DIY Heaven by da-AL

Photo of my Cousin Ana's new rooster.
Cousin Ana’s Roco: Ro + Co = “rojo” (Spanish for “red”) + “colorado” (Spanish for “colored red”).

What if, despite what some writers and books tell us, there’s no afterlife? But there’s still a heaven, yet it’s one we make right here, right now. Better yet, what if it doesn’t take much to create? If easy micro-kindnesses wend far and meander back to us?

The holidays are upon us. It’s definitely not my favorite season. Not at all. It’s contrived; there’s so much expectation, manipulation…

Yet this last week turned me mushy. Not in the faux sentimental way depicted on TV and billboards targeting us to spend, spend, spend. It’s not by chance that Xmas decorations look sad in daylight. Ugh, these two months can really get on my nerves.

Back to mushiness. Years ago, when a sweet friend was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, another great friend and I pledged to do a walkathon for MS. One of those where we collected donations in advance of all the miles we planned to walk.

Walkathon day came… and… what can I say other than, the truth is not pretty? It was hot and crowded and yucky, and that was while we searched for parking. The two of us ate our sandwiches in the car and promptly drove home. Sans walking, we mailed in the monies. In my case, I’d amassed a few hundred dollars over just an hour or so of cubicle-hopping around the ad agency I temped for.

What’s stayed with me is how out of the thirty or so people I begged (please don’t ask me to attempt math here), most gave anywhere from a few to twenty dollars. A little pitched in by each person within a bunch added up very quickly!

Another personal story of how one small gesture can ripple wide, this one recent

Last April, a friend mentioned she’d begun foster parenting. It was the start of Los Angeles’ quarantine, and Covid-19 was creating a worse need than ever for people to take care of kids. (Note to self: when I am Goddess of the Universe in my next life, foster parents automatically get express tickets to heaven.) For anyone who isn’t aware, the 24/7/365 job requires half a year to get certified and pays heck, as this foster parent reveals.

My friend is Wonder Woman when it comes to embracing all that life presents. A devoted mother, wife, business owner, daughter, and more, she and her husband are now fostering an adorable baby girl with health issues and a super charming little boy with challenges too. When I mentioned to my husband what she was doing, he decided to knock on the doors of several of our neighbors who have kids. He requested whatever hand-me-downs they could spare and Voila! Over two weeks, even the friends’ friends contributed to what became quite a heap of helpful kid things!

Further confirmation that our little gestures can create a positive groundswell was in my local newspaper a couple of days ago

(And by the way, this also shows why local news is a necessity, not a luxury. Every city would benefit greatly to have a news outlet of its own.) Turns out the good deeds of a man living on the street have given rise to much more goodness. As you’ll see in this article about him, as well as this one that includes a video link, generosity small and large boomerangs all over the place and continues to add up to a whole lot of fabulous! The comments on the GoFundMe page that Bruce De Mille put together are beyond heart-melting.

All this leads me to explain these delightful pictures

Any little stray dog or innocent chick who meets my Cousin Ana has hit the sweetness jackpot! Her house is t-h-e place to go to be safe, sound, and never eaten…

Cousin Ana's chicken, Pepa, was 11 when she passed away not too long ago...
Cousin Ana’s chicken, Pepa, is 11 years young…

 

When Pepa was gone, Cousin Ana got 5 baby chicks. Here they are, 3 months old now! Surprise, one is another rooster...
When Pepa was gone, Cousin Ana got 5 baby chicks. Here they are, 3 months old now! Surprise, one is another rooster…

 

Cousin Ana's is heaven for needy little dogs! (L-R) Here's Tiky, Albert, Bella, Nike, Beethoven, Charlie. The last ones are brothers and sister.
Cousin Ana’s is heaven for needy little dogs! (L-R) Here’s Tiky, Albert, Bella, Nike, Beethoven, Charlie. The last ones are brothers and sister.

 

Beethoven loves modeling whatever Cousin Ana knits.
Beethoven loves modeling whatever Cousin Ana knits.

 

Here's Cousin Ana's Albert, on his way home from the groomer's.
Here’s Cousin Ana’s Albert, on his way home from the groomer’s.

When I try to be kind or when I see others being nice, I feel safer and happier — like heaven is here, right now.

How do you create your own heaven?

Caregiving for Men by Dan Zeorlin

News alert! Men can be caregivers too.

Since Kansas blogger Dan Zeorlin (a.k.a. MLBerg) became one, he’s shared what he’s learned by writing, “Care Giver’s Manual for Men.” It is absolutely free, neither emails nor strings attached, as a downloadable pdf file. He’s also looking to start a support group.

He first wrote for Happiness Between Tails here. Read on for six of his insights into caregiving…

Caregiver/blogger, Dan Zeorlin (a.k.a. MLBerg), has an absolutely free manual for you!

Observations of a Life Well-Worn: Reflections from a Caregiver, by Dan Zeorlin

  1. Choices: I love to see young, recently-married couples at church with crying babies. Where else would one expect to find such enthusiastic subjects and empathic, experienced audiences? A beautiful encounter is in becoming a Caregiver for someone that you love – and to grow more fully human in sharing life: joys, struggles, strengths, and acceptance. Great opportunity to meet and know God through awesome presence! Of course, it is assumed that a new parent of the crying baby loves her/him. And through the gradual series of choices, we become seasoned Caregivers. 
  2. Disappointment and Farewell to Regret: Show some resolve – grow backbone where it is needed. Do the research to find out what you want and then go for it! If drawbacks are identified in every proposal, then deliver them in a positive manner. Don’t shoot yourself in the foot by creating impossible expectations. In other words, allow yourself space to dream big.
  3. What am I waiting for? Get over it! When will it be over? When will my life be through? I don’t know about you, but I need to request a review As Soon As Possible! This doesn’t mean I want fewer days to breathe, eat, sleep, and etc. but merely that I do not wish to spend my life preoccupied with “me” when there is so much more worth living for. Worse off than some…Better off than most – I do not deserve a charmed life. But isn’t this what I have every time I escape into my comfort zone? I need to be taking chances and reach new levels of shared experience. After all, sharing is caring.
  4. Enabling vs. getting a leg up: How do we become better Caregivers? The opportunities to help run rampant; the desire to leave everything neat and tidy is innate; the willingness to clean while becoming exposed to filth, getting dirty, and experiencing heartache can be devastating. Each of us has certain norms and standards, but none of these are absolute. What’s more, the object of desire often moves, and it changes. So instead of keeping the focus on trying to reach a target’s bulls-eye, sometimes the goal becomes quite unimagined and may take on slight variations or be radically different. Approach unforeseen consequences and not-prepared-for conclusions with confidence.
  5. The point is… When you sign up to love unconditionally (i.e., become a Caregiver), you do not control the rules. Pray for strength to say “Yes” each time something is asked of you; have the courage to say “No” whenever it is in the best interests of life. Try to recognize and respect those times when there is no answer other than to “hang in there.” We can be certain that love is served through Caregiving.
  6. What can I do to help? Look for ideas (try reading this: Caregivers Manual for Men) and get on board.

More about Dan Zeorlin: He is a blogger, a supporter, a follower, and a learner. He believes there’s no need to reinvent the wheel, but sometimes we must build a better mousetrap. His desire for sharing methods to enable persistence in giving care is simply a calling to do the right thing.

Do you know any men who are caregivers?…  

Guest Post: 10 Harmless Things Said That Hurt by Uncustomary Housewife

Photo from Uncustomary Housewife

I admit it — I suffer from foot-in-mouth disease. Fortunately, Uncustomary Housewife offers help from anyone who shares my predicament…

Uncustomary Housewife

I’m letting my heart spill out through my keyboard… metaphorically, of course, and I’m offering it all to you. Today, I’m going to talk about my mental health. This is something that I’ve worked to conceal for a long time, mostly because of the negative stigma attached to mental illness. I’m sharing for two main reasons; (1) to educate people, and (2) to show people like me that they are not alone.

For the record: I’m living with Bipolar Disorder and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder… In this post I’m sharing 10 “harmless things” that people have said to me that actually cause me a great deal of pain. I’m also sharing how they make me feel, and why, while giving you an inside look at my life.

So, these are the things I wish you wouldn’t say to me;

“You don’t look like you have a mental illness.”
More commonly stated as…

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Guest Blog Post: Don’t by Born in Providence

When nowhere seems safe, blogger Born in Providence invites us to find shelter on her Island of Sanctuary…

Born in Providence

Don’t show them your drawing

They’ll find the mistakes, compare it to what’s already on the fridge or that Picasso we saw on the field trip last year. Third grade is no excuse; third degree.

Don’t ask them how you look

They’ll find the bump in your pony, the hole in your sock which is already inside your shoe, which are too tight and have a scuff. They’ll see that too. You look tired. Did you even brush your teeth?

Don’t tell them you’re hungry or full

They’ll decide you’re too big, small, selfish, greedy, a bottomless pit, picky. Comparing your plate to everyone with more or less deserving than you, making it impossible to taste or swallow past the lump in your throat.

Don’t offer your opinion even when they ask

They’ll decide their ideas, experiences, thoughts and preferences are superior while simultaneously highlighting why everything that comes out…

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Snuggle Dogs by da-AL

Our best friends are those who cheer us through our ups and cheer us up through our downs.

Mr. Gentleman Dog is aging. Growing older is a gift, but it extracts a price. For some of us, the cost is higher than for others.

In Mr. Gentleman Dog’s case, arthritis is wearing away his hips. And his kidneys don’t work as well. Rather than soil stuff, several times a night he rouses himself to ask to go out into the cold and pee.

But every day, he still has plenty of moments that he enjoys. He still loves treats, short walks, and cuddles.

And he loves the warmth of friendship…

Guest Blog Post: “Buy My Book!” in the exact words of Bookshelf Q. Battler

Supporting writers, as well as readers, is our mission, here at Happiness Between Tails.

A more direct sales pitch has yet to be found than that of blogger and book writer Bookshelf Q. Battle

Bookshelf Battle

Hey 3.5 readers.

BQB here.

Just a regularly scheduled begging session, asking you, my beloved 3.5 readers, to buy my book, “BQB’s Big Book of Badass Writing Prompts.”

It’s 99 cents.  Honestly, other than a trip to the nudey bar, this is the best value you’ll ever get for a dollar.

I mean I don’t want to spell it out, but if you walk up to a nudey bar and wave a single dollar bill around, a stripper will show you her hey-nanner-nanner.  At least, they usually do.  I can’t guarantee they will.

But you’re upstanding citizens who don’t frequent such terrible places.  So check out my fine book.  You know you want it.

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How Do You Say Goodbye? by da-AL

The good vet kept my little friend warm, wrapped in a special heating pad…

This week I’ve been looking after a friend’s two elderly cats. While one shows her age only by her lack of teeth, the one in this photo was thin and slow.

A couple of nights ago, this little guy was listless. My husband and I massaged him, got him to drink some broth, turned up the room’s thermostat, and made sure he was comfy on his pillow throughout the night.

The next morning he was back to looking awful.

A couple of months earlier he’d appeared to be on the brink of death, yet pulled through. Now, given how he’d perked up somewhat the night before, I took him to the vet optimistic that some intravenous fluids might perk him up.

Unfortunately, the vet affirmed that there was remote hope that the kitty had any more good days allotted to him, probably not a single day left without constant pain and nausea.

Of the few pets I’ve had, I’ve never had to decide whether to euthanize them.

In the case of this sweet boy, my friend decided. I did, however, decide whether to be with the kitty when the final injection was administered. The vet’s caveat was that the cat wouldn’t care either way. Given that, he suggested that if I stayed, I might always remember the cat at his worst.

After considerable deliberation, I opted not to be there.

Have you had to make such a decision? If so, how and what did you choose?

Do’s and don’ts for if your friend has lost a pet.

Here and here are professional links about pet euthanasia.

Let’s All Drop Labels by da-AL

Video Still from Drop Labels dot org websiteFirst impressions. It’s hard to restrain myself from making snap judgments about people when I first meet them.

Worse is when I settle for my shallow analysis and end up labeling folks.

We’re all complex, all of us alike yet different from each other, so I doubt anyone appreciates my boxing them into a label. Moreover, embracing knee-jerk categorizing limits me from enjoying all the marvelous aspects of the people I meet as well as learning the really good stuff from them.

Alas, training myself to stop being an automaton seems impossible.

Not so! There’s hope, thanks to this consciousness-raising site founded by a wise new friend. Drop Labels features videos of people discussing how being labeled has hurt them. The site goes above and beyond threadbare definitions of types of labels. For instance, this man has found that he hates being labeled as ‘the man with cancer’ …

Do you label? Have you been labeled?

Molly the unofficial Therapy dog by Darren Sleep

Don’t care for dogs? Scared of them? No matter. Give one enough time and they’ll will make you fall in love with them. If you take a look first here, and secondly here, and then lastly here, you’ll understand how I’m my own best example of this!

Darren Sleep of Northern England, who’s blog I recommend everyone visit, tells how Molly dog converted him…

Molly the spaniel
Could you resist Molly?

I was truly honoured to be asked to write this, my first guest post!

I would like to introduce you to Molly, also known as ‘Mollymop’, ‘Fuzzbutt’, or several other less repeatable names depending on her current level of mischievousness. Molly is our little buddy.

Molly sprawled on floor.
Mollymop or Fuzzbutt?

A confession: Molly is not our dog. She belongs to our friends Abi & Tom who run the flower nursery where my wife Susan works. Molly has the run of the site all day and is utterly devoted to Susan, at least partly because Susan often has a pocketful of doggy treats.

Molly loves tummy rubs.
Molly loves tummy rubs.

Molly is a Liver and White English Springer Spaniel, bred from working stock (very different from show stock Springers which almost look like a different breed). She is quite elderly now, at 11, and spends a lot of time snoozing. When awake her age does not seem to slow her down!

Molly dog with a toy
Still playful at 11.

My own relationship with dogs has been a complicated one. Like Susan, we had a black Labrador as a family dog when I was a teenager. I did not really trust dogs then, even our Labrador was a bit grumpy (rare for the breed). I also did a newspaper delivery round and worked as a postman/mailman for a time – these also taught me to be wary of dogs. We have never had our own dog in 30+ years together because of career and other commitments.

Molly among plants
Admiring nature.

Then in 2011 Susan started working for Abi & Tom and regaled me with tales of how lovely they (and their dog, Molly ) were. So she took me to visit one weekend and I met Molly. I was smitten by this friendly, curious but slightly feral and very mischievous looking beastie. When out of sight her favourite hobbies are raiding rubbish bins and eating and/or rolling in carrion, so she is frequently a bit ‘fragrant’ but we love her anyway.

Molly sleeping
Demonstrating how to relax.

My own fondness for dogs has grown a lot since meeting Molly – I frequently go and make a fuss of friendly looking dogs that I see. For several years Molly was joined by a beautiful Golden Retriever pup, Ella, but Ella had to be rehomed with Abi’s sister in late 2016, leaving Molly alone again. Susan and I both adored Ella too!

Earlier this summer (2017), my struggle with depression came to a crisis point and I had a meltdown at work one morning. I was a shaking, weeping mess and went straight to my doctor. When Susan picked me up from the doctor my only request was that we go and visit Molly as I knew some dog therapy was the only way I was going to calm down that day. I spent the afternoon at the nursery with Molly and knew that even if I never have a dog of my own, I was now a devoted fan of dogs.

Molly in bed
Now Molly has beds at two homes!

A few weeks later, when I was back on an even keel, a family emergency meant that Abi & Tom had to go away and were faced with the possibility of putting Molly in boarding kennels alone for the first time in years, and they knew she hated being in kennels. It was a no-brainer for us and we offered to have her for a few days. We loved having her and have since had Molly for two more weekends, with another planned this month. She now settles instantly and is completely at home.

We have attached a bolt to the food cupboard and bought a set of bowls, a leash and a dog bed to keep at our house. Basically all the paraphernalia except the actual dog!

I fully acknowledge my place in the pecking order is several rungs below my wife in Molly’s eyes. She really is devoted to Susan but that is OK. I obviously kind of like Susan myself – so fully understand. But it doesn’t matter. When Molly sees me she gives me the kind of enthusiastic greeting I have never experienced from a human being and makes me feel that there is a corner of my world where everything is OK.

Visit Darren at his wonderful blog!

Has a dog helped you?

Guest Blog Post: “Nature Cure by Richard Mabey: Overcoming depression through a love of nature,” a book review in Denzil Walton’s exact words

"Nature Cure," by Richard MabeyThe healing properties and potential of nature have always been known, but are finding a “comeback” these days, with hip terms like forest bathing now being recommended from psychiatrists’ couches. The book “Nature Cure” presents a personal re-discovery of the benefits of nature.

Richard Mabey is one of the UK’s finest nature writers. The first of his 32 books was Food for Free (1972), and his latest is The Cabaret of Plants: Forty Thousand Years of Plant Life and the Human Imagination (2016).

Unfortunately, between 2000 and 2002, Mabey suffered a severe depression. We find him at the start of the book in bed, blankly gazing at the wall. But encouraged by friends and realizing the need for a change of air, he uproots himself from the family house in the Chilterns where he and his sister have lived for 110 years between them, and heads off to East Anglia to live in a room in a farmhouse. His room is “like a small forest” with “more oak inside it than out.” And here he strings up a series of low-energy lamps and makes his nest, amazingly not with a computer but two manual typewriters.

Throughout, Mabey describes his breakdown and steady recovery with his characteristic laid-back style, like your favourite uncle relating exploits from a distant past. We get a glimpse of what may have caused his freefall into depression when he describes what it takes to be a full-time writer: “doggedness to be alone in a room for a very long time.”

His honesty is admirable. Owning up to depression is never easy, even these days, perhaps especially for a successful writer at the pinnacle of his career (he had just completed the epic and lauded Flora Britannica). Even more difficult was when depression robbed him of his desire to write: “it made me lose that reflex, it was like losing the instinct to put one foot in front of the other.” But obviously Mabey regained that reflex, and how he did is very touching – and through writing he began to unlock “pieces of me that had been dormant for years.”

His style is warmly conversational, making the book easy and pleasurable to read, despite the subject matter. He gently leads you from subject to subject, so that you forget where the conversation started. One moment he is describing wild horses on Redgrove Fen, and his musings about their origins leads to cave paintings in France and then to local Stone Age flint mines in Norfolk, and somehow to Virginia Woolf and moats. Is this what he refers to later as “free-range reading?”

Nature Cure is definitely a recommended read, for anyone interested in good writing about nature, and the cure he describes might well be of benefit to others suffering from depression too.

Denzil Walton writes two blogs: Discovering Belgium and Life Sentences.