What is the difference between falling in love and being in love?

Love is a difficult topic to write about. It’s hard because it’s nearly impossible to verbalize, and almost certainly different for every single person. Also, I personally feel that people that write about love as though they know what’s best sound conceited, self-important, and invariably detached from the reality of other people.

That being said, several questions on this list revolve around the topic of love, and so it is time to tackle the topic head on. And so I am writing with an obvious focus on what is true for my life, my marriage, and the limited knowledge that I have of other people’s relationships.

Falling in love, for me, is infuriatingly easy. I am a product of the 1990’s, of the Richard Curtis generation of Romantic Comedies, and the generation where paupers become princesses. I also grew up knowing a great deal of love: love from my family, love from my friends, and love from the community that I grew up in. Love was a constant in my life, I never felt the absence of it, nor the need to seek it out. I also saw many young girls in my high school getting pregnant, but never really talk about “love”. Sex was the appeal in my high school class, not romance, but I always felt connected with the notion of recreating some epic, literature-worthy affair of the heart. I easily found out that teenage boys are easy to create romance around, they are blank canvases that allow themselves to become pictures of whatever we girls want them to be.

It’s easy to love as a teenager, because falling in love is about hope, and need, and fear. As an eighteen year old setting off for college I was full of hope and full of fear, I was also in need of comfort and security – so I took my high school boyfriend with me and he was my transition, and I his. Once we settled into a “new life” we gave each other up amicably: there was never any question about ever trying to retain anything past the hope and fear and need.

Fast forward ten years and I’m married – just past our four year anniversary – and I think that I fell in love with my husband for the same reasons as that first boyfriend: I was in a period of huge change, and he represented all of the hope, he calmed all of the fears, and he fulfilled all of my needs . He was a constant. In fact, the period of change that I was going through lasted several years, through our courtship, engagement, and marriage. I believe that however much we protested we were already “an old married couple”, we were still falling in love past our first anniversary.

In fact, in the years we have been married there have been periods when I have felt that we have fallen even more in love – we are currently going through one of those periods – and they all hinge around a trying time, a moment when one of us is scared, hopeful, or in need. I think that falling in love doesn’t happen once, I think that it happens cyclically, and that being in love is the quiet and patience between the “falling”, and the trust and faith that the cycle will repeat.

Of course, I have explained this theory to my friends in the past, and I don’t know that anyone has ever 100% agreed with me. I think my theory scares people as it suggests that marriage is only made strong through challenges – I know a lot of people feel as though the best marriages are a calm and tideless sea. Like I said – love is such a personal thing, and I have no business speaking on behalf of other people or trying to counsel them to my way of thinking. But for me, and for my marriage, I think that this is how I would define the difference between falling in love and being in love.

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How Adopting a Dog Inspired Me

Starsky learning to smile!

Their names are Batman and Starsky, like the cartoon and the TV Show. But I call them Stinky, Scruffy, Stinky-Four-Paws, Paw-some the Hound, Scruffaluffagus, Monsieur Hound, Scruff McGruff, and Chunk. And they answer every time. They are my best friends, the only thing I am loyal to, and the number one topic of conversation in my life. My baby-dogs, my children. I have learned so much from having dogs: growing up we had cats, and I was always a “cat person”, I didn’t understand why everyone enthused about having a dog so much. sure, they’re cute, but they’re basically just cats that can’t look after themselves, right?

Wrong. And I didn’t realize how wrong I was until Batman was placed unexpectedly into my arms. He’s basically never left. Even now, three and a half years later as I write this, he is laying morosely on my feet – he wants to go outside, but he’s mad because I won’t go with him and he won’t leave me. Batman was not, regrettably, a “rescue dog”. My husband and I stumbled across him at one of those pet store events where they have lots of puppies in a big pen. We weren’t even in the pet store for a reason – we were simply trying to walk off a big dinner and ducked into escape the heat. But Batman, literally, jumped into our lives, throwing himself off a high table in the process. It was love at first snuggle, and we left that store a lot poorer and a lot happier.

Over the last three and a half years I’ve started to believe that I really did “Rescue” Batman. All dogs need homes, after all, and my husband and I have been able to give him a fantastic life. As a Dachshund, we have kept him agile and exercised, not exposing him to some of the “cruel kindnesses” many uninformed owners do in error.

However, when the time came to find a second dog, our heart was set on adopting from a shelter. After nearly 18 months of visiting shelters on an almost weekly basis, my husband and I found Starsky. He was immediately the dog we were looking for. Four days later (he had to undergo surgery) we bought him home.

Rescuing an adult dog from an abused home was not without it’s problems. After an hour of having him at the house he managed to jump our back fence even with me standing only a few feet away from him. After a half hour of frantically tearing through the neighborhood yelling “come here, puppy” (he was unnamed at that point), I returned sobbing to the house to find him curled up next to the drivers side of my car. He wanted to go for a ride. In fact, for the first week the only way we could get him to enter the house was to drive him into the adjoined garage in the car and let him walk through the basement. But it’s a journey, and I’ve learned so many great things about our family, and the whole experience has inspired me in ways I wouldn’t have imagined. Here are some of my top unexpected bonuses from rescuing a dog:

  1. The love… oh, the love! Seems a little expected, but it had to make the list simply because of the amazing ability to love that dogs have. Starsky came from a home where he was clearly kicked and starved, but he came to us wanting to love. My husband and I joke that he doesn’t understand cuddling, and for weeks neither of us could comfortably pick him up despite him only weighing 12 lbs (he is now a healthier 15 lbs). When we would try and cuddle him he would get over-excited, desperately wantingto love, but not really knowing how to reciprocate.He also does this with Batman. Batman is always giving his “little brother” kisses, sniffs, and playful puppy ear tugs. Starsky generally freezes at these signs of affection, but every now and again he will work himself up and charge at Batman, trying to lick him all over. Fortunately, Batman isn’t easily put off, and see’s Starsky’s enthusiasm as endearing rather than frightening! One of the moments that bought actual tears of joy to my eyes was Starsky approached a sleeping Batman and curled up next to him on the couch, resting his chin on Batman’s back.
  2. Waking up is three times as awesome!When I was single waking up really was my least favorite thing to you. You know, all that dressing and combing and lack of conversation. When I got married, it got a bit easier with the husband and his ability to talk back, occasional “you look nice”, and sleepy recollections of his dreams about Transformers (Men!).The first morning we had Batman I woke up to the sound of hound-mewing: little tiny cries of “Mommy, I needs a pee!”, and – I’ll admit it – I rather grumpily picked him up and shuffled outside thinking “at least a cat can toilet itself”. However, potty time kind of became our thing, and pretty quickly my alarm would go off and I would immediately fling back the covers and head to the back door, four chubby puppy paws skidding behind me in anticipation. For the three years he was an “only child”, Batman and I’s morning stayed pretty much the same, we were on the same page.

    With Starsky we faced the challenge of trying to crate one dog while the other slept rather self-satisfied in the bed with us. After four mornings of waking up after 3 hours broken sleep to a basement covered in shredded dog bed I caved in and Scruffy joined the “big bed” gang. Now my morning ritual has been restored, only Batman’s four paws have been enhanced by the choir of Starsky’s paws skipping along side him. Eight paws of excitement!

  3. My husband is kind of a big deal.Some distant relative told me that you never know a man until you have children with him. I always believed that the opposite would probably work better. However, as far as dogs go, that relative was right. The hubs and I entered the venture of parenting together, but the second dog was really my idea – I wanted the sibling experience for Batman, and I thought it would appease my sense of guilt at working long hours.Our first few days with Starsky at home were exhausting, and I felt as though the hubs didn’t really support what it was we were doing. A couple of times I almost willed him to ask me to take the dog back, because I felt certain that’s what he wanted. But he persevered, and by the end of the first week it was a no brainer on whether the situation was improving.

    My beloved has done everything from clean up mid-night vomit, clip gnarly toenails, and clean our solid wood table for urine stains. He also routinely herds Starsky back towards the house when he escapes (that dog should have been called Houdini!).

    Skip forwards to today and Hubs and Starsky are thicker than thieves. Scruff McGruff howls with excitement when the spousal Jetta pulls into the garage, throwing himself with (rather alarming) joy at the door. He sits on the “male side” of the kitchen table, patiently waiting for dinner to finish, while Batman tries to beg, climb, and perform a soliloquy in order the forage food from my plate. Seeing my husband carrying Starsky around – he’s the only person trusted enough to do it, even more than ME – has really taught me a lot about my husbands capacity to love and adapt to situations, but also show me how far he will go to keep me happy. Although, I maintain, things that make me happy make my husband happy too… It’s part of marital law.

  4. Y’all need to get some exercise.I have always been a big fan of exercise, but recently have found myself at a point where I have not been able to work out for an inconvenient health reason. This makes me sad. Batman was always easy to exercise just in the house and the neighborhood, as he would run around the house and gardens until he collapsed. Starsky, however, is more of a natural sloth. He is bigger framed dog that his big brother, with much longer legs, but he will sit or lay down until he is actively engaged in some kind of activity.This need to actually participate in his exercise program, paired with the fact that he needs close supervision owing to an unidentified lameness in his back leg, has called for regular family walks. This makes me happy. Now I have a reason to get out and walk slowly without feeling like an unfit, flacid, almost-thirty something. If people wonder why I’m not running and give them the “look at my tiny, limping dog” look. It works every time.

    These walks have helped all of us – my knees are getting stronger, the husband is getting some fresh air, and we get plenty of time to talk. Batman gets the exciting world of five miles of other dog’s markings, and Starsky’s leg has improved to an almost perceptible shuffle in a few short weeks! Bonus!

  5. Are you mom enough?Yeah, sorry Time Magazine, I borrowed your sensationalist headline. Only I’m not talking about attachment parenting, I’m talking about adoption. This will sound completely gratuitous, but the sense of personal worth you get from adopting an animal – not just a dog – is amazing. Everyone should experience it, even if you just adopt a goldfish. I adopted a goldfish once. His name was gentle and he lived to be four years old by eating other goldfish. He was a bit of a bastard. But my point is, like the woman on the front cover of Time Magazine, you get to carry around a little piece of warmth in your heart knowing that, because of you, this animal is cared for and safe. No. Better. Feeling.One of the most surprising things that has happened to me is the sheer number of folks that come up to me to talk about Starsky and, after learning he was adopted, will thank me or shake my hand for choosing to adopt. People tell me all the time that they don’t have it in them to adopt, but that “would love to”. Do it. It’s a revolution, and we can all be heroes.

So that’s my five most important things I’ve learned and/or experienced through adopting my baby. This is also probably the longest-ass blog post of all time. My macbook is telling me we are over 1800 words, and my watch is telling me we are after 11pm.

So adieu, good world, I am settling into a bed filled with paws, snores, and amore (yeah, that one was pretty bad). If anyone reading this has an adoption story about a pet, not just a dog – I really do love cats too – please feel free to share. Spread the word!

Batman and Starsky being carried around by their Daddy!

Shoeboxes at Christmas

 

Children Opening Their Shoeboxes, courtesy of operationchristmaschild.org.uk

One of my favorite childhood traditions was putting together shoeboxes at Christmas. These shoeboxes were to be filled with gifts and sent to Africa where children would open them on Christmas morning, children who otherwise would have nothing.

Every year as sure as purchasing advent calendars and helping my father pot the tree came the choosing of the shoeboxes, usually stored away throughout the year whenever one of us got a new pair of boots or sensible Clarks sandals. We children would solemnly select our shoe box from the collection and then busy ourselves with imaging the child that would receive it. My mother always allowed us to choose the type of child that would receive our boxes (we could select between genders and from certain age categories), and would the help us choose appropriate gifts to put in the box. Of course, there were toys and books, but also we had to think of gifts like toiletries, clothing, medication.

As a family we would talk about what these children might need, and it was through these discussions that I first learned the difference between being poor and living in poverty. Looking back as an adult I realize that we didn’t have much growing up, although I failed to see it at the time, but there was always warm water and clean clothes, toothpaste, bandages, and sanitary products. These were the things I learned others did not have. I remember my mother teaching me about the differences between my hair type and the hair type of girls like me living in Africa, and helping me choose the right type of products to send over, as well as brightly colored hair clips to compliment their skin tones.

After our boxes were full we would wrap them in bright christmas paper, choose a christmas card and write a short message with a photograph of ourselves. My brother and sister typically just wrote “Merry Christmas” and signed their names, but I always wanted to write more, after weeks of thinking about this faceless child I felt a profound connection with them and wanted to express that. To this day I wish I had copies of those cards that I wrote aged six, or twelve, or fifteen.

This might sound like a strange Christmas tradition to a lot of people, especially a strange memory to rank in my favorites, but to me it symbolized Christmas. It was part of how we did things, and part of our Christmas day was talking about which toy we thought they would play with first, whether they liked the books we sent, and how we hoped they were able to be with their families as we were with ours. It may sound overly sentimental, but it was genuine to the point that I took the tradition to university, where I helped organize the Shoebox Appeal for our campus. The following years I made charitable donations to schools in the developing world instead of giving “conventional” Christmas gifts.

Why do I bring this up as one of my favorite memories? Why do I indicate this as one of the reasons I respect both my mother and father so much? Let me explain. Other than the previously mentioned fact that my family had very little monetary excess when I was a child, my parents managed to raise my brother, sister, and I in a way where giving was more exciting that receiving. Neither of my parents practice any religion, and yet they managed to educate us in the exact meaning of Christmas in a way that was applicable and appropriate to all three of us. Both my brother and sister are atheists, I am a Christian that chose to be baptised as an adult, and yet we still agree that Christmas should be celebrated in the way our parents taught us.

Of course, I have plenty of other favorite childhood memories, and plenty of other reasons to respect my parents, but this one seems the closest to my heart. Every time I buy a pair of shoes I am still loathe to throw away the box, I find myself ferreting them away in corners and daydreaming about wrapping paper, toothbrushes, and books. It is the spirit of Christmas to me, and I am reminded every year of how fortunate a child I really was.

 

 

To learn more about the Shoebox Appeal visit: http://www.operationchristmaschild.org.uk Visiting this website taught me a lot about how the mission has developed over the years. I wish they would start this in the United States

What is the difference between innocence and ignorance?

This question is pretty far down on the list, but it’s an issue that’s been prevalent in my recent life. One of my pet peeves in life is having to watch or hear about people who suffer as a result of their own ignorance – claiming selflessness as an excuse. I’m talking specifically about genetic illnesses or predispositions, and I’m going to start this on a personal note.

When I was fifteen years old my mother was diagnosed with late stage two breast cancer. She survived, thankfully, but her treatment was a number of years. In fact, I was in college when I was still visiting her in hospital. I had my own first mammogram before she even finished her treatment – I was eighteen. Some might argue that is radically young, even for someone with a cancer victim in the family, but I disagree. I knew my risks. I went on the pill when I was eighteen, and chose to come off when I was twenty-three because I knew the risks of continued use of hormonal birth control after a certain age.

When I was twenty I found a lump in my left breast and, even though it felt like a cyst, I still went to consult with a doctor to make sure. I could have ignored it, convinced myself it was nothing, and gone about my life. Fortunately, this lump was a simple cyst, something that flares up every month; however, it is something that we (the doctor and I) keep an eye on just in case.

I’ve heard mixed opinions on this topic, especially as I was raised in England where we have a national health system “free healthcare”. I’m going to be honest, when I went in for my cyst several people told me I was overreacting and using up valuable resources for trivial matters – after all, they argue, the odds of it being a cancerous lump were in the 0.00’s, even with my family medical history. What if, they argue, every person that had a cyst went to the doctor – imagine the wasted monetary resources. My argument is this – imagine if all the people that ignored their cancerous lumps went to the doctor when they first noticed them – how much money would we save in treatment costs? And, rather more importantly, how many lives would we save?

Now I’m going to look at someone else that I know, someone that I adore as if they were my own flesh and blood. This person is my parents age, has been of dubious health, and lost both her parents to diabetes. My friend refused to go to the doctor, even for the most uncomfortable thing, claiming to “not want to worry people” or “not be an inconvenience”. Eventually her family forced her to the doctor and she was immediately diagnosed with severe diabetes, her blood sugar levels were out of control. Her long term health has been ruined.

Everyone that knows her argues that she was a victim to her own selflessness, that she simply didn’t think it could be diabetes. I look at it differently – I think she acted out of fear, but also out of ignorance. She ignored the facts, ignored the symptoms, and ignored the risks. Even though she is in her sixties, she had never once had her vitals measured. She was not innocent in this case. Innocence is my good friend Suzann’s baby, Keyra, who was born to a diabetic mother. She is likely to develop diabetes at some time in her life – but when she asks for apple sauce or some other high-sugar treat, she is truly innocent of the risk to her. Of course, she is only one year old. If at sixteen (and after sixteen years of watching her mother inject insulin twice a day), she still demanded sugar, then she would be ignorant.

I know that people will disagree with me, or think I am being too harsh on these people – I don’t mean to sound cruel. My point is that as human beings we are the most informed that we have ever been – we have medical journals available on our smartphones, we have 24 hour numbers to call, we have decades and decades of medical knowledge and history helping us pre-empt our medical pitfalls. There is no excuse to be uninformed, to be ignorant, of our bodies. We owe our genetics a debt of life – we have the potential to life longer than any other generation, but we shrug off our bad choices saying we didn’t have the calorie count, and are allowing sticking our heads in the proverbial sand.

Would you break the law to save a loved one?

This question astounds me, simply because I struggle to conceive of an answer other than “of course”. Now, I’m not saying I would break EVERY law to save a loved one, or that I think it is right to break the law to save a loved one. I’m just saying I would do it. Just like jumping into a river to save a someone that is drowning – as a proficient swimmer I would know the risks associated, but every fibre of my body would throw me into that water. I couldn’t just sit and watch someone drown, I would honestly rather die trying to save them.

The idea of breaking the law to “save” a loved one is an interesting one. I’m assuming the questions is really designed around the concept of killing or hurting someone that is threatening a person that you care about, rather than, say, crossing a street illegally to tell a friend they are about to fall down a manhole. But then, acting in self defense isn’t actually a crime. So I think I’d need further clarification on exactly what thoughts – I’d be interested in other peoples opinon. What laws do you imagine having to break to save a loved one?

Beyond that, there isn’t really anything else I can say, except that I would do anything possible to save someone that I care about. I would also, I imagine, suffer from a terrible vengeful streak should the time arrive. I have no pretences of a Robin Hood style role for myself – I would probably turn myself over to the police if I were to do something like that. But if anyone did anything to take my family away from me, I would happily do the time in prison. My husband doesn’t think that I would actually think this way in that situation, but I’m pretty sure I would. He doesn’t have siblings, he doesn’t “get” it.

I think that, as a person, I would be so damaged if I stood by and watched something terrible happen without trying everything within my power to aid or resist it. The people that I love sustain who I am, and contribute to my sanity, peace of mind, and outlook on society. If someone takes that away from me, I’m a goner anyway.

Of course, I am saying all of this at a point in my life when I have no dependents (except the hubs, but I’m sure he could survive without me…. just). I know that those people fortunate enough to have children would probably approach this differently – that anything that risks jeopardising their life, freedom, or health would be an impossible option. Their choice is keeping the law to save and protect loved ones. It’s a similar responsibility.

I really am interested in other people’s responses to this question. Maybe it’s not so black and white to everyone else – I’ve been accused to incredible recklessness in my life, so maybe this choice is one that wouldn’t make sense to other people.

 

incidentally, adding tags to this post made me laugh my head off: Crime, Murder, Illegal, and Revenege were all added. I hope I’m not on some watch list now)