Thursday, July 28, 2011

Childhood Pets and Death

Four-Year-Old Me and My First Pet
My sister and her family recently moved across the country, just a few days after their pet cat gave birth to four kittens.  When my sister’s family arrived in their new state of residence, they stayed with a friend of a friend while they looked for a new home.  These hospitable strangers owned a dog.

A couple days into their stay as houseguests, my sister and her husband heard their three-year-old daughter screaming.  They ran to her aid but they were too late.  The dog had killed all four kittens and my tiny little niece had witnessed the tragedy.

My niece was naturally traumatized. Her reactions varied from anger, manifested by attacking her baby brother; denial, such as requesting to play with the deceased kittens; to spiritual questioning about what happened to the kittens after the dog bit them and made them stop crying.  Her parents used the classic Mormon glove example to explain to her about death.  Her dad offered her a priesthood blessing. “Heavenly Father wants you to know that He is holding your kitties right now,” he told my niece as he blessed her. He also counseled her to share all the love that she wanted to give to the kittens with her baby brother.

My first memory of death was also the death of a pet.  My first pet died when I was twelve.  She was a cat that had resided with my family since I was four.  My entire family grieved.  We held a special family home evening style memorial service in honor of our deceased pet.  We all talked about our favorite memories of the deceased cat.  The death of this furry loved one must have been an unusually teachable moment for me, because I still remember details of that lesson.  My parents shared a quote from former LDS church president Joseph Fielding Smith about how animals have souls and will be resurrected.  They talked about how they believed our cat had fulfilled her mission in life very well—she had made our family happy, which is the primary purpose of a pet.

With a quick search, I found what may have been that very quote at the church website,  “So we see that the Lord intends to save, not only the earth and the heavens, not only man who dwells upon the earth, but all things which he has created. The animals, the fishes of the sea, the fowls of the air, as well as man, are to be recreated, or renewed, through the resurrection, for they too are living souls.” (Joseph Fielding Smith, Conference Report, October 1928)

I have heard it said that a pet is a story with an unhappy ending.  Children and grown-ups  grow close to these creatures, but the relatively short lifespan of most pets almost guarantees that their human caretakers will watch them die. Perhaps this sad truth is actually another benefit of pet ownership.  These animal/human bonds help us appreciate the sanctity of life and learn how to process our grief.  They also give us opportunities to comfort each other. Such lessons will be invaluable as we suffer much greater losses in the future.  My little niece is going through her first primer in human mortality—even though her teachers were not human.

However, even as I reflect so philosophically on the benefits of loving and losing pets, I wish my niece’s kittens were still alive.  I am so sorry, sweetie.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Breastfeeding Doll Controversy

A Spanish toy company will start marketing a doll called "Breast Milk Baby" to American retailers in a few weeks. The silly controversy surrounding this cute children's toy is yet another symptom of the perverted way American society views breastfeeding.

What makes a doll that nurses so much more offensive than a doll that drinks a play bottle? According to detractors, pretending to feed a doll naturally could encourage perversion, hyper-sexuality and teen pregnancy.  Exposing children to such shameful practices as breastfeeding should be avoided until the child is older, these detractors argue.

Yikes!  Shame on me, because I recklessly expose my own children to breastfeeding every day as I nurse my own, real life baby.  I can tell that this sinister practice is taking its toll because even without the aid of a fancy toy, I have witnessed my daughter pretending to breastfeed her dolls.

Don't worry, Breastfeeding Shame Committee, I am sure that my daughter's youthful, innocent enthusiasm about breastfeeding will fade.  By the time she is my age, people like you will help her feel so embarrassed about feeding her children naturally that she will consider less healthy alternatives.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Cousins and Tires

Two of my husband's siblings have visited us this summer with their families.  For some reason, all of the pictures I got of these visits involved playing with tire toys.  We actually do have other things in our yard besides tires.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Kid Poetry

Sometimes, my daughter uses words in ways that strike me as pure poetic genius.  My all-time favorite was when my husband flattered her with a compliment and she blushed and giggled and said, "Daddy, you tickle my dreams." 

The other day, she turned a rather prosaic statement into poetry with a simple one-word substitution.  She noticed that the baby had cut a tooth and announced that his tooth had "bloomed."

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Baby Fashion Sense

My one year-old has developed an opinion about shoes.  Not his shoes, mine.  He follows me to the closet when I go to get my shoes.  If I happen to choose something appropriate to my everyday life, like tennis shoes or flip-flops or practical business shoes, he protests vehemently in baby talk.  Then he grabs one of my red high heels and tries to shove it onto my foot.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Honk if you love smog and hate state employees

During his tenure as Utah governor, Jon Huntsman changed state government office hours to ten hours per day, four days per week. This simple change saved tax payers about $800,000 annually by reducing energy, janitorial, overtime and transportation expenses. Additionally, the 4-day workweek eliminated over 10,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions by eliminating one weekly commute for 18,000 state employees and reducing heating and cooling of state buildings on Fridays. Surveys revealed that both employees and the general public preferred the new schedule.

The Utah state legislature recently passed a law, overriding the Governor's veto, which will eliminate the 4-day workweek and force all state offices to open on Fridays beginning this September.

Many Utah legislators will proudly boast that they don't care one particulate about air pollution. The disgusting smog around here is evidence of our leadership's indifference to the pollution problem. So it is not terribly surprising that the state legislature likes the idea of increasing carbon emissions by state-employed commuters by 20%.

However, these same legislators claim to care deeply about saving money and reducing taxes. Opening state offices on Fridays will cost taxpayers an additional $800,000 annually. How many Utah taxpayers want to front that check just so they can visit state offices on Friday instead of some other day of the week?

The Utah Department of Health told its employees last week that it will eliminate employee bus passes in an effort to save money. Employees who never contributed to Utah traffic congestion or air pollution while commuting in the past will now be forced to get into cars and emit some carbon. And they will do that five days a week instead of four.

The clear losers here, besides state employees, are Utahns who suffer from heart or lung disease like my husband, who becomes sick whenever the air quality gets bad (which is often). If you live in or visit Utah and like to breathe, you're being punished, too.

I have a great idea that will save a lot more money than cutting bus passes for state employees. Legislators, how about voting again on the state workweek? This time, why don't you vote to save money by keeping state offices closed on Fridays.

I promise not to mention the good you would be doing for the environment.  It would be our little secret.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Puttin' Around Pittsburgh (by myself)

Pittsburgh and Me
I went to a conference in Pittsburgh a couple weeks ago.  I can't honestly say that I had ever yearned to see Pittsburgh, but I liked it. Pittsburgh is all about museums and rivers, so what's not to like? The opening "networking event" was hors d'oeuvres at the Andy Warhol Museum, which was a big improvement over the usual networking event at these sorts of conferences, hors d'oeuvres in a boring hotel lobby.  The bold narcissism of Andy Warhol inspired me to document my post-workday tourism with a series of self-portraits.

Andy Warhol Museum
When I took the first self-portrait, I hadn't exactly gotten the knack of it yet.  Still, you can see part of me and part of the the boring facade of the Warhol museum in the background.  The museum is much more interesting from the inside, but photographs aren't allowed in there.

Market Square
Old cobblestone squares are virtually absent from my hometown, so I had to get a photo here.

Fort Pitt
Remember all that exciting info about the French and Indian War from high school history?  I didn't, either.

Point Park
Fort Pitt resides in a pretty park located where two rivers meet, hence the name.  The day before I arrived in town, there was a big festival there.  The fish sculpture made of aluminum cans was left over from the festival.

Duquesne Incline
Okay, this one isn't actually a self-portrait.  I figured, "Were' trapped in a tiny box, ascending a very steep cliff, so what is the likelihood that the kind stranger offering to take my photo is going to run off with my camera?"

Top of the Lift
People go up the Duquesne Lift for this view and the opportunity to bask in the ambiance of 1877 travel.  As far as I can tell, there isn't any other reason to go up there.

Duquesne University Colloquium
On the bus from the airport, all of my fellow passengers were musically-gifted Catholics on their way to a colloquium. The person sitting across from me was apparently some sort of rock star in the colloquium world, and everyone was thrilled to meet him and peppered him with questions.  The other passengers invited me to attend a mass, so after the conference, I stopped in and listened for half an hour. It was pretty. Chants lack harmony of course, but the way the sound bounced around the cathedral it seemed to harmonize with itself.