Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Cars (Not The Band) and Tom Petty

My boyfriend loves cars. Loves 'em. Ab-sa-freaking-lutely loves 'em. One night at our local bar, I swear, I listened to him talk so passionately about cars with a total stranger for close to 2 hours that I'm unsure if he took a sip of his beer or even paused to take a breath during the entire duration of the conversation.

I mean... yeah, cars are cool...obviously. They get you where you need to go fast. They smell amazing (sometimes). You feel a sense of pride when you purchase your first one, and are saddened when the time comes to sell your favorite.

Car commercials where dads are sending their daughters off to college never really tugged at my heart strings enough to make me want to buy that brand of automobile, though. I never really got why so many car companies made commercials so sappy, so cheesy, so family oriented. Until this morning.

Tom Petty died last night. Awesome segue, huh?

Tom Petty died last night and I'm really sad about it. I almost feel foolish for admitting that. Especially after I told my boyfriend that Tom Petty died, and his response was, "Who's Tom Petty?" (Love you, Drew!) 😉

... Apparently, Tom Petty's music wasn't as impactful on some other people's lives and memories as it was on mine.

His music didn't pull me out of a deep depression, nor did it spark an inspiration for a future career in the rock music industry, despite my numerous attempts to convince my mother that I actually am a decent singer. But, his music will always mean a great deal to me.

As many daughters do, I spent most Novembers and Decembers with my mom driving around town Christmas shopping. When I am older, I won't remember the stores we went to, or the items and gifts we purchased during these excursions. What I will remember is the drive there and the drive home; listening to the radio, and "Breakdown" by Tom Petty coming through the speakers. My mom immediately recognized it, and cranked the volume up as far as the speakers would allow. This was the same mom who was constantly nagging me to turn MY music down because it was too loud. It startled me. I looked over at my mom and there was something different about her while she was listening and singing along. Her previous structured, by-the-book driving, became a bit more relaxed and she gracefully changed lanes, weaving to-and-fro as she came across cars traveling at a lesser speed. She knew every word of the song. It was like she was back in her first car, a young woman without a care in the world. Her eyes looked beyond the road and held a glimmer that I'd never seen before in my mom. You know, she was just "Mom" before. She was the woman who drove me to softball games and begged me to clean my room and yelled at me up the stairs to turn my music down. Now, this car ride made her an identifiable person to me. A person who was more than just my mom. A person who had a life before me, who had feelings just like I had, who let music transcend and take her to a different place and time.

When I first learned to drive, my brother (who cannot drive) bought himself a small pick-up truck, and that was the truck that I (as a newly licensed driver) was to drive my brother around in, to whatever destination he so pleased. Brian, my brother, played air guitar in that truck to "Running Down a Dream" by Tom Petty, pretty much on a weekly basis. And you know what? At the stop lights, I played along with him. We jammed HARD in that truck.

When we were kids and we had to drive to Southern Ohio for family gatherings, the biggest challenge my family faced was what music to listen to during the drive down. At the time, it felt like we were crammed into the car like sardines; my brother's boney elbow digging into my side and my little sister was touching me... TOUCHING ME!! She had some nerve. That alone is enough to drive an 11 year old off the edge. I'm sure with our arguing, bickering, and whining, the inside of the car probably resembled more of a zoo's primate exhibit than a family car-ride. However, do you know what song we always agreed on, no matter what, and sung harmoniously like we were the freaking Von Trap family singing "So Long, Farewell"? It was Tom Petty's, "I Won't Back Down". In those moments while that song was playing, there was peace and there was happiness in the world. Or at least there was in the Zuefle family Volkswagon.

He was no saint, he was an ordinary man. He went through the fame, fortune, and struggles that come along with those American dreams that most people never come close to achieving. I did not worship the man like he was a god, but I can't help but feel a bittersweet loss and nostalgia today. I will always remember the times spent growing up with my family and listening to Tom Petty... a time before smart phones, and iPads, and Netflix. A time when singing music with meaningful lyrics and dancing in the kitchen with your family was the normal way to spend your evenings. Do families do that anymore? Without having a cell phone in hand and immediately posting the video of the very personal family memory on Instagram? I know I am just as guilty of this as anyone, but it truly amazes me that I can so vividly recollect these memories of jamming in the car with my family, without the aid of a video on a phone.

This is why I am sad that Tom Petty died. And this is why now I understand why car companies make sappy car commercials.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

The Prodigal Blogger... that's me!

I haven't blogged in over 2 and a half years... and I'm not even sure why I've decided to blog again today.

I guess I'm growing extremely tired of the overabundance and relentlessness of depressing "literature" and "news" on social media over the past few months, (though I know I'm reading it all of my own free will). I just feel the need to put something out there that probably won't start an argument among my friends and family. Who knows? Maybe this post will lead to the 10 millionth great Facebook debate of 2017 between political Facebook experts, but for all of your sake, I really hope it will be much to the contrary.

I haven't blogged in 2.5 years because I've been pretty busy living, learning, coping, growing, dealing with a whole lot. I'd like to emphasize the living portion of that last sentence. How cliche...

Yes, cliche, but also... it's the truth. So, here's some quick updates on my life: nephews and nieces were born, and stole my heart. A long term relationship ended, and independence was found. My mind learned to not dwell on the past and my heart learned what truly made it beat. Weight was lost. A LOT OF WEIGHT. Debts were paid.

A house was purchased.
  A house was gutted.
 A house caused many headaches and sleepless nights.
 A house was made beautiful.
 A house was made a home.

Love was found, during the most unexpected time, but in the most wonderful of ways.

Then, I got happy fat... again... which is ok. Just currently need to hit the treadmill and lay off the Milky Way's and craft beer is all.

Also, a lot of scary stuff has happened. A billionaire with little-to-no social awareness/politeness was elected president, social injustices came to the very forefront of every form of media known to man, hurricanes destroyed homes/lives... and that is just a small sample of what has happened within this past year. The year and half before that seems like a distant, murky memory, as I sit and type this.

This is what I know: People are mad. People are angry. People are scared. People are hurt. So much more right now, than I can remember in the past 29 years of my life.

I'm not going to stir any pots and I'm not going to state my opinions on any issue, because 1.) I am no expert, 2.) I hate arguing with people (it's just not in my nature), and 3.) I'm tired.

It seems many have forgotten that the point of an argument is not to see who is right or who is wrong and hand out a hearty, newsworthy pat on the back to the "victor", but to resolve a real problem in the best possible manner.

So... what I will talk about is the fact that today marks 3 years since I adopted my friend, Sampson.

Everyone likes dogs, right?! Ok, fine... maybe not everyone. But come on, work with me, people.

You know what's funny? My last blog post was about my dog, as well. I think it's because in times when I feel like I need to get stuff off my chest, he reminds me that life has the potential to be very simple. I recently watched a documentary about a lifestyle called Minimalism, which is exactly what it sounds like... living your life with minimal extras; minimal "fluff".  


I think many people don't realize what's important in life until the important things are stripped from them, for whatever reason, (i.e. relationships with loved ones/family members) and all you're left with to comfort you is actually just "fluff".

I mean honestly, sit down and ask yourself, "What do I actually need to bring happiness to my life?"

For me, I need clean water... preferably the running kind. And food. And safe shelter. And love. A little money helps to make sure my water isn't shut off and I have heat during ridiculous Ohio winters. I need my parents. I need my siblings. Friends are cool. My boyfriend makes me laugh and feel wanted. My family provides me with good advice. My dog is my protector and companion. That's it. That's honestly all I need. Maybe a bed. And some playing cards.

But seriously, for true happiness, I honestly don't believe I would need much more than that.

Do I need the new iPhoneX to be able to comfort my mother when she upset because her sister has recently passed away of a terrible illness? No. Do I need 400 cable channels (that I don't even watch) when my sister needs help with her injured toddler because her husband who is in the military has to leave for training for weeks on end? No. Do I need a new designer purse for every season or yearly vacations to the Caribbean in order to sit and listen to a friend who is trying to hold it together during a difficult time when many people would just completely fall apart? No.

When I was watching this documentary and going over all the things I need and don't need, my mind kept going back to Sampson. My dog needs nothing more than water, food, exercise, shelter, and companionship. Not only does he not need any more in life than that, but he literally desires nothing more than that. When I decided to get a dog, I found his picture on Pet Finder, went to the shelter where he was being held, had a mini panic attack from hearing hundreds of dogs wailing in sterile, cold cages, paid for Sampson, I signed some papers, and I got the heck out of there and never looked back.

My dog went through a struggle, like most people do at some point in their life. He had no idea if he would ever make it past that misery, if he would ever have a decent home and a friend again. He wasn't promised anything. I had no idea the impact I would have on this dog's life, honestly. I just wanted a dog. When I heard his story of how he came to the shelter, it broke my heart but also made me elated that I could just provide him a good, healthy, loving home. Nothing extravagant, nothing grandiose, just some warmth and water and food. Maybe a tennis ball, here and there. The thing is, that was all he needed to feel like himself again.

What we need more than anything right now is companionship and simplicity, to feel like ourselves again.

I don't know... maybe there's more to it than that.

But I think that's a great start for people who are feeling lost and helpless and afraid during these times. Simplify your life. Purge the fluff, the frill, the negativity. Spend time with your friends. Listen first, and then talk once you've thought about what is actually important to say.

Chew on a tennis ball. That's what helps Sampson when he's feeling stressed.

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.
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