Connector Beth

Non-profit professional. Care deeply about family, friends and community. Love to problem-solve. Love to laugh. Love to read. Love to learn.

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Our Nest Isn’t Empty… It’s Full of Fur

When our son left for college almost 6 years ago, we anticipated a whole new life for ourselves. We certainly knew we would miss him, and we did. We still have days where we would love having him here, but he’s successfully become an independent young adult, which is the way these things are supposed to happen.

We thought the house would be quiet, and that we might look at each other and not know what to do with ourselves. That actually hasn’t happened very much. Our house is never quiet, or boring. Quite the opposite. It is full of love and intrigue and paws and fur.

We’re both animal lovers and always have been. I don’t remember a time when I didn’t live with at least a cat, and generally also with a dog. Someday, maybe, I’ll share some of their stories.

Right now, we share our home and kitchen and sometimes our bed with four furry, four-legged family members. I know, I know… not everyone considers animals their family members. But we do.

The cats are litter-mate sisters. They will be 11 in June. They were abandoned by the side of the road when they were about two weeks old. We found them – Phoebe and Sophie – at our vet’s office when they were not quite 3 months old. For whatever reason, they never learned how to meow. That doesn’t mean, though, that they don’t communicate. Far from it.

Ozzie, our Australian Shepherd, is almost 7. We adopted him from the Humane Society when he was a puppy. Turns out, he was taken by Animal Control from his former home because his owner was sent to jail after violating the terms of his probation.

Finn, our husky/Golden Retriever mix, is also almost 7. He has been with us for about two years. His owners had to downsize their living space and needed to give him up for adoption. He came to us a few weeks after we lost our beautiful 12-year-old husky Rosie. We got her after she went to the Humane Society after her owners had violated THEIR probation. (See a pattern here? Yeah, I know. When the probation officers find animals in these situations, they should call us first, instead of Animal Control; we’ll probably end up having them live with us in the end).

That’s the background. Here’s the daily reality…. these animals have their own world, and their own rules. They figure out who does what within the group, and they live in their own little society. The way it plays out in the Moe Pack is this:

  • I refuse to be part of the pack. I’m the person.
  • Bill is the Alpha of the pack. He is part of the pack, no matter what Cesar Milan (the Dog Whisperer) and I have to say about it.
  • Oz, whose breed is designed to herd cattle 10 hours a day, wants to be the boss. He tries really hard to do so, even though the others don’t really want to work. On Oz’s watch, there is no fun; just work. He is sweet and loving to us, and he bosses the others around (or tries to).
  • Finn, who looks and acts like a Golden for the most part, just wants to have fun fun fun. He reminds us of Tigger (and, since we recently saw the movie “Up,” reminds us even more of Doug. “Hi. I’m Doug. I love you.”) He wants to play, and Oz won’t let him. Finn is the most “Mama’s Boy” dog I have ever met. He follows me around Every Minute of the Day.
  • Sophie can’t decide if she is a cat or a dog. She’s not too bright, and everyone pretty much ignores her and lets her hang out with them. We often find her curled up with the dogs (unless she is sitting on a chair and they walk by her; then she reaches out and gives them a good punch). Other times, she and sister Phoebe are inseparable.
  • And then there is Phoebe. She’s sweet, occasionally. Mostly to me. We think she might be very near-sighted. Either that, or she is an uncoordinated as I am (she often misses when she is trying to jump on something; on the other hand, her sister Sophie who is a little…..ummm….rotund….. is quite able to perch on top of the smallest things, like the railing to our stairs). And she is definitely the ruler of the rest of the gang. What she says, or glares, goes. Sophie tries to love her. Finn respects her but makes sure to stay out of her way (he puts up with her because she “lets” him share the bed with her). Oz stays clear of her. So she is a loner, but I think she’s ok with that.

My husband loves the TV show “Survivor.” He has watched every episode of its however-many seasons. What he enjoys most are the shifting alliances, the game-playing and the deal-making. And, since he has always anthromorphized our pets, he sees every day in our household as an animal “Survivor” episode. It’s quite amusing to see.

Pets have been shown to be of great health benefits to people….. lower blood-pressure, higher life satisfaction, improved outcomes for children with disabilities, etc….. Sometimes, I get frustrated with all the noise (they love to LOUDLY greet us when we get home) and the mess and the work (I will admit that my husband does most of the …… ahem…… heavy lifting of cleaning up after the dogs), but the pure unadulterated love they provide us is priceless.

Now, if we could just figure out a way to cut down on the amount of fur that is shed.

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Bringing Home the World, One Student at a Time

I’m currently teaching two sections of a class at Winona State University (WSU). The course is called Global Child Advocacy Issues, and it’s part of WSU’s Child Advocacy STudies program (CAST), which is amazing.

WSU is home to the first National Child Protection Training Center, and has spun off several other centers across the country. They provide training to professionals who deal with children who have been traumatized, abused, etc., in order to better serve the children and deal with the adults who have caused these issues.

Ironically, this is the first type of professional training I ever received. Directly out of college, I worked for a newspaper in Shakopee, Minnesota, right outside of the Twin Cities. There had recently been a child abuse case involving many adults and many families in that county. It was the first time anything like this was ever discussed on a national level. I began working as a reporter for the paper about the time these cases were coming to trial. There was a training in the Twin Cities about that time that involved working with child witnesses in cases like this, and I was sent to this one-day seminar. It was quite shocking and horrifying to me, the 22-year-old recent college graduate. It was, though, very valuable information which has proven to be quite useful over the intervening years.

But, I digress (as I have the unfortunate habit of doing…..).

Teaching this class has been a wonderful experience for me, as have been the other classes I have taught – from second-grade Junior Achievement (Our Community) to a class at the local technical college to a senior seminar at Saint Mary’s University (SMU), not to mention guest-teaching on a regular basis in several classes at both WSU and SMU. Oh, and let’s not forget the 100+ college students who have served as interns for me over the years.

This particular course allows me to share issues facing children around the world, as well as in the United States. The topics are not always pleasant, yet these future teachers, social workers, medical professionals, law enforcement personnel, etc, will be faced with these issues as they pursue their dream careers and help those of us in their communities.

It’s a chance to share knowledge with young adults who are looking to make a difference in the world. It’s an opportunity to influence what those students do, going forward. And, most of all, it’s a great way to give students some information about the careers they are choosing.

So, I take great satisfaction in these opportunities. The irony is, I Never Ever Ever Wanted to Be a Teacher. No Way, No How. Just ask my mom; she’ll vouch for this sentiment. Even though I always loved to “play school,” would line up my dolls to teach them, would force my siblings to be my students, I really really didn’t want to be a teacher.

Why? I have no idea…… I still have no idea why this was never a career choice for me.

And, yet, I LOVE teaching! At least on a part-time basis. Don’t know if it would be as satisfying if I were dealing with the politics of it (on every level, from elementary school through university) or any of the other “junk” surrounding it. But, for now, having the chance to provide education to a handful of students is such a gift. And I am so grateful for the opportunity.


What Would You Take?

I ran across a writing prompt today that asked what five items you would grab if your house was on fire (assuming all people and animals are safe).

I barely had to think about this (since, as the Resident Disaster-Preparedness Queen, I have often plotted many such scenarios in my head).

After my husband, the two loony cats and the two nutty dogs were safely outside, I would grab the following:

  • My phone (which, of course, would have the charger already attached, so it wouldn’t count as two items) – it’s my main method of communication with the outside world, and it has months of photos on it. Plus, how could I contact 911 without it? One of our neighbors is a firefighter, so he would probably help us figure things out. But still.
  • My computer (again, its cord would be attached). This is how I document things, and it contains all the information about my new business and new life path.
  • My iPad (ditto). It was the first truly tech-y thing I bought (and I paid for it with some of the money I earned teaching my first college-level class), and it has my Kindle app on it, so I wouldn’t have to worry about losing so many books.
  • My keys. Ours cars would be outside, as they always are, and we would need a way to get the pets away from the burning building.
  • My purse. It has everything in it a person could need to start over, including a driver’s license and credit card. After seeing several disasters up close, I have learned those two things can get you through a lot of paperwork hassles.

OK, that part was easy. The prompt then went on to ask, what items would you regret not taking?

That was a little harder to answer. So many of the things that reside in our home carry sentimental memories….the china my parents bought me at Hudson Bay in Winnipeg when I was a child, the rocking chair that my parents bought when they brought me home from the hospital, the pictures our son drew for us when he was little, the items passed down through several generations. The list goes on and on.

I would mourn losing all of this stuff, I thought. At first. Then I realized these items wouldn’t truly be lost. The most important aspects of these items are in my head and in my heart. The physical presence is one thing, but the emotions that surround them will always have a place in my memory.

Am I saying it would be easy to walk away? Absolutely not. But knowing the memories can never be taken away would make it much less painful.

What about you? What would you take? What would you leave behind?

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Seriously, Does Anyone Truly LOVE Winter?

I keep seeing posts from people who claim they love winter. And I run across people (I actually should run over these people…. JUST KIDDING!!!!) on a regular basis who claim to love winter. I have concluded that they are all lying. It’s one thing to love a sport that can only happen in winter (cross-country skiing, downhill skiing, etc.), but another thing to actually love the season.

I welcome a rigorous dialogue on this issue…. Please answer the following questions with a ‘yes” or a “no”:

Do you like to ski?

Cross-country, downhill, or both?

Do you like to snowboard?

Do you like to shovel driveways?

On a daily basis?

How about sidewalks?

Again, on a daily basis?

Do you enjoy spreading salt or sand on a driveway or sidewalk?

Do you like to chip off ice from a sidewalk? Driveway? Vehicle windshield? Edge of house roof? Edge of garage roof?

Do you like to annihilate ice from a vehicle windshield, using all the strength you have…. and more???

Do you enjoy walking carefully like a penguin on the ice that is not so easy to see?

Can you breath easily when the temperature is below zero?

Can you de-fog your eyeglasses easily when you go inside after a chilly evening?

After you have answered (truthfully!) all these questions….. can you still say you love winter? Look forward to your responses! Seriously 🙂

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Actually, The Postman Never Came the Other Day……

Last Friday, I went to our local super-rock-star grocery store, Hy-Vee. Normally, they have the most amazing produce section ever (and, in my mind, an amazing meat/seafood section – those who have grown up in Winona might differ with me on this, claiming Midtown Grocery is superior… but I digress, and I am ok with the debate).

On this particular day, the produce aisle was at least half-empty. Gasp! Many of the bins of what would normally display amazingly gorgeous produce had signs saying (essentially)… “Our produce truck has been delayed by the weather. We are sorry for the delay.” Shocking, considering that we live in a place where the most horrible winter weather occurs. Every. Single. Year. 

Turns out the highways were impassible Here, There and Everywhere. Disappointing, but I get it. Driving in extreme winter weather conditions is Never. To. Be. Advised. No. Matter. What.

Wish I had taken a photo at the Hy-Vee produce aisle. It would have shown, without a doubt, the dreadful truth of the Horrible Winter of 2013-14. Sadly, though, I didn’t.

When I got home, I checked our mailbox. No mail. Huh. Not a usual occurrence (generally, we have a healthy mix of mail belonging to us, adult son Nic and young-adult friend Samantha), but I didn’t think too much about it. Until Saturday, the next day, When we, again, got nothing in our mailbox.

Then, I started thinking about it… what the heck? Isn’t the Postal Services’ motto something like… “neither snow nor rain nor sleet shall keep us from our awesome duty of delivering your mail on time”….. or something like that?

Turns out, this winter has been extraordinary, and not in a good way. Truck drivers, mail delivery people, UPS,….. none of them have been able to do what they strive to do, which is deliver excellent customer service. Airlines…. all of them… have been hamstrung. In fact, no one working with people during weather conditions has been able to deliver. Not through their own fault, whatsoever.

Hope this coming spring is much kinder to all of us, and to all of our helpers…..