Jesse Doesn’t Speak

Little Jesse is our husky dog who isn’t “little” but because he is the baby of the pack, he is Alex’s and I “Little Jesse.” We admittedly have a soft spot in our hearts for him because last year we almost lost him and his epilepsy has gotten worse. Before we got him we didn’t know dogs could get epilepsy nor be allergic to meats. (Our James the labrador is a vegetarian.) I suppose that’s life: there is always something new to learn.

Jesse has taught us a lot about life in his little ways. For one, he’s taught us to be more observant and remember that there is more to life than the daily grind of work. He’s a dog that demands attention and has his routines. He knows what he wants and when he wants it. He will stand there making hungry almost complaining kind of noises while I dish up his food. After he eats, he will need to drink his water. If the bucket of water isn’t there or its empty, he’ll stand there looking at you. Then he’ll beeline for the door. He has to relieve himself before coming back for a long nap. If you forget, he’ll give you his paw and turn his face to the door. Nothing wakes him during this after meal nap.

When his brain goes fuzzy (because of his epilepsy) you have to really watch him and see what he wants and what are the triggers that set it off. He’ll feel uncomfortable and restless and need a bit of love. Sometimes a sit on our lap calms him down, sometimes its a dark corner or a little ice cream. When this happens, he reminds you what are the priorities in life. We stop whatever we are doing to give him a hug or to just lay down by his side. It’s moments like these that make life and its moments like these that reminds us that not everything can be controlled and that you will just have to make the best of what you have.

He is a constant reminder that life can be taken away from us at any day. Most days when we get back, he’ll run to you, give a little jump and kiss you on the cheek. But one day we know that he may have a series of seizures while we are out and perhaps it doesn’t stop. We give him medication and love, but that is about all we can do. He has his own battle to fight. Nothing in the world can replace the “little moments” and memories. I know he’s a dog, but dogs too have emotions and love and a part of our family.

The Elder Gentleman

I’m tired and sleepy, but this story has been whirling around my head all day and it’s one I’d like to share .  Like many mornings the past eight years, I woke up and got myself to the gym for a run before work.  Over the years I’ve come to know a few ladies through locker room chit chat, and to recognize the regulars by face. After eight years you start to know who comes on what days, what time, and who likes what kinds of exercise. I’ve also grown accustomed to being greeted by a gentleman who must be in his late seventies or early eighties. He’s a regular and spends around an hour each day on the treadmill followed by the bicycle before lifting a few weights. In between he’d greet people with a big smile.

I always thought to myself how active and pleasant this man was.  He’d smile and go around asking people how they were.  If I had gone missing for a week or longer than a two days, he’d ask me where I’ve been and remind me that I should keep coming regularly. He’d encourage you to keep up the good work when he sees you working out well. I’ve grown accustomed to seeing the familiar face at the gym even though I don’t know his name or anything else about him.

Then he disappeared for a few weeks.

I wondered where’d he gone. If it was for a holiday, it usually wasn’t more than a week but this time the absence was noticeable. Thoughts crossed my mind. I wondered if he’d fallen ill or passed away. After all he wasn’t young anymore. I pushed such thoughts out of my mind.

This morning I found out what happened.  Walking to the fitness room, I saw him sitting on a bench just in front of the fitness room. In that moment, I felt a big rock slide down my throat.  I felt like my heart dropped.  He was surrounded by two helpers with a walking aid in front of him. He wasn’t his old self and most probably had suffered a stroke. I dared not ask. When greeted, his speech was blurry but he still recognized and remembered everyone. After awhile, he slowly started his rounds at the various weight machines.

I write a lot about death, but it’s events like this that remind us how fragile life can be. One day you are living your life, following your daily routines, and the next, you find yourself having difficulty just moving a few steps. The trick is to keep on going. The gentleman continues his recovery but no one knows what will happen tomorrow.  Live life and enjoy it before it’s too late. In the end there’s one truth we can’t escape and that death is always on our doorstep.  Time stops for no one. Do what you want to do before it’s too late.

Good night!

To Love or Not Love the Rain

It’s been a long time since I last wrote and what better time than to write on a lovely cool morning after the rain has stopped. How I love the rain varies from time to time.

Most times I love the rain when it’s just light rain or drizzles. I love it for the greenery and freshness that comes with it when it stops. Lawns become so green and life beckons. Birds chirps and splash around in the puddles that form along the driveway. Snails and slugs appear along with other types of insects moving about slowly in their slow way of life. Toads hop around in my garden and give me a surprise everytime one unexpectedly moves in a dark corner. My dogs equally like it (I think) as they lie happily on the porch with the cool breeze that passes through.  I practice my guitar, and life is just wonderful.  I feel calm and settled.  I feel home like when I grew up in cloudy, rainy Brussels.

Other times, I feel less tolerent of the rain especially when it’s pouring down hard coupled with thunder and lighting.  The heavens roar and you wonder if Thor was having a fight up there.  On Earth, the grass grows at exponential speeds and if the rain is follwed by the sun, ticks and fleas re-emerge.  Roads get flooded and commute to and from work takes a couple hours.  The light reflecting on the road makes it harder to drive and accidents happen.  You see news of people’s houses with roofs broken and neighbors with water pumps working to drain water from their houses. 

In the end, do I love or not love the rain?   It depends on how much rain there is. I love it when there’s just enough of it to cool the skies and make pitter pattering sounds on the window pane. I don’t particularly love it when it’s accompanying by thunderstorms and lighting and comes in such large quantities that it floods. 

I suppose this is much like human emotions. Sometimes you like something but if you have too much of it, you might not like it so much anymore. For example, I love choux cream but I wouldn’t be able to have it everyday.  Emotions, like the rain, has ups and downs.  It all depends. What do you think?

Wishing everyone a wonderful Sunday ahead.  Have some ‘me’ time. 

The Boy at the Supermarket

Today at the supermarket I overheard a conversation between a young boy of about ten years old with his mom. They weren’t Thai and were most probably expats living in Bangkok. The young boy made such a funny and pleasant remark that I want to share it with you.

As you know, ever since I lost weight around 5 years ago, I’ve become a lot more healthy, aware of what I am eating, and avoiding the fried or sugar infused foods. Growing up I didn’t really have a concept of what was healthy, or what wasn’t. My mom is a wonderful cook, but once I went off to college and worked, dinners ended up whatever was available in my fridge. My often late dinners were simple pasta and pesto. My snack at work was raisins. Hey, they are dried grapes which are fruits, what’s so bad about them? Answer: they are high in sugar.

Okay, so what was it I overheard? It started out with the mother asking the boy “What would you like for dinner today?”

The boy answered, “Potatoes, mashed potatoes and oh, I want some salad and vegetables Mom! The food at school is so sweet! They put sugar in everything even soup! I might have to stop having soup at school!”

Wow, that really hit me.

He was only around ten, but with health conscious parents, he has grown up being aware of what he is putting into his body. It’s great. He will grow up healthy.

Now it’s up to the schools to serve children healthy food. Parents really should check out what’s being served at schools and perhaps like Jaime Oliver, fight for healthier servings. No sugared pink milk please!

Zoey, hunter. James, cute.

There are many stories, reviews of travels and eateries waiting to be told, yet tonight I feel like writing about dear James and Zoey, my two dogs.  It’s been roughly three months since we’ve had James and four months since we’ve had Zoey. Time flies happily when you have dogs and I have to say they really are good for the heart and soul. I smile whenever I talk about them and if you talked to me about dogs, I could spend a long while discussing them with you.  Make sure you have a chair. There’s something about dogs that is good for the soul. Its no wonder they have been man’s companions since times past.

James the labrador is a heart breaker.  He has one of the most innocent looking faces especially when he is sitting quietly looking in quiet anticipation of a treat or snack.  He doesn’t jump, nor does he offer his paw, he just sits quietly looking up (for that’s how he has been trained) at you hoping that whatever you are doing will provide him with some snack.  Labradors have a voracious appetite and James is no exception.

If you are a bit late with the food, he doesn’t complain but just quietly goes and sleep by the food box, just “in case” you forgot.  He would do anything for a snack so training him is easy. All I have to do is have a snack in my hand and go through the motions together with the words.  Apart from sitting, rollover, heel, fetch and a few other tricks,  my favourite is “Bang bang” where James temporarily acts dead.

I make my hand into a gun, point it at James, and he falls on his back with his paws up as if he were dead. After awhile his paws fall down and if you go “bang bang” they go up again.  It makes me laugh just thinking about it.  It’s incredibly cute especially with his big paws.

James’ babyish charms also get to me.  When he was a puppy, I’d let him crawl onto my lap and sit on it looking out at the garden.  Now that he weighs 18kgs he still attempts to climb onto my lap like a baby wanting to be hugged, only to be turned down because his head alone is as large as my lap.  He hasn’t realized how large he has grown.  It melts my heart.

Zoey, by contrast is a petite, light weight and delicately built Thai dog with a small little face and two black patches that give her a distinct look.  She came together with the house is what we like to say. A sort of “free gift” that popped along with the house and we didn’t have the heart to just throw her out.  She was a mere puppy with a wagging tail and two beady eyes.

Unlike James who runs through water and jumps in whenever he can, Zoey is a clean and polite lady.  She dislikes water and rain and if the grass is wet, she’d walk on the stone slabs we have laid out.  If she wants to walk around the garden, she’d jump onto the little ledge we have along the fence and tiptoe along its walls.

She is also easily distracted living in her own world like a little girl chasing butterflies.  Once let into the garden, she’d run from back to front in a speed that’ll make you wonder if she was a tiny replica of a horse or maybe some sort of greyhound.  She also jumps high.  Sometimes just for the sake of it, she’d jump over James while running as if he were some part of an obstacle course.

Oh and yes, she can also play “dead” with the “bang bang.”  Her tiny legs come up into the air. She too can be cute when she wants to.

Don’t be fooled though by looks and behaviour.  Amongst the two dogs, Zoey’s function in life is to be a guard dog.  She instinctively barks at any strangers with a bark that’d make you wonder how it could have come from such a small dog.  She doesn’t trust people easily and is a fearsome hunter.  My garden has no lizards or crawling insects.  She kills them all.  Sometimes she jumps up in the air to snatch a flying insect.   In the mornings, she looks up into the trees longing to get that squirrel by the mango tree.  Zoey is a hunter.  She lives to hunt.

James’s purpose in life?  His purpose is to just be cute.  He melts your heart into a soft gooey slush and puts a smile on our face.  He fetches balls and frisbees, acts dead and do rollovers.  Nothing useful, nothing with a purpose, but just pure FUN!

So that’s Zoey and James.  Two dogs, two characters. Two different barks. Wolf! Wolf!

 

 

 

A Balancing Act

Sitting in my study looking out the window, I am still thinking about “The Descendants” I wrote about yesterday.  That movie was about a man, a successful lawyer and a land baron who had devoted all his time to his career, to making money only to later realize he had “lost” his family.  Although his wife was now seriously ill from a boating incident, he had lost her years ago.  They had ceased to talk, to spend time together, to go out and enjoy each other’s company.   They had grown apart.  His daughters, he had hardly seen and could hardly remember the last time he was alone with them.  They too had grown.  So that was Matt King who spent his life focusing on himself.  Then there are opposites:   those who spend their time completely devoted to other’s lives until they forget to have a life of their own.

It happens sometimes.    It happens more often than I would like to acknowledge.

It happens in relationships and in families.   They believe that family is number one and that nothing else is more important.  They find themselves unconsciously assimilated into the other person or persons.  They forget everything about themselves and focus entirely on the person or persons.   They must spend their time taking care of the family, taking care of their needs and anticipating their needs.   They serve each and every need in the belief that this is right.  This is the “right” thing to do.  This is what is “expected” of them.  They devote their entire time, their entire life to others.   Guilt prevails if they want to do something of their own.  Guilt, self-inflicted.   So the cycle continues, on and on.

Now do not get me wrong, I am not saying that it is a bad thing to care of others, it is good to take care of loved ones and people around us.  What is most important though is that there needs to be a balance.

There needs to be a balance between taking care of others and taking care of your own needs.

Your own needs are equally important, and your life is equally important.  You have dreams, you have desires and there are things you want to do, places you want to go.  Don’t push all your own needs out of sight and hide them somewhere deep inside your soul.  One day you might just erupt like Mount Vesuvius.

And when your erupt, or if you just stay dormant.  One day you may find yourself on your deathbed looking back on your life and thinking about all the things you could have done, all the things you wanted to do, and all the places you wanted to go.    You might feel a resentment at others, why they had done the things they wanted to do and did all they wanted to do.  Yet all these emotions come too late and your life has passed you by.  You will just have to wait for your next life to do the things you want to do.

Find a balance in your life.   Have some time of your own, have some time for others, have some time for your dreams.

A Doggy Sunday

Today I leave flowers and Amsterdam for a day and instead want to talk about dogs.  There is just something about these loyal companions that make your heart warm and your soul soft.  For the past few months or so Alex and I have been enjoying the loving nature of our skinny black and white dog that came along with the house.  (Yes, once the house was finished we found ourselves with a wagging tail puppy that just looked at us with beedy eyes and melted my heart. I wondered what would happen to her if we didn’t look after her?  All the workers had left and the only living thing at our house was the dog.)  Today, in a few hours, we welcome another new member a Labrador Retriever.  It’s going to be a busy Sunday afternoon playing with the dogs.

First about our black and white dog. When we took her in and due to her white body yet two black patches on her head we called her “Zorro.”    We had the vet give her injections, bought her a bed and gave her a bath.  She became our little “Zo.”  She’s a Thai dog that means she isn’t any particular breed.  One of those local dogs you see running around the streets in dog gangs. She’s a gentle dog that wags her tail and has a bark bigger than her body.  The first time I heard her bark, I thought it was another dog.  As time passed,  “Zo” became “Zoey” when she seems to somewhat be like me and a little clumsy at times.  She’s a dog that sometimes misplaces her footing when running up the stairs.  Super excited, always hyper she just wants to be near her “pack.”

To make sure she knew what she can do and not, she is now slowly being trained, in English. Yes English.  So Zoey is a little clumsy Thai dog who knows how to “Sit”  and “Turnaround.”  Love her.  She doesn’t walk on carpets, bite our furniture or act inappropriately in the house.  (Outside is a different matter..she loves biting my plants!)

Now the Labrador retriever is going to be a different story.  I’ve never had a dog so big whose size even as a puppy is larger than Dyzio and Zoey combined.  It’s going to have to live indoors while its still a puppy though we have already prepared an enclosure for it as well as a nice little dog box where he can sleep mosquito free in the case that indoors is not a good option.  He also got a cute bed with a cherry design (there was only a limited selection left at the store!  I’m excited and looking forward to our new member.  We’ve temporarily called him James but lets see if the name will suit…

Now its time to read up on dog introductions. Do you have dogs? Would love to hear your stories this doggy Sunday!

Supermoon shining bright

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On the plane I spotted the Supermoon shining high and bright above the Earth. It’s a beautiful sight to see that reminds me of Murakami’s iq84. How mysterious it is indeed and how it has provoked countless imaginations and stories across the centuries.

The moon is both full of power and beautiful in its own quiet unmoving way. Its romantic when seen together by two lovers and scary if you are alone in a quiet cemetery with dogs howling.

I wonder if the moon knows its power.. Maybe not. What do you think about the moon?

The Child Inside

It’s a new year and I’m getting older. Yes, these are two facts that one cannot avoid. Especially the painful truth of getting older. You sense it more when some of your colleagues no longer recognize the songs you listen to nor recognzie the ones that were famous years ago when you were still in school. No matter, I believe there is still always a child inside each of us and age are but numbers.

Amidst the different New Years present I received this year, I have to say one of my favorites was a box of 120 crayons. Of all the stationary and art supplies I’ve accumulated over the past few years, I have to say crayons are something I just didn’t have. Never thought of buying. Now I have them. Thank you 🙂 Ever since I could remember I have loved to draw and colour and cherished my box of coloured pencils and markers. To this day I still have my complete set of coloured pencils and do occasionally still take them out to use, although those times are now limited to once or twice a year.

Playing with my crayons the other day, I abandoned by adult self, threw away the mask, and became a child once more. I admired the different colours and how neatly they were arranged in the box. I looked at their names and wondered who thought of all these names of these varying shades of green or pink. I wonder if these names ever changed or if there was a standard for them. Then I started to just scribble and randomly drew a few pictures. I know I’m way past that age where you sit down with a piece of paper and draw, but who cares. If you can’t have a little fun and be a child at heart every now and then, life would be so boring wouldn’t it?

So what was something you loved doing as a child? Maybe this year find a little time out and do something you used to love. You might find that it can be quite fun! 🙂 Let the child resurface. Maybe climb a tree or jump on the trampoline. Do becareful though. Our bodies aren’t that flexible anymore. 😉

Sleep is good.

I need my sleep but sometimes I wonder, why do we sleep? Do I really need to sleep? If I didn’t sleep I could spend more waking hours doing a million more things.

Why we sleep though is a question that has been asked for centuries and still no one really knows the answer. I do not know why I sleep, but I know that if I do not get enough sleep, the next day becomes a waste of a day. I get headaches, feel groggy and my concentration level is low. This lack of sleep is what scientists have been studying for centuries in an attempt to better understand why we sleep.

Scientists study these various effects of sleep defiency to better understand sleep. Without it, our cognitive skills would be harmed and brain development probably affected. If you think humans sleep to save energy, the BBC article “The Science of Sleep” mentions that for eight hours of sleep, we only save about 50kCal which is very minimal. One piece of my Pepperidge Farm Milano cookie is already 60KCal. A cup of non-fat yogurt is 80KCal. I suppose we don’t sleep to save energy.

According to the article, continued lack of sleep will result in a shut down of part of the brain that controls language, memory, planning and sense of time. Actually going 17 hours without sleep decreases your performance to the equivalent level of if you had drank two glasses of wine.

No wonder my brain feels tired after a long day. Judgements are not as good and people respond slower to situations.

The article also mentions that lack of sleep is detrimental for emotional and physical health. I agree. On days where I did not get enough sleep the previous night, I am more emotional. If I’ve been sleeping little, I also find that my weight gain is faster. This is because hormones and chemicals that control appetite and weight gain are released during sleep.

As the clock is now ticking, I think I shall have to end here and get a good nights sleep. Have a good night dear friends. Enough sleep for a person is “when it is enough not to make you sleepy during the day time”. Some need 4 hours, some need 8 hours. How much do you need? Do you know?