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Monday, October 31, 2016

Hallohappiness

It was simple. A knock, knock, knock and the magic had begun.

Four years ago tonight, I was babysitting dog-sitting one of the friendliest dogs I have ever known. Bowie was a dog that never met a stranger. One of his favorite places to hang out or sleep was on "his sofa" in the living room. With his head resting on the arm of the sofa, he could watch the activity on his street in complete comfort. Without even looking toward the window, I could tell when someone was walking outside. Bowie would change his posture, getting ready in case he needed to greet a guest, whether human or canine. I often joked that while he wasn't a guard dog, he was certainly a watch dog, a dog that would watch a burglar enter the house and greet them eagerly. "Hey, the TV is right over here! And could you give me a scratch or two and some food, please? I'm starving!"

As I said, four years ago, I was with Bowie on what would end up being his last Halloween. Many dogs that I have known have found Halloween irritating because of the constant knocking and doorbell ringing and needing to determine whether their enemy-rousting services were required. For Bowie, it was completely the opposite. You see, for Bowie, anyone who came to the door was coming to visit him. 

On this wonderful Halloween evening, Bowie was snoozing away on his sofa when the first trick-or-treaters tapped on the front door. He got down from the sofa, tail slowly wagging, and with an inquisitive look on his face. When I opened the door he was thrilled. Kids! Giggling, happy, adorable kids! He scoped them all out while I distributed the candy, making certain to spare a few of each kind to nosh on the next few days. Hey, I was born in the morning, but not yesterday morning!

Bowie wagged all the way back to his sofa. When the next tap on the door sounded, his face looked both delighted and surprised. The human calendar may have said Halloween, but to Bowie it must have seemed like Christmas. More kids saying, "I like your dog!" And it kept happening! I can tell you without a doubt what was the highlight of the dog's evening. Four girls came to the door together and said that they liked the dog. And then they asked if they could pet him. Bowie was in dog heaven. He gleefully accepted pats on the head which he repaid with licks to every little-girl hand. Pure joy for one dog and four kids. What a wonderful thing to see!

As the evening went on and more and more kids showed up, Bowie started to get a bit tired. There were about seventy-five kids that showed up, which is a lot of exuberant greeting to do. The best host, I mean dog, can get tired from entertaining their numerous guests. After an hour or so, when the knocks sounded, Bowie looked at me to see if I needed him to greet the kids again. I had him come over to the door and he did so with his usual grace and friendliness. I was sitting at the kitchen table in between visitors. After all, it was Bowie's sofa. 

I was surprised and amused when Bowie walked into the kitchen and looked at me as if to say that he was exhausted. He went to his kennel and sprawled on his side. The next time someone knocked, he simply looked at me as if to say, "I'm too tired, MyKatrina. You're on your own." He had discovered that there was such a thing as too much company.



When Bowie's journey with the humans who loved him came to an end about six months later, I realized how fortunate I was to share his final Halloween. The kids who came by the house not only had candy, they had a greeter extraordinaire. And I was reminded that for a dog, the chance to kiss someone's hand could be the greatest Halloween treat of all. 

 


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Sunday, October 23, 2016

Sixty Years

After less than three weeks, it was all over. Well, mostly over. The punishment was still to come.

The Hungarian Revolution began on October 23, 1956 with demonstrations and the toppling of a statue of Stalin. In response, Soviet tanks rolled into Budapest. At a peaceful demonstration on October 25, soldiers shot and killed some 800 people. The fighting had begun. After retreating and regrouping, the Soviets returned with a huge force on November 4. They shot at civilians and revolutionaries alike. The Hungarians had few weapons but fought bravely until the 10th of November. When it was over, the 31,500 Soviet soldiers with their 1,130 tanks had losses of 722 killed or missing, and 1,540 wounded. The Hungarian losses were far greater, with estimates of 2,500 to 3,000 civilians dead and 13,000 wounded. When the revolution was crushed, some 200,000 Hungarians fled the country. For those who remained, various punishments including imprisonment, deportation to the Soviet Union, and death were to follow.  

In the village of Pornóapáti in Western Hungary, very near the border of Austria, a family prepared to walk to their freedom in the middle of the night. My parents and their three children, ranging in age from six to three, had to leave or die. I have been told that my father was a revolutionary and the Soviets were going to kill him and his whole family. During the night they walked across the bridge on the Pinka River and sneaked across the border past a guard post manned by armed soldiers. Eventually, with the sponsorship of relatives already living in the USA, they left Europe and began a new life in Chicago, where I was born.

Their home was razed by the soldiers they had eluded. The family that they left behind continued to live with the constant presence of soldiers. They dealt with years of hunger and abuses. The city of Budapest still bears the scars of the revolution. Many of the beautiful old buildings in the city are still riddled with bullet holes from the Soviet guns and tanks. When the Soviets were gone and the borders were free and open, those who had lived through the occupation carried their own internal scars. Many years later, my Aunt Lizi walked with us to the Austrian border, but she was unable to step across. The ingrained fear of being on the other side of the border without her papers was too much to fight. To honor her, Liz and I both remained on the Hungarian side.

We are approaching the sixtieth anniversary of my family's arrival in the United States. I'm not sure of the exact date, but I think it was in December of 1956. I am forever grateful to my family for their bravery. They risked their lives to make the move to freedom and a new home. I also love the family that remains in Hungary. I am proud to be related to people who managed to survive through such challenging times and under such difficult conditions. May they long live happy and free. 




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Friday, October 21, 2016

Friends and Foes

I have written in the past about how election seasons drive me batty. The months of political ads. The candidates and proponents or opponents of various issues, who bludgeon voters with accusations about the opposing side rather than simply telling us what they stand for, what they hope to accomplish, what their dreams are for our state or our nation. It makes me cranky. Of course it's probably difficult for anyone to realize when this happens, since I am the self-proclaimed Meanest Woman in the World. Just trust me, it happens.

Like many others, I have lived through numerous elections. Heck, I can remember, back when I was a kid, watching President Lyndon B. Johnson on television announcing that he would not seek another term in office. I've seen issues come and go that hit people right in their hearts, minds, and sensibilities. I've cast my vote on issues ranging from a tax increase to fund a local water park to legalizing recreational marijuana, and all sorts of things in between. This year in Colorado we have ballot issues that include tobacco taxes, an increase to the minimum wage, state-run health care, and whether terminal patients should have the right to end their lives. 

Among all of these issues and candidates of both parties, there's been a common thread. We are all individuals, and we all have our own thoughts, feelings, and preferences. If we are willing to break with the excellent age-old advice to never discuss politics with friends, we do so knowing that our friends may be on the other side of an issue. We may state what we feel and maybe even why, but we won't try to change our friends' minds because we know that it just won't happen. We agree to disagree, because that is deep in the fabric of living in the USA. The freedom to choose and believe and think differently than others without fear of harm or reprisal. To paraphrase a quote attributed to Voltaire, we may disagree with what another says, but will defend to the death their right to say it.

After an election, some people feel happy and victorious and some feel disappointed and let down. But we move forward and the country keeps running and we work together and live side by side and dream of harmony. This is a Republic, and when we have elections, the majority rules. The people's opinions change, politicians change, and we ride on the ebb and flow of these tides. 

In recent years, I've seen many people losing sight of the fact that no matter what side of the fence we're on, we're all Americans. I have heard people refer to Presidents with comments like, "X isn't my President, I didn't vote for him." This comment really upsets me. Whether or not I am a big fan of whomever is elected, they are my President. They are who the majority has chosen. In this particular Presidential election cycle, these divisive feelings seem to have escalated to a level that I have never witnessed before. Although I am a student of history, I have not focused on the history of elections and the public's moods related to them. All I can say is that this race seems to have brought rancor to a new and disturbing level.

Modern communication may be making the problem worse; if you look at the comments on just about any story on the internet or social media, you will find it invariably results in someone turning things toward politics and name-calling. I have seen comments when a recipe is posted online saying that the only people who would like it are idiots that would vote for Candidate X. Of course, one or two cooler, more controlled commenters will observe that it's a recipe for a dip or a cake, not an article about a Presidential candidate. But time and time again, the bait is eagerly taken by someone on the other side of the fence. Name calling is the mildest of what follows.

We have seen videos of people who say that if a certain candidate is elected, they will do what they need to in order to save our nation. They hint at their willingness to assassinate the majority's choice for President if that person is not their choice. When did these people forget that the way we save our nation could be as simple as not trying to tear it apart?

Just yesterday we disagreed with a friend, whom we love dearly, about the candidates for President. We came in on opposite sides of the fence, as it were. We stated our various opinions but also realized that our differences were not something to fight over. We can have opposing political views and still be friends. We agreed to disagree, and we still love each other as friends do. No, we don't see ourselves as paragons of virtue. We're simply imperfect beings trying to respect one another in an imperfect world. I wish it would catch on. 


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The Tip Jar:

As always, I am happy and honored to write for you. It brings me great joy, and I hope that it gives you joy and/or food for thought. If you'd like to support the cause, please visit:

https://www.paypal.me/TheLunatic




Thank you for reading!