Warm Cookies With A Whiskey Chaser

The Perfect Mix of Comfort and Shenanigans

Blogroll Me!
100 Things About Me
Tinmen Don't Dance
Humble Sandwich
A Son from Another Mother; Matt
Auburn Pisces
Splenda In The Grass
the bokey chronicles
Jeffrey Ricker
Rocket Man
The Beauty of All Things
No Milk Please
A Life In The Day
Shadow Footprints
Scott B Blog
Seth Hancock Photography
Famous Author Rob Byrnes
Watersea's Ocean Bloggie
Cheap Blue Guitar
Does This Mean I'm A Grownup?
Upside Down Hippo
Loose Ends

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Scary Things

I have learned, wait, no.  We have ALL learned, over the past 16 months, what it is to have a Reactive dog.  We have learned that Cesar isn't necessarily the guy that holds ALL the magical keys to the workings of a dog's brain.  Yes, he seems to have a way.  But I have learned that his way isn't really the way I want to work with MY reactive dog.  It's been a hard road.  A REALLY hard road.  A road, I think, not many people would have stayed the course on.  I believe, with some hard-earned hindsight, that someone else would have given up on Kili a long time ago.  Early on, in fact.  Very early. 

He came to us with a story, like any dog who started somewhere else would.  But we have discovered that his story, his hardship, his course before us, young as he may have been, was already steadily charted for destruction had he not come to live firmly in my heart.  I am a mother, after all.  I would do everything...EVERYTHING in my power to save him from himself.  So much so, that I remember, weeks in, and already crying myself to sleep, knowing full well that I had made a terrible error in judgment by doing what I always do; thinking with my heart and not my head, lying next to my husband and begging him; "If anything happens to me, please, I beg you, please don't send Kili away.  Stick with him.  I know there's a good boy in there.  I know he is salvageable."   Charlie of course fetted me with reassuring hugs, beginning his affirmations with; "Stop talking crazy.  Nothing is going to happen to you."  But something did happen.  Something I had no control over.  As the days went by and my love for him grew, my resolve became more and more steadfast.  I WILL save this boy.  I WILL break through his fear.  I WILL show him that he has nothing worry about.  I WILL win him over with love.  And dammit, I will show everyone in this house that I will advocate for him, and him alone, until I win them over too.

We've made amazing progress.  As smart as he is, there are just some things that his brain just cannot put aside.  Yes, he is a Border Collie, and therefore hardwired for certain things.  If you are not the human belonging to a working dog, you may not understand some of these things.  I know I didn't fully understand.  Just because our Ellie was part BC, she did NOT have these traits that we have come to know in Kili are just "IN" him.  It is part of his DNA.  His prey-drive is off the charts.  He wakes up herding (me, to the bathroom, to the laundry room, to the kitchen, etc.), he falls asleep herding (me, to the bedroom), he spends his days herding (the Frisbees, the balls, the toys, the empty plastic bottles, the lizards, the squirrels, the wind) and he even herds in his dreams.  It is entertaining, unending, and exhausting.  Add to this mix, a dog who is fear reactive, and you have the makings of a nervous breakdown.  Unless you yield.  This is where Cesar and I differ. 

I have learned that this dominance stuff, at least in our world, is not how to break through to this particular boy.  HE can be unyielding.  He WILL prevail.  He WILL move you where he wants to move you.  He is AFRAID.  He WILL NOT let you near his home, his car, his person, if he does not know you.  If a child were afraid, would you hold him down forcefully, or would you SHOW him that there is nothing to be afraid of?  Someone took his trust away.  Someone hurt him in ways that scared him.  Why is bullying him the way to regain his trust?  In the same way I refused to give up on him, I refused to accept that being the bigger bully was the way to work on gaining his trust.  With the same passion, I started doing my homework.  I reached out, I researched, I read, I gleaned, I listened, I practiced, I cried, I pleaded, but dammit, I learned.  I watched my dog.  I watched how he behaved.  I also watched how people behaved when they watched him.  On walks, if Kili reacted to them as they walked by, they glared at me.  After all, it was my fault my dog was "out of control" and not well-behaved.  It was embarrassing.  I cringed.  I wilted.  I stopped walking my dog. 

I had people telling me that I should give up on him, rehome him, that he was too much for me.  That he is "dangerous" or "unpredictable".  I called bullshit.  He was trying, in his way, to tell his story.  I stopped listening to "people" and started listening to other parents of reactive dogs.  More importantly, I listened to Kili.  I listened until I heard him.  I still hear him.  I advocate for him because I hear him.  Now, like Cesar, I DO hear the voice of other dogs.  I see when they "act out" in certain ways that they are trying to tell their stories.  They just need someone to listen.  In this way, I AM grateful to people like Cesar and fosters, and loving rescuers, and other owners of fear reactive dogs who've helped me, held me up when I was a mess, told me to hang in there, told me not to give up.  Gave me tips, advice, resources, and told me where to find like-minded folks who knew what I was going through and wouldn't admonish me...or my dog.

I have come to realize, by watching the way he holds his tongue against our soft skin and falls asleep, that he was taken from his mother much too young.  He is essentially pacifying himself.  He's done this since he first came to us.  We all thought it was just a "cute" thing he did.  But he was clearly showing us that he STILL needed his mother.  This "cute" thing he did has never gone away, he still does it.  When he is anxious, he will lie down next to me or Charlie and lay his tongue against some soft skin, preferably an inner arm, between the wrist and elbow, and soon, his eyes are drooping and he is asleep. 

Someone robbed him of the closeness and comfort of his mother when he wasn't ready.  Someone who wanted to sell a full-breed dog of high intellect and value.  Someone who didn't care about the emotional well-being of the puppy as much as the well-being of their bank account.  This was the beginning of Kili's spiral.

Someone bought this dog.  On the internet.  From a picture.  This picture:

Who wouldn't fall in love?  He's adorable.  Who would know, from looking at this picture, that they would make a mistake by buying this beautiful puppy.  A mistake that would set a difficult course for everyone involved.  An innocent gesture of good intent that would go wrong.  A common mistake often made by well-meaning people who see this breed on commercials and in movies and want that smart dog.  People who don't realize how much work is involved.  People who live in apartments and condos who don't know that these dogs need lots and lots of running room.  People who really have no idea that buying this gorgeous puppy from a "ranch" in Louisiana where his parents are both working and herding, having him put into a crate, loaded into the cargo hold of a plane, and discovering upon arrival, that he'd chewed his already broken tail into a boney, bloody mess, would quickly turn into a three-day panic attack of rehome or dog pound questions.  Who in their right mind would know?  Obviously, someone not in their right mind.  They, like me, fell in love at first sight.  They, unlike me, lasted less than a week.  So changed our lives.

We have learned that when he rests, he is not to be bothered.  He has worked hard all day, herding everything, and has therefore earned his well-deserved rest.  He doesn't react well to be woken up.  It doesn't matter if you want to give him a loving caress, he doesn't want to be f'ed with when he's down for the count. 

We have learned that you cannot make eye-contact with him.  Border Collies use their eyes intently.  Their stare is how they watch sheep and herd them.  Their eyes are tools.  You will not win a staredown with a BC. 

We have learned that he understands English better than most humans and has an amazingly large vocabulary.  He prefers if you speak to him in complete sentences as opposed to one word cues.  He can identify and bring you every toy he owns; "Bring the BLUE Frisbee, bring the RED ball, bring the tugger, bring the _____, please go to your bed, lie down on the bricks, walk with me to the laundry, ready for daycare?", and so much, much more.  We have learned that he loves his family and will tolerate everyone OUTSIDE of his home.  Away from home, he has no issue with you.  However, if you don't already live here and you come to his house, he is cautious and will bark at you.  Crazily bark at you.  He is frightening when this happens because he is unrelenting and is nearly impossible to calm down until he is removed from the situation. 

We have learned that he does NOT walk or work well on leash no matter how much we train.  He wants to run.  He wants to herd.  We have learned that these things are okay.  It is what he does.  It is his job.  We have learned to work with it.  Most people will say we have caved.  We're not disciplining him properly.  Most people are not this dog's people.  We are.

He hates bikes, motorcycles, loud noises, wind.  He has learned, because we live 12 miles from Disneyland and hear the nightly fireworks, to deal with it.  The use of Counter Conditioning and Positive Reinforcement has brought us, slowly, to a place where he barely notices the pyrotechnics at the House of Mouse anymore.  Same with lightening and thunder.  It may seem like a small thing, but for us, it is a huge victory. 

I have learned how to counter his need, even at 16 months, for the comfort of his absent mother, by using a DAP (Dog Appeasing Pheromone) collar and diffuser.  This is the pheromone that the mother dog emits while nursing her puppies.  It calms them.  It has worked wonders with Kili.  He is calmer, less anxious, less reactive.  I would not have known to find this product if I didn't pay attention to his "tongue pacifying" quirk. 

We have learned that he doesn't do well with people wearing glasses or hats.  He especially hates Caris' glasses, and Bryson's beanies.  Of course, we can't all go around without our glasses, but we've all made the conscious effort to take them off if we're greeting him.  He appreciates that.  We're all very much of the opinion that somewhere between his eventful flight from his Louisiana birthplace to his former owner,  to us, someone with glasses and a hat hurt him.  We think it was probably at an airport here or there.  Can you picture yourself a tiny, weeks old puppy, in a crate, on a tarmac, getting jostled around, pushed here and there, and shoved into a plane, then jostled OFF the plane.  You've seen the way those luggage handlers treat your luggage.  Do you think they think a crate is any less of a piece of luggage to them?  When he came to us, even after a few ill-fated days with his former owner, his tail was still a mess.  His first dad said; "It was actually worse.  His crate was a mess inside when I picked him up at the airport.  I took him straight to the vet."  Hmmm...let me think...what hell did this poor guy go through?  And even then, to be moved, yet again after only a few days, because he was more than someone could handle.  In a short time, this poor puppy acquired a lifetime of angst and anxiety.  Something that revealed itself little by little as he tried to figure out if we were "okay" and we tried to figure out what made him tick.

Slowly, over time, we have come to accept some of his quirks.  Charlie and I don't WANT him to stop barking when people approach the house.  It's his job.  He needs a job.  He needs to know he is helpful.  Everyone needs to feel like they matter.  We try to curb superfluous barking.  Barking that has to merit.  Itʻs hard to teach him the difference, but heʻs learning.  We have figured out that itʻs OKAY to remove him when people visit.  We tell people about him, we ask them to call from their car when they arrive so that we can put Kili safely in the back of the house and keep him calm.  There is less anxiety when we go out to greet guests and let them in.  He gets less worked up and that is good for all of us.

Itʻs easier these days to identify "off" behaviors.  Now that we know some of his quirks and why he has them, I can almost divert a problem situation before it becomes an issue.  Today, for example, we were having a lot of wind.  I could instantly see that Kili was very much on edge and uncomfortable in his own skin.  I instantly gave him homeopathic calming drops (ginger), closed all the blinds so he couldnʻt "see" the wind, and closed the windows so he couldnʻt hear it.  Unfortunately, I didnʻt think about how the wind carries sound, especially on a clear day, and our close proximity to the airport.  When I took him out for a quick potty run, a jet flew over and it sounded like it was right on top of us.  Poor guy bolted, ears back and tail down, and nearly knocked himself out when he butted the French doors in our dining room trying to get back in and find a hiding place.  Iʻd never seen him react that profoundly to the sound of a plane.  And then it occurred to me what heʻd been through as a cargo pup.  Of course.  Why wouldnʻt that scare the holy bajeebers out of him?

I have come to accept the responsibility that he is a dog that absolutely requires two to three outings a day.  Each of them at least 30 to 45 minutes long and including lots and lots of Frisbee tosses.  In between those outings, at least 30 to 40 ball tosses, and a good few rounds of tugger when Charlie gets home.  We realized, to our dismay, there will be no more sleeping in ever again.  He is up before the sun rises.  Itʻs okay.  Itʻs hard, but itʻs okay. 

We donʻt entertain like we used to.  Which is difficult for us, because we LOVE to entertain.  Itʻs just too hard now.  But itʻs okay.  Itʻs for now, but not forever.  We make the same commitment to this new "child" of ours that weʻve made to parenthood.  No, this is not how most people with dogs are living.  Yes, some people in our lives think weʻre crazy.  But Iʻm not one of those people who can give up on a dog that needs me.  This boy needs me.  I canʻt give up.  I wonʻt give up.

Iʻve learned to carry training treats in my pockets at all times.  I have treats in the car, treats in my purse, treats all over the house in little dishes and jars.  Iʻve learned to divert his attention when I know heʻs about to react.  A well-placed Frisbee works wonders to move his brain to a happier place.

Weʻve also learned there must be boundaries.  Iʻve always lived in a house with pets.  I donʻt know a time in my life that I havenʻt had a dog.  All of our dogs have always had run of the house, are welcomed on the furtniture, and sleep on our beds.  This guy doesnʻt have that luxury.  He can, and will, abuse his place in the hierarchy.  If he is eye-level, he thinks he is king, so we keep him at floor level.  He is allowed to lie on the foot of our bed until we are ready to sleep, and then he must go to his bed in the dining room.  He is only allowed into bedrooms if he is invited.  He is not allowed in the same room where we are eating.  Because we teach with treats, he will always assume that what we eat is also his, so we keep him apart from us when we have meals.  He seems to understand.  He doesnʻt always like it, and he tells us so, but his protests are few and his acquiescence swift.  Heʻs smart that way.

Daily life is still a challenge.  He is a slave to routine.  He cannot waiver or it throws his whole, regimented life off-kilter.  What weʻre talking about here is basically a dog with severe OCD.  But again, weʻre working through it.  Heʻs still a puppy.  There arenʻt as many tears as there used to be.  I donʻt have that overwhelming feeling that Iʻve made the biggest mistake of my life.  Itʻs still hard sometimes, and there are some days that I just donʻt want to do those outings.  But I canʻt miss, and I know it isnʻt an option.  I took this on, I owe it to him to keep moving forward.  He canʻt speak for himself, and so I speak for him. 

For all the trouble he is, no one loves me the way this dog loves me.  As I type this, he lies peaceful and content, all 65 pounds of him, on top of my feet.  He watches me, he moves with me, he is always with me, stuck to me like glue when I am home.  I cannot move a muscle without him knowing.  I do not visit the bathroom alone, I am escorted.  I do not walk around the house alone, he walks with me.  He is my shadow, my guard, my guardian.  He takes his job very seriously.  He also seriously the task of always letting me know what I mean to him.  His morning cuddles when Charlie lets him into our room when we wake up overwhelm me.  He cannot give enough kisses, enough headbutts, or enough bellyflops.  We, in turn, cannot administer enough tummy rubs. 

This beautiful, stunning, broken creature is exasperating, tiresome, overwhelming, exhausting, and entirely loved.  As much as I would love a good, long, uninterrupted sleep and a day without worrying if he got enough exercise, I don't want a life without him in it.  He's mine and we deserve each other.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The Meaning of Aloha

March 8, 2010

Life is sometimes hard.  Really hard.  There is, sometimes, the great need for escapism.  To get away from all that hectic pace and the tyranny of the urgent.  To just leave all your cares behind. Through the generosity of an amazing soul named Sage (how fitting), we had the opportunity to not only do that, but to meet people that I know we will call friends for the rest of our lives.  It goes without saying that we loved our Carnival getaway. We acknowledge with gratitude the hardworking staff and crew of the beautiful Paradise. But I would like to take this opportunity to say something about this little rag-tag "family" that gathered together, from all walks of life, from places far and near, and found that love is not just a noun, it is a verb...it is a DO word.

In Hawai'i, 'ohana is more than just a word for family. It is the life which revolves around the extended family and the clan. It is a group of both closely and distantly related people, and sometimes people who are not related by blood at all, who share nearly everything: land, food, children, status, finances, and most importantly; the Spirit of Aloha.

What I have learned here, on this little thread of cruisers is that we come from so many different walks of life. I think that people assume that if you cruise, you have money. As we know, this couldn't be further from the truth for so many of us. Despite the fact that we are a melting pot of different personalities, we have found a commonality here on the forum, sometimes without ever having the benefit of seeing one another face to face. That common bond, I believe, comes from tender hearts. Isn't it funny that we have family members who we sometimes cannot stand and choose not to associate with, and yet here, we meet people that we know in the depths of our soul, we will be lifelong friends with, just from the simple beginning of words on a page. Then, when you have the great honor to actually meet some of those people in 3-D, you find that your heart wasn't wrong. THAT is what Charlie and I experienced this past week on the Paradise.

I cannot express to you in words (even though I fancy myself a bit of a wordsmith), the great spirit of Aloha we felt from the minute we shared our first hugs with Chris, Max, Jen, Linda, Chuck, Marlene, Julie, and an amazingly kindred and generous soul named Sage. Though only months ago we did not know each other, I can tell you that I felt from the very beginning that we would be lifelong friends. Chris; Charlie could not stop commenting on what a gentle, sweet spirit with a winning smile you are. Quiet and pensive, but a warmth that shines through. Max and Jen, it was an honor and privilege to celebrate your anniversary with you. Jen, you are as sweet as the day is long and it is no wonder to us why your darling husband adores you. And vice-versa! Linda...you are a marvel! I was constantly taken aback by your quick as a whip wit. You are SO funny. You and Chuck are quite the team (my Chuck and your Chuck are dangerous together!). I swear, I heard constant rimshots wherever you two were! Oh, and lady, you are BEAUTIFUL and as much as I adore the picture of Ruffael, I think it's time you put a picture up of your lovely face. Julie; I wish that we could have spent a bit more time together, but from what I've seen, you are an amazingly hardworking young woman who deserves much more "YOU" time! You are adorable, sweet, and I look forward, with great delight, to more fun times together. I'm so glad we had the opportunity to meet and it's just one more thing that I thank Sage for.

Marlene...I think that adorable little boy at the table next to it had it right. He knew from the get-go that you were someone that he could love, and trust, and give his affection to. You made this cruise an "event". You are a bright and shining star with an effervescent and winning personality. I can honestly say that there is never a dull moment where there is Marlene. I would sail with you anywhere, or nowhere, just to be in your presence. Hugs from afar dear lady. And thank you for such a great ride. Charlie and I still have side pains from all the laughter! Love you massively

And now, dear Sage...I don't even know what to say. Chris said it very well when she said that you wanted to hear nothing about what you had done, but only that we had a good time, forgot the troubled waters of our worlds for a few days, and shared some laughs with wonderful new friends. The true meaning of Aloha is just this; a generosity of spirit, of heart, of soul. To share with those who could use a smile, a friend, whatever it is; and never expecting a return. You do this because it is in you and it brings you joy to share. Whatever you put into the universe comes back to you tenfold, and yet, you do not ask; "What's in it for me?" I learned from my kupuna (elders) that this, above all, is where Aloha lives. And as I said to you that last night together, "Lady, you do Aloha well."

This is 'ohana. This is family. These people here on this forum, who have a common bond, an undeniable love for the ocean, Carnival, and the kind of people who gather, for not just fun, but in the great hope of continuing friendships with kindred souls. Who are kind and generous in spirit. Who share their knowledge, their love, their time. The gift of Aloha is the giving of self. You, my friends here are the meaning of Aloha. We may not talk to each other often, but we will always treasure your presence in our lives.  Charlie and I are humbly grateful that you share that aloha with us, in person for a short time on a ship called Paradise, but forever in our lives.

Malama Pono (with care and gratitude), Pua (and Charlie)

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Good Stuff, Maynard!

He was the biggest baby born in San Francisco on January 7, 1937.  Actually, the biggest baby born probably that year in that city; a whopping 13 pounds.  He seemed really proud of that fact.  I just remember thinking as a little girl how he was always larger than life to me.

His dad worked for the Southern Pacific Railroad.  Grandpa always called it the "Sufferin' Pacific", which made me giggle when he said it because it made him sound like Sylvester Cat.  This railroad legacy showed up in the names of my dad and my uncles.  Grandpa gave them all "RR" names; Robert, Raymond, Russell, and dad was Richard.  He had two sisters as well, but my aunt's names didn't follow the railroad theme.  I never did ask my Aunty Bobby if she was actually a Roberta, but I really wouldn't have been surprised.  I did, however, ask my dad if  that was the reason that my name was Renee, thinking how great it would have been if I had that tradition to brag about.  I was devastated when he answered; "No, that was the name of my first girlfriend.  Don't tell Mommy."  But then he cracked a smile.  Always the kidder.

He joined the Navy because he had to make a choice between that and being homeless or thrown into juvenile hall for being "incorrigible".  So on his 18th birthday, he enlisted and went to boot camp in San Diego.  He remained in San Diego until August of 1955, when he was assigned to the aircraft carrier, U.S.S. Shangri-La.  The Shangri-La conducted intensive fleet training for the remainder of 1955, then deployed to the Far East on 5 January 1956.  Dad remained assigned to the Shangri-La until February of 1958.

Dad did two tours of duty while assigned to ships serving in the South China Sea.  The first was with amphibious transport ship, U.S.S. Paul Revere; the famous "Ghost Riders".  I remember he used to sing the song "Ghost Riders in the Sky" to me and tell me that the song was written about the men of the Paul Revere.  Of course, when I grew up I came to know that wasn't true, but he was my Daddy, and I believed everything he told me.  That was just the way it was.  He served on the Paul Revere from August of 59 to July of 61.  I was born in September of 60.  He came home on furlough to see his new daughter, and went right back, but put in for shore duty.  He wanted to and tried to be that "present" dad, but the Navy was his life.  It was our life.

After shore duty in Alameda, California from 1961 to 1964, he was transferred to the U.S.S. Maury, a Navy survey ship stationed in Pearl Harbor.  He served on the Maury from May of 64 to January of 65.  During this 7th Fleet tour, the Maury and her sister ship, Oceanographic Vessel U.S.S. Serano, charted and collected data on the Gulf of Siam, the Andaman Sea, the Straights of Malacca and areas of the Philippines.

Once the Maury returned to Pearl Harbor, Dad was reassigned, and in February of 1965, he joined the crew of the U.S.S. Hassayampa, a fleet oiler which serviced ships serving in conflict waters.  One of those ships was the fated U.S.S. Oriskany, which unbeknownst to him at the time, Dad would soon come to serve aboard.

Dad served on the U.S.S. Oriskany, more well-known to later generations for its notoriety in the movie "Top Gun", while with Attack Squadron 164 out of Lemoore, CA.  He was very proud of his time on "The Mighty O" and of his membership in what was amusingly known to the crewmen who served in the Tonkin Gulf off the coast of Vietnam, as the "Tonkin Gulf Yacht Club".

The carrier was on station the morning of 26 October 1966 when a fire erupted on the starboard side of the ship's forward hanger bay and raced through five decks, claiming the lives of 44 men.  Many who lost their lives were veteran combat pilots who had flown raids over Vietnam a few hours earlier.

Oriskany had been put in danger when a magnesium parachute flare exploded in the forward flare locker of Hangar Bay 1, beneath the carrier's flight deck.  Dad was among crewmen who helped wheel planes out of danger, rescued pilots, and helped quell the blaze through three hours of heroic action.  Medical assistance was rushed to the carrier from sister aircraft carriers Constellation and F.D. Roosevelt.  It wasn't until Christmas Eve of 1966, two months later, that I would actually see Dad after this cruise.  I was 6, and very very sure that because my Daddy came home to me, there was really a Santa Claus.

In 1967, Dad was transferred to El Centro Naval Air Facility, better known as the winter home of the Blue Angels.  There we remained until 1971.  He enjoyed his extended shore duty in the high desert, and I enjoyed having a Daddy around to play with.  Our house was the house that the neighborhood kids liked to hang out at on base.  Dad was just a big kid and he loved to play with us.  He was the "big man" who would give piggy-back rides, play baseball, wrassle, and make jokes with.  He told tales as tall as he was, and my friends ate them up like candy.  He would eat every concoction I would bake in my Suzy Homemaker oven, or my Mattel Incredible Edibles, even if it was burned and with great conviction, he would exclaim; "MMMmmmmm!  Good stuff, Maynard!"  I never did find out who Maynard was, but I didn't care.

He rode around  base on his "Nifty, Thrifty, Honda 50".  He was quite a sight; a 6 foot 5 inch "giant" on a little scooter, but everyone on base knew him.  He'd pick me up from school, pop a tiny helmet on my head that he had lovingly painted an "R" on the back of, and put me in front of him on the seat of that little motorbike.  "Remember, Little Poo...don't smile.  You don't want any bugs in your grill!"

He loved to camp, and fish, and we did a lot of that when I was a kid.  I loved going fishing with him, but he refused to take me unless I learned to put the worm on the hook myself.  So I learned.  I didn't like it, but I learned because I wanted to go fishing with him.  I wanted to go ANYWHERE with him. 

Every Friday night, we had Monopoly Night.  He and I would stay up late and have a marathon Monopoly game.  We'd play until he bankrupted me, which would be hours later.  He confessed many years later that he'd always cheated, and he wondered why I never questioned why he always wanted to be the banker.

My love for music, I inherited from my father.  He couldn't read a note, but I never knew anyone that could play an instrument like he was born to it the way Dad did.  He was a true natural.  He bought me my first ukulele, and he taught me to play.  We'd spend Saturdays strumming together and we'd sing a "Santa Catalina/Life Could Be a Dream" medley over and over until we got it just right.  He'd make mistakes on purpose and make me laugh until I cried.  Some days, I would just sit and listen to him play his favorites; "Under the Double Eagle" and "Stars and Stripes".  He made that uke sing.  Later on, he'd teach my daughter Averie to play, and then Caris picked up a uke.  I know that Bryson's natural talent for the guitar and ukulele has trickled down from my dad.  It's a legacy that brings me great joy and yet, in a bittersweet twist, makes me miss him so much more.  Some days, when Bry is sitting out on the porch playing, I close my eyes and hear my dad's style emanating through the Grommet's fingers.  How I would have loved to see them play together.  How happy he would be to know how well his grandson plays.

In 1971, Dad returned to duty at Barber's Point in Pearl Harbor, and we remained there until he retired from the Navy, after 20 years of honorable service.  I remember asking him why he had stayed in for so long.  His answer still resonates in my soul.  "I wanted you to see the world, and I knew this was the only way I could do that for you.  It was all I had to give you."  See the world we did.  During his service, Dad would see South America, Iwo Jima, Guam, Guadalcanal, Hong Kong, Japan, Mariana Islands, Philippines, Korea, Singapore, Okinawa, Vietnam, Alaska, and Hawai'i, not to mention all the traveling around the Pacific Northwest and Canada we did in my parent's RV.  For all the places he couldn't take me, he would bring back a doll from that place to add to my doll collection, which once graced Averie and Caris's rooms, and now hold a place of honor in our "Island Room".

He was a wonderful grandpa and wore my children like they were jewelry.  He tickled and played and wrassled and joked.  He told his tall tales and made them believe him, just as he'd done with me all of my life.

I've missed him every day, and I'll miss him every day to come.  But I am so proud of who he raised me to be, and I am so proud that he was my Daddy.  I have a trunk full of letters from Dad from all over the world.  He wrote to me constantly from wherever he was, and even when I was too little and couldn't yet read, he would draw cartoons and pictures.  I would color them and send them back to him.  He might have been away for a lot of my childhood, but he filled those days apart with letters and love from far away.  He would make reel to reel audio tapes of his voice and he would sing to me and send the tapes home.  The song I remember most is "God Bless My Daddy".


God bless my Daddy,
Who's Over There.
Says a tiny little voice,
In a tiny little prayer.
That is my Daddy
So please, take care.
Says a tiny little voice,
In a tiny little prayer.
For this is the night,
Mommy turns out the light
Oh how I wish you were here
So I could kiss you goodnight.
I hope in dreamland
We'll meet somewhere
Says a tiny little voice
In a tiny little prayer.

Bless you, Daddy.  Thank you for everything.  Sleep sweet, until we meet again in Dreamland.  I love you.

Sunday, January 05, 2014


I've found, in my experience, that it's therapeutic to write when you're feeling down.  Actually, I've found it's therapeutic to just write.  Noticing that I've only posted to this blog a handful of times this year, I reflect on the fact that I have probably neglected not only my therapy, but my joy.  My soul feels this neglect.

There have been many changes that have caused this lapse; a new job, a new puppy, gains and losses.  My life is no different from anyone else's.  Everyone experiences these peaks and valleys.  It is just a fact of human existence.  I think it would be a bit egotistical to say that my life is any better or any harder than someone else's.  If there's anything I've learned in my 53 years of life, though I've lived through some pretty horrific situations, there will always be someone whose life is much more challenging than I could ever know.  How do I have the right to get hung up on myself?

These last few months of 2013 have been amongst the most challenging of my life.  I've hesitated to share, because some things have been said to me that have caused me to really take my inventory.  I've gone back to a tenant of a twelve step program, and though I don't give myself over to the thought of a higher power, I do take it very seriously when people who I consider important in my life tell me perceived negatives about myself that could use "tweaking".  It is not comfortable or pleasant to hear; "You are too soft.  You take things too personally.  You are annoying.  You are too sensitive."  Some of the more hurtful things, I keep to myself, but try not to dwell on them.  I keep them in this place in my mental safe where I can use them as a touchstone to remind myself that if I am not careful, the things that I have always thought were positives of my character, can be thought of to others as negatives.  It's a bitter pill to swallow.  Especially for someone who has always fought to look beyond the hardships and keep depression at bay. 

On the other side of the coin, I remind myself that I am not entirely responsible for someone else's perceptions.  I have never been purposefully hurtful.  It isn't in my makeup to cause pain.  Quite the opposite, I think that I can be a detriment to my own well-being because I often put others before myself.  When you're in the moment, if your heart is in the right place, you don't do these things for recognition or thanks.  You just do them because it is in your soul.  Not having been blessed with monetary surplus, you try to give of yourself because that is what you have to give.  Sometimes, you give too much of yourself and you get hurt.  These are the risks going in.  You know it, and yet you do it.  You put yourself out there.

I have been told that I should stand up for myself more.  That I shouldn't let people walk all over me.  I've tried this in the past few months.  The problem is that the end result doesn't make me feel like a better person.  It makes me feel argumentative and small.  It doesn't edify my soul.  It makes me feel like someone I am not.  I don't like conflict.  I don't fight well.  I end up crying because I'm "overly sensitive" and I keep asking myself if I felt better when I let people take advantage of me, or if I felt better when I stood up for myself.  Are these the kinds of growing pains one should feel when they're 53 years old?

Someone recently told me that 80% of my Facebook posts were negative.  It was a dagger in my heart.  I knew this wasn't true, but I couldn't help but think if that was really what people's perception of me was.  Then I thought back to the others who told me I was too sensitive and took everything too personally.  I asked myself if I'd rather be thought of as too sensitive as opposed to 80% negative.  Again, I'm back to perception.  The last thing I want is for people to think of me as negative.  Perception is a funny thing.  I can claim responsibility for my overly sensitive nature, but am I responsible for what someone else thinks of me?  Do I have to entertain the thought of merit in their opinion?  Does it speak to my sense of humanity or lack of character if I don't? 

I took a good, hard look around me at the people I choose to surround myself with.  There is not one person amongst them that I wouldn't call cream of the crop.  Good, honest, kind, loving souls.  The kind of people that I hope think of me the same way.  If the measure of a person is the people who call them friends, then without any sense of conceit or regret, I have to believe that I am a good, kind, loving soul.  And yet, I have come to realize that there are other people who have a much different perception of the person that I believe that I am.  How can there be such a great disparity?  How can I not bear some of the responsibility for this perception?  What is there to be done?

These are heavy thoughts that have weighed heavily on my soul.  On the one hand, am I being that typical overly sensitive Pua and taking things too personally?  Or have I somehow been neglectful of someone else's feelings and managed to make them dislike me enough to say hurtful things? 

As I move into this new year, I have much to reflect upon.  Mostly, I have been asking myself on an almost daily basis, "What can you do, Pua, to make someone's life better because you've been part of it?"  I can't help but think that these are not the thoughts of a negative person.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Puppy Love

Only a few weeks ago, I pulled into my driveway and just sat in my car, staring at my house.  I knew it was empty, and I dreaded walking inside, knowing there was no Ellie or Kiva there to greet me.  It used to be my favorite time of day; joyful recognition, wagging tails, a happy face-wash from a swift tongue.  I would force myself to go in, but it was hard.  Some days were harder than others. 

Now....there is Kili.  I can hardly wait to get home and open the door.  I can hear him on the other side, crying in anticipation.  Then, barking and jumping and joyfully welcoming me home.  Home is just not home without a dog.  It's just not home.  I miss Ellie and Kiva.  I always will.  But it is so amazing how full and happy a once broken heart can feel because of one little dog.  I have no doubt someone was rescued, and it wasn't Kili. 

Saturday, May 11, 2013

One Girl's Heart...

She knows my heart because she once lived right under it.

*Planned Parenthood
*The Fisher House Foundation
*Friends of Animals
*L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center
*Reading is Fundamental

Sunday, May 05, 2013

A New-Fangled Fairy Tale a la Prince Grommet

The Grommet asked me to accompany him to the store to buy some new bedding.  He'd just been cleaning his room (halle-freakin'-lujah!), and he wanted to "seal the deal" with some new sheets and pillows.  "How nice."  I thought.  My son wants me to go shopping with him.  Tired as I was, I wasn't about to say no.  I mean, really...how often does THAT happen?  Hi ho, hi ho...

We arrive at our destination, and as we are on a mission of utmost importance, I direct him straight to linens.  As he looks through the many choices, I notice that he goes STRAIGHT to the Nate Berkus designs.  I chuckle inside.  I guess when you work at Versace, you can pretty much smell quality right away.   So now come the questions.  He knows what he wants in the way of color and design, but I can see as he's reading packages, he's a bit confused about content.

Bryson:  What is the difference between Eqyptian Cotton and regular cotton?  And what's all this "thread count" business?

Pua:  (pulling a corner of the sheet out of each package)  Feel these.  Which would you rather have encircling your body?

Bryson:  Definitely the Egyptian Cotton...600 thread count, at least.

Pua:  Exactly

Bryson:  Okay, how about pillows?  What's the difference between foam and down?

Pua:  (holding each kind of pillow)  Lay your head here.  Which would you rather have cradling your head?

Bryson:  (nodding his head)  Oh yeah, the down one for sure.

(A moment of quiet as he contemplates)

Bryson:  Damn.  I'm quite a princess.