Like It or Not, You Are Your Pet’s Parent

Like It or Not, You Are Your Pet’s Parent

I do not call myself my cat’s ‘mom’ or ‘furmom’ as some these days identify. I don’t consider my pet a person or anything like that. I did not birth this animal. I did not adopt through a process that would require me to make sure my entire life and home will be tailored specifically to the care of this animal (I don’t know the entire adoption process for children but I’m gonna go out on a limb and say it’s a lot more intensive than getting a cat).

But I am still my cat’s parent.

“What?” You might ask. “How can you say you’re not a pet parent yet say you are a pet parent?”

What does a parent do for their child? They love, feed, teach, admonish, and encourage. They make sure they’re eating properly, they take them to the doctor when they’re sick, they correct negative behavior, and when the child is young or nonverbal, they have to be in tune with every aspect of the child’s life to keep them healthy. Parents have to use tough love sometimes in order to keep their child safe, they have to get good care for the kid when they can’t take care of them for a time. There’s a lot more but I’ll stop there.

What does a pet owner do for their pet? They love, feed, teach, correct, and encourage. They make sure they’re eating properly, they take them to the vet when they’re sick, they have to use tough love sometimes in order to keep them safe. They have to find good care when they can’t take care of them for a time. They have to be in tune with every aspect of the pet’s life to keep them healthy.

See some similarities? The difference being that most children grow up and are able to tell parents what’s going on. My cat can’t tell me how her day was like a teenager can. An animal is voiceless. They cannot tell you where they are hurt, they cannot tell you why they’re acting out, they can’t point out their abuser, they can’t talk out their stress, etc. The only one who can speak for your pet is you. You have to know your pet. You have to understand what their actions mean. You have to tell the vet what’s been going on in their life. You have to make judgments based on what is best for them without knowing if they like those choices or not.

There’s a cheesy quote out there about how your pet may be only one part of your world but you are your pet’s entire world. It’s usually painted over a picture of an adorable puppy or kitten to tug at your heart strings. Despite the emotional ploy to get you to share/like, this quote is true. My cat knows nothing beyond me and my family. She doesn’t have connections outside this house. She can’t choose to leave. She didn’t come here because she wanted to. This is the only world she knows. How can I willingly choose to hurt or abandon her? She can’t call the police on me, she can’t talk to friends about the care she’s receiving. And why would she? I feed her and love her and she seems happy with that. I know she’s happy because I pay attention to her. I spend time with her. Animals have relationships with their owners just as people have relationships with each other.

Committing to care for the life another living creature is a big thing. It’s not something that you should ever choose on a whim. A cat is a 12 to 18 year commitment and a dog is similar depending on the breed. That is literally like having a child. If you’re not ready to take care of an animal for the rest of its life, don’t get one.

If I am no longer able to care for my cat then it is my responsibility to make sure she is still cared for. If I knew I wouldn’t be able to take care of her for more than the next few months and I spent that time deliberating over whether or not to take her to a shelter, she wouldn’t know. I can prepare myself for that day. I can make myself feel better about the decision. I can say goodbye. She can’t. I am her whole world and when I walk into that shelter all she knows is that it’s a new, loud, scary place with people she doesn’t know and strange animal smells everywhere. She would look to me for security and safety in this new place but suddenly I’m not there. (I understand that circumstances change but at the same time I feel like it can be an excuse to drop animals off at shelters. Find a new home yourself, where you can keep in touch with the new owners to make sure the animal is well cared for.)

Do you remember when you were six and lost sight of your parent in the grocery store? Can you recall that moment of total panic while a million horrible scenarios ran through your mind? Multiply that by ten and perhaps you will feel what an animal feels when suddenly the person who was supposed to be there, the ONLY person they have known for most of their life, leaves them with no explanation.

I am not against people finding new homes for pets they can absolutely no longer care for. But I think that people should be more responsible in the first place. An animal is a commitment, not a fling.  It’s a long term relationship. It’s not having a child, but it’s like having a child. You are responsible for that animal. Whether you like it or not, you are that pet’s parent, their only voice in this world. Act like it.

Maybe Got Scammed, Maybe Don’t Care

Maybe Got Scammed, Maybe Don’t Care

He came up to me and my sister at the mall (almost walked past us), said he was stranded, trying to get to some town an hour and a half away. Had his wife and two-year-old in the car. Said he tried to use his military ID at Sears to get some kind of discount. No cash. Ten or twelve dollars would probably get them home.

I don’t really believe his story. He has literally EVERY emotional trigger you could have in a story, veteran, father, husband, stranger far from home, stranded. Part of me wants to believe him. I want to help a person in need. So I gave him five bucks.

A nice, older gentleman came up to us after the other guy walked away, “Did he ask you for money? He had just asked me.”

“Yeah, I gave him five bucks.”

“Seemed like he was looking for something else, like a fix. Did you see how he was sweating.”

I shrug. “Five bucks is no skin off my nose.”

We walk away.

I realize, I don’t really care if I gave five dollars to a drug addict. I don’t care if I gave five dollars to a devoted husband just trying to get his family home. I don’t care. Because if I care then I have to analyze and figure out if he was telling the truth or not. I have to justify my actions to myself. I have to make myself believe I did the right thing. But you don’t have to do any of that if you just don’t care about the whole situation.

I was going to say no. Was gonna tell him to move along, especially when he brought up the two-year-old kid in the car. Like, dude. You already had me, I’m grabbing some ones, less is more. But I didn’t. It’s that part of me that wanted to believe him. I’ve been solicited for money before and I’ve said no before. I’m not irresponsible. But I’ve heard far too may stories of people at their lowest, just absolute rock bottom, who were helped by begging ten bucks off a stranger and that ten bucks saved their life. I don’t think I saved any lives. Then again, maybe I did. I’ll never know.

But I’m totally okay with that.

Honestly, I’m a very cynical person. The world is bleak. The economy sucks, my job prospects suck, the presidential candidates suck, environmentally we’re in shambles, the world is infected with war, poverty, hunger; I don’t need more reasons to distrust humanity. Humans are, on the whole, vile. So when a person appearing in need comes up to me and says all he needs is a few bucks to make his life a little better, I figure I can spare some change. Even though I don’t believe a word that comes out of his mouth, I don’t care. I need to give him the five dollars probably more than he needs it.

So in the end, I gave an untrustworthy person a few dollars because I selfishly need to think that it’s possible he used that money for something good. I acknowledge that it’s also possible he used it for something bad. But I choose not to care either way. I’ll never know and I’ll not dwell on it beyond this. God didn’t call me to be kind only when I’m absolutely sure that everything is going to go perfectly well. He called me to show love and that gets harder and harder every day. Like I said, I don’t do this every day, I don’t hand out money to every person who asks. I research charities before I give, I spend carefully, I try to give material possessions to ensure things will be used and not money spent irresponsibly. But then occasionally times come when you must act and don’t have time to deeply consider (Note: in these times, be responsible with your money. If the guy had asked for twenty, I would have said no without thinking. He asked for a small amount that isn’t going to affect me in the long run).

The more I think about it, the more selfish I become. I did it for myself, not him. I can’t let my only glimmer of kindness toward humanity flicker into darkness just because someone MIGHT not be legitimately in need right this moment. Just because there are people out there who don’t need the money doesn’t mean there aren’t people out there who do need it. I can’t let the scammers and drug addicts take away my ability to give. They’ll know we are Christians by our love. And if that love is giving a guy five dollars in the mall because he needs it more than I do, then so be it.

Don’t Let Words Bother You

Don’t Let Words Bother You

Word are symbols and symbols only have the power given them. In studying literature, I learned all about symbolism and how it’s used and, what stuck with me most, that a really good symbol is one the author doesn’t realize they’re writing. If you write a symbol on purpose then it’s probably going to feel forced and unauthentic. The best symbols are often unintended. Which explains why English is as crazy as it is.

Language is crazy. It’s all about symbols. The old, if I write D-O-G on a board, that’s not a dog. It’s a symbol that means an often furry, four-footed mammal of the canine variety. Or maybe you thought of a male human being that tends to commit adultery. Or maybe you thought of the verb form of the word which means to chase.

Of course, if I had given you this context, “He’d been disappearing at night again, the dog.” Then you would have immediately known what I meant by D-O-G.

But symbols only have power, only have meaning, because we give it to them. A flag only means America because we say it does. The fabric, dye, and stitching has no consciousness and no real meaning beyond what we say it is. A curse word is only offensive because someone decided it was offensive. The word itself has no meaning beyond what is assigned. I lived a fairly sheltered life and when I started at the public high school I heard plenty of words I had never encountered before. The funny thing is that the majority of what I heard was benign and didn’t mean anything bad. But because I didn’t know the meaning I just assumed the worst.

Obviously I eventually learned the meanings behind those symbols. But when I did, they didn’t mean anything to me. The offensive words and scenarios were no more shocking to me than the completely safe words and scenarios that I just hadn’t understood because I hadn’t learned them in a context that would have taught me how offensive they were.

There are a lot of words that offend people and I both get it and don’t. I’m personally offended when people use God’s name disrespectfully. I take it VERY personally. I don’t often tell people to stop unless they are either close friends or someone I will have to be around often who uses His name a lot. What I’m saying is that while I’m deeply offended (and dare I say a little hurt), I don’t show it unless it becomes unbearable. So people think I’m not offended by it when I am. Sometimes that means they use God’s name indiscriminately, sometimes that means they use it rarely.

For me, it’s enough. If I think the person cares, I ask them to not. If I don’t think they care, then I don’t because I don’t think it’ll make any difference. For others though, words need to be banned. Don’t say it! Don’t even think it! Think of the children!

Here’s the thing, the sensitive little angels that we call children are already working on coming up with the next most offensive word. Because that’s how language evolves. So maybe just chill out about the F-bomb and the newer-ish C-word. It’ll pass. When I was little the word damn was still offensive but on it’s way to regular, unoffensive use. By now I’m not sure there are many people who find it horribly offensive.

Part of me wants to say that if you just ignore a word you find offensive then it’ll eventually go away. It’s true of many but not all words through history. Racial slurs seem to run along no matter what but maybe part of that is because they’re still taken seriously. If you don’t give a symbol power, it has no power and people will have to find something else. And the cycle continues. Eventually society is so used to the word that it doesn’t matter to anyone.

When you hear of that shiny new swear word. The word that means eighty five horrible things, take a breath. Let it pass. If you want it to go away, don’t take it seriously. Maybe it’s apathetic of me. Maybe it’s not the ideal way to get past these words. Or maybe I’m an undiscovered genius and I’ve found the way to get rid of all the bad things in the world.

Should High School Students Read YA Literature In the Classroom?

Should High School Students Read YA Literature In the Classroom?

 

I remember high school. The good old days.

*Insane laughter*

*Wipes tears away*

Okay so high school was pretty okay for me. I kept to myself mostly and I was just smart enough that the really smart kids liked me and I was just straight-laced enough that all the questionable kids avoided me. Smooth sailing really because with that combination I avoided almost all the drama that so slogs down teen lives.

I was reading an older article that talks about old, classic, canon literature vs. new, YA literature and which should or shouldn’t be taught in the classroom. On the one hand, students find it difficult to relate to classic literature and it is hard to read, on the other hand, we should be teaching challenging literature or what’s the point? How are teachers supposed to get students interested and willing to read but not ‘dumb down’ the literature?

I remember, to this day, the works I hated reading in high school, Romeo and Juliet, To Kill A Mockingbird, and Of Mice and Men are the first to come to mind. I also remember the works I loved: Hamlet, Their Eyes Were Watching God, and Things Fall Apart were all great. There’s something really interesting about these things I remember though because the first were books we read in 9th grade, the last we read in 11th or 12th (can’t remember exactly).

I LOVED reading in high school and actually spent my entire sophomore English class sitting out of the way reading books and I still passed with flying colors (my teacher was awesome and I loved him, as long as I was getting good grades and participated when necessary, he didn’t care if I quietly read novels instead of listened to lectures). Yet I hated the works we read early on in high school. It doesn’t make any sense because if you look at it they deal with some of the same themes: suicide, mental illness, death, honor, loyalty, etc. These are common themes but when presented in 9th grade they sucked.

Perhaps, really, that’s the bigger question when it comes to what high school students should or shouldn’t be reading. The discussion usually goes something like this:

“This book has content that’s way too mature for a 14 year old high school student!”

“I agree! Ban it from all high schools!”

But wait, guys! There are 17 and 18 year old high schoolers! Don’t they deserve to read something at their level? They can definitely handle the canon by now! I think that maybe those who make decisions on books forget that half the students in a high school are 16+ and are capable of processing more complex, and darker, topics.

The books I vividly remember from high school are not particularly shocking (or at least I did not find them so when I read them). But I didn’t like anything I had to read until about 11th grade and I think that’s in large part because I wasn’t ready to read those works. I wasn’t ready to decipher Shakespeare but I would probably have been able to discuss character building in The Hunger Games. I wasn’t able to find the subtly in To Kill A Mockingbird but I could’ve spoken for hours about culture in A Girl Named Disaster. I know many students who had no problem figuring out the themes and meanings in these books but I know a lot of students who also hated them with a fiery passion I cannot rival.

I don’t think that using newer, YA novels is dumbing down the curriculum. On the contrary, I think it is exceptionally helpful to have more accessible works, mostly for younger students. I know I felt like my English classes sort of just threw us into the fray and we had to claw our way to the surface in order to understand anything. I had a good grasp once I hit later works, but see that’s the point isn’t it? I could’ve been led in gently and loved going deeper and deeper as my understanding and skill grew.

I want to give a shout out here to my high school Creative Writing teacher. She did this project where you got to choose three books to read during the semester and you had to analyze each to a certain extent. One book had to be a classic, I’ve forgotten the second one’s requirement (Sorry, WK!), and the last was one you got to pick. No strings attached, just choose a book, read it, and analyze it. I love that she did that. It was a small thing but I think it’s a powerful tool to show students that any book can be a learning experience.