Saturday, August 24, 2013

Patchy Ground Fog

                           Patchy Ground Fog      
Yesterday morning I took a last summer ride past Adirondack lakes, streams and meadows, which were all obscured by some patchy ground fog.  And today I am back in Las Vegas getting set to be a visiting professor at UNLV.  That fog was tricky – I could almost see through it, but not clearly enough to be certain what was really on the other side.  And that was how I felt making this trip from all that I've known before into the unknowns of academia.

I guess it’s always like that when you start something new – new house, new pets, new friends, new colleagues, new relationships, or a new job.  While I sort of know what’s coming, I can’t yet see everything clearly enough to feel competent or confident: academia is certainly different from my corporate past, and students are similar but different from children and employees.   And while I think I know what’s ahead, I can’t see things clearly enough to entirely alleviate the natural anxiety associated with trying or starting something new. It really is like peering through the fog.

So even though I’d driven those same roads many times and knew where they ultimately ended up, I was still uncertain about what was ahead through that fog. Similarly, I can see the connections between all I’ve done in the past and what I might teach in the classroom, but not having been at this school or on this faculty before I am uncertain what this will really be like. Isn’t that always the case when trying something new?  And isn’t something new, by its very nature, somewhat obscured (like looking through a fog)?

The answer is yes – but that should never stop us from taking on new challenges and opportunities, and striking out into the unknown.  Because if we never try something new we’ll never know how far we can really go; if we never walk into the fog, we’ll never know what’s really out there.  Those are the challenges, and blessings, of life.  I am thrilled, excited, and a little nervous about what it will all look or be like when the patchy ground fog of this transition burns off in the rays of tomorrow’s sun.

My message this week is about having the courage to try new things:

“You cannot discover new oceans unless you have the courage to lose sight of the shore.” Andre Gide

Discover anything new lately? Most of us spend our days and nights reliving and repeating the same lessons we learned long ago, but if we’re lucky something new and exciting sometimes comes along.  When that happens, we have a chance to learn new lessons and practice new techniques.  You have to be open to these new lessons, and not afraid to admit what you don’t know: the only chance you’ll ever have to create and discover new opportunities is when you leave the known behind and strike out in search of the unknown.   So learn something new today, and then use that new-found knowledge to do something great!

Stay well!

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Remembering a Best Friend

                  Remembering a Best Friend
Willie was a great dog.  I say “was” because we had to put him to sleep this week: he bit someone for the second time, and dogs only get one bite at that kind of apple.

Willie was a Jack Russell terrier: full of life….maybe too full.  They are a rather precocious and assertive breed, and he was the prototypical alpha male dog:
  • Had to do things his way: touchy to the point of being spooky, almost like telling us his was the only way. 
  • He was smart: so smart that he only would do the things that he chose to do, and he had his way of letting us know just what those things were. 
  • He expected small treats for nearly everything, and if you didn’t comply, he’d wait until forever until you did. 
  • He was always worried about missing out on something – and every time we’d get ready to go for a walk he had to run back inside to have one more morsel of the food in his dish.
  • He always let you know that his job was to clean the dinner plates, and he’d climb into the dishwasher if you forgot to include him in that chore.
  • He slept on the pillows rather than on all the doggie beds we bought….to him, those were for, well, dogs. 
  • And he surely never thought of himself as a dog - in his mind, he was as human as the rest of us, and he was always reminding us of that….in his own unique language. 
Sometimes he got jumpy when someone would invade his space.  It wasn’t all the time, or with everyone, and we were never able to figure out when he would arbitrarily decide to enforce that inner rule.  That was when his bite got worse than his bark. Over the years he bit us, but I guess we were willing to accept that as we would any other regular family fight.  At those times he’d be contrite, and because of his unquestioned devotion to us we forgave him, even though deep down we were unable to forget.

The first time he bit one of our nieces, we tried to modify his behavior: medicine, muzzles, stern lectures……none of those worked on Willie (and come to think of it, those same kinds of remedies never seem to work on any of the other alpha-type people we know either).  The second time, this past week, we came face to face with the limited choices left open to us: once was maybe okay; but twice was too many.  That’s a rule that applies to so many things in life, for dogs and humans alike.

So we took him to a wise and trusted Vet, and after much discussion we realized what had to be done.  We cried at the choices left open to us, because to us he was, and would always be, the best friend who loved us unconditionally. 

We are stunned at how quickly he left us, and we’re surely going to miss him.   As we drove home in silence we couldn’t help but wonder why these same kinds of rules don’t apply to all the other alpha people in life?  But be that as it may, life, and the memories he left us, will go on.

So instead of a message this week, here are a few quotes to tell you how we feel about losing a cool dog, a close companion, and a real best friend:

“. . . owning a dog always ends with sadness because dogs just don't live as long as people do.” John Grogan, Marley and Me: Life and Love With the World's Worst Dog


“Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole.” Roger A. Caras


“When it comes time to die, let us not discover that we have never lived.” Henry David Thoreau

and lastly:

“Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened.” Dr. Seuss

Thanks for the memories Willie. 

Stay well!