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Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Dusty and Chewy: They Just Want a Bow Part 2

It’s been a rough couple of weeks. In the space of seven days, our family laid to rest an ancient, adopted puppy (whose tiny stature and feather weight belied her 17 years) and a scaly, bug-eyed bearded dragon, whose winsome personality proved that beauty – and lack thereof – is only skin deep.

The aging canine was our neighbor’s elderly Shih Tzu, Dusty Miller, who spent many a night warming our beds and hearts. She lay with my father as he suffered from heart disease and diabetes that ultimately claimed him. Dusty came as a set with her human mom, Anita, whom my kids call Grandma and I call my fairy godmother, because she stepped into our lives after my own mom died and stuck around to help raise my kids and spirits after Dad succumbed to his final illness.

In her later years, Dusty was blind, deaf, and unsteady on her feet. Despite these deficiencies – or maybe because of them – it was that much harder for us to part with her. Her limitations tempered some of the wanderlust she had as a puppy, making her more amenable to shoulder snuggling and lap lounging.                                                            

Yes, Dusty was much more than a dog to us.

The following Friday, my son, Aaron, and soon-to-be daughter-in-law, Elise, called with heavy hearts. On their way out of town to meet up with the bridal party, they had to pause long enough to deal with the death of their pet lizard, whom they spent many dollars and hours trying to make well. Elise had bought Chewy (short for Chewbacca, like in the movie) to keep company with her irascible bearded dragon, Bacon. Chewy bore with equanimity, and perhaps even egged on, Bacon’s head bobbing challenges from his tank across the room.

While I never knew Chewy to take a stand on social issues, she did seem to experience some significant gender confusion. Since it’s hard to tell a lizard’s sex, we relied on behavior cues, but Chewy seemed to buy into the social police’s assertions that there is no typical male or female behavior; thus, to be politically correct, we changed up our pronouns on a regular basis.

We all found his/her clinginess touching. No, maybe I should make that touchy – her M.O. when retrieved from the tank was to hang on for dear life to shoulder, leg, head, or whatever body part he was perched on. In short, her rough, bumpy exterior disguised a cuddly heart underneath. Elise summed it up best when, through tears, she explained, “People don’t understand why we’re so upset about Chewy. They’re right that he was only a lizard. But he was ours.”

This morning, while listening to Max Lucado's 3:16: The Numbers of Hope on audio, I marveled at the wisdom of the following story: the author hearkened back to a trend that was popular when my kids were small – tethering young children to their parental unit when out in public places where it would be easy to lose track of scampering feet. I well remember the shocked looks and gasps of disbelief when other shoppers observed the, let’s face it, leash I painstakingly Velcro-ed to mischievous wrists to keep them from disappearing into pre-holiday crowds. Lucado rightly characterized the thinking behind the action as both protective and possessive, as though the tie-er were claiming ownership of the tie-ee, regardless of how preferable it might have seemed at times to cut the wanderer loose and let him fend for himself. Loving parents don’t do that, despite all the yanking and cranking they endure from wayward children. They resist the urge because love for their little delinquent overcomes the memories of how easy life was before Junior came along.

That’s what it all comes down to. We love our children and pets not because of how they act or look, but despite those things. In my work as a special educator, I’m quite aware that every kid I come in contact with is somebody’s child. These little imps can make it a real scavenger hunt to find something likable or even tolerable to recommend them, but because others took time to uncover the nuggets of gold buried deep underneath my own kids’ annoyances, I try to pay that kindness forward. I have yet to find a student whose armor couldn’t be breached by a kind word, a reward for getting it right, or a well-applied disciplinary measure when all else failed.

As Elise observed, we do it because they're ours. I would add, God did it because we're His.

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” ~  Romans 5:8

“What is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?
 ~ Psalm 8:4

For more like this, check out: Morsels for Meditation...: They Just Want a Bow

Scorpion Among Us

Hello Readers! I originally posted this piece last month, then took it down temporarily while it was being considered for newspaper publication.  In the interim, "the Donald" has caught flak for his lawsuit-embroiled Trump University, endorsement by the KKK, failure to provide tax returns because of constant IRS auditing, and favorable quoting of fascist Mussolini. If Trump - perish the thought - were to be elected, the question becomes, with so many financial and legal entanglements, when would the former reality show star have time to run the country?
There’s an old folk tale about a scorpion thumbing a ride across a river. I’ve heard several versions of this story with slightly different endings, but the one point all agree on is that, halfway across, the scorpion stings its trusting transporter. The shocked conveyor asks why its passenger would do something so foolish, since now both will drown, and here the varying punch lines come in. The one I like best has the scorpion reply essentially, “Who knows? It’s just my nature, and you knew what I was when you said ‘yes’ to me.”

We have a blonde-haired, combed over scorpion in our midst. Oh, he’s dressed in fine clothes and makes an enticing appeal, but he’s a stinger nonetheless.

Just ask the investors he defrauded when he availed himself of a tax loophole allowing him to declare bankruptcy, not once, not twice, but four times. Ask the campaign investors whose money he is using, despite his constant boasting that he’s self-funded. 

Self-funded, my Aunt Fanny! Trump's fortune cost untold numbers of gamblers  their families’ security, and his claims of self-funding show a distinct lack of gratitude to donors, who have outspent him on his presidential campaign.

Ask the 
ex-wives he's accumulated, and his sister, Maryanne Trump Barry, whom he claims would be an excellent Supreme Court choice, but from whom he's now distancing himself. That he would even consider her for such a high rank belies his supposed commitment to life, itself a turnabout from his previous ardent pro-choice position. Think how blindsided Republicans would feel after blocking Obama’s end-of-term SCOTUS choice, only to find themselves saddled for God knows how long with Trump's sibling, who rigorously supports partial birth abortion.

Vera Coking, the widowed senior citizen whose home he tried to seize so he could build a limousine parking lot for his casino.Trump tried unsuccessfully to force Coking to vacate under the legal principle of eminent domain, which has historically displaced homeowners for purposes such as national park development and national security needs. Never has this tool been used for such mercenary exploits as Trump had in mind. Talk about the greed of big business.

Ask Carly Fiorina, whose appearance he publicly ridiculed, then back pedaled on. When called on his denigrating statements, he reverted to the adolescent defense that he was just joking. I didn't buy that when it came out of my seventh grader's mouth, and Trump's use of such a lame explanation makes it hard for any parent to hold up adults as role models. Let's not forget, this insult was leveled at someone with whom he supposedly agrees on major principles. Think how far such communication skills will take him when he sits down to hammer out deals with leaders with whom he dramatically differs, and who have access to weapons of mass destruction. Even our cousins across the pond, with whom we often see eye to eye, are a hair's breadth away from refusing to deal with him.

Ask the rest of the Republican party, with whom he has cast his lot, but savages at every turn and is now waffling on a written pledge he made publicly to forego a third party run so as not to undercut the ideals he claims to identify with.

Let's even ask members of the opposing party, whose campaigns he has funded handsomely over the span of his long career, before defecting in recent years. Even ask the Clintons, whom he hosted at his most recent wedding but has now turned on in his grab for the Oval Office. 

In short, Donald Trump has shown himself time and again to be self-interested to the point of unethical legal maneuvering and campaign bullying. Shame on the American public if we allow him to become a nominee for the highest office in the land. 

"The Lord detests dishonest scales, but accurate 
weights find favor with him."
Proverbs 11:1

"Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to
 keep oneself from being polluted by the world."
James 1:27

"He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
    And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
    and to walk humbly with your God."
Micah 6:8