If It Smells Like Poo….

It’s a tush-dragging kind of a day. Back sore. Legs sore. Arms sore. My eyelashes are fine however. Not sore.

I’m not exactly sure why I’m dragging, unless my body is fighting something I don’t know about or it’s something to do with that “a-word” (age). Grrr.  Thursday I took two SWEAT classes back to back; lifted weights (hitting another benchmark for dead-lifts), followed by my favorite  punch bag class. Then I cycled 42 miles on Friday. I was so tired from that ride that once home, I made myself a sandwich, grabbed a glass of milk, sat in my comfy chair and didn’t move for nearly two hours…not even to shower post ride! Gross, I know!  I was just so tired; I had barely finished my sandwich before dozing off. Since The Poodle was at my side, I’m sure he was mightily disappointed that there wasn’t a morsel of cheese left on my plate as I drifted off for a good twenty minutes or so. Although he is pretty well-behaved around food he’d throw good training out the window in a heartbeat for cheese.

So this fatigue that I’ve been dealing with for a couple of days seems to have made me quite dopey in the head as well. More so than usual one could say.

You see, I was talking to my good friend Ms. Cookie who lives in North Carolina. She’s considering a three-day adventure to middle-earth just to see moi! I’m pleased as punch she wants to come for a visit though I’ll confess I’m wracking my brain over how to entertain her… here. When I lived in Southern California entertaining an out-of-town guest was never a problem. With a plethora of terrific restaurants, miles and miles of beach to enjoy and a host of places to explore, not to mention the fact that people watching anywhere in LA, provides entertainment on a whole different level. And, living in the Washington D.C. area was a breeze for entertaining visiting friends and family too. I lived there for over 14 years and I still haven’t experienced all there is to see and do! So when Ms. Cookie comes to town, she’ll just have to be over-the-moon for the Space and Rocket Center. (Ahem…..so…. if you’re reading this Cookie, I’d forever be in your debt if you would fake it any way you can!).

Back to the point of this story: I’ve got my iPhone ear buds in and I’m talking to Cookie and all the while I am multi-tasking like a beast. My Garmin VivoFit activity tracker is happily ticking off the steps as I walk circles around my kitchen island, wash dishes by hand, dust the living-room furniture, sweep the back patio, and take The Poodle out for a walk around the block. I love carrying-on conversations this way. I’m moving and in the process, lots of things get done. Chores seem considerably less mundane when you’re talking to a friend all the while. Of course there can be one little drawback:

Sometimes one’s attention to detail is not quite optimal.

Case in point: I’d been walking around the kitchen island about twenty times now and it’s time to switch gears to the laundry (before dizziness set in). As I chat with Cookie about her latest good book read—and mine too— I’m heading to the bedroom for the laundry hamper. I haul it into the laundry room and start stuffing clothes into the washer (it’s a white load if you must know).  As we chat on and on I notice a smell. A somewhat vague but particularly unpleasant smell.

To be more specific, it smells like poop.

If it smells like poo…. then….there has got to be poo…somewhere!

Hmm. This is not good.

Ms. Cookie is talking about her Australian friend who isn’t too keen on Bill Bryson’s book about Australia. I had recommended it to Cookie back in August and I just loved it.  She’s reading it too and finds it quite entertaining.  Or…hmm, is it his book “A Walk in The Woods.”  Damn…I’m not paying attention (sorry Cookie…I’ll make it up to you with wine!).

“Oh why is that?” I ask half listening. I’m busy turning all the shoes over that are housed in the shoe bin on the floor, inspecting the soles trying to find the source of the poo smell. Perhaps I stepped in poop while out in the back yard. I was there too, cleaning out a couple of flower pots and the like before walking The Poodle.

Hmm; nothing here. The shoes are practically clean as a whistle.

Cookie chats on. She is explaining her friends’ thoughts on the author… something about not liking the author’s uniquely dry sense of humor. I’m starting to feel badly because Cookie is losing my attention… and to poop no less! Surely you understand! Though still vague in the air, my mind has escalated it to something much more. Like I may as well be in a port-o-john during a marathon.  The smell is starting to assault my senses big time. I’m vexed beyond measure as I inspect trash cans, cupboards, the powder room (which is right next to the laundry room) and the entire downstairs floor area. Did The Poodle poop inside the house?!  Impossible!  That only happened once and that was six years ago because I’d given him a sampling of fresh veal that I was preparing (let’s just say it wasn’t a pleasant experience for either of us and leave it at that!).

Desperate now to find the source of the smell I start to rifle through a basket filled with dirty laundry.

Then, I shudder at a thought….

Poop cannot possibly be in the clothes hamper.

I’m standing in the middle of the laundry room, hands on hips, my head now clearly not into the conversation I should be having with my dear friend. Was I losing my mind?  I definitely smell poop.  Where the hell is this smell coming from?

Then, as if a switch had been flipped, a certain fog lifted from my brain. Little wheels that were at a dead stop were once again set into motion. A thought hit me square between the eyes. Early this morning—at 5:30 a.m. to be precise— I had walked The Poodle for a good forty-five minutes. And, then later in the day during my call with Cookie I’d taken The Poodle for a walk around the block.

Hmm. I used different leashes. He’s got three of them; a short lead leash in the car, a green leash in a basket by the front door and another blue one hanging in the laundry room.

And there it was.

Hanging on the wall by the door to the outside. The Poodle’s blue leash.  poopholder

The Poodle’s blue leash has a nifty little plastic gizmo for the express purpose of holding poop-filled bags. And indeed, there were two—not one…but two— large, particularly odoriferous poop-filled bags hanging on The Poodle’s leash. This was the leash I had used for his early morning walk. I remember It was a two-poop kind of a walk. I’d obviously completely forgotten to properly dispose of the poop bags before entering the house!

I slap my forehead and let out a huge sigh of relief. Whew. I wasn’t going crazy (well…you know what I mean). The smell was not a figment of my imagination but rather a result of being totally scatter-brained and maybe just a wee bit tired! I start laughing, and of course must ‘fess up to Cookie over my dopey senior moment. We share a laugh over it while I think to myself that in the future perhaps I shouldn’t multi-task so fervently whilst catching up with my girlfriends on the phone. It’s best to be present with the ones you love. Poodles included.

Today’s bliss? Laughing at self…over and over again!

Not There Yet

A burst of color in the brown dust of the Sonoran desert

A burst of color in the brown dust of the Sonoran desert

The weather has turned cold early this year I’m thinking as I walked The Poodle early this morning. Cloudy, somber gray skies greeted the two of us as we stepped out the door for our morning constitutional–The Poodle for his business and me, for more steps to register on my Garmin VivoFit activity tracker. Bundled up against the brisk 35 degrees, I realize our weather is not nearly as ridiculous as in other parts of the U.S. this week. Rocket-man, away on business travel, reports that this morning its minus three degrees in Colorado Springs. That’s not normal for this time of year!  So here goes…you won’t hear me say this often….I’m grateful that I am here and not there!

I walked without listening to music this morning. I was content to listen to the rustle of autumn leaves still stubbornly clinging to their branches. If I would have been plugged-in I would have missed the commotion to my left as I walked down the steep hill. Four or five Deer had caught wind (or sight) of us and were running for cover. It was then that I noticed a lone fawn running back and forth through the thicket of trees and brush. I could hear her crying. I realized she was frantically searching for her family. The deer that had bolted must have heard her cries as they stopped abruptly and turned around. For a moment or two they all stood still, as did I. The Poodle sat at attention. He knew something was going on but from his lower vantage point he couldn’t see the deer. As the deer stood stock still, only their ears were twitching, as if sensing, or perhaps listening. I imagine they were trying to determine the direction to go in to find their lost one. Strangely, I didn’t hear a sound from the group of deer. I would have thought that one of them would call out to the offspring. It didn’t seem to matter though. Perhaps some kind of silent communication took place as in the span of but a couple of minutes the fawn was able to reunite with the family and off, deeper into the brush, they all went.

Witnessing the reunion was a lovely moment and it made me smile for the rest of my morning walk. I’m glad I wasn’t, as I frequently am, buried in my iPhone, either searching through music on my playlist or thumbing through emails as I walk. By unplugging just for a half hour or so I was able to experience everything a bit more….well… mindfully.

Mindfully. Mindfulness. That’s a word that has become more popular in the last couple of years, or so it seems. The Oxford dictionary gives the definition as:

1. The quality or state of being conscious or aware of something:

2. A mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations; used as a therapeutic technique.

Eat your meals mindfully ….take mindfulness breaks during the course of a day…meditate….and so on. And indeed, this mindfulness approach (even when I didn’t realize it) made those stressful months caring for my mother easier.  I loved those early morning walks in the Sonoran desert.  Sometimes–when I wasn’t venting to a friend about what was happening with my mother–I was able to put everything that was going on aside and just enjoy the beauty around me.

Mindfulness is something that I’m striving to get better at despite the fact that I’ve fallen off a consistent yoga/meditative practice ….or exercise in general. One of the reasons that I’m trying to get better with this mindfulness stuff is that there is still family baggage to sift through. I don’t have to tell you folks….you already know; the approaching holidays brings this stuff out!

So, as I write I’m acknowledging that this imperfect soul is trying to ignore the simmering anger associated with my very own twin brother. Focusing on the present moment is the only “weapon” at my disposal. My battle? Oh, I’ve got a number of them but what comes to mind in this moment is my brother. Do I forgive my brother or….what?

His egregious behavior when our step-father passed, and his subsequent abandonment of family duties during a time of great need has both my sister and I seeing red….blood red….still, after eight months have gone by since Kurt’s death. Most days since the day my brother turned his back on us I have not given him a precious moment of my thoughts. In fact, I find myself telling people I meet, “Oh…I have a sister in Virginia,” consciously making no mention that I have a twin brother too. I may have been estranged from him before Kurt’s passing, but after my brother slammed the door on us in every sense of the word, he may as well have died in my eyes.  Naturally, this feeling does not make my heart feel good which is why I’m struggling here.

As twins go, my brother and I couldn’t be further apart from each other in just about everything. We’ve been estranged for many years although in my heart I have wished him nothing but love and good things. I used to feel guilty about our estrangement but more than anything it was about survival. Our childhood certainly left a lot to be desired in the nurturing department and my brother received far more of the physical blows than I. We’ve got scars to be sure but there are other souls in this world that have suffered far greater brutalities than we have. Still, as his twin sister I did my best to shelter him growing up. Eventually, I gave up. I had to survive too. I played by the rules; he decided not to which is largely why he was always in trouble.

So just yesterday a quote came across my way on the subject of forgiveness.

“If you cannot forgive and forget, pick one.” ~Robert Brault

Hmm.

So does “forget” mean, literally….forget ….as in fail to remember all past terribly boorish and reprehensible behavior? Or does it mean forget entirely that I even have a brother?!   I’m ashamed to admit my feeling at the moment is that it’s much easier to do the latter.

I suppose I should consider more thoughtfully the following excerpt by the Vietnamese Zen Buddhist monk, teacher and poet, Thich Nhat Hanh:

If we can hold our anger, our sorrow, and our fear with the energy of mindfulness, we will be able to recognize the roots of our suffering. We will be able to recognize the suffering in people we love as well. Mindfulness helps us to not be angry at our loved ones, because when we are mindful, we understand that our loved ones are suffering as well.

I honestly think about this for a moment. We have both suffered through life’s ups and downs through the years but it’s how we deal with those challenges that matter. I’m certainly not perfect folks but I do believe that I can honestly say that I’ve come through a lot of it with a certain amount of grace…and I’m still muddling through, trying to get better. But even if we have family baggage to contend with (and who doesn’t?) in times of a family crisis, you throw that bag into a closet, slam the door shut, and take care of what needs to be done. My brother didn’t have the courage to do that.

Sigh.

I take a deep breath and release it.

And then I think….

To hell with all this mindfulness.

Clearly, I’ve got more work to do on this journey but today isn’t going to be the forgive and forget day.

I’m not there yet.

I’m only human.