Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Dinner With Sampson

We didn't have pets growing up. Well actually, I'm lying... we did. Allow me to rephrase... we didn't have any pets that could survive longer than 48 hours in our house when I was growing up. All of our "pets" met the same fate of swirling around a porcelain purgatory before being laid to rest, down the depths of our commode, at the commencement of their short stay with us.

Looking back, I don't fault my parents for not allowing us to have non-aquatical animals (cough cough, Ping Pong Fair Game Goldfish) in the home, seeing as I had the attention span of a gnat when it came to new hobbies I was into, my sister had a nose for getting into mischief (i.e. playing barber shop with the neighborhood heathens while adults weren't paying attention, playing hide-and-seek in automatic-locking, non-ventilated, cedar chests, innocently crank-calling emergency dispatchers... the list goes on. We admire your curiosity, Kelli.), and my older brother, Brian, spent half of his childhood being probed and prodded in a hospital bed. Oh, and my mother has terrible, knock-you-out-for-weeks-at-a-time animal allergies. It would not have been responsible for us to own pets, nor would it have been logical, in general.

However, the longing for the All-American K-9, who would sleep at the foot of my bed and play catch with me on sunny afternoons and protect me from creepy bandits in the shadows of a dark alleyway, never really vacated my mind. I've always wanted a dog. I've always been enormously jealous of friends and family who grew up with dogs.

And so, I got a dog.

This is the most appropriate point in my post where I should forewarn you that I love my dog, but he's an idiot. Like, everyday-he-runs-full-speed-into-objects-that-have-always-been-in-the-same-exact-spot-in-my-house-since-the-day-we-got-him-and-no-he-isn't-blind-or-deaf, dumb.  Also, the amount of knowledge that I possess about life with dogs, ownership of dogs, dog psychology, and dog training, is so minuscule, that God has to use a high-powered microscope when investigating that part of my life. So, if you are some crazy highly-dedicated animal rights activist or you think that all dogs should be treated like royalty, please stop reading now. I live by trial and error with my dog. I am a human. He is an animal, a house pet. He is not my child, I am not his mommy. But, he is a part of my family. He is a companion, a friend, and I love him so very much. He is a nuisance who makes life very messy. But he's my nuisance.

Alright, so maaaaaaybe this decision of mine was a little on the... oh... not-so-well-thought-out side. So, what?! Don't you judge me.

Since the idea of owning a dog was never far from the forefront of my essential life priorities, I would often spend my lunch breaks on PetFinder.com, perusing through pups from all over my area, in search for the one that I couldn't live without.
During this time, my boyfriend wished that text messaging was never invented. I'd send dozens of doggie-profiles a day, to which he would not respond, because he actually has a functioning brain, and he knew I had no idea what I was trying to do. God bless my man. Seriously.
He finally conceded/gave up at the end of this September, when I sent him this picture of "Brent".  A nine month old chocolate lab mix.
"Whatever you want.", was my boyfriend, Jason's response. So, we got "Brent".
First off, what kind of name is Brent for a dog? I'm no expert, but I'll tell ya, it's not a name for a dog. It's just not. I will also tell you that moving from Ohio to Florida, and leaving behind three dogs in your adandoned home for weeks, with no food or water, without attempting to surrender them to a safe environment, should be a very punishable offense.
I don't remember much from the dog shelter, except that I hated it; I wanted to get out of that place as fast as I could because it was cold, and loud, and tense, and all-together frightening. This was Sampson's home before I adopted him. Sampson is his new name, and this is his new story.
The first month was rough. The first month was brutal.
Sampson chewed up expensive, leather shoes (Jason's). Sampson chewed up wool hunting gloves (Jason's).  Sampson chewed the buttons off of dress shirts (Jason's). Sampson scratched up baseboards. Sampson whizzed on the carpet. Sampson pooped on the carpet. Sampson puked on the carpet. Sampson must have felt bad because he started pulling up all the carpet. Sampson ate an entire bag of English Muffins. The next day, Sampson ate another entire bag of English Muffins. Then, he ate a whole loaf of bread for dessert. Everyday, it was something else. After two weeks of this, I decided to put up a baby gate to keep him contained in the kitchen while I was at work.
Day three of the baby gate, I came home to find the baby gate broken down and a mighty, poop trail through the house, up the stairs, and into the bedroom, with Sampson casually hanging out in the upstairs hall, taking a nice, leisurely nap.
I lost it. I couldn't take it anymore. It was too much. My clothes, my bed, my world smelled of warm dog poo. I scoulded him and whacked his nose with a rolled up magazine. As this was happening and I was cleaning up, trying not to let frustrated tears fall from my eyes, Sampson started puking. And then he started pooping. And then he puked again. Clearly, he was sick, and my heart sank.
Sampson had stomach worms. I took him to the vet, got him meds, and he was feeling better in a few days. Unfortunately, I still felt like a terrible, heartless person for awhile after that.
Later that week, I took him with me out to my Grandmother's land, out in the country, out in the middle of nowhere. As I opened up the car door to let him out, he ran faster than I have ever seen him run, down her hill and into the grassy field below. I panicked. That was it. My dog was gone. He was running away from me, as fast as he possibly could. And who could blame him? His previous owner abandoned him and we just couldn't get on the same page. Discouraged, I desperately shouted his name, hoping that this wasn't a huge mistake. As I looked out, I saw his ears perk up, his tongue flopped out, and just as fast as he ran down that hill, he galloped back up to me and jumped up on my legs to give me a sloppy, wet kiss. My heart melted, and we played the rest of the afternoon.
The thing is, Sampson, for the most part, is pretty simple. Once he got into the swing of our routine, we actually noticed that he's a really good dog. Ok, so every night while we eat dinner, he sits four inches away from our face and stares at us with literal puppy dog eyes, like we haven't fed him in months. Big deal, I know humans who would do that, if no one was looking. So what if he can't lay peacefully, at the foot of my bed, because he weighs 75+ pounds and nothing he does is peaceful? So what if he doesn't understand that I can't play catch with him, rain or shine, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week? So what if I ever encountered a creepy bandit in the shadows of a dark alleyway, Sampson's only defense would be to lick them to death. SO-FREAKING-WHAT?! He is still a good pup.
Even after the night that I whacked him with the magazine and he had his tail between his legs, 10 minutes later, he was back at my side, bright eyed, tail wagging, waiting to be pet. He loves to be the center of attention, he loves naps, he loves shiny things, he loves food, he loves to watch TV, he loves to be active, he loves to love and be loved.
He is me. But with fur.
He still gets into mischief, more than I would like him to; this morning he ate a brand new make-up sponge that I just bought and half of a box of Hot Tamales. But, I couldn't ask for a better, more loving friend.
So... me thinks I will keep him.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The Commute

This morning was beautiful. I love mornings like this morning. Which is weird, because I used to totally and completely loathe waking up early. 

I'd drag my body into the bathroom to shower, feeling that it should be illegal to get out of bed before 11 a.m. I'd be stuffed up, coughing up crap, sore from sleeping wrong. I'd burn my toast and spill my coffee (of course, all over a pair of white pants). So, I'd have to change and I wouldn't have enough time to pack my lunch. I'd get in my car, and my gas tank would be empty. On the road, chimpanzees would replace human drivers. It was raining or sleeting or snowing... EVERY MORNING! Or at least, that's how I saw my reality, at the time.

Recently, something changed. 

Something within me matured, thrived, and grew up. It's actually something I can't quite give a reasoning for, besides the fact that sometimes you just have to sit back and let time pass in your life. Sometimes when you're in a funk, that's all you can do; Allow time to pass in order to gain perspective and inner resolution.

Lately, I don't mind mornings. In fact, I enjoy waking up, getting out of bed, and seizing the day. 

Different brand of coffee, you ask? Possibly. 

But, sometimes it just feels better to push yourself, rather than embrace the lazy angel scheming on your shoulder. Don't get me wrong, being lazy feels fabulous and sometimes, it's just what the doctor ordered. But, I just don't feel the need to bask in an aroma of procrastination as much as I used to.

This morning, I felt freakishly calm, happy, and at peace. Maybe it was the gorgeous sun beaming over the city's skyline, maybe it was the moderate morning temperature outside, maybe it was the shoes I decided to wear. Whatever it was, it was working in my favor. To give you a visual, it was like I was Grace Kelly, pink flowing scarf and immaculate white gloves, driving endlessly in a convertible (although, I am Nicole and I drive a Hyundai, but you feel me?).

For no reason in particular, none of the annoyances that had previously erked me were able to get under my skin. And then, the beauty of the morning pushed me towards a realization. 

I want to do more. And I should. I want to see more. And I really should! More sunsets, more mountains, more concerts, more life. I live in a country jam-packed with a plethora of gorgeous sights to see and wonderful people to meet. I'm going to start watching the sun rise in the morning and I'm going to gaze at the stars at night. I'm going to listen to water washing up on a shore, whenever the chance is presented. Maybe, I'll even ride an elephant one day... who knows?!

After this morning, I feel inspired to experience everything beautiful that this world has to offer me. And I'll be damned if I don't!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014


For Catholics, Ash Wednesday is the "Launch Party" for a season in the church called Lent, during which we prepare for Easter Sunday, a celebration of God sacrificing his son Jesus, in order for our humanly sins to be forgiven, and that son coming back to us after his death in order to save the world.

Sounds positively wonderful, right? 

Well... unfortunately, when you ask most Catholic's about Lent, the most common response is one of misery and irritability. And it's understandable that some of us feel this way. We are human... we like to have our cake and it, too. We like to take the easy way out of tricky situations. We like luxury. No one instinctually desires to live a life of desolation and poverty, and that's almost what it feels like you are doing when you choose a Lenten promise for yourself. By mid-Lent, many Catholics come to mass, looking like this guy...

Lent has a tendency to make some of us feel raggedy, pained, and dismal. Surprisingly, and to the shock of many, this is the opposite of how you should be portraying yourself during this time. If you read my last post about Lent, you know, I myself, have been guilty of this in the past.

Yes, we should use this time to make sacrifices for the purpose of showing God how much he means to us, however... complaining, griping, and moaning about how miserable you are and how much you are craving chocolate doesn't really show your love to anyone who you are  attempting to make a sacrifice for, much less The Creator of Heaven and Earth.

Though, I'm not big on quoting the bible, simply because it can be difficult for non-bible enthusiasts to understand, I think the message that this verse provides is important to keep in mind during this time of the year.

“And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you." - Matthew 6:16-18

It's so easy to lose sight of why we are doing what we are doing during Lent

So... right now, today, in this very moment, I want you to forget what you know and what you think you know about Lent. No, I'm no expert and I've never been to the Vatican, but my gut tells me this... (and like Olivia Pope from Scandal would say, "Trust your gut.")

Lent is a time to begin a new journey. The idea of this journey may have been in the back of your mind, tucked away,  and almost forgotten because you know that as this journey comes to life, you will be faced with many difficult decisions and forks in the road. One path will appear to be easier, more comfortable, and will take you right back to where you started, but the other, which will appear to be more difficult, will lead you to the place where you have the ability to become the best version of yourself.

It doesn't matter if you are Catholic, a follower of Christ, or lost somewhere in translation. We all have burdens that we bare daily, and the thing is, we have the ability to lift them, if we put in the time and effort, and decide to endure the uncomfortableness that comes with making a life change.

Maybe you haven't spoken to your mother in years and you can't even remember the reason why. Maybe you haven't treated a co-worker as nicely as you should because of one negative incident at work. Maybe you have the resources to donate to a local food bank monthly, but instead you treat yourself to a pedicure. Maybe your drug addiction has distanced you from your children. Maybe you haven't visited a friend who is sick in the hospital because it makes you feel uncomfortable and scared. Maybe you need to ask forgiveness or forgive someone from your past. Whatever is keeping the best version of yourself away from your loved ones and those who you surround yourself with... let it go. 

Now is the time. Do something different to make a positive change. Of course, making this conscious decision to leap into the unknown is the scariest decision you will ever make. It's a big risk. But the bigger risk is what you will lose in your relationships, if you don't try. 

I truly believe in the "ripple effect". If you show love and kindness to one person, that love will radiate to more places than you can imagine.

Isn't that what life is about? It's not about you living the way you see fit. It's about living in such a way that you are positively effecting the lives of others. And that is how you show God that you truly care. 

So, as we enter this Lenten season, I encourage you to make a selfless change that will benefit another person's life, because I think that is the kind of sacrifice we are called to make and that change is one we should continue to embrace, even after Lent is through.
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