Tao te Drill Sergeant

Digging through digital photographs as i put together my Christmas letter, i was blown away.  It was a spectacular year – one i couldn’t imagine just a few years back.  Adventure, travel, community activism, family, friends and a stunning amount of downright goofy hijinks.  Yes.  Hijinks.  Activities that serve no purpose but to lighten the mood and break the monotony of the daily grind.

Rolling beyond the winter solstice, i am inclined to look forward.  What do i want?  More of this?  Less of that?  Not exactly resolutions… just using the pinning point of a new calendar year to make some gentle course corrections to get me where i want to be…

With the return of The Boy from his first round of Army training, we’ve had fun with “Shit My Drill Sergeant Says”.  My favorite quip is the shortest.  The recruits hustle to get out of bed, shower, shave, and get organized into their uniforms and assemble in formation by 0400.  Taking a look at the congregants one morning, the Drill Sergeant informed them “You have 10 seconds to un-fuck yourselves!”

Un-fuck yourself.

You can blame life, the universe, and everyone else for your woes, but it is entirely up to you to un-fuck yourself.   i am using the Drill Sergeants admonition as my battle cry…

That broken finger from October?  Not healed in December.  Called the doctor, and have an appointment with a hand surgeon.  It’s a ruptured tendon, and can be repaired with surgery.  Time to un-fuck my finger.

Stuff.  i have too much of it.   i’ve made a decent dent in the 30+ year collection of “things”, but not nearly enough.  i hit one closet this week.  The garage is next, where my motorized toys reside.  Too much shit there, too.  With the pending acquisition of a new toy that is 13” longer than my existing vehicle, more space is required.  A little organization of the workbench wouldn’t hurt either.

Time to un-fuck my space.  Give away the unnecessary.  And most of it is unnecessary…

Then there is the matter of my health.  Virtually no exercise, coupled with unbridled gluttony has packed the pounds on this year.  My weight, and general lack of cardio-vascular health, has gotten in the way of living the life i wish to live.  It is well past time to un-fuck myself in that regard as well.  For Christmas, The Boy bought me kettle bells, and will be doing some personal training in my lovely home gym.

It is time to un-fuck my body.

While out on an excursion a couple of years ago, Studley and i found the Alan Cottrill sculpture gallery in Zanesville, Ohio.  We were drawn in by the sight of several bronze sheep seeming to wander down the sidewalk.  One wearing ice skates…

sheep

It was hotter than hell that day, but we toured the gallery.  Climbing to the second floor, we found the bronze sarcophagi the sculptor had crafted for himself and his wife.  Both still living.

sarcophagi

On the side of Mr. Cottrill’s bronze box was the following:

battle cry

It says everything that needs to be said.

“Life is short.  Death is forever.  Nothing left undone.  Go joyfully.”

Ladies and Gentlemen, i’m off to un-fuck myself this year. i shall post a quarterly update on my ‘un-fuckage’.  Happy New Year!

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Oh, The Places You’ll Go!

As The Girl boarded a bus in San Diego, headed for Mexico, it washed over me like a cold shower – “The next time i see her, she will be changed.”  A day later, she started her Semester at Sea, sailing around the world on a ship with 700 undergraduate students.  Six weeks later, i watched her disembark from that ship as it docked in Saigon Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.  We spent a week knocking around Vietnam and Cambodia together – and seeing her confidence, i realized that i had been right.

We spent our last night there drinking beer in a cowboy bar, listening to a Vietnamese country and western band knock out respectable covers, including a memorable version of “Stand By Your Man”.  Her adventures continued the next day, and i began my journey home.  At 20 years old, she was well on her way to becoming an engaged, contributing citizen of Planet Earth.

She was changed.  She was broader, and deeper, and stronger, and smarter…

Six weeks ago, i watched as The Boy boarded a plane for basic training.  The exact same feeling – “The next time i see him, he will be changed.”  He’d signed an eight year commitment.  All in.  A very challenging, and unknown path ahead of him.  Much like the Semester at Sea, i also knew that he would have very limited opportunities to communicate – adding to the parental anxiety.

Yesterday, i stood at the airport awaiting his arrival.  Two weeks of leave for Christmas break.  Happy holiday travelers filled the exit chute.  i hopped around in the coffee shop, nervously scanning the crowd, looking for military uniforms.  A few soldiers came by, but not mine…

“Oh, I just want to hug them all, don’t you?” said the sweet woman standing next to me.  She told me she was waiting for her mother to arrive for the holidays, but she just loved seeing the young soldiers in uniform.  i agreed, and continued to bop around nervously, waiting for the next pack to walk down the hallway.

i saw him.  Not breaking his bearing, he spotted me and cracked a tiny smile.  i bounced around the coffee bar and gave him a hug. “How did you get taller?  And what did they do with the rest of your hair?”  

“It’s the boots”.

As we turned to head for the exit, i spotted my coffee bar companion.

“And by the way, this lovely lady wants to hug you, too!”

We headed for the car, where i had secured his ‘welcome basket’ – a good India Pale Ale and a pack of smokes.  Non-stop conversation on the drive home.  Tales of bureaucracy, head games, physical challenges and “Shit My Drill Sergeant Said”.  Sick Bay and Hand Grenades.  Running his first seven minute mile (he was at nine minutes just a few weeks back).  And leaning forward into what lies ahead.

He is changed.  He is broader, and deeper, and stronger, and smarter…

Coming Home

Cat and Mouse

Woke up around 3am. Warm, snoring dog lump against my back as expected but the heavy cat lump between my feet was missing. Briefly considered going back to sleep, but i realized i hadn’t seen my cat, Huey Newton before bedtime. Fearing that he was trapped in a closet, or worse, i got up to investigate his usual spots in the bedroom.

He was in the living room, riveted by something behind my guitar. Gradually waking up, i thought he had cornered a bigass spider… He was focused like a laser, so I turned on a light. Preparing myself for the worst, i jostled the guitar to see what he was watching.

Oh, it was big alright! Huge for a spider, but small for a mouse… a tiny mouse. He tore out from under the guitar, under the Christmas tree, with Huey in hot pursuit. Huey was playing with him, not eating him. Batting at him, keeping him in play. No sanctuary, preventing him from going under furniture.

Fully awake, i realized i needed to do… something… but not sure what. Huey continued to move the little mouse from place to place, but he had nowhere to go. He cornered the mouse by the fireplace. i grabbed a cardboard box, trying to work with Huey to chase him into the box. Fail. They both scooted back to the middle of the room… and downstairs.

Shaking off the last remnants of sleep, i followed downstairs. Huey was lying casually on his side by the billiards table, keeping the exhausted mouse in front of him. i put down the box and Huey made a move, driving the mouse into relative safety.

Cute little thing. Tiny. Not moving, but still breathing, apparently worn out from extended battle. Now what to do with him at 0300? It was really cold out, our first night of sub-zero temperatures. Seemed heartless to put him outside, but i couldn’t keep him. Thought about putting him in the garage, but remembered my mouse troubles from last year… A small rodent drove me nuts all winter.  Why invite trouble?

Not knowing what else to do, i took the box out the front door, shook the little mouse gently into the bushes, thinking he could burrow down near the brick wall for warmth. He was so tiny, he just landed on top of the shrub. And didn’t move.

It was freezing. i was barefoot, and wearing nothing but a bra and shorts. Went back inside. Felt rotten. The little thing had just spent hours being terrorized by a cat, and was now going to freeze to death.

i checked this morning and he was gone. Didn’t root around in the bush looking for a corpse, allowing myself the delusion that he was ok. Somewhere. Burrowed into the mulch, weathering the cold night. Perhaps to enter the house again, in his limbic-driven need for food and warmth. Or to find safe harbor elsewhere, surviving the winter to grow and breed and make many happy mousebabies in the spring.

It’s just a mouse. An unwelcome pest intruding into my territory. Had it been a spider, i’d have had no concerns – encouraging my cat to play with it, torture it, and ultimately kill it, leaving the corpse as a warning to others.

Selective compassion – based upon what criteria? Cuteness? Number of legs? Difficulty disposing of the body? Perceived threat?

How do we decide what lives and dies in our worlds?

Mr Mouse takes a tripimage found here

EPILOGUE

Another night with restless animals, this time, the dog decided to blow chunks somewhere around 4am.  i didn’t bother getting up to deal with it, knowing he’d ‘recycle’ most of it, and i could get out the portable shampooer (my beloved SpotBot) before leaving for work.  Which i did…

After tackling the biggest spots, i had extra cleaning solution in the reservoir, so i parked the SpotBot on a newer splotch halfway down the stairs.  It looked like it had once been a hairball, with some pieces of leaves thrown in for good measure.

Retrieving the ‘bot, i reached down to pick up a leaf stem.  Which wasn’t a leaf stem at all… It was the tail of a very small mouse.  Might have been the same critter from the night before, or a new intruder.  In any case, my cat ate this one.  And after reading Rob’s comment, and doing a bit more research via the Center for Disease Control?  i’m quite happy that it’s dead…

Turns out that  “Cute<<Threat”  in the presence of new data.