped in the car and find them about four houses down peeing on a mailbox, call them, the jump in the car and head back to captivity. Upon my return home, there are several cars in front of my house a few neighbors on foot and one car pulled over yelling at my yard man for leaving the gate open and threatening to call the police. That is after a man walking his dog had already chewed him out. Another proceeds to call me to tell me that I need to instruct my yard man to keep that gate closed so I don’t get sued!

I have to admit, I don’t know my neighbors. Twenty years ago my next door neighbor didn’t like us and every time her kids saw my kids she called them inside because she wanted nothing to do with us. The kids proceeded to sneak behind her back and play through the wooden fence. But I now realize that I’ve been forever damaged by the rejection of that one person and never allowed myself to invest in neighbors, I just want to live here in peace and to do that I’ve decided the less we know about each other the better! Oh they all knew Russell, he worked in the yard and visited with everyone, but alas, he is dead! A lady came to my door some months ago complaining that I had a loose picket and they were afraid the dogs would get out so she offered to have her husband come screw the loose pickets in, that was thrown in my face today as well. I know my neighbors don’t like the dogs. I know they are loud and obnoxious. But they’re dogs! They don’t bark after 9:00 nor before 7:00. They have never attached or bitten anyone besides each other when attention, a treat or food was to be competed for. However, the outpouring of anger, rage, hysteria and downright pure hatefulness over their approximate five minute adventure dumfounds me!

Where do you go from here? I thought about writing an open letter of apology for the existence of the animals they evidently harbor so much resentment toward the beasts behind the fence and posting it in my front yard. I thought of hanging a “Beware of Dogs” sign to protect myself legally. My kids wanted to call the lady back and tell her if she ever called and upset me again, they’d call the police. But at the end of the day I just have to let it go! I understand fear, I understand being protective, I understand those things hide behind anger. I also understand overreaction and letting your anger unleash the demons within you. I don’t understand harsh words to my yard man that is just about the kindest, nicest person I have EVER met.

When I was growing up attending church youth group with a collection of young ne’er-do-wells I remember sitting around the campfire singing, “They will know we are Christians by our love.” I understand that love to be a compassionate walking along side others, both known and unknown. That love cannot include spewing our wrath in the name of being “neighborly” or trying to prevent you “being sued”. So when I’m mad at my neighbor I must stop and think! Was anyone harmed? Do I know why this crazy lady has these obnoxious dogs? Have I ever attempted to speak to her when I wasn’t angry? Do we really need to threaten a worker with calling the police because a gate was left open? I think not.

I think also about my friend who at this very same time is burying her second husband in five years, and she’s only 40! I think about the people in my GriefShare class who have lost grandkids to suicide. I think about Simone Biles who has to deal with the wrath of America because she chose her own peace of mind over a gold medal. I think about how desperately our world needs understanding and compassion – not from ‘those people’ but from me and you, even in our own neighborhood.

The thing about it is ... Life is hard, but God is good! Every, single encounter we have with others matters! Every word we utter will either build up or tear down and no matter the words that have been uttered to us, we still have a choice to choose our words. I choose kindness, I hope you will too! I’m going away for the weekend after all to hear Jackie Hill Perry and spend some much needed time with friends. I hope my neighbors don’t riot, kill the dogs, the kids, nor feel compelled to waste some poor policeman’s time because a gate was left open!

Happy New Year!!

Today I start my first Pfysical New Year. I had the revelation back in April and in case you wondered, these things I write really come from my heart and impact my life! I haven’t forgotten about the new word I made up nor the intentions behind.

I spent the first part of June just trying to recover from the pandemic, the school year, the trials of the last year, in a cocoon of sort, it was much needed respite. Then I emerged determined to be a new creation rather than the tired old slug that drug herself into that cocoon. Determined that even in this late season of my life – I can still fly. We actually make the decision to fly or die everyday, somedays the choice is more clear than others.

Reflecting on Half A of 2021: Even though this was Half A of the year, I would certainly not rate it an A. We faced some terrible, awful, horrible, bad things, like continuation of cancellations, quarantines and restrictions from stinking COVID, five days below zero with no electricity, no heat, no school, the abrupt tragic end to Ryan’s career dreams, the passing of what should have been our 35th Wedding Anniversary (which is still way more BITTER than sweet) and certainly last but not least Grandma Nina fell and broke her hip in June. BUT Paxton graduated with his Cyber Security degree in April, we got to finish out the school year, in-person, Ryan got engaged in May (then actually married on June 1st at the courthouse, but they are still planning a wedding for next year!), I got to witness their first vows, I got to go with my new daughter to select a wedding dress. I’m so grateful for these crazy kids in my life that took over the month of June with love and new and madness when I would have wanted to just focus on what was lost! I restarted in-person GriefShare and have the sweetest group of people in my summer class, I’ve returned to in-person church with my dear old lady friends (ironically it’s the oldest of our group is the only one who doesn’t embrace our “old lady” moniker, one even likes to refer to us as hell’s grannies, but how do we have hell’s grannie’s Bible study?!?!) and have had lots of lunch dates with sweet friends since schools been out.

Reflecting on June 2021: My scripture theme for June was Friendship. It’s funny how you’d think by the time you’ve been on the planet almost 59 years you’d surely know all there is to know about friendship. I struggle with social media. We have a strong love/hate relationship. I guess it comes from my own struggle to put myself out there so I am therefore uncomfortable with others putting themselves out there. I struggle with this “friending” concept. How do you decide to “friend” someone or “unfriend” accept a “friend request” or ignore it? Am I defined by how many friends I have? Just because our paths crossed briefly should we forever voyeuristically “follow” each other?

I learned from scripture writing that it is a misconception that we get to choose our friends. Scripture tells me that I am to love others, sacrificially even, not just those that are easy to love, that love me back, or I feel deserve love. My take-aways were: we need each other, we need to let things go, we need to build each other up, we need to pray for each other, we need to be kind to others, we don’t need words, we shouldn’t take our friends for granted, we are called to love, Love, LOve, LOVe, LOVE, everything we do for others is for His glory, really everyone should be treated as my friend and who I choose to walk with really matters! I became aware that I have a very selfish view of friendship. I thought I get to pick my friends and it’s okay if that group is really small. But I need to develop a broader since of friendship that is much more like kinship which is a sharing of characteristics or origins. I need to be more friendly, I need to be more open to the friendship of others, I need to quit over thinking motives and motivations and just love and accept others. I need to just focus on all the times I commanded to love others and let the rest of it go. Not be a door mat, which I won’t be because I’m loving others for the glory of God not selfish gain.

Looking forward to Half B of 2021: My pfysical resolution is to focus more on the SWEET than the bitter. I know life will be bittersweet, but I get to choose what I focus on. I can let the bitter make the sweet so much more enjoyable and by focusing on loving others and building others up, I’m choosing to spend more time in the sweet! I want to walk more steps, say yes to more opportunities and overall just focus outward more! I get to witness the relationship of my son and daughter-in-law (that is still so weird to say!) grow. I get to see them both launch new careers, a new life and see them dream big and love large. I’ll, hopefully, get to see another son take off in the world and do great things. I get to plan a wedding! I get to be mother of the bride AND the groom because they have no other. I’ve got a front row seat to a wonderful show!

The thing about it is … I know that my hang ups are my sinful nature. I know that I’m not taking my sinful nature to heaven. If all God saw was our sinful nature, none of us would get in, because none of us are worthy. So why do I let my sinful nature rule me now. I am called to love period. I’ve been ruled too long by my sinful nature, I’ve lived my life to this point too small. I know that much of that is because living large opens me up to pain and heartache, but I’m learning that the pain and heartache are wholly unavoidable so I now want to experience my pain and heartache knowing that I’ve loved others, without defining a relationship, to the best of my ability.