Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Dogs and Cops

It's happened again. A police officer shot a canine and now the dog community is all kinds of in a tizzy.

In a search for a missing child, an officer in Utah went on private property where he shot and killed a weimerainer, Geist, in his own yard. I love my dogs. I mean, I really really freaking love my dogs. Jon and I have seriously built our life around our pack. Seriously, some of the things we sacrifice and do for them borderline insanity at times. They are a part of our family and if anything like this happened to one of them, I'd be completely beside myself heartbroken. The mere thought of losing Annie particularly makes my heart ache.
Now there's a group of people demanding justice for poor Geist. Dog people, of course. While I AGREE that the death of this beautiful creature is a tragedy, and a sign that we need to do better, I don't think going after this officer like he's a murder-happy, dog-hating first class jerk is the answer. I can't get on board with that, and here's why.
Imagine for a moment that you have the safety and welfare of your entire community in your hands. Your job requires you to make some life-changing and sometimes life-ending decisions for other people because SOMEONE has to do it. Imagine that every time you stepped out of your front door, you had to consciously think about the fact it could be the last time you see your family. Imagine if a "bad day" at work easily meant a fatal injury and not just cubicle gossip and a broken copy machine. Imagine putting your life on the line for your community- a community that often times is unappreciative and critical. There are those who will relate to that- particularly military and law enforcement- and then there are those of us who make up the majority who will NEVER know what it feels like to HAVE TO make a split second judgement call that could take another person's (or in this case- dog's) life. We will NEVER know what that's like. But we are quick to think we know what we'd do.
There's speculation to if this missing child search even had reason to be on that property. Many have their panties in a bunch because this officer supposedly had no reason to be there in the first place. To this I say- do you really think this man was having a grand ol' time poking around aimlessly? Do you really think that he went out in search for a dog to shoot for kicks and giggles? If this is your impression I venture to say I think you are sorely mistaken.
I *HUGELY* believe that police officers need constant and more extensive education on canine aggression. I think they are ill-equipped to determine when a dog is a true threat and when they're not and as a result of this animals die. It's not acceptable. I think there are a good chunk of times that dogs are harmed or killed because their body language and signals are misread or misinterpreted as aggression. I think the general dog community has a hard time accepting the fact that sometimes to keep people safe- animals have to die.
I have five dogs living on my property right this second. I can tell you that all of them are sweethearts. They have all slept in my bed, they live in my house, they are a part of my family. I love them dearly. I trust them with my son. I enjoy their companionship. They are well-trained, well-socialized, and not at all a threat to society.
I also recognize that they're dogs. And that a 140lb strange dog is probably intimidating to someone who isn't particularly a giant breed enthusiast. I also recognize that if they feel threatened, they would be particularly intimidating.
I have one, my largest male, who avoids conflict at all costs. He is protective. He would growl at an intruder. A 140lb dog growling at you is probably something nightmares are made of for most people. I have no doubts that he would bite if he felt pushed, but I also know someone could probably walk through my entire house and as long as they didn't actually approach him, he wouldn't approach them either. I don't expect a stranger to know this. A growling dog to someone not well-informed on canine behavior- is perceived as a serious threat.
I have one, a female, that probably wouldn't hesitate to bite your face off if you came on the property. Yes, indeed, if an officer had reason to come in my back yard, unannounced and unsupervised... he probably would have to shoot her to protect himself. I pray that never happens.
I know one of my dogs is friendlier than friendly and would beeline to an intruder convinced that a member of his fan club had arrived and it was now his duty to be a complete ham. I know this dog well. I know he's the most bombproof dog I've ever met and that he isn't in any way a danger. I also know that a 130lb dog charging straight at you is hugely intimidating for most people, wagging tail or not.
My point is- you can't expect a stranger to know your dogs. There's a huge call for this officer- this man who daily puts his life on the line to protect YOU- to be fired.
Let me remind you, folks... this was a missing CHILD search. A 3 year old. This officer was doing his job, combing the area. What would you suggest he do if that were YOUR child? Skip all yards with dogs because.... why? Because a dog's life is valued over a child's? Sadly in much of the dog fanatic community this is the case. And it disgusts me.

I do NOT support the "Justice for Geist" movement because I feel it is misdirected. I think if officers are expected to enter people's property where there may be companion animals then we need to better equip them to make those terribly difficult judgement calls. We need to supply them with the correct information on how to most accurately assess a TRUE canine aggression threat. Too many animals die every year simply because someone doesn't know the difference between a dog that is a bite/ attack risk and a dog that is not. I am ALL FOR requiring more in this area.

In saying ALL of this I will acknowledge the issue of crooked cops, particularly that it is especially a problem in Utah right now. I don't overlook that. But I also don't think that is relevant to this case. This was a case of an officer doing his job- looking for a missing child- and doing what he felt necessary to protect his life from a threat. Perception is reality. 

Weeds- Gardening Applied to Life.

I was working out in the garden today while Chase snoozed. His sleep has been so thrown off lately due to some obnoxious neighborhood issues, so I let him cat nap any time he can.
I've enjoyed gardening more than I thought I would to be honest. I have liked watching my little plants grow and blossom. I weed my boxes as often as I can- some weeks that's daily and it only takes a few moments a day and sometimes I just don't get the time and I can spend a solid hour catching up. Luckily the latter hasn't happened many times. But even when it has I enjoy the time out to just think as I thread through the boxes digging in the Earth, pulling what's not wanted to leave more room and nutrients in the soil for what is.
I am amazed at how many parallels and life lessons there are in something as simple as a novice vegetable garden as I find time to just reflect on whatever is on my mind at the time.
I recall a long time ago sitting on the edge of the hill with my grandmother as I picked peas and devoured their contents. Grandma was pulling weeds. I remember asking why they had to be pulled because I thought they were pretty. I had a particular fondness for the morning glories as I liked to stick my nose in them and inhale making the little white flowers cling to my face. I remember her telling me that she had to pick the weeds so there was room for the peas. I didn't get it. Here before me was a garden of clearly thriving plants- AND a few weeds. Pretty weeds. Obviously they could coexist. Silly Grandma.
As I moved about my boxes, reaching in the soil and pulling out weeds- some of which were quite pretty- I came across a small pea plant. This plant bore no blossoms or pods like the others, and it was being swallowed by some ugly grass looking weed. The base of it was dry, and the leaves a bit wilted. The weeds had robbed the soil- the foundation- and prevented this little pea plant from thriving. As my fingers followed the roots beneath the ground, I tugged and pulled trying not to damage the pea plant any further in my attempts to clear the ground. The roots intertwined and criss crossed and I was unable to pull the weeds out without completely removing the tiny plant with them. So there I was, pea plant in hand as I cursed the weeds for taking over. But it wasn't really the weed's fault, it was mine. I didn't foster a healthy environment for my little plant. I allowed the weeds one by one to take root and grow bigger and stronger until they overpowered it, greedily sucking the minerals from the soil leaving my plant to wilt and suffer.
As I reflected on that lesson my grandmother taught me long ago I realized how very true it is. A healthy garden with a few weeds can flourish- if you pick the weeds. However, if you neglect those weeds, they will take over at the expense of all things desirable in the garden.
I applied this principle to so many facets- both religious and secular- of my life as I knelt in the garden. How simple a concept.
I have many weeds in my life. Some I have more control than others over. Some are challenges that prevent me from doing things I know I should.

My social anxiety makes it difficult to attend church meetings the way I should.
My pride makes it difficult to admit when I am wrong.
My selfishness gets in the way of being the kind of wife I want to be.
My impatience is a challenge as I strive to be a good mother.
My insecurity and thirst for acceptance makes it difficult to walk away from people who only bring negativity to my life.

Indeed I am a person of many flaws- as we all are. However, I'm also a person of many strengths.
I have a good sense of humor and can make those around me laugh without much effort.
I'm compassionate and giving.
I have good common sense and reasoning.
I'm forgiving.
I'm honest, and a person of my word.

As I cleared the ground of weeds- strengthened the foundation of my garden- I thought of things I ought to do to weed out my own life. I placed that little plant back in the ground, gave it some water- unsure of if it even had a chance as I came back inside to clean myself up. Several hours later, when I went to get the mail, I checked in on my little plant and though it may be in my head, it's looking greener and healthier already.
It's my goal to clear my life, mind, and heart of the many weeds that take root... to pull them from my mind like a weed from the earth, and leave time, space, and energy to foster a firm foundation for the more desirable traits of my personality and self to flourish. 

Monday, June 23, 2014

Peas Please!

Ah, Summertime. It's here once again. This Summer is so much different than every other in my life for several reasons. For one, it's our first Summer as parents. Jon and I have enjoyed several Summers just the two of us but now we are blessed with sweet little Chase. We get to make plans that include him, so even though we plan to do much of the same things we always have- none of them will be the same anymore, and that's a good thing. We couldn't be happier. There's also the fast that it's the first Summer that we will navigate without Albert. My heart still aches over his absence every day. I won't carry on about that. It would be easy for this to become "The fifty billion reasons I need my Grandpa back" blog. 
One of the things I looked forward to this year is the fact we have a garden now. When we decided not to sell our house, we also put in a few garden boxes because I refused to not have one if I'm committing to stay here for at least 5 more years.
So, my awesome husband went to work and built six raised beds.
And yes, that's a marching band in that picture. I will tell you all about the marching band later. 
We are both new to gardening. I mean- mostly. I remember picking peas and raspberries at my grandparent's every Summer since the beginning of forever, but as far as the know-how and work of actually making a garden a success, no. That's new to me. I always got to skip that and get straight to the good part- the food!
We started everything from seeds, and for a while I didn't know if they were going to take. Jon and I would get excited every time we'd see green pop up, and then we'd watch for a week only to discover it was indeed just a weed. Just when I was pretty sure our attempts were not enough, all of a sudden everything just... flourished. It got too hot too fast for our cauliflower, which I figured was going to be the case but it didn't hurt to try anyway. Everything else though- peas, beans, peppers, cucumber, tomato, lettuce, strawberries... they're all doing well. Our peas are getting their very first pods this week and I am so excited. 
There's a lot of things we will do a little differently next year, but I'm pretty proud at our first go at gardening. I hope we can get the rest of our yard fixed up in a timely manner so we can enjoy it for the Summertime but at least our garden is doing well. I can't wait for everything to mature and be ready for picking so we can enjoy and share the fruits of our labor! 
I'm also excited to be able to teach Chase hands-on about where some of our food comes from. Being able to provide clean, organic produce straight from our ground is an added bonus too. 
I didn't get raspberries in this year but I have a spot all primed and ready for them next year. I know they are fragile plants but hopefully they will take. 
I also didn't get my herb garden going this year. We are doing it gutter-style along the front of the massive shed Jon built. I think it will make that less of an eyesore, by providing a wall of yummy green goodness. Not that Jon's shed isn't great- it's just a shed. I'd rather look at a wall of living green herbs than a giant white box.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Means + Priorities = Lifestyle

I've been thinking a lot lately about the things that matter to me- and the things that don't. It's so easy to get caught up in unimportant things telling myself there will be time for the things that matter later. Suddenly days become weeks, weeks become months, and months become years. I always heard my Grandpa say to never put off for tomorrow what can be done today, and to not sweat the things that don't really matter. I've been reflecting on this a lot lately.
I firmly believe that lifestyle is a choice. We choose the things that are important to us, we use our means to make them happen, and we are always making decisions even when we are unaware of it. Like right now, I'm choosing to spend this time blogging. I could be doing other things. I could be mopping the floors. But I'm not. Later I might say "I didn't have time to get to the floors today." But the reality is "I chose to do other things with my time today and the floors didn't get done." Time, money, and resources are all spent with our choices.
I am making an honest effort to live my life in a way that truly reflects my priorities. I am taking a proactive approach rather than saying the things I want and complaining I don't have them.

It is important to me to live by my family.
It is important to me to own our home.
It is important to me to feed my family wholesome, fresh organic foods.
It is important to me to have pets a part of our lives.
It is important to me to maintain our yearly family boating trip.
It is important to me to be a present mom to Chase.
It is important to me to be a present wife to Jon.
It is important to me to be a stay-at-home-Mom.
It is important to me to take care of our Earth and make choices that aren't damaging to her as best I can.
It is important to me to be as self-sufficient as possible.

Other things matter too don't get me wrong. I love it when our budget allows a cruise or trip to San Diego- but never at the expense of the family trips that mean so much more to me. We would LOVE to live on acreage someday but won't consider any place that takes us too far away from family. I cherish my friendships, but not in a way that I'd allow them to take me away from Chase or Jon. We could absolutely use more income to buy fun things and take fun vacations- but not at the expense of me staying home to raise Chase.
I challenge you to reflect on if your own priorities are reflected in your choices. Can you REALLY not afford xyz, or is it that abc is more important? Do you REALLY not have time for xyz, or is it that abc is a higher priority? If you're not happy with something in your life- change it. Everyone's priorities are different and that's OK. In fact, that's necessary and beautiful. We are all individuals.

May 2014

May 2014 was one of the longest, most emotionally draining months of my life. Losing Grandpa Albert has created this void that some days seems entirely consuming. They say time heals- but I'm still stuck in the part where it's getting harder before getting better. The grieving process is different for everyone, but despite knowing without the shadow of a doubt that I will one day see him again, I find myself feeling lost more often than not. I guess I didn't even realize all the things I relied on him for and each day seems to bring more questions I need answered, and my go-to person is gone. This empty darkness easily pulls me in and makes it hard to remember that even though Albert is gone, we still have so much to be thankful for. This loss has brought my family even closer together. It's hard to imagine that's even possible. We still have family. And I'm thankful in this family- we have eternity.
Though the month brought much heartache and even more tears, we have had more than our share of good moments as well. Shelly was able to come visit for three weeks, which has never happened before! Three whole weeks. Jackson and Hailey both celebrated birthdays during this time that we made a point of making special. It was really nice to have everyone together. It felt right. Even though each day has brought our moments of sadness where the reality of our loss hits us all over again, we've gone through this together. Truly together. We've cried until we've had no more tears to cry, but we've also laughed until our sides and cheeks ached. And some of us may have peed our pants, just a little. And honestly, the good moments have been some of the best we've had in a long time.
We played laser tag as a family on Jackson's (& Albert's)  birthday. It was so much fun. I had never played before and I am indeed AWFUL but who cares. We even got Mom to play. Honestly it was the first time in two week's time I think any one of us had laughed and felt at least somewhat carefree. Life throws moments at you every now and then that you'll remember and charish forever. They may not even seen special or extravagant at the time, but they are. This is one of mine.
I am beyond happy that my kids are born into this family. Just Chase for now, but I know he won't be our only. I believe it takes a village so to speak to raise a baby and it's so true. He is surrounded by grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins that love him, and he will grow to love them too because that's just the kind of family we have. Even those who don't live nearby- Chuck, Michelle, Trish, Grandma and Grandpa Lanman... we are just so lucky to have the family we do. So much love.
Cousins are special. They are like special friends that come built-in to whatever life you have. I've got great memories of looking forward to summertime when we'd come to Utah and stay with Grandma and Grandpa and play with cousins every day. That was so much fun. Chase won't have to wait until Summertime! I have loved so much watching all the kids play and interact. Sometimes more harmoniously than others as they figured out their dynamics with those Texas cousins thrown in the mix. (Really, they need to be here more often. My life especially needs more Lexi in it. Seriously. Are you reading this Shelly? Move to Utah. Pronto.)
We also finally made it to the zoo. I've lived here since 2009 (save for a few months in Vegas that I'd like to just forget ever happened!) and still hadn't made it. We all went- all the siblings and kids, and of course Grandma Sharlyn. Growing up with the world famous San Diego Zoo being our most local zoo, and this being my first time at any other it was just a tad dinky in comparison but still a good time. The kids especially had a fun time. Chase didn't care much about anything I tried to show him but I didn't expect anything else with him so little. I do hope he gains a love and appreciation for the world's animals like I have. At the very least, I will teach him to respect all living things.
At a time when the monster of sadness lurks in every shadow ready to pounce at any given moment and fill my hear with an empty sorrow, I'm especially thankful for these good moments. It's so easy to get lost in... well, loss... and I'm trying to remind myself just how much we have to not only be thankful for... but to be excited about. I get to caught up in the fact that my kids won't have Grandpa Albert memories. How then can they even have a good childhood?! But... their childhood is not mine, and they have something different and equally amazing. They have Grandma Sharlyn! (on my side of the family. Several amazing Grandmas on Jon's side as well!) They will have cousins that live close by to play with. Chase will have his own buddy in Dean.
Life is different now. SO many things will never be the same. Boating. Father's Day. Sunday dinner. Renovation projects. Gardening. Memorial Day. The entire month of May. Tacos. Gravy. They're all different now. But that's OK. At least, it's going to be OK. Because family is eternal, and life is beautiful. And sometimes things happen that we don't understand. I don't understand WHY Grandpa had to leave us. I don't understand it, I don't like it, and I'm sure as hell not happy about it. But I am confident that we will find a new normal, continue making new memories, and in the end we're all still together.