Random Friday Musings

I was planning to write a Books to Savor post sharing a good read I’d come across recently, and I may still get to that later today, but in the meantime, I’m in the mood to share some random things going on in my brain bucket today.

Here they are, in no particular order…

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- Our little Dot is a pretty dang obedient dog and a sweetheart…except in one area. She is nearly uncontrollable when it comes to barking at the neighbors, gardeners, and any other being that commits the grave sin of existing anywhere near our house without express permission. Because our house is rented, we can’t fence her in properly so she’s free to wander, which was fine when we didn’t have neighbors. But after the flooding in Bangkok prompted people to start moving up to Chiang Mai, we suddenly have neighbors. Neighbors who like to have visitors. So you can imagine how many times a day we have to yell at her and chase after her. Dot doesn’t respond well to negative reinforcement. It only makes her more stubborn and recalcitrant (or worse, she gives us this look like we’ve totally failed her), which makes it really difficult to teach her NOT to bark because it’s kind of ridiculous to only be able to praise a dog when it doesn’t bark.

It’s hard to get completely mad at her because it comes from a protective instinct and she’s only doing what she thinks is her job. But since I got pregnant, her protective instinct has been elevated from day job to High Calling, which is both sweet and utterly obnoxious. So after trying every other thing we could think of or find through copious online research, we’ve decided to try a shock collar on her. It makes me feel incredibly guilty and worried, especially given her usual response to negative reinforcement and I really didn’t want to break her relationship of trust with us. But…after just a few days with it, I have to say…

IT WORKS.

Toby has worked carefully with her in using it and keeps it on the lowest possible setting, so that it’s more a sensation than an actual jolt. But the part I really appreciate about it is that you can press a button, via remote control, to emit a little warning beep before resorting to the shock. He only had to use the shock on her twice before she learned to stop barking, come right back to us and sit down, at which point we envelop her in praise and treats. Now that little warning beep is pretty much all she needs to get her to stop barking and come home. And she doesn’t seem to be exhibiting any signs of feeling upset or hurt by us or the collar (maybe because it’s done by remote control, so the connection isn’t clear to her?). So as long as the warning beep is all it takes to get her to obey when we tell her to stop barking and come home, I think I can slowly get behind using this thing, though I still hope there might be a day we won’t have to use it at all.

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- Sometimes, I get really tired of how debate is handled with political stuff. Almost every day in my Facebook feed, there is something about how people are shooting people up in America and we need to do something about keeping slaughter machines out of the hands of crazy folk and why do we only care about people dying when it’s a bomb and not a gun AND/OR something about how we need to cling to our guns and freedoms, and clearly not having an AK-47 = tyranny, and because one person managed to use a gun successfully it’s a good idea for everyone to have easy access to them. The media, which exists to sell itself (and these days, doesn’t even pretend to care more about sharing real policy information than entertainment), THRIVES on this kind of conflict, pushing wedges where really there aren’t any. The truth is, on most policy issues, most people are pretty moderate (which, turns out is kind of a reasonable place to be, hey?). But the way we talk about these issues is like two echo chambers existing side by side, rather than actually communicating. Which is really sad because it makes it impossible to advance the conversation. I’m tired of hearing the same old drumbeats on either side. I’m tired of people painting each other as crazy and stupid when they clearly haven’t listened to what the other really wants. And here’s a hint: you’re not listening to people if you’re spending the entire time trying to figure out how to prove that they’re wrong and you’re smarter.

Here’s two things I wish people would think about more. 1) If you think the answer to a policy problem (especially a controversial one) is really fucking simple, then you’re probably not looking at it carefully enough. 2) You’re not contributing to an effective solution if you can’t hear or address the concerns of those who disagree with you. Be opinionated all you want. Having strong opinions is good. Being engaged in the world around you is good. But it’s still not actually helpful to assume your opinion is the only one worth having and to only want to hear other people tell you that you’re right.

The really worrisome part is that perpetuating these divisions make people really, REALLY angry, and I fear that not only does it not contribute to good policy, but that it makes people really hate each other, dehumanize each other, and makes it seem okay to be more violent with each other, so that it is no longer possible to reach each other with words. People begin see no other recourse than weaponry.

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- Something else I’ve been thinking about lately is that it can be a challenge learning how to adjust to a parent who is aging. I think part of growing up is dealing with the disillusionment that comes when you realize your beloved parent isn’t quite the superhero you thought they were when you were 5, but alongside that comes the beautiful part of getting to know them as they are, which can make you love them more deeply and more expansively, and can add wonderful new dimensions to the relationship.

Sometimes, though, it is a challenge when you’re confronted with a parent whose age has turned them into someone they didn’t use to be, especially if some qualities you admired have been replaced by something you don’t. I recently realized that, when you factor in time with a relationship, part of loving someone means letting go of them as they once were and finding love and acceptance for who they are now. Sometimes, the change is so drastic you have to find new ways to connect with them, demonstrate love, and support and encourage them. It’s like you almost have to build a new relationship. It’s not easy. But realizing that brought me a long way closer to making it okay.

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- Today I’m baking 5-minute artisan bread. The dough has been resting in the fridge for two days, and I’m anxious to see how it turns out. I’ve made it a few times before, but for some unknown reason (changes in humidity/weather? different flour used?), it comes out differently every single time. So it’s like a surprise every time. We’ll see how well it works today!

So that should probably have made up three posts instead of one. Thanks for indulging me! Tell me, what’s been on your mind lately?

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7 thoughts on “Random Friday Musings

  1. Those collars really do work! My husband tested out the shock levels of ours on himself before he would put them on the dogs, since we felt kind of bad about using them, too. Apparently they really don’t hurt much at all, even on the highest setting. Actually, one of our dogs doesn’t even really care if he gets shocked, but the beeping noise gets his attention ASAP!

    • Yah Toby tested it on himself too, wanting to be extra careful especially since Dot is such a little dog and he said it didn't really hurt him either, and that's on bare skin without fur in between. It's true–that beep really does get their attention! Maybe we should just call it her beep collar, since really it just lets us beep at her. :)

  2. We had a shepherd that barked protectively in a small neighborhood. Fortunately our neighbors were dog lovers, so that worked….until one of them put their house on the market, and our dog's barking LOST them a sale!! EEK! After that we had to leave with her when they were showing the house…as I said, luckily they were dog lovers! I feel a bit taken over by "dog sitting" at the moment – but have a few album (scrapbooking album) projects in the works, and low key weekend. I'm hoping to finish them (if the puppy "lets" me!)

  3. You're really right about the aging parent thing. I haven't started noticing it until recently and I've been trying to encourage my parents to start taking care of themselves more and being more active. I probably push them more hard than I need to but I feel like it is really important

    • Yeah, I've been encouraging my Dad to take Thai language courses. I think it's healthy for him; it gets him to practice driving around the city so he won't feel so lost all the time, learn a bit of the language so he doesn't have to be quite such an outsider (and learning something might help his self-esteem), and maybe he'll make some friends in the class. It's good for him to be a little more independent, so he might not be so afraid to do things on his own. (This is a man who once hitchhiked by himself from South Africa to Kenya and jumped on a ship to the U.S., bartering his way across by doing laundry, on less than a day's notice, in search of a better life. Now I'm not sure he'd voluntarily go to the grocery store by himself.)

  4. Sometimes I don't know where to begin when I leave you a comment. You have such a variety of ideas that I enjoy reading and want to comment upon. First let me tell you that you have an excellent command of the English language. And I appreciate that you don't use a lot of slang. It helps lend concise authority to ideas and opinions about others opinions. I am sure you know where I stand on the debate; however I agree with you completely about it being a complicated issue. It will take time to find a resolution. Real resolutions always take time. Also your point about making sure to come up with the best argument instead of "hearing" what the other person has to say is not really productive either. Which brings up the point of having these type of "conversations" on a public forum. It is almost pointless. It is easier to talk about these topics in person. Wouldn't you agree? Social media has its benefits but are we losing touch with humanity and honest to goodness communication?! I think about these things. I think about how socially awkward future generations may become. I try to make sure that my bambinos get limited exposure to technology. But is that a disservice? I am going with my gut. My gut says to try to raise them in traditional ways. This is completely off subject but I signed them up for boyscouts. Boyscouts! You can't get anymore traditional than that. Ha! Wish me luck. I will be camping, fishing, building rockets and shooting bows & arrows with them in no time.

    Ok. We need to skype or something. I only have 3 more weeks left of school. Then I'm taking the summer off!

    • Thank you, Alita. It's a really interesting question you pose, and most of the time I feel the same way: that it's pointless to even try to talk to each other via social media because it's so hard to convey complex thoughts concisely and precisely compared to face to face. But I do like to try when I can because I think social media DOES provide a good opportunity to talk to people who are different from us, to help us understand better what other things we might need to consider. Of course, there is also a possibility with technology these days that we customize our experience so much that we filter out all the things we don't want to expose ourselves to. It makes it a more enjoyable experience, but if we shut out what we don't like, we might soon forget it exists and become even less able to understand it. Then, do we just end up in an echo chamber surrounded only by people who agree with us? That's not really healthy either–or conducive to democracy.

      What I really wish for is that part of our education as we go through elementary & high school would be about teaching people what it takes to be a citizen in a democracy: to believe in the importance of inclusion of a variety of viewpoints, including those we disagree with, to not be afraid of disagreement but rather to learn how to weigh conflicting ideas and complex issues, and to have confidence enough in our own beliefs to speak up and still be able to express them in a way that's respectful of others. Not an easy thing to teach, though. Certainly not something that lends itself to a standardized test.

      That's an interesting question too, about whether social media will make kids more socially awkward. I guess that depends on whether a whole new culture of etiquette merges via social media that people need to know to engage with others properly in future (whether it be socially or professionally). Either way, I agree it's probably important to have plenty of off-line time because there are a whole host of other experiences important in life too. I'm sure Boyscouts will offer them fantastic experiences and it will be a lot of fun too! Sounds awesome.

      Best of luck in your last weeks of school! We should definitely skype soon!